A dry, high-pitched sound leaps up and resonates in the autumn night sky. Thirty taru-drums are furiously struck simultaneously and there’s an immediate increase in the level of excitement among the dancers and the audience. At the traditional Niigata festival called the Soh Odori, the grand finale consists of the sound of several hundred geta (Japanese wooden sandals) stamping along and combining with the sound of the Taru-Kinuta. Countless blocks of wood fly around the taru-drums as the wild enthusiasm reverberates.

 

Ever since Mr. Eijima was a child, he was captivated by the tone of the Taru-Kinuta, which was an essential part of the Niigata Bon Odori, and he even made his own wooden box to practice on. When he was 14 years old, he was full of dreams and he travelled over to China with other young people from his village as part of the Youth Volunteer Corps for Manchurian development. However the reality of the development didn’t live up to his high hopes. On 9 August 1945, the Soviet army invaded and dozens of his friends were slaughtered. Without even knowing they had lost the war, he was pillaged and faced the very real danger of being sent to Siberia with Japanese soldiers. He was left behind and worked for the South Manchurian Railway, and it wasn’t until the following year after the war was lost that he returned home to Japan, barely making it out of there alive.

 

Ever since the Bon Odori festival of that summer, he has continuously devoted his life wholeheartedly to Taru-Kinuta. However, the ways of the world change and Taru-Kinuta became to be seen as just a noisy racket, and his hometown tradition went out of fashion and was discarded. After overcoming years of a long, lonely struggle, he founded a traditional Taru-Kinuta group and it now attracts many members ranging from elementary school children to adults. Last year, this unique Niigata traditional art form was acknowledged as part of the city’s cultural heritage, but the group is continuing to practice diligently, with the aim that one day it will reach even wider acceptance.

Kozan Eijima

Born in Niigata City in 1928. Founded the Niigata Taru-Kinuta in 1968. He continues to teach how to play the instrument at neighborhood primary schools. Has given countless performances overseas, including in South Korea, Taiwan, China, Europe, Russia and North America.

Cooperation: YEijima-ryu Niigata Taru-Kinuta, Executive committee of the Niigata Soh Odori Festival, Mr. Seiji Tamura and Mr. Hideki Kaneko from the Niigata Prefecture RINRI Corporation Association

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

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Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
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ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)