KAMAKURA, Japan (NNS) -- Twenty-one service members and their families from U.S. Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka helped clean Toshoji Temple, a historic temple in nearby Kamakura that dates back nearly 800 years.
"I am excited. This is my first volunteer experience since I came back to Japan," said Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 1st Class Teresa Salzynski, assigned to USS Shiloh (CG 67). "This could be fun. We can help out and we can have a positive impact."
The June 9 cleanup event was coordinated by a local volunteer group called Fureai, consisting of employees from a Yokosuka bank. Fureai has been organizing joint activities such as beach cleanups with Yokosuka Sailors for almost 10 years.
"We are always thankful for their volunteering activities. They are powerful and get the job done quickly," said Kou Suzuki from Fureai's community contribution division. "We are very happy to share experiences with the Navy personnel."
Religious Programs Specialist 1st Class Amy Pool, assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 15, also said she was happy to contribute to local community.
"I feel like it is awesome. It's just something I never thought I would see," said Pool. "[Thanks to] what I am doing in the Navy, I am able to see things I only read about in the history books! It's amazing we are able to come and volunteer at a site like this."
Though theories on the temple's origin vary, the third regent of Kamakura shogunate Hojo Yasutoki established the temple as his family temple around 1230. The ruins are known for 1,000 samurai defending against a siege by the army of Nitta Yoshisada under an order of Emperor Godai-go. The legend states the defenders killed themselves during Toshoji battle in Genko War from 1331 through 1333, leading to the fall of Kamakura's samurai government. The place is also said to be their burial site.
Even though the site lies in the heart of old Kamakura's urban area, it remains untouched by people, and features mountain terrain and strategic privileges such as natural fortresses typically seen in the temples in Kamakura. The site has been maintained by Kamakura Scenic Preservation Society, Japan's first national trust organization established in 1964, and the place was designated as a historic site by the Japanese government in 1998.
Kamakura is a well-known tourist site where the first samurai government, bakufu, was established when Minamonto no Yoritomo was appointed as the shogun, a military dictator by Japan's Emperor in 1192. The Kamakura period lasted almost 150 years and the new trend of Buddhism, mostly Zen, flourished and many temples were built in the area.
"I used to [do things like this]," said Religious Program Manager Suchan Yi assigned to Commander, Naval Region Japan. "When I was a child, I was helping out my family on rice fields. It is also a good time to reflect on myself."
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