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Torii's annual Friendship Fest starts summer with lots of fun

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-04-18

Fun for everyone begins this summer with Torii Station MWR's tenth annual "Friendship Fest", on April 24, 25, and 26. Situated right on Yomitan's beautiful coastline, Torii offers a chance to enjoy a great day at the beach, and have the festivities of a carnival happening at the same time. Great entertainment, games, and plenty of food are some of the things you can expect to find at the festival, and there is also plenty to do for the kids.

The Friendship Fest is being sponsored by Global One, Coca Cola, and AT&T. It is known for starting the summer matsuri season on Okinawa, and has been a favorite of both Okinawans and the military community because of its low -keyed atmosphere. Smaller crowds and pleasant surroundings help to make this event a success year after year. It also means "summer time" for many people, having waited long enough for Okinawa's cool and wet winter to end. "It has been gray and gloomy for a while, and this is the perfect opportunity to come out to Torii and enjoy some sun, surf, sand, and of course the festival," explained MWR's Marketing Chief, Henry C. Ortega.

This year's event has some fantastic live performances lined up, which promises to provide some good visual and listening pleasure. Jazz fans can catch BMJ on opening day from 5 pm until 7 pm, followed by the rock band Zero Faith. Saturday kicks things off at noon with a taiko drum performance by the Katsumi Taiko drummers. Okinawa's premiere rock band, Clay Sun Union, will crash the stage at 7 pm, headlining a rock jamboree lasting from 1 pm until 9 pm. The Flava/Body Rock and Skip Dancers finish the night off with their performance at 9:15 pm. Sunday will begin with a Karate demonstration at 12 noon, while salsa, blues, and R&B take you through to the night.

Children will enjoy the many game booths available as well as free rides all day on Torii's famous water slide. There will also be some miniature amusement park rides available for younger kids for a small fee, and the "Trampoline Thing" will be on hand again this year for some high flying fun.

Food lovers will be happy to find an array of Korean, Thai, Mexican, Japanese, and American cuisine being sold, along with plenty of soft drinks and beer.

The festival takes its name from the idea of creating friendships between the local community and the military. "The intent is to bring closer Okinawans with the Army community; and on a broader scale, with the whole military community, to learn more about each other in a fun filled atmosphere," explained Ortega. "It also gives Okinawans a chance to come on Torii and see what the place is all about."

Divers will also be anticipating the Friendship Fest for Torii Scuba Locker's annual U.S. Divers scuba sale, which occurs during the same weekend in conjunction with the festival. Savings of up to 30% can be had on all U.S. Divers equipment. Non-divers are also more than welcome to check out some of the other merchandise at the Scuba Locker. T-shirts, sun glasses, and beach sandals are some of the merchandise waiting to be purchased, and the Scuba Locker's friendly staff will be there to answer any questions.

Break out your swim suit, the sun tan lotion, and get into the partying mode to start the summer with one of Okinawa's "friendliest" events. Even if you are not a beach fanatic, the many attractions and entertainment will make it worth your while to venture out of the house for the day. To find Torii Station, head north from Kadena and turn left on to Route 6 after entering Yomitan.

Go straight and Torii's main gate will be on your left. All other gates will also be open for access to the festival. Japanese nationals will not be allowed to enter the gates after 9 pm in compliance with the Okinawan Police Department's request to limit traffic problems. Americans however, will be allowed to enter the base during all hours.

If you have any questions about America Fest you can call 644-4144. For more information on Scuba Locker's U.S. Divers sale contact 644-4290. There are also several vendor spaces still open. Those interested in renting a space during the festival, please contact 644-4334.

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