An association to promote cultural exchanges and friendship between Yokota Air Base residents and their Japanese neighbors was launched this week.

The Mizuho-Yokota Friendship Association was formed between Yokota and neighboring city Mizuho at a signing ceremony Tuesday, according to base and Japanese officials. Col. Mark Schissler, 374th Airlift Wing commander, and association president Shoichi Kurihara signed the agreement.

“The Mizuho-Yokota Friendship Association will help to promote mutual understanding and friendship between the residents of Mizuho Town and the military personnel and family members of Yokota Air Base,” Col. Kenneth Wavering, 374th Vice Wing commander, stated in a written response to Stripes. “Being active in the community will help to increase public awareness and local support of the various missions at Yokota Air Base.”

Mizuho officials said the group is planning home stays, base tours, courses and training for international understanding in the future.

Wavering stated the association will provide “us an excellent opportunity to meet with the community leaders of Mizuho Town on a regular basis to discuss various issues, concerns and ideas.”

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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