CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs Office hosted a community engagement event June 16, inviting officials from both Sagamihara and Zama cities to Camp Zama to visit the installation that neighbors both of them.
Three officials from each city attended the visit, which consisted of briefings from USAG Japan, U.S. Army Japan and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and tours of both Camp Zama and the nearby Sagamihara Family Housing Area. This marked the first time both cities had been invited to the installation together for such an event.
Kenji Toyomura, the deputy chief of Public Engagement for USAG Japan, led both the Garrison briefing and the tours. The purpose of the visit, he said, was to build a closer relationship with the two cities, help them further understand the missions of USARJ and the Garrison, and provide insightful information about Camp Zama.
“This engagement showcased a good partnership between USAG Japan and both cities, and we all agreed to continue building a closer relationship at the end of the event,” Toyomura said. “It was the right timing to do it, as there were some officials who were relatively new to their positions.”
Amber Kurka, the chief of Public Engagement for USAG Japan, said these types of engagements are really important to help strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance at the local grassroots level.
Kurka said she and her team work with the city partners on a daily basis to make the overall community a better place for everyone who lives here. One of the ways they deepen that working relationship, she said, is events like this where they get to know each other while learning more about each other’s communities.
“Our goal is to show our partners that we are good neighbors and we can work together to find solutions that benefit all of our communities,” Kurka said. “I really want our communities to be a model of friendship that highlights the positive relationship between the U.S. and Japan.”
Kurka said that as the chief of Public Engagement, one of her goals is to help foster the relationship with the cities so that it continues into the future.
Yoshimichi Nagatsuka, sub-section chief of the Military Base Affairs Division for Sagamihara City, said the reason he was looking forward to the event is because he thought gaining knowledge on the Camp Zama and its numerous organizations would allow him to do his job better.
Nagatsuka said he discovered many new things about the installation during the visit. One thing he learned was USAG Japan’s professed priority to take good care of not only the Soldiers, Department of Army civilians and local-national employees who work on Camp Zama, but also their family members and the community as a whole.
“[This visit] helped us take into consideration Sagamihara City’s perspective, and that helps us find ways to solve conflicts of interest in the end,” Nagatsuka said. “We would like to continue this community engagement effort by maintaining direct and open communication like this.”
One Zama City representative in attendance said community engagement events like this will help the city find more ways to strengthen their collaborative relationship with Camp Zama and other entities.
Learning about the Garrison’s mission, vision and values—and that they can be adjusted with each new commander—was enlightening, the representative said. It helped create a clearer picture of an installation with which the city works so closely, he added.
“Of course, there will be times when we experience cultural differences or a different way of thinking between the U.S. and Japan,” the representative said. “[In that case], it’s crucial that both sides make an effort to further understand each other and find better solutions.”