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Taiko Glossary

By Rolling Thunder with some edits.



Age-bachi - Wooden sticks used to tension the ropes on tsukeshime-daiko. .


Atarigane - Also known as chan-chiki or kane. A hand gong. Often used to keep time. It is played held in the hand or suspended by a cord. Often decorated with tassels called fusa. Struck with a deer horn mallet called the shumoku.


Bachi - Also buchi. General term for drum sticks. Also refers to the plectrum or pick used by shamisen and biwa players. There are a variety of bachi in many size, shapes and materials. The most common woods used are kashi for nagado-daiko, hou for shime-daiko, and hinoki for Odaiko and Yatai-bayashi. Almost all taiko are struck with bachi, the only exceptions seem to be the kotsuzumi, ootsuzumi and Yooko.


Bin-sasara - Also ita-sasara. A rattle-like instrument made of many small slats of wood connected by a spine of string with a handle at each end. By flicking the handles back and forth, the slats strike each other, creating a "zipping" sound.


Biwa - A round backed lute with a cranked neck developed from the Chinese pipa, and played with a oversized plectrum called a bachi. The biwa has three strings and four frets. Often played in conjunction with the singing of old historical tales, eg. Heike Monogatari, but also a solo instrument in it's own right.


Boo-sasara - A long, notched stick that is rubbed with a smaller stick. Similar to a guiro.


Bu - Traditional Japanese measure. 10 bu make one sun. Subdivided into 10 units called rin. Roughly equivalent to 3 mm in the Kana system. See also shaku.

Bugaku - Classical Japanese Court Dance. Accompanied by Gagaku music. The dances are divided into Dances of the Left, and Dances of the Right. See also Gagaku, Sahoogaku, Uhoogaku.


Buna - The Japanese beech tree used for bachi.


Busho-dai - A low, lightweight stand used to hold a classical shime-daiko at a slight angle. Used while playing the shime-daiko from a seated position. Similar to, but slightly heavier and sturdier than, a teren-dai.


Buyoo - Classical Japanese Dance.


Byoo - Tacks used to nail the heads on certain taiko.


Byoo-daiko - Also Byoouchi-daiko. General term for a nailed-head drums.


Chappa - Also called tebyoshi. Small hand cymbals. Size in "go" where one go is equal to one sun. Usual sizes range from 4 go to 6 go.


Choochin - Paper lantern. Used for decoration by some taiko groups. It is common to have the taiko group's name written on the choochin.


Chogake - A system of measurement used for tsukeshime-daiko. There are 4 chogake sizes, from 2 chogake to 5 chogake. 2 chogake shime have lighter bodies, and thinner heads. 5 chogake shime have the heaviest bodies and thickest heads, and are capable of a much higher pitch. Sometimes the term is colloquially shortened to "cho". In addition to the chogake sizes, there is the lightest tsukeshime called namitsuke. Also see tsukeshime-daiko, namitsuke.


Chu-daiko - General term for a medium sized drum, roughly around 2 shaku in diameter. Most often refers to a drum of that size of the nagado byoo-uchi (nagado-daiko) style.


Dadaiko - Highly decorated okedo-daiko style drum used for Gagaku and religious ceremonies. The drum is placed in a ornately carved frame, and are played with short, padded beaters. Dadaiko are usually around two meters in diameter, and are one of the oldest styles of taiko used in Japan, dating from at least the 7th century. There are two styles of Dadaiko, and they are always played in pairs. The Leftside (Saho) Dadaiko and the Right side (Uho) Dadaiko. The Saho Dadaiko has green colored body, a futatsu-domoe is lacquered on the head, and the stand has images of a phoenix surmounted by a sun carved on it. The Uho Dadaiko had a red colored body, has a mitsu-domoe lacquered on the head, and the stand has Chinese dragons surmounted by a moon carved on it.


Dai - General term used for a drum stand. Also used as a suffix in a compound word indicating the style of stand: e.g. shikaku-dai is a stand of shikaku (square) shape.

  • For hira-daiko see also: fuse-dai, tsuri-dai.

  • For nagado-dai see also: ashi ippon-dai, hira-dai, oritatami-dai (also called a slant stand), miya-dai, Miyake-dai, shikaku-dai, Yatai-dai, yagura-dai, yonhon ashi-dai, "X"-dai.

  • For shime-dai see also: busho-dai, nihon ashi-dai, suwari-dai, tachi-dai, teren-dai.


Daibyoshi - A style of short bodied okedo-daiko used in Kabuki music. Usually lacquered black. The high pitch of the drum is used to represent of the atmosphere and ambience of Edo and city life. Also see tsuchibyoshi.


-daiko - Suffix used to indicate a type of drum, a taiko group, or a style of taiko playing in a compound word. Ex. 1 Chu-daiko (medium sized taiko). Ex. 2 Osuwa-daiko (the Osuwa Taiko group). Ex. 3 Miyake-daiko (the style of taiko playing in the Miyake region).


Do - General term used for the body of a drum.


Dojo - A place for studying.  A taiko dojo would be a place for learning taiko.


Dora - A fairly small gong with a deep lip and pronounced center boss.


Edo-bayashi - Festival music of Edo.


Eisa-daiko - Okinawan style of Bon dancing/drumming. Known for its spirited drumming, often by dancers who carry the drums as they dance.


Fuchi - The rim of the drum, where the "ka" note is played.


Fue - In the broadest meaning, fue refers to any blown instrument including nohkan, shakuhachi and sho. However, the term is widely used to refer to a transverse (horizontal) bamboo flute. These fue come in a variety of sizes, numbered from #1 (lowest in pitch) to #13 (highest in pitch). Most fue have six or seven holes. Most are in a native scale (matsuribue) but some are made to play western scales (utabue).


Fundoshi - A loincloth. Sometimes worn in various festivals and by some taiko groups during performances, particularly Odaiko solos.


Fusa - A tassel, used as a decorative element. Often hung from the ends of atarigane cords and from chappa.


Fuse-dai - A stand for a large hira-daiko. The hira-daiko is laid horizontally on a "T" shaped base, and supported at a slight angle by short uprights at each end of the "T". 


Futatsu-domoe - A design made up of two comma shaped marks in a circle (similar to a yin-yang symbol). Also commonly called a tomoe. Associated with the music of the left in Gagaku. It is a common design lacquered on the heads of Odaiko. Also see mitsu-domoe; tomoe.


Gaku-daiko - A type of highly decorated hira-daiko used in Gagaku. It is suspended vertically in a frame and struck with padded mallets. It is played while seated.

Gagaku - Japanese imperial court orchestral music. Literally means "refined music". Introduced into Japan in the 6th and 7th centuries, and formalized in 701. The music and dances of gagaku were organized into The Music of the Left and the Music of the Right in the 9th century. The genre exists mostly unchanged to this day, making it the oldest surviving tradition of court music still played. Gaguku utilizes a scale of seven tones and has six keys. 


Hachimaki - Headband often worn during festivals or by some taiko groups.


Hanten - Short kimono-like coat often used in festivals and performances.


Happi - Short kimono-like coat often used in festivals and performances.


Hara - Belly. Location of the Ki energy in humans. Also refers to center of the drumhead.


Harakake - Also maekake. A apron-like garment used in festivals and by some taiko groups.


Hara-maki - Long strip of cotton cloth used to wrap the stomach or midsection.


Harisen - Also hariogi. A short, narrow, leather wrapped paddle used as bachi. Used in traditional instruction to learn rhythms and practice.


Hayashi - General term for a musical ensemble that includes drums; musical accompaniment; festival music.


Hayashi-bue - Bamboo transverse flute used in hayashi music. Also know as fue, matsuribue, shinobue, takebue or yokobue. See fue.

Himo - Rope or cord.


Hinoki - Japanese Cypress tree. The wood is used for making bachi.


Hira-dai - A stand for a nagado-daiko. The hira-dai is two pieces of crossed wood used to hold a nagado-daiko vertically slightly off the floor.


Hira-daiko - General term for a drum wider than it is deep (Lit. "flat drum") , with nailed heads, and carved from a single block of wood. Small hira-daiko are often used in Hayashi music. Highly decorated versions called gaku-daiko are used in Gagaku. Hira-daiko have also been scaled up to Odaiko size for use by kumi-daiko groups.


Hira-tsuri-daiko - A hira-daiko that has been suspended vertically in a frame-like stand. Classified seperately from the gaku-daiko.


Hoo - Wood of a relative of the magnolia tree. A soft and light wood. Used to make bachi.


Hon-bari - The final stretching of head over a taiko body in preparation of tacking it in place. 


Hon-jime - The final stage of tensioning a tsukeshime-daiko. Two people take turns pulling the slack out of the tensioning rope while pounding on the rope with stick called an agebachi. 


Horagai - A large shell used as trumpet-type instrument. The horagai is not a Conch shell, but either the Pacific Triton or the Shank shell.


Hogaku - Japanese classical music. Associated with Nagauta and theater music. Primary instruments are the shamisen, kotsuzumi, ootsuzumi, shime-daiko and noh-kan.

Hyooshigi - Wooden blocks used as clappers. Similar to Latin clave, but struck at the tips rather than in the middle of the block.


Ikko - A highly decorated hourglass shaped drum used in Bugaku. Two heads are stitched onto steel rings, and are then laced to the body with a cord (oshirabe). A tensioning cord (koshirabe) is then wound around the oshirabe. The ikko is slung across the chest of Bugaku dancers and played with bachi in both hands. It is similar to, but smaller than, the sanko. Also see kakko, sanko.


Ippon ashi-dai - Literally, "one legged stand." A ornate stand for a nagado-daiko used in temples and shrines.


Jikata - Someone who plays the ji rhythm. Also see Ouchi.


Jiuchi - Also called ji. A base, or backing rhythm. Usually a simple duple beat (do ko), a swing beat (don go), or a horse rhythm (don doko).


Jozuke - A specialized term that was created by Oedo Sukeroku Daiko and is used to describe a medium sized (about 1.6 shaku) nagado-daiko on a slant stand. The term is literally means to "place facing up" 


Jyoo - Traditional Japanese unit of measure. 10 shaku make one jyoo. Approximately 3m in the kana system. Also see kanajyaku, shaku.


Kaba - Birchwood. Used for bachi, particularly children's bachi since it is lightweight and strong.


Kabuki-bayashi - the music of Kabuki theater. The ensemble itself is called debayashi. Kabuki instrumentation is divided into onstage and geza (offstage) players. The onstage musicians are in full view of the patrons and provide the musical accompaniment. The onstage instrumentation includes fue, shamisen, wadaiko (shime-daiko), kotsuzumi and ootsuzumi. The offstage musicians are backstage and provide sound effects and mood. See also daibyooshi, tsuchibyooshi, and odaiko.


Kagura suzu - A decorative, hand held bell tree composed of three tiers of jingle bells. The first (top) tier has three bell, the second tier has five and the lowest tier has seven. 

Kakegoe - Shouts, vocal calls. Used to accent the music, signal shifts in rhythm, and to encourage other performers.


Kakko - A small, highly ornate, taiko used in Gagaku. Two heads are stitched onto steel rings, and they are then laced to a slightly rounded, cylindrical body with a cord (oshirabe). Two tensioning cords (koshirabe) are then wound around the oshirabe. The Kakko is set on a low stand and is played by the ensemble leader. It is played with thin, hardwood bachi with slightly bulbous tips held in each hand. It's main function is to keep time. It is associated with the music of the left. Also see ikko, sanko.


Kamae - A stance.


Kan - also kanagu. The ring shaped handles attached to nailed-head taiko. Composed of two parts: Zagane is the decorative metal plate; Kanamaru is the ring itself.


Kanajyaku - "kana shaku," one form of the traditional shaku/sun measuring system. One shaku in the kana system is roughly 30cm. Used to measure taiko as well as used in carpentry. See also kujira shaku, shaku.


Kane - A gong or large bell. Also colloquially to refer to the atarigane.


Kari-bari - a pre-stretch of a head over the body of a taiko. See also hon-bari.


Kashi - The Japanese oak tree. The hard and dense wood of the white oak tree (shirogashi) is used for making bachi and dai.

Kata - Form or style. Literally, it means form or shape. Kata also refers to the way of doing something. In taiko, kata is the stances and movements for a song or style. For example, the kata for Miyake-daiko is very different from Midare-uchi.


Kawa - Leather, skin (for drumheads).


Keyaki - The zelkova tree, which is native to Japan. Grows widely throughout the islands of Honshuu, Shikoku and Kyuushuu. Used extensively for kuri-nuki-daiko in Japan due to its hard wood and beautiful grain pattern. The best trees for taiko making are reputed to come from the foot of Mt. Haku as well as the Japan alps. Relative of the elm family.


Ki - Your body's energy or spirit.


Kiai - A shout used to channel ki. Often used as kakegoe.


Ko-daiko - A general term referring to a small taiko in the one shaku range.

Koto - Japanese zither, usually with 13 strings, although bass and custom versions with more strings are also found.


Kotsuzumi - A small hand drum. Two heads are sewn over steel rings and laced onto an hourglass shaped body with a cord called the shirabeo. A second cord wraps around the first, allowing the kotsuzumi to be tuned. The body is made from cherry wood, and is often beautifully decorated with makie (gilded patterns on lacquer). The pitch can be varied by squeezing the ropes with the left hand while striking the drum with the right. The drum is held in the left hand and placed on the right shoulder, and the right hand sweeps up to the shoulder to hit the head. The heads are very thin, being made from unborn calf skin where possible, and are decorated with black lacquer. The best heads for kotsuzumi are reputed to be those that have been broken in for over 100 years. Used traditionally in Kabuki, Nagauta and Noh theater, but very rarely in kumi-daiko.


Kuchi showa - Also kuchi shoga, kuchi shoka. The mnemonic syllables (and system) used in learning traditional Japanese music. One syllable will correspond with one sound/note of an instrument.


Kujira shaku - One form of the traditional shaku/sun measuring system. One shaku in the kujira system is roughly 38cm. Kujira shaku is not used to measure taiko, the kanakyaku system is. See also kanajyaku, shaku.


Kumi-daiko - Lit. "grouped drums". A taiko ensemble. The modern style of taiko playing using many drums and performers at the same time. The origin of this style is attributed to Mr. Daihachi Oguchi of Osuwa Daiko.


Kuri-nuki-daiko - General term for a drum that has been carved out of one log.


Kusu - Champhor wood.


Ma - The space between two events (two notes or beats on the drum, etc). Somewhat equaling to a rest in Western notation, but with a deeper connotation than mere absense of sound. Ma is just as important as the notes that surround it, giving shape and contrast to the sounds that we hear. A very important concept in many traditional Japanese arts, not just music.


Matsuri - Festival. The noun form of the verb "matsuru", meaning to worship.


Matsuribue - Festival flute. A fue that is used in a matsuri (festival) and is tuned to the requirements of that festival's music.


Meari - A generic term used to indicate taiko making wood that is not keyaki. Usually applied to nagado and hira-daiko. Meari taiko are not as expensive as keyaki. This category can include horse chestnut, toboku, sen, camphor among others. Literally means "has grain".

Mimi - The portion of the drum head below the tacks, where rods have been passed through slits in the skin. After the head has been tacked on, the mimi can either be trimmed off or left on. If the mimi is trimmed off, you lose the option to retension the head at a later date.

Mitsu-domoe - A design similar to the futatsu-domoe, but using three comma shaped marks contained in a circle rather than two. This design is associated with the music of the right in Gagaku. It is a common design lacquered on the heads of Odaiko. Also see futatsu-domoe; tomoe.


Miya-dai - A stand for a miya-daiko. The miya-dai has two main vertical supports and decoratively carved "wings" which cradle the taiko. The miya-dai holds the taiko horizontally at roughly waist level.


Miya-daiko - Shrine or temple drum. Also used as a general term for nagado-daiko.


Miyake-dai - Also za-dai. A low stand used to hold a nagado-daiko horizontally at knee height. Used for the miyake style of taiko playing.


Miyake-daiko - A traditional style of taiko that involves low, lunging stances.


Mojiri - Bachi used to twist the tensioning ropes of a taiko having a head put on.


Momohiki - Pants often worn during festivals or by some taiko groups.


Naga-bachi - Long bachi. Often made of tapered oak or from bamboo slats.


Nagado-daiko - Lit. "long-bodied taiko". While the term can be applied to many taiko, including some okedo, most people associate the term nagado-daiko with a taiko carved from a single piece of wood, usually keyaki, sen, shiogi or tamo. The body has a rounded, barrel shaped appearance, with the maximum diameter being roughly equal to the length of the drum from head to head. The cowhide heads are nailed onto the body of the drum with tacks. The pitch of the drum cannot be changed without re-tensioning and re-tacking the head in place. A pair of ring shaped handles, called kan, are attached to the sides. This is the prototypical taiko drum most often associated with taiko drumming. nagado-daiko are available in many sizes, from 30cm to over 2m. A wide variety of stands are also available for this taiko.


Nagauta - A form of Japanese classical music, focusing on long songs and with shamisen and vocal melodic lines supported by percussion. The percussion ensemble includes kotsuzumi, ootsuzumi, and shime-daiko. See also Kabuki-bayashi.


Namitsuke - The lightest and smallest tsukeshime-daiko. Not capable of high pitches like the heavier chogake sized tsukeshime-daiko. See also chogake, tsukeshime-daiko, wadaiko.


Narimono - General term for small, handheld percussion instruments.


Nawa - Rope.


Nenbutsu-daiko - A style of okedo-daiko used in Kabuki and folk music. The heads are stretched directly onto the body of the taiko with rope, instead of first being stitched onto steel rings and then laced to the body.


Nihon Ashi-dai - A low stand used to hold a shime-daiko at a slight angle. Used while playing the shime-daiko from a seated position.


Obi - Sash or belt used to hold a kimono or hanten closed.


Odaiko - Literally: big, fat, drum. In general, the term is used for any drum larger than 84cm in diameter. It can refer to a large drum of any style, e.g. hirado odaiko; okedo odaiko; but usually is reserved for drums of the nagado style. Odaiko also specifically refers to the largest drum in several musical ensembles, e.g. Kabuki and Eisa-daiko. In Kabuki the Odaiko is usually a nagado-daiko and is played offstage. Certain rhythic patterns played on it for sound effects and to suggest mood. Okinawan Eisa-daiko also refers to it's largest drum as odaiko although it is only about 1.5 shaku in size. This Okinawan odaiko is shaped roughly like a nagado-daiko, but made with a stave construction from pine. This light weight allows the odaiko to be slung from the shoulder and played while dancing.

Ojime - A type of Okedo-daiko. Ojime okedo have thicker heads and longer bodies than most styles of okedo-daiko. Ojime is the typical okedo used by many performing taiko groups.


Oke - A Japanese-style barrel. Made with thin slats of Japanese cypress or cedar, usually in a straight sided, cylindrical style. Different from Oke-style wooden tubs.


Okedo-daiko - Also Oke-daiko. General term for drums made from a barrel-stave construction. The heads are usually stitched over steel rings and then laced to the body with a rope, similar to the shime-daiko. The tone of the drum can be changed by the rope tension. There are several styles of okedo daiko, many with a relative long body. Nebuta, Nambu-yoo, and Ojime are long body styles; the leather of the heads get thicker, and the bodies get longer as you go from Nebuta to Ojime. Often played horizontally up on tall stands, with a player striking each head. Daibyoshi, tsuchibyoshi, and nenbutsu style okedo are much shorter, and are played in Kabuki and folk music. Often played horizontally while seated on the floor. Eitetsu-gata (Eitetsu style) are relatively short, and are played vertically like the floor tom of drum kit.


Omikoshi - A portible Shinto shrine carried about on the shoulders of festival participants.

Ootsuzumi - Also called an ookawa. Small hand drum used in Noh, Nagauta, and Kabuki theater. Two heads are stitched over steel rings, and are placed on an hourglass shaped body and then laced together with rope. The body is made from cherry wood and is often beautifully decorated with makie (gilded patterns on lacquer). Similar to, but slightly larger than, the kotsuzumi. Produces a higher pitch than the kotsuzumi, but cannot change pitch like the kotsuzumi. The heads are made with much thicker leather than the kotsuzumi, and are undecorated. Sometimes played with a hard paper Mache cap called saku placed over the fingers, or a short leather paddle.


Oritatatmi-dai - Also called naname-dai, sukeroku-dai, slant stand. A stand for a nagado daiko that holds the taiko at a roughly forty-five degree angle at waist level. Widely used by kumi-daiko groups. Popularized by the Oedo Sukeroku Taiko group.


Oroshi - A drum pattern of increasingly rapid beats, often leading to a drum roll.


Ouchi - Someone who plays the main rhythm. 


Paranku - Small one headed drum somewhat similar to a robust tambourine with no jingles. Played in Okinawan Eisa style drumming.


Rin - Traditional Japanese Measure. Ten rin make one bu. Roughly equivilent to 0.3mm in the kana system. Also see Shaku.


Ryomenbari etsuki-daiko - A small hira daiko on a wooden handle. Held in one hand while played with a bachi in the other. Usually around 6.5-8 sun in diameter. A varient called ameya-daiko (candy seller's taiko) also exists, which is larger in diameter and thinner than ryoomenbari etsuki-daiko.


Ryuuteki - Flute similar in appearance and construction to the Nohkan, used in Gakaku.


Sahoogaku - Music of the Left. The body of gagaku music and dances were organized into the Music of the Right and the Music of the Left in the 9th century. Sahoogaku includes gagaku compositions from China and Southeast Asia, as well as Japanese compositions in those styles. Visually, sahoogaku is associated with the color red, the mitsu-domoe, and the images of dragons surmounted by the sun. 

Samai - Dances of the Left. Samai includes dances from China and Southeast Asia as well as Japanese compositions in that style, and is always accompanied by sahoogaku. Samai generally have slow, elegant movements, which are based on the melody. Visually, Samai is associated with the color red.


Sairei-nagado - Also ohayashi-daiko. A style of nagado-daiko that has a longer body than normal (more "cigar shaped" than round). Used for festivals, and available in a limited range of sizes.


Saku - Hard paper mache caps worn on the fingers and used to strike the Ootsuzumi.


Sanko - Also called San no Tsuzumi. A highly decorated hourglass shaped drum used in gagaku. Two heads are stiched onto rings, which are then laced to the body with a cord (oshirabe). A tensioning cord (koshirabe) is then wound around the oshirabe. It is played on a low stand using a slender hardwood bachi held in the right hand, although it was once played by dancers similar to the ikko. Associated with the Music of the Right, it is used instead of the kakko in the orchestra when Bugaku dances of the right are played. It is similar to, but larger than, the ikko. 


Sambon Ashi-dai - Literally, "Three leg dai." A low stand that holds a hira-daiko at a slight angle. Used to play the hira-daiko while seated.


Sen - Japanese wood used in making taiko. Softer, less durable and less expensive than keyaki. Used in making kuri-nuki taiko.


Shaku - Traditional Japanese measure. Each Shaku is subdivided into 10 units called sun; 10 shaku make one jyoo. There are several different shaku measuring systems depending on the industry or region of Japan. Taiko are measured using the "kana" shaku system where one shaku is equivalent to 30.3cm or roughly one foot. Kana is also the system used for carpentry. 


Shakuhachi - Bamboo end-blown flute, with four holes in front and one in back. Takes its name from the standard instrument size of one shaku, 8 (hachi) sun, although a wide variety of sizes are available. Know for its delicate tonal shadings and evocative, breathy sounds.


Shamisen - A banjo-like instrument with three strings. Played with a plectrum or a pick. Often claimed to be the best instrument to express Japanese sensitivities and feelings. Common on the Japanese main islands, and developed from the Okinawan sanshin. The shamisen is larger and heavier than the sanshin, and is skinned with cat or dog. See also sanshin and jamisen.


Shime-daiko - General term for a rope-tensioned drum (now sometimes bolt or turnbuckle tensioned as well). Also specifically refers to small rope tuned drums often used used in Noh, Kabuki, Hayashi, Kumi-daiko, etc. Shime-daiko have two heads which are sewn over steel rings and laced to a kuri-nuki body with a rope called the shirabeo. It is tensioned with a second rope called the ueshirabe that is wound around the lacings of the first rope. These shime-daiko are sometime just called "taiko" or "wadaiko," and have relatively thin heads, often with a circular patch of deer skin in the middle of the head. Shime-daiko used for folk music and kumi-daiko are called tsukeshime-daiko; they are usually much heavier, have thicker skin, and are capable of being tensioned to a very high pitch. 


Shinobue - Also know as fue, hayashi-bue, takebue or yokobue. Bamboo transverse flute. 


Shishi-daiko - A type of short okedo-daiko used in Shishi Odori. Usually lacquered black.

Sugi - Japanese cedar wood. Used for okedo-daiko bodies.


Sumo-daiko - Small nagado-style taiko used for performing before and after sumo wrestling matches. They are played with long bamboo sticks, and have a characteristic high, taut sound. While lacquered and gold leafed versions are used for sumo, unadorned versions have found their way into kumi-daiko.


Sun - Traditional Japanese measure. 10 sun make one shaku. Subdivided into 10 units called bu. Roughly equivalent to 3 cm in the kana system. See also shaku.

Suwari-dai - Literally, "seated stand." A low stand used to hold a shime-daiko at a slight angle. Used while playing the shime-daiko from a seated position. Typically refers to a stand make from bent iron rod used to hold heavier tsukeshime-daiko.


Suzu - A bell similar to a jingle bell. Also see kagura suzu.


Tabi - Split toed socks worn with Japanese dress, such as kimono. Tabi with rubber soles are known as Jika-tabi. Tabi are usually either white, black, or a very dark navy blue.


Tachi-dai - A upright stand used to hold a shime-daiko at a slight angle at waist level.


Taiko - General term for Japanese drums. Specifically refers to the shime-daiko used in classical Japanese music. Also used to refer to the Kumi-daiko style of taiko drumming.


Take - Bamboo.


Takebue - Also known as fue, hayashi-bue, shinobue, and yokobue. Bamboo transverse flute. Literally means "bamboo flute". See fue.


Tamo - A wood used in taiko making.


Taru - A wooden tub or barrel. Made from thick staves, usually with a tapered body. Used for making pickles or miso paste. Sometimes played by certain Japanese traditional groups instead of taiko, using wooden mallets. Also refers to the wine barrels used by many North American groups to make taiko, e.g. wine-daru-daiko. 

Tate-jime - First step in the process of tensioning a tsukeshime-daiko. The rope passing from head to head is tightened by prying with a stick and taking up the slack. See also hon-jime.

Tekkou - Wristbands. Often extending to cover the back of the hands.


Tenugui - A cotton handcloth often rolled up and used as a headband.


Teren-dai - A low, lightweight stand used to hold a classical shime-daiko at a slight angle. Used while playing the shime-daiko from a seated position in Noh, Kabuki, Nagauta, etc.

Toboku - Hardwood from Cameroon used as a replacement for keyaki wood. Used primarily for odaiko due the great diameters of bole available.


Tochi - The Japanese horse chestnut tree. Softer, less durable and less expensive than Keyaki. Used for kuri-nuki daiko.


Tomoe - A comma shaped design, common in Japanese, Korean and Chinese history. The term "tomoe" is commonly used to refer to a design with two of the comma shaped marks contained in a circle (similar to a yin-yang symbol), although this is properly called a futatsu-domoe (lit: two tomoe). It is a common design lacquered on the heads of Odaiko. Also see futatsu-domoe and mitsu-domoe.


Torii-dai - A frame-like stand that holds a hira-daiko in a vertical position.


Tsuchibyooshi - A style of okedo-daiko used in Kabuki music. The low pitch of the drum is used to represent of the atmosphere and ambience of the countryside. This taiko is also used in folk Shinto shrine music. Also see daibyoshi.


Tsukeshime-daiko - A type of shime-daiko used in folk or kumi-daiko playing. This type is heavier, stronger, and can be pitched much higher than other styles of shime-daiko. There are five sizes: namitsuke (thinnest heads, smallest body), 2; 3; 4 and 5 chogake (thickest heads, biggest body). Tsuke shime-daiko are tensioned with a single rope system, bolts or turnbuckles.


Tsuri-dai - A stand for Hira-daiko. The Hira-daiko is suspended vertically in a frame, usually knee or waist high.


Tsuri-daiko - A type of hira-daiko used in Gagaku. It is and struck with padded mallets. Usually highly decorated. Also called a gaku-daiko.


Tsuzumi - General term for hourglass shaped drums.



Uchite - A taiko player.


Uchiwa-daiko - A handheld taiko that has the skin stretched and stitched over a hoop and attached to a handle. This taiko has no resonator. Literally means "fan drum." Originally used to accompany chanting in the Nichiren Buddhist sect, but now common in taiko groups. Most uchiwa are small (7 sun - 1.5 shaku), but large versions (up to 5 shaku or larger) are sometimes made. Commonly set up in a rack and played as a set.


Uhoogaku - Music of the Right. The body of Gagaku music and dances were organized into the Music of the Right and the Music of the Left in the 9th century. Uhoogaku includes Gagaku compositions from Korea, as well as Japanese compositions in that style. Visually, Uhoogaku is associated with the color green, the futatsu-domoe, and the image of phoenix surmounted by the moon. See dadaiko, gagaku, sahoogaku, samai, uhoogaku, umai.


Urushi - Japanese lacquer. The most common finish for taiko bodies. It is capable of being colored a variety of tints, from clear to black. The application of urushi is considered an art form in Japan. The lacquer is tapped from trees similar to the way maple syrup is obtained. 

Uta - A song. Also a general term for singing.


Utabue - A fue tuned to western scales.



Wadaiko - Literally, "Japanese Drum". Used to refer in general to Japanese drums as opposed to Western percussion. Specifically refers to the shime-daiko used in Noh and Kabuki theater. Also sometimes used to refer to kumi-daiko.


Waraji - Sandals made from rice straw.



X-dai - A "X" shaped stand for nagado and oke-daiko. The X-dai holds the taiko horizontally at head level.



Yagura-dai - A stand for a nagado-daiko that has four, slightly splayed legs. The yagura-dai holds the drum horizontally at about shoulder height.


Yatai - a festival float, pulled by festival participants, sometimes carrying musicians.


Yokobue - Also known as fue, hayashi-bue, shinobue and takebue. A transverse bamboo flute. Literally means "horizontal flute". See fue.


Yonbyoshi - A term indicating the four instruments of Nohgaku: kotsuzumi, ootsuzumi, taiko, nohkan.


Yonhon Ashi-dai - Also Shihon bashira-dai. A stand for a nagado-daiko that has four vertical legs. The yonhon ashi-dai holds the taiko

horizontally at about shoulder height.


Yotsutake - Handheld slats of bamboo used as clappers.



Za-dai - Also miyake-dai. A low stand used to hold a nagado-daiko horizontally at knee height. Often used for the miyake style of taiko playing.


Zelkova - Zelkovia Serrata. English name for the keyaki tree, which is native to Japan. Traditionally prefered for making kuri-nuki-daiko. Increasingly hard to obtain and expensive.


Zori - Traditional Japanese thonged sandals similar in design to the ubiquitous "flip-flops".

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