Taiko Camp Part 3: Tanko Bushi & Putting it all together


Having a unifying concept makes an educational program cohesive. For my taiko camp, I chose Obon as the unifying concept because of the time of year (summer camp, summer festival), the ties between obon and taiko, and the cultural significance of the holiday both in Japan and in Japanese American communities in the US. 

That unifying concept pulled together learning taiko, making a papier-maché chochin, learning Tanko Bushi, and holding a mini-Obon on the final day. If you don’t know Tanko Bushi, a Google search will yield thousands of videos from which you can learn it. You should know the context of the song/dance before teaching it, and the Wikipedia entry on Tanko Bushi is pretty comprehensive. The best part about this dance is that it’s simple, so kids can easily build enough mastery to teach the dance at their mini-Obon, giving them a strong sense of accomplishment and pride. 

My Taiko Camp: Full Curriculum lays out exactly how I fit the Chochin, Matsuri, and Tanko Bushi activities together day-by-day. It’s a step-by-step guide to leading your first taiko camp. If you use it, I’d love to hear about it. Happy teaching camping!

Taiko Camp Part 2: Teaching a Song

It wouldn’t be a taiko camp if the kids didn’t play taiko! I recommend teaching a song that combines unison playing with soloing so students get to experience both of these elements of our art form.


In my most recent camp, I taught Matsuri, arranged to include short duets the kids wrote themselves. I broke the process down over the 5 days of camp as outlined here. By the last day the kids were ready to perform the song for their mini-obon.

Happy teaching camping!

Taiko Camp Part 1: Overview, and how to make a papier-maché chochin

Chochin Cover Pic.jpg

Once you’re established as a teaching artist, summer camp bookings will probably come your way. Summer camps are a great place to introduce kids to taiko! The camp format allows you to cover everything from taiko basics to taiko history (i.e., the way Internment of Japanese Americans during WWII relates to the development of taiko in the US).

I just finished a one week camp that lasted 3 hours a day for 5 consecutive days. I chose Obon as the central theme, with the campers hosting a mini-Obon on the last day. I covered 3 main activities during the camp: learning Matsuri (including solos), learning Tanko Bushi well enough to be able to teach it, and making a papier-maché chochin. We worked on each activity every day. 

Chochin are paper lanterns; at Obon, they’re often hung as decoration. The strings of chochin swaying above everyone’s heads at odori is one of my favorite sights at San Jose Obon. Here’s my step-by-step guide to making a papier maché chochin; it includes how I broke down the process so my campers did a little bit each day. 

In my next few posts, I’ll share the rest of my camp curriculum so you can take advantage of these opportunities when they arise for you. Happy teaching camping!