MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Trumpets blared and the roar of drums echoed through the downtown streets of Iwakuni to announce the beginning of the 54th annual Iwakuni Festival Sunday morning.
The city of Iwakuni, Iwakuni Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Iwakuni Tourism Association hosted the festival.
Approximately 98,000 people flooded into the downtown area to attend the festival, which was filled with live music, dancing in the streets, parades and food.
Their cheers resonated off the buildings as various school bands paraded down the streets playing their instruments and waving their ribbons.
“This is a great occasion which allows an exchange between the local community members,” said Yoshihiko Fukuda, Iwakuni City mayor through an interpreter. “(The community can) enjoy the local traditional food, use some of the local products and watch some of the local musical groups. It’s an occasion for everyone to exchange friendship, information and to share a communal feeling together.”
Several blocks by the downtown train station were closed off for the festival.
After the opening parade finished, a small flea market was assembled, offering different foods, clothing and art. Stages were erected, providing a scene for local musical performances.
A number of dance groups entertained festival attendees as they moved to the beats of Michael Jackson or traditional Japanese music.
More than 20 Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 and Combat Logistics Company 36 Marines came out to the festival dressed in their blues, charlies and cammies.
The Marines set up a tent to shake hands and take pictures with the local community.
Members from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force also set up a tent with the Marines to spend time with the community.
Fukuda said the Marines and JMSDF are part of Iwakuni, and he really appreciated their participation in the festival, which he believed to be an example of an active and lively Iwakuni.
Lance Cpl. Estrella Borrego, a CLC-36 supply specialist, came to the festival to help strengthen community ties.
“Hopefully (the local community) will be able to look at us and see us as people who like to have a good time with them and want to experience the things that they have to offer to learn more about their culture,” said Borrego.
A small downtown park was transformed into a site offering dog races, pony rides, magic shows and rides aboard a miniature train.
The people’s laughter filled the area as they enjoyed themselves on the various forms of entertainment.
“It‘s been so much fun. I really enjoyed myself,” said Hiromi Sakamoto, a local who attended the festival. “It‘s been a great occasion to exchange friendship with people from the base and with others from the local region.”
Sakamoto said she has been to the festival many times now and has always enjoyed herself with her family.
As the morning wore on into the afternoon, Taiko drums echoed and announced the beginning of the closing parade.
Clubs from the local area and musical groups danced and paraded through the street by the train station until the music ended announcing the close of the festival.
Proving the festival a success, it ended the way it began: with the drums echoing and people cheering while clapping their hands.