CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The Camp Zama Child Development Center invited nearly 20 local Japanese preschoolers to help celebrate its annual Fall Festival here Tuesday.
The children, who came from the Kodomo-no-ie Himawari Nursery School in Zama, joined about a dozen American children to watch taiko drummers perform and a “kendama” troupe display its skills in the Japanese cup-and-ball game.
The festival also had trick-or-treating, cookie decorating and other arts and crafts.
Nahoko Rice, a child and youth program assistant who helped organize the event, said the festival seemed to provide a unique experience for their guests.
“I think it’s very different from what they do in their center, so they were very fascinated,” she said.
When all the children gathered in a classroom before the event, Rice said it was also interesting to see them get along well despite the language barrier.
“Even though the language is different,” she said, “they [still] interacted and communicated very well.”
The children, some joined by their parents, then sat in the center’s vacant parking lot, which had various decorations on display, to watch the performances.
Spc. Christion Hicks, a transportation movement specialist assigned to the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, enjoyed the festival with his wife, Jessica Pereira, and their 11-month-old daughter, A’lani.
Hicks said blending some Japanese culture into the Halloween-themed festival made it even more entertaining.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said, especially with “bringing out a Japanese [taiko] band and not keeping it too Americanized.”
Pereira was also glad to spend some quality time with her family and for her daughter to soak in the festivities.
“I like it because I feel we can also learn a little bit of the [Japanese] culture,” she said. “Being in Japan, we get to see what they do as well as what we do in America.”
Rice said she believes children learn a great deal from diverse events such as this one, so the center will often hold holiday events and invite Japanese children to share in the fun with them.
“We think children grow [from] an experience and environment,” she said, “so we try to provide lots of opportunities to learn.”