North American Taiko Conference – Regional: Hawaii 2023 Instructors
Chizuko Endo is a multi-talented artist and supporter of Japanese culture through her multiple activities in art and taiko. She is the back-bone of Taiko Center of the Pacific, a school of traditional and contemporary Japanese drumming in Honolulu which she co-founded in 1994.
Kay Fukumoto has performed “Fukushima Ondo” at Maui obon festivals for over fifty years, the first female to perform on the taiko at obon in Hawai’i. The song came to Maui with Fukushima descendants who worked at the sugar plantations. The over hundred-year tradition continued through three generations in her family before her involvement.
She founded Maui Taiko twenty-five years ago to ensure that “Fukushima Ondo” continues for future generations. Kumidaiko skills and repertoire were included, along with constructing fourteen taiko, with the newly formed group. Sixteen annual evenings of obon are part of the fifty yearly performances. Kay has taught the song to ten groups in the US to bring a “live obon song” to their festivals. She has also co-chaired the Maui Matsuri Festival for the last twenty years furthering her commitment to share Japanese traditions and culture with the community.
Maui Taiko was featured in the “Great Grandfather’s Drum” film that shares the history of Japanese Americans in Hawai’i which film shared obon traditions. The group has traveled back to Fukushima to perform the song at the Fukushima Expo, Fukushima Taiko Festivals, and in communities affected by the triple disasters.
Michael Gonhata first started playing with Ryusei Taiko at Koganji Temple at the age of 8. In 2002, he moved to Japan to train under the renowned Tosha Kiyonari, an original member of Sukeroku Daiko and leader of Nihon Taiko Dojo. During that time, he became a performing member and received certification to play and teach all of Tosha Sensei’s songs and techniques.
Since returning home in 2004, Michael has been teaching workshops at local schools and for taiko groups throughout Hawaii, Canada, and Europe. He is also a guest instructor-in-residence at Puna Taiko on Hawaii Island. He started Manoa Taiko in 2018 focusing on small group instruction and technique coaching and development . Michael’s style is based on using body mechanics over muscle, focusing on varying combinations of power and speed to produce clear sound dynamics while maintaining fluid motions.
Shoji is a Grammy nominated musician, composer and producer. He started playing taiko at the age of 8 and has played continuously since. He was selected through a highly competitive process as an Asian Pacific Performance Exchange fellow, collaborating with master artists from the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the USA. He was also selected as an Indonesian Arts Exchange fellow which sent him and three other master arts to central Java for three weeks to teach and perform. Collaborations with international artists have taken Shoji to Malaysia, French Guiana, Brazil, Mongolia and Bali.
He composed an original score for Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story, Audience Award winner for Best Documentary at the Slamdance Film Festival. He was featured in the music of the hit NBC TV show “Heroes” performed with Stevie Wonder at the 2008 Democratic National Convention and received a Grammy nomination with jazz fusion band Hiroshima for his work on their album Legacy. As a founding member of On Ensemble and the group’s primary creative force he produced On Ensemble’s critically acclaimed albums Dust and Sand, Ume in the Middle and Bizarre Heroes. In 2013 On Ensemble was invited to perform at the National Theater of Japan for their prestigious “Nihon no Taiko” series. Shoji is passionate about building taiko community and is sought after by groups throughout the taiko world for workshops, masterclasses and compositions. In 2014 Shoji partnered with Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten to create kaDON an online platform that strives to provide the taiko world with unlimited access to high quality taiko instruction and instruments.
Takumi Kato is an independent Japanese Taiko drum artist of the highest caliber from Japan. His performances are high-energy and world-class. He came from small beginnings, born in a small town called Ena City, in Gifu Prefecture, Japan but has risen to play at international events across the USA, Europe and Asia.
In 2004, Takumi joined the world famous Kodo drummers, studying their playing techniques and way of life for 2 years at their village on Sado island in Japan. He also then spent the next 3 years, learning and playing in and around the USA. All this hard work paid off in 2008, when he won the top prize in the O-Daiko section of the Tokyo International Wadaiko contest, playing a self-written piece, dedicated to his Grandmother. This was also the year, that Takumi opened his own studio – Nukumori no mori – in his hometown of Ena City.
Performing highlights of Takumi’s career include playing for the Imperial Family and touring abroad in countries such as the US, Indonesia and Cuba. Currently, Takumi and his family are touring the USA with the goal of visiting all 50 states while performing 1000 times in venues large and small. He hopes that through his Taiko drums, he can bring people together in happiness and enjoyment.
Kristy Aki Oshiro
Kristy Aki Oshiro (they / them) is a queer, trans and non-binary, 4th generation Japanese Okinawan-American professional taiko artist based in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. They started playing taiko at age 9 in Kona, Hawai’i with Kona Daifukuji Taiko and was an instructor and touring ensemble member of Portland Taiko from 2001-2007 while getting their bachelor’s degree in Music Performance in Percussion at Portland State University. Kristy was also an instructor and youth programs director at Sacramento Taiko Dan from 2007-2014.
Kristy is currently the founder and Artistic Director of the Tsubaki Ensemble, SOKO Taiko, and Queer Taiko, Creative Director of Placer Ume Taiko, instructor for San Mateo Buddhist Temple Taiko, a member of Taikoza and Unit Souzou, and has performed and given taiko workshops across the US and in Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, and Colombia.
Tiffany Tamaribuchi, an internationally recognized taiko master, has achieved a level of acclaim in trailblazing fashion. In the traditional taiko realm, of Japanese born and trained male performers, she creates a new powerful voice with her multicultural heritage, youth, and feminine perspective. Ms. Tamaribuchi’s determination and perseverance, through long hours of grueling practice in her initial studies, transformed her sense of life’s possibilities, which she now does for others. As founder and artistic director of three active taiko groups, her vitality reaches extremely diverse audiences throughout North America, Europe, and Japan.
Enriching her perspective, she also directs Tozai Wadaiko, a professional touring taiko ensemble comprised of individual artists from groups throughout the world. Consequently, Ms. Tamaribuchi fuses traditional taiko rhythms with modern influences for a fresh Japanese-American sound.
Expanding the performance opportunities for women taiko players, Ms. Tamaribuchi formed and coordinates JO-Daiko, an exclusively women’s taiko ensemble which performs at events focused on women’s issues. Embodying strong and commanding images, JO-Daiko’s voice awakens a sense of self-empowerment for women-both as performers and spectators.
Fred Visaya Jr.
Born and raised on the Big Island of Hawai’i, Fred Visaya Jr. started his taiko career in 2010 with Puna Taiko, where he began honing skills in performance, instruction, composition and stage direction. While attending school in Tokyo, he furthered his taiko studies under Tosha Kiyonari while performing with Nihon Taiko Dojo.
After graduating from the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, he briefly studied with Manoa Taiko in Honolulu before moving to California in 2020 to study and pursue taiko.
At present, Fred is an instructor at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute and a performing member of UnitOne and UnitTwo – taiko groups based at Asano Taiko U.S.