MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Years after traveling through several countries and observing different cultures, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a 19th Century American poet, wrote, “Music is the universal language of mankind.”
Transcending linguistic barriers and cultural differences, approximately 80 American and Japanese students from Matthew C. Perry High School, Iwakuni Municipal Higashi Junior High School and Iwakuni Municipal Kawashimo Junior High School proved Longfellow’s words true Sunday during the inaugural U.S.-Japan Friendship Concert in Iwakuni Sinfonia Concert Hall.
The Chugoku-Shikoku Defense Bureau hosted the event to foster and strengthen the relationship between the station and the local community. The concert was supported by the air station, Yamaguchi Prefecture and Iwakuni City; and sponsored by the Defense Facilities Environments Improvement Association and the Japanese American Society. Col. James C. Stewart, station commanding officer, came out in support of the concert.
“I am very proud of what these students have accomplished in this past month,” said Stewart. “Their musical harmonies, in many ways, mirror and manifest the international harmony that exists between our two cultures. The pure harmony of friendshipand innocence rises above the den of geopolitical, economic and cultural strife that captures the headlines and attention of so many.”
Stewart said he wanted the concert attendees to relax and enjoy the music while remembering the harmony that binds them together as the members of one community in the world.
Yoshihiko Fukuda, Iwakuni City mayor, was also present at the concert.
Fukuda said he believed any form of communication done in friendship between the station and the community was good.
“To practice for the concert, together, is a form of communication,” said Fukuda. “I think good relationships will be built, as time goes by, through such communication.”
Before the day of the concert, the Japanese and American students had joint practice sessions at each other’s schools. Although they had difficulties in verbal communication, they were able to communicate well enough to play their music together.
Approximately 800 station and community members attended the concert. The students played music from composers such as John F. Wagner, Akiko Furyu and Syoji Hashimoto.
The concert reached its peak when all students came together to perform “Hey Jude” by The Beatles. The Iwakuni Kawashimo Junior High School baseball team helped with vocals for the song.
“I believe it’s very significant that the Americans and Japanese are able to get together because it’s a sign of friendship,” said Alicia Saiki, an M.C. Perry High School junior student and concert musician. “Something small like this can build up into something greater.”
Saiki said she hopes this won’t be the last time a concert like this is done.
Before the students met for the concert, some of the students expressed feelings of apprehension.
“I was a little scared and uneasy about coming to the concert,” said Kimura Kesuke, an Iwakuni Kawashimo Junior High School baseball player and a vocalist during “Hey Jude.” “The Americans tend to be huge, and that kind of made me uneasy.”
Kesuke said he’s glad he came to the concert and had a great time making friends with the American students.
The Chugoku-Shikoku Defense Bureau is planning to have more events in the future to strengthen the bonds between the station and local community.