Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum

Today we traveled to the Hiroshima Peace Park and Memorial Museum. These monuments were erected following America’s dropping of a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, ending the Second World War and simultaneously decimating the city. The resultant death toll is estimated at around 144,000. We all made paper cranes beforehand and donated them at the peace park. This tradition began after a 12-year old girl died from cancer after successfully making over 1,000 cranes so that her wish to survive could come true. Then we all sang The Lord Bless You surrounding the statue in her honor. The event was very emotional for many of us.

After we sang, we walked to the memorial museum. The first exhibit after entering was a graphic of the bomb falling on the city and its physical effects from above. Then, we walked through an exhibit with photographs of victims, items and clothes victims had when the bomb fell, and testimonies from victims. It was devastating to look at. I came to understand why they are so passionate about preventing another catastrophe like this. No one should ever have to suffer in that way again. People ran to the river just to get out of the fires. They were so dehydrated and thirsty they drank radioactive rain, and many of them didn’t have any reaction for months, then suffered in incredible pain before dying. Children were born with many disabilities for generations after, and cancer rates are still quite high, apparently. This kind of devastation should never have happened, and should never happen again. One of the few buildings left standing was a government building near the river. The city has gone to great efforts to preserve it in its exact state after the bomb. This serves as a reminder to the devastation that occurred that day, and as hope for a future with no war.

I am so grateful for this experience. We all studied the atomic bomb in school; but to see its effects in person was incredibly impactful, and has changed me forever. I hope I can go on to share these experiences with others going forward.

Day Trip to Kamakura!

Hey everyone! Today we took a small trip away from Tokyo and headed down to Kamakura as a group. We hopped on the bus and traveled to the city which is about an hour and a half south of Tokyo. Kamakura is a seaside city located in the Kanagawa Prefecture. It is surrounded by hills on the North, East, and West side, but faces the Sagami Bay on the South. The city is a popular tourist attraction and is commonly known for its temples, Buddhist shrines, seasonal festivals, and shopping streets.

The band planned to visit two main attractions for the day, the Diabutsu and Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine. The Diabutsu, also known as the Great Buddha, is a monumental bronze statue of Buddha that sits 11 meters tall. The group was able to visit the statue, walk inside, and shop for souvenirs at the site.

Next, we headed to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine and Komachi-Dori street. We were able to walk around the shrine and shop in the many stores on the street outside for a few hours.

Looking back at the beginning of the day and our trip to the Diabutsu, I really enjoyed visiting the statue. Not only was the tall structure fun to look at and go inside, it was really fascinating to learn about it and see the importance it has in the Japanese culture. My trip to the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine was also enjoyable. I went into a peony garden and got some nice pictures of the flowers and the surrounding pond along with shrine.

Overall, I thought the trip to Kamakura was great and it was nice to get away from Tokyo for the day. It was fun to see a more rural, ancient part of Japan compared to the more modernized areas where we’ve been staying the past couple days. I’m really glad we had the chance to visit Kamakura and I can’t wait to visit more cities in Japan like it!




A Farewell Concert

During this tour we have often spent a lot of time as a tour group not a band. This being said the feeling of playing and going what we came here to do is beyond description. The students of Ryukoku University welcomes us with open arms and from the moment we began preparation for the concert it truly seemed like home. We have spent much time on this tour meeting people briefly and saying good bye. But after spending time meeting the students of Ryukoku, we had a much harder goodbye to say. To our own seniors. As the last concert on tour this was the seniors last concert and every moment was a mix of celebration and sorrow. While doing our preconcert routine, the looming sense of finality was ever present. We all kept composure the best we could, but hearing the last devo of tour from our beloved president made the situation seem so real. The preconcert was the same, the people were the same, however this was the last concert we would play in this country and this was the last time THIS Wind Ensemble would play together. If I am going to be honest, I do not remember much from during the concert. We played our hearts out, and we played for those we love: the ones we have just met as well as the ones who have greeted us everyday at 4:50. I feel as if the concert was very representative of the time we have spent together as an ensemble. A whirlwind of little moments, not remembering any wrong notes, but the way Jami looked at the band when giving his goodbye. Or the dancing backstage and the smiles shared between friends- American and Japanese. Cherry blossoms in Japan are cherished for their exceeding beauty even though they only get a short period of time to bloom. The Japanese people recognize the importance of cherishing little moments of beauty, because something is temporary doesn’t make it less important- it makes it all the more incredible. The time spent in this band and with the seniors has been short, but I will be forever grateful for the little moments that have changed my life. To the seniors, thank you for the music- these little moments with you have changed all of our lives. Thank you.

Farewell Dinner

Tonight we had a farewell dinner. This farewell dinner was the last dinner that we had as a group in Japan. All Wind Ensemble members were in attendance along with our 2 accompanying professors, Dr. Hancock and Dr. Wachmann. Additionally, Kiyoshi Miyamoto (our translator/tour guide/ good friend of the WE), Dr. Wachmann’s previous host daughter, and Mihashi-sensei the band director at Saukshin  Guakin High School in Utsunomiya  were in attendance. For dinner we walked from the Hotel Metropolitan through the Tokyo Metro station to the street Sunshine City 60. This is a route that my friends and I knew quite well because we often ventured through the Tokyo station’s west side (where our hotel was located) to east side to go and shop and eat at the Sunshine City Mall. No one knew what type of food we were going to have for our farewell dinner, so when we arrived at the restaurant it was to great avail that were eating Korean BBQ! Once we got to the restaurant we had to take off our shoes and put them in a locker and then sit down at grill top tables to eat and cook our food. There were many different types and cuts of meat including: beef brisket, pork, hotdogs, steak bites, and chicken. We started the dinner with the Japanese “cheers” called Kanpai.

According to a website Japan talk, “The simplest way to say cheers in Japanese is ‘kanpai!’. This can be translated as ‘cheers’. The literal meaning is ‘dry cup’. In the old days, cheers was done with small cups of sake — dry cup essentially means ‘bottoms up” or “drink it all’” (https://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/cheers-in-Japanese). Then we cooked and ate our food.

After the eating portion of the dinner was over, Dr. Hancock issued well deserved thank yous to members of the band as well as our accompanying counterparts/hosts. After this, the game master Bri Schares commenced the last installment of the tour games between Kassie Hennings and Johanna Kluck, where they were competing to see who could write the word japan in cursive white holding the writing utensil with chopsticks. Johanna won this game, and our dinner was over.

When researching the significance of a farewell dinner in regards to Japanese culture, there was not much information to be found. Basically, a farewell dinner is not a cultural thing, rather than a nice send off.

When trying to research background information on a farewell dinner, Quora.com provided a great definition as provided below (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-real-meaning-of-farewell-party). “Farewell party is more like a memorable way to say goodbye. It could also be likened to a get together where lasting /refreshing memory of family, friends and well wishers is created. People always cherish the last time spent together because it tends to overshadow other times.”

In reflection, the farewell dinner was a great experience and provided a wonderful time for us to end our trip to Japan. The food and then company were great. We were able to have fellowship with members of the band for the last time in Japan and to start to reminisce on the good times that we have had on our trip.

The Great Buddha

The Great Buddha of Kamakura, otherwise known as the Daibutsu, is the second largest monument to Buddha in Japan with a history dating back to 1252. It is placed outdoors in the center of the surround building, the Kotoku-in Temple. The bronze statue was originally played with gold until is was stripped away by a tsunami in 1492. The base of the statue suffered some structural damage during the Great Kanto earthquake back in 1923.

The statue in person is quite impressive and certainly worth taking the time to see. Its size and age is something to marvel at when considering just how ancient the structure is. However, the part that I enjoyed the most were the gardens and the focus on nature. The surrounding area was filled with many beautiful trees and plants, some of which I have shown here. It helps to creates a serene atmosphere that helped to keep myself at peace while we spent our afternoon there. It also helped to bring in the ideals of a temple. To put the mind at ease create that sense of peace that Buddhism strives for.

For me, this was stop was very needed and beneficial for where I was at in the trip. Before stopping here, the stress of travel, the intensity of pre-tour and general anxiety of being in a new country was really weighing me down. Seeing the Great Buddha helped to lift some of these feelings and give me motivation for the rest of tour. The Great Buddha was separated from all the hustle and bustle of the city life and allowed me to find some much needed peace and quiet. Overall the atmosphere helped to calm my nerves about beginning tour and allow me to not worry quite as much for the upcoming weeks.

-Robby Newell (05/06/19)

Rehearsal with Ryukoku Students – 5/18

Today was a very busy day, but also extremely eye opening!  We had a long rehearsal with the university students from Ryukoku.  It was great to interact with students our own age on the trip because it helped put into perspective how different, yet in many ways similar, our lives are.  Communicating with each other was difficult at times, however, Google Translate is a very useful tool.  One thing that continues to amaze me is that although it may be difficult to communicate through words, we are always able to communicate with each other through music. All of the students were extremely talented players, and being able to play side by side with them was a surreal experience.  Although we come from very different backgrounds, we were able to make strong connections through the music we played together.

One of the most significant events that occurred throughout the day was playing “Nearer My God” with the Ryukoku students.  In previous concerts we had sang “The Lord Bless You And Keep You” with the students, but we had never played our other traditional ending with them.  It was great to be able to invite them to play with us and it warmed my heart to be able to share that experience.  I think they knew just how important that song was to us and put their heart and soul into playing it.  We also rehearsed “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” in sectionals.  It was a great opportunity to get to know a few more of the Ryukoku students outside of the euphonium section and connect with them on a different level.  I think it was great that they were willing to learn the song and sing with us at our final concert.

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The End of an Adventure…Or Is It?

As the Wartburg Wind Ensemble adjusts back to normalcy back in the United States, the words of J.R.R. Tolkien come flooding into my thoughts. It is nigh impossible to determine which quote of his I would like to utilize, so I shall pepper many throughout this narrative. However, I shall begin with a quote that is most cogent of the band’s sentiment.

“Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone always has to carry on the story.”

And who is carrying on the story in numbers but the members of the ensemble! Images from the trip are being deposited in stockpiles on social media sites in such great numbers that it is approaching a limit where it would be harebrained to try to see them all. Perhaps you, dear reader, have seen some of these pictures, many of which likely contain someone you love.

Are they the same person in the picture that you are viewing as they were the last time you saw them? Likely after some hemming and hawing, you would be inclined to note no remarkable difference with the exception of a tan. However, the intrinsic impact of the trip is painted on the countenances of every member of the ensemble. Upon greeting your beloved traveler again, you may ask a yes or no question and receive an enthusiastic and high-pitched “hai!” in response, or you may be greeted in the morning with an “Ohayo goziamas!”; these small things are temporary conditioned responses to an alien language and culture. However, I implore you, dear reader, to note the more subtle changes. Perhaps your loved one will have a new understanding regarding their sense of home, of dignity and grace, and of fellowship. As many of the members of the ensemble discovered for the first time, “[We] are only quite little fellow[s] in a wide world after all!” As spry, doe-eyed youngins’, we have learned that the big world really isn’t so big. Heck, when we were leaving our hotel in Tokyo for the last time before the flight, I rode down in the elevator with someone from Grinnell, Iowa. How neat is that!! Tolkien acknowledged this specific idea of growing through travel by writing, “The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out. Needless to say, our fences are became considerably shorter as a result of this trip.

Returning from this life-changing trip can and will be difficult. Many of us already yearn for the friends we made, the food we ate, the memories we shared, and the heated toilet seats (read: my roommates this morning). Coming back to the status quo can cause the feeling of a listing ship: which direction should I go now? I am reminded of a quote that is applicable to this expressed attitude:

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

While the end of the trip may have arrived, so has a new beginning. A different beginning. A wonderful beginning. A beginning to never-ending memories and a changed life.

I will end my post here as the final post for this blog with pictures from the trip. I selected these pictures very specifically for one reason: they are all pictures of people making memories. Because ultimately, we will forget the day or the place, but we will never forget the people that we made memories with.

Weston and I at bottom of ferris wheel.jpgFor Blog.jpgSad Samurai Robbie.jpg

Papa and his Girls.jpg

For Blog 2.jpgArchery.jpg

Group at Kamakura.jpg


Trip to Kumamoto

The wind ensemble began the day by riding a bullet train for about an hour and a half to Kumamoto. As we arrived, many of us were excited to get our first real sighting of the city’s mascot Kumamon. Kumamon was created in 2010 by the Kumamoto prefecture government to bring in more tourists to the area. By 2011 he had become the most popular mascot in Japan. Many of the funds raised from Kumamon merchandise go to a disaster relief fund to fix damage from the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake.

After several pictures with the beloved Kumamon, we loaded onto buses and rode to Aso Elementary School where we had an afternoon performance for the students, and then to the retreat center in the mountains where we would stay the next two days. In the afternoon portion of our day, students were able to go to a Japanese onsen (hot springs) or take a bus to the Aso volcano. I decided to visit the volcano. The Aso volcano is an active volcano which last erupted in 2016. Visitors can take a trail up the crater, but due to the state of the volcano the day our group went, we were unable to get a closer look. The way there consisted of a series of windy switchback roads all the way up the mountain, which overlooked an incredible view. We learned about the 2016 earthquake on the way there and saw several places where there were landslides and extensive damage to the area. When we reached a safe viewing point or group was able to take many pictures before leaving.

On the way back from the volcano, we saw some more of the damage that was left behind by the 2016 earthquake. A main bridge collapsed, and a portion of the road completely shifted. We learned that many of the houses and buildings in the area had been completely destroyed or underwent extensive damage, including Tokai University’s Aso campus which closed it’s doors and has yet to reopen.

This main bridge completely collapsed during the 2016 earthquake.



Tour Has Come to an End

Tour has Come to an End

We have ended our tour in the same place that we started, Tokyo Japan. It has been a crazy three weeks and starting in Tokyo and ending in Tokyo has almost made it feel like home. I am very happy to have had this wonderful opportunity to be in Japan. Today some friends and I went to Takeshita street which is the shopping district in Japan. It is full of crazy stores there’s food places, clothing stores, trinkets and more! Takeshita street has been a shopping district since the 90s and continues to be on all of the guide books for places to go in Japan because it’s where you’ll find all the crazy things that you might need.

After going to Takeshita street we went to Roppongi, which is an entertainment center, art gallery, movie theater and a place for business. In front of Roppongi is this statue. It is a skeleton of a spider called Mamen, by the artist Louise Bourgeois for her mother, whom died at the age of 21. Her mother worked for her father at his textile business and she died from an unknown cause. “The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. My family was in the business of tapestry restoration, and my mother was in charge of the workshop. Like spiders, my mother was very clever. Spiders are friendly presences that eat mosquitoes. We know that mosquitoes spread diseases and are therefore unwanted. So, spiders are helpful and protective, just like my mother.” ~ Louise Bourgeois There are only six of this spider around the world. It is found in Tokyo Japan, Spain, Arkansa USA, Ottawa Canada, South Korea, and Doha Qatar. It was so amazing to be able to walk around Tokyo and see the wonders it holds.


-Raeleigh Tripp

Observations from our last full day in Tokyo…

May 20th was our last full day in Japan. It’s hard to believe that this trip is coming to a close. The whole year was leading to this event for it to pass so quickly.

For our free day, a group of us chose to go shopping to pick up the last of our gifts for friends and family all while simultaneously spending the last of our yen so we didn’t need to exchange currencies again. We finally were comfortable enough with Tokyo to take a train by ourselves (without a group leader or resident of the city) to our destination. Rounding up to almost 14 million people, Tokyo is massive. Constantly bustling with four times the population of Iowa living in one city, at times it can be intimidating to be in such large crowds.

While shopping, I noticed many stores had handmade items. Emily and I stopped at a jewelry kiosk that was all handmade and the women who were selling them and had made them seemed to take so much pride and care into what they did. What they made was quality. Japan, from what I have seen, takes pride in the quality of items more so than the quantity. My homestay for example had smaller houses than we do in the US, mostly due to population and spatial differences, but the homes were very nice and well kept with only what they use. Often in the United States, it seems that we have more than what we use or what is practical simply to show of the quantity of things that we have.

During shopping in Tokyo, I also remembered a concern I had with this trip at the beginning of the year. I was worried about the language barrier. I realized this last day that, while it was at times a little more time consuming, communication was much easier than expected. Students in Japan study English so many people know at lest a few words and everyone is so kind and willing to help.

Being back in Tokyo brought a sense of familiarity that will only be strengthened when we reach the United States.