By Noriko Kudo, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMay 15, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (May 16, 2019) -- A shining sun, blue sky and cool breeze helped bring a hint of "aloha" spirit to the Hawaiian Festival May 12 at Sagami General Depot.
The open-post event, which Camp Zama's Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation hosts annually, drew more than 9,000 visitors to the Depot, located in Sagamihara City approximately 8 miles from Camp Zama.
Randy Benton, special events coordinator for Camp Zama's FMWR, said this was the third year the festival was held in conjunction with the East Japan International Friendship Marathon, an event Sagami Depot has hosted since 1997.
The event included live Hawaiian music performances, a series of Hula dance performances by different local groups, live music from the U.S. Army Japan Band's "Samurai of Rock" band, children's activities, and a variety of food and beverages throughout the day.
"Sagamihara City is always really supportive of events we try to do at Sagami Depot," said Benton.
The open-post events Camp Zama and its sister installations host are the Army's way of showing appreciation to Japan and providing its citizens with an opportunity to "come inside the gate and enjoy the festivities with us," Benton said.
"Hawaiian culture is big in Japan," said Benton. "We do this event to give [the local citizens] a taste of Hawaii right here in Japan."
Hijiri Matsuoka, who came to Depot with her friends for the first time, said she enjoyed the atmosphere and watching the Hula dancers perform, and even expressed interest in participating as a dancer in next year's festival.
"This was a great experience for me to finally see inside of [the Depot]," said Matsuoka. "I drive by here often, but I had no idea what it was like inside the gate."
Yuko Ohara, another first-time visitor at the festival, is currently learning to Hula dance, so getting to see professionals perform it in person was an exciting experience, she said.
"I've never been to a U.S. military base before," Ohara said, "so I feel like this event helped to finally introduce me to a part of military culture that is near where I live."