Sasa Mitsuo, leader of the Wakahaya Taiko Group
Taiko are perhaps best known for the central part they play in the hayashi music played at Japanese festivals. The Wakahaya Taiko group, based in the city of Shimodate in Ibaraki Prefecture, has its roots in the ancient Shimodate Gion Festival.
It all started in 1974, when leader Sasa Mitsuo built a mikoshi (portable Shinto shrine) with some local children. They began by practicing the Shimodate Gion Bayashi in preparation for that year's festival. In 1980 Sasa formed Wakahaya Taiko with seven local boys. Since then they have added some of their own compositions to their repertoire, alongside the traditional hayashi tunes, and have given excellent performances in nationwide taiko competitions. The group now has 11 members, all of them elementary and middle school students. They perform all over Japan and sometimes overseas.
The children perform in many different places.