U.S. Marines based at Okinawa’s Camp Foster have sparked a viral internet craze with a rendition of the summer hit song “U.S.A.” by Japanese hip-hop band Da Pump, raising hopes of improving the image of U.S. forces in Japan.
In a video posted Thursday on Facebook, 10 junior marines and a Master Labor Contractor from Marine Corps Installations Pacific bend and twist in an attempt to mimick Da Pump’s sharp moves while adding few steps of their own as they dance to the song’s chorus, “C’mon baby, America.”
“Our hope is that this video allows viewers to see a different side of the U.S. Marines living on Okinawa,” a Marine Corps spokesperson said Monday in an email.
The U.S. military often makes headlines in Japan for training accidents, emergency landings or aircraft noise that irritates residents. There are also deadly incidents, such as the fatal DUI last year involving an Okinawa-based Marine.
But the marines are hoping their dance video and other campaigns will convey a less visible but more positive side of the U.S. military to the country.
“These Marines train and work daily to be prepared for Japan’s defense and to preserve regional peace and stability. They take their mission seriously,” the Marine Corps spokesperson said. “In addition to this mission, they also feel it is important to embrace Japanese culture and connect in creative ways with the people of Japan.”
The spokesman said the video was made to show “the positive impact the people and culture of Japan have on Marines stationed in Okinawa” and to demonstrate the Marines’ commitment to embracing their host nation’s culture.
The song itself, by Da Pump, a pop outfit that had its heyday in the early 2000s, uses lyrics describing the United States’ cultural influence on Japanese youth — from movies and music to hairdos. It also refers to America’s long relationship with Japan, sounding much like an ode to its top ally.
“Throughout decades of our relationship, things seem to have changed but we’re all earthlings, in the same boat,” a rough translation of the lyrics reads.
The video, which was recorded earlier this month, was also shared Friday on the service’s official Twitter account and has garnered more than 6.2 million views and 357,121 likes. It had been retweeted 144,445 times on Twitter as of Monday afternoon.
The rendition by the U.S. Marines was even shared by one of Da Pump’s members.
But it also received negative feedback on social media, with a handful of users calling the posting unprofessional and others urging the producers to “stop embarrassing our beloved Corps.”
It wasn’t the branch’s first attempt at entertaining Japanese netizens. In January last year, Okinawa marines posted a video to wish the Japanese people a happy Lunar New Year.
This followed a viral video featuring then-U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, who together with embassy staff across Japan sparked a social media splash in December 2016 by releasing a U.S. Embassy version of a popular dance routine that aired in a popular Japanese TV drama.