MCAS Iwakuni residents get nutty with Japanese locals
GANNE MIWA-CHO, IWAKUNI CITY, YAMAGUCHI PREFECTURE, Japan -- Residents of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, discovered a prickly treat with Japanese locals during a chestnut picking trip in Ganne Miwa-cho, Iwakuni City, Oct. 22, 2015.
Coordinated by the station’s cultural adaption program, this event connected service members and their families to their Iwakuni neighbors during a visit to Ganne Shirataki Park.
The trip sprouted with an opening ceremony to introduce “Ganne-guri,” the indigenous Japanese chestnuts, and how the prickly-shelled delicacies are to be picked from trees if not broken from their husks.
“It was a very unique experience,” said Chief Warrant Officer Vivian Boone, officer in charge of Installation Personnel Administration Center, information management branch. “This is my first time doing this and it was pretty awesome. Anything you do as a group definitely builds comradery and helps you get outside your daily functions just to mix your life up and experience different things about Japan."
The Japan Agricultural Cooperatives’ Yamaguchi East (JA Yamaguchi East) in Iwakuni City hosted the trip for station residents and locals to experience the chestnut picking process from beginning to end.
“The Ganne-guri is the very important to this city,” said Tatsuo Fujiki, an Economic Department Instruction Sale Section representative. “We have history of over 800 years with this type of chestnut and … this experience is a good opportunity for the Japanese and American people to get together.”
As the largest member of the chestnut family, Ganne-guri grows seasonally from early October to late November.
During the trip, chestnut-pickers later filled their bellies at a cooking demonstration on how to make “kuri gohan,” chestnut rice, boiled chestnuts and chestnut chips.
“My favorite part was tasting the different chestnut dishes,” said Boone. “All of my experiences with the Japanese have been wonderful and … if Marines just sit around, not really experiencing the culture, they’re going to hate anywhere they go. I also hope the locals feel welcomed by our presence and us trying to get to learn their culture.
According to Mikie Watanabe, cultural adaption program specialist, The Iwakuni Agricultural and Forestry Office wanted to provide an opportunity for Americans to learn about Yamaguchi’s local produce and interact with the community.
After enjoying lunch together, station residents and Japanese locals ventured to the nearby chestnut factory, where workers sort and size the chestnuts for public distribution.
As the first chestnut picking trip coordinated by the station’s program, the 36 attendees experienced one of the many Japanese delicacies and now have souvenirs of their own to cook at home.
“I think this is a good opportunity to try some Japanese food they have never had before,” said Watanabe. “The chestnut is one of Japanese Autumn traditional foods and I hope participants enjoy this new chestnut picking experience.”
For more information on upcoming cultural events, call 253-6165.