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Fussa Fire Department personnel put on an acrobatic demonstration on top of a ladder during last year’s Japanese Culture Festival, which attracted nearly 4,000 people. Yokota officials hope to achieve the same turnout this year.

Fussa Fire Department personnel put on an acrobatic demonstration on top of a ladder during last year’s Japanese Culture Festival, which attracted nearly 4,000 people. Yokota officials hope to achieve the same turnout this year. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Officials here are staging their 3rd annual Japanese Culture Day on Friday in Hangar 15 near the Yokota flight line.

Planners predicted a big turnout; about 4,000 base residents took part in last year’s event. Martial-arts demonstrations, classic Japanese dances and musical performances are among host-nation traditions to be showcased from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“It’s a way for us to bring some Japanese culture to Yokota Air Base,” said 1st Lt. Martie Fredericks, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron, who helped organize the 2005 effort. “For those people who are uncomfortable about traveling off base or might not be able to get off as much because they don’t have the opportunities, we’re bringing it to them for one day.”

More than 400 Japanese entertainers have been lined up for the day. They were provided at no expense to the base by the Mizuho-Yokota Friendship Club, Fussa-Yokota Goodwill Exchange Club and Akiruno-Yokota Friendship Club.

Mayors from the six cities surrounding Yokota will be among VIPs to attend.

A huge attraction, in more ways than one, is to unfold on the outside stage at 2 p.m. when Yokota’s chief master sergeants square off against the base’s colonels in a “Chiefs vs. Eagles” sumo match. Each competitor will be fitted in a special suit designed to enhance girth.

Vendors in concession stands will sell food, gifts and other paraphernalia. Culture Day visitors also may take part in a kimono show.

“It’s an alternate duty location that day for our military personnel,” said 1st Lt. Warren Comer, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman, adding that airmen who show up may wear civilian attire.

All necessary security precautions have been taken for performers and vendors, he said; parking arrangements and bus transportation also are in place.

In case of bad weather, martial-arts demonstrations will be inside Hangar 15.

“This gives us as Americans the chance to make new friends and see the love (Japanese) have for their culture,” said lead project officer Maj. Ricardo Young, 374th Mission Support Squadron operations director. “I learn something every time I get to do something like this. You can see the love Japanese people have for others.

“Some Americans can learn patience, benevolence and things about just giving. When Americans give, they often expect something in return. I’ve never been able to out-give a Japanese friend. They’re really big on hospitality.”

Col. Ken Wavering, the former vice commander of the 374th Airlift Wing, launched Japanese Culture Day at Yokota in 2003. He took a cue from Yokota West Elementary School, which celebrates a Japanese festival, or Nihon Matsuri, each year.

In exchange for the free entertainment offered by the off-base friendship clubs, Yokota officials are throwing an American-style barbecue for the performers.

“This will certainly be an every-year event,” Fredericks said. “This is a forum that brings the best of Yokota Air Base to the table, and manifests into one of the most popular events we have to offer.”

Things to do ...

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Here’s the schedule of events for Friday’s 3rd annual Japanese Culture Day:

INDOOR STAGE

10 a.m.: Opening: National anthems by Bamboo Flute

10:10 a.m.: Opening comments and welcome by Col. Mark Schissler, 374th Airlift Wing commander

10:15 a.m.: Distinguished visitors introduction

10:20-10:45 a.m.: Yokota Samurai Taiko Team and Hachioji Jinba Daiko

10:50 a.m.: Sword Dance & Song (Mizuho-Yokota Friendship Association)

11 a.m.: Taisho Koto (Taisho Era Japanese Harp)

11:20 a.m.: Sumo talk (Q&A session)

11:40 a.m.: Nihon Buyo (Japanese Classic Dance)

11:45 a.m.: Minyo (folk song by Fussa-Yokota Friendship Club)

1:30 p.m.: Kimono Show

1:50 p.m.: New Japanese Dance

2:30 p.m.: Taisho Koto

2:45 p.m.: Karajishi Dance and Drums

3 p.m.: Shakuhachi in Komuso (Akiruno-Yokota Friendship Club)

3:30 p.m.: Tsugaru Shamisen

3:45 p.m.: Yasukibushi

4 p.m.: Bushu Karajishi Daiko

4:20 p.m.: Closing remarks by Schissler

4:25 p.m.: National anthems (Bamboo Flute)

OUTSIDE STAGE (MARTIAL-ARTS DEMONSTRATION)

Noon: Sumo

12:30 p.m.: Kendo (Yokota Kendo Club)

12:50 p.m.: Judo from Mizuho

1:10 p.m.: Karate from Mizuho

1:30 p.m.: Aikido (Ms. Fujitani and Mr. Lewallen)

1:50 p.m.: Kendo Kata (Yokota Kendo Club)

2 p.m.: Chief/Leadership Sumo Championship

4 p.m.: Kendo

DISPLAY AND OTHER OUTSIDE EVENTS

Origami, Sumie, Kimono, Ikebana, tea ceremony, calligraphy, Mochi pounding, Ohayashi (festival dance and drums) and Rikisha (two-wheeled people carrier).

UNIFORM OF THE DAY

Civilian attire for culture day visitors; battle-dress uniform for servicemembers who opt to remain at work.

HOW TO GET THERE

The event takes place in Hangar 15 near the Yokota flightline. Parking is extremely limited, so organizers recommend using the Kanto Express, which will run every 15 minutes along modified routes from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Pickup points include the west housing parking lot next to Building 1296, the parking lot near the 730th Air Mobility Squadron’s maintenance facility, the Yokota Community Center’s Kanto Express bus stop and base theater parking lot on the east side. The base shuttle will resume normal operations at 6 p.m.


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