As many of our friends and family have mentioned, a lot of the places where we spend time here in Japan seem very western. In fact, it’s actually very easy to forget that we’re in Japan because the Navy has provided us with many American comforts here on base. We have apartments and houses with full size appliances; american cable channels; an exchange with plenty of the more popular (and expensive) brands; and most importantly, two food courts with an assortment of chains from the United States. We have Starbucks, Taco Bell, Subway, and even Chili’s! It’s a lot like a mini America.
Despite the effort to make us all feel at home, there are still certain Japanese things on base that are common to the Japanese but unfamiliar to us. For example, each morning at 7:55, there is a loud siren and flashing red lights to signal to the Japanese workers they’re going to be late to work. Japanese culture teaches its men to take real pride in their work, so it’s important to them that they aren’t tardy. For this reason, when the siren goes off, they sprint to the time clock as if the world is ending. And if you’re like me, a confused gajiin (Japanese term for a foreigner) who has no idea what’s happening, you really do think the world is ending! Luckily, I was able to stay relaxed and didn’t follow my instinct to run wherever the Japanese were running.
Other than when it’s scaring us half to death with its strange sirens and voices over the P.A., Yokosuka Naval Base is really a beautiful place to live. Being right on Tokyo Bay, there are very few places on base where a great view of the ocean and Japanese skyline can’t be seen. It’s well maintained, whether it be by the moping high schoolers during detention or the meticulous and hard working Japanese nationals. While the buildings here aren’t the most colorful – most of them sporting a nice, white stucko look – they follow a pattern that makes everything look like it belongs.
Even on its best day, though – base is nothing compared to what’s outside the gates. But that’s for another post!