Japanese Taiko Drums

Have you ever heard of Japanese taiko drums?
Literally translated taiko (太鼓) means “great (big/fat) drum”.

Nowadays taiko performances are quite famous even outside of Japan. “Yamato” is a group of taiko players who performs on stages worldwide. If you ever have a chance, go and check them out!

Here’s a short video that I took in 2010 when I visited a Japanese summer festival at Nagoya Castle:

Of course it’s much more impressive when you see it live.
Personally I’m totally in love with taiko and always wanted to learn it myself. I just didn’t have the chance to do so, but I surely hope that some day I will!

Now, you have to know that Japanese taiko drums are all handmade and are EXTREMELY expensive. The bigger they are the more expensive they get.
Most Japanese taiko drums have a barrel-like shape, using big trunks to build them. Depending on their diameter they’re classified, e.g. drums with a diameter of 25cm are called Sumodaiko.
Horse or ox skin is used for the drumhead. They are extremely tight and cannot be tuned. They have to be so tight because of the summer humidity when most Japanese festivals take place.

You can read more about the different types of drums and the history over at Wikipedia.

Japanese taiko drums

I found this smaller Japanese taiko drum in a museum in Kanazawa. It was the Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts in the famous Kenrokuen Garden.

It was about 18.000 yen and with that it’s probably the most expensive souvenir I ever bought!!
Yes, that IS expensive, but it’s SUCH a great souvenir. It was handmade by quite a famous taiko maker. The moment I saw it I couldn’t resist anymore!

There was another much smaller one (and thus cheaper), but that one would have been too small to actually play on it.
This one has just the right size, so that you can actually drum on it!

Japanese taiko drums

You can see the actual size in this photo compared to a normal sized cup.

I try not to drum too often on it, because the drum sticks and also the black round thingies (not sure what they’re called) that set the frame get scratches easily! :(

I’m so glad I bought it. I have no regrets.
Now, while I it’s a great souvenir, it’s probably just too expensive / heavy / bulky for normal tourists. For people living in Japan, it’s a different story. Things you purchased can be sent home to your apartment for cheap and right away, so you don’t have to bother taking it with you and can continue traveling with light weight!

What’s the most expensive souvenir you ever bought in Japan?


  • LOVED this post!!!! I actually play taiko here in Brasil and I love it!! :happy:
    Waaaaaaa… your tiny taiko is so cute!! :shiawase: I’d love to have one!! We don’t use the barrel like taikos here… because they’re too expensive! We use the other ones with the ropes around them. But it’s fun anyway!! :peace:

  • Thanks for mentioning the Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts in your blog! It is a place often missed by visitors here, even though it is awesome.

    Just to mention how to get to it: If you stand at the 21st century museum, and then cross over to Kenrokuen gardens, you will see a road (hill) going up between trees. It is right at the crossroads. Well, go up there, and you will soon see a big red building to the right. That is it! It is a bit difficult to recognize without that information.

    I’m sure you’ll find it. There is a lot of cool stuff there.

    Kanazawa Walking Tours

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