His Lifework: A Japanese-Brazilian Man on Taiko [2008/04/30]
Fernando Kuniyoshi (34) is a Japanese-Brazilian who is fascinated by taiko, the Japanese drum. Recently, he completed two years of taiko training in Japan and has devoted his life to making and playing Japanese drums. He will soon return to Brazil to realize his dream of promoting the Japanese drum there. When we met him at the completion of his training, he radiated satisfaction.
A Japanese-Brazilian whose parents come from Okinawa Prefecture, Fernando hails from Parana State, in the south of Brazil. Some ten years ago, he came to Japan to work at an electronics factory in Kanagawa Prefecture. At a summer festival, he heard Taiko for the first time and was so taken that he decided to learn to play the instrument. When he returned to Brazil, he initially practiced the art by beating a car tire and a hanging carpet with broomsticks, but on learning that a nearby temple owned a taiko drum, he borrowed it and began practicing in earnest. On admission to art college, he began actually crafting the drums, but realizing his technical limitations, he sought to study in Japan.
(Photo: Chairman Sasakawa with nikkei students from Central and South America visiting Japan on Nippon Foundation Nikkei Scholarships)
It was the support of the Nippon Taiko Foundation and The Nippon Foundation that eventually made it possible for him to study in Japan. He came and received Taiko training at the Osuwa-Daiko Preservation Society in Nagano Prefecture, from 2006 to March 2008. Osuwa-Daiko is a form of the art that has been handed down from the “Warring States” period. It was performed at the Tokyo Olympic Games and Nagano Winter Olympic Games, and is regarded as one of the top three Taiko styles in Japan.
(Photo: Takashi Robson Yamamoto (left), a friend of Fernando who is studying at the graduate school of the University of Tsukuba)
Fernando has undergone rigorous training, including making, repairing and playing the taiko. He had thought that after two years, he would gain confidence and polish his Japanese technique. However, now that he has completed the training, he says, “My technique is not enough. I have realized my lack of skill and feel I have to work harder.” Nonetheless, he received a second-rank taiko technical certificate--the official certificate of the Nippon Taiko Foundation. He remarks, “If I had a little more confidence, I would be able to take a first rank.” After returning to his country, he intends to devote his life to deepening exchanges with various Taiko groups, while teaching Taiko to students in workshops at the art college.