TOKYO — As the United States and Japan further strengthen their military alliance, they have turned to farmers’ markets to foster friendlier 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 locally grown spinach, pineapples, large lemons and other fresh vegetables and fruits that the U.S. Embassy said brought hundreds of attracted customers. .
U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, who introduced the event, said the market brought healthy, local produce to consumers at Camp Hansen, while providing Japanese farmers and businesses with new customers. He bought Okinawan spinach, according to the US Embassy.
“A win-win for everyone,” Emanuel tweeted.
Fostering good relations with their host communities is important to the US military based in Japan – particularly in Okinawa where a heavy US military presence has carried a fraught history.
Emanuel said in a statement that he expects to see farmers’ markets foster a benefit between Okinawan residents and U.S. service members who contribute to the defense of Japan. He said he hopes to establish more farmers markets at other U.S. bases across Japan and hold them regularly.
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 at a festival of Okinawans gathering from around the world, including Americans of Okinawa descent, held every five years. .
Okinawa was returned to Japan from American occupation in 1972. Today, a majority of the 50,000 US troops based in Japan under a bilateral security treaty, as well as 70% of US military facilities, are still in Okinawa, accounting for only 0.6%. of Japanese country.
Many Okinawans who complain about noise, pollution, accidents and crime linked to US troops are now worried about a possible emergency in Taiwan – just west of Okinawa and its outer islands – as an increasingly assertive China stokes tensions amid his rivalry with Washington.
Tamaki, who was re-elected to his second four-year term in September, supports the bilateral security alliance but has made reducing US military bases a key component of his platform.
Sunday’s launch of the farmer’s market on Okinawa came a week after one at Yokota Air Base in the western suburbs of Tokyo.