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    Photo By Yoshie Makiyama | Participating students, age 15 to 20, from Uruma City pose for a photo on August 14,...... read more read more



    Story by Yoshie Makiyama 

    Marine Corps Installations Pacific

    Camp Courtney opened its gates to local students from the neighboring city of Uruma to give them an opportunity to experience American culture during a five-day Camp Courtney Summer English Class, August 14-18, 2023. With it, students had a chance not just to learn English but also broaden their understanding of their own surroundings and Japanese culture. The project has continued for more than 20 years, and Uruma City now supports publicity and transportation.


    Okinawa is known to the Japanese for hosting many U.S. military bases, and Uruma City is one of the areas that shares land with the U.S. Marine Corps.

    Although military bases and neighboring communities are separated by a fence, a lot of communities take advantage of this unique environment. Military service members often lend their support to local residents by participating in cleanups. However, one of the ever-popular exchanges between communities is English classes.

    When Ichiro Umehara, the community relations specialist for Camps Courtney and McTureous, received a local parent’s request over 20 years ago for students to study English on base as if they were abroad, he recognized the benefits and came up with the idea of a 5-day English class during summer vacation for Japanese school children. Umehara thought this could bring the base and the local community closer together.

    Umehara initiated the Camp Courtney Summer English Class in the summer of 2000. His initial goal was for local children to enjoy learning English and experience American culture just a fence away from their community. However, his deeper thought was that the experience of the English class would go beyond just speaking English but connect to their awareness of their surroundings and future jobs.

    “I was born in the south of Okinawa where there are no military bases around, so I didn’t have much opportunity to be exposed to English,” said Mika Nago, the mother of a participating student. “This kind of learning opportunity will be an advantage and an inspiration for them. It doesn’t have to be all about learning English. Just by being in contact with other people, we can share our different cultures and values.”

    2023 Summer English Class

    In 2023, Uruma City welcomed the applicants, not just high schoolers but also college and vocational school students ― to make up for missed opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic ― through their newsletter and homepage. A total of 30 students, first-come and first-serve, from Uruma City, age 15 to 20, participated.

    "I want the students to change from this experience,” said Yoshinori Shinzato, the director of the Uruma City Citizen Collaboration Policy Division of the Residential Affairs Department.

    Uruma City shares the land with not just the U.S. Marine Corps, but also the Navy, Army, and the sea area with the Air Force. On top of that, there are various Japanese Self-Defense Forces bases, including the Ground Self-Defense Force and Maritime Self-Defense Force.

    "If we can make use of what we already have and help the children learn, I think it is worthwhile," said Shinzato. "It is necessary to understand the nature of the bases, so it is important to know why they exist, and to see and hear what they will say.”

    The program included classroom sessions, tours of on-base facilities, and one unique tour which changes every year with Umehara’s choice. Every course was to enlighten the students on the differences between Japanese and American culture and lifestyle. Five to 10 Marines were invited and assigned to groups of students. Since not all the students understood English, there were local college students who supported the participants with English translation.

    The summer English class started out with an introduction and moved to discussion among participants in English. The given topic for discussion changed every session to ensure diverse conversations. They also rotated the groups or tables once a subject was done, and mixed the groups daily.

    “It was really nice because we started to walk around and go to different groups,” said Lance Cpl. Trey C. Girard, Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, on his third day of the class. “We can teach all the groups different things, not just our first group, which is really cool.” However, he also noticed that although some of the students started to open up a little more, some were still shy. Girard said that he tried to talk to them since he understood how they felt, as he used to be shy at one point in his life.

    One of the topics included an explanation of Okinawan food. It seems simple; however, Umehara wanted students to use their full knowledge of the subject matter and explain it from many aspects, such as how to make the food, the ingredients, and nutritional benefits as well, even if they lacked English skills.

    After the English exchange, Umehara scheduled lunch at various locations on Camp Courtney. He wanted the students to experience the different types of eating environments, such as Tengan Castle for the dining style restaurant, Bulldogs as the fast-food restaurant, and the mess hall where normally only service members were allowed to eat. Each afternoon, the group ventured out for a field trip to camp facilities such as the library, gym, commissary (grocery store), exchange store (retail store) and barracks (dorms).

    “I was able to experience what kind of rooms Americans live in and what kind of food they usually eat, so I felt a little closer to them as if we are the same people,” said Miriya Nakamura, a high school sophomore.
    The class did not miss adding in some fun. Even though it was midday on a weekday, Umehara requested the Bowling alley to turn on the party lights for the participants to experience the atmosphere of an American bowling alley on a weekend night.

    A field trip to Camp Schwab and Henoko District of Nago City

    The fourth day was a day trip to Camp Schwab and Henoko District office in Nago City. The participants learned the purpose behind Camp Schwab and what they do operationally from the camp director and community relations specialist. They also gained insight into the relationships between the district residents and service members from the perspective of Shigeru Shimabukuro, Henoko District mayor.

    At the meeting on Camp Schwab, participants asked two Marines about their thoughts on the protestors outside the gate and Henoko landfill, which has been ongoing since 2018, when the land reclamation work began on the Henoko coast in preparation for the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko.

    One Marine replied that he has never had a negative experience from people outside the gate nor local residents, saying “what we think is nice is different from what people here think is nice. Sometimes it's a misunderstanding and something you have to work on.” Another Marine said he was unaware of the Henoko relocation and thought the landfill was just a landfill, which surprised many participants.

    Shimabukuro also took questions from participants. He shared a few of his memories of the past and explained to the students how the residents of the district have dealt with the situations with Camp Schwab for 65 years since its establishment.

    “There are so many people who misunderstand our situations,” said Shimabukuro. “Our residents have good relationships with the service members. They (Camp Schwab and its Marines) are a part of our district and even have the 11th section flag, and participate in our community events and activities. Our mentality is that we are all friends.”

    Karin Kinjo, a sophomore from a local high school, commented that she has never given a thought to the reason about the landfill or why the U.S. military bases existed in Okinawa because they were always there since she was born.

    “It was difficult for me,” said Kinjo. “I had seen many opinions against the landfill on TV, so I agreed with them, but after listening to the people inside the base, I realized that there are many different opinions. It is important to listen to other opinions, not just one.”

    After summer English class

    Anna Nagayama, a freshman at Okinawa University, said she was under the impression that it was fine as long as she could speak English when she first came to the summer English class, but realized it would be better to understand the culture of the country and the problems faced by people from abroad as well.

    According to her, even though she lived in Okinawa all her life, there were so many things she was not aware of. “I need to learn more about the language, culture, and Okinawa, where I live, in order to deepen our exchange,” said Nagayama.

    Yuna Azama from the Uruma City Citizen Collaboration Policy Division, who accompanied the students throughout the summer English class, was amazed how honest students were, and she had a good feeling about their possibilities. "Being exposed to a different culture was a shocking experience to some students; however, it also gave them a chance to realize that there are choices in their future by knowing different ways of thinking and seeing," said Azama.

    The 5-day-long summer English class ended with a friendship barbecue cook-out. Marine volunteers worked together to serve food, and at the same time interact with students in sports outside the facility.

     キャンプ・コートニーが、2023年8月14日から18日までの5日間、近隣のうるま市から地元の学生を迎え、アメリカ文化を体験し、英語を学ぶだけでなく、 自分たちを取り巻く環境や自国の日本文化をも理解するきっかけとなるキャンプ・コートニー・サマー・イングリッシュ・クラスを開催した。この企画は20年以上にわたって続けられており、現在はうるま市が広報や送迎をサポートしている。




      20年以上前、 キャンプ・コートニー&マクトリアスの梅原一郎渉外官は、地元の保護者から、「基地が近いので、海外にいるような感覚で英語を学べる機会がほしい」という要望を受けたとき、地域の高校生を対象に、夏休みを利用した5日間の夏期英語クラスを思いついた。これなら、基地と地域社会との距離を縮めることができると考えたのだ。



     夏期英語クラス 2023

















     「私たちの状況を誤解している人がたくさんいます。私たち住民は、軍人と良好な関係を築いています。彼ら(キャンプ・シュワブと海兵隊)は私たちの地区の一部であり、11班の旗を持ち、地域のイベントや活動にも参加しています。私たちの考えは 『みんな友達 』なんです」と説明した。









    Date Taken: 01.22.2024
    Date Posted: 02.09.2024 01:14
    Story ID: 463442
    Location: OKINAWA, JP

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