Two inductees in World Drum Corps Hall of Fame International category helped create flourishing drum and bugle corps community across Japan

Posted on April 28th, 2019

Two men who have helped create interest and attract support for drum and bugle corps activity across Japan will become members of the World Drum Corps Hall of Fame in the International category at this year’s banquet and induction ceremony to be held Friday August 30 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Sadao Yokota, president of Dynasty Japan Corporation since 1983, and the founder of Marching in Okayama, one of Japan’s major long-running drum corps contests is generally considered the “Godfather of Drum Corps” in that country. Shinichi Onodera is the former drum major and subsequent director of the multi-time Japanese national champion Renaissance Vanguard.

Since the early 1980s, Sadao Yokota has worked tirelessly to stimulate interest to help create a drum and bugle corps culture in Japan by organizing clinics featuring well-known North American drum corps experts.

He has been president of the International Marching Institute since 1994 and was general coordinator of the Marching Okayama Drum and Bugle Corps Championship from 1993 to 2014.

He served as judge administrator for the Okayama Top State Drum and Bugle Corps Championship for more than 10 years. For the Marching in Okinawa Marching Contest, he has judged general effect music and general effect visual captions while also serving as judge administrator. He also served as contest advisor and took responsibility for activity management and the adjudication system for Drum Corps Japan Association.

Noting the entertainment value of the Disney World Future Corps, a small unit with music and visual impact, he organized a visit by Japanese marching instructors and band directors to Disney World. He then helped arrange financing along with the City of Okayama and Disney World Enterprises for a 1997 visit to Japan by Future Corps, the group’s first overseas tour, that has inspired Japanese units to create more entertaining shows with high general effect. He was named a Disney Future Corps honorary member in 1997.

In 1983 he began organizing Drum Corps International (DCI) observation tours to the United States for Japanese drum corps instructors and administrators, providing brass, percussion, visual and guard clinics as well as exposure to American drum corps in rehearsals.

At the same time, he facilitated drum corps tours across the Pacific Ocean in the other direction, arranging tours to Japan by such American drum corps as Concord Blue Devils, who have made three visits, Disney Future Corps, Primary Colors, Micro Magic of Orlando. This exposure to top American drum corps entertainment expanded the popularity of the activity across the entire country among both fans and performers, and provided superior educational opportunities for Japanese drum corps members and staff.

To establish the importance of color guard visual pageantry in Japan, Sadao Yokota introduced Winter Guard International (WGI) activity to the country by inviting five-year consecutive WGI champion San Jose Raiders to Japan in 1992.

In 2010 he coordinated the initial visits to China of the Yokohama Scouts Junior Drum and Bugle Corps and AIMACHI at the Shanghai World Expo, at the International Shanghai Spring Music Festival. He introduced contemporary drum corps in Shanghai and promoted corps style marching to school bands. Chinese band instrument manufacturers have since shown increasing interest in drum corps activities.

Shinichi Onodera has been a key figure in the rise of Soka Renaissance Vanguard to national prominence in Japan, with a record that includes eight championships at the All Japan Marching Band and Baton

Twirling Competition and seven consecutive championships at the Drum Corps Japan Championships held each December in Yokohama.

Soka Renaissance Vanguard is part of the Soka Gakkai Music Corps. The Vanguard consists of about 140 male university students and businessmen living in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The organization includes Soka Renaissance Vanguard Junior Corps, consisting of male elementary, junior and senior high school students. The Vanguard originated in 1980 as the Soka Gattai Tokyo Bugle Band, later known as the Soka Fuji Brass Band, with only about 10 members. With no indoor rehearsal space, the group would practice in open space along a river or in a park, fighting the cold north wind in the middle of winter or the hot sun in the middle of summer. The Band reorganized in 1986, aiming to become the best corps in Japan. The group first participated in the All Japan Marching Band and Baton Twirling Contest, winning the Award in Excellence. In 1992, the Band travelled outside Japan for the first time, finishing ninth in Division II at the Drum Corps International (DCI) championships in the United States. Since then, the group has worked frequently with Wayne Downey, long time music director of the Blue Devils drum and bugle corps of Concord, California. In early 1994, shortly after winning the Grand Prix and Prime Minister’s Cup at the All Japan Marching Band and Baton Twirling Competition the band’s name changed to Soka Renaissance Vanguard. Members aim not only to improve their music capabilities, but achieve personal self-improvement by contributing to the local community and society in general through projects including a well received spring “victory concert” for an audience of 3,000 people. In 1954 Daisaku Ikeda, now president of the Soka Gakkai International, formed a music corps with just 16 members. He wanted to foster the potential of young people through their love of music. Since then, brass bands have been created in all prefectures in Japan, performing in events and parades in many areas across Japan.

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