Sailors, family members experience Japanese tradition

Story by: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mackenzie P. Adams

Navy Public Affairs Support Element Japan

Sailors and family mem­bers assigned to commands at Fleet Activities, Yokosuka (FLEACT, Yokosuka) took the idea of carrying the weight of representing the United States in their host nation of Japan literally by participating in the 36th annual Mikoshi Parade, Sunday October 21.

The Mikoshi Parade is an annual Japanese festival where portable Shinto shrines are carried on the shoulders of groups of people.

“I’m really excited to be here and to be participating in this event,” said Information Systems Technician Seaman Marjorie Merrin, a Sailor attached to Navy Information Operations Command. “I came to Japan to experience new culture and I think this is a great way to learn new things.”

The average shrine can weigh up to approximately 1,200 pounds and is carried by at least 30 people. Some of the largest Mikoshis weigh several tons and require over 100 people to carry.  The portable shrines, or Mikoshi, are traditionally believed to transport Shinto deities from one shrine to another. Mikoshis are often built to resemble an actual shrine and is made from wood, with gold and silver decorations.

The parade attracted thousands of Japanese locals and Sailors to the downtown Yokosuka area. For some Sailors, it was their first time ever participating in this event.

“This is my first time doing anything like this and it was a really good time,” said Gas Turbine Systems Technician 2nd Class Arric Reed. “It is a really unique opportunity and I am really thankful to the Japanese people for allowing us to participate in this event. It was challenging because the Mikoshi was heavy but after it was over it was very rewarding.”

The event provides an opportunity for FLEACT, Yokosuka personnel to learn about Japanese traditions while participating with the local community.

“This is the third Mikoshi parade that I have participated in over the past ten years,” said Larry Coyne, a civilian employee at Yokosuka’s Ship Repair Facility. “The major thing that keeps me coming back as a participant is the friendship it promotes between the Americans and the Japanese. It allows us to interact with the locals and get to know each other better.”

The parade started near Yokosuka Chuo Station outside the base and ended on base. Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sponsored the FLEACT, Yokosuka Mikoshi and had 80 volunteers to carry it. The participants practiced carrying the Mikoshi one week before the parade. Sailors and family members put towels on their shoulders for padding while carrying the shrines through the streets of Yokosuka.

FLEACT, Yokosuka was open to the public as part of the celebration. Japanese nationals were afforded the opportunity to visit the base and learn  more about the installation.

“I really like everything about the American military base,” said Shingici Yamada, a Japanese national that attended the festival. “I am very excited to be here and see what the base looks like. My favorite part was the American Mikoshi shrine.”

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