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Fitzgerald Participates in Shimoda Black Ship Festival

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050602-01
Release Date: 6/2/2005 2:15:00 PM

By Journalist 3rd Class Matthew Olay, USS Fitzgerald Public Affairs

SHIMODA, Japan (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) completed a successful port visit here May 20-22 after representing the U.S. Navy at the 66th Shimoda Black Ship Festival.

More than 300 Fitzgerald Sailors participated in a number of activities, including parades, ceremonies and a spectacular fireworks display during the festival, which commemorated the 1854 landing of Commodore Matthew Perry at Shimoda, and the subsequent opening of trade between Shimoda and the western world.

Day one of the festival gave Fitzgerald crew members the chance to get acquainted with their host port by participating in numerous official and unofficial functions. Commander, U.S Naval Forces Japan, Rear Adm. Frederick R. Ruehe; Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Capt. Gregory J. Cornish and Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bradley J. Smith, exchanged gifts and conversation during a pair of courtesy calls with the mayor of Shimoda, the Honorable Naoki Ishii, and other representatives from both the city of Shimoda and branches of Japan’s self defense forces.

“For more than 50 years, our two naval forces have trained and operated together, and the result is that our two naval forces are as close and as synchronized as any two in the world,” said Ruehe. “I feel the relationship between the United States and Japan is very much the same, and this festival here at Shimoda each year demonstrates that closeness, that solidarity, and, most importantly, the good friendship between us.”

Following the courtesy calls, Ruehe, Cornish and Smith joined with other Navy representatives to participate in a wreath laying ceremony at Gyokusenju Temple. The Buddhist ceremony honored members of Perry’s squadron who perished in Japan.

Also on May 20, close to 50 Fitzgerald Sailors headed to Shimoda Elementary School to spend time interacting with young students. The children treated the Sailors to song and dance performances, and the Sailors played games and had lunch with the students.

“[The students] were wonderful,” said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Arianne Davison of Fitzgerald’s combat systems department. “They held our hands, they hugged us all the time, we played recess with them, and it was really great.”

That night, Sailors and locals were entertained by beach concerts from the U.S. 7th Fleet Band, as well as from the U.S. Army Band. The evening also featured a fireworks display that lit up the entire harbor.

Day two of the Black Ship festival began with a formal ceremony at Shimoda Park. Numerous Fitzgerald crew members, citizens of Shimoda, citizens of Perry’s home state of Rhode Island, and others all attended the ceremony, which featured speeches from a number of dignitaries, as well as music from the U.S. 7th Fleet Band and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Band.

Following the ceremony, thousands of Shimoda citizens, a majority of them waving Japanese and American flags, lined the small city’s streets to witness the festival’s centerpiece: a lively parade that featured a group of Fitzgerald Sailors marching in a long line with members of the U.S. 7th Fleet band, Yokosuka’s Kinnick High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, as well as various other official guests and groups representing both Japan and the United States.

“Everybody was very kind,” said Interior Communications Electrician Fireman Mick Sharp of Fitzgerald’s combat systems department. “We had people getting off motor bikes in the road just to talk to us. For lack of a better word, they were very friendly.”

The festival’s final day was reserved for recreation and leisure. Fitzgerald Sailors participated in various sporting events that gave the ship’s crew the chance to interact with their Japanese hosts through some friendly competition. Beach volleyball, a river raft race, and golf and softball matchups all took place at various locations throughout the city.

As Fitzgerald has been forward deployed to Yokosuka for less than a year, many of the ship’s crew had yet to spend time in any of Japan’s smaller cities prior to taking part in Shimoda’s Black Ship festival.

“The culture’s different, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Seaman William Welsh of Fitzgerald’s deck department. “It’s great scenery, and talking to people, meeting the’s excellent.”

Operating out of Yokosuka, Japan, Fitzgerald is assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 and the USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) Strike Group.

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