View from the West: Japanese Band Makes It Mark at Rose Parade

January 13th, 2011By Category: Uncategorized

The Tournament of Roses Parade is one of the most famous parades in the United States, a New Year’s Day tradition dating back to 1890. Enthusiasts spend up to a whole year decorating elaborate floats with only one rule: They must be completely adorned by roses! Each New Year’s Day, the floats meander through the streets of Pasadena (near Los Angeles) in front of crowds who have camped out all night on city sidewalks. The parade is also broadcast live on T.V. all over the country.

The 2011 Rose Parade welcomed some very special guests: the Green Band Association, which is made up of about 200 Japanese high school and college students. Marching bands are as much a Rose Parade tradition as the floats themselves, but the Green Band is unique. It was conceived as a way to mix musical appreciation and community involvement. On each trip the band makes, it plays benefits concerts that raise money for victims of natural disasters. Meeting and interacting with the people they support is one of the perks for each young band member.

The Green Band is something of an all-star ensemble. Each year the band directors identify one region of Japan, then scour the local schools for quality candidates. Part of the Green Band’s identity is to instill confidence in students and expose them to peoples, cultures, and opportunities beyond their homeland.

Rose Parade spectators get a kick out the Green Band each year (the troupe made its first performance in 2008). The past few times out the Green Band has paid homage to Michael Jackson, first by performing “Thriller” last year and “Bad” this year. It’s not just about the music: spirited, Jackson-inspired dance moves liven up the songs and make the crowds swoon.

Check out the group in action performing at Disneyland last year:

Author of this article

Mark Hersberger

The “View from the West” column takes a light-hearted examination of all things Japanese through the prism of current events, pop culture, movies, books, and any other Japan-centric content Western audiences may come across. Mark Hersberger is an active Japan commentator and author of the mystery novel Tokyo Lives (see 'Website' link).

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