After living here for nearly a year and a half, I finally found myself on a Information, Tours and Travel (ITT) tour. ITT is provided by the base so SOFA status personnel (military, Dept. of Defense employees, American contractors, etc.)These are little different hat Cultural Adaptation tours I have been on. These are usually a bit more expensive (but still cheaper than what you could probably do on your own, and you don't have to drive!) and may or may not include an "educational" element. Cultural Adaptation trip are supposed to be educational and are only a few hours long.
For an adult and three children to take the tour bus and enter the park, I paid $62. Very reasonable, in my opinion. While we were told to bring snacks because food was limited, we still managed to eat at one of the small restaurants without waiting very long or having to fight crowds. None of the menus were in English, so be prepared to match kanji symbols on the pictures of the meals to the buttons on the order vending machine when you order.
I had heard rave reviews of the Christmas lights at Bihoku Park, which is about 2.5 hours away from Iwakuni. I thought that the kids would have a great time playing on the huge jungle gym and I could work on honing my night photography skills. Unfortunately, children are not a great accessory when you are trying to perfect the perfect shot, but I still managed to get some good images that show off some of what the park has to offer:
Of course, the giant playground was a hit for the kids, and everything is big (and strong) enough for adults to enjoy, too. Everything was wet from an earlier rain, though, so in an effort to not freeze when the sun went down later, I avoided touching anything remotely damp... which left me with very little to touch. But, the kids didn't care and since they were happy and burning off energy, I was happy too. ;)
|The boys wanted to show "brotherly love." The Japanese looking on seemed confused and/or displeased by the display. ;)|
|A bonfire any small child could easily walk in to. Obviously, this would not happen in America, land of the lawsuit.|
The theme for the illumination was "Love." There were paper squares you could write on and hang for wishes or whatever. We all wrote one about the people we love.
Finally, 5:30 p.m. came around and the lights blinked on. The boys were patient with me trying to get a shot of them for about five minutes. Then I gave up.
|The whales were Will's favorite.|
|A Carps (Hiroshima's team) baseball tree|
|A Hawaiian-themed tree|