Portland’s newest professional taiko company, UNIT SOUZOU (pronounced “sohzoh”) is at the forefront of a growing artistic movement within the world-wide taiko community.  With over 20 years of professional experience, Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe, co-directors of UNIT SOUZOU are relentless innovators known for their fusion of taiko and Japanese folk dance.  ‘Souzou’ can be written in three ways meaning ‘creation’ (創造) ‘imagination’ (想像) or ‘noisy’ (騒々) alluding to a force by which new ideas are born and take shape in the world.  Inspired by these words UNIT SOUZOU focuses on building creative and imaginative works for the art form of taiko.  In addition to creating groundbreaking theatrical works, UNIT SOUZOU is deeply committed to share taiko through teaching in schools, collaborating with the local community, and offering public classes.


Korekara Taiko is UNIT SOUZOU’s school of taiko offering residencies and assembly performances within schools, as well as taiko classes to the general public and within schools year round for all ages and skill levels.  Esteemed instructors, Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe, have extensive experience teaching to thousands of children and adults encouraging an empowering voice through the drum.


Michelle Fujii creates contemporary work as a 4th generation Japanese-American through the art formm of taiko, Japanese drums, and Japanese folk dance placing “traditional” ethnic art within the present – not as a preservation – but as an active force that can continue to inspire and evolve.  Fujii started her taiko training as a performing member of San Jose Taiko. After graduating with a degree in Ethnomusicology at UCLA, Fujii rejoined San Jose Taiko as artistic staff. In 2001 she was awarded the prestigious Bunka-cho fellowship from the Japanese government to study with Japan’s foremost traditional folk dance troupe, Warabiza, where she studied under the tutelage of master dancer/choreographer Shohei Kikuchi.  Fujii has played with numerous groups including TAIKOPROJECT, On Ensemble, Shasta Taiko and served as Artistic Director of Portland Taiko for 9 years.


Toru Watanabe, folk dance artist and taiko performer, began performing and choreographing in college for the Yossakoi Team, Soran Heart, in Hokkaido, Japan. In 2001, Toru became a member of Warabiza, one of Japan’s foremost folk dance performing groups based in the northern prefecture of Akita. He appeared in four original musical productions and taught within Warabiza’s in-house residency program for youth. In 2006 Toru moved to Portland to join Fujii to work for Portland Taiko as Artistic Staff.