Subscribe
U.S. and Japanese servicemembers play beach volleyball Saturday as part of the Sasebo Chief Petty Officer Association’s 11th annual Friendship Day, a day of sports and community service.

U.S. and Japanese servicemembers play beach volleyball Saturday as part of the Sasebo Chief Petty Officer Association’s 11th annual Friendship Day, a day of sports and community service. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

U.S. and Japanese servicemembers play beach volleyball Saturday as part of the Sasebo Chief Petty Officer Association’s 11th annual Friendship Day, a day of sports and community service.

U.S. and Japanese servicemembers play beach volleyball Saturday as part of the Sasebo Chief Petty Officer Association’s 11th annual Friendship Day, a day of sports and community service. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

A Japanese servicemember pitches a horseshoe Saturday during Friendship Day.

A Japanese servicemember pitches a horseshoe Saturday during Friendship Day. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A new horseshoe pit at Nimitz Park helped save the day Saturday at the Sasebo Chief Petty Officer’s Association annual Friendship Day.

For the past 11 years, the event has brought together American and Japanese servicemembers for sports, food and a large-scale community cleanup campaign. But a soggy field curtailed some of the sports this year.

Senior Chief Petty Officer David Sobieck, with Commander Task Force 76, saw a new horseshoe pit and decided to bring along his horseshoes, much to the apparent delight of several Japanese guests.

Both the Navy chiefs and those from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force who share the base organized the event. Japanese servicemembers from nearby Ground Self-Defense Force bases also attended.

Sobieck, who’s been at Sasebo for 13 years, said the event gets bigger each year.

“It’s a good way to build relations with the Japanese Navy and their families,” he said.

With all of Sasebo’s U.S. ships at sea, there were fewer Americans than in previous years, he said. Organizers estimated about 50 Americans and about 200 Japanese attended.

Each year the day kicks off with a community cleanup. This year more than 200 people picked up trash in and around the park.

Then it was time for sports, including soccer and beach volleyball and the increasingly popular horseshoes. It wrapped up with a feast: Japanese yakisoba (fried Japanese noodles), thanks to the JMSDF, and from the Americans plenty of burgers and hot dogs as well as a pig roast.

“We show them what American food is like,” said Sasebo’s Command Master Chief Marcos F. Sibal.

“It’s important for us to have this kind of relationship with these guys,” he said. “They’re the same guys we’d be in the battlefield with.”

Master Chief Petty Officer Shinichi Suzuki, president of the Sasebo JMSDF Chief Petty Officers Association, said the day helps raise understanding between U.S. and Japanese troops, particularly young ones who may not have met servicemembers from another country before.

“The young people want to talk to the other services,” he said. “It’s good to get them together … to create more deep understanding.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up