If you’ve ever been in a Japanese video game arcade, there’s one machine you can’t miss: Taiko no Tatsujin (太鼓の達人), AKA the one with the two huge drums (photo above by Amy Jane Gustafson). It’s a hugely fun game, not least because it’s so simple: there are only really four things you need to learn:
1) Red blob (ドン) means “hit the drum”
2) Blue blob (カッ) means “hit the rim of the drum”
3) Big red blob: whomp the drum with both sticks
4) Big blue blob: do the same, but on the rim.
That’s it. Have a few drinks, put a few 100 yen coins in, and you and a friend can merrily pummel your way ineptly through a variety of Japanese pop songs that you don’t even know. Yay. If there were one in a London pub, I’d spend a fortune on it.
The only problem is that, I assume primarily for music licensing reasons, the game is really quite rare outside Japan. But if you’ve got an iOS device, it’s now easy to play – albeit with your fingers.
Taiko no Tatsujin for iOS is free to download, including about five songs to play – all you need is a Japanese iOS account, which can be registered without a credit card. If you need a bit of store credit for in app purchases, eBay is your friend.
And, because it’s a game designed to play on a giant plastic drum, the game translates really well to the touchscreen. A semicircular area is marked at the bottom: tap that to drum, or tap outside to tap the rim. For a double-whomp, tap with two fingers. As you tap away, a variety of colourful and slightly crazed animations appear around the screen, themed according to the track you’re playing.
Additional song packs can be purchased, but at 600 yen (£3.25) for five songs you could end up spending a fortune quite easily. More conveniently, a one-month subscription costs 500 yen (£2.75) – this is all-access, so you can download every track in the game and play them to death for a few weeks. Just remember to cancel the subscription auto-renew if you’re finished playing.
If your Japanese isn’t great, here’s how to subscribe:
Here’s the main menu. The red button on the left is to play the tracks you have downloaded – go here if you want to try the free songs. The blue button with おすすめ above it is for subscriptions.
The four options on the right here are the subscriptions. From the right: one week, one month, three months, six months. I suggest 1ケ月 or one month for (at the moment) 500 yen.
After subscribing, you’ll be taken to the download menu. If you need to return there again, open the Subscriptions option from the main menu (blue button), then use the right hand option whose name ends with ドウンロード (literally, “download”).
Each track has several difficulty levels. Try かんたん (easy) or ふつう (normal) at first – おに (literally, “demon”) is something else entirely. Oh, and one other handy bit of Japanese: もどる means “go back”. Happy drumming!