YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) — (YOKOSUKA, Japan) Volunteers from Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) and tenant commands teamed up to celebrate and be a part of Yokosuka City’s 43rd annual Mikoshi Parade and Festival, Oct. 20.
According to Japan-guide.com, each local area in Japan has a shrine (Shinto deity) which is carried through the town or city in a Mikoshi (portable shrine) accompanied by Dashi (floats), and this year’s Yokosuka City parade included a combination of 57 shrines and floats from the surrounding communities including CFAY and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
Mikoshi shrines can weigh nearly a ton so several volunteers are required as bearers.
“Over 100 volunteers signed up to carry the CFAY Mikoshi,” said Joanna Klepacka, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) special events coordinator. “All were excited to be a part of such a unique experience.”
The parade began midmorning in the center of Yokosuka City with more than 18 thousand spectators lining Dobuita or “Blue” Street. The procession made its way down the main street in Yokosuka, onto the base through CFAY’s Womble Gate, and ultimately to the final staging area in the Purdy Fitness Center’s parking lot.
“CFAY drew #21 in the order this year,” added Klepacka. “The CFAY Mikoshi has lanterns representing commands including our 12 ships.”
Command Senior Chief for Naval Oceanography Anti-Submarine Warfare Center Yokosuka (NOAC), Aerographer’s Mate Senior Chief Petty Officer Paul Stimson, said it was the second time he’s volunteered to help carry the CFAY Mikoshi.
“It’s an opportunity to do something in the Japanese community and just be a part of the community,” said Stimson. “One of the local communities here had an extra Mikoshi and years ago they let CFAY carry it so for me it’s a really big honor to be asked to represent their community and represent CFAY in the best way possible.”
Ryota Uchimura, one of the bearers of the Yokosuka’s Ootsu neighborhood Mikoshi, talked about his past involvement with the parade.
“I have participated in this Mikoshi Parade over 30 years. What is important for me to join this event is that we gather together, enjoy carrying a Mikoshi, parading and widening our community,” said Uchimura. “Also having this event on base is a wonderful opportunity to exchange cultures with (the) American military community and to show our traditional culture inside the gate.”
Once the Mikoshi were carried to the parking lot, they were placed on wooden boxes that had wheels so the individual shrines could be pushed, not carried, and parked in rows.
Several booths were set up along the route by the various commands and organizations on base offering the nearly 10-thousand visitors food, drink and clothing items such as t-shirts commemorating the day.
Akira and Erina Hidaka from Toda City of Saitama Prefecture visited with their two children.
It was Akira’s second time on the base after coming to Friendship Day earlier in the year, and it was Erina’s first time. “I have (had) a lot of fun here,” Erina said. “We had fried chicken, French fries and turkey legs. Lots of fun!”
The closing ceremony for the event featured a representative of the Yokosuka Tourism Bureau, the mayor of Yokosuka City, and CFAY’s commanding officer.
“I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Capt. Rich Jarrett, MWR and everyone from CFAY for allowing us to use part of the base for today’s parade,” said Katsuaki Kamiji, Yokosuka City’s mayor. “This event enforces the friendship between the United States and Japan as those from the U.S. Naval base also carried the traditional Japanese Mikoshi shrine.”
Capt. Rich Jarrett, CFAY’s commanding officer, also shared some of his thoughts during the last event of the day.
“It is again our great honor to host the final stop in the annual Yokosuka City Mikoshi Parade and Festival,” said Jarrett. “On behalf of the U.S. Navy Sailors, family members and U.S. citizens here in Yokosuka, I would like to extend our greatest appreciation for including us in the celebration of Japanese traditional culture.
“The Mikoshi that are gathered among us today will surely bring us good luck and bring good will between the U.S. Navy and our friends here in the city of Yokosuka,” added Jarrett. “This community event is an inspiration for us all as we endeavor to increase our cooperative ties now and into the future.”
CFAY provides, maintains, and operates base facilities and services in support of the U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed naval forces, 71 tenant commands, and more than 27,000 military and civilian personnel and their families.