JGSDF, Marines celebrate New Year with Mochitsuki
By Lance Cpl. Nicholas S. Ranum
| Marine Corps Installations Pacific | January 10, 2013
TAKAGAHARA GARRISON, Shizuoka, Japan --
Leaders from surrounding communities, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and their families gathered with approximately 40 Marines from Headquarters Battalion, Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Dec. 21 at the Takagahara Garrison for the annual event to celebrate the approaching new year.
The Mochitsuki ceremony is a traditional event that involves the use of a heavy mallet and mortar to make mochi by pounding the rice. Mochi is then used as a food product, both sweetened and unsweetened.
"The Japanese celebrate the coming new year by eating mochi during this season," said Sgt. Maj. Rodolfo G. Sarino, the sergeant major of CATC Camp Fuji. "The Takagahara Garrison invited the Marines to experience their culture."
Sharing cultural activities allows for a greater understanding between the Marines and their Japanese hosts at a more personal level.
"I think (the event) is good because it exposes Marines to the Japanese culture, especially for new Marines that recently arrived to Japan," said Sarino. "It is good to have these events in order to build and maintain Camp Fuji's relationship with our community and help the Japan-U.S. partnership."
The JGSDF members and Marines worked through a language barrier to make the event a success.
"My favorite part is that I can see both Japanese garrison members and (Camp) Fuji Marines having fun together through these events," said Misuzu Sugiyama, the secretary for the commanding officer of Camp Fuji. "I feel happy to see the Marines have fun with garrison members in spite of the language difficulty. I believe the people-to-people ties and face-to-face communication are very important for keeping the bonds strong."
The effort put forth by the Camp Fuji Marines helped solidify their standing as productive members of the local community.
"It shows the Japanese community that we are not here just to train, but we are also here to participate in the community," said Sgt. Fabian Salazar, a ground radio repairer with Camp Fuji. "The ultimate goal is to build strong relationships with the Japanese and to ensure the continuing friendship between our great nations."
The relationship between the JGSDF and Marines is passed down to the next group of leaders by events such as the mochitsuki ceremony, where service members first meet their counterparts.
"I attend all JGSDF events that I am invited to, over 12 per year, to build and maintain good relationships with the JGSDF and civic leaders," said Sarino. "I integrate the Marines in these events as much as possible to give them an appreciation for the Japanese culture."
The old relationships that were built upon, and the new relationships that were formed, will pay dividends during future operations.
"It is important to show our host nation that we are still working hard to build strong relations," said Salazar. "There was sense of awe from the Marines who had never been to a mochi festival. The Japanese citizens and JGSDF were also eager to share their culture with a group of Marines who were more than willing to learn about them."