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Title: Traditional Folk Songs of Japan—Songs of Sawauchi; performers not listed. Label: Smithsonian Folkways. Format: CD. Catalogue#: F-4534. Track: 7.

Title: Heartbeat--SHAKE; Kodo. Label: Red Ink. Format: CD. Catalogue#: WK928868. Track: 5.

Contextual Associations

This stick-beaten Japanese shime-daiko double-headed membranophone uses a bolt-tensioning system that is a recently introduced alternative to a traditional rope-tensioning system. Shime-daiko using the traditional rope system are used in folk music (first audio clip), Buddhist and Shinto religious practices and festivals, court music and dance (gagaku and bugaku), noh theatre, nagauta, and kabuki theatre. The bolt design variant is favored in the relatively recent kumi-daiko (drum ensemble) phenomenon that developed in late 20th century Japan. 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 shime-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 shell/body of this shime-daiko uses butcher-block construction. Several slats of hardwood are glued together to create the cylindrical shell, which is then turned on a lathe to achieve uniform walls. Each of the two heads is made from a circle of thick tanned cowhide the diameter of which is several inches greater than that of the heavy metal hoop it is lapped over (see first detail image). The excess hide is turned back toward the center of the head and terminates just short of where the rim of the drum will be situated. The two layers of hide are sewn together at this point with two rows of stitches. Another row of stitching, interrupted by holes drilled through the hide for the tension bolts, is situated just inside the head's hoop. The heads are attached to the shell with a bolt tensioning system. The top of each of the ten bolts used to secure each head is curved to hook over the head hoop. Their bottom ends are threaded to accept a nut after the bolt has passed through a hole in a heavy gauge metal ring that orbits the shell at its midpoint (this ring does not make contact with the shell; it is suspended by alternating bolts linked to the upper and lower heads--see second detail image). It is against this ring that the nuts are tightened, making possible adjustments in the amount of tension being applied to the heads. The drum rests on a high stand made of oak. Two thick wooden dowels are used as beaters.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

When performed using the provided stand, which tilts forward the playing head at a slight angle from horizontal (the other head is not struck), the single performer stands in front of the drum and strikes its head with two heavy wooden beaters (bachi), one held in each hand. Although only a couple of strokes are used, they can be produced over a wide dynamic range. The relative pitch of a shime-daiko is important, and five levels are acknowledged. The pictured shime-daiko is rated by its maker at the highest pitch level (go [5] cho gake), capable of producing a sound that cuts through all the other taiko sounds of the kumi-daiko ensemble and good for maintaining the rhythm and beat.


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 shime-daiko type drums and Japan's court music implies that the drum has been around at least since the eighth century CE.

Bibliographic Citations

Hughes, David. 1984. "Shimedaiko." NGDMI v. 3: 373.

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)

211.212.11 membranophone--individual double-skin cylindrical drum, one skin used for playing

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - cylindrical

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

Membrane design: framed with rigid flesh hoop

Membrane attachment: framed membrane hoop connected, by lacing or tension rods, to counterhoop encircling shell

Membrane tension control: rotating screw rods or bolts

Sounding for membranophone: striking with two handheld beaters

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


9.8 in. diameter of shell 9 in. depth of shell 1.2 in. diameter of head hoop 15.6 in. diameter of heads 32 in. height of drum on stand

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin


Mochizuki Taiko Mfg. Co., Houston TX



Entry Author

Roger Vetter