Tsugaru no Taiko – The Taiko of Tsugaru

Translated and adapted from Japanese Wikipedia and other sources

This is a story from the Edo period.

In Honjo, in Hirosagi-han fiefdom, a Daimyo of the house of Tsugaru had his mansion. Daimyo’s have two mansions, the kami-yashiki, where they live during their year of residence in Edo, and their shimo-yashiki in their native land. This mansion we are speaking of was the Daimyo’s kami-yashiki.

At this Daimyo’s kami-yashiki, there was a tall observation tower that was used for fire-spotting. Fire was the bitter enemy of Edo period Japan, and these towers were a common site. You are probably familiar with them from the roll of a fire tower in the tale of the 47 Ronin. Aside from being high enough to spot any sign of smoke or fire, they were equipped with a large shaped piece of wood, called a bangi, suspended by ropes from the roof. Whenever a fire was seen, the bangi would be loudly struck as an alarm to summon the fire brigade.

The mystery of the Tsugaru tower was that, when the alarm was raised, instead of the usual clack of a bangi the deep booming of a taiko drum would come from the tower.

The townsfolk’s explanation of the mystery varied. Some said that the tower had a bangi like all the others, but that when struck the bangi sounded exactly like a taiko drum. They said that the bangi had come from a tree that was used to make a taiko, or that the bangi itself had once been part of a taiko, but this was just idle talk.

There are some who say that the Taiko of Tsugaru was even less mysterious. They say that, instead of a bangi, the tower of Tsugaru simply had a large taiko drum. The reason for the drum, they said, was that because the fire tower was on a Daimyo’s kami-yashiki, the Daimyo’s didn’t want to use a bangi like everyone else. He just had to be different.

Like all of the Seven Wonders of Honjo, the Taiko of Tsugaru was incorporated into Rakugo performances. However, due to the story’s lack of true mystery, it is the wonder most often omitted.

Translator’s Note:
The Taiko of Tsugaru,  Tsugaru no Taiko (津軽の太鼓), is one of the Honjo Nana Fushigi (本所七不思議) meaning one of the Seven Wonders of Honjo.

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