Yokota Airmen Shoulder Shrine Through Streets

August 6, 2007

Author: Bryce S. Dubee

Source: Stars and Stripes


YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Shuffling slowly through crowded Fussa streets in 90-degree heat while shouldering a several-hundred-pound shrine on your shoulders may not seem like much fun. But for a group of Yokota servicemembers, it was the chance of a lifetime.

“I have no idea how long we’ve been going, but I’m having a blast,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Swenson, one of 32 Yokota airmen who participated in the 57th annual tanabata festival in nearby Fussa.

The festival honors the one day a year that two lovers from an ancient folk story can meet when the stars align.

Tanabata festivals are held throughout Japan, with towns decorating their streets in colorful streamers and hosting parades and fireworks shows.

During this year’s festival in Fussa, which continues through Sunday, the airmen carried one of five mikoshi — portable, yet extremely heavy, Shinto shrines — through the streets at a snail-like pace while being cheered on by the large crowd of onlookers lining the sidewalks.