By Yukiko Kishinami / Japan News Staff WriterIt’s a powerful sight as men raise their arms high, their chests bare as they beat wadaiko drums and dance rhythmically on stage. Starting next month, the highly skilled members of Drum Tao will give 60 performances of a brand new show, answering Tokyo’s insatiable demand for theatrical extravaganzas to dazzle people from home and abroad, particularly foreign visitors who want to watch an exciting Japanese-style show.
Titled “Mangekyo,” meaning kaleidoscope in Japanese, this new show of music, dance and light is set to mesmerize audiences with electrifying drumming and beautiful visual effects, including exotic costumes designed by Junko Koshino. The show is subtitled “Revolutionary New Drumming Entertainment in Tokyo,” and will be offered at a theater at Shinagawa Prince Hotel in Minato Ward as a coproduction by Drum Tao and JTB Communication Design Inc.
Founded in 1993 in Aichi Prefecture, Drum Tao is currently based in Taketa, Oita Prefecture, where members of the troupe train and live communally when not on tour.
The company scored its first international success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2004, when its shows sold out over 25 consecutive days. In 2010, all dates for the group’s North American tour of 44 cities sold out, and the members were invited to perform at the Vancouver Olympics.
The company made its off-Broadway debut in 2016 with “Drum Heart,” and went on a European tour earlier this year, giving 65 performances.
So far, Drum Tao have performed in 500 cities in 23 countries and territories, drawing 7 million people altogether. The company has two overseas fan clubs, in Singapore and the United States.
Ikuo Fujitaka, the president of Tao Entertainment Co., the group’s managing company, said Tokyo needs more theatrical entertainment for visitors from other countries.
“We’ve been to many cities across the globe, like Las Vegas, Broadway and Paris, where we enjoyed watching various shows,” Fujitaka said at a recent press conference. “I’ve often talked with the company members wondering what foreign tourists were watching in Japan ... it would be great if the time comes when they say, ‘We saw wadaiko in Japan, which was cool.’”
“Mangekyo” runs about 70 minutes, and opens with two women in kimono-inspired dresses beating a large drum together. The show also features energetic dance and drum routines, with a male lead balancing a large cubic frame as he dances solo onstage. Female performers also play the yokobue Japanese flute.
The circular venue has a round stage at its center, which is surrounded by audience seats in a semicircle. Projection mapping technology will be used to add depth to the scenes.
Another highlight is the warrior-like costumes designed by Koshino, who has been working with the company since 2012. The costumes give the performers a cool, dignified air, as if they’ve stepped out of a fantasy video game.
“These outfits show off their fine-honed muscles,” Koshino said. “The costumes are an important element of the show and are designed to look more attractive when they move.”
Koshino is no novice to theater costumes. She has designed costumes for operas and musicals, including the 2004 Broadway production of “Pacific Overtures,” for which she was nominated for a Tony Award.
In Japan, many theatrical productions do not last very long, and tickets for popular shows often sell out quickly. Koshino emphasized the importance of having a regular venue for a show so tourists can make it part of their travel itinerary.
“It’s better when you know exactly where to go to see a good show,” she said. “I hope people from all over the world will appreciate Japanese culture by watching this show.”