Thursday, July 30, 2009

Museum of Big Drums

On 18-20 July, hubby and I went sightseeing in Hirosaki city of Aomori prefecture and Hakodate city of Hokkaido prefecture. We went by our car up to Hirosaki city, and then used train for going to Hakodate city. We started from our home at about 7.30 in the morning of 18th July. After about 2.5 hours of car drive on highway, we reached Takanosu service (rest) area in Kita-Akita city. We took a bit of rest there and saw the museum of Big Drums, which was located near the service area itself. We were in the museum for about 40 minutes. Later hubby drove for another 1.5 hours and we reached Hirosaki city at about 12.15 in the afternoon. Today I will write about our visit to the museum of Big Drums in Takanosu city.

The museum of Big Drums, called as ‘odaiko no yakata’, was opened in October 1989. The museum is located in Takanosu of Kita-Akita city, and is situated on highway route 7 toward Odate city from the intersection of the road from the JR Takanosu station. The museum of Big Drums exhibits taiko drums from around the world, along with the world's largest taiko drum hailing from nearby Tsuzureko district. The complex of the museum is named as a ‘Road Station of Takanosu’ where people enjoy their rest stop on the highway. The facilities at the museum complex include a main hall for big drums, theater to experience the real sound of big drums, a museum to exhibit drums from around the world, and restaurant and shopping center of local products.
The museum of Big Drums

First we went to the main hall of the museum. In the main hall, a set of six large Japanese taiko drums that exceed 2 meters in diameter and are regularly used at festivals of Tsuzureko shrine were showcased. The largest of them is 3.8 meters in diameter, 4.52 meters long, and weighs 3.5 tons. Also on display was the Guinness world record holding largest taiko drum made using one piece of cowhide, the intensity of which was overwhelming when viewed up close. Today, the Guinness book of records winner is only classified as the second largest one, but still it is 3.71 meters in diameter, 4.32 meters long, and weighs 3 tons.
Huge Japanese taiko drums in the main hall of the museum

Another view of the Japanese taiko drums

Guinness world record holding largest taiko drum

Hubby standing in front of the Guinness world record holding taiko drum

Hubby standing in front of the present largest (left) and the Guinness world record holding (right) drums

Me standing on a platform step ladder next to a huge taiko drum

It was really overwhelming and fantabulous to see the display of such huge drums. We enjoyed seeing them and I even played two of the drums. The drums were too big to play properly but I enjoyed playing them. I compiled a video of me playing two of the drums.
Hubby playing the largest taiko drum of the world

Me playing a taiko drum

Video of me playing taiko drums

The history and tradition of the Big Drum festival of Tsuzureko began in the year 1262. Water for farm irrigation in Tsuzureko village was scarce, and the villagers prayed to the god above the clouds for good rainfall by playing and beating on large drums imitating thunderclaps. In the process of time, Tsuzureko village was divided into two villages, namely Uemachi and Shitamachi. Praying to the gods for rainfall was done separately since then and the people of both villages believed that those who prayed first to the god would get a good harvest. Therefore, the divided villages competed for the festival time of praying to the god first. The competition between the two villages became so fierce that in 1925, serious fights erupted between the two villages during the festival resulting in injuries. So they decided to pray to the god in alternate years. The rivalry did not end there and instead they began competing by building a bigger taiko drum thinking that the village which made a bigger drum would be superior to the other. Since then the villages have been building bigger drums and the result has produced the world’s biggest drum, which measures 3.8 meters and was built by Uemachi in 1996. The Guinness book record holder drum that measures 3.71 meters was built by Shitamachi.

Next, we went to the video theater to experience the real sound of the taiko drums. The ceremony to offer the big taiko drums for the Tsuzureko shrine festival held every July was shown on a 150-inch wide screen set up in the Taikan zone of the Movie Hall, where we experienced the intensity of an actual taiko drum performance and got the feeling of being at a live performance.

Later we went to see the museum of foreign drums. Uniquely designed foreign drums of about 150 types collected from 40 countries around the world were on display. It gave us an overview of the traditions and cultures of several nations of the world. We enjoyed our little time strolling among the displays, and hubby and I played some of the drums. It was really fun. I was rather excited to see some of the Indian drums like dhak, dhol, dholak, damru, tabla, etc. after more than 15-20 years.
Display of drums from North and South America and Europe

Display of drums from Africa

Me standing next to a display of African traditional wear

Display of drums from Asia

Display of Indian Tabla drums

Hubby standing next to a display of asian drums

Hubby playing khong wong, a gong circle used in classical music of Thailand

Finally, we went to the restaurant and shopping center. The restaurant building was located next to the museum of Big Drums. We bought some local food products as souvenir.

After enjoying seeing the museum of Big Drums, we drove to Hirosaki city and reached there by noon. I will write about our sightseeing in Hirosaki city in the next two posts.

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