Charlie Nagatani lives in Kumamoto, Japan, where he owns a country and western bar, sings country and western music in English, and only wears cowboy boots, cowboy belts, jeans and shirts. The exception to his dress code is in the summer, when he wears country music-themed T-shirts. Every autumn for 16 years now, Nagatani has hosted Country Gold, a country and western music festival, at Mount Aso - which has the world's largest active volcano crater - near Kumamoto. Country Gold features Nagatani and his band, as well as a variety of American country and western musicians who perform for Japanese fans, many of whom are dressed like cowboys. It's a far cry from the Charlie Nagatani who wanted to kill Americans 50 years ago. Back in January 1956, the then 19-year-old - like a lot of people in Japan after the second world war - hated Americans. Nagatani was nominally a student in Tokyo, but he spent his time playing pool in bars. In February 1956, Nagatani returned to his home town to show off his new Tokyo sophistication and to go to a 20th birthday party that a friend was throwing for him. The friend brought an American country and western band, the Hillbilly Jamboree, to play at the party. 'I didn't know the music at the time, but I was so impressed,' says Nagatani. 'So, I made up my mind to quit college and the leader asked me to join them. I went with them to US military bases, singing.' Nagatani met a lot of Americans in Kumamoto and at military bases in Japan, Guam, and the Philippines. He toured these bases during the Vietnam war, first with the Hillbilly Jamboree, then with other bands and finally with his own, Charlie Nagatani and the Cannonballs, which he started in 1961. 'I was 20 years old,' says Nagatani. 'But before that, I was thinking I should kill them [the Americans]. I was told that at the time. I was thinking that. But when the war was over, one army base was opened in Japan, and they were all over my town. 'They were very nice, kind, gentle. They were very different from what I had been told. So, I thought I had better learn English, and I studied English myself. 'A lot of good-hearted people are servicemen, and they really love my music.' Nagatani speaks in a rough English developed by singing in the foreign tongue seven nights a week, at the country and western bar called Good Time Charlie's that he opened in Kumamoto in 1976. 'Country music is so warm and the stories are so nice,' says Nagatani. 'When I translate into Japanese, people don't like it. So I sing country music in English. 'I like American people. Whether Democrat or Republican, I like. I like American people and American music.' Americans also love Charlie Nagatani. He is a regular at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry every year and has a host of country music awards, including the 2004 Jim Reeves Memorial Award from the Academy of Country Music for his part in promoting international acceptance of country music. Country Gold is Nagatani's opportunity to bring this love for American people and American music - and only American music; Charlie and the Cannonballs is the only Japanese act - to a large Japanese audience. 'This year, maybe 20,000 people will come to Country Gold - or more,' Nagatani says. 'It takes time, but getting better every year. Sixteen times from the start - over 400 people have come all 16 times. More people come.' The only trouble Country Gold has ever seen was meteorological, Nagatani says. 'Fifteen times, no rain,' he says. 'Only one time there was rain, in 2001. From morning till night it rained, but most people never left. They stayed and listened to the artists. I gave a message from the stage. I said, 'Welcome to Country Gold. I think the rain is teardrops from the people of New York'. And people stayed despite the conditions. 'In three more years, when it's the 20th Country Gold, if we can find the sponsors, it's my dream to bring country music from all over the world and have a one-week country music festival in Kumamoto. This would be really global peace.' This year's festival - which takes place tomorrow - features country trio Trick Pony, 13-year-old banjo player Ryan Holladay, and Grammy-winning Cajun musician Jo-El Sonnier. Sonnier is from Lake George, Louisiana, one of the places hardest hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Sonnier has been playing shows and looking for friends and relatives who have been lost because of the two hurricanes. Now Sonnier and his wife are staying in a fishing camp in Texas, near where Don Henley - of The Eagles - lives. 'I think it'll be a lot of fun,' says Sonnier of the festival. 'We're going to have some good music and some laughter and share our spirit. Life is good. With all the tragedy that's going on in the world, I think that's the whole thing. 'We know Katrina and we met Rita. And we're in the earlier stage of the hurricanes - the hurricanes come until November 30. Some we talked to cried like babies. Down in Lake Charles, none of our friends had gas. Few places had generators and the weather was very hot. 'Japan is a cool thing for us and I hope they'll embrace us with love. North, south, east, west, we're all just children of God,' Sonnier says. If you're going to Country Gold this year, be sure to pack some boots and an umbrella.