North American Taiko Conference (NATC)

NATC Goals

The North American Taiko Conference (NATC) is a biennial event sponsored by the Taiko Community Alliance (TCA). Started in 1997, the conference was first held in Los Angeles, hosted by the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC), with the mission of supporting the growth of taiko in North America. Since then NATC has become a central element of the taiko community – a regular gathering of taiko community leaders, players, and supporters from around the world. The conference features workshops and discussion sessions for players of all levels, and public performances featuring a wide variety of taiko groups. 

Originally held in Los Angeles Little Tokyo, NATC has since been held at Sacramento State University, the University of Washington, Stanford University, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the University of California, San Diego, and Portland State University.

NATC Historical Perspective presented by Roy Hirabayashi

NATC History

The Birth of a Community

When the first NATC was held in 1997, organizers were unsure about how the conference would be received by participants. Spearheaded by the first conference coordinator, Kevin Higa, NATC kicked off with a joyous reception at the Senshin Buddhist Temple. The taiko community took over the JACCC and surrounding buildings for the weekend, enjoying workshops, discussions, and the very first Taiko Jam concert. The atmosphere was electric. At the end of the conference, the late Duane Ebata, artistic director of the JACCC, announced that the center would host the next conference in 1999.

Little Tokyo Hosts a Tradition

The JACCC mobilized the Los Angeles taiko community to host NATC again in 1999 and 2001. At that point, the community encouraged other regions to host the gathering. The challenge was met by Sacramento in 2003 and by the Seattle community in 2007, with the conference returning to Little Tokyo in 2005 and 2009. Throughout those years, the growth of the community was clear, and NATC also became a place to discuss tough issues that accompany growth.

NATC in 2005 coincided with the opening of a landmark exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)  entitled “Big Drum: Taiko in the United States.” Conference participants enjoyed free admission to the museum to see the Big Drum exhibit, as well as the museum’s collection of artifacts and displays depicting Japanese American culture and history. A DVD featuring taiko footage from around the country and rich interviews with taiko pioneers was created for this exhibit and is still on sale at the JANM Museum Store today. Click here to watch a trailer of Big Drum -- Taiko in the United States

New Frontiers

At the end of the 2001 conference, the JACCC put out a call for other communities to host NATC, and the conference was held for the first time away from Little Tokyo. Sacramento Taiko Dan welcomed the taiko community to California State University Sacramento, which put NATC for the first time on the grounds of a college campus. 2003 also gave birth to the first Taiko Ten community concert, a tradition that continues today. In 2007, the conference was held at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. In 2011, it moved to Northern California and was held at Stanford University. Each of these conferences had a different feel from the conferences held in Little Tokyo. They introduced to us the diversity of the taiko community and highlighted the significance of NATC in supporting the community’s growth.

NATC gives birth to TCA

Due to other organizational priorities, the JACCC decided to delay and ultimately cancel the 2013 North American Taiko Conference. Many members of the community began to express concern for the future of the conference, which had become a major touchpoint for the taiko community. Under the guidance of a group of recognized taiko community leaders, and with the blessing of JACCC leadership, the Taiko Community Alliance (TCA) was formed in October 2012 to administer the conference and give the taiko community a path to greater responsibility and self-determination about its future. The new organization’s first task was clear: to secure the future of the conference and host NATC in 2015. 

At the TCA Launch in 2013, Roy presented a summary of NATC up to that time: NATC Historical Perspective. Information and images thanks to the North American Taiko Conference, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Roy Hirabayashi, Kevin Higa, Bryan Yamami, Lesley Handa, Darren Endo, Yuta Kato, Linda Uyechi, Peter Spangler, Susan Yuen, and Elise Fujimoto.

Conference Sites and Conference Coordinators

2019 – Portland State University, Portland, Oregon (Terry Nguyen) 

Portland goes global!

On behalf of the JACCC, NATC Executive Board and Advisory Council, the Northern California Taiko Network and staff, welcome to the NATC 2011 website!

2009 – JACCC, Los Angeles, California (Darren Endo)

2007 – University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (Lesley Handa)

2005 – JACCC, Los Angeles, California (Lesley Handa)

2003 – Sacramento State University, Sacramento, California (Bryan Yamami)

2001 – JACCC, Los Angeles, California (Bryan Yamami)

1999 – JACCC, Los Angeles, California (Bryan Yamami)

1997 – JACCC, Los Angeles, California (Kevin Higa)