Flags, fun, and friendship: Sports Cultural Exchange Program premieres at Yokota

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexzandra Gracey
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Students from both Yokota Middle School and Fussa Dai-ichi Junior High School came together to participate in a flag football tournament at the eastside baseball stadium for the Sports Cultural Exchange Program kick-off event at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 20.

“Yokota Middle School is the first to pilot a cultural exchange program that has a specific focus in sports,” said Hilary Simmons, Yokota Middle School principal. “It’s invaluable for the kids to open their perspective on different cultures.”

The SCEP is a new, multi-week event that allows for Japanese and Yokota students to come together and share cultural experiences and sports. For almost three months, YMS, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan collaborated to pull off the tournament. The kick-off event featured flag football matches and basketball matches happening the following week.

“Events like the sports cultural exchange allow for meaningful student-to-student connections and relationships to form,” said Tom Brady, DODEA director. “Regardless of language barriers, the students are able to play together, connect, and appreciate culture.”

“It was exciting being able to come and learn to play football,” said Sosuke Nomoto, a local Japanese student, “I liked seeing the other players and coaches having fun.”

Members from Yokota Air Base volunteered their time to practice, coach and prepare the four different football teams assembled for the tournament.

“It’s important to be a part of the community and support our younger generations,” said Airman 1st Class Corbin Kumor, 753rd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron CV-22 Osprey maintainer. “Having some of the players come from off-base is a great way to make new friends and show them who we are as a Yokota family.”

During the kick-off event matches, students were cheered on by family, 374th Airlift Wing leadership, school faculty members and representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan.

“It was really cool having new friends come from off base to play with us,” said YMC student Knox Linton. “I had lots of fun and I can’t wait to do it again.”

With programs and activities like SCEP, Yokota and local Japanese communities can further strengthen the bond between the U.S. and Japan. Fostering an environment for building relationships bolsters interoperability with each nation and mission success.