The "lighter" side is what made this Friendship Day different from previous years: There wasn't an air show. I am assuming that this was to save money on jet fuel, tires for landing gear, oxygen for the pilots... I have no idea. Regardless, there were static displays, stage shows, lots of food, lots of lines and lots of photo ops. And plenty of positive PR for the base. But, since there was not an air show, the draw wasn't as enticing for many Japanese, so a "lighter" crowd was expected... if you believe the rumors, there has been a recent Friendship Day with 200,000 people attending.
I didn't head out in to the fray until around noon. At this point, this was what I knew of Friendship Day, based off the view from my building:
For those of you not familiar with air stations or airports, those tour buses are not usually out there with airplanes. Visitors could only get on base on foot, on bicycle or by tour bus. Tour buses were lined up starting at 7 a.m. Gates to the flight line did not open until 10 a.m. Hoping to avoid the crush of people who had been waiting over three hours, we held off going to the festivities until close to noon. In anticipation of the base closing down most of its roads for the event, school was cancelled, shopping was very limited and some Marines had the day off. Mine did not.
Here is what the kids, my neighbor, Donna, and I saw as we walked past the base's front gate and along the main road toward Crossroads, the main shopping district on base, and where the gates to the flight line were located:
They had even pulled the historic Zero out of the hangar for people to check out:
We had heard that the line to get in to Crossroads Food Court was ridiculously long, with dozens of Japanese people who wanted to taste some American fast food, so, of course, like any good gawkers, we had to check it out.
That was the line for the "in" door. I snuck in to get some pictures on the inside. It was really quite sedate compared to what I was expecting. They had a number of people monitoring the doors... probably to make sure that the food court stayed within fire code. Oh, and the drink machines were shut down... no free refills. That is only a perk I have found at Costco and Joyfull restaurants off base here in Japan.
After checking out the crowd at Crossroads, we headed off to the flight line:
...where they were serving Miller Light for $2 (I seriously hope this isn't the Japanese peoples' first impression of American beer)...
and camouflage stuff that would make any duck hunter happy, happy, happy.
And tasty treats the kids just had to try, although I think they wanted them more for the cups (which, somehow, reminded me of Vegas.)
And then it was time to brave the crowds...
But these were friendly crowds... plenty of friendship to go around:
And nothing says friendship like $15 pizzas... the tent below was sold out by noon...
... and I knew why. It seemed like every Japanese family left with a pizza or two... kind of like what I observe at Costco each time I go. This guy below is Exhibit A.
There were lots of other things for sale, as well.
And there were lines... lines for food:
and lines for the porta-potties:
Lots of pizza boxes in the trash:
And various other treats, like the Japanese plane that famously can land in water:
The Japanese man who likes to wear the American flag as a cape while he listens to live bands...
... and chat with small children.
More of a Metallica fan? There was a cover band for them, too.
And, especially for my Pensacola peeps, we may have the Blue Angels, but Japan has the Blue Impulse... JASDF is Japan Air Self Defense Force - the Japanese military. And, sadly, no air show meant I did not get to see them perform, so I cannot compare their show to the Blue Angels'. But the Impulse do not fly over my backyard every Tuesday morning, that's for sure.
And, apparently photographers are measured by the size of their camera lenses. I would lose in that pissing contest, I assure you. I am not sure why you need that lens to photograph a huge plane you are standing next to, but I bet he could see Russia from his house with that thing.
I wanted to borrow this guy's step stool, but figured I'd take a picture of him taking a picture instead...
It's a photographer thing.
And, last but not least, Japanese festival favorites... meat on a stick and foot-long French fries. Yum!
And organizers... more porta-potties wouldn't be a bad idea. I am not sure how many people peed their pants waiting for 45 minutes in a bathroom line.... especially if Friendship Day ever gets "heavy" again. I felt sorry for potty-training 2-year-olds and their mothers.