Japanese Self Defense Force Training Squadron Visit
On October 10th, we were honored to be visited by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Training Squadron consisting of three ships, the flagship JS Kashima, JS Yamagiri and JS Shimayuki, which included approximately 710 officers and crew including 169 newly commissioned officers. The squadron was under the command of Rear Admiral Yasuki Nakahata and the training tour started in Japan in May, with visits to 16 ports and 12 countries ending in Hilo. This was the first time in 47 years that the Navy’s training ships had visited Hilo.
This purpose of the training cruise is to develop seamanship of the newly commissioned officers, cultivate their minds as future leaders and also to promote mutual understanding and goodwill with the countries visited.
During their short stay in Hilo, the Admiral, Senior Officers and Newly Commissioned Officers (approximately 200) paid their respects at the Ireito Monument at Alae Cemetery with a brief service and wreath-laying ceremony. They also paid respects at two graves of Japanese cadets who died in the 1920’s and are buried at Alae Cemetery.
One team consisting of the crew and officers performed community service at Alae Cemetery, where they painted the rusted chain links at the Ireito Monument as well as the graves of the cadets and also cleaned the surrounding areas. Another team performed community service at Francis Wong Stadium, painting a storage container as well as the parking lot blockades.
On Sunday October 11th, we held a friendship softball game between two teams from the ships and local players. After the game we had a potluck lunch and fellowship. Simultaneously, the official military band for the squadron along with their Taiko group performed alongside Taishoji Taiko, a hula halau, Tahitian group and Mark Yamanaka at the Civic Auditorium for a free community concert event. The event ended with all participants and spectators joining in a ceremonial “Matsuri” dance around the Mikoshi which was placed in the middle of the floor. Also on Sunday, members of the various Kenjin Kai’s met with newly commissioned officers from their respective prefectures and treated them to sightseeing and lunch.
On Saturday and Sunday the squadron hosted over 150 persons for tours on the ships. These were prearranged due to security concerns and were very well received.
On Monday, October 12th, Admiral Nakahata conducted a briefing at the Hawaii Japanese Center presenting the squadron’s efforts in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku. At 4:00pm the squadron started departing the Port of Hilo.
Although their visit was very brief, they were able to do a lot of things and we were honored to be part of the exercise. Admiral Nakahata was very appreciative and guaranteed that it will not be 47 years before they visit Hilo again.