CHITOSE, Japan - I Corps soldiers participating in Yama Sakura 65 joined forces with members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Northern Army to clean up litter around the city of Chitose, Japan, Dec. 4.
With garbage bags in hand, more than 100 uniformed personnel, descended onto the banks of the Chitose River and Salmon Park to collect litter and show a unified force to help beatify the city who hosted YS 65.
Those who took the opportunity to help with the cleanup took away more then just an opportunity to get out of the training area. They got to see a little bit more of the country of Japan.
“This was really a labor of love,” said Lt. Col. Evangeline Saiz, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps. “I volunteered to be part of this cultural experience and what I got out of it was fellowship, friendship and the opportunity to get out and experience what the Japanese culture has to offer us.”
Many soldiers at the exercise had other obligations and couldn’t attend the event, but Saiz had some words of advice for the next time the opportunity presents itself.
“You’re missing a wonderful opportunity to get out and about the country of Japan and experience what the Japanese have to offer us,” she said.
As a special cultural surprise, participants in the cleanup received the opportunity to watch a green tea ceremony and help make rice cakes.
“It was a different tea,” said Pfc. Joseph Rhodes, B Company, I Corps. “It definitely tasted like there was something good in it. It wasn’t just hot water with some sweets in it.”
For Rhodes, the ceremonial aspect of the Japanese culture excites him most about taking part in the cultural exchanges that Yama Sakura 65 offers soldiers.
“Everything in Japan has a meaning and a purpose and that is what I like about seeing everything here,” said Rhodes. “Originally I thought today I would just be going out and picking up sticks and some trash. But it has been a fun day and definitely worth it.”