Taiko (太鼓?) means "drum" in Japanese (etymologically "great" or "wide drum"). Outside Japan, the word is often used to refer to any of the various Japanese drums (和太鼓, "wa-daiko", "Japanese drum", in Japanese) and to the relatively recent art-form of ensemble taiko drumming (sometimes called more specifically, "kumi-daiko" (組太鼓)). The performances can last between 5 and 25 minutes and typically follow a jo-ha-kyū (beginning, middle, end/rapid, sudden, urgent, and emergency) structure, which means the performance will speed up significantly towards the grand finale. Japanese taiko drums have been developed into a wide range of percussion instruments that are used in both Japanese folk and classical musical traditions.
Bachi (桴, 枹) (also batchi or buchi) is the name for the straight, wooden sticks used to play Japanese taiko drums, and also (written 撥) the plectrum for stringed instruments like the shamisen and biwa.
Drum bachi are made in a wide variety of sizes and materials, as appropriate to the drum it will be used to play. A typical bachi is about 22 mm (⅞ inches) in diameter, 400 mm (16 inches) long and made out of a hardwood such as oak. These would be suitable for a wide variety of playing styles.
A bachi for playing a larger drum like the O-daiko would be bigger both in circumference and length. Similarly, smaller bachi are used for smaller drums.
Modern taiko was established in 1951 by Daihachi Oguchi. He is credited with forming the first actual Taiko ensemble referred to as kumi-daiko and starting the modern popularity of Taiko performances. Daihachi Oguchi was originally known for his jazz drumming performances. As the story goes, he was going to play a drumming piece for one of the local shrines and decided to add somewhat of a jazz-style flair to the piece. Coming from a jazz background, Daihachi Oguchi speculated why the Taiko drums had never previously been played as an ensemble before. From this simple idea Daihachi Oguchi put together various Taiko of all different shapes, sizes, and pitches to be included in his ensemble. The drums were also arranged in the same type of manner that a jazz drum set would be expected to look like. Since an actual Taiko ensemble had never really performed together and the people he had playing with him were in no way professional musicians, he based the rhythms of their performance on the simplistic arrangement of the shrine music that had been previously played; which allowed for nearly any person with the interest in Taiko could play along. It was from the foundation of the first Taiko ensemble that Daihachi Oguchi continued on to lead the successful Taiko group named Osuwa Daiko. At 84 years old, Daihachi Oguchi died on June 27, 2008, after being hit by a car across from his home in Nagano, Japan. Oguchi is widely attributed as the GrandMaster of modern Taiko. He formed or helped to form nearly 200 taiko groups in Japan, Singapore, Canada and the U.S.