Our first morning in Japan began with a trip to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, essentially the Japanese pentagon. We were all deeply honored to merely be allowed on the grounds of the Ministry of Defense. During the morning, we had the chance to see the retirement ceremony for Itsunori Onodera, the Japanese Minister of Defense. The ceremony had perhaps 300 honor guard Soldiers and a detachment from the Central Band of 50 or so. The alignment and attention to detail of the honor guard was astounding. All of the Soldiers are nearly all the same height and weight, making for a level of similarity that is nearly impossible in our Army. The band performed several ceremonial tunes, some familiar to me, some new. We spent some time discussing the finer points of military ceremonies, both American and Japanese, with the commander of the Central Band, Col. Takeda, after the ceremony. Overall, the ceremony was highly polished and professional. As a Soldier who performs ceremonies for a living, I found it fascinating to see how another nation carries out military pomp and circumstance.
After the ceremony, we had the chance to meet briefly with Major General Kiyota, who had been instrumental in bringing musicians from West Point to Tokyo. Lt. Col. Keene presented Maj. Gen. Kiyota with one of the newly minted West Point Band coins in recognition of his support in making the mission a success.
We finished our morning with an early lunch on the top floor of the Ministry of Defense. The lunch was simply the finest food I have ever been served at any government establishment, and the view was pretty nice too. After lunch it was off to rehearsal with the Central Band for the first time.