About Us

Maui Taiko
A Tradition for Generations

Maui Taiko, established in 1996, is a non-profit charitable corporation organized to perpetuate traditional Japanese folk songs and dances of the Buddhist O-Bon festival and to promote taiko (Japanese drumming) music. Maui Taiko plays the traditional Japanese folk song, Fukushima Ondo, at many O-Bon festivals and cultural events on Maui and seeks to perpetuate the song for future generations. The group continues to work toward elevating their artistry in taiko and sharing it with the community.

Japanese immigrants from Fukushima prefecture brought the song Fukushima Ondo to Maui in the early 1900‘s. Many of the immigrants lived in the plantation village of Keahua and organized an informal group to play Fukushima Ondo for the annual O-Bon festival. In the "good old days", the group played the song for hours and people danced from sunset to early morning. Friends, relatives, and visitors of all ages, nationalities, and religions came to attend this annual festival.

On Maui, as the plantation villages were being closed, these O-Bon festivals moved to various Buddhist temples. These festivals are cultural gatherings that are similar to the ones held during the days of plantation village life. Today, the festivals continue to be celebrated by many generations of families of various ages, nationalities, and religions. The music tradition at these O-Bon festivals has however changed. Most of the songs are pre-recorded; however, Fukushima Ondo is still performed live.

The informal taiko group that existed in Keahua has continued for nearly a century through five generations of the Watanabe family. The family founded Maui Taiko with the intent of perpetuating the Fukushima Ondo tradition and incorporating other forms of taiko music. Albert Watanabe, one of the group‘s founders is from the third generation of Watanabe family members involved with this tradition. His daughters and grandson continue the tradition for future generations.


Maui Matsuri is an annual weekend festival which celebrates and honors the Japanese culture. Maui Taiko has been a proud co-sponsor of the event and has participated in the festivities since its inception in 1999. The perpetual theme of Maui Matsuri is a Japanese phrase, "Kodomo no tame ni", meaning "for the sake of the children." Maui Taiko has supported the goal of the event to share the Japanese culture and hand-down traditions to the next generation.


Maui Taiko had the honor of being featured in Great Grandfather‘s Drum, a documentary produced by award winning documentary film makers, Victoria and Cal Lewin. The film discusses Japanese-American culture and plantation life in Hawai‘i through interviews with community leaders and descendants of plantation workers. The film also highlights the story of Kay Fukumoto and her family forming Maui Taiko in effort to continue the tradition of Obon Taiko music brought to Hawaii from Fukushima, Japan by her great grandfather and others a century ago. Filmakers traveled with members of Maui Taiko to their homeland of Fukushima, Japan where they learned about the sacrifices made by their ancestors.

Great Grandfather‘s Drum was first broadcasted on PBS Hawai‘i, and was named an official selection at the 2011 Yamagata Film Festival in Japan (the largest documentary film festival in Asia) and the 2012 DisOrient Asian American Film Festival. Awards include the 2011 Telly Award and 2011 Aurora Award.

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