CHITOSE, Japan - The sound of clinking glasses and laughter permeated the air as soldiers assigned to I Corps, had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Japanese culture Dec. 4.
Families from Chitose, Japan, opened their doors and welcomed them into their homes for a special dinner, as part of Yama Sakura 65.
YS 65 is a five-day bilateral military simulation exercise that partners I Corps and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Northern Army at Camp Higashi-Chitose northern island of Hokkaido.
During the dinner, host families prepared large meals, providing a varied menu for their guests and shared their family traditions and customs. For the host families, the chance to share something special with visitors to Japan was beneficial for all involved.
“This is my first time doing something like this,” said Megumi Tanaka. “I think bringing the soldiers into our homes is a good experience for not only them, but for my daughter and niece as well. I want them to know it is important to go out and meet new people and see different cultures.”
There were some anxious moments before heading out to the family homes. Soldiers weren’t sure what the experience would be like or what they would be eating.
“I was a little nervous about trying some new foods,” said Spc. Spencer Miller, chaplain’s assistant, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps. “I had never had sushi before so that was very interesting.”
The event gave soldiers an opportunity to learn how a Japanese family lives and eats together.
“The family was so nice as soon as we arrived and so easy to embrace,” said Spc. Dymond Ashford, transportation manager, 540th Transportation Company.
For Tanaka, the chance to share some food and the warmth of her home with Soldiers was more than just cooking a meal for strangers; it was a chance to share something from her heart.
“I have traveled a lot to foreign countries and had so many people help me,” said Tanaka. “I am always very thankful for that, and I want to do the same for people who come to Japan.”
During the bus ride back to post, aoldiers reflected on the experience with the family and found they made the right choice to attend.
“I can honestly say it was such a nice experience,” Ashford said. “At first I was not too interested. But one of my sergeants told me more about it, so it sounded like fun and I was really glad that I chose to go.”