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San Diego has become synonymous with microbrew, but I doubt that Japanese brew is the first thought conjured. However, the annual Beer and Sake Festival sponsored by the Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana is a beer tasting event of a decidedly Asian flair that sold out last year.

The festival promotes Japanese-Mexican cultures by pairing sake and imported Japanese brew, as well as those from local breweries, with San Diego and south of the border cuisine. Introduced to Japan by Dutch merchants in the 17th Century, the country that is currently experiencing a craft-beer brewing craze has mastered the art of beer-making, including those of the darker variety such as the hard to find kuronama.

Only most of us wouldn’t know it due to accessibility. The Japan Craft Beer Association is helping the small Japanese breweries receive broader acclaim. The society’s festival does the same.

As in previous years, San Diego Taiko will take the stage during the event. Taiko is Japanese style drumming originally used by farmers to entice the thunder god to send rain. The large resonating drums were later used by the samurai and their feudal (and oft feuding) warlords to communicate on the battlefield and between individual islands in Japan’s archipelago. Taiko are large double-sided high tension drums made from hollowed out logs. Although they had become exclusive to temples, they are now commonly played in secular ensembles thanks to jazz-influenced (but classically trained) master drummer Daihachi Oguchi.

Mimicking the American drum set, Oguchi formed ensemble groups with individual players drumming on different sized — and therefore varied pitch — taiko. Blending traditional temple music with modern influences and dramatic flair, he gave birth to a new entertainment genre. Combining rhythm, dance, and martial arts movements, the supreme discipline, endurance, and stamina demonstrated by a synchronized ensemble creates a powerfully visual performance.

As an American-Japanese art form, taiko continues to evolve. As could well be expected, there are plenty of innovators pounding skins on the West Coast. This year marks the 20th year anniversary of Frank Fat’s brainchild, the mad-blast Pacific Rim Street Fest that occurs annually in Old Town Sacramento in May aligning taiko with Hawaiian reggae and Indian belly dance. Highly acclaimed for its unconventional innovation, TaikoProject out of Long Beach shoves taiko out of the bento box. Their annual highlight performance is the Rhythmic Relations to be held this year at the Ford Theater on June 30.

The tenth anniversary Beer and Sake Festival, at which San Diego Taiko is scheduled to perform, will be held on June 28 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the San Diego Marriott Del Mar. The $70 tickets are currently on sale.

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