CAMP ZAMA, Japan (June 2, 2016) - Zama American High School welcomed 90 students from a local Japanese high school May 26 to establish a partnership between the two schools.

Students from Ebina High School and ZAHS watched as their principals, Gregg Mowen, Ed.D., principal of ZAHS and Shinichi Imai, principal of EHS, signed a charter stating the two schools will work together to provide their respective students with a mutual cultural exchange.

The charter further outlines the partnership agreement which includes: the possibilities of co-operating in joint educational projects; expanding and developing the relationship in other areas of education and cultural exchanges; and hosting camps to assist with the development of language skills in English and Japanese.

By signing the charter, the new relationship will provide an opportunity for both schools' students to develop their skills in a second language, as well as gain a better understanding of the other's culture, said Taeko Murakoshi, ZAHS Japanese language and culture teacher.

This event provided an opportunity for the students to interact and mingle with one another with "no strings," said Murakoshi.

Imai said the event was a great opportunity for the Japanese students-- "they don't have to travel to a foreign country to practice their English."

"I study English at school but never really have a chance to practice; but if we are able to participate during an event like this more often (then) our English would be better," said Ryusuke Natsui, EHS senior.

After beginning the day with encouraging words from Col. William B. Johnson, the commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan; all of the students watched EHS dance team kick-off the event with an energetic routine.

The students participated in several events through the day- including a tug-of-war challenge and several games of soccer.

Lunch was provided by the ZAHS Parent-Teacher Organization, while ZAHS faculty members assisted with grilling.

"I think it's really nice that we can just all get together, sit down, have lunch and do all these activities," said Eiry Lynch, ZAHS junior.

Language, although difficult for some, did not seem to be a barrier for most, said Imai.

"They are communicating with each other much better that we expected," he said. "They are having a lot of fun together."

Students broke off into several small groups throughout the day.

"They spontaneously grouped, I did not do anything," said Murakoshi, "this is the most beautiful thing I've seen today."

"I think it's good to strengthen bonds between American and Japanese students," said Roman Duarte, ZAHS senior.

The event was really fun and it was cool having the schools "mesh together," said Megan Harris, ZAHS sophomore.

Imai said this was the first time EHS has participated in an event this this. It all started with Murakishi approaching one of the EHS teachers with the idea.

"We all got together one afternoon after school... then from there the planning started rolling and before we knew it, we had this date set," said Murakoshi.

"I know all of us wish to do this again," said Murakoshi.