I woke up the first morning in Japan at 5AM with the sun beaming through the windows…I turned to Nick and said, “this is the Land of the Rising Sun!!!” Needless to say, on top of the jet lag that Nick and I haven’t gotten over yet, we are also lacking sleep because of the sunshine that comes through our room every morning at 4:30AM! This is just ONE of the things in Japan that Nick and I will have to get used to.
We have now been here 3 days….
Day 1 we arrived in Tokyo, survived customs, successfully retrieved all our luggage, and even found our sponsor who was patiently waiting for us outside the gates! Thankfully the military does not just send their officers overseas and then expect them to survive on their own! Each family is assigned a sponsor, who picks them up from the airport, gets them checked into their lodging, and basically is the go-to person before arriving overseas. We were very fortunate enough to get a sponsor who we already knew!!! Our good friends the Krueger’s, Mari and Chris have been the biggest blessing to Nick and I these past few months answering all of our questions and helping us prepare to move to Japan. When we arrived Chris drove us (and all of our bags which barely fit into a Japanese car) and checked us into the Navy Lodge. When we walked into our room, we were greeted with a nice surprise from Mari….she had not only stocked our fridge and kitchenette with food, but also made us a sweet greeting sign, provided us with welcome info and of course Japanese memorabilia. After we unloaded all of our bags into our room, met up with Mari and received a quick tour of the base, the four of us went to dinner.
As expected, our first dinner in Japan was nothing short of interesting! The Krueger’s took us to a place they call the “sushi go-round.” It is a restaurant where the sushi is brought to each table by means of a conveyer belt. No need for waiters or waitresses, all one does is sit at their table, watch the sushi go round and round, and decide which piece of fish they want to consume. You either grab the plate of sushi if you like it, or let the sushi pass if you don’t! This can be a bit overwhelming because there is no limit as to how many plates of sushi you can grab. I got wide-eyed and grabbed things I didn’t know what they were at first…i.e. raw squid, which I had to eat because I had already grabbed it! Also, there were hot water faucets at each table, complete with mugs and a jar of green tea powder…green tea at your very own table! Genius!
I have to also include a side story that is more than memorable for Nick and my first day in Japan… As soon as we arrived at the Navy Lodge, Nick, Chris and I went to the front desk to check in and as we were doing so were interrupted by a screaming child! Down the hall comes running a woman holding her son, while her daughter chases after her screaming at the top of her lungs. The boy was bleeding from his head and it was everywhere! Nick and Chris sprang to action getting first-aid and wet paper towels to help with the bleeding, while I tried to calm the screaming sister down! (Ironically the girl was in no way hurt, she was just hysterical because of all the blood on her brother!) We got the lady to the bathroom, and tried to get her to show us the wound. The boy had fallen and gashed his head open on one of the luggage carts and it was hemorrhaging! The little girl was making the situation worse, so I took her out of the restroom while Nick cleaned the wound and Chris got the front desk to call the ambulance. On top of all this, the mother didn’t have a cell phone to call her husband, nor did he, yet she insisted that we find him! I then had to get the little girl (she was 6, the boy was 2 and there was another sister who was 3!!!) to take me to the pizza place across the street so that we could ask one of the ladies who works there if she would call her husband whom was with the dad of the bleeding child! Let me just clarify again that I had JUST arrived, therefore did not know anyone or where anything was! Nonetheless, we got a hold of the dad, the ambulance came and whisked the boy and mother away, I played babysitter to the two girls until someone finally came and relieved me and all was well. No one can say that the Holman’s don’t make a grand entrance!!!
Day 2 Nick and I had driving class. It was raining when we woke up, we had no car and our umbrellas are still on a ship, therefore we had fun that morning getting to a building on base that despite Chris showing us where it was the night before, we still had difficulty finding on foot! Nonetheless, I got to wear my new rain boots! (I was told I would need them, but that I would not find my size shoe in Japan due to their small feet, therefore I came prepared!)
While in driving class, Nick and I learned several things, the most interesting to us I will share:
1 – Japanese say “hai” (pronounced hyee) after everything. This word means yes, but is used as we would say, ok or mmhmm! (It was very funny to listen to our instructor tell us something and then say “hai” before saying the next thing. She ended up saying this no less than 100 times during our class!)
2 – Old, new, hearing impaired and handicapped drivers have big, bright stickers indicating whichever they are, which is placed on the front as well as the back of their vehicles. I was impressed with this, how genius are the Japanese to warn others on the road that a newbie to wheels is in your path!
3 – Unlike in the States, if a driver gets a DUI or DWI in Japan everyone in the car gets in trouble, not just the driver! It is the Japanese way to share the responsibility!
4 – Due to the lack of sleep halfway through our driving class Nick and I needed caffeine. Luckily the Japanese keep vending machines EVERYWHERE (literally, you see them on the side of all roads!!!). Not only do they have gobs and gobs of vending machines, but they provide cold and hot drinks! So coffee in a can, yep, it’s there! This is my favorite thing I have discovered so far…for a little over a buck I can enjoy hot coffee in a can that tastes as good as Starbucks! (No I am not exaggerating…creamer, sugar and all!)
After driving class, Nick and I went and got new phones. We realized upon departing the States just how much we rely on our phones and how helpless we felt not having one, not being able to pick up our phones and simply call someone! The worst was arriving in Japan and hoping our sponsor would be waiting for us and knowing that if he wasn’t we would have no phone to call him!
That evening I left Nick to fend for himself and I went out with 3 of my girlfriends. Not only was it a reunion, (we had not seen one another for over a year!) but it was also my friend Sarah’s birthday! Sarah’s husband is deployed, and as military wives do when someone’s husband is deployed, we made sure she had a good time despite him being away! We went to a Thai place for dinner, then afterwards went back to my friend Mary’s house for wine, champagne and cake!
After drinks with the girls I was able to get my first train experience! In Japan there is nowhere to park, therefore they take trains everywhere. Next week I will have orientation where they will teach Nick and I how to understand the trains, however, on this night I was confused and overwhelmed!!! The trains are fast, there is people everywhere and everything is in Japanese (obviously…but it makes it soooo confusing!!!). The girls helped me, but they all live off base and I was staying on base at the Navy Lodge, therefore we had to split up! My friend Sarah got me as far as the last stop and then helped me get to a taxi which would take me to the base. After experiencing the difference in Japanese taxi’s and American taxi’s, and yes they are different, I finally made it back to base.
Day 3 I was picked up bright and early by one of my girlfriends and taken to a dance class on base where we learned Japanese dances! I will blog more about that later, but basically we are practicing to do dances at the festival in July! The best part is I get to wear a kimono! I was fitted for my kimono that day, and I also able to meet many other wives who’s husbands are in Nick’s squadron! After dance practice, the girls and I went to lunch. (Nick was having lunch with one of his guy friends on the other side of the base.) After lunch, we toured a couple of my friends’ houses off base to help us decide what style of Japanese house we wanted.
That evening Nick and I went to a class to help us learn how to speak Japanese. A quick dinner with two friends afterwards and we called it another day!
Today was another filled day in Atsugi…
We got a car (I will post pictures soon), got our medical and dental taken care of, I got my teeth cleaned and we booked 3 appointments to look at houses this weekend! The best thing we did today however was going to see the movie Karate Kid on base! 3 bucks for tickets to an amazing movie was well worth it!
Tonight I am about to crash…I am getting up in the morn to go to shopping with my girlfriends, but I will blog again soon! (Hopefully it won’t be so long and such a snore…I apologize.)