VIDEO| Camp Zama Bon-Dance Festival 2022

VIDEO| Camp Zama Bon-Dance Festival 2022

by Daisuke Sato
U.S. Army Garrison - Japan

U.S. Army Garrison Japan, with cooperation from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s 4th Engineer Group, recently hosted the 61st annual Bon Odori Festival at Camp Zama—the first one to be held on the installation since 2019.

Tens of thousands of people, including service members, civilians and local Japanese residents, came to Camp Zama to enjoy the festival. The event featured a full afternoon of live music, games, food and drinks, and a fireworks finale.

Just before the fireworks, people gathered in a circle around a large, wooden tower to join in the Bon dancing, a cultural tradition in Japan that incorporates many different types of Bon dance tunes.

Most Americans are unfamiliar with Bon dancing, so in order to make sure they were ready for the festival, they were provided some help.

A number of volunteer instructors from the Zama Women’s Association came to Camp Zama to teach community members the moves to the various dances.

Interview: Kiyomi Shimizu, Chairperson, Zama City Women’s Association
Even for Japanese people, we only have a few opportunities during the summer to take part in Bon dancing, so sometimes even we have a hard time remembering the various dance moves.

We held the lessons a total of four times so far, and I’ve been very impressed with how quickly the American members were able to learn the dances.

I personally think everyone should enjoy Bon dancing in their own way. Bon dancing was originally done as a way to honor and celebrate our ancestors who have passed, but today it is considered to be more like a summer community event, and everyone enjoys it.

Hopefully, the American members can enjoy the Bon Odori Festival as a way to communicate and interact with the local Japanese community.

Sixteen dance teams representing various units and organizations performed on the night of the festival, using the moves they learned from the lessons, which were offered twice a week from July 19th through August 4th.

Capt. Andrew Thornquist, who arrived to Japan in June 2021,said this year will be his first time dancing at a Bon Odori festival in Japan.

Interview: CPT Andrew Thornquist, Commanding Officer, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Center, 78th Signal Battalion. (USANEC-CZ)

Camp Zama’s Bon Odori Festival was introduced more than half a century ago as a way to celebrate the culture of the Bonseason with the local community. Since then, the festival has become one of the major events helping to bridge the U.S. Army in Japan with its Japanese neighbors.

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