YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) celebrated the 43rd annual Friendship Day by opening its doors to 40,000 Japanese and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)-sponsored members of the local community, Aug. 3.
The open base event began in the mid-1970s and was designed to foster a welcoming relationship with the Yokosuka community by offering a look at the base and a bit of American culture.
“As some of you may know, I am new here and this is my first Friendship Day event,” said Capt. Rich Jarrett, CFAY’s commanding officer, as he welcomed everyone to the annual event. “From the moment I arrived in Japan, I felt the warmth of friends.”
Displays ranged from a car show, fire and rescue vehicles, an Aqua Board demonstrations, and new this year, an aviation display featuring an Osprey (CV-22) from Yokota Air Base. The biggest draw was the tours of USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) - where the line stretched from the festival’s main area on the base all the way to the pier.
“My father came to Friendship Day every year,” said Etsuko Miyazaki, as she stood in the line with her family waiting to tour the USS Blue Ridge. “It’s my second time to Friendship Day,” said Miyazaki. “And this is the first year I’m bringing my two children to the ship.”
Activities included street soccer, a climbing wall, live music, dancers, street performers, face painting and a balloon artist making a variety of animals with the twist and turn of skinny balloons.
Some relief from the August heat was found by watching one of the several free kid-friendly movies in the Benny Decker Theater, and free lanes at the base Bowling Center were offered to the guests.
In addition to water and adult beverages, vendors showcased a variety of foods.
“This is my third Friendship Day, first as special events coordinator,” said Joanna Klepacka, CFAY’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) coordinator for this event.
“There were 54 command sponsored organizations offering a variety of food and beverages,” explained Klepacka. “We also had Navy Exchange and the following MWR Clubs participating in this event: Officers Club, Club Alliance, CPO Club, Food Court, Club Takemiya and the Bowling Center selling pizzas.”
The NEX food numbers stacked up as follows: 2,215 pizzas, 700 packs of Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, 275 dozen of donuts, 685 Pizza Hut brownies, and 250 Subway cookies, by the dozen, were sold. MWR vendors reported that hundreds of hot dogs and pizzas and thousands of burgers and pork sandwiches were sold along with the very popular turkey legs and steak meals hitting near the 5,000 mark for sales.
“The steak is my favorite,” said Komino Saito. She and Ayumi Hatakeyama sat in one of the shaded grassy areas to eat their lunch. Sato mentioned that she had even purchased an additional steak and put it in a plastic bag to take home to enjoy later.
Saito and Hatakeyama agreed, though, that the main reason they came to Friendship Day was to speak English with the Americans on the base.
“Yokosuka Friendship Day is held alongside the Kaikoku Fireworks Festival – one of the largest events in Yokosuka,” said Katsuaki Kamiji, Yokosuka City’s mayor. “(These events) create the opportunity for the people from both the United States and Japan to celebrate together.”
The fireworks display featured 5,000 pyrotechnics that lit up the sky over Yokosuka and provided Friendship Day guests the perfect viewing area.
“The truth is,” added Jarrett, “we live in friendship every day of the year with the citizens of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and beyond.”
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.
For more news from Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, visit www.navy.mil/local/cfay/.