A shime drum, usually the smallest drum used in a repertoire, can cost you US $1000 or more.
A single mid-sized taiko drum of decent quality can run you a few more grand.
A big chu-daiko or an o-daiko will cost you tens of thousands.
Ridiculous isn't it?
If you build a taiko ensemble from scratch, you could buy a few cars or a house for the same price.
Why are they so expensive?
The materials, yes, they aren't cheap. This is especially so if you're purchasing an authentic hollowed-based taiko drum- a drum hollowed out of a single tree trunk. The quality of the wood also varies, but the most highly regarded tree, the "keyaki", is increasingly rare, especially in larger sizes, resulting in an inflation in price.
When you also add up the cost of the skins, the metal tacks, the 'kan' handles and all the tools necessary to put it all together, you're looking at some serious costs.
The biggest cost though, is the labor. Enormous amounts of time are put into a well-made taiko drum, and there aren't that many master taiko-builders out there. A single quality drum can take months to complete.
So who buys these drums? First of all, professional taiko drummers. To provide top-quality performance, they need top quality drums.
But amateur groups buy them too, though usually in much smaller quantities. Even having one or two top-notch drums can make a big difference.
Other customers include companies, shrines/temples, cities and communities. These groups may not necessarily play the drums themselves, but they provide them for others to use, or, in some cases, just for decoration, status, or a mark of achievement/celebration.
So the big question- what about everyone else? What if you want some taiko drums, but don't have suitcases brimming with bills?
The answer? Don't buy them.
Or at least not the really expensive ones. There are cheaper alternatives, and you can always try the challenge of building them yourself. Further, if you want quality, good networking and fundraising can help you get the connections and $ you need to get your hands on great drums.
Taking up taiko as a hobby (or a profession) isn't cheap at first glance. But don't let that turn you off! With a little problem-solving, making a taiko group or your own taiko-set really isn't as hard as it seems.