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NEWS | May 19, 2010

Learning the Japanese heritage during Yama Sakura 61

By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Oliver 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Visiting a Japanese Buddha temple might be on some people’s bucket list, but for some U.S. service members at this year’s Yama Sakura 61 exercise, they can scratch that item off their list.

Maj. Richard Dixon from Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army Pacific operations officer, planned the YS61 morale and welfare trips to visit Japanese temples, including the Kiyomizuder Temple, Todai-Ji Temple and Osaka Castle.

“I think anything we can do to increase cultural awareness and enhance our partner relationship is something we should take advantage of when we are conducting our exercise here in Japan,” said Dixon.

In Japanese, Kiyomizuder means “pure water temple,” because it was founded on the Otawa waterfall in 780 A.D. Japanese culture believes that if a person drinks from one of the three streams, he or she will receive longevity, success at school and a have a fortunate love life.

“I’m married and not going to school, so I drank for longevity,” said Army Reservist Pvt. Michael Phillips, 1017th Quarter Master Company. “This trip gave me a chance to learn their culture instead of only participating in this exercise.”

The Kioymizuder Temple was originally associated with one of the oldest Japanese Buddhism schools. Interestingly, there is not a single nail used in the entire structure.

“We wanted to show appreciation and respect to our Japanese counterparts by honoring their country and learning about their culture,” said Warrant Officer Edward Sistrunk from Fort Shafter Hawaii.

The annual Yama Sakura exercise is one of the foundations of U.S. and Japanese defense cooperation and is U.S. Army Pacific’s largest bilateral command post exercise.

More than 800 U.S. military personnel and over 3,500 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel are participating in Yama Sakura 61.

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