Seiichi Tanaka, the son of a professional baseball player, was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1943. He spent his youth in Nagano prefecture and, like his father, grew into a skilled athlete. He attended the Chiba University of Commerce on a baseball scholarship, graduating in 1964. Shortly thereafter, he visited the United States for the first time.
Seiichi Tanaka Discovers His Calling
It was on a visit to the Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown in 1967 that Grand Master Tanaka discovered his calling. Tanaka was surprised to learn that there was no Taiko drumming at the Cherry Blossom festival in San Francisco—or, for that matter, anywhere else during his travels in the United States. “In Japan, Taiko drumming is played at practically every occasion—especially special ones like festivals, or ceremonies,” he said. He immediately concluded that he wanted to introduce this powerful musical art form to the United States, and he dreamed that the word “Taiko,” like “karate” and “sushi,” would one day become an integral part of the American vocabulary.Back to Top
The Sole Taiko Drummer at the SF Cherry Blossom Festival
Tanaka returned to Japan and sought out a visionary in the Taiko world, Taiko Grand Master Daihachi Oguchi of Osuwa Daiko, to teach him the art, traditions, and philosophies of Taiko. In 1968, Grand Master Tanaka emerged as the sole Taiko drummer at the Cherry Blossom Festival. That same year, Grand Master Tanaka established San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the first such school in the United States. He is often heard saying that the essence of Taiko is not only skillful playing of percussion instruments, but also discipline of mind and body in the spirit of complete respect and unity among drummers. To Grand Master Tanaka, Taiko drumming can be expressed in one word—“heartbeat.” “We listen to it before we are born—it is instinctive.” Back to Top
40 Years Later
Forty years have passed since the founding of San Francisco Taiko Dojo and more than 10,000 men, women, and children of all walks of life have been fortunate to study under Grand Master Tanaka. Many of these students have gone on to begin over 200 other Taiko groups throughout the United States and Canada. Additionally, in Tokyo, the drum maker to the Emperor founded an academy—Nihon (Japan) Taiko Dojo—based on Grand Master Tanaka’s teachings and Taiko philosophy.Back to Top
Grand Master Tanaka Receives Highest Honors
Grand Master Tanaka has been recognized and awarded by various countries for his talents and contributions to the preservation of Japanese traditions and culture. Most recently, Grand Master Tanaka was honored by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs with its prestigious Foreign Ministers Commendation. The Commendation recognizes Grand Master Tanaka’s significant efforts in promoting the Japanese art of Taiko drumming. In 2001, Grand Master Tanaka was named a National Heritage Fellow by the United States National Endowment for the Arts. This award is widely recognized as one of America’s highest honors in folk and traditional arts. Grand Master Tanaka was one of only 13 in the Nation chosen and honored for their artistic excellence, authenticity, and contributions to their field. Back to Top
Grand Master Tanaka currently continues teaching hundreds of students the art of Taiko, and lives in San Francisco with his wife, fine artist Kumiko, and son, Ryuma, the General Manager of San Francisco Taiko Dojo.Back to Top
Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka, the son of a professional baseball player, was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1943. He spent his youth in Nagano prefecture and, like his father, grew into a skilled athlete. He attended the Chiba University of Commerce on a baseball scholarship, graduating in 1964. Shortly thereafter, he visited the United States for the first time.
Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka
Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka is accomplished at these traditional Japanese art forms:
OSUWA TAIKO — Recognized by the Japanese government as a National Abstract Cultural Treasure, Grand Master Tanaka was the first “outsider” to be accepted as an apprentice with Grand Master Daihachi Oguchi of the Suwa Taiko. Tanaka has mastered all the Suwa Taiko arts. Additionally, he has received the highest degree of diploma for the teaching of Suwa Taiko.
SUKEROKOTAIKO— Grand Master Tanaka has studied this very sophisticated, modern technique of Tokyo-style Taiko under Master Susumu Kowase.
GOJINJO TAIKO—Recognized as an Indigenous National Treasure, Grand Master Tanaka studied for years under Grand Master Shosaku Ikeda, and was granted permission to perform this very exclusive form of Taiko outside the Gojinjo district.
HOGAKU —Grand Master Tanaka received his Hogaku (traditional stage music for Kabuki dance and Noh drama) education in this most strict traditional musical art form from Grand Master Sasazo Kineya.
YOKOBUE (Bamboo Flute)— Studying under Master Kiyohiko Fukuhara, his studies included both festival and sacred ceremonial music.
MARTIAL ARTS— Grand Master Tanaka has mastered a variety of martial art forms under the guidance of Grand Master Tadao Okuyama of the Oomoto Foundation including: Shorinji Kenpo (second degree black belt); Nihonden Kenpo (second degree black belt); Tsurugi (double bladed wooden sword and Ki (chi) energy.