SAGAMIHARA FAMILY HOUSING AREA, Japan – About 150 American and Japanese children participated in a football and cheerleading clinic here Friday to enhance their cultural understanding.
The clinic marked the first event jointly hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Japan and Zama Junior Chamber International.
To kick off the event, Jenifer L. Peterson, deputy commander of USAG Japan, thanked everyone for joining or volunteering for the free clinic, which also had professional football players from Ebina Minerva run drills for the children.
“I am happy to see so many participants from the local community in Zama City,” she said. “We hope that we will deepen our friendship even further with our local community through this sports exchange.”
Hayato Inoue, president of Zama JCI, said he appreciated the garrison for helping hold the event at the sports field next to Arnn Elementary School.
“We’d like to provide such opportunities for children in the U.S. and Japan to interact [with] each other and be exposed to different cultures and languages, and give them a global perspective,” he said. “That’s why we organized this event.”
Children from first through sixth grades at Arnn Elementary and local Japanese schools were invited to attend the event.
Participants were split into several teams to run various drills, such as passing and catching a football and running a 40-yard dash, while another group of children practiced cheers on the other side of the field.
Hidekazu Kanmuri brought his daughter and son to conduct the football drills taught by the pro football players as well as Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff members.
He said his children learned of the event after a flyer was distributed at their school, adding that his daughter really wanted to come since she has a strong interest in American culture.
“I want my children to have an international experience,” Kanmuri said. “And since it is nearby, I used this opportunity for my children to experience this bilateral event.”
Brynn Riley, spouse of a 1st Corps (Forward) Soldier, had two of her sons do the football drills while her daughter performed cheers that were later demonstrated to the crowd to conclude the event.
“I feel like we kind of live in a bubble here,” she said, “so when we do these bilateral things it’s nice for [our children] to get to meet Japanese kids.”
Riley said her family will often attend open-post events to provide her children the chance to broaden their understanding of Japanese culture.
Despite the language barrier, Riley said her children will even befriend random Japanese children also at these events and introduce them to her.
“They always come back and say, ‘This is my friend,’ and I ask, ‘What’s their name?’ and they say, ‘I don’t know, but they’re my friend,’” she said, laughing. “It’s good for them to see that kids are kids regardless of where we are.”