7th Fleet sailors visit Sapporo for Annual Snow Festival
Landing in Hokkaido, Sailors from all around the 7th Fleet began the first of a four day journey around the northern most island of Japan heading toward Sapporo for the annual Yuki Matsuri, or snow festival.
The day began at the crack of dawn for the Sailors as they were driven to the airport, then flown across the country to board another bus, and finally headed into downtown Sapporo, all before lunch.
“We were really fortunate to be able to see most of the snow festival from the bus, because of where our hotel was,” said Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice Christian Tanaquin, of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12. “The day started early, but we were all so stoked to have been chosen to be a part of this trip.”
The trip to Sapporo was organized by the Morale, Welfare, & Recreation (MWR) Liberty Blue Jacket Liberty Program and provided a free roundtrip to Sapporo to eight Sailors from every installation in 7th Fleet.
The Blue Jacket program was created to help junior Sailors in Japan get out and explore more of Japan at a discounted or reduced rate, or free of charge.
For sailors to be selected for this trip, they were either designated as having a high number of community service hours within MWR or the Liberty Program, or were selected by their commands as outstanding junior Sailors.
“This program is the first of its kind,” said Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi Liberty Coordinator Senita Martin. “The Navy has allotted quite a bit of money for the liberty program to take our Sailors around Japan for pennies on the dollar.”
During the trip, Sailors were able to experience all that Sapporo had to offer, from the world famous Snow and Ice Festival, to the birth place of miso ramen and a tour of the Sapporo Chocolate Factory.
“I think, more than anything, my favorite part of this trip has been the snowboarding,” said Airman Apprentice Devon Tindol, of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141. “While the main group took the first day to tour the sights of Sapporo, some of us were able to snowboard on the freshest powder in Japan in Otaru. It was crazy just how beautiful everything was from the mountain. I’m so thankful to the NAF [Atsugi] Liberty crew who helped put this all together for me and so many others.”
Tindol wasn’t the only one with words of praise for the Liberty team.
Many Sailors on the tour expressed their thanks, citing a desire to explore Japan, but never quite having the knowledge or time to plan out such an event.
“For me, it’s been a huge blessing to have the Liberty center, and of course Senita, to help us get out and explore all of the different and exciting places,” said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Jessica Belk, of Aircraft Intermediate Department. “Everything from this weeklong, all-expense paid trip, to the daily trips into Tokyo to the theme restaurants, it really has made my time here in Japan so much better.”
Martin was quick to point out that getting trips like this together aren’t always easy or simple projects, adding that they had been in talks for this trip for almost four months.
“I’m so grateful to hear my Sailors saying these things because it really does have a huge impact on me,” Martin said. “Honestly, these guys are my friends and I’m really thankful that the Navy has seen fit to reward them for all of their hard work and dedication.”
For more on how to get involved with the NAF Atsugi Liberty Program, or to become one of their Ambassadors, be sure to stop by the NAF Atsugi Liberty Center today. Be sure to check out their facebook page.