Picture this: you are studying Japanese intensively at a language school in Japan. It is the end of July and you have a couple of weeks off. What do you do? Where do you go? Well one possibility is the Matsumoto Castle Grand Taiko Festival. The best part (apart from the drumming) – it is completely free!
Located on the grounds of Matsumoto Castle (松本城), Japan’s oldest surviving five-tiered castle, the Matsumoto Castle Grand Taiko Festival is a stunning display of just what the Japanese can do with taiko (Japanese drums). Teams from across Japan come to participate in this weekend event that happens at the end of July.
Rather than me prattling away about how amazing the drummers were, let me show you instead.
Here is the complete playlist:
The Matsumoto Castle Grand Taiko Festival’s main events are in the evening starting around 5 p.m. However there are events throughout the day at various locations. These are usually in the early afternoon (approximately 1 or 1:30 p.m.) and feature a couple of the groups performing that evening. The locations are: on the castle grounds (the paid part rather than the main stage, which is in the free area), in front of Matsumoto Station and at the main end of Nawate-dori (the famous shopping street).
Afternoon taiko drumming on the castle grounds
Here is one such example of those afternoon events. This was the one on the castle grounds on 31 July 2022 (Sunday):
Unfortunately, after this point, my phone overheated. That day it was 33°C/91°F and my phone was hot from recording as well, so it turned off things to protect itself, including the camera. I wasn’t able to get any more videos.
The main event
The main event that happens in the evening starts at around 5 p.m. The event is completely free; you enter and are escorted to a chair or, if you brought a blanket, you can sit on it in the middle directly in front of the stage. From there, you get to enjoy 3 hours of drumming, ending with the performance of a big-name taiko group. Unfortunately like the afternoon event, my phone would only record so much before it became too hot and it shut itself down.
Also I was in a standing section in the middle that had a good view but what somewhat far from the stage. The zoom does not keep the clarity, so I decided not to zoom for most of the videos. The most important part is the sound anyway. I hope you enjoy. Here is what I recorded:
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