Iwakuni readies for Friendship Day
From 175,000 to 225,000 people are expected to converge on Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in a few weeks for the base’s 2004 Friendship Day — even with enhanced force protection measures in place.
The major attractions, as in past years, are expected to be the array of U.S. and Japanese military planes and helicopters on display and the Friendship Day Air Show, with formations and maneuvers by top-of-the-line fighter jets, parachute teams and flying acrobats.
Heightened security, similar to that in place immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is planned for the May 5 event, said Maj. Jim Lukehart, 2004 Friendship Day coordinator.
“We certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from coming. We sincerely want lots of visitors to come, but they should expect delays caused by possible vehicle searches, as well as searches of bags carried on the base,” he said during an interview Wednesday.
“Personnel will be taking a special look at any vehicles entering the base. It’s going to be tight security. … We actually encourage people to take public transportation or walk,” he said.
“In addition, we also are reserving the right to deny entry to anyone.”
“World events” necessitated the heightened security, a base spokesman said last week. If the world situation further deteriorates, officials warned, the event could be canceled.
Events and activities planned, however, are much the same as those typically associated with the annual day, base officials said.
The Air Show is to begin about 10 a.m. and continue until approximately 4:30 p.m., with breaks between performances. Features are to include a Pacific Air Forces F-16 demonstration, U.S. F/A-18 and EA-6B Prowler jet fly-bys, US-1 and MH-53 aircraft flown by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel stationed in Iwakuni and Japan Air Self-Defense Force T-4 and F-15 jets.
Demonstrations by the Canadian Skyhawks and the all-female Misty Blues parachute team are scheduled. Air acrobatic performances by AiRock featuring Rock Iwasaki and Team Deep Blues also are slated.
Dozens of food booths are to be open; local and regional bands are to play throughout the day, Lukehart said.
People may enter the base on Friendship Day by foot or on city shuttle buses, group tour buses, ferries or personally-owned vehicles; all are subject to search.
Pedestrians may enter the Main Gate from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. The gate is approximately 1.25 miles from the JR Iwakuni Train Station — about a 45-minute walk for an adult.
Bicycles are not allowed but bicyclists may use the bicycle parking just outside the gate, then enter on foot. A city bus is to shuttle between the front of the JR Iwakuni Train Station to the front of the gate. Group tour buses may enter the base from 5:30 a.m. and will receive parking instructions. Passengers are asked to stay inside or near their buses until the events start at 9 a.m. Commercial ferries are to make scheduled runs for reserved groups.
Those who elect to drive on the base may do so through North, Contractor and C gates. The North and Contractor gates are to be open 5:30 a.m. through 1:30 p.m. and C Gate, 5:30 a.m. through 8:30 a.m. During these hours, the gates will be open for incoming traffic or until the parking areas are full.
In previous years, parking on base has filled by 9 a.m., officials note. Base officials said they’re also discouraging use of personal vehicles because of a lack of parking.
Visitors on motorcycles and mopeds may enter the Contractor Gate between 5:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Those entering early and are asked to stand by their vehicle until the events start at 9 a.m.
When the base parking is full, or at 1:30 p.m., whichever occurs first, no further vehicle traffic will be allowed to enter, base officials said. Shortly after 1:30 p.m., only outbound vehicle traffic and pedestrians will be allowed through all gates.
For more information about the 2004 Friendship Day, call DSN 253-4169 or 253-5115, or commercial number (0827) 21-4171, extension 253-4169 or 253-5115. Information also is available from the Iwakuni City base Affairs Office at (0827) 29-5024 or the Iwakuni City Sightseeing Section at (0827) 41-1477.