10th Support Group revives English exchange meetups in Yomitan

Photos courtesy of 10th Support Group Public Affairs
Photos courtesy of 10th Support Group Public Affairs

10th Support Group revives English exchange meetups in Yomitan

by Brian Lamar
10th Support Group Public Affairs

More than a dozen 10th Support Group Soldiers and local Okinawan residents met together on 18 Oct. at a Yomitan coffee shop near Torii Station to learn about each other's cultures and practice their English skills in a conversational setting in an event called asakatsu (morning activity).

The purpose of the asakatsu is to bring civilians living in Okinawa and 10th SG personnel closer together through an informal exchange. The monthly event in Yomitan is coordinated and run by Shigehiro Yabiku, the 10th Support Group community relations officer. Yabiku operates the Asakatsu as a satellite program as part of the larger U.S. Consulate program conducted across the island. The event is the first to be held in Yomitan since COVID put a stop to in-person community engagements in 2019.

The participants in the newly revived program ranged from high school students to business executives. Each participant had varying goals of what they hoped to achieve by attending the asakatsu event.

"This event is important for me. I would like to improve my English skills so I can expand my business to English-speaking countries," said Kenichi-San, an Okinawan business owner.

Torii Station Soldiers who participated in the event discovered new things about their neighbors who participated.

"I think this was well received and beneficial for both sides. The Japanese seemed excited to be able to participate and it is always nice to get out into the community and talk with the locals," said Capt. Michael Staggenborg, the 10th Support Group Current Operations officer in charge.

"Of the four people I talked with, I talked with someone from Hokkaido, someone from Okinawa, another person is from a tiny island off of Okinawa and one person from Tokyo. The amount of diversity between those four people and how they all came together for this event in Starbucks at the same time was interesting," said Staggenborg.

The 10th Support group's plan is to continue having monthly asakatsu engagements on the third Tuesday of each month.

"Our goal is for the benefit of people living in Okinawa and to continue to connect people who want to practice their English skills and also exchange ideas and learn about American culture," said Yabiku. "Another goal is to increase the U.S. Army's awareness of the culture and language of the people living near the base," he explained.

To sign up for future asakatsu events, contact the 10th Support Group community relations officer at shigehiro.yabiku.ln@army.mil and 098-956-9651.

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