US uses farmers’ markets to foster ties at military bases in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — As the United States and Japan strengthen their military alliance, they have turned to farmers’ markets to foster friendlier ties between U.S. military bases and their Japanese neighbors.

About 20 farmers and vendors from Okinawa came to Camp Hansen, a Marine Corps base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, on Sunday, bringing spinach, pineapples, large lemons and lemons. other locally grown fresh vegetables and fruits that the U.S. Embassy says have attracted hundreds of customers. .

U.S. Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, who proposed the event, said the market brings healthy, local produce to Camp Hansen consumers, while providing Japanese farmers and businesses with new customers. He bought spinach from Okinawa, according to the American Embassy.

“A win-win for all,” Emanuel tweeted.

Fostering good relations with their host communities is important to the U.S. military based in Japan — especially in Okinawa where a strong U.S. military presence has carried a steep history.

Emanuel said in a statement that he expects farmers’ markets to foster an advantage between Okinawan residents and U.S. service members helping to defend 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 Governor Denny Tamaki at an Okinawa festival bringing together people from around the world, including Okinawan Americans, held every five years. .

Okinawa was returned to Japan after the American occupation in 1972. Today, the majority of the 50,000 American soldiers based in Japan under a bilateral security pact, as well as 70% of American military installations, are still in Okinawa, which represents only 0.6% of Japanese land.

Many Okinawans who complain about noise, pollution, accidents and crimes 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 heightens tensions amid its rivalry with Washington.

Tamaki, who was reelected to his second four-year term in September, backs the bilateral security alliance but has made cutting US military bases a key part of his platform.

Sunday’s launch of the Okinawa Farmer’s Market came a week after that of Yokota Air Force Base in the western suburbs of Tokyo.

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