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Pacific Rim Bowl Peace Ceremony Celebrates Shared Culture And Lasting Friendship

Roman Battaglia / JPR News

You might be surprised to hear, but American football is highly popular in Japan. In fact, there are more teams in Japan’s pro league than the NFL. This connection is celebrated in Ashland every two years.

Traditional Japanese taiko drums were part of the peace ceremony for the Pacific Rim Bowl, where the Ashland high school Grizzlies will take on the Japanese All Star team as part of their biennial tradition. The Peace Ceremony helps to educate the teams about the goal of peaceful collaboration and how football plays into that mission. Beau Lehnerz is the head coach of the Ashland High School team.

"As things in our world change year to year, our hope is that the Pacific Rim Bowl will also become a symbol of not only competition, comradery and culture, but of peace."

Other speakers included a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, which is marking its 74th anniversary this year.

Roy Saigo, former president of Southern Oregon University, was placed in an internment camp as a child. He says he still experiences racism because of the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

"Many people feel that the effects of incarceration in World War II ended after the war," he says, "This is further from the truth than I can say."

Saigo expressed the need for peace in this time of strife and division, and how sports like football help to create a culture of respect and friendship among everyone.

Both teams take part in a week full of events to foster comradery and friendship between cultures. They will be practicing all week in preparation for the big game on Friday at Ashland High School.