US uses farmers markets to foster ties at bases in Japan

TOKYO — As the United States and Japan deepen their military alliance, they have turned to farmers markets to foster friendly relations between American military bases and their Japanese neighbors.

On Sunday, about 20 Okinawan farmers and vendors came to Camp Hansen, a Marine Corps base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, with spinach, pineapples, giant lemons and other fresh vegetables and fruits that the U.S. embassy said drew hundreds of customers. .

U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, who proposed the event, said the market brought healthy, local produce to Camp Hansen’s customers, while providing new customers to Japanese farmers and entrepreneurs. He bought Okinawan spinach, according to the US Embassy.

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“A win win for everyone,” Emanuel tweeted.

Developing good relations with their host communities is important for the US military stationed in Japan – especially in Okinawa where the heavy US military presence has carried a dark history.

Emanuel said in a statement that he expects farmers markets to benefit Okinawan residents and American service members who contribute to Japan’s defense. He said he hopes to establish more farmers’ markets at other American bases throughout Japan and hold them regularly.

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Emanuel, a former congressman who served as former President Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff, tweeted that he later joined Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki at a festival where Okinawans gather from around the world, including Okinawan-Americans who It is held every five years. .

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Okinawa was returned to Japan from the US occupation in 1972. Today, most of the 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan under the bilateral security treaty, as well as 70% of US military bases, are still based in Okinawa, which is only 0.6%. Japanese land.

Many Okinawans who have complained about noise, pollution, accidents and crimes linked to US troops are now worried about a possible emergency in Taiwan – just west of Okinawa and its outlying islands – as an increasingly assertive China adding tension to its rivalry with Washington.

Tamaki, who was elected to a second four-year term in September, supports a bilateral security alliance, but has made reducing US military bases a key component of his platform.

Sunday’s opening of a farmer’s market in Okinawa came a week after one at Yokota Air Base in the western suburbs of Tokyo.


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