Kadena Airmen participate in Japanese cultural ceremony

  • Published
  • By Beth Gosselin
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Several Kadena Air Base Airmen participated in a traditional Japanese New Year celebration at the conclusion of a weeklong training exercise Dec. 12 at Japan Air Self Defense Force's Chitose Air Base in Hokkaido, Japan.

Five of the approximately 70 Kadena AB Airmen training at the Japanese base participated in a Mochitsuki ceremony alongside their Japanese counterparts and local distinguished visitors.

The word "Mochitsuki" directly translates to "rice pounding," which is exactly what the ceremony entails. Two people participate in the actual making of mochi. One person pounds the cooked rice and water mixture with a wooden mallet and the other wets and rotates the mochi. The result is a sticky rice that is then used to make various food dishes. 

The Mochitsuki ceremony is a traditional way to give thanks for a safe and healthy year and prepare for good luck next year, said Japanese Col. Iwamoto Shinichi, the JASDF 2nd Wing's Operations Group commander.

"This ceremony gives thanks for a successful aircraft training relocation that provided us safe and efficient joint training," the colonel said.

Throughout the aircraft training relocation, Airmen focused on their mission to enhance interoperability of U.S. and Japanese air forces while forming friendships with their JASDF counterparts. Daily work routines turned into a learning experience as did social and cultural activities after the duty day.

"I feel fortunate we were able to participate in such a ceremony and experience such an important aspect of Japanese culture," said Senior Master Sgt. Tony Mills, the 13th Air Force, Det. 1 superintendent and aircraft training relocation lead logistics planner. "Being able to participate in this ceremony highlighted our entire experience at Chitose. The people just welcomed us with open arms."

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