They received the loudest cheers and applause from the 6,000-strong crowd.
As the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Central Band enthralled the Japanese audience with their rousing tunes and smooth moves, there was no doubt that the spectators enjoyed every moment of the performance.
When bassoonist Military Expert (ME) 1 Isabelle Wong belted out the Japanese folk song Nada Sou Sou (Japanese for Tears for You) mid-performance, the audience erupted into applause. Expectations were set and they were further blown away when drum major ME1 Jash Chua twirled his mace skilfully and caught it with precision after two high throws.
The Band was performing at the opening show of the 54th Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) Marching Festival. Held from 21 to 23 Nov at Tokyo, Japan, the festival aimed to reinforce friendships and defence relations among participating countries.
Besides the SAF Central Band and the Japanese military bands, the United States (US) Army Japan Marching Band, the US' III Marine Expeditionary Force Band and the French Navy Band were also invited for the musical showcase. This was the Band's second invitation to perform in Japan since 2010.
Mr Masaki Okagaki, a 22-year-old student from the University of Fukui who attended the concert at the Nippon Budokan, felt that the SAF Central Band's performance was "stylish and cool".
Colonel Higuchi Takahiro, Commander and Conductor of the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force Central Band, described the SAF Central Band's routine as "powerful and fresh".
"They are a young band, but their performance is very good. They've improved a lot since their performance eight years ago. I'm looking forward to seeing them grow even more."
Before deciding on the songs to play, ME1 Vincent Tan already had a theme in mind – The Dawn of a Country. The 28-year-old clarinet player explained that he drew inspiration from Japan being known as the "Land of the Rising Sun" and Singapore being a young and progressive country.
The final product was a mash-up of seven songs which showcased the multiracial cultures of Singapore through elements of Chinese, Malay and Indian folk tunes, two Singapore national songs and two Japanese songs – Nada Sou Sou and Guren no Yumiya (Japanese for Crimson Bow and Arrow), the theme song from popular Japanese anime Attack on Titan.
"The time limit (below 4mins 30 secs) we were given was the biggest challenge, 'cos we wanted to showcase as much culture (as we could). So I decided to throw in elements of the songs into each other's parts," said ME1 Tan, who was writing music on his own for the first time.
His efforts were well-received. Sergeant Cary Eaves, a French horn player from the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band, commented that his favourite part of the SAF Central Band's performance was how they incorporated Guren no Yumiya into the musical flow seamlessly.
"(The SAF Central Band) chose very relevant music to Japan and the performance quality was just of the highest. It was very enjoyable."
Full-time National Serviceman Corporal Isaac Chen, who extended his National Service to participate in the marching festival, recalled being very nervous before the performance, but managed to pull himself together once it started.
"I thought it went very well and I hope that the audience liked what Singapore had to offer to them," said the 21-year-old tuba player.
Aside from the band, dancers from local media firm So Drama!Entertainment's Music and Drama Company (MDC) added splashes of vivid hues and vibrancy to the number. Draped in colourful ethnic costumes, the dancers moved gracefully to the lively tunes without missing a beat, making them the cherry on top of the cake.
"Hearing the crowd cheering for us, I felt a sense of appreciation performing here, and (seeing) them appreciating us as Singaporeans and what we can offer," said MDC artiste Muhammad Nur Afiq bin Noorazwa.
The 25-year-old also enjoyed working and planning performances with the Band. "When we collaborate together, there's this sense of companionship, camaraderie and exchange of ideas of what works and what doesn't. Just putting up the show is an enjoyable experience."
Conductor and Director of Music ME4 Ignatius Wang, who led the Band for the first time in this overseas concert, hoped that the Japanese will have a better understanding of Singapore through their performance.
"We (hope that) we can bring our cultures, the colourful flavours of the society of Singapore to the Japanese audience, (and) at the same time project the professionalism of the SAF through our musical excellence," said the 28-year-old.
"It's a great week of music-making…(and) we hope that through this experience, we can forge closer ties with the Japanese audience and our international friends."