Holiday Parties and Taiko

I don’t know about you, but all these holiday parties are totally messing with my nutrition. I haven’t been having such a hard time saying no to the treats and sweets lately, but the abundance of fried foods has already gotten to me.  It’s difficult being a selective omnivore at parties.  I’ve come to either not eat anything or put anything meat-free or resembling veggies on my plate (most of the time that means just salad and things like spring rolls, fried noodles, etc.).  As you can imagine, people often think I’m either a totally picky eater or that I have some sort of eating disorder.   But you know what I’m realizing?  I’m done eating to please others. And no, I don’t need to apologize to you for not eating something that doesn’t make me feel good or give me energy.  Ultimately I am the only one who has to deal with the repercussions of the ways in which I fuel my body – be it breaking out and headaches or sustained energy.

That said, everything is a learning experience.  It is not always as simple as it seems to skip over the super ‘ono-looking local food.  Sometimes, to avoid being tempted and eating out of guilt, I skip a party altogether (I know that’s not always socially healthy – I’m still working on balance here).   And sometimes, when my body is really craving something, I figure there must be something in it that my body needs to a certain degree – and I’ll have a bit.  The point is to honor my body.  Listen to it and trust that it will always communicate to me what I need.

This week I’ve had three work-related holiday parties (one of which I skipped because I was feeling especially emotional and didn’t want to eat to fill a gap).  Thank goodness tonight’s party will be the last until next week.  My plan?  Exercise (I teach TurboKick at lunch), budget my calories throughout the day to allot for more food tonight, and have a snack before I get to the party (the chances of me over-indulging are much greater if I’m hungry).  Once there, I’ll remember my goals (and how hard I’ve worked to get to where I want to be) and focus on filling my soul with love from people, not food.

My heart was full with love when I left last night’s holiday party. My mom’s taiko group, Maui Taiko, hosted their holiday party to celebrate the holidays, appreciate everyone’s hard work over the past year, and get excited for the year to come.  Mom’s been playing taiko (Japanese drums) for about a year and is now moving from the beginners class to the intermediate!  All of the groups [beginners, intermediate, advanced, apprentice, and performance] played for us last night – filling Wailuku Hongwanji Mission (and my soul) with dense, deep vibrations.


[Some History]:

My mom is half Japanese, half Portuguese.  My great-great grandparents, along with many other Japanese, migrated from the islands of Japan to help with agriculture in Hawai`i.  Like the other groups of immigrants (Filipinos, Chinese, Puerto Ricans, etc.), they were promised tons of money, nice houses, and the opportunity to bring their families back home out of poverty.  Most immigrants planned on coming to Hawai`i for a short period of time and then going home with enough resources to help their families.  I won’t overwhelm you by going into it, but hopes were shattered history panned out very differently.

In any case, my great-great grandparents wound up on the the big island of Hawai`i.  Many events ensued with my Japanese family – including a name change (because Hiei was too difficult for someone to pronounce), moving to Maui, and World War II Japanese-American issues.  As a result, somewhere along the line there was a disconnect between the family members and our history and culture.  My mom recognizes that disconnect and has made it a personal mission to learn more about her culture. Hence, the reason she joined Taiko.  And Japanese Calligraphy :).   She absolutely loves it.


Taiko drumming has been practiced in Japan for centuries – in war and in celebration (to learn the history of Taiko, click here.  For Maui Taiko’s history, click here).  Personally, I’ve seen Taiko drumming mainly at celebrations (they drum for the marathon runners at the Maui Marathon!) and at o-bon (Japanese celebrations of the dead). But I had no idea it was such an incredible art form until I started going to Mom’s recitals!


There is an entire background and methodology to Taiko that I can’t even begin to share with you (because I don’t know the specifics myself).  What I do know is that some groups had more drums than others, there are different sized bachi (sticks) that make different sounds, and they all do certain hand motions that really look like they are trying to pull sound out of the drum with their sticks (rather than just pounding away).  There’s often times a lot of movement, sometimes a wooden flute, and the players are often lunging, rooting down with their legs.  They are powerful!  As my 10-year-old cousin Chance so perfectly put it last night, “it’s like the drums were beating with my heart.”  I love feeling that connected to anything.

I leave you with more photos of the groups drumming 🙂

[The performance group and their tricks!]


[That’s Mom – nervous!]




[Everyone was invited to do a solo at the end!  These guys were great!]


[We finished the evening with a grandfather + grandson solo/duet.  Talk about incredible!]

How do you connect with your culture?  And how are you doing with all the holiday parties?


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