MCAS Iwakuni Orientation:
We got some history of the base: Before World War II, it was a Japanese military training base for Zero fighter planes. Once World War II was over, and America was declared the winner, Americans have occupied the base, which is now about six square miles. There is quite a symbiosis between the Americans and Japanese here. There are currently about 7,000 Marines and their families stationed here and about 6,000 contractors who work on base each day, most of them Japanese nationals. This base will be doubling in population in the coming years, as smaller bases around the Pacific close or relocate. We've been told we will see huge growth. If the construction going on all around the base is any indication, what we were told in orientation can be considered true information. Good news for us is that we may get to enjoy a bigger and better theater, school, and commissary while we are stationed here. Maybe we will be able to find Rodney's Activia yogurt then, because it is not available here now.
One of the comments highlighted during orientation: No one is stalking you. Oh, really? I didn't even consider stalking to be on my "Top 100 List of Things to Stress Out About When I Move to Japan," but now that this has been brought up, maybe I should add it. It turns out that a lot of people, such as myself, have never lived in a VERY small town. Remember: This is a town with a population of 7,000. We've been told by several people that it is "Mayberry." I have provided a link for those of you, like me, who are old enough to understand the meaning of this reference - small town - but were too young to really understand where Mayberry was. Basically, everyone knows everything about everyone. There are only three places to shop in four square acres, so you will see everyone three or four times a day. Rodney is somewhat familiar with this, being from a small township outside the small city of Pittsfield, Illinois, population 5,000. I have come to understand this concept due to my familiarity with him and his family. I can see where someone not familiar with this concept might feel like their boss or coworker or teacher may be stalking them in the dairy aisle, at the cleaners and at the school supply boutique. But they aren't, so I've been told. But, then the over-thinker in me gets busy. Perhaps this is actually prime stalker territory. People have already been told they are not being stalked, so it seems like the perfect environment for stalking. Hmm... perhaps I can finally get a stalker. I never had one. Or perhaps I should hone my own stalking skills. Yes.. his is definitely something to consider for future blog fodder.... but moving on!
Fun Fact: The legal drinking age here is 20, which is the age Japanese are considered adults.
Good News: I explained my dismay with the map situation (see previous blog post) to the Sgt. Major of the base during orientation (much to Rodney's dismay - but the guy asked if we had any questions or suggestions!!) and he supposedly put it on his to-do list. I will keep you posted to see if the map and bus stops get updated sometime in the next three years.
Japanese Driver's Ed:
|The signs I needed to know. They probably look pretty familiar, for the most part.|
For those keeping score, Rodney and I both got 98 percents on our written exams and are proud, card-carrying drivers in Japan as of 2:30 Japan time today. There is no driving test... Buhahahahaha!
After the morning orientation, the afternoon was spent on a tour bus, learning how to use the bus and trains system in town. We were also given 45 minutes of free time to "shop." For me it was more "gawk," but apparently the locals are used to Mondays - the day when the base lets all of the new-to-the-area, crazy, jet-lagged Americans out to infiltrate the stores. Here is our tour guide explaining the train map to us:
The machines below is where you insert your money for tickets. Fortunately, there is also a window with a sort-of-English-speaker at work.
During our shopping time, we visited a few stores - 45 minutes is not nearly as long as necessary to truly explore what goods are offered. I visited a women's clothing shop (I think maybe the hats and purses were my size, the rest, not so much) and a teen clothing store (you must be VERY skinny to wear these things. Xan will have a great time shopping here!) Note below the amount of English in these stores:
|$6.37 for half a cantaloupe.|
|Egg cartons are clear.|
|Butter. And a boom box. These boom boxes were all over the store, playing something in Japanese. I can only assume they were marketing messages, but you know what happens when you assume...|
|Open air cabobs. Did not walk in to the danger zone with these...|
|And for my fellow scrapbookers: a photo printing kiosk!|