By Ryo Isobe, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan – Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) volunteers participated in Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka’s 23rd annual Spring Festival, an open base event held March 20, 2016.
This annual festival, featuring volunteer-run events and stands hosted by various commands and private organizations, is held by FLEACT Yokosuka to develop and deepen their friendship with their host country.
“Spring Festival is an opportunity for residents of the base and Japanese visitors to learn about each other,” said FLEACT Yokosuka Commanding Officer Capt. David T. Glenister during the opening ceremony, his remarks both in English and Japanese. “Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for the people in Yokosuka on base and off base to have fun together at this great event.”
The festival also included concerts, more than 40 booths selling American food and souvenirs and an opportunity to walk onboard USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54). The SRF-JRMC Welfare and Recreation Committee sponsored a booth selling hotdogs, t-shirts, caps, badges and Chief’s coins.
“It is a great opportunity for Japanese and Americans to strengthen our friendship and enjoy good food and entertainment,” said SRF-JRMC Commanding Officer Capt. Garrett Farman. “It is also good for our command’s American and Japanese employees to work together fundraising for contributions to the local community.”
More than 40 people from SRF-JRMC’s American and Japanese employees, including the command leaders, worked together to support the booth’s sales. Many Japanese visitors waited in line to taste authentic American food and purchase unique items.
“This is the first time I joined the command’s volunteer work,” said SRF-JRMC Master Labor Contract Manpower Division Office Automation Clerk Megumi Oota, an event volunteer at the command’s booth. “We sold out of Captain’s caps immediately after we opened. I was surprised caps were so popular with Japanese people. I also enjoyed working with people from different work sites than mine. I get to know people across the command.”
“It is nice for Japanese people to share this experience with us,” said Master Chief Engineman Michael O’Brien, another SRF-JRMC volunteer. “This is a good chance for them to get a ‘peek’ into the base.”
Approximately 47,000 Japanese visitors came to this distinctive event. The Yokosuka City Tourism Association organized the occasion jointly with FLEACT Yokosuka and the Yokosuka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, co-sponsored by Yokosuka City. This festival provides an opportunity for Japanese people to directly experience a U.S. base installed in Japan.
“It is amazing that so many people gathered here,” said Quality Assurance Office Automation Clerk Yukari Asami. It was Asami’s first time supporting the festival.
“Some said they came all the way from Saitama, and others came here by Hato bus [a long-established and famous organizer of bus tours],” said Asami.
In the spirit of friendship and community building, the command’s proceeds will be used on events like the Miura Shiratori-en – a local facility for the mentally and physically challenged – holiday party. “We are happy that we are able to give back to our community,” said Chief Electronics Technician Jonathan VanDenburg, who coordinated the command’s volunteer team for the festival. “We would like to continuously help those who are in need.”
Several other open base celebrations throughout Japan follow this occasion. U.S. Army Camp Zama held their Cherry Blossom Festival, April 2. Naval Air Facility Atsugi and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces Atsugi Air Base 2016 Spring Festival will be held April 30 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi.