Itzu Roquecruz and her 6-year-old son, Beren, get their photo taken in front of a field of sunflowers during the Zama Sunflower Festival in Japan, Aug. 12, 2022. Camp Zama Army Community Service conducted a tour to the festival as part of its efforts to help community members learn about the local culture.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Itzu Roquecruz and her 6-year-old son, Beren, get their photo taken in front of a field of sunflowers during the Zama Sunflower Festival in Japan, Aug. 12, 2022. Camp Zama Army Community Service conducted a tour to the festival as part of its efforts to help community members learn about the local culture. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
More than 500,000 sunflowers were on display during the Zama Sunflower Festival in Japan, Aug. 12, 2022. The Camp Zama Army Community Service conducted a tour to the festival as part of its efforts to help community members learn about the local culture.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – More than 500,000 sunflowers were on display during the Zama Sunflower Festival in Japan, Aug. 12, 2022. The Camp Zama Army Community Service conducted a tour to the festival as part of its efforts to help community members learn about the local culture. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

ZAMA, Japan – Bright, golden sunflowers glistened in fields next to the Sagami River, as visitors darted to them like bees in hopes of capturing the perfect selfie.

Among Friday’s crowd for the Zama Sunflower Festival were about 20 onlookers from the Camp Zama community on a tour offered by the Army Community Service.

The festival, which was held for the first time in three years due to the pandemic, had more than half a million sunflowers on display, said Sari Sugai, a program coordinator who organized the ACS tour as part of its “Beyond the Gate” program.

“[The] sunflower is the flower of Zama city,” she said of the significance of the festival, which ended Sunday. “This is one of the best places to visit in Zama and it’s not far from Camp Zama.”

The free tour was the latest effort by ACS to help community members get out and enjoy local places and events. Another past event included a trip to the Zama Shrine to see hundreds of small “Hina” dolls in March as part of the Dolls Festival, or “Hinamatsuri.”

In a recent needs assessment, Sugai noted spouses said they were interested in ways to connect with other spouses as well as learn about Japanese culture.

“We try to offer quarterly Beyond the Gate tours so we can promote the health and well-being of the Camp Zama community,” Sugai said. “We hope the participants make some new friends and social connections.”

More than 500,000 sunflowers were on display during the Zama Sunflower Festival in Japan, Aug. 12, 2022. The Camp Zama Army Community Service conducted a tour to the festival as part of its efforts to help community members learn about the local culture.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – More than 500,000 sunflowers were on display during the Zama Sunflower Festival in Japan, Aug. 12, 2022. The Camp Zama Army Community Service conducted a tour to the festival as part of its efforts to help community members learn about the local culture. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Mary Wanjohi gets her photo taken in front of a field of sunflowers during the Zama Sunflower Festival in Japan, Aug. 12, 2022. The Camp Zama Army Community Service conducted a tour to the festival as part of its efforts to help community members learn about the local culture.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Mary Wanjohi gets her photo taken in front of a field of sunflowers during the Zama Sunflower Festival in Japan, Aug. 12, 2022. The Camp Zama Army Community Service conducted a tour to the festival as part of its efforts to help community members learn about the local culture. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

Itzu Roquecruz, an Army spouse, took her 6-year-old son, Beren, along for the tour. She said her family likes to see the different native flowers when they bloom, such as cherry blossoms and hydrangeas.

“They’re amazing,” she said of the sunflowers. “I thought it was just going to be a small field, but I didn’t realize it was so big. I was really impressed.”

The sunflowers were scattered in several fields adjacent to rice paddies. Some of the fields had small observation towers, which visitors could climb to oversee the fields of gold and green. Nearby, food and drink stands as well as tents also provided relief in the hot and humid weather.

At first, Roquecruz said she was not able to get seats on the shuttle bus due to the popularity of the ACS tour. Then a few seats became available, and they reserved their spots.

“I really appreciate the service,” she said of ACS. “I would definitely recommend it. It’s something that we want to do more of.”

Another Army spouse, Ariel Anaya, brought her three daughters: Eliza, 3 months; Aria, 3; and Ezra, 6.

Anaya said her family arrived to Japan earlier this year but they haven’t yet been able to do much sightseeing.

“This seemed like a wonderful, safe opportunity,” she said, adding it was nice not to worry about driving in traffic or finding a space in a crowded parking lot.

The convenience of the tour made it a more relaxed outing for her and her children, she said.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t have done something like this had it not been offered,” she said. “It just made it easier for me as a mom of three to do an event like this during the week while the spouse is [at work].”

(Editor’s note: To stay informed on other upcoming ACS events, be sure to check out their website here or their Facebook page here.) 

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

USAG Japan official website