Camp Zama’s Cherry Blossom Festival returns for second consecutive year

Camp Zama’s Cherry Blossom Festival returns for second consecutive year

by Noriko Kudo
U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – It was a little windy and cold for a spring day, but the Camp Zama community came out despite the weather to join an event that made its second consecutive return after being canceled two years ago.

Camp Zama held its Cherry Blossom Festival—normally an annual gathering, but canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19—March 26, complete with live music, games and activities, refreshments, and a smattering of the event’s namesake flowers just beginning to bloom throughout the installation.

The field behind Yano Fitness Center had covered tents with tables for sitting and dining, and a stage for a performance from the U.S. Army Japan Band. An arts-and-crafts booth allowed guests to paint and design their own reusable cloth tote bag.

The festival also included an all-ages 5-kilometer fun run that drew approximately 100 runners. The large turnout, combined with ideal running weather, made for an enjoyable event, one of the run organizers said.

“This was a great event,” Stefan Thompson, chief of Fitness Athletics and Aquatics for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said. “We got a lot of positive feedback.”

Warrant Officer Brandon Bowman, assigned to the 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, was one of the runners. He arrived in Japan just about a month ago but said he had already heard several times from his co-workers about the nearly 1,000 cherry blossom trees on Camp Zama, so was very excited to attend the festival for the first time.

“The run event was great and the weather was good,” said Bowmen. “There was a lot of motivation along the route.”

In attendance at the festival was a group of local students from various schools in Zama City, who visited the event as “friendship ambassadors.”

Nagomu Ohtawara, one of the students, said he and his group enjoyed the chance to interact with youth from Camp Zama by playing dodgeball, making crafts and spending time with them at the festival. They also discussed sports and anime, and watched the USARJ Band’s performance together, Ohtawara said.

“We haven’t been able to do a lot of activities as friendship ambassadors for the past few years,” Ohtawara said. “This was a great experience for all of us, and it allowed us to practice our English skills.”

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