In January of 2004, I reported to my first Yokosuka, Japan. As a sailor in the US Navy I spent the majority of my time at sea. However, there were time I spent on land in Japan. I was stationed in Japan for three years, and I tried to make the most of my experience there. I experienced the nightlife of Tokyo and its surrounding. I visited the temples and shrines in the Kanto plain. I observed some of the festivals in Japan. My memory of my time in Japan is not the greatest, but I will attempt to recount them as best as I can.
A few days after my arrival in Yokosuka, I attended the Area Orientation Brief and Intercultural relationship. It was a crash course for Gaijin(Japanese word for Foreigners) into Japanese dos and don’t. I am not going to get into explaining further, because it was dry as a bone. People are better off using the transit system, rather than owning a car. I mastered as quickly as possible the transit system to get around in Japan. My first foray outside the Naval Base was in Kamakura. I visited the Buddhist temple and the Shinto temple. Kamakura is good place to visit as a tourist. A few days later, my friend Jove took me to a sushi restaurant and I had my first Sushi experience. Then I went to sea for a few weeks. Upon my return, I visited the city of Yokohama to meet with my friend Jay. We ate at a restaurant; I forgot a lot about the restaurant, but one incident stood out. I forgot my wallet at the restaurant, and one of the employee chased me for a few blocks to give me back my wallet. I learn through that incident about the decency of the Japanese. I wandered on my time off to sock in the culture. Then I went on deployment for a few months. When the deployment was over, I called my friend Jay to meet up with him and his wife Taka. The three of us had dinner in Shinagawa, which is an area of Tokyo. After dinner, Taka went home and Jay and I went to Roppongi. Roppongi is the business area of Tokyo. I can compare Roppongi to Manhattan. During the day, it is busling like any business center, but at night the nightlife takes over. Jay and I visited many bars and night clubs. We had encountered many westerners and locals in Roppongi. We had fun needless to say. There were establishments where Gaijin were not allowed, and there were places where Gaijin were welcome. Many months passed during the year 2004, and I do not feel like recounting trivial events.
In the fall of 2004, the Mikoshi day parade took place, it was like a carnival in Yokosuka. I enjoyed it as well. I celebrated the normal holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. In February of 2005, my unit visited the town of Sapporo on the Island of Hokkaido. We were there for rest and relaxation on the Island. During our visit, we saw the Otaru Ice Festival. It consisted of beautiful Ice sculptures. These sculptures were amazing; I just did not like the cold winter, but I recommend people to attend the festival. We went back at sea after the ice festival, and we did not return to Japan until the spring. We rested and I plunged into the nightlife again. Roppongi was my stomping ground all the way till the year 2006.
In 2006 we visited the Island of Kyushu. We stopped in the town of Kagoshima. I saw the Sakurajima which is an active volcano. It was a bit scary, but I carried on with life. I visited the aquarium as any tourist will do. A few of my shipmates and I visited an orphanage and played with the children at the orphanage. I did not visit Nagasaki on the Island of Kyushu, just like I did not visit Hiroshima on the island of Honshu. I don’t regret missing these places actually. I had been on Kyushu island before 2006, but I did not visit the towns of Fukuoka and Sasebo. I hope to visit Fukuoka one day though. I made a few stops in Okinawa in 2006. I visited the town of Himeji. The one thing that stands out in the Himeji castle. A few weeks later, I took the Mount Fuji challenge. I ended up in the emergency room, and it is enough said about the Mount Fuji challenge. A week after my visit to the emergency room, I went to Aomori for the Nebuta festival. There was a lot of fun at the festival. I visited the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area. I visited a few castle in the area, but I also visited Universal Studio Japan. In November of 2006, I made my final stop to Okinawa.
My time in Japan was a very enriching experience. I hope to visit Japan again in my lifetime. I made great friends over there, and it was a blessing to visit the country of Japan many years ago.