The III Marine Expeditionary Force Band performed for the first time at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo Nov. 18-19 during Marching Festival 2005.

The purpose of the festival was to commemorate the establishment of the Japan Self-Defense Force and foster the development of U.S. and Japanese military relations, according to Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Sgt. Maj. Hiromase Mizoguchi, a trombonist with the JGSDF Central Band.

The annual event has been going on for around 40 years and the past 20 have included performances by U.S. service members. Bands from all branches of the JSDF, Japan’s Defense Academy Band, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force also performed.

During their presentation Chief Warrant Officer 2 Benjamin J. Bartholomew, band officer, conducted the III MEF Band through two compositions; an adaptation of Shenandoah and The Marines’ Hymn, Apotheosis. The Marines’ Hymn is a portion of Apotheosis, a composition by Sammy Nestico.

The program also included a performance by Taiko drummers and a drum feature arranged by Sgt. Kristofer P. Hutsell. Service members with the JGSDF 302nd Security Company, also performed an advanced rifle drill routine. The event concluded with a combined U.S. and Japanese encore orchestration.

All of the bands involved in the performance practiced their routines three times each day for the two-day event; performing in the mornings, afternoons and evenings for a cumulative audience of more than 50,000 people.

The event was open to the public through advance tickets, which were selected from a random drawing of several hundred thousand requests, according to Mizoguchi.

“Playing on an international level with the Japanese bands was a new experience for me,” said Sgt. Matthew T. Golley, a saxophonist with the band. “It’s pretty awesome that the same tradition that bonds music with military brought us the opportunity to perform with the Japanese services.”

Not only did the III MEF band dish out big hits, but were recipients in what some said was the biggest hit of the trip – talking to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, who commended the Marines on their contribution to the event.

“I’ve met the commandant before, but this was the first time I got the chance to shake his hand,” said Golley, a Morrisville, N.Y., native. “It’s means a lot when the most powerful man in the Marine Corps comes and has words with you.”