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TOKYO

Student jazz event shows importance of culture

by Edan Corkill

Staff Writer

Tokyo’s Aoyama district will ratchet up its hip quotient this weekend when it hosts the Aoyama Jazz Initiative, a student-run celebration of jazz.

Hosted by Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU), the event is now in its third year. As always, it will feature student bands from AGU and from other institutions such as Nihon University.

Last year, the event was held in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and one of the guest performers was the U.S. 7th Fleet Band, which had been involved closely with Operation Tomodachi, the American military’s disaster support project. Not to be outdone, members of the esteemed Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Band, Tokyo, which is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary, will participate this time.

Other highlights of this year’s event include the long-running amateur group The Big Band of Rogues; the Asano Sho Trio, featuring celebrated shamisen player Sho Asano; and Kuwata Shuuichi Project, the jazz unit of saxophonist Shuuichi Kuwata, who has performed as a backing musician for the likes of SMAP and Shiina Ringo.

Aoyama Jazz Initiative was actually the brainchild of a particularly eminent professor of AGU, Tamotsu Aoki. It was shortly after Aoki returned from a two-year stint as the commissioner of the national government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs that he proposed the festival. It seems his experience as the head of the government’s key arts promotion body taught him the importance of grassroots arts promotion.

“It’s important for universities to be not just places of research and education but also places for promoting culture,” he said.

Aoyama Jazz Initiative 2012 takes place at Aoyama Gakuin University in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on Nov. 25. Doors are set to open at 12:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call (03) 3589-3353.