Thursday, August 26, 2010

The US-Japanese Friendship Festival at Yokota Air Base

I went to the US-Japanese Friendship Festival at Yokota US Air Force Base in Fussa city, north west of Tokyo, on August 22. The festival is held once a year, co-hosted by the US Forces in Japan and Fussa Tourism Association. Yokota Air Base is a keystone of US military operations in the Asia-Pacific region, and the headquarters of the US Forces in Japan is located there.

During the festival, the air base is open to the public, and visitors enjoy shop stands and aircraft exhibitions. For Japanese people, it is a good opportunity to enjoy American culture and life style close at hand, and 130,000 visitors came to the air base. I was marveled to see a sheer number of people coming to Yokota. The festival lasts for two days, and various entertainment attractions are performed on the stage.

As soon as I arrived at the base, I walked around shop stands to buy lunch. I had a BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) sandwich and soft drink. Although both dollar and yen were used at the shop, the change bills in yen I received were wrinkled. This is very American, because people receive neatly pressed bills at the shop and the bank in Japan.

Having eaten lunch, I walked toward the airfield to see military planes of the US armed forces and the Japanese Self Defense Force. The aircrafts displayed were F4, F15, F16, and F22 fighters; A10 attackers; SH60 and UH60 helicopters; and so forth. F22 stealth fighters were very popular. They came from Okinawa.

F22 Raptor, very popular

Quite interestingly, I found four short vinyl strings in the hind part of the helicopter. I asked a US serviceman what they were. He told me that they were electric wires to release static electricity. Those wires are not equipped with jet fighters, according to him. Seeing is believing! I would not have found such an interesting fact, even if I made well-designed plastic models.

Visitors were not necessarily military manias. I saw innumerable families, couples, and so forth. Some of them came to the base only to see fireworks at night. It was extremely hot, atomospheric temprature of 35℃ or 95°F, and there were hardly any shades in a vast and open asphalt air field. I was impressed with physical endurance of American soldiers because they were not exhausted by the heat wave at all. No wonder they can fight anywhere in the world once ordered by the president.

Strangely enough, I did not find any leftist rallies. At Yokota, tens of thousand of visitors enjoyed the festival. Can people in Okinawa enjoy some events like this? There seems to be a huge perception gap between mainland Japanese and Okinawans, as to US bases in Japan.