Bradcat’s Japanese Game Focus… Taiko no Tatsujin (太鼓の達人)

In the United Kingdom the arcade scene is all but dead. There are a few arcades left with somewhat dated cabinets, or special event nights which have to be hunted out. In Japan however, the arcade scene is very much alive as amidst the bright lights of Tokyo and Osaka, you’re never more than 40ft away from the next cave of entertainment.

There is one game you’ll find in practically every single one of these venues, and that is Taiko no Tatsujin (太鼓の達人)

Taiko no Tatsujin (太鼓の達人) has been going since 2001


As you approach the cabinet, you are presented with two taiko drums and a holster with drum sticks in them (Red and Blue for Player 1 & 2 respectively) The menus are fairly easy to navigate, even for none Japanese speakers. Don (Red face drum mascot) and his twin brother Katsu (Blue face drum mascot) will shout the categories to you regardless.

Once you’ve selected a song to drum to, the aim is to strike the notes or Onpu (音符) in time with the music, striking the centre of the drum for red, or the rim for blue. There are special Onpu to watch out for in the form of yellow circles, they can be anything from a drum hitting frenzy in a designated time, or trying to make a balloon burst as quickly as possible.In this video you can get an idea of what the game is about. If you’ve ever played games such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band, then this will be a walk in the park for you. However, being somewhat arrhythmic when it comes to drums this was a challenge for me (After all, I’m a bass player!)


It’s a great way to make friends too. Here you see Okuno (@S25Bt) and her friend Kako (@llcakoll), two girls I met in Osaka by simply watching them both play. After they had finished their turn, I simply asked (in my broken Japanese)…

 “すみません! 一緒に遊んでください!” 
(“Sumimasen isshoni asonde kudasai!”) 

…which roughly translates as “Excuse me! We play together please?” We had a few rounds together, but as you can see in the video, she destroyed my efforts by racking up over double my points, and 150+ streaks of flawless hits. After our turn had finished, I referred to her as “先生” or Sensei, meaning teacher.

In Kyoto I was able to meet up with Matt and Nat from Sakura Panda Tea Time (@sakurapandatea) who you can see in the picture below! It seems Matt’s coordination matches that of my own… it’s terrible.


Then in Osaka I challenged my friend Hana (@HanaBott) (I featured one of her “VINES” in one of my previous blog posts) and actually won this time! 



太鼓の達人 ちびドラゴンと不思議なオーブ 
(Taiko no Tatsujin: Chibi Dragon to Fushigi na Orb) 
(Drum Master: The little dragon and the mysterious orb)

In an effort to improve my skills, I purchased a Japanese 3DS (the Nintendo 3DS is region locked, so a UK console won’t work) and a copy of Taiko no Tatsujin. The game comes with two chunky stylus drum sticks (one blue, and one red) so it feels similar to the arcade. The song selection isn’t as vast, but it does come with a story mode in which you have to defeat bosses using your rhythm skills. If anyone would like a go, feel free to ask, as you can’t get this game in the UK.

Have you played Taiko no Tatsujin before? If so, where and when? Let me know in the comments!

(Special thanks to Bob Jones for recording the videos of us playing)

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