Bilateral Cultural Exchange - 1
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and DoDEA bring students together for cultural and educational exchange in Misawa
MISAWA, JAPAN — December 8, 2020 — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Pacific held the first bilateral cultural exchange camp Dec. 5-6 at Misawa Air Base, with support from the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Japan and U.S. Forces Japan.
Local Japanese students and DoDEA students joined together to learn about Misawa’s resources, businesses, and traditions. Working in groups, students created skits and props to promote the City of Misawa.
“I thought it was a good experience to be able to communicate with people who speak another language and to be able to be open to everybody’s ideas, especially with the barrier between different cultures,” said Taylor Brayden, Edgren Middle High School student. “I know that I learned some Japanese myself and they learned some English, so we learned from each other.”
Students overcame language barriers by using hand gestures, writing out words, and drawing pictures to communicate. By the end of the weekend camp, every student acknowledged that they had formed new friendships. “It is so much fun to interact with other people of different cultures and learn about what they believe,” said Kadyn Falk, a student at Edgren Middle High School.
The event featured guest speakers at both the opening and closing ceremonies, including Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Suzuki Hayato; Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces Japan Brig. Gen. James Wellons; DoDEA – Pacific Chief of Staff Todd Schlitz; Misawa Air Base Commander Col. Jesse Friedel; U.S. Embassy Tokyo Chargé d'Affaires Joseph Young; Consul General Andrew Lee, of the U.S. Consulate General Sapporo; Misawa City Mayor Mr. Kohiyama Yoshinori; and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan Director of SOFA Division Mr. Kawano Shu.
“Personal level interaction is the first step towards understanding each other, and language is essential for that,” Parliamentary Vice-Minister Suzuki Hayato said during his remarks to students. “This is what I personally feel every day in diplomatic situations. We hope that you enjoyed this program and that it will further motivate you to learn each other's languages and cultures. We value the encounters in these two days, and we hope that you will continue to interact with each other in the future. Such friendships will in turn strengthen U.S.-Japan relations.”
“An alliance between countries is just like a relationship between you and your friends,” Brig. Gen. Wellons said, addressing student participants. “We all enjoy spending time with people who share things in common with us. Common interests; common values; common experiences; and more. And you know you can always count on each other. The U.S. and Japan share a lot in common with each other, and the relationship between our countries is built on friendships, personal connections, and cultural exchanges just like this. This kind of event is exactly the kind of work it takes to keep an alliance strong.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and DoDEA – Pacific are partnering to host two additional cultural exchange camps at Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.
DoDEA plans, directs, coordinates, and manages pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education programs for school-aged children of Department of Defense personnel who would otherwise not have access to high-quality public education. DoDEA schools are located in Europe, the Pacific, Western Asia, the Middle East, Cuba, the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico. DoDEA also provides support and resources to Local Educational Activities throughout the United States that serve children of military families.