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Cmdr. Manuel Mak, a chaplain from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Danville, Ill., holds a workshop Friday at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, on interpersonal and cultural factors involved when Americans and Asians marry.
Cmdr. Manuel Mak, a chaplain from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Danville, Ill., holds a workshop Friday at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, on interpersonal and cultural factors involved when Americans and Asians marry. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — People planning to marry others from another country must know themselves before they can really understand the cultures of their future mates.

So says U.S. Navy Cmdr. Manuel Mak, a Chinese-American and chaplain at the Veterans Affairs Regional Medical Center in Danville, Ill.

In Japan to share his expertise, he visited Yokosuka Naval Base and Naval Air Facility Atsugi before concluding his tour at Sasebo.

He conducted the Asian-American Diversity/Biracial Marriage and Dating Workshop on Thursday for base chaplains and program managers to help inform and counsel base personnel. A Friday workshop was for people planning a multicultural marriage.

“To succeed in such relationships and to understand the person you marry, you must first learn to know yourself through a process of developing emotional intelligence,” Mak said. “If you don’t understand how your culture has influenced your life, you can’t understand the other person.”

He said people are “the sum total” of aspects of life rooted in culture, including emotional intelligence, religion, economics and family structure.

“When you marry, you are putting those cultures together; the preparation is critical to succeeding,” he added.

Petty Officer 3rd Class James Glascox, from Mine Countermeasures Division Eleven, and Tomomi Matsumoto, his bride-to-be from nearby Saga, said they plan to marry and eventually move to the United States.

“I thought the information brought up here today was great,” Glascox said. “We’ve already been talking about some these things about differences in culture, but this just gave us more insight.”

Mak encouraged his audience to participate by explaining aspects of their culture that are distinctive. He also incorporated scenes from movies such as “Rush Hour” and “The Last Samurai.”

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