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Ikuko Tokuyo Gakushuin Women's College student, presents Brig. Gen. Blake Crowe, United States Forces Japan deputy commander, a certificate she and her students made symbolizing their appreciation for the United States Armed Forces' effort during Operation Tomodachi March 16, 2012.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Chad C. Strohmeyer

Japanese students present 1,000 origami cranes to U.S. forces in Japan

23 Mar 2012 | Master Sgt. Arsenio R. Cortez Jr., U.S. Forces Japan Marine Corps Installations Pacific

A year had passed since the disaster in Japan, but the Japanese people continue to thank U.S. service members for their help.

For some, they showed their appreciation in a formal Japanese tradition here March 16. Six Gakushuin Women’s College students presented each service branch with 1,000 cranes respectively. A total of 4,000 cranes were given to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps at the United States Forces Japan headquarters.

In Japan, making Senba-Zaru, 1,000 paper cranes, is a custom to pray and wish. It is commonly said that folding 1,000 paper origami cranes makes one's wishes come true. This makes paper cranes a popular gift for friends and family. Each paper crane took about five minutes to fold, with precision, by the Gakushuin students.

“On behalf of the people of Japan, it’s our way to show our deep appreciation,” said Yuri Nakamura, a Gakushuin Women’s College student.

As a welcome, Lt. Gen. Burton Field, commander, USFJ and 5th Air Force, gave each student a commander’s coin. “It’s an honor to accept this display of artistry, but it’s a greater honor to work with people such as you in this great country,” he said.

During the ceremony, the students read a letter for each of the service representatives as they presented the cranes.

According to Nakamura, USFJ was their last stop to present their appreciation. Yet, for some, it was their first chance to meet the U.S. service members who helped the people of Japan.

Tears rolled down their cheeks as they recalled the efforts made by the U.S. forces to help the Japanese in the devastated areas.

“The U.S. Army was involved in restoration work of the Sendai Airport with the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force. It became the first big step toward rehabilitation,” Nakamura read.

“Your detachment of the USS Ronald Reagan and some fleets to Sanriku-offing was a big help to Japan, and encouraged us so much,” said Tomo Ishikawa, one of the six students, as she presented the 1,000 cranes to the Navy.

On their visit, the students received a tour of the base, got a little taste of military life, and saw an Air Force C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III. Both aircraft delivered supplies to the affected areas during relief efforts.

The students also met several service members and learned more about their bilateral operations with the Jieitai, Japan Self-Defense Force. The students were proud of the Jieitai as they served alongside U.S. service members during relief efforts.

“The most impressive moment was when Lt. Gen. Field mentioned the strong bond between the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. forces. By hearing from people who were actually on the front lines of the relief effort, I could feel that the relationship between them was built upon by mutual trust,” said Asuka Naguchi, Gakushuin Women’s College student.