News: Station welcomes Japanese children with open arms
Story by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Pryer
IWAKUNI, Japan - Children from Iwakuni-Kawashimo Yochien (kindergarten), a local school, and chaperones came aboard station July 11, 2012, as part of a more than 25-year tradition for an hour of fun using the IronWorks Gym indoor pool. The kids arrived at the pool at approximately 11 a.m.
“We love having the kids here,” said Stephanie Brown, Marine Corps Community Services aquatics director. “They’re so cute!”
Only the senior class of Iwakuni-Kawashimo participates in the trip, giving younger students something to aspire for when they reach their final year in kindergarten.
“Every year at the beginning of July or the end of June, I expect to get an e-mail from the school saying they’re ready to go,” said Brown.
“I’ve been here for five summers now and I know they’ve been coming for at least 20 years.”
Depending on the weather, the kids will either use the WaterWorks outdoor pool or the pool inside IronWorks.
“It’s my understanding that the pools in Japan are smaller than what we have aboard station, so the first year I was here, when the kids first get here, they all seemed to be in shock at our pool’s size,” said Brown. “They were a little afraid to go in at first, but they really seemed to enjoy it once they got in.”
While the event provides an enjoyable hour of swimming and fun to the children, there is no doubt providing the kindergartners with a pool aboard station helps further friendly relations with local Japanese.
“I think this is a wonderful community relations opportunity and I love that it’s been going on for so long because I’m sure there are some parents who went to this school, and now they’re coming here with their kids. I just think it’s a great opportunity to get them exposed to water and swimming as young as they can and to also give them a chance to interact with the station residents.”
The children and chaperones normally visit five to six times during the course of several weeks, with the final day including a thank-you lunch at Crossroads Mall.
“The last day they come, they invite us, very graciously, over to the food court, and we have lunch, and the CO comes, and they give us a nice little gift to thank us. It’s just really, really nice,” said Brown.
The final visit for the kindergartners this year is scheduled for Monday.