Taiko Dictionary

Note on romanization: This glossary used the modified Hepburn system with the following exception: Japanese long vowels are represented by a doubling of the vowel. So a long "o" sound will be written "oo". Exceptions to this rule are when a silent "h" seems more appropriate for ease of reading, ex. "nohkan"; and when a word has a customary spelling with only one vowel, ex. "odaiko".

Note on pronunciation.: Japanese vowels are pronounced similar to the following: A as in father; I as in feet; U as in soup; E as in end; and O as in row. Every vowel is pronounced. Long vowels should be pronounced twice as long as short vowels. For more information on pronunciation please see the Asahi-net guide.

Thanks to the following people who have helped contribute to this glossary: Dan Coates, John Ko, Tiffany Tamaribuchi.


Age-bachi - Wooden sticks used to tension the ropes on tsukeshime-daiko. See also tate-jime, hon-jime.

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 staggering 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 ratttle-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 conjuction 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 equivilent to 3 mm in the Kana system. See also shaku.

Bubinga - English name for the Toboku tree of West Camaroon.

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.


Chan-chiki - see atarigane.

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.

Canon - See Tetsu-zutsu.


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 Rightside (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 - Also Doh (English variant). General term used for the body of a drum.

Do - "The Way". Indicates a path of learning.

Dojo - A place for studying. Lit: the place of the way. 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 (old Tokyo).

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). See also matsuribue, shinobue, takebue, utabue, yokobue.

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 layed horizontally on a "T" shaped base, and supported at a slight angle by short uprights at each end of the "T". Usually on casters for easy movement.

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. See also Bugaku, Uhoogaku, Sahoogaku, gaku-daiko, dadaiko, kakko, ikko, sanko, shooko.


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.

Hayashi-daiko - See Ohayashi-daiko.

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. See also kari-bari.

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. See also tate-jime.

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.

Hozonkai - A preservation society: a Japanese organization dedicated to preserving and handing down a particular tradition (including but not limited to: Chichibu Yatai Bayashi, Miyake-Daiko, Hachijo-Daiko, Gojinjo-Daiko, Kokura-Gion Daiko, etc). Some of them are recognized and organized as intangible cultural properties, others are loosely organized guilds adhering to some formal structure, often within the context of the festival's (Shinto/Buddhist/other) historical roots or related art forms (minyo traditions, for example).

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.

Ita-sasara - See bin-sasara.


Jamisen - Term used on the main islands of Japan to refer to the sanshin/shamisen of Okinawa.

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," and is not used outside of the Oedo Sukeroku Daiko group. North American groups often mispronounce the term as "josuke".

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, particullarly children's bachi since it is lightweight and strong.

Kabuki - A style of theater popularized in the 1600's. Kabuki is marked by an exagerated style compared to Noh theater, which preceeded and influenced it. While originated by a woman, women were quickly banished from the stage and now all roles are performed by men.

Kabuki-bayashi - the music of Kabuki theater. The ensemble itself is called debayashi. Kabuki instrumentation is devided into onstage and geza (offstage) players. The onstage musicians are in full view of the patrons and provide the musical accompanyment. 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. The emphasis on odd numbers is a Buddhist influence, and shows the kagura suzu's religious origin.

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 slighly 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 prestretch of a head over the body of a taiko. See also hon-bari.

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

Kashu - General term for a singer.

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 zelkovia 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 refering to a small taiko in the one shaku range.

Koshi - Hips.

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 memnonic syllables (and system) used in learning traditional Japanese music. One syllable will corespond 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 equilent to a rest in Western notation, but with a deeper connotation than mere abscense 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 catagory can include horse chestnut, toboku, sen, champhor among others. Literally means "has grain".

Men - Japanese traditional mask. Usually made of wood or paper. There are many kinds of men including those that portray demons, animals or people. Some examples of traditional taiko styles that use masks include: Gojinjyo-daiko, Namahage-daiko, Shishi Odori and Gombei-daiko.

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.

Minyo - General term for folk music.

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 stanges.

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 retensioning and retacking 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, focussing 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.

Noh - A style of theater developed in the 1400's and influenced by Zen. Known for its use of masks and stately pace.

Nohgaku - The music associated with Noh. The instrumentation includes taiko (shime-daiko), kotsuzumi, ootsuzumi and nohkan.

Nohkan - A flute used in Noh performances. Known for its sharp sound and three octave range. Made from many fine pieces of split bamboo in a complicated and involved process, nohkan have a distinct lacquered appearance.


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.

Odori - A dance. Also a general term for Japanese dance.

Ohayashi-daiko - see sairei-nagado.

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 constuction (not to be confused with the North American Wine barrel taiko). 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.

Ookawa - See Ootsuzumi.

Ootsuzumi - Also called an ookawa. Small hand drum used in Noh, Nagauta, and Kabuki theater. Two heads are stiched 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. Also see jikata.


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. See dadaiko, gagaku, samai, uhoogaku, umai.

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. See also gagaku, sahoogaku, uhoogaku, umai.

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. Also see Ikko, kakko.

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.

Sanshin - A banjo-like instrument with three strings. Similar to the shamisen, which it inspired. The sanshin is smaller, played with a pick rather than a plectrum, and is skinned with rock snake rather than cat or dog. Originated in Okinawa, inspired by a instrument from Tailand. See also jamisen and shamisen.

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. "Kujira" shaku are longer, roughly equivelent to 38cm, and this system is not used to measure taiko.

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. See also Tsukeshime-daiko.

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

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

Shishi Gashira - Shishi Gashira - Carved wooden mask of a stylized lion's head used in Shishi mai. Often used in male/female pairs, with the female mask typically being 1 sun (3cm) larger than the male. The male is called Uzu, and the female is called Gonkuro. Uzu can be recognized by a prominant ridge on the top of his head. The masks are usually lacquered in vermillion or gold.

Shishi Mai - Traditional Lion Dance. This dance, the roots of which are in China, has an incredible amount of regional variations. The dancer, usually accompanied by taiko and fue, is hidden by a cape (tanmono) attached to the shi shi gashira, which is held in the dancer's hands.

Shishi Odori - Traditional Deer Dance. There are many regional variations of this dance. The dancer usually plays a drum hung from the waist while dancing. The dancer usually wears some sort of deer mask, and sometimes supports long bamboo rods that are strapped to the back and slapped on the ground with a quick bend of the waist.

Sho - A mouth organ with many pipes and reeds based on the Chinese sheng. The reeds are similar to a harmonica in that they can be sounded by inhaling and exhaling. Used in Gagaku.

Shooko - A type of kane used in gagaku. Similar in shape to atarigane, but larger and suspended vertically in a ornate stand. Played with two thin sticks with bead shaped tips.

Shumoku - Also shimoku. Deer horn mallet used to play the Atarigane.

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 charateristic 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 equivilent 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. They are measured not only in centimeters for length, but also in number of hazuse (clasps/hook and eye closures) that close the tabi around the ankle. Tabi with four, five and seven clasps are common. Favored footware for many taiko groups.

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. Different from an oke-style barrel.

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

Tebyoushi - See Chappa.

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.

Tetsu-zutsu - Three different diameters of metal pipe (usually around 6, 8 and 10 inches) welded together to make a bell-like instrument. It is placed on a waist high stand and played with bachi or slim metal rods. Used to keep time and signal rhythm changes. Originated with Osuwa-daiko. (Oguchi sensei was awarded a patent for this design, the current validity is to be determined).

Toboku - Hardwood from Camaroon 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 stiched 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.

Umai - Dances of the Right. Umai includes dances from Korea as well as Japanese compositions in that style, always accompanied by Uhoogaku. Umai generally have more spirited movements, which are based on the rhythm. Umai also includes some humorous pieces. Visually, umai is associated with the color green. See gagaku, sahoogaku, samai, uhoogaku.

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. The wet lacquer is also a strong irritant, being a relative of poison oak, and produces serious rashes if accidentally touched to bare skin (safe when dry).

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".

Copyright Rolling Thunder 1996-2000 except where noted.