During the first days in Chichibu, the taiko teams were preparing for a small festival on the 20th (when I was due back in Fukui), so when walking around in the evening I could see the teams practicing (except one – the doors were closed). I’m also trying to keep up a more or less regular running regime, and this way I think I spotted all 6 of the teams, including the ones outside the city centre. Yes, running in this humidity takes getting used to: there’s double the sweat, half the distances and slow times.
Many taiko players will be familiar with the setup of the traditional Chichibu Yatai Bayashi: one nagado, three or four shime, a big atarigane (not the small chanchiki type) and a shinobue. One group actually alternated between two nagados, but I don’t know whether this is done in the float as well. The sitting position is much more upright and less hard on the abs.
The groups practice from 7 to 8, have a short break, then again from 8 to 9, ending with what we like calling the ’parking rhythm’, the rhythm played when the float goes back into its shelter and the drumming ends. As Kaki sensei told me, the rhythm is called ぶっきり (bukkiri), a stronger form of きり (kiri, ’cut’). Bu/bun is Chichibu dialect to emphasise a word.
The ji uchi (base rhythm) is really quite tricky. As the story goes, after Kodo had adapted Yatai Bayashi for the stage and returned to Chichibu for further study, they noticed that rather than the straight gobu-gobu they used, the ji uchi was more irregular, slightly lilting. Returning to Sado they tried the original ji uchi but decided not to use it, because it is so difficult. I don’t know whether the story is true, but after following the groups in Chichibu for a couple of hours it certainly is very believable.
Of course all groups were starting and stopping exactly on time. However, on one occasion the taiko player’s worst nightmare happened: drops of water falling from the sky! As it actually looked like it would start raining, the group stopped 1 min early! Unbelievable! In Japan! But then, I’m sure they appreciate their taiko skins just as much as we do.