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Poor Shimane Prefecture doesn’t exactly get a lot of respect. Despite being home to cultural sites like Izumo Shrine and Matsue Castle, ironically one of the prefecture’s biggest claims to fame is that many people living elsewhere in Japan mix up Shimane and Tottori, its neighbor to the east, when looking at a map of the country.

Recently, though, Shimane is getting some much needed attention, thanks to a group of amazing students at its Ota Dai-san Junior High School. Like many middle schools in Japan, Ota Dai-san has an orchestra. And like a few schools, its orchestra has won awards. But what makes Ota Dai-san’s orchestra completely unique is that it has only eight members, who rotate between instruments in mid-performance.

Ota City is located in a particularly rural part of Shimane, a sparsely-populated prefecture to begin with, with Ota Dai-san Junior High School situated at the end of a winding road in the mountains. The combined result of these demographic and geographic factors is extremely low-enrollment at the school, which has a mere 30 students across its three grades.

Of course, only a certain percentage of students at any given school are going to be interested in learning to play an instrument, and Ota Dai-san’s orchestra boasts only eight members (two seventh graders, two eighth graders, and four ninth graders).

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It turns out that’s all you need, however, when your musicians are so hard-working and talented that they can each play multiple instruments, even in the same piece.

With the exception of the clarinet player to the conductor’s left, each member of the orchestra switches off from one instrument to the next as the song, “Ikaruga no Sora,” demands. Note the variety of instruments stashed within arm’s reach of the saxophone player.

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Some instruments are too bulky to shift around the stage, however, and the group’s percussionists can often be seen scurrying about the stage, such as this musician doing double duty on the drums and xylophone.

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To those without the trained ear to critically evaluate music, rest assured that Ota Dai-san’s performance is just as impressive for how it sounds as how it’s produced. The school’s orchestra was recently selected to compete at the Western Japan regional music competition for the seventh consecutive year. This year’s event was held on August 25 in Okayama Prefecture’s Kurashiki City, where the musicians from Ota Dai-san were awarded both first prize in the short performance category and an additional special award from the judges.

▼ Ota Dai-san’s orchestra performing in 2012, with slightly more members than the group has now

Aside from their admiration, the judges expressed their regret that as there is currently no national-level short performance competition, making the regional competition the largest stage Ota Dai-san’s orchestra will perform live on.

Thankfully, though, with these videos not just the rest of the country, but the rest of the world can see just how incredible these young musicians are, giving the citizens of Japan’s most forgotten prefecture reason to hold their heads a little higher.

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Sources: YouTube, TM Blog
Top image: YouTube
Insert images: TM Blog