Japanese navy comes to town

EVERETT — The Japanese navy was caught in traffic.

One hundred young officer trainees were stuck on the freeway on their way to Naval Station Everett from Seattle, where their ship, the Kashima, was tied up this week at Pier 66.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force annually sends a t

raining squadron to visit Pacific ports. This year, a trip to Everett was part of the itinerary, said the Japanese consulate in Seattle. On Wednesday, the group visited Boeing’s Future of Flight museum at Paine Field and then attended a Mariners baseball game.

On board the USS Ingraham on Friday morning, a group of equally young U.S. Navy officers waited patiently and eagerly for their foreign counterparts to show up for a tour of the frigate.

In their dress-whites, Ensign Kristin Kreyenhagen, 23, of Montana, and Lt.j.g. Colin Christ, 24, of Colorado, organized their colleagues to serve as tour leaders. The sailors are proud of their ship, which is the last of the Perry-class frigates built by Todd Shipyards of Seattle. About 180 people serve on the Ingraham and most are young, Kreyehagen said.

“It’s our little community, a little less formal than some. Most of us requested duty at Everett. We are happy to be in port for most of the summer,” Kreyehagen said. “And we are always happy to show off our ship.”

Their new commanding officer, Cmdr. Kristin Stengel, stopped by with a box of Girl Scout cookies that had been donated to the ship’s crew. Stengel told her young officers about the dinner the Kashima crew had hosted Thursday in Seattle.

“It was quite a spread. As my crew likes to say, ‘it was off the chain.’ Sushi, tempura and a sake ceremony,” Stengel said. “It was elegant. They wanted to thank our Navy for our support of Japan after their earthquake and tsunami. We aren’t offering a grand dinner for them today. It’s a work day for us on the Ingraham, but we are happy they are here.”

The Japanese squadron, in equally white dress uniforms, walked in formation down the long pier to the Ingraham. Everett is the first foreign naval base most of the officer trainees had visited.

For Ensign Chihiro Yagi, 24, of Osaka, the size of Everett’s base was surprising.

“It’s huge,” Yagi said. “We just graduated from our naval academy in March and we are happy to be enjoying our first adventure abroad.”

As Lt.j.g. Christ led his visitors on a tour of the main deck, the bridge and the common areas of the ship, Ensign Fumito Kataoka, 23, served as a translator for his colleagues.

“I lived in Miami for four years, that’s why my English is OK,” he said. “We are thankful to everyone here who is asking about our families back home since the earthquake. Most of my family near Tokyo are doing fine.”

Then Kataoka hurried off to catch up with the tour group. There was much more to see, he said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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