Eitetsu Hayashi launched his solo career in 1982 after playing as part of a group for 11 years. He pioneered the unprecedented role of the taiko soloist by creating odaiko solo performance methods that are not found in Japanese tradition along with unique performance techniques that utilize diverse drum groups. In 1984, he became the first Japanese taiko drummer to perform at Carnegie Hall and earned international praise. Subsequently, he has performed with artists and orchestras from around the world. He has created original forms of taiko expression as new music, and he continues to be broadly active in Japan and overseas as he pursues new creative activities. He has also written a number of books, including Ashita no Taikouchi E (Hatori Shoten) and Hayashi Eitetsu: Taiko Jitsugetsu (Kodansha). He received the Minister of Education Award for Fine Arts in 1997, the Japanese Traditional Culture Promotion Award in 2001, and the Matsuo Prize of Entertainment Grand Prize in 2017.
Before becoming a solo taiko drummer, I intended to train as a Buddhist priest at Koyasan. As I played the taiko and had a number of mysterious spiritual experiences, I came to think of the vision of Kukai presented in Ryotaro Shiba’s Kukai no Fukei as a friend from a thousand year ago, and I found that I wanted to engage in a dialog with life in the sacred space of Koyasan.
Although I went on to become a soloist without realizing that dream, I was blessed with opportunities to give performances at places such as Koyasan Kongobu-ji Head Temple; Oyunohara, shines and temples; and Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine. I had the opportunity to perform “Michi wo Yuku Hito,” a song I had composed on behalf of the Kumano Kodo, at Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine in front of a live nationwide audience on the television program Hodo Suteeshon on the evening that the site’s World Heritage status was announced. All of these were unexpected connections, and they made me tremble. It may be that the sound of the ocean and mountains of Koyasan and Kumano, and the sound of people’s prayers and footsteps there are echoing through its long history and calling to me as I walk alone.