Seattle Kokon Taiko

Seattle Kokon Taiko

Seattle, Washington, United States

Founded 1980

Basic Information

    Executive Board

Background Information

Group's Mission and Motivation

Seattle Kokon Taiko strives to maintain and develop a Japanese American folk art based around the performance, promotion and study of taiko (Japanese drumming).


1. Base ourselves in the Japanese American community.
We seek to contribute to the development of a uniquely Japanese American art form. Taiko is rooted in the art, culture and religions of Japan and was brought to North America by Japanese immigrants. Taiko is a vital part of our cultural heritage which we hope to contribute to current and future generations in our community and our country. We are based in the Japanese American community here in Seattle, from which we draw much of our support and inspiration. We are part of a larger taiko movement which in turn is part of the national Asian American art and culture movement. Though our community has faced overt discrimination and cultural repression in the past, we promote a positive example of Japanese American resistance, perseverance and success in the face of hardships.

2. Develop taiko as an ancient and modern performing art.
Taiko is a synthesis of rhythm, movement and spirit. In Seattle Kokon Taiko, we strive to combine the old Japanese folk traditions with new American experiences. Taiko is both ancient and modern, something for all ages. Our repertoire includes pieces from Japan based on various regional styles and genres as well as contemporary pieces of our own composition or arising from collaborations with other artists. We strive to consistently broaden and raise our own artistic level while reaching back towards our roots, combining elements of music, theater, dance and improvisation to develop our own unique style of taiko.

3. Educate the public on the history and practice of taiko in America.
We are here to preserve, develop and expand the art of taiko in the United States. We are responsible for imparting to our audiences and the general public an authentic and accurate account of taiko, its history, practice, performance and development. Through study, we expand our own knowledge base so that we may become better teachers as well as better performers.

4. Train a new generation of taiko players.
We consider taiko a community and national treasure. As Seattle's original performing taiko group, it is incumbent on us to prepare for the continuation of this tradition. We have also developed something of our own group philosophy and practice which needs to be handed on to others. The greatest treasure is the one most widely shared, and we share our knowledge through workshops, classes and lecture-demonstrations.

5. Build multi-cultural understanding and multi-national unity.
The United States is a multi-cultural, multi-national country with a long history of democracy and freedom, but also of racism and oppression. To strengthen our community and our nation, we can promote pride, awareness and appreciation of Japanese American art and culture and also act as cultural liaisons between communities. Like John Coltrane, we want our art to be "a force for good" in the world.

Structure and Philosophy
Describe the ensemble's organizational structure and philosophy, including leadership structure, membership policy, and instructional process.

SKT has a Leadership Board of 3 members that make day-to-day decisions as needed for the group. Major decisions are put to a vote. Certain members volunteer or are appointed to take on specific responsibilities, e.g. Bookings, Treasurer, Practice Manaager, Volunteer Coordinator, Web-master, etc. Membership is by invitation following an audition process and apprecticeship of 6 months. Generally ,we teach each other according to our skills and expertise. We bring in master teachers (e.g. Kenny Endo, Tiffany Tamaribuch, Shohei Kikuchi, TaikoProject) when they are in town/available, often in conjunction with the other local taiko groups. (SKT is a member of Regional Taiko Groups of Seattle, AKA RTG-Seattle, a consortium of 8 local taiko groups.)

Group History
Describe how, where, and why the ensemble was founded. What was its inspiration?

SKT traces its start to Seattle Taiko Group, the first group to form in Washington state in 1980 following a performance by Ondeko-za at the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival. Early training and inspiration for the group came from San Francisco Taiko Dojo and Tanaka-sensei, Kinnara Taiko, San Jose Taiko and Katari Taiko. In 1987, three STG members left to form Kokon Taiko Ensemble, and in 1992 these two groups reunited to form Seattle Kokon Taiko. From the beginning, the group has strived to improve its taiko technique, serve the JA and Asian American community, work towards social justice and multi-national unity and have some fun. Later influences included Kenny Endo, Uzume Taiko, KODO and Hanayui.

List of Founding Members

STG (1980): William Satake Blauvelt, Jeff Hanada, Masaye Nakagawa, Akemi Matsumoto, Jan Kubota, Ann Kawasaki, ?? Higa
KTE (1987): William Satake Blauvelt, Stan Shikuma, Michio Teshima
SKT (1992): William Satake Blauvelt, Stan Shikuma, Joyce Nakamura, Martin Louie, Harriet Kashiwada, Sheri Nakashima, Meiko Blosser, Aiko Suganuma

List of Current Members

Carrie Carter, Marinda Chen, Debbie Day, Kosta Kyriacopoulos, Charlene Lee, Gretchen Ludwig, Joyce Nakamura, Jina Oshiro, Lika Roberts, Stan Shikuma, Coll Thrush, Mimi Wong

Membership Composition
(i.e. ethnicity, generation, average years of experience, musical backgrounds, and motivation for playing)

Ethnic backgrounds: Japanese, Chinese , Caucasian, African American, Korean, Native American
Taiko Experience: 1-24 years; avg around 6 years
Musical Backgounds: piano, flute, trumpet, viola
Other backgrounds: tap dance, martial arts, running, photography, video production, gymnastics, iaido, yoga
Motivations: performance, serve JA community, political statement through art, artistic expression, recreation and fun, cultural heritage

Description of the group's community - regional, ethnic, social, etc.

SKT is a member of Regional Taiko Groups of Seattle or RTG-Seattle, a consortium of 8 performing groups in the Seattle area. We first came together to host the 1998 Regional Taiko Gathering -- a conference for groups from Oregon, Washington and Britsh Columbia. We have since added Idaho. RTG-Seattle meets regularly (almost once a month) to work on joint projects, e.g. RTG conferences, hosting workshops by Hanayui or TakoProject, joint performances, etc.

Biggest Changes
Describe two of the biggest changes that have characterized the group's development since its founding

1. Merging (or RE-merging) of Seattle Taiko Group and Kokon Taiko Ensemble to form Seattle Kokon Taiko, which ushered in a period of growth in membership and artistic accomplishments -- orignial compositions, collaborations with other artists, publication of a newsletter, grant proposals, producing our own concerts.
2. Working together with other local taiko groups to host/produce the Regional Taiko Gathering 1998. This led to a continuing collaboration between groups and the formation of Regtional Taiko Groups of Seattle (RTG-Seattle), an umbrellas organization that helps sponsor conferences, workshops and joint performances.

Performances, Recordings, Publications

List a selection of your regular performance venues (for example, Denver Sakura Matsuri, Seabrook obon, business conventions, Manzanar Pilgrimage, Maui Marathon, etc.)

Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival
Chinatown/International District Summer Festival
Aki Matsuri
Hiroshima to Hope
Northwest Folklife Festival

Instructors, Teachers & Mentors
List the instructors, teachers and mentors who have worked with the ensemble.

Seiichi Tanaka
Katari Taiko
John Endo Greenaway
San Jose Taiko
Kenny Endo
Uzume Taiko
Shohei Kikuchi

Taiko Collaborators
List a selection of taiko players or groups that have collaborated with the ensemble.

Kenny Endo

Non-Taiko Collaborators
List a selection of non-taiko players or groups that have collaborated with the ensemble.

Joan Laaage and Dappin' Butoh
Matt Messina
AC Peterson
Kobayashi, Murao & Takemori

Audio & Video Recordings
List a selection of publicly accessible audio and/or video recordings featuring the ensemble.

Quiet No More!, Seattle Kokon Taiko CD, 1997

Signature Works
Please include title, composer, date of composition, special reason(s) for composition, and what the work represents to the group.

YAKUDO, William Satake Blauvelt & Stan Shikuma, 1988 -- "joyous movement" captures the essence of playing taiko
TRINITY-8689, Stan Shikuma, 1997 -- a contemplation on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in three movements (Alamogordo, Ground Zero, Hibakusha); for taiko, fue and dance


Stan Shikuma
3214 - 24th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144


Seattle Kokon Taiko at a Boeing "rollout"



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