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We’ve selected a winner for JUMP’s fourth annual #HolidaysInJapan photo contest. Thank you to all of our JUMP members who shared their pictures with us this year. As always, we were impressed by the quality of the entries. Japan looks great when viewed through the lenses of our American members.

This year’s winning entry came from Jeff Pastwick, shared with us via his Instagram profile, the_travelin_expat. Pastwick is an active duty Navy Warrant Officer, stationed in Yokosuka. He and his wife live in Ikego. 

Pastwick took the winning photo in Kusatsu Onsen town in front of a yakitori stand during the first week of January. Here’s how he described the scene: “It could be titled ‘last call’ because it was cold and snowing and the stand was about to close. Everyone was huddled around trying to stay warm and get their last orders in.” As his prize, Pastwick will receive a gift basket valued at $100 in goodies.

Photography is a hobby for him right now, Pastwick said, but he plans on pursuing it further. He provided us with a number of striking images, which you can see in this slideshow:

We also selected two runner-up entries.

Evelyn Espinoza, a military spouse who lives on Yokota Air Base, entered the striking image below of folded red cranes she shot while visiting the Tokyo City Dome Winter Illuminations with an Edo Japanese theme. She shared the image with us via her Instagram account, evelyncurryart. She is an artist who uses photography as a medium for her artwork. She creates digital photo montages and also paints in oil and watercolor, using her photos as inspiration.

Espinoza shared with us a number of other images from her Tokyo City Dome visit. She described the visit this way: “All around the Dome were arches lit up. Floating glass balls with color changing lights. Christmas trees lit up. Displays of umbrellas and pinwheels. And an origami crane three tier tower. It was a great opportunity to play with depth of field and Bokeh.”

Joni Abando submitted a stunning image of Mt. Fuji frosted with snow on Christmas 2018. Abando is active duty, living in Zama and serving at Yokosuka. Abando shared the story behind her shot: “I have always love taking photos  of Mt. Fuji. This was taken the morning of Christmas 2018 at Lake Tanuki. I drove up on Dec 24 and took photos of the mountain from Lake Yamanaka, Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Motosu, and finally this shot was at Lake Tanuki. I stayed overnight, slept in my car, and did not mind the freezing temp early in the morning to get a wonderful view and beautiful shot of Mt. Fuji on Christmas.” Photography is a hobby for Abando. 

We appreciated seeing all the submitted photos and have selected a few of our favorites out of the more than 50 entries this year for our gallery. Thank you to everyone who sent in entries!

For the second year in a row, JUMP hosted its annual #HolidaysInJapan photo contest, and we were blown away by the talent and beauty of the photos submitted to the contest. This year’s winning entry came from Lauren Shaft, who is stationed with her family in Kanagawa, of her husband and two sons walking through the snow at Kitaguchihongu Fuji Sengenjinja Shrine during Thanksgiving weekend. Here’s how she described the moment she snapped the photo:

“When we arrived at the shrine, it looked like it was snowing due to the snow melting so quickly and falling. As we were walking through, trying to dodge large snow droppings, I snapped this shot of my family as the light hit them perfectly.”

Congratulations Lauren! As this year’s winner, she will receive a gift basket valued at $100 in goodies!

The top three photos were rounded out by a beautiful winter cityscape showing Tokyo Tower submitted by Jennifer Cox, who also is living in Japan with her active-duty spouse, and another showing a snow-covered castle in Japan with swans and koi fish in the foreground submitted by USN Petty Officer Heath Smith (whose superb photography can be viewed here). 

Both runners up are shown in the top row of the gallery. But we had many, many favorite photos — with more than 200 submissions, we picked out some of our favorites to feature below. A huge thanks to everyone who sent in entries!

JUMP is gearing up for the holiday season by gathering photos that show how Americans past and present celebrate the holidays while stationed in Japan. The #HolidaysinJapan photo contest is open to all ages and skill levels, current and retired military, family, friends, and anyone in between.

To submit your photos, email them to or submit them to us on Facebook or Twitter. To be eligible to win, you also must join the JUMP network here. Don’t forget to tag all social media entries with #HolidaysinJapan and @JUMProgram! The deadline for submissions is January 3.

The grand-prize winner will receive a Japan-themed gift basket valued at $100 along with a JUMP t-shirt and other JUMP swag. And of course, the winning photo will be featured on the JUMP website and social media accounts. We’ll also display all of our favorite submissions in a photo gallery.

Please note that by submitting your photos to a JUMP photo contest, you are giving permission for them to be used on the JUMP website and social media.

UPDATE: This contest is now closed. Thank  you to everyone who participated and check out the winner here!

2023 The Japan U.S. Military Program (JUMP)

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