By Lance DavisApril 4, 2016
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 4, 2016) - Camp Zama hosted its 2016 Cherry Blossom Festival April 2 at Yano Field and around the installation.
The annual, open-post event - a celebration of pink and white flowers blooming from hundreds of Cherry Blossom tress around Camp Zama - drew a total of 19,627 participants, according to Camp Zama's Directorate of Emergency Services.
This was the first time Col. William Johnson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, attended Camp Zama's annual festival.
"It's a wonderful time of the year in Japan...it's the spring and our cherry blossoms are blooming," said Johnson. "With our Japanese friends coming out, you can just feel the energy in the air."
Johnson, who previously resided in the D.C. metro area and attended the National Cherry Blossom Festival held there, said cherry blossoms represent the growing friendship between the United States and Japan, and this event helps build Camp Zama's relationship with its Japanese neighbors.
"At Camp Zama, we have a wealth of beautiful cherry blossoms trees, and to have an opportunity to share that with our Japanese neighbors is so important to our partnership and friendship."
The festival began in the morning with a "Fun Run and Walk" around Camp Zama for adults and children followed by DJ KIBO spinning tunes to entertain the audience throughout the day.
Several musical and dance acts performed on stage at Yano Field, including a duo performance for the first time ever with U.S. Army Japan Band's Pacific Brass and The Yokohama Inspires Drum and Bugle Corps.
USARJ Band's All-American Brass Band, known for its highly energetic performances inspired by the music of New Orleans, drew the largest crowd.
"The music is what I enjoy the most, and it keeps me coming back," said Ayae Takase, festival attendee who has participated in the festival for several years.
There were also dozens of food vendors, an area for children's games and activities, a flea market and display of a Black Hawk helicopter.
"My family and I are having a great time and look forward to all the wonderful food!" said Satoshi Yamanote, a festival attendee. "So far, we've only managed to have French fries."
Maj. Andrea Dover, executive officer assigned to 78th Signal Battalion, said she enjoyed sharing "our beautiful installation" with the Japanese community. She said it's important to show "our support and understanding" of Japanese culture.
"In Japan, April is the start of the new school year and when many companies start their new business year," said Dover. "So the cherry blossoms are symbolic of these new beginnings."