About Earth Celebration
Since 1988, Kodo, a world renowned taiko ensemble and Japan’s most internationally acclaimed performing arts group, has held an annual music festival called “Earth Celebration” (EC), produced in cooperation with Sado City. For a quarter century, EC has been a venue for Kodo to invite artists they have met in their travels back to its home of Sado Island to engage in unprecedented musical collaborations. Under the theme “Tataku” (to beat a rhythm), the most primal human expression, and set against the rich natural splendor of Sado, EC seeks an alternative global culture through musical and cultural collaborations with artists from around the world. Now in its 26th year, EC is the nation’s longest running music festival, described by the New York Times as “Japan’s leading music event.” In 2009, in recognition of the organization’s “notable contribution to the promotion of Japanese traditional culture and to the revitalization of the local community,” the Earth Celebration Committee was awarded the Tiffany Foundation Award for the Preservation of Japanese Traditional Arts and Culture in Contemporary Society.
The Earth Celebration Concept
By Toshio Kawauchi, from the 1983 “Kodo” Quarterly Fall Edition
“Through world music and artistic exchange, using the natural beauty of Sado to set the stage, I would like this event to be an experiment in strengthening the communal ties of all of Earth’s inhabitants. Then, through our mutual understanding, we can establish a new Earth culture, bringing us one step closer to a world where human beings can truly live, as human beings.
Under a star-filled summer night sky, with the beat of the drum being carried far away along with the ocean’s roar, the sound of gamelan and sacred Shinto music fill the air… that is the vision I wish to bring into reality.”
Toshio Kawauchi (1950-1987)
Tokyo-born Toshio Kawauchi moved to Sado in 1971 to help form Kodo’s antecedent “Sado no Kuni Ondekoza,” and lived communally with the group as one of its founding members. On stage, he mainly played the shamisen, but he also played a large off-stage role in administration. When Kodo was founded in 1981, he became the group’s first managing director. Toshio Kawauchi was Kodo’s spiritual pillar. He poured his heart into the Kodo Village concept and the planning of Earth Celebration. His aim was to encourage the preservation of regional cultures and promote global cultural exchange. Kawauchi was known to friends as “Hancho.”
Home to Earth Celebration, Sado Island has a circumference of 260 kilometers and an area of 854.6 square kilometers. Most people think Sado is a tiny island floating in the Sea of Japan, so many first-time visitors are surprised by the island’s considerable size. With a distinct four-seasonal climate and rich culture stemming from a colorful past, Sado Island is practically a miniature version of Japan itself, both culturally and climatically. Indeed, a trip to the island is like visiting a living museum.
One of Sado’s claims to fame throughout the country is that it’s the home to the Japanese Crested Ibis, or Toki in Japanese. Now a protected species, the Toki once roamed free in Sado’s rich, natural paradise, right up until the bird faced imminent extinction in the early ’80s. Formerly, Toki could be found living throughout Japan. But due to excessive hunting and destruction of their natural environment, numbers decreased dramatically until 1981, when the last five birds remained on Sado Island. These five survivors were taken into protective care, and thus toki vanished from Japanese skies. Since then, the inhabitants of Sado Island have gone to great lengths to restore the environment and make it suitable for Toki to live safely, again. The introduction of feeding grounds for the birds, a decrease in the use of agricultural chemicals, and forest protection research were just some of the measures used to help restore the environment. Since 2008, Toki bred in captivity have been introduced back into the wild, and these symbols of the island can finally be seen flying free once more.
The island of Sado also has a rich history of widely varied cultural traditions. Through sea-trade and travel, visitors from all over the mainland brought a diverse mix of aristocratic, samurai, and merchant cultures to the island. The immortal Noh master Zeami was banished to the island, and as a result, Sado has the highest density of Noh stages of any location in Japan. A tour of the island’s many temples reveals traces of the famed Buddhist priest, Nichiren. You could plan a trip around Sado based solely on historical landmarks.
However you can’t mention Sado without speaking of the island’s natural splendor. The rich and varied coastline. Lush greenery and azure skies. There’s simply nothing like it in Japan’s urban landscape, and summer brings many visitors to Sado to camp, hike, and hang out on the beach. Nature, history, culture, and resorts; there is so much on Sado, we look forward to welcoming you to this magical place.