Blue Devils Japan 2002 Diaries

Special Thanks to DEG Music sponsor of the the tour

Japan Trip Itinerary and Information
History of Marching In Okayama

Sunday, October 6, 2002

Everyone from Northern California met at the San Francisco International Airport at 9:30 AM. Flights were then arriving from Denver, New York, Florida, Los Angeles, and Nashville, Salt Lake City with rest of the corps members. The equipment truck arrived at 9:00 AM which was unloaded by the corps members in about 15 minutes. It was all piled up in front of the International Arrival hall and then taken into the United group check in counter. Then the check in began 32 instruments, color guard equipment, and all the uniforms.

Then getting through security and out to the gate. Waiting for the members coming in from all the other parts of the United States was hectic and scary as many of them had really tight connections. But everyone made it and we boarded the plane to an on time departure. So off we went 5500 miles and a 10-hour flight.

We arrived in Osaka Kansai Airport about 20 minutes early. Then through immigrations which took about 30 minutes. United Airlines had all the large equipment off the plane waiting for us. All went really smooth going customs. In fact the customs agents just waved us through. Allan Murray,Vice President of Dynasty USA, Mr. Sadao Yokota, President of Dynasty Japan and our translator were all waiting for us. Our three Japanese members also met us at the airport to join us for our Japanese tour.

The bus and equipment truck were waiting for us. Everyone helped load the truck then took a short break to exchange money. And off we went for our 3-hour trip to Okayama. We stopped for a short break and arrived at the very typical Japanese hotel to a wonderful Sushi dinner. The dining room was typical Japanese. Everyone sat on pillows on the floor and enjoyed their dinner. Then we checked into our rooms and enjoyed some time in the Japanese baths. Everyone dressed in beautiful Japanese kimonos before going to the bath. The group then went to bed and enjoyed sleeping on comfortable futons and mats in their rooms.

Member Diaries in the Airport and on the Plane

Mike Shuldes, Soprano

I flew in from Denver and transferred into the International Airport at SFO. San Francisco was beautiful and crowded I had never been in the International Airport. Before I knew it we had boarded a 747 the biggest flying machine known to man. I didn’t know quite what to think but it was exciting none the less. I was very excited to be traveling to a foreign country and as I write this I can’t imagine what it will be like to actually be there. In any case I only hope for the best on this trip and we will return safely to our families and friends.

Cheryl Rauth, Soprano

We were supposed to be at the airport at 9:30 AM to have a meeting, so naturally I was early. Getting anxious and worried because I couldn’t see a friendly face. As I see Pete and Gail drive up in the “cheeseball”, I was relieved everything would go off without a hitch.

Getting checked in was easy enough, little stress, but it was getting closer to our time to board. Every moment was getting a little more exciting. The take-off was shaky but still great. I had my friends around me. It couldn’t have been a nicer beginning to a fabulous trip.

Dave Craft, Soprano

Going to be a great trip. I am sitting next to nice people. John Benson siting behind me smells kind of funny but it’s all right. I am probably the only Blue Devil that isn’t housed right now. I know, I suck. I plan to catch up as soon as I get some work done – Cheryl Rauth is hot. Oops, sorry, it slipped! I am a little worried about eating sushi for a week. We just ate lunch and it was weird. It was some kind of clear stringy stuff with some chopped up stuff next to it. Oh, yea, it was all cold also. Hey, at least we can say that we tried it, right? I am excited to be in this place and to see all these old friends again. I don’t look forward to the day we all go our separate ways again. We don’t need to worry about that now. We have nothing but fun planned for the next 9 days.

Austin Nielsen, Euphonium

The exciting Japan adventure has begun and as for myself, things couldn’t be better. Waking up at 6:00 AM and driving to the airport wasn’t easy but the excitement kept me going. Upon arrival at SFO I had plenty of time to eat and sort things out, and now that we are on the very long plane ride the stress of leaving has subsided. Looks like it’s going to be a great trip.

Emi Iwasawa, Euphonium

“The Day” is here. I was anxiously waited today since Pete announced that I’m part of Japan Trip. I set my alarm clock at 5:30am, then unlock my suitcase to double-check my belongings. As soon as I got to SFO, I ran to gate 100. It’s going to be an incredible tour. Now I got to memorize music … hahaha.

Jose R. Rincon

The day is finally here. The way that I can express myself with words now is a warm rush that’s going through my body, the feeling of experiencing something strange and rare. I know that when I set foot on this land I am going to be surprised and bewildered. I am in for a great experience. I can’t wait to experience the Japanese life style and culture. PS, I feel like Bernal Diaz del Castillo when he encountered Meso America.. Article “will for form” Octavio P92, 1990.

Jon Burroughs, Snare

Well, I’m sitting in my seat right between 2 people, listening to Japanese hip-hop music, eating beef jerkey, and sipping on a $3.75 bottle of water that I got at the airport. Were half way there and I want to scream.. But this is an experience in its own. Plus I had to wait in line for 10 minutes to use the bathroom. Feels like tour again!!

Leslie Nigg, Colorguard

I clearly remember saying on August 10th 2002 that this would be the last time I perform with the Blue Devils, the last time I’d spin a Sabre, and the last time I would sweat so much. BUT, here I am, on a plane with the Blue Devils, ready to spin again in 80% humidity. I also CANNOT wait! The only thing I’m worried about now is the size my ankles will be after this long flight! EEK! Hopefully my extremely tight shoes and the support socks that are up to my knees will help me out. I’m ready for a culture shock!

Jake Everett, Soprano

Well, here I am on this big ole’ jet airliner going back to my Roots. Yeah, that’s right, my roots. I spent the first 5 years of my life in Okinawa, Japan. My folks were in the Air Force and we were stationed at Kadena Air Force Base. I know we will not be any where near the Island of Okinawa, but I am very excided to get there. The only memories I have from back in the day were very happy ones, and I am sure I will take back with me even better ones from this trip!

Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Everyone was up at 7:00 AM for an 8:00 breakfast. Again very typical Japanese breakfast. The members are enjoying experiencing all the Japanese food. At 9:00 AM we left by bus for the Okayama Castle and Korakuen Gardens. Okayama Castle is located across the river from one of the most beautiful of Japanese gardens “Korakuen”. Okayama Castle stands out on the bank of the Asahi River, its monumental architectural style characteristic of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period of the late 16th Century. The castle was completed in 1597 after eight years of workmanship. Everyone enjoyed shopping in the gift shop and wondering through the beautiful gardens.

The group left the Okayama Castle and went to have lunch at a German Restaurant. Then, off to rehearsal for the rest of the day and evening. Dinner was again a wonderful Japanese meal. Rehearsal ended at 9:00 PM and everyone returned to the hotel for a quick soak in the Japanese bath and to bed.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

We were up early and off to rehearsal after a wonderful breakfast. This time a combination of American and Japanese food. We arrived at a beautiful private elementary school for rehearsal. The name of the school is Uchi-Sungay Grammar School. At lunch-time members and staff were invited to have lunch with the students in their classrooms. We were seated in a conference room during which the members signed the picture plaques for the dignitaries. Then groups of 4 students would arrive and take 4 members and staff to their classroom where they ate lunch and enjoyed singing songs and were presented with gifts. Debbie, Gio, and Clint sang Sesame Street with their classroom while Steve Bentley played the piano. The students were from first grade to sixth grade. Then after lunch the Uchi-Sungay Grammar School Band played for
us. The students were mostly kindergarten to first grade and played all percussion and keyboard instruments. The 100 students were in full dress uniform and were absolutely incredible. Then The Blue Devils played for the school children. The entire school was invited to the performances.

Then off to a rehearsal block to finish learning the entire 2002 show with 40 members and in a square from. Rehearsal ended at 5:00 and we went back to the hotel for dinner. The corps had the night off to visit the center of Okayama and relax for the evening.

Thursday, October 10,2002

Again we were all up early and off to Okayama City Hall. It was our first full uniform performance for the Mayor of Okayama. The Mayor and many city officials attended the concert. Before the concert began Pete Emmons made a short speech and thanked the City of Okayama for inviting The Blue Devils to their beautiful city and to participate in the 15th Anniversary of the Marching in Okayama Festival. Then Gail Schultz presented gifts to the Mayor from California State Senator Tom Torkelson and the Concord Mayor, Bill McManigal. A picture plaque signed by the Blue Devil Japan cast and a music box from San Francisco Music Box Company was also presented to the mayor.

Then back on the buss and off to Takashima Middle School for a short rehearsal to finish the field show. At 12:30 the PTA invited the members to lunch. The Principal and President of the PTA spoke to us and then we all enjoyed a home cooked lunch made especially for us by the moms from the PTA. After lunch the students of Takashima Middle School conducted a question and answer session with the BD members. And then the Takashima Middle School Marching Band took the field to play for us. This was followed a dance ensemble and the concert band performance. Then it was our turn. The audience of students were seated in a big square so the horn and drum line warmed up to each side. At the end of the warm up Steve took the horn line and surrounded the band to do the final F tuning. This was really exciting for the band. And then we played the 2002 show for the entire student body. After the performance the students rushed to the members and staff for autographs and pictures. It was really difficult to get the members back to rehearsal mode as they were surrounded by the Japanese students. But we finally got back to rehearsal and finished the show. Many of the students stayed and waited for us to leave for one last final good-bye and autographs and photos. The PTA provided ice cream for all of us. So off we went to the hotel for dinner and nice Japanese bath.

That evening the members and staff were taken to sight see at Tiboli Park (amusement park) and to see the Seto Bridges in Okayama.

Friday, October 11,2002

This was a busy day for us. Three exchange performances at one middle school and two high schools. All three performances went well. The first performance was at Kyoyama Middle School. Their concert band performed for us. The students also conducted a short question and answer time with the members. Very interesting questions like what is your favorite singer. Jake Everett answered-“Elvis Presley”. And then we took the field and played three tunes. “Strike Up The Band, When a Man Loves a Woman, and Legend of a One Eyed Sailor.” This was our repertoire to the day. We were presented with 3 beautiful floral bouquets from the students after our performance. And then off we went to Maysay High School where the driver had to back our Hugh bus up a very narrow road to get to the school. When we arrived the band was playing to us from the balcony of the school. Quite an entrance! We then went quickly to the gym where we played for the student body. After we played the members were rushed by the student body for autographs and photos. Finally we had lunch in a private room especially set up for us. After lunch the BD members mingled with the high school students and continued to sign autographs and take photos. Then to the last school Takamatsu Agricultural School where we had to park the bus in the middle of the road by a rice field. Then, since this was an agricultural school we had to walk into the school by all the cows. pigs, and chickens. This was quite an interesting entrance. The program was held in the gymnasium and was extremely well organized. A spectacular beginning of the program was presented by a Tyko Drum ensemble on the stage. This was followed by performances from a grammar school concert band, a middle school band, and the high school concert band. All three were absolutely wonderful. The Blue Devils performed for the school. And of course all of this was followed by a crowd of students asking for autographs and photos. Color guard member Jose Rincon was absolutely the most sought after member. Each member had a gift bag made of souvenirs from the Blue Devils. Well Jose made a big mistake and pulled out his entire bag of goodies and at least 25 little girls were running after him in the gym. They even ran through Contra Player Tim Cole’s (6’5” tall) legs to catch Jose. This was absolutely one of the funniest sights I’ve ever seen.

Then on the way back to the hotel we stopped to visit a Pagoda, which was a spectacular sight. We arrived back at the hotel to prepare for a Welcome Party hosted by the City of Okayama. This was a very formal reception and dinner party. We were then entertained by local dance and singing groups. We also had the pleasure of being entertained by Somei Ohtsuki a very famous and master musician. He played the Koto instrument, which is a string instrument much like a guitar but long and narrow, and it lays sideways. Our Welcome Dinner Party was enjoyed by all. Then the members had the rest of the night off to relax.

Member Diary Quotes

Cheryl Rauth. Soprano Trumpet

I was amazed at the talent level of the grammar and middle school bands. The high school kids played like a professional orchestra. Just unbelievable!!

Bill Kilian, Tuba

The kids are incredibly intelligent at such a young age and so respectful. Just watching these young students play their instruments gives me so much respect for the Japanese culture It showed me how very good the Japanese system school is.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Another early morning!! We had to check out of our wonderful Japanese Hotel. It was sad to leave as everyone that was so nice to us. All of the ladies that took care of us with our meals came out of the hotel to wave good-bye to us. We then checked into the City Hotel, which was a Western style hotel in the middle of Okayama. The members had the morning off to shop and check out the local surroundings.

Then at 12:30 PM we boarded the bus to travel to a short rehearsal. At 2:00 we walked several blocks to play a stand still performance in the center of the city’s business shopping area. Other music festival groups were also performing. This performance was a promotional concert for the Okayama Festival and the beginning of the famous Blue Devils Dueling Snare Drummers performing in the program. Eric Otero and Enrique Urbine were our dueling snare drummers and they started the show with a big applause from the audience.. Then off to the park for another concert. Many of the festival groups were also performing. The Blue Devils performed last. This time Jose Rincon, color guard member performed with the dueling drummers. Eric used Jose’s rifle as a drum several times. What a great performance by the 3 guys. Jose was truly amazing. Then the corps joined in and played ending with Fascinating Rhythm. The color guard is now participating in When a Man Loves a Women and Legend of a One Eyed Sailor. What a great addition. Congratulations color guard and Shirley!! All of the DCI judges joined the audience for our performance. Thanks for the great comments. We also opened the Blue Devils Souvenir Booth at this performance. Thanks Dynasty staff with alumnus Sally Shimizu (1996 Baritone).

We then returned to the hotel to get ready for another Welcome Dinner and Reception. The reception was given in honor of the Blue Devils and the DCI Judges. Many Okayama City officials and Festival Committee members were in attendance. After several short speeches and an official toast we all enjoyed a tremendous Japanese buffet. We were entertained by DCI Percussion Judge Allan Christiansen. He played the accordion for us. All the BD members clapped and sang along with him. Thanks Allan!!

Our Japanese members, Emi, Kumiko,Koto, and Saki surprised us all when they arrived dressed in beautiful Japanese formal Kimonos attire. Thanks ladies for making our evening so very special!!

Sunday, October 13,2002

Another early morning and an American/Japanese breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We were off to rehearsal for the theatre show. The cast only had 2 hours to prepare a thirty minute theatre show and 1 hour of it was an open rehearsal. So Pete, Shirley, and Steve went to work with our 38 very talented members and within the 2 hours we had a theatre show packed with show music, 3 other tunes, a dance production, and the dueling drummers and the drum line show casting The Ditty.

We stopped for a short lunch and prepared for 2 stand still performances and a 1-mile parade. The group bussed to a small gym where everyone dressed and warmed up. Then off to our first performance. Each group participating in the parade did the 2 stand still performances in the center of Okayama and then proceeded to the parade route. It was amazing to have so many Japanese fans following us from place to place screaming and yelling for us and of course waiting for photo and autographs opportunities. The parade was short YEH! And all the members had small American Flag stickers (thanks Miramont Uniforms) on their uniforms and of course we carried the very tall American flag through the entire parade route. It was really a beautiful and proud moment to see our flag flying tall through the streets of Yokayama.

Our last stand still performance was in a covered shopping mall. It was really loud but the shoppers and audience just loved us. There was a Hugh crowd at this performance. Then back to the theatre for 2 hours off for dinner and a little more shopping.

The theatre show began at 6:00PM. The line to get in the theatre was more than two blocks long. So there was a nice audience and a great theatre. There were several groups that performed before us. We also set up our souvenir booth in the theatre lobby. And the DCI American judges joined the audience in the theatre. It was great to have them all there. Thanks to all of you for coming.

Then it was our turn. The announcer had the audience clapping and chanting “Blue Devils” it seemed for a very long time. Then the curtain went up for one of the most spectacular performances I’ve ever seen from The Blue Devils. The show began with Strike Up the Band, The dueling drummers, The Ditty, Legend of a One Eyed Sailor, and dance and piano production, followed by the 2002 show. Brass staff member Steve Bentley played Harlem Nocturne while our three lovely color guard ladies danced Thanks Jessica, Debbie, and Leslie. And Steve you were just GREAT!! The audience went crazy after the curtain went down yelling “Encore, More!!” The curtain went back up and the cast played “When a Man Loves a Women”. The six color members danced in front of the musicians.

Then back to our dressing room to change and go back to the hotel to have some time off and much needed rest. It took a long time to get out of the theatre as our fans found the back stage door. So more photos and lots of autographs. And of course lots of screaming Japanese girls. Many of the members stood on a balcony outside their dressing room and tossed souvenirs to our Japanese fans.

“The stage performance was so much fun. I felt like a rock star.”

Dan Wahl, Bass Drummer

Monday, October 14,2002

OUR LAST DAY!!

It was hard to believe our last day had arrived. Eight exciting days had passed by so quickly. Today was a big day for us-2 field show performances and a stand still performance. We left for the Urayasu Sogo Bunka Arena at 8:00 AM for a short rehearsal and Opening Ceremonies. Color Guard members Clint and Leslie participated in the Opening Ceremonies. They proudly carried our American flag straight down the center of the arena. It was really a grand sight.

After a short rehearsal the members dressed in uniform and our first marching field show took place. It was only 9:30 AM and the arena was packed. Al Murray,Vice President of Dynasty told me he had never seen so many people so early in the morning in the arena. The performance was really enjoyed by the audience. Of course when the members attempted to leave the arena floor, fans rushed the members for autographs. They quickly changed out of their uniforms and joined their fans for autographs and photos. Each member had a bag filled with Blue Devils souvenirs (key chains, pens, bumper stickers, buttons, etc) to give to their fans. Our next performance was not until 12:30 PM so we had a nice break for lunch and visiting. Our Souvenir booth was upstairs in the arena so many of the members gathered there for more autographs and photos. Thanks again to Sally and crew for taking charge of the souvenir booth. You all were great!

Our next performance was presented to all three sides of the arena. This time one tune was played to each side so all the entire audience could see us. It was great to have 3 more tunes besides the 2002 show. There were eight drum & bugle corps competing and many bands, color guards, and baton groups in exhibition. The talent level of these groups was suburb. The Japanese kids are really talented.

Our last performance was at 3:30 PM so again the members had a nice break to visit with all their Japanese fans. The last performance was again the 2002 show. It’s really difficult to explain the response we received from the audience. There aren’t enough words to explain it all. Maybe one-FABULOUS AND VERY GRACOIUS!!! The audience stood on their feet asking for an encore. So that called for “When a Man Loves a Woman” The corps took the floor again and the horn line began to play and the color began to dance. The drum line went from one side of the arena to the other encouraging the audience to clap with the corps. WOW it was crazy and then the drum line through all their drumsticks into the audience – one by one. By this time the audience was really going crazy. The corps finally left the floor, at least tried to leave as their fans crowded the exit door all trying to take pictures and attempting to get autographs. We finally got into the dressing room as our fans anxiously waited outside the door.

Then a rewards ceremony took place. The horn line participated while the drum line and color guard began to pack up the equipment to go home. We had 10 wonderful Japanese Army guys that took care of all of the equipment for us. We greatly appreciate all of their hard work. After the retreat color guard members Jessica and Clint helped me present gifts to the event sponsors and special guests.

We left the arena about 5:30 PM and returned to the hotel to pack and get ready for our Farewell Party at 8:00 at a great German Restaurant nearby the hotel. Pete and I presented gifts to our major sponsors and hosts – Mr. Sadao Yokota President of Dynasty Japan and Akira Kamei City of Okayama Councilor and founder of the Festival. We gave them both on behalf of The Blue Devils a music box from San Francisco, a BD polo shirt, 2002 CD, label pin, and a color-autographed picture of the members. They were both very excited about their gifts. We also gave little gifts to our 4 wonderful translators, our guide, and the many others that helped for the 8 wonderful days.

Tuesday, October 15,2002

Time to go home. It was terribly sad to tell everyone good-bye. All the wonderful people that assisted us throughout the 8 marvelous days. Our bus ride to the Osaka – Kamsai Airport took 4 hours. We arrived at 12:00 noon for a 2:45 PM flight. Everyone helped take the luggage and equipment off the 2 trucks and bus and into the United Airlines check-in desk. It took about an hour to check in. Lots of security checks and searching through some of our luggage. So finally we made to the gate and on the 747 headed to San Francisco. It was about a nine-hour flight. Most of the members and staff took very long naps, as we were all very tired. Then through customs and immigration, picking up all the equipment and our good byes to each other.

“A TRIP OF A LIFETIME”

This 2002 Japan trip will be a memory the cast and staff will never forget. The faces and reactions of the Japanese students at the exchange school performances will leave an everlasting memory for everyone. Just learning about another culture is an educational experience that lasts forever. This is part of the Blue Devils mission – to provide International Travel for its members and to broaden their minds to other cultural experiences.

Thank you to the 38 Blue Devils Japan Cast. You were wonderful, and a fine example that represented the Blue Devils, the Drum Corps Activity and American youth. You all worked hard and as a result our wonderful Japanese fans loved you. Thank you to the staff-Pete Emmons, Shirley Dorritee. Steve Bentley, and Gail Schultz. It was a real team effort!! And lastly thanks to Al Murray, Vice President of Dynasty USA, Mr. Sadao Yokota, President of Dynasty Japan, and Mr. Akira Kamei, City of Okayama for making this marvelous trip possible. And many thanks to David Gibbs, Executive Director of The Blue Devils for his vision of International Travel for BD members.

Gail Schultz
Promotion & Development Director
The Blue Devils
2002-11-13