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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — For the first time since Yokota began holding its annual Japanese Culture Day in 2003, the air base outside Tokyo won’t host the popular event this year.

“We just didn’t have time to plan it,” said Capt. Warren Comer, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman. The event, which has occurred on the last Friday of April and has drawn about 4,000 visitors a year, was canceled due to scheduling conflicts that overlapped March’s Operational Readiness Inspection by Pacific Air Forces.

“To put on a world-class cultural event with numerous organizations from off base,” Comer said, “you need time to plan.”

“With the ORI and other events happening on base that required our attention, we just did not have that this year.”

Culture Day likely will return in 2007, he added, and base officials are discussing the possibility of staging it every two years instead of annually.

“Culture Day every year doesn’t really hit people the way it should,” Comer said. “If we do it every other year, that gives it more meaning. The purpose is to inform people about Japanese culture and then they eventually go off base to see it firsthand. Most people are here on two- or three-year assignments, so they’ll at least get to see one Culture Day while they’re here.”

The attraction has featured various Japanese traditions such as martial-arts demonstrations, classic dances and musical performances. More than 400 Japanese entertainers appeared a year ago. Mayors from the six cities surrounding Yokota also attended.

Vendor booths offer food, games and concessions. On an outdoor stage, Yokota’s colonels and chief master sergeants usually lock up in a “Chiefs vs. Eagles” sumo match, each competitor fitted in a special suit designed to enhance girth.

Minus this year’s Culture Day, Comer said, alternatives are available through Yokota’s Outdoor Recreation department, Yujo Community Center and base tours office. Annual celebrations can be found all summer, including Fussa City’s Tanabata Festival and Yokota’s two-day Friendship Festival.

Yokota West Elementary School also hosts a Japanese festival, or Nihon Matsuri, each spring.

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