Community Connections through Cultural Adaptations

Residents of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Iwakuni City plant rice in Iwakuni City, Japan

Moving to a new country can be difficult, and cultural nuances can be hard to learn and adjust to. One of the best things you can do is jump into community events and connect with the local people and businesses. The Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) center at MCAS Iwakuni encourages just this by offering Marines opportunities to learn about Japanese culture in a hands-on way through their Cultural Adaptations program. The MCCS “offers guided bus tours to off-base destinations with an emphasis on Japanese culture,” as well as classes in Japanese arts and traditions such as calligraphy. Cultural Adaptations has recently hosted a number of events for MCAS residents that we highlight here today.

At the end of May, they visited Yamaguchi Flower Land and Kashinoki Sweets Factory in Yanai City. At Yamaguchi Flower Land, they learned how to make moss balls and made their own to take home and display. At the Sweets Factory, they went on a factory tour and tasted different samples. These trips aren’t just a chance to see the sights around Japan: “Mikie Watanabe, cultural adaptation specialist with Marine Corps Community Services, said that there are many fascinating places the Cultural Adaptation Program wants to share with residents. Once they know a place, they can come back with their family and friends on their own.” MCAS residents learn about new places and get a chance to meet members of the local community along the way.

Cultural Adaptation also hosts a number of cultural exchanges throughout the year, and last month they went to Tsuzu Elementary in Iwakuni City to host classes on crafting and cooking. Volunteers taught Tsuzu Elementary students cupcake decoration, and played games and ate lunch together as well.

Miki Watanabe stressed that “the cultural adaptation program takes people off base and gives them the opportunity to go out and see new people,” and how “it really feels like we are all part of our Iwakuni community.”

This past weekend, MCAS residents participated in an annual rice planting event, where they learned how rice is traditionally farmed, and then visited a farmers market to see where the locally grown rice is sold. This event has happened for over ten years, and in the fall those who participated in the rice planting will also have the opportunity to return and harvest the fruits of their labor.

To learn more about Cultural Adaptations, as well as other events and classes offered by MCCS, visit their website.