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Yokota celebrates unity, reflects on 2023 with Friendship Clubs of surrounding communities

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Manuel G. Zamora
  • 374 Airlift Wing

Yokota hosted the Yokota Friendship Clubs’ New Year’s Party and brought in the new year with a celebration of camaraderie and unity, Jan. 20 at the Enlisted Club.

The first Yokota Friendship Club, named the Fussa-Yokota Goodwill Exchange Club, was established in 1989 as local Japanese community leaders wanted to express their appreciation to U.S. forces in Japan. Over several years, it has evolved into a network of seven Friendship Clubs across the municipalities of: Fussa, Akiruno, Mizuho, Hamura, Musashimurayama, Akishima, and Ome.

“To all the members of the 374th Airlift Wing and all members of each Friendship Club, Happy New Year,” said Masaki Amani, Akiruno-Yokota Friendship Club president. “In our community, we would like to continue fostering and strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Japan this year.”

The New Year’s party opened up with the Yokota Air Base Honor Guard presenting colors for the U.S. and Japanese national anthems. The presidents of each club then gave remarks to highlight the importance of Yokota’s relationship with surrounding communities, sharing success and lessons learned during 2023.
Each of the presidents took time to voice consolation for the families affected by recent tragedies throughout Japan.

“I would like to express my sincere condolences to those who have been affected by the Ishikawa Prefecture Noto Peninsula earthquake… I also extend my deepest sympathies to those who lost their lives in last year’s CV-22 mishap,” said Hiroyuki Nakajima, Akiruno City mayor. “I express my gratitude to all of you for your efforts in maintaining a long-lasting relationship.”

The event concluded with a ceremonial opening of a sake keg followed by a toast, symbolizing the opening of the door to good fortune and prosperity.

Events like this illustrate the power of cultural exchange and help fortify enduring partnerships.

“Today is just one of the many examples of an event that fosters mutual understanding between distinctive cultures,” said Col. Andrew Roddan, 374th Airlift Wing commander. “Let me be clear, our mission at Yokota cannot succeed without our surrounding communities. You are part of us, and we are a part of you.”