From tents to temples
December 12, 2013
CHINTOSE, Japan - To further the spirit of cultural understanding and bilateral partnership embraced by exercise Yama Sakura 65 chaplains assigned to I Corps took advantage of the opportunity to meet with the master of a local Buddhist temple, Dec. 9.
Yama Sakura is a two-week bilateral exercise in which Japanese and American service members join forces to thwart a digital enemy. In addition to ensuring the players are trained to work together, the exercise was also an opportunity to experience Japanese culture.
"We had an engagement with a Buddhist temple master and chatted with him about his religious duties," said Col. William Laigaie, chaplain, command chaplain, I Corps. "In the chaplaincy we call this an RLL, a Religious Leader Liaison. Normally we do this as part of a mission. We went seeking good will and solidarity."
During the temple visit the chaplains received a tour of the Buddhist temple in Chitose, Hokkaido, Japan. Temple Master, Masashi Miyamoto gave them an explanation of Pureland Buddhist beliefs and symbolism in the temple.
"I really want to share anything I can with the Americans," said Miyamoto. "I like to share because it is very important and a wonderful way to make a foundation for future understanding."
After the tour, the chaplains sat down for tea and to exchange thoughts and ideas with the temple master, before returning to Camp Higashi-Chitose.
"I think our talk went very well. They were interested in the fact that we had Buddhist chaplains in the Army," said Laigaie. "I was very interested in our similar concepts of religion. Kindness and goodwill knows no language or cultural barrier."
For 1st Lt. Daniel Neville, a chaplaincy candidate assigned to the Utah National Guard, the trip was an opportunity to see first-hand some of the things he had so far, only learned in text books.
"I study Buddhist psychology and love the ideas they teach," said Neville. "We may all worship differently at the end of the day. But our core beliefs are incredibly similar. "
The aspiring chaplain found that his journey to the temple also helped to strengthen his desire to become a member of the Army Chaplain Corps.
"I'm very excited to move into the chaplaincy and I think trips like this are very faith-promoting," said Neville. "There are many ways to approach God, but we have to listen to the voice within us."
Laigaie said he was going to take something personal away from his adventure to the Buddhist temple.
"I learned that it is important to not be afraid of other religions or other cultures," he said. "You can't tip-toe around everything or you will never get to know people."