Some important new discoveries were made during this past week regarding John William Fenton (b.1828), who formed what appears to have been Japan's very first band comprised of western musical instruments. Fenton arrived in Yokohama in 1868, just at the start of the Meiji era, where he founded bands and orchestras and even composed the first version of Kimigayo, Japan's national anthem. Over the next 140 years, Japan would enthusiastically embrace western music, eventually becoming a globally significant producer and consumer of European and American genres, ranging from classical to jazz, rock, and more. Until this week, however, the final chapter of Fenton's life had remained completely unknown to music scholars both within and outside of Japan. It was thought that after living in Japan, Fenton had settled somewhere in the rural midwestern United States, where he disappeared.
Suddenly, after more than a century of mystery, there are some new details. On June 16, I was contacted at my Boston University office by a thoughtful genealogical researcher in