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Col. Sergio Vega Jr., 374th Airlift Wing vice commander, carries the wing mikoshi during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. The festival gave Yokota members an opportunity to build friendships with the local community while experiencing Japanese culture.
Col. Sergio Vega Jr., 374th Airlift Wing vice commander, carries the wing mikoshi during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. The festival gave Yokota members an opportunity to build friendships with the local community while experiencing Japanese culture. (Yasuo Osakabe/U.S. Air Force photo)
Col. Sergio Vega Jr., 374th Airlift Wing vice commander, carries the wing mikoshi during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. The festival gave Yokota members an opportunity to build friendships with the local community while experiencing Japanese culture.
Col. Sergio Vega Jr., 374th Airlift Wing vice commander, carries the wing mikoshi during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. The festival gave Yokota members an opportunity to build friendships with the local community while experiencing Japanese culture. (Yasuo Osakabe/U.S. Air Force photo)
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni residents perform the Bon Odori alongside Japanese locals during the Bon Odori festival at Kinjuen nursing home in Iwakuni, Japan, August 14, 2017, as part of a Cultural Adaptation trip.
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni residents perform the Bon Odori alongside Japanese locals during the Bon Odori festival at Kinjuen nursing home in Iwakuni, Japan, August 14, 2017, as part of a Cultural Adaptation trip. (Carlos Jimenez/U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Members from Yokota Air Base carry the wing mikoshi, or a portable shrine, during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Featival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017.
Members from Yokota Air Base carry the wing mikoshi, or a portable shrine, during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Featival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. (Yasuo Osakabe/U.S. Air Force photo)
Airmen from Yokota Air Base carry the wing mikoshi during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. The festival gave Yokota members an opportunity to build friendships with the local community while experiencing Japanese culture.
Airmen from Yokota Air Base carry the wing mikoshi during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. The festival gave Yokota members an opportunity to build friendships with the local community while experiencing Japanese culture. (Yasuo Osakabe/U.S. Air Force photo)
Celeste Hill, a Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni resident, eats somen nagashi, or sliding somen noodles, during a visit to Kinjuen Nursing Home with the MCAS Iwakuni Cultural Adaptation Program in Iwakuni City, Japan, July 7, 2017. The nursing home invited tenants of the air station to celebrate Tanabata, also known as the star festival. Participants of the event enjoyed traditional foods and other activities. Nobuo Kishi, center, the vice minister of foreign affairs of Japan and younger brother of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, joined the festivities with nursing home residents and Americans visiting from the air station.
Celeste Hill, a Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni resident, eats somen nagashi, or sliding somen noodles, during a visit to Kinjuen Nursing Home with the MCAS Iwakuni Cultural Adaptation Program in Iwakuni City, Japan, July 7, 2017. The nursing home invited tenants of the air station to celebrate Tanabata, also known as the star festival. Participants of the event enjoyed traditional foods and other activities. Nobuo Kishi, center, the vice minister of foreign affairs of Japan and younger brother of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, joined the festivities with nursing home residents and Americans visiting from the air station. (Gabriela Garcia-Herrera/U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Members from the Fussa Tennou Hayashi Hozonkai play Japanese flutes during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. A form of Japanese music, called "hayashi" roused the movement of parade floats.
Members from the Fussa Tennou Hayashi Hozonkai play Japanese flutes during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. A form of Japanese music, called "hayashi" roused the movement of parade floats. (Yasuo Osakabe/U.S. Air Force photo)
Sailors assigned to Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi join members of the local community carrying a mikoshi, a portable shrine, during the installation's Bon Odori open base event.
Sailors assigned to Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi join members of the local community carrying a mikoshi, a portable shrine, during the installation's Bon Odori open base event. (Ben Farone/U.S. Navy photo)
Members from Yokota Air Base carry the wing mikoshi, or a portable shrine, during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. More than 80 volunteers from Yokota carried the shrine during this year's festival; Yokota Airmen have attended the festival since 1958 and have actively participated in carrying a mikoshi since 1975.
Members from Yokota Air Base carry the wing mikoshi, or a portable shrine, during the 67th Annual Fussa Tanabata Festival at Fussa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2017. More than 80 volunteers from Yokota carried the shrine during this year's festival; Yokota Airmen have attended the festival since 1958 and have actively participated in carrying a mikoshi since 1975. (Yasuo Osakabe/U.S. Air Force photo)

Summertime means festival time in Japan.

From late July through the end of August, Japanese hold ceremonies and festivals throughout the country to commemorate the spirits of their ancestors. The yearly events are famous for including carnival games, Japanese foods and lengthy fireworks displays.

For servicemembers and their families stationed in Japan, the season provides many opportunities to experience the country’s traditions firsthand and perhaps even take part in some of the events.

Servicemembers at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo participated in Fussa’s annual Tanabata festival on Aug. 3. Approximately 80 airmen carried a mikoshi – a portable Shinto shrine weighing between 1 and 2 tons – on their shoulders in the popular event’s ceremonial opening parade. The tradition is thought to bring good fortune.

At Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Marines and their families dressed in summer robes, known as yukata, ate festival foods like yakitori and udon noodles, played games, like ringtoss, and danced at a local nursing home during their Bon Odori festival on Aug. 14.

At Naval Air Facility Atsugi, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the neighboring community shared their mikoshi with Navy families during their annual Bon Odori festival on Aug. 19.

Though summer is winding down, servicemembers and their families still have a chance to experience Japanese festivals. The annual Mikoshi Parade in October near Yokosuka Naval Base will feature a mikoshi carried by volunteers from the base.

rauda.denisse@stripes.com Twitter: @drauda_stripes

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