I haven't yet seen much of the actual country of Japan. Sure, two days ago I rode in a car for an hour and half, from the Hiroshima airport to MCAS Iwakuni. However, I had been awake for 24 hours at that point, with about an hour nap, and had enjoyed three plane rides totaling 20 hours of travel, so I can't recall much of what I saw. A couple of things did make an impression: (1) the "semi trucks" the Japanese use are about the size of a U-haul truck to move someone who lives in a two-bedroom apartment and, (2) that motorcyclists tend to ride in packs and have little regard for the lines painted on the road denoting things called lanes. Everything else seems to have escaped my then-exhausted brain.
So far, since arriving on base, I have seen this much of Japan:
See that hedge and fence just beyond those parked cars? Just on the other side of that is Japan. So the buildings are homes in the city of Iwakuni. Clearly the Marine Corps is not worried about any malicious attacks from our host country. Chain link and razor wire is apparently enough to deter any irate Japanese people from doing anything to tick off 5,000 Marines and their families.
Being limited to travel on base has actually allowed me to use my skills acquired through my Strategic Communication and Leadership masters degree I earned in May. This is very exciting for me. I never thought I would be able to use my degree in such a situation. Let me explain...
Because we have not yet gone through the Marine Corps' orientation class, held every Monday, Rodney is not allowed off base. Since I am adventurous, but not THAT adventurous, I am perfectly content to wait until Rodney is allowed off base. Besides, there is plenty of stuff we need to learn ON base. Such as the fact that you need to push a button on the wall of the bus if you want the bus driver to stop at your stop. It was not safe to assume that the driver would stop at every actual stop. Are there instructions for this? Yes, there are. They are printed on a 3 x 4-inch sheet of paper taped to the bus wall above the button. I rode the bus three times before the button became an issue. I watched as my stop flew by my window and said, loudly, "Wait! That was my stop!" A Marine in front of me said, "You have to push the button for the stop." She pointed at the dime-sized silver button below the small white sign two seats away from me. The same button I had never noticed until that moment when it was pointed out. Strategic Communication Suggestion: Have a large sign at the front of the bus informing people of the "stop" button, and make the "stop" buttons three times bigger and red. Some glitter or blinking Vegas lights around the button wouldn't hurt, either. Maybe put a notice on the bus map. And since we are talking about the bus map...
Again, with the theme of learning things on base, I am dutifully taking the bus around base and studying my map as I ride. As you can see on this photo of the map, there are very helpful lists of places at the bottom of the page, complete with grid locations and building numbers. Also, each bus stop is numbered in order so you know exactly what direction the bus will be heading so you can estimate the amount of time it will take you to get to your destination. An entire circuit of the base takes a half hour.
All of this information is very helpful. Sort of. While the list of destinations at the bottom of the map has the building numbers, and each building on base has a corresponding number displayed on it, the map itself does not have any building numbers printed next to the building silhouettes on the map. Unless the building happens to be one of the lucky ones that is spelled out in a blue square on the map, the building number at the bottom of the map does you no good. Additionally, the very helpfully labeled bus stops on the map do not actually have the numbers displayed on the bus stops themselves when you go to one. You have to check your map and see what buildings are near your stop, and then check to see if the building numbers match up. Oh, wait... no building numbers on the map. So, then you play the "matching" game. Does this aerial silhouette configuration drawn on the map match what the building configuration near you might look like from above? Hmm... Strategic Communication Suggestion: Put the building numbers on the map and displayed numbers on the bus stops so this printed material Uncle Sam paid good money for is no longer half worthless.
A third item I would like to mention is the "game room" offered near the restaurant on base my kids now call "our new Waffle House." Here is said children in said restaurant:
But down the hall from this restaurant, between the restaurant and the door to leave the building, is a small room with a sign that says "Game Room." Nothing else, just "Game Room." There are no other signs. Believe me, I looked. You open the door and this is what you see:
My kids were thrilled. "Video games!" "An arcade!" Um, no. Not exactly. This is an arcade for adults only. Apparently slot casinos in Japan are a lot like Starbucks in America: There is one on every corner. So, not to be outdone, the Marine Corps made sure there is one on base. With a sign that says "Game Room." These "game rooms" are for persons 18 and older only. When I explained this to the kids, my 10-year-old quickly pointed out: "It doesn't say that!" Strategic Communication Suggestion: Put a notice under the words "Game Room" to explain who is allow to partake of said games. I'd rather not have my child delivered to me in the back of a military police car, crying, and saying, "But it didn't SAY that!"
I am sure I will come up with some other Strategic Communication needs soon. After all, the government is not exactly known for its stellar communication practices. In the meantime, here are some Japanese forms of communication you might enjoy:
|"Proceed Slowly," or, as Americans would say: Yield|
|"Main Road Has Right of Way," or, as Americans would say: Stop|
|Clockwise from top: Speed limit is 30 kilometers per hour; no passing; and no blue cars are allowed on this section of road. Just kidding. The red circle filled in with blue and then crossed out means no parking.|
And, by the way, the Japanese drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheels are on the right side of the car. This should prove interesting for my in a few weeks when I have a license and a car...