In a performance of Ōdaiko, arguably the most iconic and widely performed piece in Japanese taiko drumming, a loincloth-clad man pounds furiously on a huge Japanese drum to the point of near exhaustion. Although this piece often is assumed to descend from Japan's rich heritage of folk drumming, this article argues instead that Ōdaiko was inspired by a fictional representation of festival drumming in the mid-century Japanese film The Rickshaw Man (Muhōmatsu no isshō). In addition, the revealing clothing worn in the performance derives not from Japanese custom but from the input of the French designer Pierre Cardin. Tracing the emergence of Ōdaiko in the influential taiko ensemble Ondekoza, this article sheds light on the potent mixture of folkloric instrumentation and modern sensibility that distinguishes contemporary taiko drumming.

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