Japan training squadron receives warm welcome in Cape Town

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A Training Squadron of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) arrived in Table Bay Harbour, Cape Town, to a 21-gun salute and a warm welcome on Tuesday 2 July.

The Japan Training Squadron 2024, composed of JS Kashima (flagship of the JMSDF Training Fleet) and Hatakaze-class guided missile destroyer JS Shimakaze, are the first JMSDF vessels to visit South Africa since World War II. The vessels were escorted into Table Bay by South African Navy frigate SAS Amatola and Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessel SAS King Shaka Zulu.

Speaking at a reception aboard JS Kashima, Japanese Ambassador to South Africa Ushio Shigeru noted that Cape Town has historically been a gateway to Africa and Europe for Japan since the 16th century. He also highlighted that Japan’s modernisation efforts deepened its friendship with the Royal Navy. During the First World War, the Imperial Japanese Navy dispatched two naval ships to Cape Town to protect British ships in the Indian Ocean from 1915 to 1918.

“When I look at Cape Town and the South African Navy, I feel a kinship over our past, even though we have different and complex histories,” Shigeru said.

However, this is not the first time that the two navies have interacted. In February 2016, a sailor aboard a JMSDF vessel on an Antarctic observation mission required urgent medical evacuation and the SA Navy was able to assist.

The two vessels of the Training Squadron are currently engaged in an Overseas Training Cruise that visits 11 countries around the world over six months. The purpose is to educate 190 newly commissioned officers, including one officer from the Royal Thai Navy, who graduated from the JMSDF Officer Candidate School in March, and to promote international goodwill. Departing Japan on 20 May, the cruise aims to provide officer trainees with hands-on training to acquire basic knowledge and skills required for their service, develop their global awareness through the joint exercise and other activities and promote international goodwill with their visiting countries.

During their historic stay in Cape Town, the sailors will engage with the SA Navy on various goodwill exercises, cultural events (such as music performance and martial arts exhibitions) and open their ships to the public.

The JS Kashima in Cape Town.

“It’s my great pleasure to be here as the first port visit to Cape Town in the history of JMSDF,” Rear Admiral Takahiro Nishiyama, Commander of the Japan Training Squadron, said.

“Through these events, I believe that the bilateral relationship (with South Africa) is strengthened and we would like to work together to maintain and strengthen regional peace,” he continued. “I’m also very appreciative to people in the Republic of South Africa for their warm welcome and their great and kind support to our port visit here.”

Rear Admiral Musawenkosi Nkomonde, Flag Officer Fleet of the South African Navy, emphasised that the visit of the JMSDF vessels is of important historical significance.

He said: “This visit symbolises the strong bond between our nations in our shared commitment to peace, stability and cooperation. We also acknowledge the rich history and traditions of your maritime defence and appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experiences and expertise.”

Upon their departure on Saturday morning, the two navies will conduct a PASSEX (Passing Exercise) whereby the vessels will sail together before the Japan Training Squadron heads up the west coast of Africa to its next port call, Dakar in Senegal.