MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- For most Marines aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan weekends are a time to relax and unwind, but for five volunteers, their Sunday was spent at the Kuragake Castle Festival Nov. 17, 2013.
The festival drew volunteers to Kuga Elementary School, where service members donned authentic samurai armor and weapons, and paraded through the streets of Kuga. Volunteers also partook in a theatrical reenactment of a battle that occurred during the 16th century. Japanese volunteers assisted the Marines as they dressed in their armor, and made sure the pieces were tightly secured. With the army of samurai dressed for war, participants took time to practice their lines and war cry for the upcoming reenactment.
“Oyakata-sama!” The actors blared as they began their rehearsal.
After finishing their practice, final preparations were taken, as well as group photos, before heading out to the starting area of the parade route.
“The parade was awesome, especially when we would get compliments on how professional we looked during the parade, and just wearing the armor was amazing,” said Cpl. Javier King personnel administrator with station installation personnel administration center.
Hiromi Kawamoto, the community relations specialist with the station Public Affairs Office, explained that the festival celebrates Kuga samurai, who faced a much larger military force. However, the brave warriors chose to fight against bleak odds. Urging their castle lord, the samurai asked to make their last stand.
For most Marines, this is an opportune chance to experience Japanese culture first hand and, build good relations between Japanese and Americans.
“I would strongly recommend for other people to try this event,” said King. “The Japanese people are very nice and you don’t always get the chance to wear armor and march down the streets.”
With the re-enactment behind them, troops received applause from the audience as they exited the plaza. As they marched away the samurai were dismissed to enjoy themselves during the festival. An assortment of food and drinks were offered during the festival, and those who watched could take their photo with the legion of samurai.
As the day ended, Marines along with the other volunteers, retired their armor and weapons before returning to the station with food, photos and memories of being a samurai for a day.