65th Japan-American Student Conference members tour Camp Foster
Students filed inside the typically secure room in anticipation of the afternoon lecture. Many of them carried backpacks and notebooks, hoping to record their unique visit as they learned about the importance of Japan-U.S. relations.
This unusual classroom would be the students’ introduction to the U.S. Marine Corps bases on Okinawa, Japan.
Students from 16 universities in Japan visited Camp Foster June 21 as part of the 65th Japan-American Student Conference.
The conference’s purpose is to promote better understanding of the U.S.–Japan alliance and extend knowledge about the strategic importance of U.S. military bases in Japan and the role of the Marine Corps in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The conference does a great job of strengthening our capabilities together and giving the region an element of stability,” said Col. William J. Truax Jr., the assistant chief of staff, G-7, government and external affairs, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “It shows that we are open and willing to answer the questions that the students have and demonstrate our commitment.”
JASC was founded in 1934 with the purpose of bringing together a group of passionate and accomplished students to re-evaluate and revitalize the relationship between Japan and the U.S.
The conference highlights the Marines and gives the Japanese students an opportunity to have face-to-face interaction and discuss some of the great things that the Marines are doing on Okinawa, according to Robert D. Eldridge, the deputy assistant chief of staff, G-7.
“The conference allows the students to hear about it firsthand and allows them to see a side of the Marine Corps that they may have not known about,” said Eldridge.
Many of the students are able to consider different opinions regarding the Japan-U.S. alliance after they have attended lectures and discussed the strategic importance of the Marine Corps presence on Okinawa, according to Hiroshi Ichige, a JASC participant and junior at the International Christian University.
“It gave us a different perspective on Japanese-American relations because we got to see it from a new viewpoint,” said Ichige. “My opinions changed as I listened to the lecture, and it helped me understand the role of the Marine Corps.”
JASC is a great way to broaden horizons and consider important issues from different perspectives, according to Takamasa Ito, a JASC participant and a senior at Kyoto University.
“It was great because the Japanese media seems to broadcast only negative aspects of the Marine presence in Japan, and we got to learn the American perspective regarding the Marines on Okinawa,” said Ito.
The students’ views were better informed because they did not receive opinions from the Marine Corps, but rather facts which made the visit very helpful and hopefully changed many students’ outlook on the Marine Corps’ presence on Okinawa, according to Eldridge.
“I would say that 90 percent of what the students heard at this conference they have never heard before, so they will leave here with a much deeper knowledge of the Marine Corps, the U.S.-Japan relationship and the alliance that we have with the Japan Self-Defense Forces,” said Eldridge.