Thursday, December 4, 2014


Part of our class this week included an introduction to the Japanese railway system. We looked at maps and planned routes yesterday, and were dumped at the nearest railroad station this morning.  Our group decided to go to Kamakura.

As a former capital city of Japan, Kamakura has history.  It has lots of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, plus it has a beach. Sounds like a pretty good spot to play tourist to me!

Getting there wasn't that bad.  I expected the railway system to be terribly confusing, but it was surprisingly easy to navigate. And the couple of times that we did get confused, there were plenty of Japanese people willing to play charades and help us figure out where to go.

Our first stop was the Great Buddha. 
This statue dates back to the mid-13th century. Originally, a hall was built to house the Great Buddha, but a storm destroyed it.  So they rebuilt Buddha's hall, but it was damaged by yet another storm. They rebuilt it a 3rd time, but it was washed away by a tsunami.  They took that as a clue that the Great Buddha preferred the great outdoors, and he's been sitting in open air ever since.

Anyway, there are some pretty pathways outside the viewing area and a little shrine. Cool to see, but we weren't as taken away by those as we were by the Hase-dera Temple. 
The temple itself is beautiful, but there was some construction being done so I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. The grounds around the temple itself were the most impressive part. There were perfectly manicured gardens everywhere we looked, koi ponds, and many of the trees were still donning their autumn-red leaves. And the incense! Our instructors warned us there would be lots of "holy smoke," as they called it, and they were right. The air smelt rich and smokey, which couldn't be any more perfect for a chilly day like today.
There were rows and rows of these little statues, which were placed on temple grounds by people who were mourning the loss of a child. It's really depressing, but I love how each and every little statue looks at peace.

The view of the bay wasn't bad:
We had to climb way too many stairs to get to this point, but it was worth it.

We were hoping we'd have time to explore more of Kamakura, but we had to get the kids from childcare. I'm sure we'll go back because there is so much in this area that we didn't get to see. Until next time, Kamakura!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Jason and I are spending this week attending mandatory classes called AOB (Area Orientation Brief) and ICR (Intercultural Relations). It's a stressful week for me because we have to leave the kids in childcare. Cammie loves it, but it's a pretty bad deal for little Abe. His sitters say he cries pretty much all day. Only 3 more days!

Yesterday was AOB.  We spent from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM sitting in a hot classroom, listening to representatives from various organizations on base talk about what they do.  Some of the information was really useful, a little bit of it was interesting, but most of it felt like a waste of time.  Especially since we've been here for a week and figured out a lot of things on our own already.

Here are some of the interesting tidbits from our class yesterday:

-Japan means business about drunk driving. The legal limit here is .03 (it's .08 in the states).  You can get a DUI for operating a bicycle. If you're a passenger in a car being driven by somebody whose BAC is .03 or higher, you will get a DUI along with the driver because you were an accomplice in letting someone drive drunk. You can also get a DUI for providing alcohol to someone who is going to be driving or providing a vehicle to someone who has been drinking.

-Since they're so strict about DUI's, our base dose random breathalyzer tests as people enter and exit the base. Not a problem for Jason and me, but I can see how this could stress a lot of sailors out.

-If, for some reason, somebody with the military gets arrested, the Japanese government doesn't have to let anyone know for 23 days. Apparently a preteen got arrested a few years ago for shop lifting and his parents didn't know what happened to him for over 10 days. Can you imagine?

-Japan is very safe--there are 1.3 robberies per 100,000 people here, while there are 411 robberies per 100,000 people in the US. But we did have a Crime Scene Investigator come freak us out about a couple of things.  For example, bath salt. Not the nice relaxing bath kind, but the scary eat-someone's-face-off drug kind--TOTALLY LEGAL HERE. You could buy them at a corner store if you wanted.

And that pretty much covers all the interesting things they managed to teach us over the course of 7 hours. Today we started learning about culture shock, a few basics of Japanese culture and took our drivers tests (I PASSED!). Tomorrow we do more culture lessons, and then on Thursday they let us loose at the train station. We can go wherever we want as long as we're back to pick up the kids on time. The other big catch is that we have to figure out how to get there and back by ourselves. I have a feeling it's going to be a frustrating day. 

Wish me luck! I'll be back with pictures after our field trip!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Out & About

Since the kids "slept in" until 5AM today, and it wasn't rainy, and we were all getting stir crazy in our little hotel room, we decided to venture off base.  We set out to go to a Thai restaurant that had been recommended to us, but it was closed. So we stopped at a Japanese fast food place on our way home and called it good. 
For me, the best part wasn't the food, but getting a taste of the world off the base. It's crazy how different things are just two steps outside of the gates.
Some pictures from our stroll:
There were persimmon trees everywhere!

We're excited to get out some more, but it looks like we'll have rain and some mandatory classes keeping us indoors for the next week or so.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hi from Japan

We got here in one piece.

We left my mom's house at 5:15 AM Sunday and didn't get to our room in the Navy Lodge until over 26 hours later. Over 16 of those hours were spent on airplanes. I was awake for all 26 of those hours. There was lots of crying. When we were about 4 hours into our 13 hour flight, Abe started screaming for YaYa and I just lost it. Because you know what? I want YaYa too! And we still had 9 hours before we could get off that stupid plane. And we were moving to Japan. I mean what the what?

There were some good things though--since Jason had been in Chaplain school, he was leaving from South Carolina and we were going to meet in Detroit. We both only had one hour layovers there, and I was pretty worried one of us would miss that connection. But we didn't! And Cammie was a champ on the plane. Seriously, she's a straight up traveling champion.

Now that we're here, we're pretty much in our hotel room 24/7 because the kids are totally and completely backwards. We wake up for the day at 2 in the morning, and they are showing no signs of adjusting. At all. We sneak out for a couple of hours in the morning to get some fresh air, and then they fall asleep for hours and hours.

From the tiny bit of time we've spent out of our hotel room, we really like it here.  We see little kids riding bikes alone because it's so safe.  The weather is rainy, but it hasn't gotten unbearably cold yet. And we made it in time to see some fall leaves in the trees! Before we got here, some lovely people from church snuck in our hotel room and stocked our kitchen for us--which we are beyond grateful for since our kids sleep almost 100% of the time that the commissary is open.