PJ Hirabayashi is the Artistic Director Emeritus, former Artistic Director, and founding member of San Jose Taiko (SJT), a world-class performing ensemble of taiko drummers. She is a pioneer of North American taiko, recognized in the international taiko community for her distinctive performance and teaching style that combines movement, dance, drumming, fluidity, joy, and energy.

PJ's current project is TaikoPeace, an extension of Karen Armstrong's Charter for Compassion. As a certified Peace Ambassador for the Shift Network's Summer of Peace 2012, PJ seeks to inspire personal, social, and global change through the music and art of taiko drumming.

San Jose Taiko
PJ was instrumental in establishing SJT's unique style and wholistic philosophy, which is emulated and modeled by other taiko practitioners and taiko organizations around the globe. She performed nearly 40 years with San Jose Taiko and during that time she created and lead many programs including the Audition Process (training program), Public Workshops, Taiko Intensives, School Shows, and Residencies. She also designed costumes and composed for SJT.

Early Years
PJ was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area where she studied tap, ballet, acrobatics, piano, guitar, and acrobatics. Being a student activist in Asian American Studies, volunteering in Japanese American communities, and having lived in Japan after graduating from UC Berkeley, she found her passion to integrate her western performing arts background with a Japanese American aesthetics through taiko.

PJ obtained her Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from San Jose State University (SJSU) in 1977 and wrote her thesis on San Jose Japantown, a historical and visionary survey of the survival of an ethnic community. Her thesis has become a widely used reference for research and for community action committees currently discussing the preservation of San Jose Japantown, one of only three Japantowns remaining in the US. In 1977-79, she was Acting Coordinator for the Asian American Studies Program at SJSU and an instructor for "Asian American Communities" classes and supervisor for students gaining fieldwork experience in Asian American social service organizations.

Performances & Collaborations
PJ has participated in notable SJT collaborations such as -- George Coates Performance Works, American Conservatory Theater, Asian American Jazz Orchestra, San Jose Repertory Theater, Brenda Wong Aoki , Zakir Hussain, Kodo. As a solo guest artist, she has performed with Hiroshima, David Benoit, San Jose Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Ondekoza, Margaret Wingrove Dance Company, and Theatre Yugen.

Other project collaborations include "Triangle Project: Journey of the Dandelion" with Nobuko Miyamoto of Great Leap and Yoko Fujimoto of Hanayui/Kodo; "HIMAWARI Project" with Hanayui of Sado Island, Japan; Kabuki Cabaret with Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu; Composer/Producer Rosemary DeSiervi's 10th Anniversary of 9/11: "Requiem for 9/11"; and taiko/butoh dancing with community artist, choreographer, and dancer Judith Kajiwara.

Awards & Appointments

  • Nihonmachi Outreach Committee Appreciation Award for Dedicated Support of the Day of Remembrance in San Jose Japantown for 32 years (2012)
  • Japanese American Citizens' League Community Recognition Award (2011)
  • North American Taiko Conference Recognition of service (2011)
  • National Endowment for the Arts – National Heritage Fellowship Award for Traditional and Folk Arts (2011)
  • Arts Council of Silicon Valley Fellowship for Music (2011)
  • Shift Network's Peace Ambassador Training Certificate (2011)
  • Japanese American Citizens’ League Community Recognition Award (2007)
  • 30th Annual Nikkei Matsuri Anniversary Dedication and Award (2007)
  • Community Activists Award, Silicon Valley Asian Pacific American Democratic Club (2005)
  • Preservation Action Council of San Jose, San Jose Japantown preservation work (2004)
  • Japanese American National Museum Advisory Committee for “Big Drum Exhibit” (2003 – 2005)
  • Asian Americans for Community Involvement, Arts Community Star Award (2003)
  • North American Taiko Conference Advisory Committee (1997 – present)
  • Mayor’s Advisory Committee, facility study for Fox Theatre in San Jose, Calif. (1992)
  • Women’s Fund Award in the Arts Recipient (1990)
  • California Arts Council, Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee (1989)
  • Woman Warrior Award in the Arts, Pacific Asian Women’s, Bay Area Coalition (1987)