Marines 'dragnet' during annual fishing festival
Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan -- Just southeast of Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji is the city of Numazu, a major port center for the prefecture’s fishing industry overlooking the deep waters of Suruga Bay.
It is also where Japan Self-Defense Force members, Numazu community members and U.S. Marines came together to celebrate the Dragnet Festival June 1 at Numazu Beach.
“This is an annual event, which celebrates a tradition of Japan,” said Col. Blake M. Wilson, the commanding officer of Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji. “The community leaders, local garrisons and their families and Marines assigned to Camp Fuji get to spend a day together interacting and enjoying each other’s company. The dragnet is one of the traditional ways to fish, and we get to experience firsthand bringing in a catch the ‘old way’ and then preparing and eating the fish.”
Dragnet fishing requires a large net attached to two long ropes. The net is towed out into the water by a boat, and then fishermen on shore pull the ropes inland, catching fish in the process. It is a community effort in which everyone shares the work and rewards, according to Wilson.
“The net is really long and it takes a lot of people a long time to pull it back onto the beach,” said Nanami Endo, a 10-year-old from Numazu. “But once it finally gets to us, it is really cool to see what we’ve caught. There were little sharks, stingrays and all kinds of weird looking fish.”
After the catch was in, everyone participated in beach activities and ate traditional Japanese food.
“This was a great opportunity for everyone to interact and get to know each other in a relaxed setting with friends and family,” said Wilson.
Some Marines played soccer or flew kites with the children, while others relaxed and shared stories with members of the JSDF.
“I always enjoy it when the Marines and JSDF members get together for events like this because we can learn a lot from each other out of uniform,” said JSDF Sgt. Shun Ubukata, a tank mechanic currently assigned with the JSDF’s 3rd Sergeants Training Unit’s basic enlisted English course at Camp Itazuma, Gotenba, Shizuoka prefecture. “It is important for us to speak with each other like this because we work so closely together a lot of times. It is important to build quality relationships and learn about each other’s culture.”
Everyone there was happy and grateful for events like the Dragnet Festival because it shows the world that the different groups are friends who can live and work well together, according to Ubukata.
As the event came to close, Wilson and others understood that even though the lure of fishing together was fun, the day was about more than that.
“Events like this happen because someone had a vision and committed the resources and effort to see that vision come to reality and a successful outcome,” said Wilson. “It is important and valuable that our two cultures and countries better understand each other. There is no better way to do that than by having a fun-filled day, with great food, on a beautiful beach, fishing the ‘old-school’ way.”