Japan Engineer District
Published Sept. 13, 2021
Updated: Aug. 12, 2021
Trading patches.

Capt. William Mengon, Project Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Japan District, presents Lt. Col. Lt. Col. Yasuto Ito, Japan Ground Self Defense Force deputy commander, 4th Engineer Group, with the unit patch of the Japan Engineer District. This show of friendship is one of many ways American and Japanese Engineers engage in cultural exchange and understanding.

Trading patches.

Members of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force 4th Engineer Group, 4th Facility Group, conduct floating bridge training on Lake Miyagase in Kanagawa, Japan, on August 12th. The training helps the Japanese Engineers prepare to move large objects, such as a vehicle, over water when other means of movement would be unavailable.

Officers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Japan District joined Members from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force 4th Engineer Group to observe JGSDF participants as they built a flotation bridge on Lake Miyagase on the border of Kanagawa, Japan, August 12.

The roughly 60, regular Members of the 4th Engineer Group rushed to-and-fro in groups of six as they practiced building a floating bridge strong enough to move a modern vehicle. The bridge consisted of six sections of interconnected track and three long canoes called kayaks in Japan.

“It’s quite impressive to see everyone working together to build a bridge like this,” remarked Maj. Bobby Johnson, USACE JED deputy commander. “It’s amazing to me that such a simple thing as three boats and some track could hold up a whole car, but that’s what’s engineering’s all about – making the impossible possible…this kind of training is invaluable.”

For Maj. Caleb Dexter, PMP, JED plans officer, the hour drive from Camp Zama, Japan, to Lake Miyagase, nestled in the Tanzawa Mountains was more than just a cultural exchange.

“To see new Soldiers in the beginning of their careers tackle challenges and work together as a team… no matter what culture or country you're from, it's always a thrill to see young people learning the importance of teamwork and cooperation through hard work in the field,” he added.

While lakeside, the American officers were also given the opportunity to drive a wasen, or traditional Japanese boat.

The wasen moves in part due to a pole that helps the boat move right and left, and a unique rudder that, thanks to keen engineering, moves back and forth like a fish tale providing propulsion.

“It was great to experience this ancient yet still useful and practical boating technique,” shared Dexter. “I was reminded of when, 20 years ago, I was studying Japanese at the Kyoto Japanese Language School and went swimming in the Oi River in Hozukyo Gorge. I never imagined I'd one day be dressed in [my Army uniform] acting as oarsman on a distinctively Japanese boat. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to participate.”

Cultural exchanges such as these have become common between JED and the 4th Engineer Group. The bridge training was just another example of how Servicemembers and JGSDF Members are able to come together to share ideas and best practices as they continually strengthen the alliance that keeps Japan safe and strong.