OSAKA, Japan — The camp is remote and the weather a little cool.

But Marines training in rural Japan with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force as part of the annual exercise Forest Light 2003 are learning a lot about their jobs and Japan.

“It’s culturally a lot different,” said Pfc. Derek Carlisle, a mortarman with Weapons Co. of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. “Smaller vehicles and stuff like that. It’s a totally different culture.”

Carlisle said he also encountered new training techniques. “It’s a little bit more high tech than ours,” he said. “I’ve learned several things.”

He and his battalion of 850 Marines are joining members of Japan’s 36th Infantry Regiment, from Itami Station in Osaka, for two weeks — an exercise designed to use live-fire training to strengthen cooperation between the two forces, according to a Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force news release.

So far, it appears to be working.

“They’re really impressed by us and we were impressed by them,” said Lance Cpl. Rodney Nix, Headquarters and Service Company.

Lance Cpl. Randall Jones, with the same company, found Japanese troops communicate in the field with phones instead of radios. “It’s nothing like you expect,” he said. “I was surprised by how modernized it is” in Japan.

The Marines have been deployed to Japan since September, first to Okinawa, where they are temporarily based, then to Camp Fuji outside Tokyo, before coming to their current training area near Osaka. Their travels gave Marines a chance to learn about their host country.

“There’s a vending machine on every corner,” Nix noted.

On a visit to a town near Camp Fuji, he also observed that food servings are small and people of all ages play video games.

Nix said he’s tried some interesting foods. He wasn’t crazy about sushi, something many of his fellow Marines echoed. But they’ve enjoyed widening their horizons, they said. For many, this trip is their first outside the United States.

Japanese “have a lot of customs and culture we don’t have,” Jones said. Living in the United States all his life, he said, he “didn’t really expect it.”

Marines also are to be invited to dine with Japanese families to learn about Japanese culture.

For the exercise, Marines and Japanese forces will practice firing shoulder-powered anti-armor missiles, machine guns, mortars and handguns. The Marines also conducted live-fire training at Camp Fuji recently.

The battalion, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., is deployed to Camp Schwab, Okinawa — which, Carlisle said, is proving to be a treat.

“They have one of the best spots for diving,” he said. “It’s really something to see.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now