Apache Band and Belles take service trip to Japan

Jul 17, 2013 by

The Apache Band and Belles spent their spring break on a service trip to Japan, where they performed for U.S. troops stationed at Yokosuka and Atsugi naval bases near Tokyo.

About 100 TJC students, alumni, parents and staff went on the 10-day trip, which also included many opportunities to learn about Japanese customs and culture.

The Apache Band and Belles also spent a day in Yachiyo, which is a Tyler Sister City, and performed with local school groups in front of an enthusiastic, capacity crowd.

To say the TJC group was met with open arms would be an understatement. At every turn, the Japanese people came up to the TJC travelers, wanted to meet and talk and take photos with them and, most of all, make them feel welcome.bandyokosuka

“A delegation from Yachiyo visited Tyler in late 2012, so we were thrilled to reconnect with our Yachiyo friends and return the gesture of camaraderie that they so graciously showed us during their Texas visit,” said Dr. Kim Russell, TJC vice president of advancement and external affairs, who led the TJC contingent to Japan.

At each of the military bases and at the Yachiyo performance, the TJC group presented its hosts with a Texas flag that had been flown over the State Capitol in Austin.

Students at Seitoku University treated their TJC counterparts to a cultural exchange, including a demonstration of some 20 ancient Japanese costumes ranging from Samurai armor for the men to elaborate kimonos for the women.

“I feel like I’m in a time machine right now, and this is going back to the feudal age of Japan,” TJC Apache Band member Max Dannenberg said as Seitoku students adorned him in a heavy, multi-layered Samurai uniform.

As the trip progressed, TJC students became more and more accustomed to the Japanese food and culture, often forgoing their usual forks and knives for chopsticks and sushi.

Apache Belles Director Jasilyn Schaefer said, “As an educator, you always hope that these trips result not just in fun and typical tourist experiences but in a true cultural education – a learning experience that won’t be forgotten.

belle and girl“This trip to Japan did exactly that. There were so many moments of education regarding the Japanese culture and how people half a world away live their lives. The students also gained a renewed appreciation for our U.S. military servicemen and women – and their families – who live and serve all over the world and sacrifice so much by being so far from home.”

Lt. Brian Garcia of Humble attended the Atsugi performance with his daughters.

“I haven’t been home to Texas in quite a while; so this was a real treat to bring my little girls, who also want to be dancers,” Garcia said.

Apache Band member Victoria Hiles said, “Whatever we can do to help out the troops, I want to do it. I have a lot of respect for those serving our country and all they do for us. They give up so much for America.”

In addition to the performances, the TJC group managed to squeeze in recreational time at Tokyo Disneyland, visited many shrines and sites in Tokyo and the surrounding area, took a boat ride on Lake Ashi, and got an up-close look at Mt. Fuji.

“If you go to TJC, chances are you’ll have an opportunity to experience different parts of the world and have your life changed in ways you never expected,” Russell said.

“We all came home forever changed by our new friends and experiences in Japan.”

For more Japan photos, go to tylerjuniorcollege.smugmug.com/Japan2013-2


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Elise Mullinix is Tyler Junior College's Editorial Manager. She can be reached at 903-510-2370 or at emul2@tjc.edu.