friendship day firstsAaron Pylinski | Staff Writer
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni’s Friendship Day is hands down one of the most dynamic events in Japan. Featuring one of the largest single-day airshows with more than 200k visitors from around the globe, there’s something significant for everyone. Whether it’s the Blue Impulse headlining or the roar of an F-35 hovering above the crowd visitors are treated to a remarkable event with lasting memories.
We asked our community about their first Friendship Day, and their responses were fantastic.
My first Friendship Day was in the ‘70s. I was a Sgt stationed at the base photo lab. We met the children at the Sakura Theater. From there we broke out in groups and toured part of the base where they had an area set up for games which we played. I believe we went to the mess hall behind the Block 8 barracks to eat. Afterwards, we went back to the Sakura Theater to watch cartoons. We then said our goodbyes. That has always stood out as one of the best days of my life. I still miss Iwakuni.
日本で アメリカを 感じた １日でした ４月７日 マラソン 参加しますので よろしくお願います.
I enjoy American culture in Japan [at Friendship Day]. I'm going to join the Iwakuni Marathon on April 7th.
It was 2014. I was very excited when I saw various aircraft.
The first time I came to Friendship Day was when I was in primary school and now I come with my kids. It's hard to come every year, but when there’s no big war and no big disaster, it's a peaceful time and I hope it will be held this year!
I enjoyed my first time at Friendship Day in 2017 and also I came back last year, too. This year, I am not able to come to the Friendship Day 2019 for maternity leave. I want to come back next year again.
Last year I went with my husband. My daughter married a U.S. Marine, and I wanted to see where my son-in-law worked, so we went to Friendship Day.
The History of MCAS Iwakuni
- 1938 - Land purchased by the Japanese government to establish a naval air station.
- 1940, Jul 8 - Japanese Naval Air Station established and used as a training and defense base. The base housed 96 trainers (aircraft) and 150 Zero fighter planes.
- 1943, Sep - Etajima Naval Academy established. Approx. 1,000 cadets training at any given time.
- 1945, May & Aug - U.S. B-29’s bombed Iwakuni targeting oil refineries and rail station areas. The first allies to reach the base were a group from the 4th Marine Regiment. The base saw changes in many occupants: U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand.
- 1948 - designated a Royal Australian Air Force Base.
- 1950 - 3rd USAF Bomber Wing (B-29) and Royal Navy as a UN force occupied Iwakuni at the beginning of the Korean War earning the base the nickname “Gateway to Korea”. Other units that used the base at the time included U.S. Navy Fleet Air Wing 6, Task Force 77, and Task Force 95.
- 1952, Apr - USAF took over Iwakuni officially making it a U.S. military base. October 1954 - U.S. Navy Fleet Air Wing 6 took over the base becoming Naval Air Station Iwakuni
- 1956, Jul - 1st MAW moved their headquarters from Korea to NAS Iwakuni
- 1958 - USMC took over control of the air station renaming it Marine Corps Air Facility Iwakuni.
- 1962 - Officially designated MCAS Iwakuni
- 1966 - Nuclear weapons stored temporarily on the base
- 1969 - VMFA-334 became the first unit to deploy to MCAS Iwakuni. 1st MAW (Rear) established.
- 1970 - Establishment of Far East Network TV station (the precursor to AFN).
- 1973 - First Friendship Day
- 1989 - MAG-15 stands down. MABS-15 and MABS-12 combine to form MALS-12. The first deployment of AV-8B Harriers to Japan occurs at MCAS Iwakuni.
- 1997 - Runway relocation project starts.
- 2010 - New airfield opens.
- 2012 - Iwakuni Kintaikyo International Airport officially opens
- 2018, Jan 2017 VMFA-121 arrives with F-35B Lightning II aircraft
- 2018, May - CAW 5 completed relocation from NAF Atsugi.
The four holidays of Golden Week
- April 29 Showa no hi: The birthday of former Emperor Showa, who died in 1989.
- May 3 Kenpo kinenbi: The new post-WWII constitution goes into effect on this day in 1947.
- May 4 Midori no hi: A day dedicated to the environment and nature.
- May 5 Kodomo no hi: Japanese families pray for the health and future success of their sons.