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From mess halls to masterpieces

By: Marie W. Conway

Date Posted: 1999-04-10

Few who stand in line at Futenma and Foster mess halls would realize that two of their cooks, Yoshimasu Shimabukuro and Kaoru Nakama, are as proficient with a carving knife away from the kitchen as they are when preparing meals for hungry military personnel. As two of the finest ice sculptors in Okinawa, Yoshimasu and Kaoru belong to a 16-strong group called the Ice People, who specialize in creating sculptures similar to those seen at the highly popular ice sculpting competitions held annually in Hokkaido, northern Japan

Yoshimasu and Kaoru, from Futenma and Foster mess halls respectively, and their team regularly compete in ice sculpting contests and, when requested, create ice sculptures for hotels, restaurants, and the military. Their work includes majestic swans, the Marine Corps emblem, deers, tigers, and many others.

On March 5, Yoshimasu, Kaoru, and two other members of the Ice People, Yoshiya Arakaki and Kyan Kiyoshi, carved a Mickey Mouse statue in front of Ryubo Shopping Center for the local Okinawan elementary school students. The entire process was amazing!

First, the Ice People stacked blocks of ice one on top of another to enable Yoshimasu to carve Mickey's silhouette into the ice blocks. The Futenma cook then used a sharp carving knife to make deep grooves into the ice, refining the silhouette. The next step came as a surprise to me, as I had always thought ice sculpting was a delicate process, since the end product always seems so elegant, so fragile.

Yet, Yoshimasu and his team took to the ice with chain saws, cutting away chunks of unnecessary

ice. The warm temperatures made things a little hectic for the team as they scrambled to complete the sculpture, but in a little over two hours, Mickey was all suited up, much to the delight of the children and adults.

So next time you attend a function at a hotel or one of the military facilities, the ice sculpture you see just might be the work of two cooks and their friends - the Ice People.

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