Many attendees play the “Ichifuna Soul” song at the funeral of Taigi Asano, who wrote the musical piece. (From the DVD provided by Taigi Asano’s bereaved family)

FUNABASHI, Chiba Prefecture--The song “Ichifuna Soul” revives and encourages the spirits of students at Funabashi Municipal High School.

The lively heart-warming tune, created by student Taigi Asano, is played by the brass band club when the school’s sports teams are in action.

"Ichifuna" is the nickname for the school.

Its composer, however, died at the tender age of 20 earlier this year.

A few years ago, Asano asked Kenichi Takahashi, 56, a teacher at the school, to allow him to write a musical score just before his graduation.

Asano played a trombone and liked to be the center of attention. He graduated from the high school in March 2014.

When Asano asked, “Please let me create an original piece,” Takahashi replied, “I will adopt your song if it appears well-done.”

In the early summer of the year when he started studying at a music college, Asano visited Takahashi at Ichifuna and showed him four sheets of music.

After spreading out the score on a desk, Takahashi said “this is too long” and began touching up the score with a pen.

“Ichifuna Soul” later started to be played by Asano’s juniors at the school’s sports matches.

One day in the summer of the following year, Asano felt nauseous and became unable to stop coughing when returning home from a barbecue party.

A doctor, after a detailed examination, told him that “there is a tumor in the chest.”

He had surgery and received anticancer drugs for six months, and Asano was discharged from the hospital in April last year.

But in May another tumor was found in his brain, forcing him to stay at the hospital for many more weeks until the therapy was completed. Asano finally returned home in July.

While Asano was combating cancer, Ichifuna’s baseball team made it to the final four in the Chiba regional tournament for the National High School Baseball Championships, known as Koshien.

In the semifinal, there was one out in the bottom of the sixth inning and the bases were loaded with the score tied. An Ichifuna batter hit a bases-clearing triple with “Ichifuna Soul” blaring in the background.

Under the scorching summer sun, Asano, wearing a knit cap, was playing a trombone in the cheering section of the stadium.

While his friends were worried about his health, Asano said with an embarrassed smile, “I am happy that my song is played.”

In the final, “Ichifuna Soul” also led to a run-scoring hit in the bottom of the sixth to tie the score, when Ichifuna’s baseball team had been down two runs. Asano was also performing while standing.

But Ichifuna finally lost the game after the opposing team scored a run in the last inning, and was unable to qualify to compete in Koshien.

A month later, Asano lost consciousness while suffering a convulsion. An examination showed a tumor had developed again in his brain.

But Asano did not complain in front of his family and friends.

“Even if I die, my music will continue living on,” Asano told his girlfriend in December in a message through the Line social networking service.

Asano gradually became unable to move his body and his eyesight and hearing weakened.

His life ended at age 20 on Jan. 12 this year.

ENSEMBLE AT FUNERAL

After Asano’s death, Takahashi suggested performing music at his funeral, saying, “Let’s perform at the funeral service for Taigi.”

Yuna Kawakami, 21, who is just about the same age as Asano and once headed the school’s brass band club, contacted former club members, so that she could have those who can still play their instruments gather.

Two days before the farewell ceremony, more than 100 people came to the school for practice.

Kawakami talked to them in the stillness of the night.

“I want to see off Taigi with the best performance,” she said.

Some of the former club members who gathered that day had never met, as their ages are significantly different.

When they finished the day’s practice and left the school, midnight had already rolled around.

On the day of the ceremony, many people in mourning clothes visited the funeral venue with musical instruments. Those 164 performers included a hairdresser who took the day off and the mother of a 1-year-old child who had her parents babysit.

A memorial photo of Asano and his trombone were placed on the altar.

Takahashi began wielding a baton before many former students with instruments around the white coffin.

The special brass band played a succession of pieces they practiced during their student days together.

The last tune was, of course, “Ichifuna Soul.”

“This was composed by Taigi,” said Takahashi. “Let’s start!”

The lively melody began blaring at the funeral site. A woman playing a trumpet had tears running down her cheeks.

Although the athlete’s name is usually shouted out during the song at sporting events, the attendees repeatedly called the name of its composer in the day’s performance.

A banner made by the school was also hoisted at the site, reading, “To Mr. Taigi Asano, ‘Ichifuna Soul’ is eternal.”