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Kyodo Equals Family

Kyodo Taiko was the first collegiate taiko group formed in North America, at the University of California, Los Angeles. Kyodo means “family” or literally, “loud children.” It’s quite fitting that every Kyodo member whole-heartedly personifies these meanings. Our practices and performances yield this harmony of grunts, shouts, screams and kiai’s that you’d never believe could be made by a group of college students. And, because of the countless number of hours we spend together practicing, performing and socializing, we have become so much more than just good friends. We have become family. It’s not the type of family that tires of seeing you, either. It’s amazing that every time we get together, we’re all happy to be there.

As a Kyodo member and leader, I feel honored and very lucky to be a part of this magnificent group. And, as the group continues to grow, I love watching how new members bring new and fresh ideas and experiences to the older members, and also the overall spirit of the team. As each new class comes in, Kyodo moves a step forward. I’ll never forget one class in particular. The day they became a part of the Kyodo family was one of the happiest days of my taiko career. I know I can share this experience with four other very special people, Emily Mukai, Kevin Suda, Allan Kaku and Nate Imai, part of my extended taiko family.

2005 Kyodo Taiko "newbies" dressed up as "Street Fighter" characters

Kyodo Taiko tryouts started in early October last year. My first year playing taiko at UCLA had just ended, and my official term as a “newbie” was over. I mourned over this passing with my fellow class members as we tried to think of a new name that would unify and identify us within the group. However, we put our brainstorming on hold, because we realized that we would soon have the chance to pick the “new newbies” of Kyodo Taiko. We went to every day of the try-out process and helped teach form and technique, as well as “renshu” (practice), the try-out piece. We interacted with the prospective players, and we observed. As mentioned before, during our first year together, we had all come to view each other as extended family, as people who would be there for us during our victorious moments, as well as during our most difficult ones. We wanted to make sure that this feeling of family continued on. After all, “Kyodo” does mean “family.”

We all tried to remember exactly what we were supposed to be looking for in a prospective teammate. As a team, we had decided at our summer retreat that we would focus on talent, dedication, and a good attitude. While we were observing, we realized that these traits don’t always come in one neat package. My class and I decided that we wanted somebody who had passion. We wanted someone who loved playing taiko just as much as, if not more than, we did. We knew this overall passion for the art would enhance the spirit and personality of Kyodo as a whole.

2006 Kyodo Taiko "newbie" class

By the mid-way point, we all knew who would make the team if the decision were up to us. The conversations that we had as we walked back to the dorms after tryouts were lively and full of hope. We discussed what we noticed in certain people, and who was improving. I think we felt a little bit like proud parents. We took pride in being able to pass on our knowledge to those that would come after us, and we were more than happy that they took it. Our class was so close, and we wanted nothing less for the “new newbies.” In fact, the camaraderie is probably what we wanted them to experience most of all.


Tryouts were held on October 30, 2006. After leaving the gym, the five of us spent the entire day anxiously awaiting an email or a phone call from our directors, notifying us of who the new members were going to be. Three of us finally decided that a quick trip to Bruin Café, a take-out eatery near the residence halls at UCLA, wouldn’t hurt. We were not supposed to discuss who we thought should make it. Of course, we broke that rule. I remember that there was a lot of laughing, many smiles and much energetic discussion when we realized that we all felt the same way.

All of a sudden, Allan received a phone call from Nate. Kevin and I continued with our conversation, but stopped immediately when Allan said that Nate had received the email. We were so excited as we leaned in to try to hear Nate on the other line. Allan grabbed a pencil and paper, and wrote down the names as Nate read them to him. Kevin and I watched in anticipation. With each name came a squeal of excitement and anticipation. The list reached six names, and Allan kept writing. Seven, eight, nine, ten! Ten people! We were overwhelmed with happiness. Just then, Emily walked in. She saw the looks on our faces and immediately knew that we knew. Without her asking, we read off the names. She joined in on our excitement, and we celebrated together, for the names that Nate read to Allan were all of the people that we had agreed would add personality and meaning to the team. We had our new family.

2006-2007 Kyodo Taiko team

I’ll always remember that day. And, looking back now, our class “newbie” title was not that important. I realized that we don’t need a name to solidify our friendship. I’m not sure that we ever did. And, in case you were wondering, those 10 new newbies were amazing. They totally lived up to the expectations and hopes that we had for them. Way to go, guys. Drum on.

Click here to view Elizabeth's Kyodo Taiko Nikkei Album Collection >>


© 2007 Elizabeth Ishida

kyodo taiko nikkei student union students taiko UCLA