CAMP ZAMA, Japan (August 18, 2016) - Camp Zama and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force hosted the annual Bon Odori Festival, an open-post event, Aug. 6 attracting nearly 18,000 Japanese and American community members.

"Obon" or "Bon" is a Japanese Buddhist custom that honors the departed spirits of one's ancestors. For more than 500 years, Bon has been celebrated in Japan and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon Odori, performed while wearing a Japanese kimono or yukata.

Emmette McNeill, special event coordinator with Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said the festival provides our host nation an opportunity to enjoy the traditional Bon dance, entertainment and food with the American community.

This year's festival featured live entertainment and music provide by the U.S. Army Japan band, DJs and AFN Tokyo.

Children played the various festival games and enjoyed the inflatable bounce houses.

The variety of foods available included funnel cakes, crepes, yakitori, Sasebo burgers, and shish-kabobs.

However, the focus of the evening was the Bon dancing, which drew a large crowd for dancing around the Bon dance tower.

"I think this is great event where American and Japanese become one circle and dance together," said Mariko Morimoto, festival attendee.

Bon dancing is what makes this festival so unique and special, said Col. William B. Johnson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan.

"You see the Americans, the Japanese, all together doing a traditional Japanese dance that's been around for hundreds of years, in unison together," said Johnson.

"I think that is really special and says something about the relationship we have here with the Japanese community and the Japanese people," he said.

"I hope our Americans that are here have a better understanding and appreciation of some of the Japanese traditions," said Maj. Gen. James F. Pasquarette, commanding general of the U.S. Army Japan.

"For our Japanese friends here, I hope they realize that they have a great partner in the United States Army," said Pasquarette.

"I just want to thank everybody for coming out," said Johnson, "I appreciate all the hard work that went into this."

"To all our folks that worked really hard to make this special for our community, thank you for all you do," said Johnson.