STORY AND PHOTOS BY SKY M. LARON NAVSUP FLC YOKOSUKA, DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS
Sailors from Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Yokosuka took part in a cultural exchange event in Yokosuka Sept. 18. On the only natural island in Tokyo Bay, a 15-minute ferry ride from the shores of Yokosuka, members of the NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka First Class Petty Officer’s Association volunteered their time with 178 students from Buzan Junior High School (JHS), which is a private all-boys school attached to Nihon University in Tokyo.
Saru-shima, meaning “Monkey Island” in Japanese), has long been regarded as a strategic point of defense for the Japanese mainland and still contains military ruins and fortifications that date back more than 200 years to the Tokugawa Shogun-ate. Today, the unhabituated island is a popular tourist destination for beach goers and picnickers.
The Sailors and students where brought together for an international bbq project, which was sponsored by the City of Yokosuka, Japan Tourism Board and coordinated by local city volunteers and the United Service Organizations (USO) Yokosuka.
“For the students, this will be the first experience to communicate in English, other than with their teachers,” said Fumi Kraker, director of Yokosuka Bilingual School and a Cross Cultural Project leader for Yokosuka. “We would like the students to experience communicating in English and enjoy the friendship through this experience.”
Kraker, who has been in the education field for many years says that often times learning English in the Japanese education system is not fun, adding, “we would like the students to enjoy the world with English and encourage the students to see the world in the future.”
“It is just a one day experience, but a very important one for them,” she added. After introductions, the day began with a friendly game of tug-of-war on the beach and then it was time to prepare Japanese navy-style curry, which is a popular camping and bbq dish in Japan and finally after everyone ate they explored the island together.
“The Sailors who volunteer for these barbecues are truly creating memories that will last a lifetime for the students they meet,” said Courtney Routley, USO Yokosuka duty manager. “We appreciate the continued support and engagement from the Sailors of NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka.”
The students could not agree more. “It was so fun, I was able to talk with an American person and cut vegetables together,” said Seiya Naka, a 14-year-old student at Buzan JHS. “I could make myself understood in English, which I practice at home with my sister.”
Many of the other students shared similar sentiments.
“It was my first time to talk with an American but I feel close to them now,” said Tatsuki Maejima, another 14-yearold student at Buzan JHS. “We talked about hobbies and cooking.”
The Sailors also came away with an appreciation for the cultural exchange.
“It was a great opportunity,” said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Oscar Vargas. “We could enrich ourselves by learning from each other, the kids learned English and we learned local culture.”
““I think it’s great that the First Class Petty Officer’s Association had the opportunity today to participate in this event, we all had a good time and it seems that the kids did too,” said Navy Counselor 1st Class Alexander March, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka command career counselor and First Class Petty Officer Association president. “Many thanks to the USO for setting this up and I feel confident that community relations and the city of Yokosuka objectives were met.”
As the day ended the students waved goodbye excitedly while boarding the ferry back to the mainland and the Sailors waved from shore knowing that they made a positive impact in their local community.
“I think this was a very precious experience for me,” said Sotaro Nakazawa, another 14-year-old student at Buzan JHS. “The Sailor was such a good person; now I want to be able to speak with American people more.”
The Sailors are part of NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka, one of eight fleet logistics centers under NAVSUP Global Logistics Support (GLS), is the Western Pacific region’s largest U.S. Navy logistics command, headquartered just 26 miles due south of Tokyo, the enterprise networks more than 20 sites from Misawa, Japan, to Sydney, Australia; Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to Guam with a mission to serve the Asia Pacific Region’s forward deployed maritime warfighter with around-the-clock logistics support.