Friendships forged in shadow of Mount Fuji
COMBINED ARMS TRAINING CENTER CAMP FUJI, SHIZUOKA, Japan -- Marines and sailors of Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, opened the camp to the public May 10 for Fuji Friendship Festival 2014.
More than 6,000 people attended the festival, which first occurred in 1994 and became an annual event starting in 2003.
“Your attention today is encouraging and reflects the community spirit and strong relationship we have grown to enjoy,” said Col. Andrew J. Kostic, the CATC Camp Fuji commander, as he addressed festival attendees at the welcoming ceremony. “It’s a great pleasure for us to host all of you at this annual, fun event.”
There were numerous static displays, including U.S. Marine Corps assault amphibious vehicles, M777A2 lightweight 155 mm howitzers and explosive ordnance disposal tools, as well as Japan Ground Self-Defense Force tactical vehicles. Marines and JGSDF members watched over every display to provide information and ensure the safety of all guests.
“I came because it’s open to (the) Japanese public, and I come every year,” said Kenji Mitsuhashi, a festival attendee. “My favorite part is looking at the U.S. Marine Corps vehicles on display. I also enjoy trying different types of food.”
By hosting this festival, the Marines strengthen their relationship with the community, according to Mitsuhashi.
“I think by opening the gate, both sides have an opportunity to better understand each other through this festival,” said Mitsuhashi. “It’s good to see Japanese and Americans having fun together. I really enjoy this festival.”
The event was not only a chance to watch live music performances and try different food, but it also provided opportunities to learn about the vast capabilities of each nation’s military and practice foreign language skills.
Japanese schoolchildren participated in scavenger hunts, in which they had to ask phrases in English such as “hi, how are you?” and “what is your name?” Marines would then practice Japanese phrases they knew to include “konnichiwa” and “arigato,” meaning hello and thank you.
“I want to talk to Marines if I have a chance,” said Mutsuo Seino, a festival attendee. “I don’t speak much English, but I like to practice when I can.”
The U.S.-Japan Fuji Friendship Association also had a table set up at the festival where guests performed “mochitsuki,” the act of pounding rice to make mochi, a glutinous rice cake.
There are twenty members in the association, which was established nearly 14 years ago, according to Wasaku Tatsumichi, the chief secretary of the association.
“We founded this association because Marines deploy from their country to protect Japan based on the (U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security),” said Tatsumichi. “Therefore, we would like to provide Marines with Japanese history and culture. Marines are here for the Japanese, that’s the reason we established the association.”
The association coordinates events off the installation for Marines and sailors stationed at CATC Camp Fuji, to include planting rice and the ceremonial hauling of large fish nets at Numazu, Japan, according to Tatsumichi.
During the festival, Kostic presented a certificate of appreciation to the chairman of the association, Shinichi Nakano.
“Mr. Nakano has been a strong advocate of the steadfast partnership between the two great nations,” said Kostic, as he read the certificate. “Mr. Nakano’s leadership and vision were instrumental in cultivating positive relationships between the Marines and sailors of Camp Fuji, the (service members) of neighboring Japan Ground Self-Defense Force garrisons, and the citizens of Gotemba and the surrounding communities.
“Mr. Nakano worked passionately to integrate Camp Fuji personnel into local events, so they could experience firsthand Japanese culture and establish long-lasting relationships,” added Kostic.
The Marines with CATC Camp Fuji provide all logistics and training necessary to support U.S. forces deployed to the Fuji Maneuver Area for training, and recognize the value that festivals such as this provide for community understanding of that mission, according to Maj. Fred McElman, the Camp Fuji executive officer.
“The annual event helps promote and strengthen positive community relations with the cities of Gotemba, Oyama, and Susono, as well as the six neighboring Japan Ground Self-Defense Force garrisons,” said McElman. “Maintaining a positive standing with our host nation military partners and our local communities ensures we stand ready to provide the best possible training support to (III Marine Expeditionary Force service members) deployed to Camp Fuji.”