The US Marine Corps Open House Festivals in Okinawa are something that many Japanese people, not only from local communities but also from mainland Japan, have been looking forward to having again since the pandemic hit more than two years. A lucky base to have hosted such festivals twice in six months is Camp Schwab. This northern Okinawa camp held the open-based festival on March 26-27. The previous one took place in November last year.

Okinawa saw rain throughout March, and March 26 was no exception. Still, on the first day of the festival, more than 2,000 people, including nearly 1,000 Japanese, attended the event.

“This is the biggest celebration and the biggest wedding of the people of Okinawa and the Marines,” said Col. Matthew W. Tracy, camp commandant of Camp Schwab and commanding officer of the 4th Marine Regiment. “In the northern camp, everyone is very friendly and they cooperate well. They are wonderful neighbors. That’s the real meaning of community here.

Prior to COVID-19, each Navy base held an annual festival that featured live performers, demonstrations, food vendors and games. The camps opened their doors not only to military personnel and their families, but also to American and Japanese citizens. However, in the past two years, the festivals have either been canceled or only opened to people under the Status of Forces Agreement.

This year attendees enjoyed free live music and entertainment, carnival rides and static displays of military equipment, including tactical vehicles and an MV-22 Osprey on Saturday and a car show and motorcycling on Sundays.

“I’m here to watch my child perform,” said Yumi Shiokawa from Uruma City, whose 14-year-old daughter had just finished a dance performance on stage. “It was good to see my daughter giving it her all and looking happy while she was dancing. It’s completely different playing online without an audience.

Kozue Nakamura, the director of Dance Studio MILK, expressed her gratitude for the offer to perform at the festival. She was thrilled to see the children dancing at ease even though they had to go out on stage and perform without much practice due to the rain.

“There was a sense of unity and an atmosphere that everyone could appreciate,” Nakamura said. “The children danced with the full spirit of entertaining the audience, and the positive feedback they received from the audience will give them strength and inspiration for the future so that they can continue to do their best.”

Another fun part of the festival is all the food: juicy smoked pork shoulder, barbecue, authentic street tacos, Miami-style cuisine, and the usual burgers and burritos. Local vendors also served food, drinks and games.

“I wanted to come to Okinawa and attend a festival, so I searched the Internet before making a travel plan,” said Riki Matsuura, a student from Kyoto with a friend from Hyogo Prefecture. “When I typed ‘matsuri’, the English word ‘festival’ came up first, and it was about this Schwab festival.”

There were also t-shirt giveaways. When Tracy led the event, everyone in the service was excited and applauded. He threw some T-shirts at the crowd.

The second day was blessed with weather and the attendance was almost 3,000 people in total. The two-day party ended in success and satisfied more than 5,000 people, including about 2,500 local and Japanese visitors.

Date taken: 05.09.2022
Date posted: 26.05.2022 23:23
Story ID: 421555
Location: OKINAWA, JP

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