Tokyo Game Centre series

Taiko: Drum MasterTaiko no Tatsujin (太鼓の達人)

Click for big. Note the little stool for small kids to stand on, and some amusing song names. And try not to look at the slightly terrifying panda in the background.

Click for big. Note the little stool for small kids to stand on, and some amusing song names. And try not to look at the slightly terrifying panda in the background.

This is Taiko no Tatsujin. Although it’s a very Japanese game, it’s well-known in the West thanks to a PS2 release as Taiko: Drum Master in 2004.

Each player has a horizontal channel on the screen, along which slide circular symbols from right to left. As each symbol reaches the left-hand side, the player must strike the drum in the way indicated by the symbol: beat the skin of the drum with one stick, or with two, or strike the rim with one stick, or with two, or roll on one or the other.

This is the PS2 version, but you get the idea. Source

This is the PS2 version, but you get the idea. Source

The two drum characters were pretty popular. Their names are Don and Katsu, which are onomatopoeic of strikes to the drum skin and rim.

The cabinet features two large, life-size taiko drums. A taiko is a traditional Japanese drum, often played at festivals and in concerts. My local taiko troupe performs at the autumn festival every year and is a sight (and sound, obviously) to behold. A group of four standard wadaikos and one massive odaiko completely captivate the crowds for a few minutes, as the players step around them and play with elegant choreography before bowing and promptly clearing their equipment away out of the road.

A performance like this shakes right through your body; it moves you. It’s refined, it’s dignified, and it’s humble. It’s an ancient, communal art performed with utmost reverence and attention to tradition.

Taiko no Tatusjin differs in several respects, including all of those just mentioned.

The Japanese seem to have a knack for repurposing tradition in such outlandish ways that the original customs are left intact. Taiko no Tatsujin somehow causes no offence to the traditions of the taiko, since it just does its own thing. It has its own kind of dignity, you might say, a different type of nobility. Here’s a guy at a Shinjuku game centre playing blindfold on his own:

Another postcard from the game centre next Monday. People play on me in every game centre in Japan, but I am not a game: what am I?

(See all postcards from the game centre here.)

 

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