SEATTLE, Washington -- Several senior leaders from Joint Base Lewis-McChord joined the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle for his annual Tomodachi Reception Mar. 23, to celebrate Japan’s continued partnership with the United States.
Yoichiro Yamada, the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle, hosted the event at his official residence, where he thanked and welcomed the service members while expressing the importance of the U.S. and Japan alliance.
“First of all I’d like to convey Japan’s gratefulness to the service and friendship you give,” said Yamada. “U.S. military presence in Japan and in the Pacific and your commitment to peace, provides regional stability and security that is the basis of our wellbeing.”
He said that under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, thousands of U.S. military personnel are stationed at U.S. bases all over Japan.
“Our alliance is more than for the defense of territory,” he said. “It is for the defense of universal values, such as our freedom.”
The word Tomodachi is a Japanese word meaning “friends”. Yamada said since 2015, the government of Japan has made it a priority to host such receptions at each local Japanese consulate in the states to express appreciation to U.S. service members.
I Corps Commander, Lt. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, the senior U.S. military officer present, said it was important to build and strengthen the U.S.-Japan partnership.
"We are honored to have all of our service members represented from Joint base Lewis McChord," said Volesky, in his opening remarks. "I want you to know it's an honor for us to be here today. It's another demonstration of the importance of our relationship together not only as nations but as friends."
Volesky said that he had never been to the Asia-Pacific region before becoming the I Corps commander, but generated laughs from the audience explaining he’s now been there twice in 10-months of command and suspects he will be back throughout his tenure as the I Corps commanding general.
Yama Sakura, an annual bilateral command post exercise involving the U.S. military and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force was the training event that brought Volesky to Japan, as well as other service members at the reception.
Other distinguished guests at the event included representatives for Congressman Adam Smith, U.S. Congressman, Washington State and members from the Nisei Veterans Committee. Army Veteran, Walter Tanimoto, now serving as commander, Nisei Vets Committee issued a few words on the 6-year relationship with I Corps, 7th Infantry Division and the JGSDF before leading the reception in a Kampai toast.
Following the toast, guests were able to mingle, reflect and share experiences and time spent in Japan, while enjoying a buffet spread of Japanese-Style food and friendships.
During his remarks, Yamada touched on the bitter wars fought in the past by the two nations but stressed the importance of the partnership as key to international security in the world today.
Volesky wrapping up his opening remarks, emphasized the U.S. view the JGSDF as partners, fighting together in whatever problem sets that may arise, while building on great relationships today and for the future.
"As you look at these great Airmen that are here with us today, it is symbolic of how we operate," said Volesky. "We fight jointly. We fight together, and that's exactly what we will do with our great Japanese partners if called upon."