Also:       miya-daiko      byo-daiko      josuki-daiko      

Title: Traditional Folk Songs of Japan—Dance Songs at Bon in Hokkaido; performers not listed. Label: Smithsonian Folkways. Format: CD. Catalogue#: F-4534. Track: 3.

Title: Heartbeat--Miyake; Kodo. Label: Red Ink. Format: CD. Catalogue#: WK928868. Track: 6.

Contextual Associations

This Japanese nagado-daiko is a two-headed membranophone of Japan that was originally used in temples (also called miya-daiko, or ‘temple drum’). Japanese taiko (the generic term for drums) with tacked on heads are referred to as byo-daiko, with further distinctions made according to relative size and how they are supported. The drum pictured here is a medium-size (chu-daiko) nagado-daiko mounted on a slanted stand (josuki-daiko). Traditionally, it is most closely associated with sato-kagura (village or folk Shinto music) festivals (matsuri). It is also found in Buddhist temples, where it is used to accompany the chanting of scriptures, and is often used as part of the accompaniment for Buddhist o-bon festival dances in celebration of departed ancestors (first audio clip). More recently, in the late 20th century, it has become a central instrument in the secular kumi-daiko (taiko ensemble) phenomenon. The group Kodo (founded in the early 1980s) is arguably the most famous kumi-daiko organization to emerge and performs concerts worldwide every year (second audio clip). The kumi-daiko phenomenon has established roots in many parts of the world, and although often founded by people Japanese ancestry such groups often include non-Japanese members. The first kumi-daiko group in America was established in 1968 in California, and since then many other groups have been founded across the country. For many participants of Japanese ancestry, involvement in such organizations allows them to celebrate their Japanese-American identity. The nagado-daiko pictured here was manufactured in Houston, Texas, by master craftsman Jay Mochizuki, who has been producing a wide variety of taiko for a mostly North American market since 1995.


The pictured nagado-daiko has a body carved from a single block of ash. Its barrel-shaped exterior is mirrored on the inside of its thick walls (c. 1-2 inches), but instead of being smooth, deep chisel grooves are carved into the interior wall for acoustical reasons. The cured cowhide membranes are unusually thick and must be stretched with considerable force over the shell's openings before being permanently attached with two rows of specially designed metal tacks. Two heavy-duty nickel-coated brass rings are attached to the shell that can be used to suspend the drum. However, the drum is generally intended to rest in a specially designed oak stand. Heavy wood dowels are used to strike the drum.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

When performed using the provided stand, which tilts back the playing head at a slight angle from vertical (the other head is not struck), the single performer stands in front of the drum and strikes its head and its rim with two heavy wooden beaters (bachi), one held in each hand. The head and rim stokes have very different timbral qualities, and both strokes can be produced over a wide dynamic range. A drummer will often dance while playing the drum, coordinating his or her movements and strokes with the temporal framework that unites all the voices in the musical texture of which it is a part.


It is extremely difficult to pinpoint the origin of most Japanese taiko due to extensive first-millennium CE cultural interaction between Japan, China, and Korea. If nothing else, the association between nagado-daiko and Japan's indigenous Shinto religion implies that the drum has been integrated into Japanese life for many centuries. A drum of unspecified type plays a role in an important Shinto myth involving the sun goddess Amaterasu.

Bibliographic Citations

Hughes, David. 1984. "Odaiko." NGDMI v. 2: 810.

Malm, William P. 1959. Japanese Music and Musical Instruments. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company.

Varian, Heidi. 2005. The Way of Taiko. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: East Asia

Nation: Japan

Formation: Japanese

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.222.11 membranophone--individual double-skin barrel drum, one skin used for playing

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - barrel

Number and function of membranes: two, one for sounding and one for resonance

Membrane design: unframed

Membrane attachment: unframed membrane nailed to shell

Membrane tension control: none, tension set at time of manufacture

Sounding for membranophone: striking with two handheld beaters

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


24 in. depth of shell

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin


Mochizuki Taiko Mfg. Co., Houston TX



Entry Author

Roger Vetter