Japanese students get crash course in American football at culture-exchange camp
Stars and Stripes September 25, 2023
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — American football provided the backdrop for a cultural exchange between U.S. and Japanese high school students over the weekend at this base south of Hiroshima.
American students explained the essence of the game to their Japanese peers, who remarked on the strength and agility exhibited on the field and on the sidelines.
The Japanese students tossed the pigskin with American students alongside the homecoming game Saturday at MCAS Iwakuni, where the Samurai of Matthew C. Perry High School battled the Cougars of Osan Air Base, South Korea.
“Many of the Japanese students never experienced a homecoming football game,” Sonya Gates, DODEA community superintendent, told Stars and Stripes on Saturday.
More than 30 American and Japanese students gathered Saturday and Sunday at MCAS Iwakuni for the Student Educational Exchange and Dialogue, a cultural immersion program designed to foster diverse perspectives and promote mutual understanding.
“It’s not just learning about the differences,” Gates said. “We wanted to make sure they can find similarities and work collaboratively together in an environment that is fun and engaging for them.”
One activity called for students to develop a short skit about how they might experience “culture shock” from an everyday situation in Japan.
Some students demonstrated the dos and don’ts of riding a Japanese a train; others performed a skit about the etiquette required of a dinner guest.
“I think this has been a great opportunity to get to know them better and get to know Japanese culture a little bit better,” eighth-grader Elizabeth Shoop, 13, daughter of Sarah and Marine Col. Kyle Shoop, told Stars and Stripes on Saturday.
The event ended with an awards ceremony attended by Iwakuni Mayor Yoshihiko Fukuda, Kosuke Amiya of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty Division of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and MCAS Iwakuni Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron commander Lt. Col. Jacob Schwinghammer.
At the game, a U.S. teacher provided the Japanese students with a football to practice throwing and catching. Kota Tsuruhara, a Japanese 12th-grader, told Stars and Stripes that while he didn’t know all the rules of American football, “it was so powerful, and it was cool movements.”
Many of the Japanese students expressed their excitement at the American cheerleaders’ acrobatic skills.
Kota, who practices Japanese archery, said the cheerleaders were “so cute” and their “dance was so synchronized and so cool.”
“Our hope is that they will not only learn from this experience, but they will make connections that will last beyond this event,” Gates said.