Playing dress up: MCCS hosts cultural clothing class for Okinawa troops and fams

by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon
MC Installations Pacific

Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan --

Marine Corps Community Services, Okinawa hosted a traditional Japanese clothing class for service members and their families June 19 at the Marine and Family Programs building on Camp Foster, Okinawa.

The class taught attendees how to wear a yukata, a traditional Japanese garment that is worn during summer months, according to Yuko Murayoshi, instructor of the class and class coordinator with MCCS, Okinawa. The garment is made of a thin, light material to help stave off the heat and humidity of Japanese summers.

Being able to physically dress in traditional Japanese attire allows service members to feel as though they are truly involved in the community and culture, according to Cmdr. Michael P. Venable, an aerospace physiologist with health services support element, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Murayoshi began the class explaining the purposes of different clothing articles traditionally worn in Japan during the summer months. These garments included yukatas, sashes, broad garments called obis, and wooden sandals called getas.

“Understanding and (gaining) insight into the Japanese culture helps (service members and their families in Okinawa) understand the differences between the American and Japanese culture,” said Murayoshi. “It improves their experience here because they are able to understand why (Okinawa residents) conduct themselves in the way they do. There is always a language barrier, so a lot of people may be reluctant to get out and try things. But when they get out and get to know the culture and take part in classes and events, they feel a little bit more comfortable to be involved in the community and build positive relationships.”

Once Murayoshi explained traditions and purposes of the clothing, she demonstrated the steps of donning each garment.

“These classes not only teach them, but give special (knowledge and experience) to take back with them to introduce Japanese culture at home,” said Murayoshi.

After the demonstration, the attendees gathered up the colorful apparel of their choice and stood in a semi-circle as Murayoshi assisted them in dressing in the traditional wear.

“A lot of people come to (Okinawa) and feel like outsiders,” [JLB2] said Venable. “They feel like they won’t know their way around or won’t know how to (communicate), but if you don’t go out and (immerse yourself in cultural experiences), then you’ll be locked into this base environment and when you leave, it will be like you never went to Okinawa at all. Being culturally aware and involved helps you feel more at home and more connected and allow you to take a little piece of Okinawa home with you.” [JLB3]

When all the attendees were properly dressed, Murayoshi gathered all the attendees to pose for photos with their families.

“It’s about appreciation,” said Murayoshi. “Your willingness to learn and exchange a word in Japanese is really fulfilling. It speaks to (Okinawa residents) that we’re not the only ones that are expected to learn (different cultures). They enjoy seeing (service members) bow and have fun showing respect for our culture. That appreciation and involvement bridges the two cultures and communities and it brings (service members and Okinawa residents) closer.”

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