I attend a taiko drumming school, as I’ve mentioned before, in the midst of my city here in Japan. Once a week I go to an hour-long class where we practice a particular song for six months. At the end of it, we go to a Culture Center in the area and perform for our family and friends. It’s all a very expensive hobby when you get down to it–the lessons are 2,500 yen per hour, the performance costs about 9,000 yen to take part in, and if, heaven forbid, you want a DVD of the experience, that’ll cost an additional 7,000 yen.

But there’s a moment when you’re on stage and raising the drumsticks over your head, anticipation pooling in your belly as you await the first “DON” that resonates through the room… the tension and excitement before you share this passion and excitement with people is something I’m starting to really enjoy.

From elementary school through university I took part in chorus groups, so being on stage is nothing new to me. What is new to me is using something other than my voice in a performance, and while I’ve only done it twice so far, it is rapidly growing on me.

People say when you live abroad you should do something that you can only do in that place. Now, mind you, I’ve looked up taiko groups and they are widespread throughout the world, whether it’s in the States or other Asian countries or what-have-you. But here’s what I get out of this experience I really appreciate:

  1. Being in an all-Japanese environment. Can the teachers speak English? Yeah, some of them! But the teaching is all in Japanese, which forces me to keep up with my language practice. By extension…
  2. The lessons push me out of my comfort zone. I’m learning something in a foreign language with foreign context, with references to things I might never understand. I’m the only expat in my taiko group, as well, and while others take part in the other classes we don’t often get to meet and chat about our experiences.
  3. Performing on stage with this background makes me feel all the more accomplished, because to me it means I’ve succeeded in more than just learning a 5 minute song on the drums (though that’s an accomplishment in and of itself!).

I’m a little sad right now because I’ll be switching classes in April–my work and fun schedules are clashing and I needed to change it up–but I’m also excited about what else is going to happen with a new taiko group and teacher.

Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with the famous quote, “Do something every day that scares you.” While I think every day is a bit ambitious, I find that pushing myself to be out there and active in ways other than my job really help me make friends and have a better sense of community in my neighborhood here.

So go, do something that only you can do, only in that place. If it’s learning tea ceremony, or a martial art, or scuba diving, or whatever, get out there and do the thing.

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