Origins of the Taiko

Taiko 3


This week we are thrilled to be bringing San Jose Taiko to Mariposa for a performance at the High School this Saturday night.  Today, while reading through San Jose Taiko’s wonderful outreach curriculum packet, I came across one version of the mythological origin of Taiko.

I am a sucker for mythology and find the various ways we create stories to explain human behavior and the natural world fascinating.  While folktales and myths vary greatly from culture to culture and across time, familiar themes and recognizable characters thread their way through much of the world’s myths demonstrating the universality of human tendencies and our ingrained desire to make sense of the world around us. Here is the mythological origin of taiko and I would be curious what common mythical themes and parallel character traits you may find in it.

One day long ago, the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu was visited by her brother Susano, the Storm God. He carelessly let loose his horses in her rice field to feed them. Amaterasu’s crops were destroyed and she became very angry. So great was her anger that she hid away inside a cave vowing never to come out.

The people on earth began to worry. If Amaterasu remained in the cave there would be no more sunshine upon the earth. Without sunshine, the earth would be dark and cold and crops would not grow. Surely they would die. So the people prayed to the gods and goddesses to help them. Finally, Uzume, the Goddess of Mirth came forward.

Uzume went to the cave entrance and began a joyous dance upon a hollow log. She stomped her feet, beating out wild and inviting rhythms. Inside the cave Amaterasu’s curiosity grew. She had to find out what was making the wonderful sounds. Outside the cave entrance the gods and goddesses held a great mirror. When Amaterasu peeked out of the cave, the mirror captured her radiance. Amaterasu was so delighted by her beautiful reflection that she forgot her anger and sunshine was restored to the earth.

(Taken from San Jose Taiko School Outreach Curriculum Guide, copyright 2004)