Sharing Japanese Culture
Maj. Richard Dixon, U.S. Army Pacific Headquarters and Headquarters Batallion, glances at the photo album of Maj. Yasuo Okamoto, member of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, during a home visit in Osaka, Japan, Jan. 29, 2012.

CAMP ITAMI, Japan (Feb. 6, 2012) -- This year's Yama Sakura exercise has been the largest bilateral exercise between the U.S. Army Pacific and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force since the Great Tohoku Earthquake in March 2011.

Nearly 800 U.S. military service personnel and more than 3,500 Japan Ground Self Defense Force participated in Yama Sakura 61 over the past week. The command post exercise officially ran from Jan. 30 through Feb. 5.

U.S. military members and Japan Ground Self Defense Force members were afforded the opportunity to exchange ideas, tactics, techniques, and military experiences in order to ensure the defense of Japan and support security interests in the region.

Various entertainment and cultural activities included a Japanese drum performance and traditional Awa dance, a tea ceremony, as well as courses of instruction in calligraphy, ceramics, and cooking.

There were also several off-post tours that enabled U.S. Soldiers to see the sights and historical landmarks of Japan such as the Kyoto Temple, Todai Temple, and Osaka Castle.

"This is my first time overseas and I had no idea about what to expect from the Japanese culture," said Pvt. Tyler J. Ritter, motor transport operator for the 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota National Guard. He said that he especially enjoyed the Japanese ceramics course.

Each year the exercise location rotates between the five regional armies of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force. The Middle Army, based in Camp Itami, hosted this year's Yama Sakura.

Sgt. 1st Class Natsuo Endo, drill instructor for the Middle Army Combined Brigade at Camp Itami, Japan, said the U.S. Soldiers are very motivated to learn new and exciting things about the history of Japan.

"It has been very interesting for us to show the U.S. Soldiers about our culture and customs. I personally observed the U.S. Soldiers to be great students while participating in the cultural activities thus far," Endo explained.

"Although the highlight of this event is the main exercise, it is also very important to develop our bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Japan through various cultural activities," he said.

Since 1982, Yama Sakura has focused on the development and refinement of the JGSDF and U.S. Army Pacific's efforts in the areas of bilateral planning, coordination and interoperability through training.

For the first time in the history of Yama Sakura, members of the Australian Defense Force have been observing the command post exercise this year.

Page last updated Tue February 7th, 2012 at 00:00