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Taiko as self-expression

January 1974 is when I decided to be a part of it (San Jose Taiko). And it was elation because this was the first time, from my whole Asian American awareness identity experience, that I’m getting involved in a different way. Self expression, creative mode—that was so uplifting because everything was, like I said, rhetoric and very serious and organizing. But to be able to find something that I can find creative expression was just so great. And to see the creativity of people coming together and going “Yeah! Yeah!”—the freedom—was something that I really enjoyed. I felt also that there was this sense of community, camaraderie. And again, I found within this group this very lateral way of connecting and interacting with each other. So this hierarchical power structure did not exist.


arts California communities drum music San Jose San Jose Taiko taiko United States

Date: January 26, 2005

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Art Hansen, Sojin Kim

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Patti Jo “PJ” Hirabayashi is among the most prominent women taiko players in the United States. Born and raised in Northern California, she attended Cal State Hayward where she became involved in Asian American movement activities before transferring to UC Berkeley. After graduation, she spent a year living in Japan before returning to San Jose where she was a graduate student in Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State University. While there, she became acting director of the school’s Asian American Studies Center. She wrote her master’s thesis about the future of San Jose’s Japantown.

Hirabayashi joined San Jose Taiko in January 1974 as a charter member of the group. She is now the creative director of the ensemble, and she draws inspiration from the Asian American civil rights movement. She performs, trains, teaches, develops repertoire, tours, holds public workshops and conducts school outreach programs.(January 26, 2005)

George Ariyoshi
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George Ariyoshi

Ethnic diversity

(b.1926) Democratic politician and three-term Governor of Hawai'i

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James Hirabayashi
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James Hirabayashi

Christian gatherings in homes

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

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Mike Shinoda
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Mike Shinoda

First experience writing music

(b. 1977) Musician, Producer, Artist

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Mike Shinoda
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Mike Shinoda

Politics in music

(b. 1977) Musician, Producer, Artist

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Akira Watanabe
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Akira Watanabe

What is Matsuri Daiko? (Spanish)

(b. 1974) Director of Ryukyu Matsuri Daiko in Peru

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Mas Kodani
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Mas Kodani

Appreciating Kinnara Taiko's approach to taiko

Senshin Buddhist Temple minister and co-founder of Kinnara Taiko.

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Mas Kodani
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Mas Kodani

A Japanese American gardening dance

Senshin Buddhist Temple minister and co-founder of Kinnara Taiko.

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Akira Watanabe
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Akira Watanabe

Taiko, an element that represents strength (Spanish)

(b. 1974) Director of Ryukyu Matsuri Daiko in Peru

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Byron Glaser
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Byron Glaser

Growing up in a Japanese American community

Illustrator and designer

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Byron Glaser
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Byron Glaser

Supporting art because it's essential

Illustrator and designer

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George Abe
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George Abe

Playing for Yourself

(b. 1944) taiko and flute performer

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Seiichi Tanaka
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Seiichi Tanaka

Taiko philosophy (Japanese)

(b.1943) Shin-issei grand master of taiko; founded San Francisco Taiko Dojo in 1968.

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Etsuo Hongo
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Etsuo Hongo

The reason he came to the United States (Japanese)

(1949 - 2019) Taiko player. Founded five taiko groups in Southern California

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Roy Hirabayashi
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Roy Hirabayashi

Developing an original kata

(b.1951) Co-founder and managing director of San Jose Taiko.

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Etsuo Hongo
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Etsuo Hongo

Differences in taiko style (Japanese)

(1949 - 2019) Taiko player. Founded five taiko groups in Southern California

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