Marines, sailors explore local public transit
NAHA, Japan - As crowds of people rush to quickly board the bus in order to commute to work, a typical morning in Naha can be chaotic. It can be especially overwhelming for individuals who are not familiar with street and traffic signs or do not speak the local language.
However, Naha Nikkei Business College students recently translated signs and answered questions from eager service members during a familiarization trip focused on public transportation systems Oct. 27 in Naha, Okinawa.
The trip was organized so service members with various units stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma could learn how to use the public transportation systems. The trip also provided the college students an opportunity to practice their English language skills and interact with the service members.
“This is a great thing,” said Erika Shinzato, a second-year college student at Naha Nikkei Business College. “We get to practice our English as well as teach the Marines our customs and cultures.”
The day began with the Marines and sailors meeting the students near MCAS Futenma and dividing into small groups consisting of two students and two service members.
“The goal today is for the service members to get familiar with the local bus and monorail systems,” said Sgt. Maj. Brent L. Cook, sergeant major, MCAS Futenma, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We want them to go back and be able to tell other Marines how to use the systems so they can all experience the Okinawa culture.”
Public transportation in a foreign country can be difficult to use and even intimidating when one considers the added factor of attempting to understand a foreign language, according to Cook.
The students explained the bus system in a clear and concise way, enabling the Marines to easily use Okinawa public transportation.
“This is a great experience,” said Seaman Edouard Blanc, a hospital corpsman with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Using the bus is a lot easier and cheaper than using a taxi, which will make it much easier to leave base and see more of Okinawa.”
The students also taught the Marines and sailors how to use Okinawa’s monorail, also known as the Yui Rail. The Yui Rail spans 12.8 kilometers across Southern Okinawa and costs ¥ 290 to travel its entire length. The Marines and sailors also learned they can use the monorail in conjunction with the bus system.
“The bus and the monorail system are both great and cost-efficient ways to travel off base or even to Naha,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Tam Chu, a corpsman with Marine Air Support Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st MAW. “It was great to work and talk with the students and actually learn about Okinawa as opposed to simply sitting in a taxi trying to get where you want to go.”
The day ultimately provided the Marines and sailors with a rich learning experience and gave them some excellent knowledge and tools to help them explore Okinawa.
“We would love to have more of these days in the future,” said Shinzato.
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