MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI -- The Shunan International Children’s Club performed in the 7th Annual Japanese Cultural Exchange Program at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, March 20, 2017.
The program is an opportunity for students to experience Japanese singing, dancing and martial arts.
“It was a very good opportunity for our students here on base to experience Japanese culture,” said Larry Wahl, the school psychologist at Matthew C. Perry Elementary School. “It was also a great opportunity for the Japanese students to come onto base to see what life in an American school looks like.”
The club’s performance opened with the “Star Spangled Banner” played by the Fukugawa Elementary School Marching Band and sung by 9-year-old Chinatsu Moriwaki and 9-year-old Sae Matsumoto, students at Tokuyama and Toishi Elementary Schools.
Concluding the opening song, performers started to do what is called the “Sakura Dance”, a traditional dance depicting the season of cherry blossoms in Japan.
Following the “Sakura Dance”, two martial arts performers demonstrated karate techniques to the crowd. A new addition to this portion of the show was a martial art called laido, where a performer demonstrated the ancient martial art with an imitation sword.
The show concluded with a marching band performance and children’s songs that were sung by both the Japanese and American children.
“I came to organize a group to make sure that people here on the base are exposed to the magnificent Japanese culture,” said Mamoro Sasamura, the director of Shunan International Children’s Club. “We’ve been doing this for seven years, and I want us to come back for as long as possible.”
In return, the students attend the Hina Matsuri Festival every year. The festival is a Japanese celebration of families with daughters to live long happy lives. This is an exchange that has been going on for seven years and both the Japanese and Americans mentioned looking forward to continuing their relationship for years to come.
“The Japanese language is very difficult for Americans to learn, and English is very difficult for them,” said Wahl. “So music and dance is a common language that everybody can understand and bond with.”