Story and photo by Paul Long, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
(YOKOHAMA, Japan) – More than 4,100 guests and neighbors of Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka’s Yokohama Detachment, known as Negishi, attended the Navy housing area’s 49th annual Bon Odori festival held Aug. 16.
“This event is truly a combination of the people of Yokohama, Negishi, and Fleet Activities, Yokosuka,” said Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Capt. David Glenister, during his opening remarks to begin the day’s events.
“Everything is truly a cultural combination and we get to interact as both the people who put on the festival and the people who get to enjoy the festival.”
“These are very important events for us,” he continued. “It’s our chance to learn more about [Japanese] culture, and to show our gratitude and appreciation that our host nation of Japan shows us every day.”
“Personally, I look forward to this festival every year,” said Isogo Ward Director General, Muraji Sakamoto. Isogo ward is the home for the Negishi complex. “Through events like this, Japanese and Americans can share and understand their cultures and mutual trust is built between us.”
Festival attendees were treated to a mixture of Japanese and American cuisine, provided by local vendors, Navy Exchange and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) concessionaires, and several Yokosuka-based community groups.
Seventh Fleet Band’s Orient Express, MWR’s Admiral’s Band, and the Sagami Dragon Drummers provided the musical entertainment for the festival. MWR also provided game tents and inflatable rides for smaller children.
“I’ve seen some traditional dancing and drumming which I’ve never seen before,” said James Heller, a new resident to Japan from England, who had learned about the festival from a co-worker.
“It’s been amazing!”
Bon Odori is a Japanese Buddhist folk dance performed outdoors and danced in concentric circles around a raised platform called a Yagura. Late July and early August is the time when Japanese honor their ancestors with Obon festivals and Bon Odori (Bon Dances). The festival’s origins date back to 657 AD.