IWAKUNI CITY, Japan -- Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni’s Cultural Adaptation Program visited Hirose-Iwakuni High School to harvest green tea leaves with Japanese locals in Iwakuni City, Japan, May 2, 2017.
The program gives station residents the opportunity to experience the Japanese culture alongside elementary and high school students, nursing home residents and other Japanese locals.
The tea harvest is held annually during early spring at the high school. During the visit station residents picked green tea leaves that were later fanned, steamed, rolled and left to dry out in the sun, where they will remain for two weeks.
“Even for Japanese people, picking tea leaves is interesting,” said Mikie Watanabe, cultural adaptation program specialist. “It’s especially interesting for the station residents and it’s a good opportunity for them to meet the local people and talk and laugh with them.”
For some station residents, the best part about picking tea leaves was getting the chance to do it with the Japanese locals.
“What I liked most was meeting and talking to the Japanese people,” said Michael Logan, a station resident. “It was nice being able to spend time with them, and it’s much nicer to do it when you have other people there to socialize with.”
Tea is one of the most popular beverages consumed worldwide. It has health benefits that include the potential prevention of different types of cancers, and appears to have antiobesity and antidiabetic effects, according to the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.
Although the residents will have to wait two weeks to drink their tea, at least they were able to experience the way it was originally made.
“It’s a simple way of knowing the concept and the process of cooking it and then drying it,” said Alejandro Crisologo, a station resident. “I’m a tea drinker, and I wanted to see how it is harvested and processed.”
Giving station residents the opportunity to participate in a tea harvest is part of the Cultural Adaptation Program’s ongoing mission to show Americans Japanese customs and traditions, and allow them to experience it for themselves.
“The program is trying to get people from overseas to adopt the society and Japanese community so they can be comfortable, meet Japanese people, and have new experiences and do exciting stuff,” said Watanabe. “I’m trying to make people happy so maybe they can have a good memory of their stay in Japan, and once they go back to the states, they can remember how happy they were here in Iwakuni.”