By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
A silence filled the Peterson Air Force Base auditorium as a video of the destruction from the Japan earthquake and tsunami played, marking the one year anniversary, March 11. The United States was quick to respond to the tragedy that killed more than 16,000 Japanese and displaced thousands more.
To commemorate the anniversary and to thank the U.S. for their assistance, the Kyougaku Taiko Drummers performed an “Arigatou” (“thank you” in Japanese) concert. The idea stemmed from Japanese national Gaku Homma, an internationally renowned Aikido instructor, who lives in Denver.
“Within 42 hours of the earthquake tragedy, United States military carriers, troops and supplies arrived in Japan,” Homma said. “If I were to not say thank you for this brave assistance, I would be too ashamed to live here in the United States.”
For Operation Tomodachi (“friend” in Japanese) the U.S. committed 189 aircraft, 24 battle ships, and 25,000 troops to assist in the rescue efforts.
With assistance from the Nippon Kan Center of Denver, Homma arranged for the Kyougaku Taiko Drummers to come from the village of Matsukawa in Nagano Prefecture, Japan to Colorado Springs, according to Scott Roney, military liaison from the Nippon Kan Center.
“We are humbled by this wonderful gesture,” said Col. Chris Crawford, 21st Space Wing commander, in his opening remarks. “In many ways, Japan is our closest ally.”
The auditorium was filled to the brim, and in front of an audience of nearly 600 people the 13 drummers showed their thanks with traditional rhythms, thunderous beats, chants and choreography. It was as if the bass of the drum represented the heartbeat of the spirit of the Japanese.
“It’s an ancient, very cultural art. In Japan, they take great pride in drumming,” Roney said. “It’s very theatrical — a lot of costumes, a lot of high energy. You really get to see a good snapshot of the culture of Japan in their Taiko drumming performances.”
The drummers practiced almost daily for eight months to prepare for the performance, Roney said.
“I thought it was spectacular,” said 2nd Lt. Kayleigh Thompson, 21st Space Wing deputy community services flight commander. “It’s amazing that they wanted to thank us enough to come and perform for us and let us see their show.”
Among the distinguished visitors in attendance was Hiromoto Oyama, the deputy consul general for Japan in Denver. “We are very happy to express our gratitude to the people of Colorado Springs and the United States,” Oyama said.
During the performance the 1st, 2nd and 7th Space Operations Squadrons from Schriever AFB, and the 1st Space Brigade, the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and the Army Forces Strategic Command from Peterson AFB were recognized for their disaster relief efforts.