YOKOSUKA, Japan – Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) opened it’s gates to more than 48,000 Japanese nationals for Friendship Day, an annual event to strengthen bonds between the U.S. Navy and Japan.
The open base event was established to invite Japanese community members to join CFAY Sailors and their families and enjoy many events hosted by CFAY’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) office as well as to encourage interaction between CFAY Sailors and host country nationals.
“This Friendship Day event helps us build a strong and lasting bond with our host nation neighbors,” said Cristina Neumann, CFAY’s MWR Special Events Coordinator. “It allows us an opportunity to share our little bit of America.”
The event included a tour of the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), traditional American carnival food booths, live stage shows by local bands, a bodybuilding competition with 79 contestants from CFAY and surrounding areas, the 12th annual Yokosuka Car Show, featuring approximately 130 vehicles owned by CFAY Sailors and Japanese nationals, and a fireworks display to close out the day.
“This office does a great job of finding a variety of talent and entertainment to showcase at these events, we want to ensure there is something for everyone,” said Neumann.
During the tour of Fitzgerald, Japanese nationals were afforded a glimpse into the day to day life of U.S. Navy Sailors. The tour took them through stations on the ship’s main deck where Fitzgerald Sailors were standing by to show their equipment and it’s uses. The equipment displays ranged from Search and Rescue gear to firefighting ensembles and emergency access equipment. Japanese nationals could also purchase Fitzgerald mementos, such as hats and belt buckles, to benefit Fitzgerald’s MWR organization.
“It’s an honor for us to be able to do this,” said Cmdr. Jonathan L. Schmitz, Fitzgerald’s executive officer. “This is our host nation, we operate with Japan Maritime Self Defense Force day in and day out, and it’s good to be able to show them what we do.”
“The ship was my favorite part,” said Hidatoshi Yamada, a Japanese national visiting from Kyoto, Japan. “I’ve never seen this sort of equipment before, it was very interesting to see how the U.S. Navy does things.”
During the events on base, Sailors reflected on the importance of maintaining good relationships with members of their host nation.
“It’s important that we share this day with our Japanese neighbors so they not only see what our culture here at CFAY is like, but if they have any questions about what’s going on on base; they can come here, see how we work, and really feel like they’re a part of what we’re doing,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Larry Manning, assigned to CFAY’s Port Operations.
“My favorite part of this event is seeing everybody mingling together, enjoying different kinds of food and events. It’s always fun to see the smiles on our Japanese friends’ faces when they’re experiencing our culture. It’s just things like that that make this event really great,” said Jewell Willet, programs and marketing director of CFAY’s United Service Organizations office.