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Judith Nunez, left, enjoys the judo demonstration with her son Ethan, 6, at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base.
Judith Nunez, left, enjoys the judo demonstration with her son Ethan, 6, at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base. (Jim Schulz / S&S)
Judith Nunez, left, enjoys the judo demonstration with her son Ethan, 6, at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base.
Judith Nunez, left, enjoys the judo demonstration with her son Ethan, 6, at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base. (Jim Schulz / S&S)
1st Lt. Wilhem Perez of the 374th Operations Support Squadron tries his hand at India ink painting at the Japanese Culture Festive at Yokota Air Base.
1st Lt. Wilhem Perez of the 374th Operations Support Squadron tries his hand at India ink painting at the Japanese Culture Festive at Yokota Air Base. (Jim Schulz / S&S)
Amy Harada, right, 7, and her brother Ken, 6, watch as candy is made at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base on Friday.
Amy Harada, right, 7, and her brother Ken, 6, watch as candy is made at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base on Friday. (Jim Schulz / S&S)
Chief Master Sgt. Paul Rano, center, of the 20th Operational Weather Squadron puts on a sumo suit for a match at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base.
Chief Master Sgt. Paul Rano, center, of the 20th Operational Weather Squadron puts on a sumo suit for a match at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base. (Jim Schulz / S&S)
Fussa Fire Department personnel put on an acrobatic demonstration on top of a ladder at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base.
Fussa Fire Department personnel put on an acrobatic demonstration on top of a ladder at the Japanese Culture Festival at Yokota Air Base. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Base residents and Japanese employees gathered Friday to experience a day of Japanese culture.

About 5,000 people gathered at Hangar 15 to learn more about Japan through “Japanese Culture Day.” Japanese performers danced, played music, gave martial arts demonsrations and served food.

The base commander authorized his personnel to attend the 2nd annual event.

“I don’t know how many people actually go off base to see Japanese culture, so I think it’s a good idea,” said Fitz Jaeger, while watching people paint.

Attendees viewed display booths featuring “bonsai” trees, copper items, “kimono,” and samurai swords — all with written English explainations. They posed for photos while wearing kimono and had their name written in Chinese characters.

“I enjoyed it,” said Jennifer Hicks, who tried water painting for the first time. “It’s a good way to see whole bunch of stuff.”

She said it was a good opportunity to experience the culture without having to leave the base.

Some artists gave performances with traditional instruments such as “taisho koto,” a Japanese harp, “taiko” drums and “tsugaru shamisen,” a Japanese guitar.

Judo, kendo and karate demonstrations were given, and people dressed in padded sumo suits to try the traditional sport.

A group of base residents also showed the Japanese visitors a taste of their own culture by giving a taiko drum performance.

The first Japanese Culture Day was held last year, at the insistance of Vice Commander, Air Force Col. Kenneth Wavering. He wanted to provide an opportunity to experience and learn Japanese culture, he said, because it’s very important to understand the host nation in order to build a better friendship.

“I’d love to do it again,” said Debra Crawford, who wore a kimono for the first time. She said she liked the candy craftsman who made candies shaped like animals since it is different from what you would find in the United States.

Her husband Johnathon said, “It wasn’t what I expected. It’s a lot better. The samurai swords were authentic. Usually what you see are manufactured ones.”

The day was not just a cultural experience for base residents. The Japanese visitors said they also learned from the day.

“I think it’s a good idea — and on the contrary, I don’t usually get to meet foreigners,” said Satomi Morishita, a Tachikawa city resident who was helping a tea ceremony.

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