Home Culture DVIDS – News – Neighboring cities invite Camp Zama to share in Japanese culture at giant kite festival

DVIDS – News – Neighboring cities invite Camp Zama to share in Japanese culture at giant kite festival

DVIDS – News – Neighboring cities invite Camp Zama to share in Japanese culture at giant kite festival

ZAMA, Japan – Two cities that border Camp Zama invited the installation’s leadership and its community to their giant kite festivals to experience and share in a longstanding part of Japan’s cultural heritage.

The cities of Zama and Sagamihara, both of which Camp Zama shares land with, hosted their festivals jointly May 4 and 5 at the nearby Sagami River.

The commanders and senior enlisted leaders of both U.S. Army Japan and U.S. Army Garrison Japan were among the distinguished guests recognized during the opening ceremony on the first day.

The festival was the first Col. Marcus Hunter attended since taking command of USAG Japan last summer. He noted that while countries around the world fly kites, the pastime holds a unique and special place within Japanese culture.

“It’s a great tradition and a great example of our close relationship in both the community and our alliance between United States and Japan at every level,” Hunter said. “We are very honored to be part of that close relationship.”

The commander had an especially personal connection to one of the kites flown at the festival. In November 2023, Hunter helped harvest bamboo from on Camp Zama with representatives from the Sagami Giant Kite Association, Kassaka District. That bamboo was used to construct the frame of the association’s kite. At the festival, a Kassaka District member showed Hunter where on the kite they had used one of the bamboo stalks the commander had cut down.

Seeing up close the hard work and care that went into building the kite was amazing, Hunter said. He added that it was a privilege to have been part of the process of making the final product and for Camp Zama to have been able to share its resources and contribute to the success of the festival.

“We are so thankful to be able to participate with both Zama City and Sagamihara City, and all the kite associations’ wonderful traditions,” he said.

Each year, both cities construct multiple kites of different sizes for use and display at the festival. The centerpieces are the cities’ two largest kites, each measuring about 14.5 square meters and weighing more than two tons.

Each city decides annually on which “kanji” character will be written on their kites to represent the message they want to convey that year. This year, Zama chose the character “koryu,” which means “shining dragons,” to represent this year’s zodiac sign and to evoke the image of the kite shining and running across the sky. Sagamihara chose “kifu,” which means “winds of celebration,” to represent 70th anniversary of the city’s founding.

During the festival, Hunter met with both Sagamihara City Mayor Kentaro Motomura and Zama City Mayor Mito Sato, who were there to kick off the joint event.

Mayor Motomura said he wanted to invite Camp Zama leadership, their families and the Camp Zama community to enjoy the festival and to see the giant kites up close to gain an appreciation of the master craftmanship that has been passed down for nearly two centuries.

“Especially notable are the Kassaka Association’s kites, which are made from bamboo from Camp Zama that Colonel Hunter helped harvest,” Motomura reiterated. “I think the friendship between us and Camp Zama will be further strengthened through this event, and I hope both sides will continue to learn about each other’s culture and history and build our communities together.”

The festival also celebrated the Japanese holiday of Children’s Day, a day in which citizens pray for the health and well-being of children in Japan. Having Camp Zama leadership and community members at the festival to celebrate the observance was a special privilege, Mayor Sato said.

“Getting to know each other and each other’s cultures is the first step toward peace, and I believe it is very important for both of us to continue to deepen our cultural exchange as good neighbors,” Sato said. “Through interactions like this, we see the areas where we can both help each other.”

Date Taken: 05.13.2024
Date Posted: 05.13.2024 03:27
Story ID: 471097

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