iReport: My favorite Japan destinations

iReport: My favorite Japan destinations

CNNGo iReporter Dustin Perry shares a seasonal flowering of Japan-U.S. friendship
Camp Zama Cherry Blossom Festival
Kanagawa residents and U.S. personnel from Camp Zama hit the road under the cherry bloom.

In a recent CNNGo iReport assignment, we asked readers to share their photos of their favorite Japanese destinations.

Dustin Perry, 30, attached to the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama base in Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, submitted these images taken by colleague Tetsuo Nakahara, 39, of the 2012 Cherry Blossom Festival there.

Here, he explains the selections he made and what stood out for him.

This year's Cherry Blossom Festival was significant because it marked both the anniversary of a historic gift from Japan to the United States and the welcome return of the event itself.

The annual open-post event, which drew more than 28,000 visitors, coincided with the 100th anniversary of Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki's gift to the city of Washington, D.C., of more than 3,000 cherry trees.

Last year's festival was canceled in the wake of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, less than one month before the event was scheduled.

Camp Zama Cherry Blossom FestivalU.S. Army Garrison Commander Col. Eric D. Tilley gets some face time with visiting children.

Its return this year demonstrated the country's resilience and highlighted the strong relationship the U.S. military shares with the host nation, said U.S. Army Garrison Commander Col. Eric D. Tilley.

"These kinds of events are an opportunity to literally open our doors to our host nation and to the larger community outside of our gates," said Tilley.

"It's an opportunity for [Japanese people] to understand more about us and what we do on a daily basis, and interact with our family members, our civilians and our military."

More on CNNGo: Cherry blossoms in Tokyo

The event began in the morning with a combined three- and seven-kilometer race for children and adults, as well as an open tournament at the Camp Zama Golf Course.

A stage set up on the field behind Yano Fitness Center was host to a number of musical acts and a DJ spinning tunes throughout the day.

Camp Zama Cherry Blossom FestivalVisitors were kept fed and watered in true festival style.

There were also dozens of food vendors, an area for children's games and activities, and a static display of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

However, the true draw for most visitors to the festival was the opportunity to admire the iconic white-and-pink flowers from which the event takes its name.

The streets throughout central and northern Camp Zama are lined with hundreds of cherry blossom trees, which Tilley said were "timed perfectly" this year. 

"This is an opportunity for us to express our appreciation to Japan and help them understand better how we live and how we interact with their communities," he said.

"A lot of times, the only time they see Americans is as tourists. Here, they get to see us and interact with us more as community members who are part of the same neighborhood.

Camp Zama Cherry Blossom FestivalWhat it's all about -- this year's impressive sakura show.

"I'm very confident that this festival will go on for many, many years to come," he added, "because it highlights what this community is truly about, and that is the friendship that we share with our host nation."

More on CNNGo: 12 reasons to visit Japan in 2012

These photos were submitted to CNNGo by iReporter Dustin Perry as part of an iReport assignment asking readers to share their favorite Japanese destinations. Interested in submitting your own stories, photos and videos? Visit our iReport page.

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