Tachibana Interview Part 2: Yokoyama-coach

This text, which is a summary of the part of the interview conducted at Kyoto Tachibana High School on April 24, 2018 is specially written for this website by Rei’ichirō Fukuno (福野礼一郎, Wikipedia), a writer, with the request from orangedevilsfan and Trueman Nishi -san. The contents are divided into five parts. No contents that were pledged with Kyoto Tachibana High School never to be made public are included in this document. On the basis of copyright, no part of this document may be reproduced without permission. Also release of any Japanese texts translated from this English document will be strictly forbidden.

Responsible for the interview and original text: Rei’ichirō Fukuno. Photographs (when indicated): Masayuki Arakawa (GENROQ) and Paul Miller. English translation: K. Hatano. Coordination: Trueman Nishi.

Separate article on Tachibana written by Rei’ichirō Fukuno has been published in July issue of GENROQ-magazine on May 26, 2018 (see more here and here).


Hirofumi Yokoyama (横山弘文), Coach of the Tachibana Wind Music Club:

Hirofumi Yokoyama (photo by Masayuki Arakawa (GENROQ))

Short biography of Mr. Hirofumi Yokoyama (横山弘文): Mr. Yokoyama was born in Kobe in 1962. Having done marching in club activities in junior and senior high school, Mr. Yokoyama went to the US to study abroad and took part in the competition of Drum Corps International (DCI). After graduating from Osaka College of Music, he started to work as a freelance marching instructor. Mr. Yokoyama currently instructs marching at about 30 senior high school bands in Japan. Music Director of Green Band Association (GBA). Marching Instructor.

(Mr. Yokoyama is energetic and confident about himself. He also has a great sense of humor just as the image he gave in the 2011/2012 TV program “Waratte Koraete“. My impression is that he leads the students on an equal terms with them. The students seem to see him as a “senpai” (=one’s senior student or member) rather than a teacher. Since he once was in DCI, he is well informed about American culture, music education and marching. In every sense, he is a key person who has made the Wind Music Club of Kyoto Tachibana High School as it is today.)

On How He Stared to Teach Marching at Kyoto Tachibana:

After Mr. Hiramatsu retired (in 1995) at retirement age, the club asked Mr. Kazuhiro Miya (宮一弘), a freelance marching instructor, to take over the directing position of marching which Mr. Hiramatsu had been taking on all by himself (Mr. Miya’s primary job was the chief priest of a temple in Kyoto). While Mr. Hiramatsu worked as a part-time teacher there for seven years after the official retirement, Mr. Miya passed away suddenly, and the Club asked Mr. Yokoyama, who was Mr. Miya’s best pupil, treated like a son by him and totally knew about his marching, to be the successor. Mr. Yokoyama readily accepted the offer, in spite that he was having a difficult time then after suffering from the Great Hanshin Earthquake on January 17, 1995. This association has been continuing since then (becoming the coach probably in 1999).

US Visit in 2005:

Click picture to watch video

From the end of the year 2005 till the New Year of 2006, the Club visited the US for an activity of Green Band Association. They experienced adding music to animation clips (Disney Youth Programs Workshops) and performed a parade in Disneyland (see above GBA General Promotion video edited by KALLEN Amaterasu), interacted with American members of high school bands, and stayed with their host families. However, he never thought of the Tournament of Roses Parade then. When they were leaving after a two-hour practice at a local school, the wind was blowing very hard outside and electric poles fell, and they had to stay almost a whole day in the school. He had no choice but to watch TV with the students, when they happened to see Seika Girls’ High School Band from Japan marching in the 116th Tournament of Roses Parade. It seemed the weather was not bad in Pasadena. Watching this scene made them say, “Let’s take part in this parade some day for sure.” After returning to Japan, he started activities for participation.

(n.b: first “Green Band” sponsored by Green Band Association attending 119th Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 2008 was Hyōgo Prefecture Akashi Kita High School. Tachibana attended 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade on January 2, 2012, see more of that here).

(see more of this visit in Events in History, 2005)

About Participation in 121st Tournament of Roses Parade in 2010:

Click picture to watch video

Ms. Motoki Okai (岡井元希) of the 104th Class and other four or five alumni of Kyoto Tachibana Wind Music Club, who were all college students then, were among the members of Kansai Honor Green Band from Japan that took part in the 121st Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 2010 (see above the video by Music213). However, it was not that they were joining the band representing Kyoto Tachibana Wind Music Club, but that they happened to be among the chosen college student members.

Sharp Movements on Dance:

Click picture to watch video

Mr. Kazuhiro Miya, following the way Mr. Hiramatsu did, adopted dance for marching. What became a springboard for the present style of hard-movement dance, however, was when the “Burn the Floor” -dance show was brought to Japan second time (from September 17, 2004 in the Tokyo International Forum and Nagoya Rainbow Hall, see newspaper review of the show here). One of the male students who watched the show suggested to Mr. Yokoyama: “I’d like to do this kind of performance”. Watching the video together, Mr. Yokoyama and the members picked out “Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing)” and “In the Mood“, and studied the choreography. They started to use the movements at stage performances and drill on the floor, and eventually developed the dance to parading. Even now, when they perform “Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing)” on stage, the Color Guards dancing in the front row trace the original choreography of “Burn the Floor” almost as it is in the intro part of the song (like repeating 180-degree turn standing on one leg, see above the video by Kazuya Shirai).

Selecting Marching Music:

Click picture to watch video

Mr. Yokoyama, talking with the students, chooses songs that sound easy to dance in marching among a wide range of genres with ready-made music charts for classical music, pops, jazz, and so on. They don’t buy the copyright of original songs or arrange them at all. Also, expecting their second appearance of the Rose Parade (=129th Tournament of Roses Parade, January 1 2018, see more of that here), a few years before that, they paid attention to music charts like Billboard, and taking account the culture around Los Angeles that has a lot of Hispanic people, they chose songs that would be well-received by spectators of the Rose Parade and added them to their repertory little by little. “Happy” (see above the video by st.taketo) and “Fireball” were the songs that had been picked out beforehand for the Rose Parade. On the other hand, they play songs that are familiar with Japanese people when performing in Japan. Their new pieces of “Gangnam Style” and “Paradise Has No Border” by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, for example, are such songs chosen to play to the Japanese crowd.

Marching at the 129th Tournament of Roses Parade in 2018:

Click picture to watch video

Mr. Yokoyama and the students carefully planned the music order and timing in advance by taking into account the locations of audience and the directions of shadows in the morning through the 9 km (=5½ miles) route of the Rose Parade. On the previous night of the Rose Parade, December 31, Mr. Yokoyama walked through the 9 km course, which was being a traffic-free zone for the event, counting his steps, and did a final check as to which songs to play at certain places (see above video by 慶次郎前田-san, st.taketo-san and Mark-san covering the band performance throughout the entire parade route).

Mr. Yokoyama: I remember the cityscape and know the positional relation of all the stores and the spectator stands along the parade route, so I planned highlights according to those factors. As I was walking alone in the middle of the night, I was stopped by police officers many times and warned to go home soon.

(see more of the band visit to the 129th Tournament of Roses Parade here)

Directions for Music Selection at the 129th Tournament of Roses Parade:

Mr. Yokoyama not only planned the composition of songs according to the route, but he also instructed the students to change songs flexibly at a sign. Between the cadence and song is typically an 8-count roll-off, but after that a 16-count roll-off that differs from each song was newly added, which enabled the members to know which song was to be played next. When Mr. Yokoyama gives a signal with his fingers, another teacher walking along the drum line reads it and passes it on to the members. Other times, he makes the band just walk waving their hands to let the brass players ease their lips where there are fewer spectators. On the other hand, when the gap from the float ahead opens up, he makes the tempo faster to make the band catch up. Thus he was able to control the rank as he would.

110-degree Turn:

Click picture to watch video

The 110-degree turn corner from the Orange Grove Boulevard to the West Colorado Boulevard is the most difficult spot of the Rose Parade. At the same time it is a place where large stands are placed, and an army of live coverage TV booths and TV cameras are lined up. To make a big scene at the corner, in 2012 (when the band first attended Rose Parade), Mr. Yokoyama came up with the “Mario Turn” in which the members of the outside swings around the turn with high speed at a run (see above the famous “Mario Turn” done in 2018 in the video by Christopher Yee). The biggest reason that Mr. Yokoyama was joining the rank at the parade was to direct the right timing for a turn. If the timing is off by one meter, the units will hit the road, but they were able to start swinging within the point of 20 cm this time, too.

Mr. Yokoyama: It was just for fun that I directed them to do the “Mario Turn” at the 90-degree left turn in the West Colorado and Sierra Madre Boulevard later on in the parade too. I tried doing so thinking what they would do if I gave them the “Mario” signal there. Though they hadn’t practiced it at all, they made the turn properly.

Practice at Angel Stadium:

Band practicing at Angel Stadium parking lot (photo by Paul Miller)

The overall length of the 200-member rank is over 100 meters. In order to practice a 110-degree turn, you need a flat space of 400 m by 400 m. There’s no place in Japan where they can do this practice. For this reason, they went to the destination in the US four days earlier, rent the parking lot of Angel Stadium of Anaheim, and did intensive training. In the eastern end of the parking lot is the giant landmark “Big A” sign, and it takes 30 minutes to march to and from the landmark. They practiced “like becoming crazy”, marching back and forth dozens of times until all of the members were able to change music one after another without mistakes with his finger command only.

Ms. Hayami (Akemi Hayami, Assistant Band Director): Though we were able to rent the parking lot properly as it was off-season, we had a day when we were suddenly told to go out because they would use it for driving lessons. We practiced in the corner of the lot almost crying that day. (They were renting the whole space, but since there were houses on the north side and couldn’t make a big noise, they only used the southern part.)

About “Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing)”:

Click picture to watch video

Mr. Yokoyama: It’s a mixed blessing that the song is regarded as our specialty. While it’s popular among the audience, some say, “Here they go again!”. To be honest, I’ve long wanted to stop performing it. But it seems like we can’t, because the students come to Tachibana longing for performing it. Every time I ask the students what to do with it before the contest just in case, they all say they want to perform it, so I had no choice but to let them keep playing it. I’ve been looking for a song that could take the place of it every year, but I haven’t found anything good yet.
(video above by st.taketo)

Question: What do you think about it?
Drum Major: I enjoy “Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing)” the most.
— This remark lets the teachers down.

“Kjaer” (=The Scream):

Click picture to watch video

Mr. Hiramatsu (professor Hisashi Hiramatsu): I wonder when on earth that began. It’s no doubt that it began in the days of Mr. Miya.
Ms. Hayami: I really hate it, and want them to stop doing it. It’s stupid to make that shrill voice.
Mr. Yokoyama: I don’t like it, either.

Question: What do you think about it?
Drum Major: I enjoy it. (haha!)
— This remark makes the teachers fall down.
(video above by st.taketo)

Animal Suits and Dinosaur:

Manma-chan in 2013

“Manma-chan” and “Topo Gigio” are the ones that a manufacturer of those kinds of suites, an acquaintance of Mr. Yokoyama, gave to him when closing the business. He put them in storage in Tachibana as there’s no other place to keep them. But the band can hardly use them because of relations of right. The dinosaurs and dough-nut, and the pump, were bought from Amazon Japan (see here), and they got the taste for success at the 129th Tournament of Roses Parade and the recent ROHM Music Festival (see more of that here), and so they bought the third and fourth ones. They are going to use them a lot this year. Inside those suits are the members (both male and female) who don’t play music on stage.

Jump to: Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3Part 4Part 5

5 thoughts on “Tachibana Interview Part 2: Yokoyama-coach

  1. There is an old adage “If it ain’t, don’t fix it.” Most every young Japanese musician that sees KT perform Sing Sing Sing With A Swing wants to be KT just to play that piece. Sing3x is TACHIBANA and the kids know it.


    • What ever you choose the girls and boys really enjoy. So that’s the main element of success. Keep it up as you are all making us very happy. Regards Peter Border in the UK.


  2. KT should perform Tusk. It is a short, powerful piece tailor made for marching bands. There’s even a segment about 55 seconds in for the Banshee scream… it’s no replacement song for Singx3, but I think the band could really do something with it.


  3. Sing, Sing, Sing with a Swing is around nine minutes long. You don’t have to abandon it. There are nearly endless ways to present it creatively. Those students come alive when they play that song. As for getting rid of the trademark Tachibana Cry of the Banshees …are you kidding? If you want to get rid of something… 65 million years ago an asteroid impact with the Earth wiped out the dinosaurs… I’m just saying.

    Liked by 1 person

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