Story and photos by Greg Mitchell
Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka opened its gates to neighbors, guests and friends as a part of the 2014 Yokosuka Base Friendship Day festivities, Aug. 2.
Approximately 40,000 guests braved the sweltering heat and humidity last Saturday to take part in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), Friendship Day festivities designed to promote friendly relations between the United States and its Japanese neighbors here in Yokosuka and surrounding areas.
“Thank you all very much for coming, and welcome to Friendship Day,” said Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka Capt. David T. Glenister who kicked off the day’s festivities accompanied by Yokosuka’s Mayor Yuto Yoshida.
“I would like to thank Mayor Yoshida and the city of Yokosuka for their outstanding support that they give us to hold this event. Without it, we could not hold events such as these.”
Glenister spoke of the close bond that has been developed between both nations over the years.
“It is that partnership that we have between the base and the city that makes our relationship so special; be it events like these – community events, cultural events out in town – the ability for us to spend dollars or yen and all these things that just remind us that this is our home town and we are part of the city of Yokosuka.”
Mayor Yoshida followed up the captains’ speech with his own greeting of guests.
“Welcome to the 12th annual Yokosuka Kaikokusai Festival,” said Yoshida. “This event began in 2003 as part of the 150th anniversary of the landing of Commodore Perry. Last year, around 70,000 people came from near and far to attend this festival.” Yoshida added that Friendship day has become the key representative event between FLEACT and Yokosuka.
Friendship Day had something for everyone from ship tours of the USS Fitzgerald (DDG62), bouncy houses for the kids, boat rides in Green Bay Marina and a host of street vendors selling everything from staple foods such as hamburgers and hotdogs to turkey legs and nachos.
Shade was at a premium for this year’s event which saw nearly every square foot of Kosano Park filled with guests attempting to stay cool in the summer heat and to stake a prime viewing spot for the fireworks show that closed out the day’s activities.
“I actually live closer to Yokota Air Base, but I came out here this time for this event,” said Kenji Uehara, of Tokyo prefecture. “I like to come to Yokosuka open base because Yokosuka is a scenic place and also because Yokosuka bases’ BBQ always tastes great! Being around American culture is very interesting to me. I am really enjoying my time here.”
For those in attendance, the opportunity to spend time with their host nation guests was a humbling experience.
“Today is awesome. It’s really hot but all the kids really seem to be enjoying it,” said University of Iowa senior, Taryn Moyer
Moyer, an intern with the base’s Camp Adventure program, had never been to Japan prior to her current stay. She said that she has been awestruck by the experience.
Moyer said she loves Iowa but joked she’s not dying to go back.
“I just wish that people from there [could] experience it here because we get to travel every weekend. I have had the chance to do so many things. Last weekend I went bungee jumping and canyoning. I’ve gone to Tokyo… I’ve seen a lot of shrines and the Big Buddha in Kamakura.”
“Everyone looks to be so excited about being here. It’s really cool.”