By Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ryan C. Delcore, Naval Air Facility Misawa Public Affairs
ONAGAWA, Japan (NNS) -- Sailors stationed and deployed at Misawa Air Base, Japan, took part in Onagawa, Japan's sacred mikoshi festival May 3.
The Sailors helped local citizens carry a portable Shinto shrine, known as a mikoshi, to Onagawa's neighborhoods and businesses as priests prayed for another year of protection and good fortune.
"This festival has happened here for over 200 years. Onagawa is a fishing town and it's important that we pray for a calm ocean and a lot of fish," said Suzuki Noriyuki, a resident of Onagawa who owns a fishing company and who helped organize the Sailors' visit.
Fishing companies, grocery stores, and the local hospital were also visited during the festival.
Noriyuki, along with other local leaders, visited Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, last April to visit with U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet leadership and thank them for their help during Operation Tomodachi. While there, U.S. Pacific Fleet leadership agreed to continue to support Onagawa by sending U.S. Sailors to attend the city's mikoshi festival.
"When the 2011 tsunami happened, the American Navy was the first to bring relief supplies for the city of Onagawa. The U.S. Navy helped clear debris and reopen the Sendai Airport which is a major hub for flying in relief supplies to the Miyagi prefecture. It would have been even worse if we didn't have those supplies for the surrounding areas that were affected by the tsunami. Many lost everything during the tsunami and the Navy ensured we had what we needed and that the survivors were kept safe," said Noriyuki.
"This is a unique experience. I definitely want to learn about the culture while I'm here and learn about everything while I can. Most people were willing to come up and talk to me. I've also went up and talked to a lot of people, and there was a lot of fun interaction," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Lonnie Shepard, from Rockwall, Texas.
The members of the team consisted of Builder 2nd Class James Delacruz, assigned to Public Works Department, Misawa, from Popanga, Philippines; Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) Thomas Johnson, assigned to Naval Air Facility, Misawa, from Wilsonville, Ala.; Aviation Support Equipment Technician 3rd Class Kester Baird, assigned to Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Detachment, Misawa, from Brooklyn, N.Y.; Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Liam Fazio, assigned to Commander, Task Force 72, from Fort Wayne, Ind., Yeoman 2nd Class Robert Barker, assigned to Navy Munitions Command East Asia Division Unit Misawa, from Colorado Springs, Colo.; Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Joenel Gloria, assigned to Aviation Support Detachment, Misawa, from Ewa Beach, Hawaii; Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Lonnie Shepard, assigned to Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Far East Detachment, Misawa, from Rockwall, Texas; Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Alejandro Henriquez, assigned to the Screaming Eagles of Patrol Squadron 1, from Chicago; and Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class David Malievsky, assigned to the Black Ravens of Electronic Attack Squadron 135, from Hotchkiss, Colo.