MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Matthew C. Perry Elementary School hosted the 6th annual Japanese Cultural Exchange Program featuring the Shunan International Children’s Club at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Feb. 11, 2016.
For the past several years on Feb. 11, the children’s club takes the time to perform at M.C. Perry despite it being a Japanese holiday. In turn, the Japanese invite M.C. Perry to Shunan City for the Hinamatsuri festival. Approximately 90 children’s club students, staff, and government officials attended the cultural exchange.
“We continue the program as we believe it helps our future,” said Mamoru Sasamura, director of Shunan International Children’s Club. “Culture is a universal thing to share. Music and dancing represent each culture uniquely. Our intent is to showcase and share Japanese culture to American residents in the neighboring community.”
Eight-year-old Chinatsu Moriwaki and Sae Matsumoto, students of Fukugawa Elementary School, kicked off the performance by singing the “Star Spangled Banner” followed by an opening speech from Noriko Ohgi, principal of Shunan Municipal Kisan Elementary School.
“I’d like to say thank you to our American hosts,” said Ohgi. “The Japanese children were very excited to meet and perform at the school. I do hope today deepened our mutual understanding and friendship.”
Larry Wahl, psychologist at M.C. Perry, said it is a thrill to have the Japanese come to the air station.
“My favorite part was the national anthem performance,” said Wahl. “They sang it just like the best American patriots. Listening gave me goosebumps realizing how hard they worked at it.”
The crowd of elementary students went wild as a demonstration of traditional karate techniques and Japanese dance followed the national anthem. A new addition to this year’s program, a marching band, executed their drill effortlessly.
“I think the Japanese children did a great job because they have practiced so hard for three to four months,” said Sasamura. “The children worked so hard because they wanted their American friends to enjoy our culture and deepen their understanding about it. The American children were very sincere and friendly when enjoying our performance. I do appreciate the positive response to our visit.”
The Japanese children presented M.C. Perry students with a thousand origami cranes, or senbazuru as a gift of appreciation for hosting the cultural event. The children’s club started folding the cranes during summer vacation of last year. Traditionally, it is believed in Japanese culture that if one folded 1,000 origami cranes, one’s wish would come true. The crane has become a symbol of hope and friendship.
“These cultural events are so important for our students,” said Wahl. “Even though they live in Japan, they don’t always get the opportunity to observe and share in the culture we are surrounded by.”