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DOD budget woes force Iwakuni to cancel annual Friendship Day celebration

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni’s popular open-base event known as Friendship Day has been canceled this year due to sequestration.

The event was planned for May 5 at the air station, about 60 miles south of Hiroshima, but was canceled Tuesday for only the fourth time since its inception in 1973, Marine officials said. The last time was in 2011 after Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

“Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni wishes to extend its deepest regrets to the surrounding community that the air station will not hold a Friendship Day in 2013,” a Marine Corps statement said. “We look forward to continuing the spirit of friendship and cooperation as we support the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance.”

Over the years, Friendship Day has become one of the hottest tickets in town as the air station’s gates open to the public for a day of live music, entertainment, food and aircraft. It is one of the largest and most popular civilian outreach events held at U.S. bases in the region and often draws more than 250,000 people.

Signs that this year’s festivities were in jeopardy began to surface in March, when Marine officials announced the popular airshow had been canceled. They vowed to soldier on.

“Friendship Day is just one of the more than 370 community relations events in which members of MCAS Iwakuni participate each year,” the statement said.

news@stripes.com

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