Airmen from the 374th Maintenance Group and Japanese citizens of Mizuho city pose inside city hall in western Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 14.

Airmen from the 374th Maintenance Group and Japanese citizens of Mizuho city pose inside city hall in western Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 14. (Juan King/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen at this airlift hub are collecting toys, clothes and books until Wednesday for distribution to Japanese orphanages in western Tokyo.

The 374th Medical Group public health and mental health sections at Yokota Air Base, are taking donations of toys and other items for delivery until Wednesday, community health section chief Staff Sgt. Davin Alviento told Stars and Stripes by email Friday.

About six airmen from the group plan to deliver gifts to the Shisei-Gakusha orphanage in Tachikawa, approximately six miles south of the base.

“We feel honored that we can give back to the community and spread some holiday spirit during this time of the year to the children of Shisei-Gakusha,” Alviento said. “Our Public Health flight is all about spreading positivity to others and it’s our pleasure to continue this tradition every Christmas!”

Through collaboration with the city of Mizuho, airmen from the 374th Maintenance Group have delivered gifts for the past three years, according to maintenance commander Col. Michael Campos. 

The maintenance group held a toy drive on base and delivered the donations on Thursday to the neighboring city.

“The bond that we have with the friendship association from Mizuho is phenomenal; they are always allowing us to participate in aspects of their culture, which is great when you are overseas,” Campos told Stars and Stripes in Mizuho.

“For us to be able to provide a little bit of our culture during the Christmas season, a period of friendship and gift-giving and it gives back to the community, we are definitely happy to do this,” he said.

Orphanages, including one in Mizuho, benefit annually from visits by units from the air base. Approximately 300 items were donated so far this year, including electronic toys, cameras, tableware, sporting goods, mini cars and books, base spokeswoman Sayano Fukuoka told Stars and Stripes by email Thursday.

The collaboration between the base and Mizuho has been special to one resident of that Japanese community.

“They (airmen) are so friendly, they are all gentlemen and ladies and I just want to say thank you very much and the kids in this town will be very happy,” Mizuho-Yokota Friendship Association member Emiko Yamazaki told Stars and Stripes during the toy drive.

Units at the base who have partnerships in the local communities can organize these toy drives any time.

“Units do not need to go through us unless it’s an official base event,” Yokota spokeswoman Kaori Matsukasa said by email Thursday.

Mizuho Mayor Hiroyuki Sugiura was glad for the visit and appreciated the donations.

“All the gifts from you will make all the kids happy,” Sugiura said.

Items for infants to young adults can be brought to the base hospital and dropped off in those areas or at the United Services Organization’s lobby until Wednesday. For more information call 225-5311.

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Juan King is a reporter, photographer and web editor at Yokota Air Base, Japan. He joined the U.S. Navy in 2004 and has been assigned to Stars and Stripes since 2021. His previous assignments have taken him to Afghanistan, Bahrain, Guam and Japan.

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