2009 DCJ All-Japan Championships Report
The days building up to Japan’s largest drum corps only festival saw the threat of rain. Fortunately, the 17th annual Drum Corps Japan All-Japan Championships was full of warm sunshine. Corps from all over Japan began gathering at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo as early as 9:00am to assist in field preparations and stretch outs. Much like Drum Corps International, Drum Corps Japan (DCJ) is operated by the member corps who compete in the tournaments throughout the marching season. As a result, lining of the field and other contest preparations are done by the corps members themselves. The traditional size of a competitive space is thirty meters squared. However, the space provided by DCJ is 40 meters squared, allowing corps more space to perform. Unfortunately, due to an airport next door to the stadium, a sound ordinance was in place, keeping corps from doing any music-related warm-ups. This allows each corps only 15 minutes or so of warm-up time (off-field warm-ups in a sound-proof room before entering the field and an on-field warm-up just prior to competition) before entering the field for competition. But such a policy has yet to keep the 10 corps from performing in the largest marching venue (Ajinomoto Stadium) in Japan.
The show opened with the any-key class competition. Corps in this class are not obligated to DCJ’s policy of G bugles. Three corps competed in this year’s championships.
In third was the Shonan Dolphins, a group of elementary aged performers from Fujisawa, Kanagawa, performing selections from Disney’s animated classic, "Alice in Wonderland." Though small in body size, these young performers opened the All-Japan championships with a bang, showing off all sides of their corps from beginning to end. The Dolphins demonstrated a superb quality in musicianship with a combination of ample sound control and effective attacks and releases, throwing out jazz licks and well choreographed double flag work. The Sendai Verdures were awarded second with their show titled, "Nomadic," demonstrating a range of instrumental talent from soloists on euphonium, flugel and trumpet. Returning to DCJ competition for the second time in 3 seasons were the 140 strong White Shooting Stars from Shonandai High School. Their show, titled "B3" swept all captions in the any-key class. The the guard was a stand-out in the opener as rifles performed in sync with the battery, and again in the ballad with gorgeous double flags of ocean blue and gold trim.
The drum corps lineup brought back familiar faces to Japan’s drum corps community. 5 corps competed in Division II and 2 in Division I. The Phoenix Regiment of Tokyo Jitsugyo High School (3-time DCI Division III participants, 1987 DCI South exhibition corps), participating this year in Division II, performed some familiar tunes such as Holst’s 1st and 2nd Military Suites, Danny Boy and Greensleeves in their 2009 show, "Noble Element." Following the Regiment in placing 4th were the Sonic Lancers from Saitama City. Sonic refurbished an old favorite with their show, "Zorro." Though small in size, the corps expressed a well balanced sound in both brass and percussion, using visual cues from the popular film, from suiting up into the proper attire to finishing off with a signature "Z" in the end. Sonic’s finals placement over the Phoenix Regiment marked their first time doing so since 2001. Rounding out the top three was 2-time Division II champion Imperial Sound from Nagoya, Aichi. Imperial Sound returned to DCJ competition (with a color guard) presenting the classic show of the hit broadway musical, "Tommy." The 1-time DCJ Division I (2002) and Division II (2008) champion Tokyo Phoenix presented their show, "Dark Side." Death, demons, a crucified horn line, and even the sight of evil overshadowing what little good could had been sent chills down the audience’s spines as they held onto a second place finish. The lone Western Corps from Kyoto, Jokers, nearly swept all captions in Division II with their show "The Life of a Clown." Though the show concept was difficult to piece together, their visual (both on their feet and their knees) and solid brass sound were no laughing matter. The Jokers were a clear crowd favorite as they were awarded the Spirit of Konno for the second time in 3 DCJ appearances.
Division I has been regretfully dwindling in numbers (only two this year), yet the shows were nothing short of great drum corps. The reigning champion Yokohama Scouts (3-time DCI Division III participants) sought to sweep the audience off their feet with their show titled, "The Dramatic Love." The Scouts’ guard were dressed in long red evening gowns, dancing the night away. They were also the only guard to use sabers in their work. However, for as glamorous and clean the Scouts performed, The Yokohama Inspires (2-time DCA Open Class participants) were there to raise the bar. After a massive staff change last year that almost left the corps on the sidelines, the Inspires came out pounding with their show titled, "Spanish Rain." The show opened with a full corps rain dance, followed by a combination of both high speed drill and complicated body movement (visual design by Wesley Bullock, Andrew Toth and Shiho Idol). The show did not stop there either as the soprano line demonstrated fingering talents with both hands simultaneously. Arturo Sandoval’s "A Mis Abuelos" closed the show on a high note, sealing the Inspire’s 4th Spirit of Arita award and Division I Champion Title.
Shortly after the final performances, the corps in full were led back onto the field by the Yokohama Scouts drum line for the awards ceremony. A full retreat ended with the inspirational tune "You Raise Me Up," followed by full encore performances by both the Division II champion Jokers and Division I champion Inspires.
The 17th Annual Drum Corps Japan All-Japan Championships Results:
3. 71.85 – Shonan Dolphins
2. 77.90 – Sendai Verdures
1. 85.90 – White Shooting Stars
High Brass – White Shooting Stars
High Percussion – White Shooting Stars
High Visual – White Shooting Stars
High Color Guard – White Shooting Stars
High General Effect – White Shooting Stars
Best Drum Major – White Shooting Stars
5. 76.45 – Phoenix Regiment
4. 77.50 – Sonic Lancers
3. 79.45 – Imperial Sound
2. 82.80 – Tokyo Phoenix
1. 84.90 – Jokers
2. 91.05 – Yokohama Scouts
1. 91.65 – Yokohama Inspires
High Brass – Yokohama Inspires
High Percussion – Yokohama Inspires
High Visual – Yokohama Inspires
High Color Guard – Yokohama Inspires
High General Effect – Yokohama Scouts
Best Drum Major – Yokohama Scouts
Drum Corps Japan was sponsored in part by WinBird Uniforms, Bremen, Photo Choice, Pals and Pals Tokyo, Charcott, Pearl, Dynasty, Musicmart, Stage Life, Shimokura Musical Instruments and the Osamu Baton and Band Company.
Adjudication for the 17th Annual Drum Corps Japan All-Japan Championships was provided by Drum Corps International (Jeff Harper, Mike Anderson, William Chumley, Ken Turner and Adam Sage) and Drum Corps Japan (Katsumi Okawa, Yoshiyuki Tanaka, Shinichiro Komori and Masahiro Kato).
Full recaps can be found at Drum Corps Japan’s website at dcjpn.org.