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Marines, sailors explore cultural sites near Fuji

29 Nov 2012 | Lance Cpl. Brandon C. Suhr

Marines and sailors with Mike Battery were provided an opportunity to visit some of the local Japanese cultural sites during a tour Nov. 22 after the completion of field training here during Artillery Relocation Training Program 12-3.

Once the Marines and sailors completed preparing equipment for shipment back to Camp Hansen, Okinawa, the battery visited the hot springs at Owakudani, the Great Buddha of Kamakura and the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine, all popular cultural and tourist sites in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, adjacent to Shizuoka prefecture.

"We needed to have all the equipment ready to be shipped back to Okinawa before we could attend the tour," said Capt. Hamilton N. Ashworth, the commanding officer for Mike Battery, which is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. "The Marines and sailors with the battery worked extra hard after hours to get everything prepared."

The first site visited by Mike Battery was the hot springs at Owakudani. Owakudani is located on a crater that was created during the last eruption of Mount Hakone some 3,000 years ago. Today, much of the area is an active volcanic zone where sulfurous fumes, hot springs and hot rivers can be experienced.

"It's good to see the Marines come out and see new sites," said Sgt. William S. Kelley, a section chief with Mike Battery. "It really opens their eyes to the world outside of where they came from, and it really matures them."

Next, the battery toured the Great Buddha of Kamakura. The statue is unusually large among Buddha statues in Japan due to the fact that it sits in the open air. The Great Buddha of Kamakura, designated a national treasure by the Japanese government, is some 37 feet tall and weighs around 133 tons.

"This trip was very well planned and it helped give us an opportunity to explore some of Japan," said Lance Cpl. Ernesto E. Baez, a field artillery cannoneer with Mike Battery.

The battery finished the tour by visiting the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. The shrine was founded by Minamoto Yoriyoshi in 1063 and was subsequently enlarged and moved to its current location in 1180 by Minamoto Yoritomo, the founder and first shogun of the Kamakura government.

"The better you understand another nation's culture, the better you can get along with its people and understand where they came from," said Kelley. "This tour really helped the Marines better appreciate Japanese culture."

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