BUENA PARK, Calif.—Ms. Akiko Nakata, former president of Sakae Rhythm Musical Instrument, Ltd., Japan's premier drum-making facility, passed away on March 10, 2011.
"Ms. Nakata was admired by artists and industry people around the world," said David Jewell, marketing manager, Yamaha Drums. "She had a winning, sociable personality that made everyone around her feel comfortable."
Born in 1931, Ms. Nakata attended Kansei University, studying English language and literature and worked in a school affiliated with Nichirinji Temple on Osaka, where her father served as Chief Priest. Her husband, Eihiko Nakata, whom she met at university, ran Sakae Rhythm, founded in 1925. Ms. Nakata eventually went to work in the accounting department and became involved in every aspect of the company's operations. Sakae Rhythm, as it is generally known, started its relationship with Yamaha in 1965.
Ms. Nakata became president of Sakae Rhythm in 1985 and entertained visitors from around the world. She also made many trips overseas and cultivated lasting friendships in the international drumming community. In 2005, she took on the role of Chairwoman and handed day-to-day control of the company to her son, Eizo Nakata.
Sakae, which meticulously handcrafts every product in its Osaka factory and has been making drums for Yamaha for over 40 years. With the exception of the new PHX drum sets, which are made at Yamaha Music Craft in Hamamatsu, and the earliest drum kits produced by Yamaha, the overwhelming majority of Yamaha drums identified as being "Made in Japan" originated in the Sakae factory.
"I met Ms. Nakata when I visited Sakae back in my Modern Drummer days and she was a very gracious person and a wonderful hostess," said journalist and teacher Rick Van Horn. "I am very saddened by her passing."
Robert Birenbaum, board member at Five-Star Drum Shops, recalls "Ms. Nakata graciously serving us a beautiful lunch spread and then seeing her a few hours later working on the factory floor packing drums with her employees."
Visiting Sakae Rhythm "was a once in a lifetime opportunity that allowed us to experience a different culture and an engaging and surprising business approach, of which Ms. Nakata was an essential part," said Ray Fransen of Fransen's Drum Shop in New Orleans. "I still wear the watch she gave me as a reminder of that trip."