Story by MC3 Jacob Smith, Photos by Public Affairs Office
NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan (May 1, 2019) - At promptly 10 a.m., thousands of guests paraded their way through the Main Gate of Naval Air Facility (NAFA) Atsugi for a day filled with fun and friendship. This marks the 64th annual iteration of the Spring Friendship Festival (Spring Fest) open base event as an effort to foster relations and build up mutual respect between U.S. service members and the host nation of Japan and its citizens.
The history behind the Spring Festival can be traced back to 1955 for the first NAFA open base event. The Spring Festival is hosted every Forces, Japan Fire and Emergency Services showcased their firefighting capabilities on controlled fires. They also allowed children to try on child sized firefighting gear and use a firehose under their supervision. On Taylor Field music provided from both a live band and a dj between sets, the NAF Atsugi Taiko Kids, Shirley Lanham Elementary School Kids, of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, who had their Lt. Natalie Livingston, from Seattle, WA, posing with an anime-styled depiction of herself via cardboard cutout for photographs.
“I’m quite proud to have this character that’s getting more popular as time goes on,” said Livingston whilst having Rafines Dance Team and the Dahu band.
Aside from the entertainment, there was dozens of booths hosted by different coalitions and groups here on NAF Atsugi that were selling food, beverages and souvenirs. One of the most unique booths however, belonged to the “Golden Falcons” her picture taken by guests. “I feel this is a drawing point for some guests; it shows them that we’ve embraced their culture and we’re happy to be here and interact with them.”
Last but not least, there were more than a dozen static displays of various aircraft, including F-18s, E-2s, and SH-60s, belonging to both U.S. and and Japanese forces for guests to climb aboard in some cases, take photos along Halsey road and on the flight line.
One guest that came out was Sunan Suzuki, from Ayase-city, who has been living in Japan for 18 years after moving from Thailand. She came here with her family and says that very first “Spring Fest.”
“I feel events like these really bring together both communities, the locals and the service members, and helps eliminate any stigma between us,” said Savannahcook. “Getting together helps in many ways, as a morale boost, helps us really see who we’re here to defend and allows them to meet us as well.”
While there is only one day of Spring Festival events inside NAF Atsugi’s gates a year, the memories and experiences of both the Japanese citizens and U.S. forces will continue on the other 364 days through the bonds created by both parties.