What is "Naruto-Daiku"?

The day is June 1st, 1918. Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is performed in Asia for the first time in full length in the Bando POW camp (today: Naruto City, Tokushima) by German POWs.

The background for this first performance can be found in the humane treatment of the German POWs by the camp's head, Toyohisa Matsue, and his personnel, as well as the friendly connections built between the German POWs and the local populace that, just like the spirit of the "Ninth", were founded on overcoming cultural barriers.

This spirit can still be found among Naruto's citizens to this day, as it has been handed down from one generation to the next and many events have become integral parts of local culture. Most notably the annual concert of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on the first Sunday of June, but also the sister city relationship to the German city Lüneburg, or the friendly exchange of cosmos seeds are examples of this deep relationship.

The first performance of the "Ninth" in all of Asia; a friendship developed amidst the aversities of World War I, overcoming boundaries and bringing together people of different cultures; the legacy of the "Ninth" and its preservation by Naruto's citizens: all these things have become the starting point for "Naruto-Daiku", Naruto's very own "Ninth", something unheard of anywhere else in the world, in which their citizens should take great pride.

Why the "Ninth"?

33rd Concert of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
 ▲33rd Concert of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

Looking at all of Japan, the "Ninth" and its performances have been an event particular to the end of the year. One theory for this reason looks back to the year 1943, when the send-off ceremony for university students having been drafted for the war was held in the concert hall at the Tokyo Music School (Tokyo Ongaku Gakko; today: Tokyo University of Arts).

Amidst the worsening of the Pacific War, all university students of liberal and legal arts who had reached the age of twenty were drafted into the Japanese military. Before the start of their service in early December of 1943, a graduation ceremony was organised during which, it is said, the 4th movement of the "Ninth"was performed.

With the war slowly coming to an end in 1945, many of those drafted young men did not return home. To commemorate them, the survivors of the war decided to organise a performance of the Ninth Symphony in those same halls. Therefore, one reason for the traditional performances of the "Ninth" during the end of the year may also be found in this requiem for fellow students who died on the battlefield.

After the war and during reconstruction, some orchestra groups tried to make extra money at the end of the year by performing the "Ninth" because the piece always drew a crowd. It is said that over time those performances turned into a tradition during the end of year.

But, as is widely known, the first performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony happened in the Bando POW camp. Its date has become known as the "Day of the Ninth" in Naruto, though traditionally it is on the first Sunday of June when Naruto's annual concert of the Ninth Symphony is held.

But why is it that the POWs in Bando enjoyed relative freedom in their daily lives and contact with the local population, especially compared to other POW camps during that time?

The head of the POW camp was Colonel Toyohisa Matsue, born in the Aizu region. The Aizu region was defeated after rising up in a civil war against the soon to be restored Japanese Emporer in the late 1860s. It is said that he always used to mention the importance of being merciful and benevolent as a warrior (bushi no nasake). Growing up in the Aizu region of Japan, he learned from a young age what it meant to have been defeated, which influenced how he oversaw the POW camp. Mercy did not mean pity to him, as the German POWs only fought for their homeland. Many records mention Matsue's integrity and kindness in unison. His approach to managing the POW camp was praised by the German soldiers, because he approached them as humans and not as enemies, and even from today's perspective, this can only be called humane and democratic.

The rather positive treatment of the POWs in Bando by Matsue possibly influenced life outside the camp as well, as the local population began kindly referring to German soldiers as "Mr. German, Mr. German". One other reason might have been because of the Shikoku Pilgramage that happens to start at the Ryozenji temple in Bando. Local culture has always been open towards strangers travelling the route. This tradition of hospitality did not change when the German POWs arrived.

As one can see, just like when Beethoven borrowed Schiller's words to colour his love towards humanity, so is "Naruto-Daiku", Naruto's very own Ninth, a symphony overcoming borders to unite those who wish for peace in this world, our world, which is still plagued by suffering.

Manifest about Loving the Ninth


To everyone loving the "Ninth" in our country

For many years we have been singing the "Ninth", on our own, in cities or communities, born out of very specific or local traditions and reasons. Today, more than 200 performances and concerts of the "Ninth" open every year in all of Japan, and those large-scale cultural events have become known all around the world.

The origins of the love towards the "Ninth" in our country can be found in the first performance in 1918 by German POWs incarcerated in the Bando POW camp in Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture.

This legacy of the "Ninth", handed down to Naruto City, was brought back to life by Naruto's citizens and their enthusiasm and effort. Since this revival, other choirs singing the "Ninth" joined the performance in Naruto and in 1989 a joint group was formed and has since then been an important part in promoting the "Ninth".

Our beloved "Ninth" has, hidden among its high level of musical perfection, a message of peace, friendship and humanity. Friedrich Schiller's words are, in a global world still filled with lots of hardship and suffering, an encouragement to pursuit one's dreams. They are in other words, a song of praise towards humanity.

For the coming 21st century, we wish to widen the circle of those who enjoy and love to sing Beethoven's most beautiful symphony.

Dear people who love the "Ninth", we await for you to join us in singing and spreading its message of peace, humanity and friendship into the world.

June 3rd, 2001

The beginnings of the ties between Naruto and Germany during World War I

In 1914, the first World War began. In accordance to the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the Japanese Empire declares war towards the German Empire and joins the war. Early during the war, the German colony Qingdao in China, protected by approximately 5.000 German soldiers, is besieged and eventually falls.

Among those who protected the colony, about 4.700 soldiers are sent to Japan into twelve POW camps. Some years later, those are combined into only six camps. The three POW camps on the island of Shikoku, Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture, Marugame in Kagawa Prefecture and Tokushima in Tokushima Prefecture, are closed and the incarcerated POWs are sent to the newly built Bando POW camp (today: Naruto City, Tokushima Prefecture).

When the about 1.000 POWs from the enemy nation Germany suddenly arrived at the newly built facility, the local population was quite taken by surprise.

However, this surprise did not lead to fear, as Bando is home to the first temple of the Shikoku Pilgramage with its 88 temples. Since the spirit of hospitality and openness to strangers were deeply ingrained in the people of Bando, they accepted the German POWs and after a while even called them "Mr. German" as a friendly gesture.

The German POWs responded in a similar manner and opted to befriend the local populace. Highly unusual during times of war, those interactions lead to a fruitful intercultural exchange, during which the German POWs passed on their extensive knowledge about agriculture and husbandry as well as in the making of bread. Furthermore, the German POWs organized many sports and cultural events. Even today, one can still see their heritage by visiting a stable they built together with local farmers or river bridges that made daily life easier for the people of Bando.

View of the Bando POW camp    Main entrance
 ▲View of the Bando POW camp      ▲Main entrance

Toyohisa Matsue - Head of the Bando POW camp

"Where else in the world has there ever been a camp like Bando? Where else in the world has there ever been a person like Matsue?" These words are often credited toward the POW Paul Kley, who was not only a POW in Bando, but also in Siberia during World War II.

If one inquires about why it was that in a world at war filled with POW camps with bad living conditions the German soldiers lived such relatively free lives in the Bando POW camp, even so far as that it became known as a model camp, or why the German POWs could so freely interact with the local population, one inevitably has to mention the head of the POW camp, colonoel Toyhisa Matsue, and his approach to managing the camp.

Born in the Aizu domain, Matsue's father was part of the rebel army fighting against the Meiji Restoration during the 1860s who eventually lost against the imperial army. With his father having experienced exile and hardship, the stories of that life influenced Matsue's childhood which taught him values of generosity, humanity, and what it means to be defeated.

Those experiences and ideas influenced his approach to managing the POWs, as he acknowledged them having only fought for their home, just like any soldier would. Sometimes, his philosophy brought him the scorn of his superiors in the Japanese military who accused him of indulging the German POWs. However, Matsue did not change his stance on his idea of humane and fair treatment. Even the staff at the POW camp, like his lieutenant Takaki, endorsed Matsue who opted to improve living conditions in the camp.

Head of the POW camp, Toyohisa Matsue       Captain Matsue with his family
 ▲Head of the POW camp, Toyohisa Matsue   ▲Captain Matsue with his family

POW activities in the model Bando POW camp

Printing technology

In researching and knowing the Bando POW camp, the camp newspaper called "Die Baracke" (Eng: The Barracks) is an indispensable tool. Taking the last few months before their return home, this newspaper was essentially published once every week on Friday for about two years usually with 24 pages.

Its content was wide and diverse, covering a range of topics from developements in war-plagued Europe, events and festivities within the camp, reviews of and critiques on musical concerts and theatre plays. The texts and illustrations were produced using mimeographic printing which enabled the print shop to print multi-colored pages. Printed products made using that technology are, even today 100 years later, still a marvel to look at. But a newspaper was not the only thing printed in Bando, as the POWs designed a plethora of beautiful event programs and even printed books, all of which have, as historical artifacts, been designated important tangible cultural properties by Tokushima Prefecture.

A look into the print shop  Multi-colored printed material
 ▲A look into the print shop   ▲Multi-colored printed material

Commerce and Trade

The shopping district "Tapatau"

This "shopping district", named after a familiar neighborhood in Chinese Qingdao, had more than 80 shops and stores selling various goods like furniture, shoes, sweets, ice-cream or musical instruments and offering many services like tailoring, barbering, bookbinding, carpentry, welding or even music lessons. Besides that, Bando even had a print shop, a butcher shop, a bakery and even a small restaurant-like establishment.

Shopping district "Tapatau"  Line in front of the butcher
 ▲Shopping district "Tapatau"      ▲Line in front of the butcher

German-style bowling

Just east of "Tapatau" was the German-style bowling building (called "Kegeln" in German) which also featured a kitchen. The POWs brought the bowling alley with them from the POW camp in Matsuyama. Open from 7am till 9pm, it was usually filled with many patrons. Following the famous motto of "all for one and one for all, parts of the revenue (one had to pay for using the alley) went to the health insurance association the German POWs had established early on.

View into the bowling alley  Still well-preserved bowling balls
 ▲View into the bowling alley      ▲Still well-preserved bowling balls

The "Geba" Confectioner's

"Geba", which is short for "Gefangenenlager Bando" (German for Bando POW camp), was the camp's bakery which in 2½ years used more than 36.000 kg flour and more than 131.000 eggs. On special occasions like holidays, the Geba even sent out cakes like pound cakes to Germans living in China or Japan, much to their delight.

Confectionary "Geba" (1)  Confectionary "Geba" (2)
 ▲The "Geba" Confectioner's (1)    ▲The "Geba" Confectioner's (2)

Sport Activities

Early on, quite soon after the opening of the POW camp, captain Matsue and his administration negotiated with the local population to gain their consent to lease some land in front of the camp. Eventually, about 34.000m² were added to the already big camp compound of 57.000m², to be used for growing vegetables and sport activities. The sport-loving German POWs quickly established a sport committee and the land was used to built tennis courts, fields for soccer, hockey and other activities. Even though access to that area was restricted depending of the time of day, the area was usually really busy, not only with competetive sports, but also artistic gymnastics. The latter being a rare sight during that time in Japan, some teachers and even students from local elemantary and higher level schools like Muya Junior High School (today: Naruto Senior High School) visited to watch the training sessions. On a few occasions, some German POWs were even invited into Japanese schools to demonstrate their techniques.

Tennis courts  Some German POWs during their practice sessions
 ▲Tennis courts             ▲Some German POWs during their practice sessions

Sometimes, the German POW even organized walks into the mountains like Mt. Oasa or day trips to the sea like Kushigi shore, about 12km and a two-hour walk away from the camp. Especially during May and October in 1919, more than 30 trips were organized to "wash one's feet" and enjoy the ocean. During those trips, the German POWs often came in contact with the local population and it is even said that some of the local children were willing to learn and remember some basic German greetings.

German POWs with local people at Kushigi shore Eindrücke des Kontaktes mit Japanern an der Kushiki-Küste
 ▲German POWs with local people at Kushigi shore Eindrücke des Kontaktes mit Japanern an der Kushiki-Küste

Cultural Activities

Arts and Crafts Exhibition

In the twelve days between March 8th till March 19th in 1918, the German POW presented a variety of artworks and crafted good in a big exhibition that was held in the Bando community hall and the Ryozenji temple, the first temple of the Shikoku Pilgramage.

The art category featured about 220 different works of art, including oil paintings, water paintings and photographic pictures. The craft category on the other hand included models like a model ship, wood and metal works, instruments and toys among other things.

Visitors to the exhibition could, however, not only experience physical crafts, but also musical performances and walk among the many small shops offering strength trials, a shooting gallery or food. This rather festival-like atmosphere is said to have invited about 50.000 visitors who bought most of the goods on offer and are even said to have ordered more from the German POWs.

Ryozenji temple during the exhibition   Concert in front the main entrance to the temple
 ▲Ryozenji temple during the exhibition    ▲Concert in front the main entrance to the temple

Musical Activities

How significant music was to the life in Bando can be illustrated with an early example, right after the opening of the camp. The German POWs being transfered from the camp in Tokushima arrived on April 6th in 1917. On April 8th and 9th, the POWs from the camps in Matsuyama and Marugame were scheduled to arrive and to welcome them, the POWs from camp Tokushima greeted them with the march "Preußens Gloria".

Bando had two full orchestras: the Engel Orchestra, headed by POW Paul Engel, and the Tokushima Orchestra, led by the POW Hermann Hansen. Besides those, many smaller musical groups and choirs existed, leading to a busy musical scene with at least one concert in any given week. During the time the camp was open, more than 100 concerts and musical performances were organized with more than 300 differents songs, symphonies and musical pieces performed.

Engel Orchestra  Tokushima Orchestra with Choir
 ▲Engel Orchestra            ▲Tokushima Orchestra with Choir

June 1st, 1918 - Day of the first performance of the "Ninth" in Asia

It was the first day of June 1918 when the Tokushima Orchestra, lead by Hermann Hansen, performed Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" for the first time in Asia in full length.

Unfortunately, the local population of Bando was not able to witness this concert since it was performed within the confines of the POW camp. However, it is said that Yorisada Tokugawa, descendant from the former ruling familiy, and Japanese patron of European music who worked hard to increase its popularity inbetween the wars, visited the camp to listen to the music performed by the German POWs. He was apparently quite impressed by what he heard.

It is quite exceptional how, in the middle of a war, the German POWs performed the "Ninth", with its universal message of peace and humanity, exemplified in its famous line of "all men become brothers", but also how this spirit is embodied by the German POWs, the Japanese staff of the camp and the local population who choose to work together and overcome cultural differences.

Program for the concert performance of the "Ninth"
 ▲Program for the concert performance of the "Ninth"

Outbreak of World War II

The end of the model Bando POW camp came some time after the end of World War I in April 1920. When the German soldiers could finally return home, some of the local population was sad seeing them leave. After the POWs went home, only the barracks and the cenotaph built to honor the memory of their fallen comrades during inprisonment were left standing.

For a while, local youth looked after the cenotaph, but with the outbreak of World War II in 1939, memories about the Japanese-German friendly exchange that happened in the Bando POW camp, exemplified by the first performance of the "Ninth" in Asia, faded away slowly.

lllustration about the farewell from the POW camp
 ▲lllustration about the farewell from the POW camp

Friendship between Naruto and Germany - rediscovered by one citizen

In the aftermath of World War II, many Japanese who had lived in the former empire's colonies returned to Japan. To accomodate some of those people, the former POW camp grounds were used as temporary housing.

Among those was also a woman named Harue Takahashi. While looking for firewood in the mountains, she happened to find what she believed to be a gravestone, hidden among the shadow of a tree and engraved with strange letters. After clearing the area and cleaning the stone, she learned that the stone was built by German soldiers during World War I who were held in Japan as POWs to commemmorate their fallen comrades. Harue could relate to their experience, as she herself had experienced leaving behind a family grave on the Korean peninsula and therefore knew what it felt like to not be able to return home after having died in a far away place. She decided to watch over the stone, to clean it regularily and bring flowers.

Harue Takahashi
 ▲Harue Takahashi

Revivial of the Exchange

After spending some time in Russian war imprisonment in Siberia, Harue's husband, Toshiharu Takahashi, came back to Japan in 1948 and he joined his wife in taking care of the cenotaph. In their efforts, they were also aided by other people of their community.

Their commitment was even picked up by the local press, who ran an article about the Takahashi family in October of 1960. This article even reached the German diplomatic mission in Japan, and quite impressed by those efforts, the German Ambassador to Japan and the consul General from Kobe visited Naruto City which marked the second beginning of Japanese-German exchange in Naruto after 40 years.

After that, letters from former POWs who spent time in Bando and donations from Germany arrived in Naruto City. In 1963, a memorial service was held in front of the cenotaph and in the following year of 1964. Harue Takahashi even received an official accolade by the Federal Republic of Germany.

These developments led to more and more financial, but also material donations from Japan and Germany by former POWs and their families, so that in 1972, Naruto City opened the so-called "Naruto German House" as a base for local exchange between Germany and Japan. The "German House" would fulfill this role for more than 20 years to come.

Last, but not least, in April 1974, Naruto City entered into a sister-city relationship with the German city of Lüneburg. Since then, citizens of both cities have visited each other in annual rotation.

Former German House  Signing the sister-city relationship treaty with Lüneburg City
 ▲Former German House        ▲Signing the sister-city relationship treaty with Lüneburg City

First performance of Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" by citizens of Naruto City

For the opening of Naruto City's big Culture Hall in 1982, citizens of Naruto banded to together to perform Beethoven's "Ninth". This choir of 377 people performed this "peace symphony" almost 70 years after its first performance in all of Asia.

Among the audience was also an official delegation from Lüneburg City, including the mayor. Even a letter with congratulations from Germany, sent by Herbert von Karajan, long-time head of the Berlin Philharmonica Orchestra.

1st Concert of Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony"
 ▲1st Concert of Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony"

Building a new Naruto German House

To better present and exhibit the increasing amount of historic material and items from the Bando POW camp, Naruto City decided to built a new German House that was finished in 1993. To celebrate the opening, a big festival was held, called "Deutsches Fest in Naruto". Its main event was an open-air performance of Beethoven's "Ninth" in front of the new building as the 13th concert in the city. An official delegation from Lüneburg City with 20 people and the mayor as head of the delegation joined the festivities, as they had come to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the sister-city relationship. They even joined this performance without borders that could boost an audience of more than 1.500 people.

13th Concert of Beethoven's "Ninth" in front of the German House
 ▲13th Concert of Beethoven's "Ninth" in front of the German House

"Naruto-Daiku - Naruto's Ninth" spreads into the world

Since then, the "Ninth" has been performed in various ways in Naruto City. As important performances one certainly can mention the one under the direction of famous conductor Seiji Ozawa in 1998 or the "back to the roots" performance in the same year where all parts in the orchestra, the choir and the soloists were men.

Other famous conductors include Ken'ichiro Kobayashi (2000), Norichika Iimori (2006) and Tomomi Nishimoto (2008).

With those and other conductors, many performances of the "Ninth" could be organized in Naruto City, but some of the biggest projects were certainly the "Homecoming of the Ninth Concerts" that were held in Germany, specifically in the sister-city Lüneburg, but also in the German city of Braunschweig. The Japanese citizen choir from Naruto City even went to the Chinese city of Qingdao, where the German soldiers used to be before coming to Japan as POWs.

27th Concert of Beethoven's "Ninth" under conductor Tomomi Nishimoto  Tomomi Nishimoto
 ▲27th Concert of Beethoven's "Ninth" under conductor Tomomi Nishimoto

The first "Homecoming of the Ninth" concert was performed in the theatre of Lüneburg City in 2001 by a choir made up of 67 members of the "Association to Sing the Ninth" from Naruto, 25 members of the "National Association to Sing the Ninth" and 20 singers from Lüneburg. Besides singing the famous "Ode to Joy", this choir also performed Japanese songs like "Sakura Sakura", "Kojo no Tsuki" and "Iya no Konahiki Uta". 52 children and grandchildren of former German POWs were invited and joined an exchange event to strengthen the friendship after the performance.

In the following year of 2002, the conductor Urs-Michael Theus and the sopranist Almuth Marianne Kroll were invited to Naruto to join the annual performance of the "Ninth" as part of continuing the Japanese-German friendship.

The choir sings Japanese songs
 ▲The choir sings Japanese songs

A choir member meets the descendant of a former German POW
 ▲A choir member meets the descendant of a former German POW

The 2nd "Homecoming of the Ninth" concert in the Brunswick Cathredal was made possible after an invite from the local government after seeing the success of the first concert.

An exchange event was held before the actual performance where all participants joined in a silent prayer towards the recently deceased Harue Takahashi, who had spent all her life taking care of the cenotaph built by the German POWs. This was followed by a presentation showing original pictures of life in the Bando POW camp, which was met with a lot of interest by their attending descendants. In turn, Naruto City received a lot of new material like pictures, photo albums and event programms from the time of the POW camp.

During the 2nd "Homecoming of the Ninth" concert
 ▲During the 2nd "Homecoming of the Ninth" concert

The 3rd "Homecoming of the Ninth" concert was held in 2008. As the year of the 90th anniversary of the first performance of the "Ninth" in Asia, choir members from Naruto City and Lüneburg City travelled to the Chinese city of Qingdao to join local singers in a trilateral performance of Beethoven's famous symphony. During the concert, Chinese folks songs like "Mo Li Hua", Händel's "Water Music" or the Japanese "Sakura Sakura" were performed as well. The highlight of the evening, which was witnessed by about 1.400 guests, the "Ninth" was met with a standing ovation by the audience.

At the 3rd "Homecoming of the Ninth" concert
 ▲At the 3rd "Homecoming of the Ninth" concert

2018 - The Year of 100th Anniversary of the First Performance of the "Ninth" in Asia

This, in short, is the history of how Beethoven's "Ninth" has developed its own traditions in Naruto City, as "Naruto-Daiku - Naruto's Ninth", whose performances can boast a choir of about 600 people every year, from both inside and outside of Japan. "Naruto-Daiku" has gained national recognition, for example during the National Culture Festivals in Tokushima Prefecture in 2007 and 2012 where the "Ninth" as "Naruto-Daiku" was declared one of the big four motifs of Tokushima culture and is nowadays not only celebrated by Naruto City as part of their musical culture, but by the prefecture as a whole.

To widen this appeal of "Naruto-Daiku - Naruto's Ninth", the "Promotional Council on Branding 'Naruto's Ninth'" was established in December of 2013, formed with representatives from the private economy, educational institutions, the civil service and private citizens. Their goal is to increase the knowledge about the history of "Naruto-Daiku - Naruto's Ninth" and the Bando POW camp, where Beethoven's "Ninth" was first performed in Asia, as a quasi-embodied of what this symphony is about.

In 2018, 100 years will have passed after the first performance of the "Ninth" in Asia. "Naruto-Daiku -Naruto's Ninth" aims to celebrate this event and aims to spread the word about the greatness that is the "Ninth".

Every year, more people join the choir singing Beethoven's "Ninth" (during the 33rd performance)
 ▲Every year, more people join the choir singing Beethoven's "Ninth" (during the 33rd performance)

Do you want to support the "Promotional Council on Branding 'Naruto's Ninth'"?

The City of Naruto has established a Support Fund for "Naruto-Daiku" and is welcoming contributions. "Naruto-Daiku" aims to spread the message of humanity and peace inherent in the "Ninth" into the world. We are looking forward to your support and cooperation.

Website of the Support Fund to Promote "Naruto's Ninth"(only in Japanese)