Camp Zama volunteers prepare Japanese students for exchange trip

By Sean Kimmons, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsMay 6, 2024

Waka Ishiguro, front, teaches the "soran bushi” performance to Camp Zama volunteers during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of Japanese students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Waka Ishiguro, front, teaches the "soran bushi” performance to Camp Zama volunteers during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of Japanese students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Ishiha Matsubara, center, teaches Cpls. Kevin Atkins, left, assigned to 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, and Tyrell Heyward, assigned to 78th Signal Battalion, how to fold an origami during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The Camp Zama volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Ishiha Matsubara, center, teaches Cpls. Kevin Atkins, left, assigned to 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, and Tyrell Heyward, assigned to 78th Signal Battalion, how to fold an origami during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The Camp Zama volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Japanese students perform a dance in front of Camp Zama volunteers during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Japanese students perform a dance in front of Camp Zama volunteers during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Staff Sgt. Brian Hanson, assigned to the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, speaks with a Japanese student during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Brian Hanson, assigned to the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, speaks with a Japanese student during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Spc. Felix Trujillo III, assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Japan, plays the "fukuwarai" game with Japanese students during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Felix Trujillo III, assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Japan, plays the "fukuwarai" game with Japanese students during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

ZAMA, Japan – Nearly 20 Camp Zama volunteers recently helped a group of Japanese students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.

Fifteen students, aged from 13 to 17 years old, practiced their presentations and also played Japanese cultural games and activities with the volunteers during the event Friday at Zama City Hall.

One of the volunteers, Master Sgt. Alfrelina Wynn, had the opportunity to try the “soran bushi,” a traditional Japanese song and dance about fishermen, which the students will perform as part of their two-week trip.

As she and and others learned the dance from students, Wynn, the sergeant major for I Corps (Forward), smiled and laughed throughout the brief lesson.

“My favorite part about this was the excitement of the children sharing their culture with us,” she said. “They were so proud to want to show us their way of life.”

Since 1991, Zama City and Smyrna, Tennessee, have maintained a relationship and regularly conduct student exchange programs in both cities.

Before the Japanese students embark on their trip this summer, they asked the volunteers for advice on their presentations to ensure they were prepared.

“Giving back to the community is important, especially here in Japan,” Wynn said of why she volunteered, “so we can make sure that we maintain our bilateral relationships with the local community.”

Waka Ishiguro, 12, taught Wynn and other volunteers the “soran bushi” performance and also demonstrated the Japanese games the students will eventually introduce to children in Smyrna.

“It was so exciting,” Ishiguro said. “We played games, so everyone had lots of fun. I was happy to see a lot of people interested in Japanese culture.”

Momoko Yoshida, right, gives a presentation on Zama City to Camp Zama volunteers during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Momoko Yoshida, right, gives a presentation on Zama City to Camp Zama volunteers during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sgt. Ashley Vasquez, assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Japan, speaks with a Japanese student during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. Ashley Vasquez, assigned to U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Japan, speaks with a Japanese student during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Nene Okuma, center, teaches a dance to Camp Zama volunteers during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Nene Okuma, center, teaches a dance to Camp Zama volunteers during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL
Spc. Carlos Melo, left, assigned to the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, practices the kendama game with a Japanese student during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee.
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Carlos Melo, left, assigned to the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, practices the kendama game with a Japanese student during a language and cultural event at Zama City Hall, Japan, May 3, 2024. The volunteers helped a group of students get ready for an exchange trip this summer to Zama City’s sister city in Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Kimmons) VIEW ORIGINAL

After discussing Tennessee during a question-and-answer session with the volunteers, Momoko Yoshida, 12, said she looked forward to trying the state’s famous barbecue meat and seeing the countryside.

“I would like to eat some delicious food, make new friends and see the beautiful views,” she said.

Keiko Ikemura, director of Zama City’s Human Rights Gender Equality Division, helps manage the exchange program and said the overseas visit will allow the students to broaden their horizons.

“It’s a really good learning experience for the children,” she said.

Ikemura said she appreciated the volunteers for their assistance in helping the students rehearse their presentations in English.

“There are many students who have never been to the United States or have never interacted with American people,” she said, “so it’s really helpful for them.”

Spc. Carlos Melo, a network communication systems specialist with the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, said he was impressed with how the children memorized their presentations in English.

“I would have a very difficult time doing that,” he said. “They are very talented kids and I’m glad that they were doing this for us.”

Melo, who just arrived in Japan, said he also learned a lot about Japanese culture and the surrounding area from the students’ presentations.

“It was very helpful to me,” he said, “because now I can go off post and explore and not be totally lost of where I’m going.”

For Wynn, the ability to share each other’s cultures and beliefs can lead to stronger partnerships. It may also help Soldiers realize the significance of the Army’s mission here.

“It’s more important for the Soldiers to get out [in the community],” she said, “so they can see a different way of life and [understand] why we are here and why we are doing what we are doing in Japan.”

Related links:

U.S. Army Garrison Japan news

USAG Japan official website