PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Members of USS Reuben James (FFG 57) bid a fond farewell to their counterparts aboard JDS Shimakaze (DDG 172) July 21. Since their arrival July 9, Reuben James served as the host ship for the Japanese destroyer. Both ships' crews participated in a variety of events, allowing the crews to become better acquainted. In the process, they gained a better understanding of each other's culture and naval practices.
Shimakaze came to the Hawaiian Islands with her sister ship, JDS Kurama (DDH 144), to participate in torpedo and gunnery exercises at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) as part of a 10-week training cruise that included visits to San Diego and Port Hueneme, Calif. Interaction between the two ships began July 10, as members of both crews participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. For the Japanese, this was a special time to honor those Americans who died in the Pacific theater during World War II.
Ensign Edwin Weatherall, who served as the Reuben James' liaison officer to Shimakaze, noted that the wreath-laying ceremony was truly a moving experience. "Seeing members of two countries previously at war with one another come together to honor their fallen comrades was awe inspiring," Weatherall said. The Japanese liaison officer, Cmdr. Yoshiyuki Nakagama, expressed similar feelings.
Reuben James and Shimakaze Sailors also spent time together on the athletic field. Reuben James hosted a softball game at Ward Field for the Japanese crew July 14. Reuben James' softball team captain, Chief Information Systems Technician (SW) Lloyd Shoemaker, noted that the Japanese were tough opponents and said, "Both teams played very hard... it was truly an honor to play against the Japanese."
Shimakaze took the hard-fought contest 13-11, but much camaraderie was built both during the game and at the post-game picnic. Mess management specialists on both ships prepared traditional food from each nation. Japanese Sailors enjoyed "burgers and dogs" while Reuben James crewmembers relished beef yakisoba with fresh ginger, fish cakes and rice balls.
Both crews also had the opportunity to attend receptions in each other's honor. Reuben James hosted Shimakaze's wardroom for an informal gathering at Sam Snead's July 16. Ens. James Cole, the ship's intelligence and electronic warfare officer, observed, "Too often, we do exercises and evolutions with other nations but fail to actually meet the people who participate in those exercises with us. These receptions provided a great means to be able to do just that."
In turn, Sailors of Shimakaze also hosted a reception for members of the Reuben James wardroom and chief's mess July 18. For the vast majority of the officers and chiefs, this was the first time they had ever set foot aboard a Japanese ship and experienced the way they conduct business. Lt. j.g. Ryan Rogers commented, "It was interesting to see how similar, yet different the two ships and two navies actually are."
For many Reuben James Sailors, the Shimakaze visit offered a glimpse into an entirely new culture. The visit helped to bring the Far East much closer to home. The crew of Reuben James will long remember their Japanese sister ship and warmly remember times spent together in this unique cultural exchange.
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