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Kadena Airmen participate in cultural ceremony at Chitose Air Base

  • Published
  • By Beth Gosselin
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
For members of the 44th Fighter Squadron and 44th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, the opportunity to participate in a traditional Japanese New Year celebration was a welcome end to a week-long training exercise. 

Five of the approximately 70 Kadena Airmen training at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force's Chitose Air Base in Hokkaido participated in a Mochitsuki ceremony Dec. 12 alongside their Japanese counterparts and local distinguished visitors. 

"I feel fortunate we were able to participate in such a ceremony and experience such an important aspect of Japanese culture," said Senior Master Sgt. Tony Mills, 13th Air Force, Detachment 1, superintendent and ATR lead logistics planner. 

The word "Mochitsuki" directly translates to "rice pounding" which is exactly what the ceremony entails. Two people participate in the actual making of mochi. One person pounds the cooked rice and water mixture with a wooden mallet and the other wets and rotates the mochi. The result is a sticky rice which is then used to make various food dishes. 

According to Col. Iwamoto Shinichi, JASDF 2nd Wing's Operations Group commander, the Mochitsuki ceremony is a traditional way to give thanks for a safe and healthy year and prepare for good luck next year. 

"This ceremony gives thanks for a successful Aviation Training Relocation that provided us safe and efficient joint training," the colonel said. 

Throughout the ATR, Airmen focused on their mission to enhance interoperability of U.S. and Japanese air forces while forming friendships with their JASDF counterparts. Daily work routines turned into a learning experience as did social and cultural activities after the duty day. 

"Being able to participate in this ceremony highlighted our entire experience at Chitose. The people just welcomed us with open arms," said Sergeant Mills.