Wadaiko Artist Art Lee and Wadaiko Ensemble Tokara Image Collage TOP
Cast Bios


  • TOKARA toured continuously for two years throughout 12 countries for their landmark production called "Kazakoshi". This world tour began with Art Lee's 20th Anniversary in 2013 and culminated in Tokara's 10th Anniversary in 2014.
  • Artistic Director Art Lee is the only non-Japanese ever to win the award of Odaiko Grand Champion in the history of the Tokyo International Wadaiko Contest. He is also the first person ever to be awarded an unsponsored artist visa from the Japanese government to lead the life of a professional taiko performer, teacher and composer in Japan.


Wadaiko Ensemble TOKARA was founded on March 7th, 2004 in Nagano Prefecture, Japan by Wadaiko Artist Art Lee, who brought together various taiko and percussion group members to begin the challenge of intensified training of the mind and body in the strict discipline of the taiko. Since then TOKARA has become a strong force in the world of Wadaiko (Taiko Drumming) both in Japan and internationally.

While incorporating arrangements of traditional Taiko pieces into their performance, Tokara has created an all new style of Taiko, where electrifying speed and power meet the groups own arrangements of movement which incorporate dance and the circular fluidity of the Chinese martial arts and aikido. Tokara's new style of Taiko music also brings rhythm signatures from other cultures around the world to create a jazzy and exciting style of taiko music.

TOKARA kicked off its international debut with a six-week coast-to-coast tour of the U.S. and Canada, followed by a two-month tour in 2005...both to critical acclaim and sold out audiences. TOKARA has since performed as the main attraction in many events, including: Hamanako Hanahaku All-Japan Expo and the Taipei City 120th Anniversary World Music Festival. Since the groups inception, Tokara tours three to four times a year in Asia, the U.S., various countries in Europe, Australia, and India, as well as making regular appearances at some of the top Taiko performances all over Japan..

TOKARA continues the intensive process of continually reinventing new pieces and playing styles in an attempt to further develop the group’s originality, the members of TOKARA also continue to research and study traditional wadaiko pieces, and to incorporate arrangements of these pieces into their performances.

In addition to international touring, Tokara has created a unique education program of bringing Taiko enthusiasts and groups to Japan for various types of training. The group annually produces the Saiwai Shimoina Wadaiko Festival, as well as two award-winning intensive education programs; the INADANI Taiko Drumming Course for beginners and the TOKARA Wadaiko Bootcamp for intermediate/advanced practioners.


The name “TOKARA” literally comes from the meaning “touku kara” or “from afar” in Japanese. One meaning of this name encompasses the past. All members of the group come from different cultures, experiences and walks of life, and have come together to be both students and teachers of the taiko drum. The past also includes the beginning, the basics, and things traditional. We must never forget how we started; remember that no matter how much we achieve, we never forget the basics of when we began. Hence, the group’s repertoire includes many traditional taiko pieces as well as Tokara’s award winning original compositions.

“TOKARA” also encompasses the future in which members of the group strive to become better than what they are with utmost humility and respect, not only in the “way of the drum”, but in every aspect of life. The realization that, even with 100 years of the most intense dedication, there is always so much more to learn.

The name “Tokara” is represented by the written character “遙”.

Wadaiko TOKARA Office
831-1 Kega, Iida City, Nagano Prefecture Japan  TEL: (81)265-59-8768   Email: info@wadaiko-tokara.net