Community members wish upon the stars for ‘Tanabata’ festival

By Sean Kimmons, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsJune 29, 2023

Command Sgt. Maj. David A. Rio, right, senior enlisted leader of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, and Warrant Officer Daisuke Chiba, senior enlisted leader of 4th Engineer Group, celebrate the "Tanabata" festival during an event at Camp Zama, Japan, June 29, 2023. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 4th Engineer Group hosted the event and invited community members to participate in the celebration.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Command Sgt. Maj. David A. Rio, right, senior enlisted leader of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, and Warrant Officer Daisuke Chiba, senior enlisted leader of 4th Engineer Group, celebrate the "Tanabata" festival during an event at Camp Zama, Japan, June 29, 2023. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 4th Engineer Group hosted the event and invited community members to participate in the celebration. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Strips of colorful paper with wishes written on them hang from small bamboo trees during an event to celebrate the "Tanabata" festival at Camp Zama, Japan, June 29, 2023. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 4th Engineer Group hosted the event and invited community members to participate in the celebration.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Strips of colorful paper with wishes written on them hang from small bamboo trees during an event to celebrate the "Tanabata" festival at Camp Zama, Japan, June 29, 2023. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 4th Engineer Group hosted the event and invited community members to participate in the celebration. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Japan Ground Self-Defense Force partners invited community members to help them celebrate the “Tanabata” festival during an event here Thursday.

Tanabata, also known as the “star festival,” is a traditional Japanese custom where participants write down their wishes on narrow strips of colorful paper and hang them from small bamboo trees in hopes of them coming true.

The festival celebrates the alignment of two stars, Altair and Vega, which are normally separated by the Milky Way.

Command Sgt. Maj. David A. Rio, senior enlisted leader of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, was among more than 25 people who participated in the celebration.

Rio said he wished for a continued strong relationship between the JGSDF and U.S. Army in Japan.

“That relationship is so important to the mission here,” he said. “Our job is to take care of our community, and part of our community is the JGSDF here on Camp Zama.”

Luke and Oliver Blevins, left, and Tina and Robb Phillips, all volunteers with the Camp Zama American Red Cross, participate in an event to celebrate the "Tanabata" festival at Camp Zama, Japan, June 29, 2023. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 4th Engineer Group hosted the event and invited community members to join in the celebration.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Luke and Oliver Blevins, left, and Tina and Robb Phillips, all volunteers with the Camp Zama American Red Cross, participate in an event to celebrate the "Tanabata" festival at Camp Zama, Japan, June 29, 2023. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 4th Engineer Group hosted the event and invited community members to join in the celebration. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Tina Phillips, a volunteer with the Camp Zama American Red Cross, participates in an event to celebrate the "Tanabata" festival at Camp Zama, Japan, June 29, 2023. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 4th Engineer Group hosted the event and invited community members to join in the celebration.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Tina Phillips, a volunteer with the Camp Zama American Red Cross, participates in an event to celebrate the "Tanabata" festival at Camp Zama, Japan, June 29, 2023. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 4th Engineer Group hosted the event and invited community members to join in the celebration. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

Luke and Oliver Blevins, who are brothers and will soon be 11th graders at Zama Middle High School, said they both wrote down world peace and happiness as their wishes.

“I think there is a lot of fighting and conflicts [in the world] right now,” Oliver said, “so I think it’s really important for us to understand that we should just be nice and help each other out.”

The brothers, who currently volunteer for the Red Cross, have been in Japan for about a year and have enjoyed learning about the culture.

“It’s something that I’ve never seen before,” Luke said about the festival. “The culture here is really interesting.”

The JGSDF’s noncommissioned officer association, “So-Yu-Kai,” hosted the event at the 4th Engineer Group’s headquarters, where community members joined Japanese counterparts to decorate several bamboo trees in the lobby.

JGSDF Sgt. Kyohei Koki, a member of So-Yu-Kai, said events like these help bolster partnerships that are crucial in real-world operations.

“We are co-located in the same camp, so it is important to interact and also introduce our culture to the U.S. personnel here,” Koki said.

Rio said the event was also a great opportunity for the community to experience a Japanese tradition.

“It’s one of the things that makes living in a foreign country so unique,” he said. “You’re exposed to a whole different culture with a whole set of traditions and holidays. And for the JGSDF to invite us to take part in that is very special.”

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

USAG Japan official website