Foul weather fails to deter crowds from Marine air station’s open house in Japan
Stars and Stripes April 17, 2023
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – A rainy day dampened but failed to deter crowds from the first open house at this air base south of Hiroshima since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Approximately 62,000 people attended the 44th Friendship Day on Saturday at MCAS Iwakuni, base spokesman Maj. Gerard Farao told Stars and Stripes by email Monday. That figure is less than half the estimated 165,000 who visited the last open house in 2019.
Morning rain canceled some aerial demonstrations and pushed others into the early afternoon, including flights by a Japanese aerobatic team in an EA300 and a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II.
Despite the weather, spectators watched the Pacific Air Forces F-16 Demonstration Team and a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet flyover. But the headliner, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force demonstration team, Blue Impulse, did not make it off the ground. A crowd gathered in anticipation as the Blue Impulse taxied their Kawasaki T-4 jets along the runway, only to see the jets backtrack to their flightline parking spots.
“While the weather may not have been exactly what we wanted, and there had to be a few adjustments made to the schedule, it was great to see the smiles on everyone’s faces,” Col. Richard Rusnok, the base commander, said in post Sunday on the base’s official Facebook page.
The event was jointly hosted by Fleet Air Wing 31 of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, U.S. Navy Carrier Air Wing 5 and the Marine Corps’ Marine Aircraft Group 12.
One visitor who attended previous open houses noticed an improvement in collaboration.
“This one is a markup. I’ve seen a lot more cohesiveness between the forces,” John Watson, 63, a Canadian living near Takamatsu, Japan, told Stars and Stripes at the event. “The personnel were amazing today; they answered a lot of dumb questions I had because I don’t know anything about airplanes.”
The open house typically provides a once-a-year opportunity for Japanese citizens and civilians to walk on the Iwakuni flight line, view military aircraft up close and interact with the U.S. population at souvenir stands, static aircraft displays and food stalls.
This year, a large assortment of aircraft and terrestrial vehicles were on display. In addition to the F-35B, the Marines showed their MV-22 Osprey and KC-130J Super Hercules; the Navy brought its F/A-18 Super Hornet, E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound; and the Maritime Self-Defense Force displayed its F-16, ShinMaywa US-2 amphibious aircraft and P-3 Orion surveillance and anti-submarine patrol plane.
“It’s also cool for me to see the Japanese side, [because] I don’t deal a lot with the Japanese side,” 1st Lt. Matthew Stevenson, 30, of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, said at the event.
Dennis Bowers, 8, son of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Dennis Bowers Jr., said he most enjoyed “looking at the planes and taking pictures of them.”