It is no secret that the presence of U.S. military bases in Japan is controversial. Some view them as an unnecessary reminder of WWII, while others welcome the Americans as a strong deterrent to the growing military capabilities of China.
To further open communication between the U.S. Navy and the local community, the Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka has opened the base to the public for their annual Friendship Day event. The event is held to promote friendly relations between Japan and the U.S. and for the Japanese community to see what life is like on the base.
The event is extremely popular with the Japanese, with an estimated 60,000 people showing up. I arrived approximately two hours before the gates opened (10:00am) and there was already a substantial line up.
TIP: If you are not a Japanese national bring your passport! You will be asked to show your passport and fill out a form before being allowed in.
The USS Fitzgerald is a Arleigh Burke-class destroyer named after Lieutenant William Charles Fitzgerald, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his role in fighting off a Viet Cong attack on August 7, 1967.
The Navy personnel were out all over the base and were more than happy to pose for photographs. Hats off to them for being out in the hot sun (35° today!) in full uniform.
It wasn’t just the enlisted who were out meeting the public. Here is Captain David T. Glenister having a conversation with a local Japanese man.
After the boat tour it was time to get some food and that meant hitting the BBQ! They had dozens of grills cooking up hamburgers, hot dogs, pizzas and more. The turkey legs seemed to be especially popular with the Japanese.
They also had the commissary booth where you could buy various kinds of American snacks. Many of these are available in Japan but at MUCH higher prices.
I’ve come to realize that the Japanese are really good at picnicking. From simple blue tarps to full on tents, when it comes to eating outdoors, the Japanese are experts.
All in all a very fun day for the family. Munching on hot dogs while watching a baseball game reminded me that while I live in Japan, I can always experience a little slice of America.