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Americans, Okinawans come together to enjoy food, family

Date Posted: 2005-10-06

CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan – Service members and their families shared a day of sunshine with members of the Urasoe City Chamber of Commerce to experience food, fun and games during the 3rd Kinser Family Friendship Day Sept. 24 at Roberts Field pavilion.

The festivities started with a game of softball between the Japanese and American teams. The Chamber of Commerce team defeated the Camp Kinser team, 7-5.

After the game, Col. Paul Greenwood, Camp Kinser commander, welcomed the guests and expressed his appreciation to the citizens of Urasoe City for their long history of hospitality and friendship. He then asked everyone to enjoy the culturally diverse food.

The Urasoe Chamber of Commerce brought portable grills to cook Okinawan specialties like pan-fried noodles called yakisoba and grilled chicken skewers called yakitori. Another local favorite was sushi, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

According to Katsuya Tomikawa, a Chamber of Commerce member, the exchange of food is very important aspect of friendship that helps bring people closer to one another.

“Food is something everyone can relate to and enjoy,” Tomikawa said. “We want to taste American food, and we also want Americans to enjoy Japanese food. This helps us to understand each other and become closer as a community, regardless of our history.”

The food and drinks were, for the most part, provided by the Chamber of Commerce, but servicemembers and their families brought their favorites for their new Okinawan friends to enjoy.
“The Americans brought out a little bit of everything,” said Lt. Taylor Lee, officer in charge of Camp Kinser camp services. “There was lasagna, chili, chicken wings and baked beans, but the Okinawans really loved the deviled eggs and cakes. The eggs were gone real quick.”

Nearly 130 Okinawan and American attendees participated in a traditional Okinawan dance, led by the Urasoe Chamber of Commerce women’s group.

After the damces, the Okinawans and Americans challenged each others’ strength in arm wrestling matches.

As the sun set, the event moved to Roberts Field for the dizzy izzy competition and three-leg races, where Americans and Okinawans were paired together on a team.

“It was so fun to play with all the Americans,” said 6-year old Youto Mekaru, who got to see the camp for the first time. “I loved doing the dizzy izzy because it was so hard to run straight without falling. I had a great time today.”

The entire event was organized for adults and children with an emphasis on the children and family, explained Manabu Yara, president of the chamber.

“It’s very important for children, Okinawan and American, to develop relationships very early,” Yara said. “These type of events help bring different families together.”

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