I spent February through August 1990 in Misawa Japan. I was attached to a U.S. Naval Patrol Squadron and was on a deployment from our base in Moffett Field, CA. Misawa is located in northern Japan and home to the Misawa Air Base where the U.S. Air Force and Japanese military share facilities.
By the time July rolled around, I was used to the daily routine of working 12-hour days and enjoying time off when we had it. My friend that owned a car asked me if I wanted to join in on a trip to Lake Towada, about 30 miles to the west of the base for a 4th of July celebration. Sounded interesting, maybe it would be like the way many of us “celebrate” Cinco de Mayo in the States – a bunch of people hanging out, drinking beer and not really knowing (or caring) why. So, of course, I was in.
The Japanese countryside and area around the lake reminded me of driving to Lake Tahoe back home, crystal clear water surrounded by huge and thickly packed trees. We packed the usual mix of Bud/Miller/Coors and a BBQ with hot dogs and burgers. We were going to show these guys how us Americans celebrate 4th of July. Luckily we found a spot in a crowded sandy beachy area with a clear view of the whole lake.
After setting up, things began to reach full swing with dogs and burgers on the grill and “barley pops” in hand. Just then a voice and a wave called us over to a nearby group of locals about the same age as we were and (surprise!) doing the same thing we were. Soon Buds/Millers/Coors were intermixed with Sapporos/Kirins/Asahis and a good time was being had by all. The only moment of apprehension came when they wanted to swap food and my beloved burgers were traded for something cold, slimy and grey-colored. In the spirit of the moment, we complied and after a while (and a few beers) it didn’t matter anyway. We ended up watching the greatest fireworks show that I had ever seen – with not only a fantastic aerial show, but fireworks also coming out of the water(!), incredible.
I was honored that the people in this foreign land would put on such a celebration for my national holiday. Though our countries have had differences, the time I spent in Japan left me with a fondness and appreciation for their culture. The 4th of July is the American celebration of pride and nationalism. Through all of the red, white and blue confetti sometimes we lose a sense of what this holiday is really about, brave men who took a stand and brought about the birth of a country like no other in history. A country that stands today as the beacon of hope and freedom in the world. A country that inspires others to share in that grand celebration even 5,000 miles away.