Updated: Jul 14
In a celebration of the enduring friendship between Japan and the United States, the Wine Country Marines recently participated in the annual reception hosted by the Consul General of Japan, Mr. Yasushi Noguchi. This formal gathering, held at the Japanese Official Residence in San Francisco, honored the Japan-US Alliance and showcased the strong bond between the two nations. As proud partners with Consul General Noguchi, the Wine Country Marines played an instrumental role in planning and coordinating this remarkable event, which is part of the Japan US Military Program (JUMP).
JUMP and Building Connections:
The Japan US Military Program (JUMP) is an initiative that connects past and present US service members, families, and government officials who have served in Japan. Through social networks and events like this reception, JUMP builds relationships and provides opportunities for service members to engage with each other over shared experiences. This event serves as a platform to express gratitude and appreciation to members of the United States Military for their service while stationed in Japan.
Read more about it: JUMP - Japan US Military Program | US Japan Alliance | Veteran (jumprogram.org)
A Night of Prestige and Honor:
Under the guidance of Vice Consul General Hajime Kishimori, the evening's Master of Ceremonies, the event commenced with a warm welcome speech from Consul General Noguchi. The keynote speech was delivered by Brigadier General Douglas Clark, the Commander of the Fourth Marine Division. The national anthem was beautifully performed by senior airman Keegan Bushouer of the United States Air Forces Band of the Golden West, filling the room with a sense of pride and unity.
Consul General's Address:
The Keynote Address was preceded by two notable speakers, foremost was our gracious host, Consul General Yasushi Noguchi followed by Ms. Suzanne Basalla, President of the US - Japan Council.
Consul General Noguchi touched the heart of every service member present when he said "The US Armed Forces rushed to Japan's aid earlier than anyone else, commencing rescue operations on an unprecedented scale as part of Operation Tomodachi. There is no telling how many lives you helped save so please accept our deepest gratitude, overall it is thanks to the US Service Members stationed and based in Japan, supplying their physical presence and even more importantly the will to defend our common values that has enabled us to fend off any sort of aggression or a breach of peace over the decades. "
Ms Suzanne Basalla then followed with personal comments related to her experiences while in uniform as a member of the United States Navy, then onto her current role as President of the US - Japan Council. She also highlighted the importance of the alliance and referenced Operation Tomodachi "Through my experience during Operation Tomodachi following the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, I came to truly understand that this precious Alliance requires investment at all levels - from the very top policy engagement down to the broad-based people-to-people ties. In that context, members of the US Military and those who are part of the Alliance are absolutely essential. It is the military that stands ready day in, and day out to defend Japan and to advance both of our Nations's interests. And it is these individuals who develop the professional ties and the personal friendships with Japanese counterparts that undergird the strength of the Alliance. Additionally, its is the US DoD team ad our families that create the connections to local communities that build the foundation of our willingness to sacrifice for each other."
The Keynote Address:
The evening's program reached a poignant moment with the keynote speech delivered by Brigadier General Douglas Clark, the Commander of the Fourth Marine Division. Brigadier General Clark's speech resonated with the audience as he eloquently spoke of the unbreakable bond, shared history, and joint collaboration between the US and Japanese forces. He emphasized the tight-knit relationship between our two nations, highlighting joint missions, joint defense, and the significance of living and training together to face challenges that are important not only to both nations but also to the world. His words underscored the profound importance of unity and cooperation in addressing shared global responsibilities. As the guests listened attentively, the speech served as a powerful reminder of the deep-rooted camaraderie and unwavering commitment between the United States and Japan.
A Taste of Japanese Tradition:
Consul General Noguchi then presented a traditional Japanese tea ceremony to the guests, providing a captivating glimpse into Japanese culture. Four military members were honored as part of the ceremony, experiencing the artistry and tradition firsthand. With intricate detail, the program and customs of the tea ceremony were explained to the guests, fostering a deeper appreciation for the cultural exchange between Japan and the United States.
Following the tea ceremony, Brigadier General Clark was invited to the stage to partake in the Sake Barrel Ceremony "Kagami-Biraki" as a cultural exchange with Consul General Noguchi and Ms. Basalla. Kagami-biraki is a ceremony performed at celebratory events in which the lid of the sake barrel is broken open by a wooden mallet and the sake is served to everyone present.
Kagami refers to the lid of the sake barrel and biraki means "to open," so kagami-biraki literally means "opening the lid." Because of the lid's round shape, the kagami is a symbol of harmony. The kagami-biraki, therefore, represents an opening to harmony and good fortune. During this special ceremony, all three dignitaries, donned in traditional Japanese robes, armed themselves with the wooden mallets. As the anticipation built, the room fell into a hushed silence. Then, on the count of three, they swung their mallets in unison, striking the sake barrel with a resounding thud. The lid shattered, symbolizing the opening of new opportunities and the shared pursuit of harmony between nations. The aroma of sake filled the air as it was poured into cups and offered to everyone present, fostering a sense of camaraderie and goodwill.
This kagami-biraki ceremony left a lasting impression, serving as a powerful testament to the enduring bond between Brigadier General Clark, Consul General Noguchi, and Ms. Basalla, as well as their mutual commitment to cultural exchange and friendship.
A Lasting Bond:
Following the kagami-biraki, Wine Country Marines President James Brown was invited to lead the toast, symbolizing the enduring bond between the people of Japan and America. In his address, he emphasized the importance of friendship and collaboration in maintaining strong international alliances. The occasion served as a reminder of the shared values and mutual respect between the two nations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening! As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and someone who had the privilege of serving in Japan, it is an incredible honor to stand before you tonight. We gather here at the gracious residence of the Consul General of Japan, Mr. Yasushi Noguchi, to express our deepest gratitude not only to the brave men and women of the US military but also to the people of Japan who have embraced us with open arms.
Tonight, let us raise our glasses to the people of Japan, whose friendship and support have meant the world to us. Their unwavering hospitality and willingness to embrace us as their own have enriched our lives beyond measure. We are forever grateful for the cultural exchange, the lifelong friendships, and the memories we carry with us.
May this evening serve as a celebration of the enduring friendship between our nations and a tribute to the countless stories of camaraderie and shared experiences that have bound us together. To the US military members, past and present, and to the people of Japan, I offer my heartfelt thanks. Your friendship, support, and unwavering spirit will forever hold a special place in our hearts.
Here's to the US military members who served in Japan, here's to the JUMP program that strengthens our bonds, and here's to the enduring friendship between the United States and Japan.
Culinary Delights and Fellowship:
Following the heartfelt toast, the guests were treated to an array of delectable food, drinks, and camaraderie. Traditional Japanese Sake and donated Cabernet from Valiance Wines, courtesy of Wine Country Marines board member Jim Hurson, added to the festive atmosphere. The reception provided an opportunity for attendees to further strengthen connections, foster new friendships, and celebrate the accomplishments of the Japan-US Alliance.
Conclusion of the Evening:
The annual reception hosted by Consul General Noguchi proved to be a remarkable evening filled with pride, gratitude, and a celebration of the Japan-US Alliance. Through the efforts of the Wine Country Marines, this event successfully highlighted the lasting bond between the people of Japan and America, while also recognizing the service and dedication of the United States Military stationed in Japan. As participants savored the cultural traditions, culinary delights, and the warm camaraderie, the reception exemplified the significance of international partnerships and the power of shared experiences.
The Wine Country Marines would like to thank Consul General Noguchi for allowing us to be a part of his team on this event. And a special thanks to Vice Consul Hajime Kishimori, Dambara Hiroshi, Commander, Japan Coast Guard Coast Guard Attaché and Jeffrey Fleischman, Assistant for Economic Affairs for all of their hard work in making this event possible.
Professional Photos below, provided by the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco, all rights reserved. Photo credit: Consul General of Japan.