Densho Digital Repository
Seattle JACL Oral History Collection
Title: Stan Shikuma Interview
Narrator: Stan Shikuma
Interviewers: Ana Tanaka, Dr. Kyle Kinoshita
Date: February 11, 2022
Densho ID: ddr-sjacl-2-33-4

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AT: Yeah. So you talked about taiko. So what first got you into taiko in the first place?

SS: Well, I'd been aware of taiko, particularly when I was at Berkeley, because we would always, when we had events or rallies, we would try to get one of the taiko groups to come and play. And when we went out in the community, like in San Francisco or San Jose, because there was San Francisco Taiko Dojo and San Jose Taiko, we would always stick around and watch taiko. So I always loved it, but it never occurred to me that maybe I could play until I got to Seattle. And then when I first got to Seattle, I was staying with the friend of a friend, like I didn't even really know him. But my wife, who was finishing summer school, so she couldn't come up yet -- so I was sent ahead to try to find a place to live. So I stayed with someone that she knew, earlier days in UC Berkeley. And his roommate was one of the founders of Seattle Taiko Group, and we kind of hit it off. So then he said, "Hey, we're going to do a workshop, taiko workshop, try to recruit some new people, you want to come?" So I went and basically love at first sight or first hit. It was just really fun, really exciting. So, after a month or two, they asked if I wanted to join, so I did. So I think officially, I joined the taiko group in either October or November of '81.

AT: So cool. So this is a very, I guess, broad question, but to you, what does taiko mean to you, then? I mean, it's something that you were, you said it was love at first hit? [Laughs]  So what do you think? How does that... how has that influenced kind of, I guess, what you've done after that? Or I guess just in general?

SS: Yeah, well, so for me, taiko has a number of things that pull me towards it. So one is just the sheer joy of playing, just the physicality. That it's a combination of what we like to say is taiko is a synthesis of rhythm, movement, and spirit. So the rhythm is what you play, the musical aspect, the movement is the choreography, and the kata, the form. So some things in common with like martial arts or sports, where you get to move around and use your whole body. And then the spirit part can be taken a couple of different ways. One is, the more secular version is, it's that the energy that you put into it, and one of our sayings is that the energy you put into the drum will determine the energy that you get out of the drum. So, no energy in, no energy out kind of like the "garbage in, garbage out" terminology, except with a drum. And so there's that part. So there's a lot of just physical joy in hitting a drum and moving around. I think the other, as I've played longer, I think, the more spiritual side of the spirit equation is... goes beyond the physicality and the feeling of joy, but also like, some of our teachers have told us that -- and also a lot of Native American folks we run into -- is that drums are spiritual things themselves, that a drum is, comes from wood, so the trees, it comes from the skin that you put on it from animals, it comes from the tacks and the metal rings that you put on it, so from the earth, and that all of these things have spirits or karma. And when you put them all together in a drum, then you as the player are the missing element. And when you strike the drum, you're giving voice to all these spirits that went into the making of the drum. Earth, plants, animals. And so it's kind of like you're enabling those voices to come out, those spirits to come out. And so it's a big responsibility. It's not just... it should not be taken lightly.

And Kenny Endo, one of our teachers, has told us that, but he also said that anytime you go out and play in public, there's going to be someone in the audience who it's the first time they've ever heard taiko. And however you play is what they're gonna think taiko is. And for someone in the audience, it will be the last time they ever hear taiko played, and that will be their lasting impression that they take away. So he said, if you're going to be a taiko performer, taiko artist, you really need to take it seriously. And, yeah, it's good to have fun, that's a necessary part of it, but it's not something you should take for granted or belittle or ever think that what you do on stage or what you do in performance is not important, or it doesn't matter. And then, the other thing is one of our... the guys who, Mark Miyoshi, who makes drums, is a very spiritual guy. And he takes it very seriously when he makes drums. And he also has a lot of Native American friends, so they always go out and bless the drum before he sells it. But like he would tell us, that spiritual part of it, and that... that really what you're trying to do is become one with, what we call become one with the drum, where you and the drum are communicating and you're no longer two separate entities, but you become one thing in process. And when you can achieve that, that's kind of like being in the zone for sports athletes. That you don't, you don't have to think about it. It just kind of flows naturally.

AT: That's really cool. Yeah, I remember, I think, Gabrielle, who we interviewed the first time, I think she said that she took taiko lessons with you before, which is just something that... I was rewatching the interview, and I heard that and I was like, oh my gosh, we're gonna be interviewing him soon. So that was cool.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2022 Seattle Chapter JACL. All Rights Reserved.