US uses farmers markets to foster ties at bases in Japan

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

On Sunday, about 20 farmers and vendors from Okinawa descended on Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen on the southern island of Okinawa, bringing in locally grown spinach, pineapples, lemons and other fresh vegetables and fruits that the U.S. Embassy said attracted hundreds of customers. .

U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, who proposed the event, said the market brings healthy, local produce to Camp Hansen consumers while providing new customers to Japanese farmers and businesses. According to the US Embassy, ​​he bought Okinawan spinach.

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“Win for all,” Emanuel tweeted.

It is important for U.S. forces stationed in Japan to foster good relations with their host communities—especially in Okinawa, where a heavy U.S. military presence carries a fraught history.

Emanuel said in a statement that he hopes the farmer’s market will promote benefits between Okinawan residents and U.S. service members who contribute to Japan’s defense. He said he hopes to establish more farmers markets at other U.S. bases across 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 Gov. Denny Tamaki in a celebration of Okinawans from around the world that gathers every five years, along with Americans of Okinawan descent. .

In 1972, Okinawa was returned to Japan from American occupation. Today, the majority of the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan under the bilateral security agreement, as well as 70% of U.S. military facilities, are still based in Okinawa, which is only 0.6%. of Japanese land.

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Many Okinawans, who have complained about noise, pollution, accidents and crime linked to the US military, now worry about a possible emergency in Taiwan – west of Okinawa and its outlying islands – as an increasingly assertive China raises tensions amid competition with Washington.

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

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

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