George Washington, Hyuga Sailors: Understanding Cultures Through Holiday Gift Exchange

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erin Devenberg

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Dec. 20, 2012) –The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) guided-missile destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181) conducted a holiday gift exchange Dec 20.

George Washington presented Hyuga with a Christmas tree and received a Kadomatsu, a traditional Japanese bamboo decoration, as part of a three-year tradition between the sister ships.

“This holiday exchange is symbolic of the strong relationship between two key regional partners,” said Command Master Chief Shaun Brahmstead, George Washington’s command master chief. “Events like this allow us the opportunity to interact and build camaraderie.”

George Washington and Hyuga Sailors know the importance of understanding each other’s culture, as we often work together to promote security and stability in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

“Japanese don’t know much about American culture and Americans don’t know much about our culture,” said Leading Seaman Ayaka Hyogo, from Tokoshima, Japan. “Many people think that learning about each other’s culture isn’t important for our job, but communication is based on understanding cultural differences and that’s why it’s important to have events like this.”

After the two Asia-Pacific allies decorated the Christmas tree, U.S. Sailors received instruction on making Japanese Mochi, a cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste, which is used to welcome the New Year.

“We used a big stone bowl and two mallets to pound wet rice into a sticky paste,” said Operations Specialist 3rd Class Piper Hoffman, from Sacramento, Calif. “After pounding the rice, I got to roll the mochi in flour and spices with our Hyuga friends.”

Both navies traveled to George Washington after the festivities concluded aboard the Japanese destroyer, where Hyuga’s command master chief presented George Washington a Kadomatsu, a traditional Japanese bamboo decoration that bestows ancestral blessings to all who pass by.

“We are doing this to share our culture; a lot of the Japanese have not seen a Christmas tree before,” said Brahmstead. “It allows our Sailors to build upon an already strong relationship.”

George Washington returned to its forward-operating location of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan from its 2012 patrol on Nov. 20. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

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