“What got me is when I went back in ’85 with the division headquarters and we were participating in a, uh, division exercise with the Japanese self-defense force. And, uh, the 25th division of the Japanese Imperial Army, they and the 40th infantry division opposed each other in the Philippines during World War II, so whenever we’d display the flag we’d manage to put the Philippine battle streamers on the back of the flag just to be polite. I, uh, run into a young captain who was a traditional music buff. The all time song of Japan in the Japanese army was ‘China Night’. And it’s about a young man looking for his girlfriend, or thinking fond memories of his girlfriend back home, Shidanai. I said something about it, and this guy grabs me by the hand and gotta go up and sing it. I only remember, uh, the first line. And fortunately he remembered the rest of them and so I just mouthed the rest of the words after Shidanai. And I went through the rest of the song like that. ‘Huh, well Mac I didn’t know you could sing that.’ Haha.”
A few summers a go, I visited Japan with friends, and I was able to witness firsthand the joy of karaoke that is ever-popular there. It’s interesting to see the mix of old tradition new, modern customs. Song, obviously, is a very old tradition in every culture, but is made distinctly modern in live performance. Though today it may be more for the purpose of pure entertainment, the song that my Grandpa relayed shows how art and culture can connect people both within their own nation and to various others.