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The LA Matsuri Taiko Group

By Monk Turner
Published: Wednesday, July 01, 2009, at 12:58PM
Evelyn Goto Monk Turner [Flickr]

Twice a week, the thundering of drums can be heard rumbling from the belly of the Nishi Hongwanji Temple in Little Tokyo. Organized by Evelyn Goto, the LA Matsuri Taiko group have performed all over the United States, including a recent performance near the finish line of the 2009 L.A. Marathon.

I recently chatted with Goto before class to get some more information about taiko and her group.

MONK TURNER: How long has the group been together?

EVELYN GOTO: Our group has been together since 1996 and that is when I started.

MT: Can you tell me a little bit about the history of LA Matsuri Taiko?

EG: We work with Master Etsuo Hongo who taught us the techniques and the songs. There are a lot of different styles of taiko and a lot of different taiko groups in Southern California. Etsuo Hongo is one of the few teachers who mastered in Japan.

MT: What brought the group to Little Tokyo?

EG: Little Tokyo has always been a family thing for us. I actually came from Pasadena where we have a little Japanese community but Little Tokyo is a bigger city, and we have more community activities. Our parents and grandparents who are first and second generation Japanese-Americans started Little Tokyo in order to have some community activities for everybody. That is the reason we are so connected to Little Tokyo.

MT: Do your members live in downtown?

EG: Well, this is a central meeting place for us. We have members from San Fernando area, Orange County, South Bay, and San Gabriel Valley. We're pretty diverse as far as where everybody lives.

MT: Can you talk a little bit about the history of taiko?

EG: Back when they had samurai warriors they used to use the drums to inform the people that enemies were coming. This prepared everyone to gather around to be prepared for their enemies. They also used taiko as a spiritual thing for religious purposes to awaken the spirits. They have a service called the Obon festival where they celebrate the dead. They wake up the spirits and get rid of all the bad spirits.

MT: I understand you guys will be performing at the upcoming Obon Festival in Little Tokyo?

EG: Yes, we'll be performing at Nishi Temple on 1st and Vignes, July 11th at 5:00pm and July 12th at 4:30pm. We always welcome new members to come try it out to see if it is something they would be interested in doing. For a lot of us it is a good workout instead of going to the gym. It also helps us with our playing techniques, songs, or playing together, but a lot to do with each other because we play as a team. We get to know one and other. It's sort of like our group has turned into a family. Everybody has different talents and we use them to make this a good group.

LA Matsuri Taiko is led by Chiaki Toda and Yuki Inoue-Kim Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:30pm-9pm in the basement of the Kaikan at Nishi Hongwanji Temple located at 815 E. 1st Street. New members are welcome and more information about the club can be found at


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