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History in the Making: “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band Visits Japan for the First Time

History in the Making: “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band Visits Japan for the First Time

“The President’s Own” United States Marine Band traveled to Japan and delivered a once in a lifetime performance for Japanese locals and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni residents at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Culture Hall Sinfonia Iwakuni, May 19, 2019.

The lights dimmed for the sold-out show as the red-clad Marine-musicians orchestrated melodies that danced into the eardrums of roughly 1,200 locals and air station residents during their performance in Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The centuries-old musical group rarely travels outside of the United States and has never before visited Japan. The last time the band performed internationally was 2001 in Switzerland, making this trip truly historic and unique.

Tomoe Fukuda, the wife of Yoshihiko Fukuda, the Iwakuni City mayor, said she heard that this was the first time that “The President’s Own” had come to Japan, and the concert was both dynamic and heartwarming. She also mentioned that she thought the performers and the audience became one as they were connected through the music.

“The fact that the Marine Band has come to Japan for the first time in our 220-year history means that the audiences which we have encountered are seeing the Marine Band for the very first time,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Jason Fettig, the 28th director of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. “We have definitely felt, as we have performed for these audiences in these four cities which we have visited, that these concerts are truly special.”

The band traveled throughout Japan for eight days, starting in Yokohama, where they performed with a Japanese military musical group which they had performed with in the past.

“Our first concert in Yokohama was a collaboration with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Central Band, and we had about 120 musicians on stage,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Chris Clark, the trombone section leader with “The President’s Own.” “It was a really wonderful way to connect with our Japanese colleagues. We had previously performed with them in Washington D.C. on one of their visits, so it was great to come here and get to see them in their home country and perform with them.”

The group then moved to Kanazawa and then on to Hamamatsu where they played for the Japan Band Clinic, a well-known group of directors and teachers in Japan. For the final stop of the tour a concert was held in Iwakuni City, where the Sinfonia Iwakuni concert hall performance was sold-out.

Hideki Wakabayashi, director of Sinfonia Iwakuni, said that the songs entered the ears and went straight to the hearts of the people listening, and he got the impression that the Marine Band loved Japan. He also mentioned that if the audiences love the songs and the band loves Japan that it creates a loop, the two groups of people become united and share the same feelings.

Iwakuni City is located in western Japan and hosts MCAS Iwakuni. MCAS Iwakuni hosts a variety of tenant commands, including Marine Aircraft Group 12, the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing 5 and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Fleet Air Wing 31.

“The great alliance that the United States and Japan share is important to our collective success,” said Col. Richard Fuerst, the commanding officer of MCAS Iwakuni. “We work very hard here in Iwakuni to support the alliance and to maintain the readiness of the U.S. Marines, the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF stationed here, while at the same time being the best neighbors we can be. Events like this help us to maintain the already-great relationship that we enjoy through mutual respect and shared interests, and they are also a lot of fun. I want to thank Col. Fettig and Mr. Wakabayashi and all the others who have given us the opportunity to participate in today’s concert.”

While stateside, the main duties of the band include playing for the President of the United States, Commandant of the Marine Corps, as well as regular ceremonial performances in the Washington D.C. area. The band is known for playing time-honored military classics such as Semper Fidelis, Stars and Stripes Forever, Anchors Aweigh and other musical pieces, many of which are the works of John Philip Sousa.

“One of the special things about the Marine Band and our history is that John Philip Sousa, the famous American bandmaster and composer, was the 17th director of the Marine Band,” said Fettig. “He served as director from 1880 to 1892 and it was during those years when he started to become well known as a composer of marches. Interestingly, here in Japan, John Philip Sousa is incredibly popular. There is in fact a Japanese Sousa Society and there is tremendous enthusiasm for Sousa’s Marches. (His music) has transcended America and gone all over the world. We’ve included several Sousa Marches on our tour and the reception to Sousa here has been nothing short of astounding.”

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Paul 0311 - April 13, 2020

Nick,What do you mean? No more wars? We are on the brink of another “Civil War” How much more can we take!!??

Nick 0311/8531 - April 13, 2020

Hey Ron, as long as there are people who think that they are always right and,never wrong,AND as long as we have a news media that focus on the differences and the negatives we are in for a long ride. Just think if there were only one religion and a single party system that governs everyone. What a world! Nick 0311/8531

Murray Hermanson - April 13, 2020

Ron, Some Day.

Ron - April 13, 2020

It is through music and all the arts that we share our commonalities. Its politics were our differences show. What a great world we could live in if shared more of the things we all have in common and focused less on our differences.

michael r marks - April 13, 2020

Michael R. Marks , 1962-1965.. I also was stationed in Iwakuni 1962-1965 and had a fantastic time traveling with the first air wing band, singing and speaking their language was incredible, studying the martial arts and history of Japan. Its a once in a lifetime experience. My fellow Marines Wayne Bunt and Harold E. Whitney (Corky) Ichi-ban

Glen Bradshaw, Cpl. E-4 (1961 – 1965) - April 13, 2020

I had the pleasure of enjoying “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band perform a few years ago at the John Philip Sousa Band Hall in Washington , D.C. Also one other time at a Outdoor concert amphitheater a short distance from D.C. Both performances were outstanding and well worth travel from Baltimore. Semper Fi Marines !!!

Wayne Bunt, USMC Ret. GySgt, Drum Major - April 13, 2020

Having served 2 tours with the 1stMAW Band (1956 – 1958 and 1962 – 1963), we enjoyed traveling around Japan playing concerts, parades and visiting as well as performing our daily duties and training at the base. It is a shame the base does not have a Marine Band there anymore. It was always great to play parades in downtown Iwakuni, as well as parades in Tokyo, Hiroshima and concerts in Niigata City as well as concerts at Kintai Bridge. Those were the good ole days.

G Willard 0311, 8651, 8511,…. - April 13, 2020

Keep in mind Markovitch, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band travels at the pleasure of the Commander in Chief, the president of the United States.
Wish I could have seen that show.

K.T.Kurtz - April 13, 2020

This isn’t about your political contribution!

Keith Alan Markovitch - April 13, 2020

I guess they did not want to travel with the pres imagine that.

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