Yokota maintainers refurbish the Wing’s Mikoshi

  • Published
  • By Yasuo Osakabe
  • 374th Airlift Wing public affairs

The 374th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment flight recently completed the refurbishing of the 374th Airlift Wing’s official mikoshi shrine and celebrated the monument with a rededication ceremony at Yokota June 15.

Mikoshi are portable Shinto shrines, resembling a small home with pillars, railings, walls, a roof and a veranda. They are believed to be vehicles to transport deities between shrines during festivals.

Although the religious belief is deeply rooted in Japan’s official religion, Shinto, it is viewed as cultural respect and experience by the U.S. military here.

Yokota borders five cities and one town and the servicemembers stationed here are involved in many facets of life with the citizens of those communities. One of those cities, Fussa, hosts a Tanabata Festival, or Star Festival, every summer. Airmen have been experiencing the festival since 1958 and actively participating in carrying mikoshi shrines during the festival since 1975.

In 2000, Yahachiro Ishikawa, then the president of the Fussa-Yokota Goodwill Exchange Club, had a mikoshi built to give Yokota an official role in the annual festival. Since, Airmen have carried it each year during the Tanabata Festival.

Over 15 years, the mikoshi was worn by weather and time, and in 2013, the Fussa-Yokota Goodwill Exchange Club officially donated the mikoshi to Yokota.

In December 2015, the 374th Maintenance Group and MXS became the permanent home for the shrine, after it was donated by Fussa-Yokota Goodwill Exchange Club in 2013.

Airmen with the 374 MXS and 374 MXG worked over 150 hours to sand, strip, paint, and treat the wooden surfaces as well as trim, shape, and fit more than 10 square meters of brass to replace the ornate work.

“The brass work was probably the most labor intensive. It involved a steady hand when cutting out the initial form, many small cuts and bends to wrap the brass around the metal plated,” said Master Sgt. Jacob Meyer, 374th MXS AGE flight assistant flight chief. “Also placing the brass on the shrine was very tedious, ensuring everything line up and driving in over 50 decals, with over 1000 micro cuts and using hundreds of small brass nails.” 

Tech. Sgt. Justin Williams, 612th Air Base Squadron and Joint Task Force-Bravo AGE section NCO in charge, led the refurbishment processing from guiding volunteers and working through fabrication.

“Reverse engineering and recreating the fine brass was seriously difficult,” Williams said. “I feel very humbled by this experience. It became a learning experience for me, diving into the history of mikoshi and understanding it purpose, ideology, lineage and delicacy.”

This year the mikoshi will have fresh brass and paint when it is carried down the streets of Fussa.

 “I wish I could be there to carry the Wing’s mikoshi alongside my brothers and sisters at the AGE flight.” Said Williams, who recently moved from Yokota. “I will watch friends from Facebook or online and I’ll enjoy the pictures and videos of the festival.”