Since the start of 2019 we’ve felt a tangible absence at Wadaiko Rindo. Our beloved lead performer, Ami Akimoto, announced that she would be leaving Melbourne to travel overseas for a while. “How long is ‘a while’?” we all asked.
Wadaiko Rindo colleague and close friend, Mia-Alexandra Sky, chats with Ami to get to the bottom of what she’s been up to and where she’s heading.
Ami Akimoto joined Wadaiko Rindo in 2001 and, since then, she has grown and flourished, becoming an indispensable part of our organisation. Her presence in classes and on the stage quickly became synonymous with Rindo’s powerful and energetic performances. Many of us who have seen her excel and been inspired by her grounded approach to the ancient art of taiko could never imagine a version of Wadaiko Rindo without her active participation. Yet, here we are.
Earlier this year, our much-loved taiko star packed her suitcases and readied herself for a huge relocation, but not before kicking off her new adventure with the trip of a lifetime.
In late February, Ami headed off to North America, helping Kodō as a tour manager for part of their two-month tour, ‘Evolution’. Accompanying the troupe from Chicago to Toronto, Ami assisted in tasks from setting up green rooms at venues to looking after merchandise.
In addition, Ami found it inspirational and exciting to interact with the audience at each venue to grasp how the performances were being received and report back to the Kodō team to share the experience about the atmosphere of the venues and the towns they were touring.
For us back here in Australia, hearing about Ami’s involvement with Kodō is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Kodō is arguably the most well-known and respected taiko group worldwide and has been considered an ambassador group for taiko performance outside Japan, and we are fiercely proud of her new relationship with this organisation, even if her involvement is only in its infancy.
And then, the big relocation!
Ami joined the Earth Celebration Committee on Sado Island, and since doing so has been living there to assist with a number of jobs, from helping with the Earth Celebration (EC) activities and other concurrent projects, to assisting cruise tours that arrive for taiko workshops.
Aside from her role as the main contact for people overseas inquiring about EC, Ami has said she is finding it exciting to be able to work on various different exciting projects that seemed to allow taiko to spread beyond just a performing art.
I asked Toshi san about his thoughts. His eyes move from sad to hopeful when he speaks about Ami, but they are never without pride. “When Ami left Melbourne in March, I felt as sad as everyone else, but I hope that she will grow from many meaningful experiences coming her way through taiko life,” he nods.
We’re all so excited for her and proud, but the question of everyone’s lips seems to be, “when do we get her back?” Ami pauses to think about how to respond when we ask, and she remains unsure. The only thing that appears to be certain is that she’s planning to stay on Sado until her next path emerges. “It really depends where my heart and path will lead me,” she muses. “After all, taiko is community.”
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