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JSDF's Summer Festival offers "bon" dance and much more

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-07-10

With so many festivals and carnivals happening on the island during the summer, it is difficult to feature every single one. Amongst the many huge festivals, there are also quite a few that are not as well known. It is often at these lesser known festivals that you can find a real chance to experience being part of the local community. The Japan Self Defense Force's annual "Summer Festival" is one of those events, and it is open to everyone here on Okinawa.

Featured in the June 4 - 10 edition of the Japan Update, the Japan Self Defense Force has been busy promoting themselves over the years through various public appearances and functions. With a great number of men and women stationed here on Okinawa, one of JSDF's goals outside of recruitment is to form better ties with the community.

In the past, relations were not always so good, mostly due to bad memories of the war. Today however, many young people are much more accepting of the JSDF presence, and the number of Okinawans enlisting in the JSDF has also been growing over the years.

The "Summer Festival" has become a bridge for both the local population and the JSDF, to help foster good relations between the two. It is one of the few times that JSDF gates are open to the general population, but more than just providing free access on to the base for Okinawan citizens, the "Summer Festival" creates an atmosphere of friendship and fun for everyone.

Taking place on Friday, July 24 from 6 pm until 11 pm, on the grounds of Naha Camp, which is home to the Ground Self Defense Force personnel stationed here on Okinawa, the festival gives both Okinawans and foreigners an opportunity to see a mainland Japanese style "matsuri". One of the main features of the "Summer Festival" will be the "Bon Odori", which occurs in the mainland every year during the religious holiday of "Obon". The dance will take place through out the night, and organizers invite everyone to participate. There will even be a "Bon Odori" contest for prizes, which is also open to everyone. Okinawa "Eisa" fans will not be disappointed with a performance by the JGSDF "Eisa" team, which is regarded as one of the top "Eisa" teams in Okinawa. The "Giom Taiko" performance is sure to be another crowd pleaser. The traditional drum's energetic and hard driving rhythms create a very unique atmosphere both on stage and in the audience.

Captain Hideo Hamahata of the GSDF Public Affairs office, explained, "This is a festival that brings together families for a very fun experience. We welcome everybody." Last year many Americans enjoyed being part of the festivities, and the JSDF is hoping that this year brings even more foreigners to the event. Kids will enjoy some of the carnival games, such as balloon fishing, darts, the "Air Dome", and a merry-go-round.

There will also be plenty of food and drink available. Some of the things you can expect are yakitori, pizza, beer, soft drinks, and shaved ice to satisfy your hunger and thirst.

Most of all, the "Summer Festival" is a great way to meet your Okinawan neighbors, and to also share some time with the many mainland Japanese men and women stationed here on Okinawa. The "Bon Odori" provides the perfect opportunity to make friends and have a good time. Even just relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere will definitely be a memorable experience for yourself, your friends, and for your family.

To get to the festival, take Highway 58 south, towards the airport. When you reach the airport ramp after passing through Naha, stay to your left and continue on the main highway. You will eventually see the JGSDF Camp on your right.

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