Taiko-Japanese drums-have been part of Japan’s summer festivals since centuries and their deep dong dong sound is echoing the heartbeats of the people as they make merry.
Take the matsuri atmosphere but change amateur drummers for professionals, put them on stage, and what you get is Kodo, one of Japan’s best-known professional taiko ensembles.
In Japanese, Kodo means "heartbeat", which is considered to be the primal source of rhythm. Read in a different way, the word also means "children of the drum". This reflects Kodo’s passion to play the drums with the heart of a child-- simple and innocent.
Throughout the year Kodo performers travel around the globe to set large concert halls on fire with their wild drumming but they make sure to be back at base in August when their audience comes to them. People from all over Japan, and from around the world, venture to Ogi Town on Sado Island to share their passion for taiko and for music at the Earth Celebration.
This is a superb three-day taiko and music festival where Kodo holds open-air concerts and Kodo members teach at taiko workshops and they invite other musicians who perform with them on stage at the festival.
In addition there are also many fringe events where musicians from around the world entice their audience to join them in their celebration of summer and music.
Thousand of people come together on Sado Island and they talk about music, make music and enjoy themselves. As this is an outdoors festival in a small seaside town, there is a close exchange with nature and with the local community.
Indeed nature surrounds the stage at Shiroyama Park where the Kodo concerts take place. The path leading up the hill to the park starts behind Kisaki Shrine. This is where everyone assembles in blocks, based on the ticket number, to be taken up to the park by Earth Celebration staff.
Once you have reached the top of the hill and the park, there is an expanse of grass surrounded by trees which gives the impression of a natural stage in the great outdoors. You can choose your place on the lawn anywhere you like. Sit down and enjoy the sky getting darker and the stars shining brightly before the drumming starts.
The Earth Celebration is deeply rooted on Sado Island and in this particular area around Ogi Town, so much so that the festival has become part of the identity of Ogi and of Sado.
The locals at Ogi celebrate with Kodo and their guests by decorating their houses with Earth Celebration flags and noren (doorway curtains). What’s more, the locals make bamboo wind chimes and hang them out in many places in the streets of Ogi. Their quiet and soft clanging in the summer breeze coming from the sea contrasts nicely with the deep sound of the taiko drums. These are the sounds of summer in Japan, together with the chirping of the cicadas in the bushes.
There are many interactions and exchanges amongst the participants of the Earth Celebration that have no direct connection to Kodo. People from many different walks of life meet for some summer fun and they make music together and have impromptu performances at the beach. This is something that Kodo does not plan; it just happens during the Earth Celebration.
Typically people meet at the Harbor Market where they enjoy some food and drinks and browse the extensive collection of crafts and ethnic goods. The market, like the people and the whole festival, is quite international. Dishes from different countries are offered, as well as merchandise from different places of the world, and from Japan including some Sado Island specialties. This is the place to hang out and fill your belly before you join some workshops during the day or a Kodo concert in the evening.
If you seek a special Obon holiday highlight, then make your way to the Earth Celebration!
- Earth Celebrations takes place each year in the middle of August in Ogi Town, Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture. The actual dates for each year are stated on the Kodo website.
- Check the website for ticket prices for the Kodo concerts or book your tickets online.
- Detailed transport information (from Tokyo or from Osaka) is also available on the Kodo website, as well as information about lodging in the Ogi area.
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Celebrating my 10th year anniversary in Japan in May 2018, the country that I call home now. I lived in crazy Tokyo for 6 years and since 2011 I call the Kii Peninsula (Kumano, Koyasan and Yoshinoyama) my home. I have visited all 47 prefectures of Japan and for the last 4 years I have worked as a guide for foreign visitors. My special interest is in Japanese nature and spirituality. I love spending time in the forest and mountains and I love visiting temples and shrines. I am also a licensed guide for the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails and for Koyasan, the Buddhist monastery, in addition to being a practitioner and guide for Shinrin Yoku (Forest Therapy). In recent years I have taken visitors to walk the Kumano Kodo trails, the Nakasendo trail, the 88 temple pilgrimage trail around Shikoku Island and to Dewa Sanzan, the three sacred mountains in Yamagata Prefecture. If you look for nature and spirituality in your trip to Japan, then Wakayama, Nara and Yamagata Prefectures are ideal places to get started!