Den Tagayasu

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Den Tagayasu
Born(1931-12-07)December 7, 1931[1]
Tokyo, Japan
DiedApril 11, 2001(2001-04-11) (aged 69)[1]
Occupation(s)Taiko performer
Associated actsOndekoza

Den Tagayasu (田耕, Den Tagayasu) (1931–2001) was a taiko performer and founder of the group Ondekoza.


Den was born in Asakusa district of Tokyo in 1931. Den's birth name was Kozo Tajiri (田尻耕三, Tajiri Kōzō). His hometown was subjected to American airbomb raids in 1945, though he and his family were able to move south to his mother's home in Kagoshima before they were attacked. At the conclusion of World War II, Den returned to Tokyo and began high school, which he completed in 1952.[2] While in high school, Den organized a strike that resulted in the removal of the school principal. Den suspected this organizing experience was one factor that allowed him to enroll into Waseda University that was governed by a leftist student organization. While Den studied Chinese literature there, he also had considerable involvement in several violent demonstrations in 1952.[1][3] Consequently, Den was dismissed from Waseda.[4]

Den fled from Tokyo to escape possible arrest for his activities and worked as a laborer in a Kobe port.[4] He had also traveled to Germany after working for about six months, but Den was reportedly unimpressed and subjected to racial harassment.[4]

In 1958, Den went to Sado Island for the first time. Den became familiar with a local style of taiko performance on the island called ondeko during his stay. He left the island after six months, but returned to the island in 1968 with his family with the intention of living there.[5]

Den died in 2001. His last words, according to a performer in Ondekoza, translated to, "We’re going to go with Ondekoza of Mount Fuji," referring to the decision to move the group from Sado Island to the city of Fuji in Shizuoka prefecture, and rename it accordingly.[6]


Shortly after Den permanently resided on Sado Island, Den held a summer class on music in 1970;[7] Den was interested in revitalizing public interest in taiko performance and in Japanese folk music in general.[6] In 1971, Den officially founded Ondekoza,[8][9] and some of the approximately 40 students who attended the summer class became some of the core members of Ondekoza.[7] Performers in Ondekoza lived on Sado Island in a communal setting, and Den had them undergo a rigorous training regiment including a 10-kilometer run every morning at 4:00 AM.[7]



  1. ^ a b c "田 耕". コトバンク (Kotobanku) (in Japanese). Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  2. ^ Bender 2012, p. 61.
  3. ^ Bender 2012, pp. 61–62.
  4. ^ a b c Bender 2012, p. 62.
  5. ^ Bender 2012, pp. 63, 65.
  6. ^ a b McClure, Steve (17 October 2002). "Japan image that resonates". The Japan Times. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Titon & Fujie 2005, p. 185.
  8. ^ Matsue 2015.
  9. ^ Bender 2012, p. 60.


  • Bender, Shawn (2012). Taiko Boom: Japanese Drumming in Place and Motion. Univ. of California Press. ISBN 0520951433.
  • Titon, Jeff Todd; Fujie, Linda (2005). Worlds of Music: An Introduction to the Music of the World's Peoples. 1. Cengage Learning. ISBN 0534627579.
  • Matsue, Jennifer Milioto (2015). "5. Taiko and the Marketing of Tradition in Kyoto". Focus: Music in Contemporary Japan. Routledge. ISBN 1317649532.

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