Arts & Humanities

Athletic, charismatic Japanese drum troupe makes UGA Presents debut

This spring, Yamato: The Drummers of Japan tour North America with their new show titled “Hinotori – The Wings of Phoenix.” (Photo courtesy Masa Ogawa)

This spring, Yamato: The Drummers of Japan tour North America with their new show titled “Hinotori – The Wings of Phoenix.”

This year marks the 30th anniversary season for the “simply captivating” (The Evening PostTaiko troupe, who have reached nearly 8 million people globally in more than 4,000 performances throughout their history. The troupe brings “Hinotori – The Wings of Phoenix” to the UGA Performing Arts Center’s Hodgson Concert Hall on March 24 at 7:30 p.m.

“We want to be creative,” said Yamato founder and artistic director Masa Ogawa. The physically powerful troupe of musician-athletes works and lives together as a community in the Asuka Village, said to be the birthplace of Japanese culture. There they create their own musical compositions, theater productions, sets, lighting design, choreography, performance techniques, costumes, makeup, stage settings and props. They even make their own bachi sticks used to play the traditional Japanese instruments, beginning each show by hitting a Wadaiko drum weighing half a ton, made from a single piece of wood from a 400-year-old tree.

“Yamato believes that the drumbeat, like the heartbeat, is the very pulse of life and the epitome of the Japanese spirit,” Ogawa said. “Yamato uses creativity to convert Wadaiko into a performing art that can reverberate in Japan, Asia and the rest of the world.”

Yamato had just begun touring their program, “Tenmei – Destiny” in 2022 when the troupe—along with the rest of the world—was confronted with closures due to a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic. The drummers returned to the Asuka Village, where they never ceased training and creating together. “Hinotori – The Wings of Phoenix” celebrates the troupe’s strength and ability to rise up despite the challenges it has faced throughout its 30-year history.

Founded in 1993 in Japan’s Nara Prefecture, Yamato now travels all over the word with Japan’s traditional Taiko drums, putting its very souls into the unusual instruments. Over the past 30 years, the troupe has performed in 54 countries and regions, giving 4,000 performances for nearly 8 million people.

They travel with about 40 Taiko drums, ranging in size from 22 pounds to 1100 pounds. The troupe lives within the village and engages in daily strength training, instrument practice and program rehearsal. Always evolving and innovating while respecting the tradition, Yamato is a modern and relevant ambassador for Taiko drumming and for the Japanese culture from which it derives.

Since their formation, Yamato has been committed to preserving and respecting the Taiko tradition, while infusing originality and innovation into the ancient practice. Notably, Yamato broke from Taiko’s long-standing patriarchy and has always included women in the troupe. And while the members train rigorously, Yamato imbues each performance with joy and a sense of fun, breaking from the stereotypical stoicism associated with this ancient art form.

This UGA Presents performance is supported by Janet Rodekohr and Clay and Amie Dunford.

Three ways to get tickets

  1. Purchase tickets online at
  2. Call the Performing Arts Center box office at 706-542-4400, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  3. Visit the UGA Performing Arts Center box office, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (five-minute parking is available in the drop off circle at the Performing Arts Center for purchasing or picking up tickets.)

Ticket buyers can create a series of three performances for 20% off. Single tickets begin at $25, and UGA student tickets are just $10. Parking is free.

To learn more about all UGA Performing Arts Center events, visit