Commander, U.S. Forces Japan launches dessert challenge to celebrate local friendship

Commander, U.S. Forces Japan launches dessert challenge to celebrate local friendship

by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan
U.S. Navy

YOKOSUKA, JAPAN - Rear Adm. Brian Fort, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in Japan, announced a culinary challenge to five U.S. Navy installations in Japan: to create the most delicious American dessert inspired by local Japanese ingredients, and to present the treat to local government officials in appreciation for Japanese hospitality.

Food is not about the simple act of eating. Throughout the COVID pandemic, which restricted opportunities for Sailors and their families to fully experience their host country, food was an important part of how many Americans experienced Japanese culture.

"The warmth and hospitality of Japan is why so many servicemen and women and the families keep asking to serve in Japan," said Fort. "As we have benefited from the kindness and hospitality of the communities where we live, I'm challenging you to find a new way to say 'thank you'."

This will not be the first time the U.S. Navy has presented a dessert as an expression of appreciation. In 2009, the commanding officer of Yokosuka base presented the Mayor of the city of Yokosuka with a New York-style cheesecake topped with cherries to symbolize Japanese cherry blossoms.

The history of that dessert is an interesting one: the cheesecake was said to have originated in ancient Greece and, as a calorie-dense food, was consumed by Olympic athletes.

As every dish has a special back-story, the hope is that participants in the dessert challenge will celebrate the two cultures and find a way to communicate: through food. Desserts can range from lemon bars to Mississippi mud pie to Georgia peach cobbler to family recipes; the main requirements being that it taste and look delicious, and that the featured ingredient be local.

Although participants can purchase some supplies from the base, in order to encourage Sailors to become familiar with the region they live, this featured ingredient must come from a local Japanese grocery store or farm.

The U.S. Navy has a presence on five installations in Japan: Atsugi, Misawa, Okinawa, Sasebo, and Yokosuka. Commanding officers at each installation will appoint a taste-testing panel to assess each creation based on taste and presentation. The winner of the best dessert from each will be determined in early April, and will be formally presented at a time when health conditions allow.

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