Honoring Faye Naomi Komagata



Aiea, Hawaii, USA

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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

Meet the 2019 Women and Taiko Fellowship Cohort

Please help us welcome four amazing women to the first-ever, pilot Step Up/Step Out Fellowship program: Jessie Gibbs (Narukami Taiko, Wellington, New Zealand), Natalie Hudson (Kaminari Taiko, Texas, USA), Eileen Ho (Raion Taiko/Great Lakes Taiko Center, Michigan, USA), and Lisa Shiota (Miyako Taiko, DC, USA)!

The Women and Taiko 7 month Fellowship Program was launched as a pilot in April 2019 as a part of the Women and Taiko Step Up/Step Out program. The focus of the program is to build the leadership capacity of women in the taiko community by providing a supportive platform to develop their unique artistic voice and skills.

Through a guided discovery process curated by Michelle Fujii and Karen Young, the cohort will reflect on their taiko journeys while tapping into a well of comprehensive professional development resources that include: developing a Community Learning Project (also known as their ‘stretch project’), monthly facilitated online meetings, and engagement with a series of guest presenters and mentors.

Stay tuned as the cohort develops their Community Learning Project. These projects will be presented at the Step Up/Step Out* 2 day professional development immediately following the North American Taiko Conference in Portland, OR in August, 2019.

* space still available

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Jessie Gibbs

Jessie Gibbs is a taiko performer and instructor from Wellington, New Zealand. Jessie first experienced taiko when studying at IPUNZ. She played with the university team Kodama for 3 years becoming their captain in her final year. After a year of teaching English in Japan and wanting to continue her taiko journey, she formed the community group Narukami Taiko. Jessie’s dream of unity, inclusiveness, and the desire to just play drums with friends has helped Narukami grow from just 9 members at conception in 2014 to over 60 members today. Narukami is a diverse team that encourages both individuality and acceptance.



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Eileen Ho

Eileen Ho is a taiko artist and instructor from Ann Arbor, MI. She is an original member of Raion Taiko (2009) and on the administrative and teaching staff at the Great Lakes Taiko Center in Southeast Michigan. Her interest in taiko was sparked in college while watching a Kodo concert with her husband. Years later they took their four kids to see taiko in Minnesota, igniting an exciting path from her first taiko class (2001) to her joyful experience as a performing member of Mu Daiko (2005-2009). Eileen strives to expand and deepen her musical expression while connecting with audiences and students through taiko.


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Natalie Hudson

Natalie Hudson is the Artistic Director of Kaminari Taiko in Houston, Texas, USA. Since 2008 she has performed across Texas and the Gulf South and created programs to reach new students and share free taiko performances with underserved audiences around Houston. Natalie trains students of all ages and leads a diverse ensemble of players in practice and performance. Her passion for vibrant, high-energy performance and her background in mathematics and teaching support her ongoing quest to develop fun, engaging methods for learning and teaching any taiko skill.


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Lisa Shiota

Lisa Shiota is one of the founding members of Miyako Taiko, a community group in Washington, DC, USA, having served in administrative, logistics, and artistic coordinator roles. She has also worked as stage manager and group liaison for the annual Sakura Taiko Takeover, an all-day event of performances, as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. She studies taiko with Mark H Rooney and has assisted teaching the Recreational Class in the Mark H Taiko School. Lisa has studied shinobue with Kaoru Watanabe, and performs as a soloist and with ensembles. When not playing taiko, Lisa can be found biking, cooking, or playing clarinet.


Join us in Portland! Step Up/Step Out: a few spaces left!

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A few spaces left!

Join us in Portland! August 11-13, 2019

This 2-day session immediately following the North American Taiko Conference will focus on developing and elevating the voice and experience of women in the taiko community. In our time together, we will focus largely on building skills needed to enhance and bolster your leadership. In a supportive environment, we will develop your personal vision, identify your unique artistic voice and skills, share workshop design principles, build relationships with each other, and emphasize planning for the future.