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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Organizers kick off their annual Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month observance Monday with a ceremony at the Yokota Community Center.

Other activities planned this month include the popular culture fair, set for Saturday at Yokota High School, where an array of food, dances and martial-arts demonstrations will reflect the sights, sounds and flavors of Korea, Samoa, Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines and Japan.

“For someone like me who has no Asian background, this gives me an opportunity to get more involved and learn about the different cultures,” said 1st Lt. Sean Setter of the 730th Air Mobility Squadron, chairman of Yokota’s Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month committee. “It’s a way to jump in and get some exposure to it all.”

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month commemorates the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States in 1843. It was designated a weeklong event in 1979 to raise cultural awareness and honor Asian Americans’ and Pacific Islanders’ collective accomplishments. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush expanded the annual commemoration to a month.

This year’s theme is “Dreams and Challenges for Asian Pacific Americans.” Exhibits featuring artifacts and history from the different nations can be seen all month at the Yokota Community Center, base library and at each scheduled function.

The base provides partial funding for the month’s events, Setter said. Remaining sponsors include Yokota’s Filipino-American Association, Sons of Hawaii and Korean-American Association.

“This benefits everyone,” Setter said. “The more we know each other … the more we get along — no matter what culture month it is. Every one I’ve gone to, I’ve always learned something.”

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