STORY AND PHOTOS BY SKY M. LARON DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS NAVSUP FLEET LOGISTICS CENTER YOKOSUKA
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Two Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Ship Supply Depot members display their kendo skills during a cultural event in Taura, Japan.
Japan is a country steeped in ancient traditions and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Ship Supply Depot (SSD) members shared several of those deep-rooted traditions with Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistic Center (FLC) Yokosuka Sailors Dec. 11 to honor the partnership forged by the two naval logistics commands in a celebration of culture and friendship at the JMSDF naval base in Taura, Japan.
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A member of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force performs the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
The celebration served as the 17th anniversary of the founding of SSD and provided U.S. Navy guests an opportunity to share in Japanese cultural events, to include rice-pounding, a tea ceremony, and sword fighting.
During the traditional rice-pounding or mochitsuki ceremony, which heralds the coming of the New Year, Sailors wielded large wooden mallets and struck wetted piles of steamed rice that were placed in big mortars. The pounding continues until the glutinous rice mixture has the consistency of soft taffy. The finished mochi is then seasoned and given out for everyone to eat.
“Thank you for hosting my staff and I here today and allowing us to partake in this Japanese tradition as we honor yet another year of SSD as well as another year of friendship and collaboration,” said Capt. Raymond Bichard, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka, commanding officer.
The Sailors were afforded the opportunity to enjoy tea, in a very unique way. The Japanese tea ceremony is a cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of powdered green tea. The elaborate and refined presentation is meant to demonstrate respect to guests through grace and good etiquette.
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Lt. Cmdr. Eric Gardner (center), Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka, reserve operations director, enjoys a traditional Japanese dish during a cultural event held at a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force naval base in Taura, Japan.
“I felt very honored in the way I was able to experience that part of their culture” said Gunnery Sgt. Taofia Piliati, NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka, Marine Liaison Detachment distribution chief.
Finally, a display of swordsmanship was performed for the American guests by two of the JMSDF hosts who donned their traditional gi for a kendo sparring duel. Although the blades were made of bamboo and the warriors were only students, the rituals of swordsmanship flow directly from the samurai culture of the past.
As the event drew to a close the hosts acknowledged the importance of continued bi-lateral engagement.
“The mochi-pounding at this place is a historic and traditional event for both our commands, something that we can call a living witness to what has been a strong alliance between U.S. and Japan,” said Capt. Hiroki Saigawa, JMSDF SSD, commanding officer.
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Capt. Raymond Bichard (right), Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka, commanding officer, wields a large traditional wooden mallet used in the preparation of mochi, during a cultural celebration with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with more than 38 million people calling it home, yet this city and country with its many modern marvels, continues to adeptly blend the past with the present.
Whether it was preparing a rice dish, drinking tea or wielding a sword in the traditional manner, the events drew together two nations, giving the American guests a better understanding of their host nation’s past and a unique story of taking part in ancient Japanese customs.