ZAMA, Japan – The U.S. Army Japan Band gave the final performances of their annual holiday concert Dec. 15 and 16 at Zama Harmony Hall here, ending the run of the popular show that began in 2013.
Titled “The Lights of Winter,” this year’s concert was the last for the USARJ Band since the unit will be stood down and deactivated in 2024.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew David, USARJ Band commander and a first-time participant in the concert, said it was an honor to be part of the final performance and to know it will leave a lasting legacy in the local community after its decade-long run.
“We love performing the music for them,” David said. “Japanese audiences have a deep appreciation for the art of music.”
David called his bandmates excellent human beings, great musicians and great Soldiers, and hoped those qualities came through to the audience during their performance. The commander said the concert was also special to the band because it was a joint event.
“This was a great opportunity for the USARJ Band members to interact and perform with our counterparts in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Eastern Army Band,” David said. “It brings the concert to the next level by being able to collaborate with such high-caliber musicians.”
One of the main roles of the USARJ Band is to be a prominent public face for the U.S. Army in Japan. Events like the holiday concert and the other public performances the band gives throughout the country allow them to positively represent America and the Army as unofficial ambassadors.
“Although the holiday concert is coming to an end, there are so many other events that still connect the Camp Zama community and Zama City,” David said. “It will be sad that the band won’t be there, but that’s not going to stop Soldiers from trying to continuously build a good relationship with the neighboring cities here.”
Zama City Mayor Mito Sato attended this year’s concert, which she said had a record 5,000-plus people entering a lottery in hopes of securing the limited number of tickets offered for the performance. She described the concert as amazing, saying “the venue was united as one in excitement.”
“The holiday concert became a tradition in Zama City; it was a signature event of the city,” Sato said. “Many of our citizens looked forward to this every year.”
The mayor said she has already heard from people that they are going to miss having the band perform in their city. Though she is sad that this year’s concert was the final one, Sato said there are still many more bilateral engagements between their city and the U.S. Army that will continually help to deepen their relationship.
Kunio Takizawa attended the concert with his wife and said they both looked forward to the event every year because to them, “the holiday season doesn’t officially start until we come to see the USARJ Band.” He thanked the USARJ Band for the invaluable experiences they gave Zama citizens over the years.
“The Army band’s music brought us the joy of the holiday spirit,” Takizawa said. “Nothing can replace this wonderful concert.”