By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsApril 2, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 2, 2019) - Despite the crisp weather, more than 11,000 visitors flocked to Camp Zama March 30 for a day of live music, games, refreshments and the sight of the eponymous white-pink blooms during the installation's annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
Visitors admired, photographed and picnicked beneath the more than 700 cherry blossom trees that dot the installation during the event, which began with a 3K walk and 5K run in the morning and included a static display of a Black Hawk helicopter.
The Cherry Blossom Festival is an important event for Camp Zama because it allows the community on the installation to share cultures and interact with their neighbors outside the gate, said Col. Phillip Gage, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan.
"It really demonstrates our great relationship between the United States, the Army in Japan, and also our host nation of Japan," said Gage.
Randy Benton, special events coordinator for Camp Zama's Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said he and his team spend about eight months preparing for what is one of the biggest events they coordinate, in order to make sure the festival is a success.
"The Cherry Blossom event is special because it is the first open-post event for the year to kick things off," said Benton.
Akira Nemoto, who visited Camp Zama with his family and friends for the first time, said they could have easily spent the entire day on Camp Zama because of the wealth of activities and events that were happening simultaneously during the festival.
"I enjoy interacting with other cultures," said Nemoto, "I hope the military bases have more of these open-post events to provide us with the opportunity to interact with one another."
Ryo Shizuno, who also attended the event with his family and friends for the first time, said they had fun trying the different foods, getting an up-close look at the Black Hawk, and meeting and taking photos with U.S. Soldiers.
"I've never visited a U.S. military base, so I felt a little intimidated coming here, but by experiencing today's open-post event, I realized that Camp Zama is just like a friendly next-door neighbor."
Maj. Brian Smith, assigned to U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan, said his unit displayed the Black Hawk to allow community members, friends and partners to get a better idea of his unit's mission and the equipment they use.
The visitors were happy to take photos with the USAABJ Soldiers in front of the Black Hawk, Smith said, and the interaction gave his Soldiers the opportunity to build friendships and partnerships with the local visitors.
"It feels amazing to be part of the Cherry Blossom Festival," said Smith.