Taikodai (太鼓台)

The Japanese word "taikodai" can be used to refer to either of the following. A stand on which a taiko is placed. A kind of dashi (float) carried in parades for shrine rites and festivals. A drum is placed inside the taikodai, which is carried by participants in the parade who call in unison with the drum beat. There are two types of taikodai floats: the kakiyama (a float that is carried on the shoulders of the participants; also known as a katsugiyama) and the hikiyama (a float that is pulled along by the participants).

This article explains about 2 (taikodai as a kind of dashi).

Taikodai (kakiyama)

The taikodai in the kakiyama type can often be seen in western Japan, especially in the coast area of the Seto Inland Sea. The taikodai shows a wide regional variation in the form and the style, but has a common style that two to six men get into the taikodai and beat the drum placed in it, providing the rhythm that guides dozens to more than one hundred men below who shoulder the taikodai and parade through their parishes, shouting a call synchronized exactly with the drum beat. Other names of taikodai are taiko, futon-daiko (mattress drum), chosa, chosai, senzairaku, yassa, yotsu-daiko (literally, four drums), futon-mikoshi (literally, mattress portable shrine), mikoshi-daiko (literally, portable shrine drum), futon-danjiri, and taiko-yama, and the general terms are yatai and taiko-yatai.

While a mikoshi (a portable shrine) belongs to a shrine, a taikodai as well as a dashi usually belongs to the area of ujiko (shrine parishioners) who donate and maintain it, and the role of taikodai in rites and festivals is to accompany the Shinko-sai Festival (a kind of Shinto ritual; carrying the deity in a mikoshi from a shrine through the community), to lead its parades (tsuyuharai; a forerunner), and to dedicate them before the gods.


The name of taikodai shows how important the presence of drum in festival parades is.
There are regional differences in the style of beating the drum, and so there are differences in the calls such as 'cho-sa-ja (or yo-issa-ja),' 'sorya-sorya,' and 'yo-sa-ja, yoiyoi-sa-ja.'
What is interesting about the calls is that some are similar to each other even though the areas are geographically apart.

The taikodai is decorated with some objects symbolic of rain; dragon motif is commonly used because dragons are believed to be the gods or shinshi (messengers of the god) bringing rain, and tassels that represent rain indispensable to agriculture are hanging from each edge of kukuri (a bundling rope) protruding from the four corners of ju (a roof of the taikodai). For this reason, the taikodai is distributed as 'amagoi shingu' (a ritual article for raining rite) rather than as mikoshi in Kagawa Prefecture to the eastern area of Ehime Prefecture, especially in rice-growing areas, where people have been suffering from a water-shortage since ancient time.

Although the taikodai serves no function in festivals as mikoshi (portable shrine), the taikodai is also believed to be a kind of yorishiro (an object where the gods reside) because divine spirits are thought to dwell at the roof part of the futonyane (roof part of a taikodai is called 'futon') on the taikodai, or at a giboshi (a decoration in the shape of the onion-bulb jewel) of the mikoshiyane (a roof of a mikoshi) on the taikodai in some areas. For this reason, in many regions women are (were) restrained by the religious taboo from touching a taikodai. In some cases where a few boys beat the drum in the taikodai, they wear heavy make up, dressed in gorgeous costume like chigo (beautifully dressed children parading at festivals), and given piggyback ride by adults who have their feet untouched on the ground.

The large difference between the hikiyama and the kakiyama is that while the former is pulled, the latter is carried as well as the mikoshi. Shouldering the taikodai, free from street conditions, makes it relatively easier to manipulate it in festival parades even through rough streets with bumps and steps or through many ups and downs of roads in mountain-ridged areas.

High points of parades mostly include 'sashiage,' lifting the taikodai up above the head of carriers, before the gods and at other sites (for instance, at the center of intersections) for audience. Tossing the taikodai up, swaying it roughly, revolving it, carrying the entire frame on the basic part (daiwa: an architrave) of the taikodai without shouldering poles, competing each other for their techniques (kakikurabe) and speeds to raise their taikodai - these movements are other types of parades as well. These tempestuous movements of parades vary in each rite and festival of regions, depending on local traditions.

While in some areas traditional festival patterns have still remained in the style and the appearance of the taikodai, reflecting the local custom and culture, in many other areas they have been increasingly adapted to mainstream styles, festivals for show, because the local economic development and the festivals mainly conducted by ujiko result in upsized taikodai and highly decorative hangings with gorgeous embroideries for events emphasizing commercial interests and playful elements, not ritual aspects which festivals include.
As a rare example, some regions have individually transformed the styles and the appearances of the taikodai into their own regional ones, which are completely different from other standard ones. (a prominent example: the taikodai (hikiyama) in Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture)

Basic structure of taikodai

The standard structure of taikodai includes a basic part called daiwa (an architrave), on which a drum is placed, a koran (a balustrade) and four columns built on the daiwa, a shirin (a dressed lumber) fixed on the top of the four columns, an unpan (a metallic plate designed in the shape of cloud such as a signal) decorating the four sides of the shirin, and a roof on top of the taikodai, known as futon or ju; all these parts rest on katsugibo (shouldering poles, a taikodai with four poles is most popular).

The traditions of each region determine the number of layers of the futon (ju); double layers to octupled. The style of displaying the futon varies; each layer with each different color or with small tassels hanging down under its four corners.

The large decorative cloth knots, also called tonbo (literally, dragonfly), makura (literally, pillow), and kukuri, model a rain cloud on the four corners of the futon, the roof part of the taikodai.

There are some ornaments called futonjime on each four side of the ju, ornaments which were practical parts to literally bundle the futon with an obi or a rope for an old type of taikodai.

With the times, these pieces of futon-jime, decorated with embroidery, become more luxurious enough to recently lose the function to bundle the futon as obi (sash for kimono), and to decorate almost all of the four sides of the ju with a brace of three dimensional dragons in symmetry embroidered with gold thread.

With the recent taikodai, it is just modern or present-day modifications to the taikodai that several piled frames, modeling the layered futon, are used for the necessity to lighten upsized taikodai, and to perch some guards on the top who prevent the taikodai from hitting the roof of private houses or electric wires on the way of parades in the urban areas.

In addition to the futonyane style, there are several different styles of the roofs; the mikoshi-yane (a roof of mikoshi), the gable roof in dashi form, and no roof nor huton (simple structure with up to the shirin or the koran from the base).


The chose is a taikodai used for the autumn grand festival in the area of western Kagawa prefecture to eastern Ehime Prefecture.

The chosa contains more than 200 parts, including seven layered futon (ju) and a few sheets of futon on the shouldering poles, called kake-buton (a top cover).

It has gross weights of over 2t, heights of about 5 to 5.2m, and four 13 to 14m shouldering poles.

The chosa parades around the town for two or three days straight and the chosa of most residents' associations begin to carry the chosa at 7 to 8 o'clock on the morning of the hon matsuri (a regular festival) day. The chosa is strung with lanterns and illuminated by floodlights at night, parading till midnight to 1 o'clock next day.

Recently, with more and more decorative objects mounted on the floats of chosa, some put weight every year to reach over 3t in western Kagawa Prefecture, although this doesn't occur in the Kinki region.

Raising the taikodai up above the carriers' head by hands, tossing it, swaying it roughly, revolving it, running through main streets with the taikodai on the shoulders of carriers, ramming it against the other area's taikodai after taking off its decorations - these dedications and competitions take place at parade places, such as intersections, squares, before the gods. These movements are called 'sashiage,' 'kaki kurabe' (float carrying competition), and 'abareru' (carrying a float roughly).


The taikodai carried in parades of the autumn festivals in the southwestern area of Okayama Prefecture is called 'senzairaku.'
The senzairaku is widely distributed in Takahashi City and in the area south of old Bisei-cho in Bicchu-Kokubun and this name is also used in some island areas of the Kagawa Prefecture side in Bisanseto (the area of Seto Inland Sea between Okayama Prefecture and Kagawa Prefecture).
The taikodai in the same style is also used in Ushimado, Oku City in Bizen-Kokubun, but called 'dondendon.'

A predominant theory suggests that the derivation of 'senzairaku' from taikodai lie on the fact that a newly created Noh song 'senzairaku' during the Edo period in now Tsurajima, Kurashiki City became so popular that people generally chanted the song in shouldering the taikodai in their neighborhoods, which led to call the taikodai itself 'senzairaku.'

The standard folats of senzairaku include three layered futon or five, while some have two (Tsurajima), some seven (old Kinko-cho). The senzairaku is generally smaller in size than that of other areas, with gross weights of less than 1t.

Out of many festivals which include parades of the senzairaku, few can match the annual autumn festival of Toshima-jinja Shrine (Otoshima Festival) for festivities held on the last Saturday and Sunday of October in Tamashima Otoshima, Kurashiki City. The festival involves eight floats of senzairaku, three boats, and one foat of danjiri.

Taikodai (hikiyama)

The taikodai in the hikiyama type is seen in Hukushima Prefecture, Shimoda City in Shizuoka Prefecture, and Saijo City in Ehime Prefecture.

The taikodai in Fukushima Prefecture is the hikiyama with a gable roof. It is decorated with lanterns.

The taikodai in Shimoda City is wheeled, placing a Shimoda-daiko. It is decorated with dolls.

Mikoshi-yatai in the Saijo Festival
The mikoshi-yatai is a taikodai similar to the taikodai of Niihama City in form but more upsized with larger decorated panels, having a height of about 5m, weights of more than 2.5t, and two 1.8m diameter wooden wheels which tow the mikoshi-yatai. About 30 hikihus (a carrier, called 'kakihu' in this region) pull the mikoshi-yatai, running roughly in unison with the sound of raucous ohayashi (Japanese orchestra). This mikoshi-yatai, called 'mikoshi' by the local people, is often mistaken a different mikoshi (a portable shrine) with the identical pronunciation by those in other regions.

[Original Japanese]