Volleyball festival sparks cross-cultural friendships on Okinawa

High school volleyball players from the U.S. and Japan greet one another after a match at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.


By CARLOS M. VAZQUEZ II | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 25, 2018

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — More than 500 volleyball fanatics turned out to watch high-schoolers from the U.S. and Japan compete in two days of “friendship” matches on Okinawa.

The eighth annual Okinawa and U.S. Friendship Volleyball Festival, held recently at Kadena’s Kinser Fitness and Sports Complex, featured 18 teams. Sixteen came from Japanese schools on the island, while the U.S. teams hailed from Kadena and Kubasaki high schools.

“Volleyball is like a common ground,” said Kadena junior Meghan Bonafilia. “The Japanese players are always so kind and welcoming. Even though there is a bit of a language barrier sometimes, we are able to say little phrases where we can talk to each other.”

Bonafilia said she made some Japanese friends during last year’s event.

“We all started to follow each other on Instagram,” she said. “One girl was texting me in English, and I was trying to text her in Japanese.”

Many Japanese competitors were excited about the chance to compete against Americans on a U.S. military base.

“It’s great because we’re able to come here to exchange and interact with other people, culture and talent,” said Manama Zukeyama, a junior at Ginoza Senior High School in Ginoza Village. “I want to learn the English language, and I’m really looking forward to doing this more.”

Twitter: @StripesCarlos


Volleyball players from Japanese and Department of Defense Education Activity high schools compete at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.