I have been a part of Pipe Band since I was about 13 years old. I joined in Cadets and it has been pretty much a constant in my life since.
When I came to Japan, I thought that I would have to put that on a back burner - assuming that Japan had little to nothing in the way of Scottish culture, and would probably have one Pipe Band at best.
Well, I was partially correct, but also so wrong.
Japan has a pretty large (*larger than expected) Scottish culture, and there is a fairly large Scottish Society as well. On top of that, there ARE Pipe Bands in Japan, though only two. One in Tokyo, and one in Osaka.
So, of course I have looked into the Osaka band as it is close enough to be do-able. Sadly my schedule and location limits my ability to go to all practices as it still takes me over an hour to get to practices, but I have been able to work something out with the band. I'm not a full member exactly, but because I have a strong skill in tenor and they are still lower level and in need of an instructor and "guide" when it comes to Pipe Band things (arranging scores as a whole band, marching, etiquette, etc), I offer to teach what I know and help with performances, and they let it slide that I can't really go to all practices. Usually they are pretty strict with members so I'm really thankful that they let me participate with them as much as I can.
Among the events that they ask me to help with, there is a Highland Games in Kobe every year that the band hosts, as well as many events through the yer hosted by the Japanese Scottish Society (JSS). Sometimes we also get asked to perform at various events in Kansai and around Japan.
This summer we were asked to perform as an opening act for the Japanese and Scottish national rugby teams, during a match that Japan hosted in Nagoya. It was such an amazing experience and so cool to be a part of a professional sports match.
The band traveled by car, making the trip in one day there and back. The drive itself was pretty fun, chatting with band members, listening to music and such.
Once we arrived at Toyota Stadium we were taken backstage, given our passes and we prepared for soundcheck.
After soundcheck we got all dressed up, a few last minute practices, then off to the pitch!
We were playing pre-show - while the two teams were warming up on the field. The stadium wasn't full yet, but there was still a large number of people watching us. TV crews were also there broadcasting. Definitely the most surreal experience I've had in a Pipe Band thus far. When we finished our show, the players were heading back into their locker rooms and a few said hello. The Scottish team especially seemed happy and thanked us for the show.
And that was pretty much it. After our performance we got free tickets to watch the show from any seats that hadn't sold any tickets, so we watched the game before driving back to Osaka. It was a great match, with Scotland winning though both teams played a great game.
I'm thankful to be able to continue a hobby I love while in Japan, and to get the chance to do cool things like this! Next on the bands agenda is a Robbie Burns dinner with the JSS and then Highland Games again in the spring!