News>Yokota celebrates cherry blossoms, hope with community
Members from Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Japanese locals walk down McGuire Avenue during the Yokota Cherry Blossom Open House April 10, 2011. Base officials opened the gates to the public, allowing the local Japanese community to come on to Yokota to see the trees in full bloom. More than 1,300 local nationals attended the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)
Col. Otto Feather and his wife, Nancy, pause for a picture with a Japanese family April 10, 2011 at the Cherry Blossom Open House at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Base officials opened the gates to the public, allowing the local Japanese community to come on to Yokota to see the trees in full bloom. Colonel Feather is the 374th Airlift Wing commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)
Army and Air Force bandsmen perform for Japanese visitors viewing cherry blossoms April 10, 2011, at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Yokota officials opened the base to Japanese neighbors to view the canopy of cherry blossoms along the road. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)
Senior Airman Alexander Barnes and Airman 1st Class Daniella Koza set up guides prior to the Yokota Cherry Blossom Open House April 10, 2011. Base officials opened the gates to the public, allowing the local Japanese community to come on to Yokota to see the trees in full bloom. Airmen Barnes is from Det. 2, Air Postal Squadron; Airman Koza is from the 374th Medical Support Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)
by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
4/11/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Officials here invited the community to come on base April 9 and view the base's collection of the flowering pink and white cherry blossom trees. More than 1,300 local nationals came to the open house.
The event comes on the heels of Operation Tomodachi, the relief efforts supported by Team Yokota in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami March 11.
"In light of recent events, there's not a lot to celebrate, so if there's anything we can be joyful about, it's the partnership we have with our friends and neighbors here," said Col. Otto Feather, the 374th Airlift Wing commander. "Our Japanese hosts treat us very well and take care of us all year long, so we wanted to welcome them on to Yokota and celebrate the season together."
Dozens of cherry blossom trees line McGuire Avenue, which runs right to the community. For Capt. Tania Bryan, the 374th AW chief of Public Affairs, opening the base was a rare opportunity to share an event with the Japanese public.
"Today's event is a reminder that our walls aren't so thick that we can't enjoy the friendship we share with the community," she said. "These trees are a symbol of hope and renewal as we work together to rebuild Japan."
The significance of the cherry blossom tree dates back to 1912, when the government of Japan sent several of them as gifts to the nation under President William H. Taft. Those same trees still bloom every spring around the Potomac River tidal basin in downtown Washington, D.C.
But for Staff Sgt. Desiree Penn, those are nothing compared to seeing the trees in their native country.
"I've seen the trees in D.C., and these are so different," said Sergeant Penn, one of the volunteers at the event. "These trees smell so much better and they're really tall. It's a great way to see that winter is over and spring is here."
Traka Norman agreed with her. She and her husband drove all the way from Yokosuka, Japan, about 50 miles away.
"Like me, many Japanese have never been on Yokota before, so there's a lot of curiosity," she said. "Cherry blossoms are so beautiful, so it's very kind to let everyone else see them up close."
The three-hour event also featured music from a joint Army-Air Force brass quintet, as well as fundraisers for disaster relief. Donations will be used by the American Red Cross to help victims of the Japanese disasters.