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The crowd watches Blue Impulse, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's precision flight team, at Iruma Air Base, Japan, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.
The crowd watches Blue Impulse, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's precision flight team, at Iruma Air Base, Japan, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (Theron Godbold/Stars and Stripes)

IRUMA AIR BASE, Japan — Japanese warplanes showed off in the skies close to the home of U.S. Forces Japan over the weekend during an air show at nearby Iruma Air Base.

The annual event, which attracted nearly 200,000 visitors, is held each year on Nov. 3 to mark a Japanese holiday known as Culture Day.

Visitors to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force base could clamber onto different types of aircraft, listen to a military band and drum troupe and sample food from dozens of vendors.

The stars of the show, however, were in the air.

Crowds watched the military planes taxi, take off and land. A parachutist team jumped from a Kawasaki C-1 cargo jet and gracefully floated onto a base that once launched kamikaze pilots on one-way flights. The only surviving example of an Ouka rocket-powered suicide glider can even be found in the base’s museum.

Blue Impulse, the JASDF’s precision flight team, drew top billing. The squadron’s pilots guided their Kawasaki T-4 jet trainers through precise acrobatics in tight formation during a 35-minute demonstration, delighting the crowd below.

The air show coincided with the largest Keen Sword exercise to date, with an estimated 47,000 Japanese troops committed to the bilateral U.S.-Japan exercise, which began last week and ends Friday.

cook.leon@stripes.comTwitter: @LeonCook12

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