News: M. C. Perry hosts mikan-giving exchange
Story by Cpl. Kenneth Trotter
IWAKUNI, Japan - Matthew C. Perry Elementary School hosted Iwakuni Mayor Yoshikiko Fukuda and several members of the local Iwakuni Agricultural and Societal Co-op during a mikan-giving event at the M.C. Perry elementary gymnasium here, Feb. 5, 2013.
The purpose of the event was to build a better sense of appreciation, understanding and respect between Iwakuni residents and the more impressionable of the base’s residents – children.
“It’s something we look forward to,” said Dr. Suzanne Landrum, M.C. Perry Elementary School principal. “It’s a cultural exchange. So this morning, we decided to have an assembly here at the school.”
The mikan is a Japanese citrus fruit resembling a tangerine. It is seen as a significant symbol of Japan’s agricultural export business.
In addition to Mayor Fukuda, Yamaguchi Oshima Agricultural Cooperative Association director general & chairman Motoi Yoshimura, Iwakuni Kouin Seika Co. Ltd. presidentdirector Kazunori Hayata, Iwakuni Produce Brokers’ Association chairman Mitsuo Okada, Iwakuni Produce Commission Merchants Association chairman Hitoshi Kifune and Motoi Yoshimura, director general & chairman, Yamaguchi Oshima Agricultural Cooperative Association also attended.
All elementary school students and staff attended the mikan presentation. Several students, who were on stage during the presentation, expressed their sincere appreciation for the mikans.
After the presentation, M.C. Perry students reciprocated by presenting a traditional Japanese tea ceremony for their guests, served with green tea and Japanese sweet rolls. Several dozen students observed this and two took part in the ceremony.
These simple, friendly gestures appealed to those in attendance.
“You don’t have to have grand temples and shrines to feel a part of this community,” said Landrum. “You can feel a part of this community in something more sustainable like produce. The people in Iwakuni are quite proud of this. We can strengthen our relationship and friendship with the Japanese by celebrating what’s important to them.”
This does not diminish the other aspects of the local Japanese community, though.
“We love those bonfires at the Kintai,” said Landrum. “We love the tours to the castles and shrines.”
The most important aspect of the day’s events was the cultural immersion for the children.
“What I hope they take away is that even though we’re on an American military base, this relationship is important,” said Landrum. “It should not be a one-time event. We should go into the community, invite the community in. I hope the children will go home tonight and talk about this assembly today.”
The opportunity to be a part of the event was something the children in attendance could take away and appreciate in the years to come.
“It means a lot to me because the Japanese are trying to interact with us Americans,” said William Rudolph, 11, an M.C. Perry sixth grader. “If we interact, we can make a better relationship with one another.”
The ability to have a successful and fruitful partnership between a host nation and the U.S. military has its foundation in events such as this. By giving station residents the opportunity to experience the culture outside their gates, they are not only making them better ambassadors, no matter how young, but well-rounded people as well.