By Jeremy Yap
Japan is also known as the land of gods. Deities are found throughout nature and it is thanks to them that people are able to live off the land. 750 years ago in the village of Takanosu in Kita-Akita, the villagers knew they needed the attention of the gods when water for farming was at an all time low. The solution was to build drums. Hitting the drums mimicked the sound of thunder and with it—hopefully—would come rain. Over the years, the drums became larger and larger. At its pinnacle, the world’s largest was created.
Located a 7 minute taxi ride from JR Takanosu station in Akita Prefecture, you can see the 3.8 meter 3 ton drum at the Odaiko no Yakata, or "Odaiko Hall" with your own eyes. Taiko drums were first manufactured in the city of Takanosu and the city holds on to the drumming tradition to this day. Every year in July (usually July 14 and 15) the Tsuzuriko Hachimangu shrine hosts a celebration to ask for rain and continue the rice planting season. They bring about the large drums of the museum and wheel and beat them around the city. Only the most experienced taiko players are allowed to play during this time. It’s hard to judge just how massive this drum is until you see it in person. Since the drum’s lining is made of cow hide, I am thinking the cow that was used for the drum most have been the largest in the world too!
At the Odaiko Hall there is more than just the world’s largest drum. There are drums from over 40 countries on display, some of which you are allowed to play. It is fun to hear the sounds and see the different designs of all the instruments. A theater in the museum promises to deliver the real sound of taiko. The images and high quality sound equipment produces the feeling that you are watching a real taiko performance. It is very cool.
Outside the museum is the Takanosu road station. This rest area is perfect for a bite to eat or purchase some local products. I recommend enjoying a tasty ice cream on the patio seating that offers a view of the front of the museum.
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Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for JapanTravel.com since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin’s over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background of studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and working for the government in Fukushima. He lives in the gyutan capital of the world, Sendai. Justin is an expert in local culture and history. He was the first foreign volunteer at Sendai City Museum and regularly advises the local volunteer guide group GOZAIN , which he is a veteran member, on guiding techniques and hidden locations in the city even locals don't know about. In his free time he enjoys delivering original walking tours, such as his Dark Sendai Tour (ghost tour) or Kokubuncho Mystery Tour (redlight district tour). Justin is also a Certified Sake Professional.