Written by Rylan Sekiguchi
When I decided in late 2005 to audition for San Jose Taiko, I had no idea how much it would change and enrich my life. I was a recent college graduate with a background in music and martial arts, and I was just looking for a fun after-work activity. Taiko—in its elegant blend of musicality and physicality—seemed like it would fit the bill perfectly.
It did. And it has. But over the years, SJT has also become much more to me than just a fun activity; it has become a space for creative expression, a community of fellow artists, a circle of friends, a team, a home. I’ve now been a part of the SJT family for almost eight years, and I’m proud to be a thread in the fabric of the group’s rich 40-year history.
I will always be a part of that family in spirit, and I will always be a part of that history. But this—in all probability—is my last year playing with San Jose Taiko. In a few weeks, I will move across the country and begin a new chapter of life far away from the Bay Area, my home for the past 13 years.
Looking back on my time with SJT, I have many reflections, many memories, many thoughts—far more than could fit in a post like this. But if there’s one word that sums it all up, it is this: gratitude.
In November 2012, SJT Artistic Director Franco Imperial approached me with an idea: a rap-and-taiko project that would celebrate SJT’s 40th anniversary and, more importantly, pay homage to all the friends, neighbors, and community members who’ve supported SJT through the years. The central theme, Franco told me, would be “gratitude.” I immediately agreed.
Today, nearly a year later, we’re happy to finally release “Arigato,” a song and music video that represents the fruition of that project. Please think of it as a short but heartfelt thank-you card from all of us in SJT for 40 years of your love and support. This song is for you. This song is yours.
Working on this project while simultaneously preparing to leave San Jose has made me reflect even more deeply on the gratitude I feel for the people in my own life—my own friends, my own neighbors, my own communities, and of course my own special SJT family. In this sense, many of the song’s lyrics have dual meaning for me. I hope you find your own meaning in the lyrics, too, and that they might stir up similar feelings of gratitude for you.
And so, it’s with a humble heart that we offer you this small gift as a symbol of our appreciation. We hope you enjoy it. For your support, for your collaboration, for your generosity, for your friendship, for your love… we say “arigato.”
Lyrics by Rybo
Music production by DJ Squareweezy of The Bangerz
Based on "Arigato" (2002) by Franco Imperial, performed by San Jose Taiko and the San Jose Betsuin Junior Choir
Videography by Peter Pheap, David Sanchez, and Rylan Sekiguchi
Filmed at the 2013 Nikkei Matsuri in San Jose Japantown
VERSE 1: From the first day to 40th birthday / from the Buddhist church, where the group first played in the first place / It’s natural making art in the birthplace / It’s San Jo like the Sharks and the Earthquakes / Couldn’t have done it without the love of the hometown / The home crowd supporters shout with their own sound / Couldn’t have done it without the love in a hundred percent in some of the men and the women willing to run it / And to that, we stay faithful / And to our predecessors, stay grateful / ‘Cause that which is built today is only as sound as the foundation first laid / So in recognition of all of that, the mission of this track is to holler back / It’s something that we had to do, a small token of our gratitude
CHORUS: Arigato, arigato / arigato, arigato / for the grounding, support, and community / from our founding to all that we grew to be / Arigato, arigato / arigato, arigato / to the fam, the friends, and fans, and all of those who lent hands
VERSE 2: Raised in J-Town in SJ, proud of our community, our city and state now / The opportunity to rep our community’s useless, unless used as a muse musically / Before the drum was a drum, the drum was a tree / Before the tree, the tree was a seed that was fortunately able to sprout and start to photosynth / Its flourishing was only allowed through proper nourishment / And over time it grew through the grace of the rain, sunshine, and dew / And each try reaching for sky was thanks to the sturdiness the earth had supplied / So the same with our lives, and so the same with our group / We only reach a new high when we can deepen our roots / So if we reach for the sky, and if we seek and we find, we must remember how the earth nursed a tree from a shoot, and say “thank you”
VERSE 3: Forty years from first founding / The group’s growth granted by great grounding / See, the fertile soil is suitably San Jo, so we stay rooted to the community / Considering everything we’ve inherited and benefited from, to credit is an imperative / So with a humble heart and in gassho, we say “arigato”