San Jose Taiko has captivated global audiences and critics alike with the powerful, spellbinding and propulsive sounds of taiko, the Japanese drum. Inspired by traditional Japanese drumming, company performers express the beauty and harmony of the human spirit through the voice of the taiko as they strive to connect people through cultural understanding, creative expression, and rhythmic heartbeat.
San Jose Taiko was founded in 1973 by young Asian Americans searching for an outlet to convey their experiences as third generation Japanese Americans, or Sansei. Looking to Japan for inspiration, they were drawn to the empowering sounds of the taiko, the Japanese drum, an instrument that embodies the spiritual essence and heartbeat of Japan.
Since then, San Jose Taiko has become a world-class ensemble, performing extensively both nationally and internationally, reaching more than 75,000 audience members each year. By studying with masters of other traditions and cultures, San Jose Taiko has broadened and embellished this historical art form into a distinct performance style that blends the traditional rhythms of Japanese drumming with the beat of world rhythms, including African, Brazilian, Filipino, Latin and Jazz and is often described as “dancing with drums.” Known for synchronized choreography, eclectic musicality, and joyful spirit, San Jose Taiko performances and instruction are sought throughout the world by taiko fans and practitioners alike.
With a deep respect for cultural traditions, San Jose Taiko is dedicated to the advancement of taiko through innovative performances and outstanding educational programs, while maintaining strong ties with its San Jose Japantown community. San Jose Taiko performers use the power and beauty of taiko to transcend cultural barriers and foster a greater understanding of Japanese American culture. San Jose Taiko’s strength lies in the accessibility of its music and artistry. Not tied to any one demographic, San Jose Taiko appeals to something on the basic human level in all of us. Through taiko, we encourage cultural pluralism as a gateway to better communication, open-mindedness, and connection. Exploring and participating in the arts helps us grow, find/share our voice, promote our well-being, and contribute to our happiness.
San Jose Taiko is acknowledged as one of the premier taiko ensembles in the world, whose artistry, philosophy, and unique organizational structure are studied and emulated by many arts groups throughout the U.S. and Japan. Recognized for its artistic and managerial excellence, San Jose Taiko has received both Advancement and Challenge Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Chevron Award for Excellence. The California Arts Council, Arts Council Silicon Valley, and the San Jose City Council have honored the company with commendations for community leadership in fostering cultural and ethnic diversity in the arts. SJT has also been recognized by the Japanese American Citizens League - San Jose Chapter, FedEx, and Project Cornerstone for outstanding work in the community. Most recently, in 2010, the Foreign Minister’s office of the Japanese government awarded San Jose Taiko the Foreign Minister’s Commendation of Achievement in recognition of the group’s (then) 38-year history and contributions to the taiko art form. San Jose Taiko is only the second North American taiko group to receive that honor. In 2011, founding directors Roy and PJ Hirabayashi were recognized as National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows.