Articles by Simon Bernard    


It is not often we get top class live music in the Misawa area much less 7 hours from the afternoon into the evening. That is why you will not want to miss the 27th annual Nango Summer Jazz Festival Saturday July 30th. This is the largest jazz festival in northern Tohoku and a great way to kick back and spend the day listening to top name bands from Japan & the USA!

A little history: Back in the 80ís the village elected a mayor who was a super jazz fan. Making a long story short, this sleepy village just past Hachinohe ended up building an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by nature & beauty just for this event! Now thousands of Japanese music lovers come from all over the country to dig on the cools sounds of jazz.

Starting in the afternoon the music starts hot and continues on after the sun goes down when the star studded sky and stage lights rock you into the cool evening with top name bands from the USA and Japan! What makes this so great is you do not have to be a die hard jazz fanatic to hear some fantastic live music! You have a choice of getting there early and sitting a few feet from the stage in regular chairs provided, sitting on the steps in the middle or chilliní out on the sloping grass lawn in the back. It doesnít matter as there is not a bad seat anywhere!

Oh and you really donít have to bring anything. Itís a festival so there are rows of stalls in the back selling all kinds of food & drinks. Surely while you are watching the show some great smells of festival food will be wafting in the air making your mouth water! But you better wait for a break in the action as you wonít want to miss anything!

The gates open at 12 noon and as the Nango tradition is, the local Swingberry Jazz orchestra in conjunction with the Jr. High School jazz band will play, giving local budding jazz artists a chance to show off at 13:00.

As for the professional action, here is the line up for this year: At 14:00 the JAZZ LADY PROJECT that features vocals, piano, sax, bass, violin & drums kick things off. From this point on things start to heat up with ďNaotoĒ at 15:15 featuring DJ Hirakatsu with Naoto on violin. Bass and piano round out their quartet.

At 16:15 there will be a break in the action to give you a chance to win some great local goods and prizes from Nango! Keep your program handy and if your number is called during the raffle you can come up to the stage to collect your goodies to take home!

And then itís back to live action: At 16:45 The Junko Onishi Trio will get you rocking, clapping & singing! (piano, bass & drums) Junko has been around for a long time and even tried to go into retirement, but her fans overwhelmed her to continue to perform and always puts on a great show!

Then at 18:10 the most famous Japanese Jazz musician: Terumasa Hino and his band takes the stage. (Trumpet, tenor sax, guitar, piano, bass, & drums) . You are in for a treat to hear Hino who has played with everyone in the whole world who you could name as a Jazz musician in a prolific musical output over his 60-year career. This show should be phenomenal!

At 19:35 the main event will be something special for EVERYONE not only jazz aficionados. RICHARD BONA (vocals, piano, percussion, bass, drums, trombone & trumpet). Richard who was born in Cameroon, made his profession jazz debut when he was 11 year old. Now living in France & NYC , his band brings a lively African, Cuban (latin) style that will have the whole house dancing in the aisles. This I personally cannot wait for as he should have the whole venue rocking out!

Be sure to stick around, another Nango tradition is the jam session at the end of the show. Yelling encore can keep the music going into the starry night with the stars of the show!

Another great reason to go is that you can save money by buying an advanced ticket. Just drop by Misawa ITT to pick them up. Or pay 1000 yen more at the gate. There are also discounted student tickets for Jr. & Sr. high school students and elementary kids & younger get in for FREE! Misawa ITT has also decided to lower the price for their shuttle bus that will take you from the base & back, so no need for a designated driver!

Driving yourself could not be easier. It takes less than 30 minutes to get to Nango from Misawa Air Base. Go out the Falcon (POL) gate and start counting traffic lights. Turn left at the 13th light to get on the Dai Ni (No.2) Michinoku Expressway. At the 1st toll booth, pay 250 yen and get an expressway ticket. Continue straight (you will go past the Shimoda Mall and then the Hachinohe Kita interchanges), the expressway will merge with the Hachinohe Expressway as if you were going toward Morioka. Get off at the next exit (Nango interchange), and pay the toll! Go to the stop sign and turn right. Go about 1 and a half kilometers and the venue will be on the right next to the Kakko-no-Mori rest stop. Traffic control will guide you to a parking area.

Gates open at 12 noon so get in line early if you want a front row seat. Large coolers and lawn chairs are prohibited. Blankets are great for the lawn area. Camping spots are available next door at the track & field site at 500 yen, just sign in first! If you need any assistance go to the stage right admin area, an English speaker will be called to help you. Local grown Nango blueberries and CDs of the performing artists will also be available!

Don't miss this renowned international jazz festival, right here in our own backyard!