SAGAMI GENERAL DEPOT, Japan – A new multipurpose sports field located next to the installation here opened Oct. 1 with a friendship event in which U.S. and Japanese children participated in various athletic competitions together.
The Sagamihara Sports Recreation Park was built on the joint-use area next to Sagami General Depot and includes areas for playing basketball, soccer, tennis, baseball, rugby and more.
Construction on the field began a few years ago, and the different parts of it were opened to the public as they were done being built.
Sagamihara City Mayor Kentaro Motomura was at the event and provided remarks during the opening ceremony. He started by thanking the United States, the U.S. Army and Camp Zama for their understanding and for agreeing to the construction project.
Motomura said the park was built in hopes of further nurturing a friendly relationship with the U.S. Army, and transcending language barriers to help create memories for children from both the Camp Zama community and its neighboring city of Sagamihara.
“It’s very significant on this opening day to have the [U.S. Army Garrison Japan] deputy garrison commander here, as well as American and Japanese children playing sports together in this joint-use area,” Motomura said.
Motomura emphasized that there are three U.S. Army facilities—Camp Zama, Sagamihara Family Housing Area and the Depot—located within Sagamihara, and that bilateral events such as the youth sports day help both the city and the U.S. military foster a better understanding of each other.
“The more opportunities we have to interact with each other, the more it contributes to the enhancement of our friendship and continuously deepens our bonds,” Motomura said.
The mayor said it is his hope that the relationship between the Army and Sagamihara grows to be the strongest among all other cities across Japan that have U.S. military installations.
Jenifer Peterson, the USAG Japan deputy garrison commander, attended the event and even conducted the opening tipoff for a dodgeball game. She said it was a wonderful experience to be there and to demonstrate the great partnership Camp Zama has with its neighboring citizens.
“This being a joint-use area, all the work that Sagamihara City has done to develop this field and open it up for both local residents and [Camp] Zama children is amazing,” Peterson said. “This will definitely be a great place for them to play well into the future.”
Peterson echoed Motomura, saying the event was a great opportunity for the children to interact with and learn from each other, build friendships, and strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance while also promoting physical fitness and sportsmanship.
“Sports is a team-building venue for all countries, so I think this is a great example of how we can continue to further enhance our partnership with the city,” Peterson said.
Tyler Paul, a fourth-grader at Arnn Elementary School, was at the event and said he and his friend enjoyed playing dodgeball and soccer with the Japanese children. He admitted there was a bit of a language barrier, but still said it was fun and a good experience.
Tyler’s father, Maj. Tyler Paul, assigned to the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, said the language barrier was very minimal because playing sports is pretty universal, and the children were there first and foremost to have fun.
“[We came here] mostly to get out and meet some Japanese people and interact with them,” Paul said. “These types of events help everybody involved be a little bit of more aware of other cultures and see that we all have fun in the same way.
“Every time you get exposure to another culture, it improves that relationship you have with them,” Paul added. “It’s one small step every time, but I think events like this definitely help.”