FAYE NAOMI KOMAGATA
Aiea, Hawaii, USA
Faye Naomi Komagata was the founder and original director of Hawaii Matsuri Taiko—the first taiko group of its kind in Hawaii.
Faye was born and raised in Hawaii, and spent a lot of her time at the Soto Mission of Hawaii, a Buddhist temple where her parents were dedicated members and where she and her future husband, Bishop Shugen Komagata, first met as children. Early on, Faye was a bit of a tomboy, preferring to play football and baseball with the boys. However, she was also smart—always with her head in a book—and musically talented. She was an accomplished violin and viola player with a polished singing voice.
From the time Faye married Rev. Shugen Komagata in 1970, it was clear that she did not fit the mold of the traditionally conservative minister’s wife (okusan). She was a modern okusan—a beautiful, talented, outgoing, and energetic American okusan.
Her energy, passion, and love for music continued through the years. She began teaching Japanese Minyo dancing and the art of Baika Ryu Eisanka (Buddhist hymnals) at various temples, and played taiko and sang at the annual Bon Dance. She took hula lessons and taught after school Japanese language and culture classes at the temple.
One of the culture classes she introduced was taiko, and in 1984, Faye founded Hawaii Matsuri Taiko, the first ensemble Japanese drum group in Hawaii to perform year-round. Traditional and modern Japanese taiko music, as well as original taiko compositions reflecting the group’s Western and Japanese cultural heritage, make up Hawaii Matsuri Taiko’s repertoire.
Faye was truly “the Mother of Taiko in Hawaii.” After launching her taiko group, Mrs. K, as she was affectionately known by her students, shared her knowledge of taiko to help form and develop taiko groups at nearly every Soto Mission temple in Hawaii: Kona, Hilo, Maui, Molokai, Kauai, Waipahu, and Aiea. With her outgoing personality, remarkable intelligence, and never ending generosity, Mrs. K brought taiko senseis from both Japan and the mainland to not only mentor her students, but also the many groups she helped throughout Hawaii. Through networking with other groups, Mrs. K led Hawaii Matsuri Taiko on several taiko tours to Japan and the mainland.
For over 34 years, Mrs. K touched the lives of hundreds of taiko students. Today, her son Rev. Shuji, a formally recognized taiko sensei in the Sukeroku Style of Taiko, and her daughter-in-law Jaymie, proudly carry on in her legacy.
In 2016, Faye was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. With great courage, she endured various kinds of aggressive treatments that extended her life, but could not completely destroy the cancer.
Surrounded by her family, Faye passed away peacefully in the evening of November 5, 2018. Liberated from her shell of a body like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, Faye is flying free. Listen! She is singing and playing taiko.
“Ancient spirits, sands of time. Harmonic energy… the echoes of eternal beats.
Pulsating rhythms, new forms; power and grace…
don-don… Don-Don… Don-DOn… DON-DON!
The beating of our hearts as one… The beating of our hearts… as one.”
By Faye Komagata, Founder, Hawaii Matsuri Taiko, 1984