Camp Kinser opens its gates during 14th annual Tedako Walk
URASOE CITY, OKINAWA, Japan – Approximately 7,600 community residents participated in the 14th annual Tedako Walk Feb. 7- 8, and walked through Urasoe City, Marine Corps Base Camp Kinser and Naha, Okinawa.
Since its beginning 14 years ago, the walk was created to promote friendship, healthy living and the fostering of community relationships between residents, which soon included the U.S. Marines. Out of all of the community-sponsored walks in Okinawa, the Tedako Walk is both the first and largest on island.
On the first day, Tetsuji Matsumoto, mayor of Urasoe City, and Col. Edmund J. Bowen, the commanding officer of Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Camp Kinser commander, supported the event by walking with the rest of the participants.
The walk’s route extended through the cultural hot spots of southern Okinawa, including Urasoe Dai Park, Sueyoshi Park and Urasoe Castle.
Community residents and the Marines used the walk as an opportunity to enjoy their time together, according to Matsumoto, a native of Okinawa.
“The Tedako Walk is a very big event,” said Matsumoto. “This is a great opportunity to think of our health, to meet people and communicate. Mr. Bowen and American friends joined this year; I am very happy because this is a great chance for us to communicate to each other – it’s a fun time.”
Before the walk, the participants engaged in “taiso,” which are synchronized group exercises, in Urasoe Athletic Park. Taiko drummers and “shishimai,” a dance of two performers in a lion-dog costume, greeted the walkers at the start of their journey. When the walkers returned to the athletic park, the drummers and lion dancers welcomed them back with strident drum hits and barrel rolls.
The walk consisted of a 10-kilometer course Feb. 7, from Urasoe City Athletic Park to Urasoe Castle and back. Community residents entered one gate of Camp Kinser and exited another, as part of a 20-kilometer course Feb. 8. There was also a 30-kilometer course that took the walkers into Naha Feb. 8.
The walk through Camp Kinser gave community residents an opportunity to get more familiar with the camp, according to Ichino Kuba, the communication relations specialist for Camp Kinser.
“They will know that we are very welcoming, very friendly and very open-minded,” said Kuba, a native of Okinawa. “They can get a taste of Camp Kinser and the American ambience – it’s a means to come and see the Marines at their home.”
Since this event is close to Naha and adjacent to Kinser, the walk is important for fostering relationships between residents and Marines, according to Bowen, a native of Staten Island, New York.
“To join in on their culture is very important for us, being their neighbors here on Camp Kinser,” said Bowen. “We have fences around our camp for security, but they are not walls. We need to branch our experiences of our nation with our host nation, Japan.”
Since his start as camp commander, the local community has enjoyed events on Camp Kinser, while Marines have enjoyed the events outside of the camp, according to Bowen.
“I look forward to these events,” said Bowen. “We need to continue that and get more of our residents here on Camp Kinser out into the community.”