CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Oct. 9, 2019) -- The Fall Festival, an annual open-post event on Sagami General Depot, brought nearly 9,000 visitors to the installation Oct. 6 for a day of refreshments, live entertainment and a pair of long-distance running events.

Camp Zama's Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation hosted the festival in conjunction with the third annual half-marathon and "ekiden" race, with participation from the Kanagawa Running Association. Japanese competitive and recreational runners are invited to participate in both events.

Inviting Japanese guests onto a U.S. military installation is good because "it helps to build a great partnership" between both communities and makes them both feel welcome, said Spc. Zachary Murray, assigned to 311th Military Intelligence Battalion. Murray was a volunteer at the festival, helping to supervise children playing on an obstacle course.

Entertainment at the festival included live music from the U.S. Army Japan Band and local Japanese bands, dance performances and children's activities.

The USARJ Band took the stage with band member Sgt. Ian Parsons welcoming the audience by speaking a few introductory phrases in Japanese. This caught many people in the crowd off guard, but their excitement was visible as soon as the band began to play, Parsons said.

"Being a band member, we love being out in the community and doing community outreach for the Army," said Parsons.

Following the band's performance, a few Japanese audience members approached them, asked for photos, and made conversation.

"[This event is] a great opportunity to get to know the community better," said Parsons.

Kawaguchi Yoichi, said this was his third time attending the Fall Festival and that he keeps coming back because he enjoys the festivities so much.

"My friends and I always look forward to listening to the U.S. Army Japan Band's live music very much every time we get a chance to visit the base," said Kawaguchi.

Maki Takamura, a first-time visitor, said she and her family also enjoyed the live entertainment, as well as getting to try the variety of international foods available from vendors at the event. It was this unique atmosphere that made the event stand out compared to other local festivals she usually attends, Takamura added.

"This event gave me the chance to not only get together with my friends and family, but also to see the inside of a U.S. military base and experience things I don't usually get to see," said Takamura.

The morning of the event began with the half-marathon and the ekiden. Ekiden, a term that combines the Japanese words for "station" and "to convey," is a type of long-distance race where runners in teams of usually four to 10 people each run one leg of a relay. Some ekiden races take place over multiple days and cover distances in the hundreds of kilometers.