YOKOSUKA, Japan -- With 2019 drawing to a close, Sailors and their families stationed in Japan spent time with their counterparts in the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) exchanging culture and building friendships.
The various events, held at Navy installations around Japan annually, help to strengthen the alliance between the United States and Japan.
Sailors from the JMSDF presented kadomatsu, also known as a pine gates, to their American counterparts while the U.S. Navy personnel presented the JMSDF sailors with Christmas wreaths at bases throughout Japan. U.S. personnel also held mochi pounding (a traditional Japanese New Year celebration) ceremonies with the JMSDF. Both the kadomatsu and mochi pounding are Japanese New Year events that the JMSDF has a long history of sharing with their U.S. counterparts.
Kadomatsu, decorations consisting of three bamboo shoots cut diagonally with pine sprigs and a straw base, are placed in front of homes and offices in pairs around the New Year to welcome kami (spirits) that will bring bountiful harvests and ancestral blessings in the New Year.
JMSDF Chief Petty Officers presented a pair of kadomatsu to Commander Naval Forces Japan (CNFJ) and Commander Navy Region Japan (CNRJ) chief petty officers onboard Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) Dec. 23, 2019.
Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Gabriel Harley, CNFJ/CNRJ senior enlisted advisor, received the kadomatsu on behalf of the Chiefs Mess.
“This is the second year I’ve accepted the kadomatsu,” said Harley. “I think it’s important that accepting it and us reciprocating a Christmas wreath at our annual bonenkai (end of year party) as it helps bring the U.S. Navy Chiefs Mess and the JMSDF Chiefs Mess together so we learn from each other as well as during the different events we host throughout the year.”
Mochi is a Japanese food, locally believed to bring good luck, made by pounding and kneading cooked rice into a gummy paste, using large mallets as the hammering tools. The paste is then used in a variety of recipes, from snacks to soups, and even desserts. Mochi pounding festivals, or “mochitsuki,” are traditionally held to rejoice the Japanese New Year.
Sailors and their families throughout the region also participated mochi pounding ceremonies with their JMSDF colleagues. These events strengthen the ties between the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF, and help to strengthen the friendship of not only the alliance but also the individual service members.
“This is one of the most important bilateral events for ours and their CPOs,” said CFAY Command Master Chief Derek Mullenhour, at a mochi pounding event hosted by the JMSDF Chiefs Mess at the JMSDF Yokosuka base Dec. 14, 2019. “For 33 years now we have been getting together with our families and friends from both forces to celebrate the closing of the year and welcoming the new one. The sharing of great food and meeting the families is the best thing about this event. It is what makes us a strong alliance.”