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Lance Cpl. Monty Burton, III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs
Tokyo - 12.03.2009
In the same hall the Beatles made their Japan debut in 1966, a sold-out crowd of more than 6,500 people watched as more than 1,000 members of Japan and U.S. military marching bands took the stage at the 45th Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Marching Festival in Tokyo Friday and Saturday.
The event was held at the Nippon Budokan, which translates to "the martial arts hall." The arena was originally built for the 1964 Summer Olympics judo competition. The III Marine Expeditionary Force Band was one of the many bands showcasing its talent and military bearing alongside brethren from the U.S. Army, multiple Japan Ground Self-Defense Force bands and hundreds of taiko drummers.
"I am absolutely impressed by the musicians at this event," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael R. Montoya, the III MEF bandmaster and drum major. "The Japanese are very meticulous with their music, and it shows in the great performances they produce." This was the first time many III MEF musicians had performed in front of such a large crowd, said Montoya.
"I'm sure there were nerves," he said. "But like true champions and true Marines, when it was time to fall in, they made it happen." Montoya said the band was excited when they found out about being part of this year's event.
"It's an invitation-only event, so we were motivated to find out they wanted us to perform at such a prestigious event," he said.
The III MEF Band started their solo show with the Marines' Hymn and followed with a big-band jazz selection "Sing Sing Sing," which included a III MEF Band drum line solo that pulled many crowd members out of their seats.
To conclude the show, all the musicians and performers took the stage to play and march together, showing a unified front in support of world peace. Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyam said the music he heard could be the stepping stone toward world peace.
Chief of Staff of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, Gen. Yoshifumi Hibako visited the Marines. Hibako said he was impressed with the Marines' performance, and their appearance at the festival contributed to the continuing alliance between the two countries.
Yamada Ogata, a spectator and local businessman, said he liked the drum solo portion of their show.
Ogata, who has attended this event for five years, said he would like to see the Marines come again next year.
The Marines worked hard to put together their show for the event, Montoya said. "The Marines put it together and knocked the ball out of the park," said Montoya. "I am extremely proud of the whole III MEF Band for their hard work and dedication."