Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka, a shin-issei, was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1943. After graduating from Chiba University of Commerce, he moved to the United States in 1967. He worked as a farm laborer, picking strawberries in Watsonville, before moving to San Francisco. In 1968, he attended the San Francisco Japantown Cherry Blossom Festival. He was struck by the absence of taiko drumming—something he associated with the festivals of his youth in Japan. Inspired to action, he borrowed taiko from the local Buddhist Temple and gathered together some friends to perform at the 1968 Aki (Autumn) Matsuri in Japantown. He returned to Japan many times in the years following to study taiko so that he could pass on his knowledge to others.Tanaka Sensei built upon the taiko renaissance that had begun in Japan in the 1950s and established San Francisco Taiko Dojo, the first taiko dojo (school) in North America, in 1968. Since then, he has trained thousands of students.
Today there are more than 200 taiko groups in the United States and Canada, many of which trace their roots back to Grand Master Tanaka and his San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Tanaka continues to teach fundamental taiko rhythm patterns and movements that are based on the martial arts. Although his taiko style originates in the Japanese festival tradition, he has been influenced by his American experiences and blends traditional taiko rhythms with jazz, Latin, and other rhythms.
Tanaka Sensei has received Japan's Foreign Ministers Commendation and the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellows Award in recognition of his work promoting the art of taiko. (January 27, 2005)