KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Adjusting to life outside the U.S. can be a culture shock for Airmen and families entering Kadena Air Base, Japan, for the first time. Driving on the left side of the road, learning how to properly use chopsticks and communicating with local populace may seem daunting; however, when it comes to understanding the Japanese language, customs and culture, the Schilling Community Center can help.
Japanese language classes, which are offered to U.S. service members and civilians over the age of 18, are designed for all knowledge levels. Classes are available Tuesday from 10:30 to 12 a.m. and Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
The classes are a great way to better relationships between the U.S. and the Okinawan people, said Hideo Henzan, Japanese language instructor. Henzan has made it his life’s work to teach Japanese and has been speaking and translating English for more than 30 years.
“It is an honor to be in the position to teach, to be a bridge between the Okinawan people and the U.S.,” Henzan said. “I have always had a strong desire to teach.”
Whether learning to say “hello” or learning to conjugate verbs, developing language skills can potentially improve the quality of life for Airmen, from exploring Okinawa to having genuine conversations with Okinawan locals.
With the local populace putting in effort to learn English, it’s equally important for Americans to match that effort, explained Toshiyuki Shingaki, 18th Force Support Squadron recreation assistant.
While learning the language is the main focus of the class, Henzan also covers traditions and cultures specific to Okinawa.
“It is vital to learn the culture of the host nation,” said Shingaki. “It helps the alliance between the two nations to form a tighter bond, becoming stronger.”
While practicing the Japanese language strengthens the bond between U.S. personnel and locals, it can also be rewarding to master a difficult challenge such as learning a non-native language. Events such as this are another resource available to Team Kadena.
Sign-up is available at the Schilling Community center. For more information, call 634-1387 or visit the Schilling.