Friendships and traditions abound in culture festival

Friendships and traditions abound in culture festival

by Lance Cpl. Carlos Jimenez
U.S. Marine Corps
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- The Japanese American Society hosted the 60th Annual Culture Festival at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, March 11, 2017.
The two-hour festival included Japanese dance performances, decorated exhibits and traditional activities and rituals.
“We bring the Japanese culture here so that Americans can enjoy the culture on base,” said Bobby Shibazaki, JAS president. “This basically breaks the ice between both cultures.”
Local Japanese volunteers took the time to teach Americans the art of calligraphy, origami and flower arranging, while JAS held a tea ceremony and offered free food and drinks during the festival.
Students from Hiroshima University opened the festival by performing tricks with the Kendama, a traditional Japanese toy. Throughout the festival the students allowed visitors to play with the toy and taught them some tricks.
After their performance, American children were given the opportunity to pound rice in an usu, a large wooden bowl, with a kine to make mochi, or rice cakes. Mochi-tsuki is an important Japanese traditional event in preparation for the new year.
Tables were then set together where people made and ate a long sushi roll.
The final two acts of the festival were dance performances: the Eisa Okinawan Dance and the Kagura Dance.
The Eisa involves taiko drums, folk songs, chants and whistles, originally performed as a way to give spirits a good send-off.
The Kagura is a form of music and dance dedicated to the Shinto gods. Actors with masks, swords and dragon costumes danced while musicians played drums, flutes and other instruments for dramatic effect.
“We want to bring all the cultures to you, the food, the happiness and everything together in this community,” said Shibazaki in his closing remarks to the audience. “And to extend out and make friends with the Japanese community.”
JAS’s mission is to strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding between Americans and Japanese locals.
“This base is strategically important to both the American and Japanese people and our government,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Richard F. Fuerst, commanding officer of MCAS Iwakuni. “We want to continue to foster that relationship and the Japanese American Society does that.”

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