JDF JapanDefenseFocus No.87

  SPECIAL FEATURE

Japan-U.S. Friendship and Grassroots Exchanges

Interview with Colonel William B. Johnson, Commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan
&
Colonel Makoto Toyoda, Chief of Staff, Headquarters of Central Readiness Force and Chutonchi Commander, JGSDF Camp Zama
Japan-U.S. Friendship and Grassroots Exchanges

Camp Zama is a U.S. Army installation located in Kanagawa Prefecture, and home to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF). Camp Zama also houses the Headquarters of the Central Readiness Force (CRF), formed in 2007 to accommodate the growing diversity of JSDF missions, and the 4th Engineer Group, among others.

U.S. Army Garrison Japan Headquarters is located on Camp Zama. USAG Japan and its 16 supported installation/sites are located in the island of Honshu and Okinawa in Japan with mission to provide quality installation services and support to the soldiers, civilians, and families of the U.S. Army in Japan.

The JGSDF and the U.S. Army are involved with active grassroots exchanges involving local residents, including various events held throughout the year. The Cherry Blossom Festival is held every year in April, and Bon Odori Festival is held every August.

We conducted interviews with Colonel William B. Johnson, Commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, and Colonel Makoto Toyoda, Chief of Staff, Headquarters of Central Readiness Force and Chutonchi Commander, JGSDF Camp Zama.

Colonel William B. Johnson
Colonel William B. Johnson

Would you tell us your first impression when you arrived in Japan?

My first impression was that the Japanese people were incredibly hospitable, professional, dedicated workers and great partners. I just was really excited to be stationed here on behalf of my government to represent the United States as part of this critical alliance with one of our most valued and trusted partners in the Asia Pacific region.

Do you have any advantages from the fact that the JGSDF Camp Zama is located within the Camp Zama?

We have tremendous advantages by having the JGSDF collocated with the army headquarters here in Japan as well as my headquarters. First of all, the CRF is currently located on Camp Zama which allows ample opportunity for our army, Japan’s staff, to interact with them, for planning, for exercises, training events, and things of that nature, including Yama Sakura, which is one of the most major army exercises every year. In addition, we can leverage our relationship with the CRF and their expertise at disaster response. So, if there were an incident in Japan that required us to mobilize our forces with the JGSDF to respond to the community and protect the people of Japan, we work closely every day because of their presence here and it would be very easy for us to coordinate those activities. In addition, our soldiers just benefit from having the opportunity on a daily basis to interact with their Japanese counterparts. They learn about the culture of Japan, spend time together, and enjoy each other’s company. I think that, at the grassroots level, at the junior level, is just a really important way for us to learn more about one another and enhance the relationship between these two great allies, the United States and Japan.

Colonel Makoto Toyoda
Colonel Makoto Toyoda

What type of exchanges are being implemented to foster friendship between the JGSDF and U.S. Army in Japan? Can you also provide details of future exchanges?

In terms of cultural exchanges, we have the Cherry Blossom Festival and Bon Odori Festival, not to mention Christmas events. In the field of sports, we hold friendly sports competitions, softball tournaments, and tug-of-war contests. Private dinners and networking sessions are also held between the American and Japanese sides. In the future, we plan on continuing with these events and activities.

What are the future goals for JGSDF Camp Zama as a base located at U.S. Army Camp Zama?

Since opening, the entire JGSDF Camp Zama has had a consistent motto of working together with communities and with the U.S. Army in Japan. Exactly as this motto states, we will continue to follow these words faithfully as we fulfill our missions.

Would you let us know about Japan-U.S. exchanges at the JGSDF Camp Zama, which is the only JGSDF camp located within the U.S. Army Japan premises?

We have had exchanges with the U.S. side, such as official ceremonies implemented by Japan and the U.S., as well as off-duty or weekend events. We emphasize that we understand and respect each other’s cultures.

Japan-U.S. Friendship and Grassroots Exchanges
Japan-U.S. Friendship and Grassroots Exchanges
Japan-U.S. Friendship and Grassroots Exchanges
Japan-U.S. Friendship and Grassroots Exchanges
Japan-U.S. Friendship and Grassroots Exchanges
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