American and Japanese Leadership prepare for Bon Odori Festival on August 16
NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan – For many Americans and Japanese, open base festivals like Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi’s Bon Odori are a great time to come together to celebrate Japanese culture and tradition.
With taiko practices beginning in early June, those chosen to represent the American drummers at the annual festival in late August will play alongside their Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) counterparts.
This year NAF Atsugi’s Executive Officer Matthew Ligon and Commander, Fleet Air Forward (CFAF) Deputy Commander Capt. Gary Deal will join JMSDF Commander, Fleet Air Force Vice Admiral Makoto Sato and Fleet Air Wing Four Operations Officer Rear Adm. Yoshikazu Morita as taiko performers during the Bon Odori Festival.
“I am really excited to have a chance to play the taiko drums this year,” said Ligon. “It really is a great chance to take part in such a fun and important part of the Japanese culture.”
Ligon isn’t the only one excited about getting to play. With the main part of the event each year being split between the women’s Awa Odori dances and the men’s taiko drumming, most of the base visitors will get to see more drumming than in past years.
“This year we’re really excited about adding CFAF leadership into our list of partners in the taiko drumming,” said Host Nations Relations Protocol Officer Ikumi Tanaka. “This is the first time that we’re able to incorporate other commands in this part of the event and that’s very exciting for me.”
Taiko is not the only place where different groups are able to come together to put on a show. The women’s Chidori-ren dancing will feature women from several JMSDF squadrons and two NAF Atsugi spouses.
“When I heard Americans could sign up, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance,” said Chidori-ren dancer Gaby Colindres. “The dances are difficult, but it really is a rewarding experience getting to be out here with all of the ladies.”
Her excitement was shared by many, especially the taiko drummers’ sensei.
“For me, having the chance to share my knowledge and love of taiko not only with other Japanese people, but with Americans as well makes me very happy,” said Taiko Sensei Sachie Koizumi. “When you get to be as old as I am, festivals and activities like this become so much more important. Even the simple act of engaging one another in something like taiko can send a loud message for all those present to hear.”
For more on NAF Atsugi’s Bon Odori Festival, expected to be held Aug. 16, be sure to stay tuned to the NAF Atsugi Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/naf.atsugi