International group bridges cultures in Yokosuka
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE – A group of internationally minded volunteers is behind a host of multicultural exchanges between U.S. naval base residents and Yokosuka City’s diverse population to ensure it lives up to its moniker as an “International City of Culture by the Sea.”
The Yokosuka International Association is a group of volunteers from Yokosuka City with a mission, “to support the increasing international sense of its citizens and drive multicultural exchange at the grassroots level.” Comprised of Yokosuka Naval Base residents and local Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Brazilian and Japanese citizens, the group was founded in 1997 and offers several cultural events throughout the year.
The nonprofit’s activities include Japanese language courses, translation and interpretation services, disaster prevention and countermeasures programs, Japanese culture introduction programs and children’s festivals. Yokosuka International is particularly mindful of Yokosuka Naval Base.
“We are proud to offer these programs to families living on the base,” says Takeo Fujii, the association’s president.
More than 250 association volunteers, for example, offered on- and off-base residents a chance to try their hands at Japanese calligraphy, ikebana flower arranging, origami, the traditional Japanese board game Go and wearing kimonos during its Nov. 17 Japan Festival. The annual event also included playing the three-stringed shamisen, traditional Japanese dancing, samurai costume wearing, koto music and several other activities.
The Yokosuka International Association also supplies English translators for Yokosuka Naval Base’s biannual Farmer’s Market, where local farmers and merchants sell produce, and organizes cooking classes and a series of lectures on multiculturalism in conjunction with Yokosuka City’s sister city, homestay host programs. Yokosuka City is sister city with Brest, France; Medway City, UK; Fremantle, Australia; and Corpus Christi, Texas.
Fujii said he also hopes the group will expand its translation and interpretation services program to attract international businesses.
Association membership costs 2,000 yen annually, but Yokosuka Naval Base residents and local non-Japanese can join for free. Members receive a monthly newsletter by email with information on the association’s upcoming events.