US uses farmers markets to foster ties at bases in Japan

TOKYO — As the United States and Japan strengthen their military alliance, they have turned to farmers’ markets to foster friendly ties 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, bringing spinach, pineapples, lemons and other fresh vegetables and fruits that the U.S. embassy has drawn hundreds of customers to. .

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

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“A win-win for everyone,” Emanuel tweeted.

Fostering good relations with host communities is important for the US military based in Japan – especially in Okinawa where a large US military presence has carried a fraught history.

Emanuel said in a statement that he hopes to see the farmers’ market foster a bond between Okinawan residents and U.S. service members who are contributing to Japan’s defense. He said he hopes to establish more farmers markets at other US 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 Governor Denny Tamaki at a festival gathering Okinawans from around the world, including those of American descent. Okinawa, held every five years. .

Okinawa returned to Japan under US occupation in 1972. Today, a majority of the 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan under a bilateral security pact, as well as 70% of US military installations, are still in Okinawa, accounting for only 0.6% in Japan.

Many Okinawans who complain about noise, pollution, accidents and crimes related to US troops are now concerned about a possible emergency in Taiwan – just west of Okinawa and its outer islands – as an increasingly active China raises tensions in amid his rivalry with Washington.

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

The launch of farmers’ markets in Okinawa on Sunday came a week after one at Yokota Air Base on the western outskirts of Tokyo.

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