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As part of JUMP’s ongoing initiative to reach out to those who have served in Japan, JUMP intern Nina Udagawa interviewed Liz Sonnek, who was in Japan between 2014 to 2016 as her husband served at Yokota Air Base. In Japan, Liz took initiative in helping others on the base explore various areas in Japan.

How did you hear about JUMP? 
My husband received an email at work about it back in 2016.

How did you make the most out of your time in Japan? 
I got out and explored. I fell in love with seeing the shrines, temples, castles, and just the raw beauty of Japan. I cannot stress enough to get out and see the country and meet the people. This does not only apply to Japan, but when travelling to other countries as well. The opportunities are endless.

Were there any people/organizations that helped you become accustomed to Japanese society/culture?
As we lived on base, I joined a cultural group and a “explore Japan” group. The lady who ran the explore group left the following year, so I took over her position; best times of my life.

Tell us about a cultural difference which took some time to get used to.
I’d have to say removing shoes before going in houses, certain restaurants and businesses, and shrines/temples. I wear sandals a lot and it took me a bit to remember to keep a pair of socks in my purse just in case. Now it’s something that I do consistently; I have slippers for guests and I have a pair of “indoor” shoes myself. 

Describe one of your favorite memories from Japan.
There are so many, but I’d have to say my best memory was a girls’ trip to Misawa. There were six of us who drove from Yokota to Misawa to check out the sights and look for glass floats on the beaches. We had such a great time combing the beaches finding floats, sea glass, and pottery shards. 

Any advice for individuals/families getting ready to be stationed in Japan?
Just get out and go on day trips. You may feel overwhelmed at first, but you’ll soon catch on to key phrases and symbols that will help the transition. Learn the train system, it will be a very easy and inexpensive way to travel. If you are living on base look into renting vehicles from Vehicle Ops for day excursions—there’s a daily fee but it includes tolls (which can add up). You’ll be amazed at all Japan has to offer. The people are wonderful, the food is awesome, and the culture is incredible!


Do you have an interesting story to tell about your time serving in Japan? Let us know and you could be the next member featured on JUMP Spotlight Series! Read previous editions of the JUMP Spotlight Series here.


On April 29, 2017, the Government of Japan bestowed upon retired United States Air Force Colonel Douglas Charles DeLaMater a prestigious decoration, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to Japan-U.S. relations. The decoration was conferred by His Majesty the Emperor of Japan on the same day. The Consul-General of Japan in Nashville, Mr. Masami Kinefuchi, hosted a formal conferment ceremony and reception in honor of Mr. DeLaMater at his official residence on September 1.

The Order of the Rising Sun was established in 1875 as the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese Government. The decoration is bestowed upon individuals who have made significant contributions to positive relations between Japan and her friends. Mr. DeLaMater is recognized primarily for his service and dedication to the Japan-U.S. security relationship as Commander for the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokata Air Base, Japan, from June 2014 through June 2016.

Colonel DeLaMater made numerous contributions to the strong partnership between the U.S. Air Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force at Yokata Air Base in Tokyo. Under his leadership, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force participated, for the first time, in a joint operation to deliver humanitarian and disaster relief assistance with the 374th Airlift Wing. Colonel DeLaMater organized lectures and training on night vision devices for the C-130H transport plane, using U.S. Air Force experience to progress the operational study of that plane.
Colonel DeLaMater also worked to finalize the Memorandum of Understanding that ensured the continuous dispatch of an air traffic controller from the JASDF to Radar Approach Control at Yokota Air Base, thereby strengthening U.S.-Japan information sharing on air traffic control systems. His relationship with the JASDF ensured effective maintenance operations for Yokota Air Base’s communications infrastructure.
Colonel DeLaMater also strengthened the ties between U.S. and Japanese forces by allowing JASDF officers to participate in various training programs at Yokota. He increased the friendship and mutual understanding between U.S. forces and Japanese residents who lived in the area surrounding Yokota by welcoming those residents to visit and tour the base, and interact with American families.


2023 The Japan U.S. Military Program (JUMP)

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