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Our family lived in Japan for three years, 1998-2001. We went there because the US Navy sent us. It was overall a wonderful and very interesting adventure!

We were located about two hours south of Tokyo (depending on the traffic) in the Kanto Plains, Kanagawa Prefecture.

For one year, we lived in an American Style apartment in the local community. There were only two things "un-Japanese" about it: wooden panel floors instead of tatami mats and a western-style toilet instead of a traditional Japanese toilet; that's why it is an American-style apartment.  We also learned to take-off our shoes or wear slippers while in our house or in someone's house. This is not only polite but practical. Shoes can damage the wooden panel floors and tatami mats which are very expensive! Taking shoes off has become a habit for us.

Then for two years,  we lived at the base housing at the small Kamiseya Naval Support Facility. The nearest major US Facility is Atsugi Naval Base where we did all our shopping, sports, the chapel  is also there, and all other good stuff! We drove 7 days a week to NAF Atsugi because that's where everything is! The actual distance form our house to the base is actually only 4 miles but because of the bad traffic and snaky narrow roads, it takes 30 minutes each way. During our drives, audio programs like Adventures In Odyssey and Your Story Hour kept our two boys occupied listening to one story each way!

It has been 5 years since our military tour there. But memories are still crystal clear. I am currently working on a better web page to tell our adventure and share pictures, please come back soon to see it.
Why a page about Japan? We believe that the best thing you can do for your family is get out of your comfort zone and experience other culture. Our family returned to America with better appreciation for the freedoms, liberties, and conveniences that we have. We would love to go back to Japan for another tour and learn more!
If you have never left your little town USA, we invite you to check out our Japan Resources Page that contains useful links and information. For homeschoolers, this page is a wonderful resource if you are planning a unit study on Japan.
We hope you enjoy the rest of your visit to our site.
  • People and Etiquette: Japanese people are extremely polite and courteous! If you make friends, they are probably going to be the most loyal friends you'll ever make! It did not take us long to learn to bow to everyone even when driving or riding a bicycle! Just like taking off shoes, bowing has become a habbit, sometimes we forget we are no longer in Japan!
  • Neighborhood Safety: You can leave your house wide open all day, no intruder comes in, not even stray cats! We have left our door wide open at least 5 times, we didn't lose anything!
  • Disney and Sesame: There is nothing like a trip to Disney World or Sesame Place: everything is in Japanese! The best part is parking your baby stroller among hundreds of Japanese strollers with everything on it (purses, bags, etc.). Come back later and everything is still there!
  • The Language: Our number one problem! Most Japanese would just turn away or cross their hands to let you know they do not understand you!  We took four weeks of Japanese language, it was not enough! Must carry those phrase books everywhere you go! Or practice a lot of sign/body language. They would pay you a lot of money to teach them English. Many Westerners make a lot of money teaching conversational English one-on-one or at community centers and language schools.
  • Getting Lost: We carried a wallet-size blue card which has a phone number to call and words in Japanese Characters that means in English "Help, I am lost. Show my way to NAF Atsugi!"
  • Driving Conditions: Driving in Japan is another great experience! Japanese drive on the left, the steering wheel is on the right! It was challenging to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the road! The roads are very narrow (we mean really narrow), they are two-way traffic! This explains why most Japanese cars have retractable side mirrors and why we haven't seen a car without dents or scratch - mostly owned by American drivers. Japanese drivers take the same roads everyday, American somehow love to explore and find all the short-cuts. So if you want a quicker way to your destination, follow the Y-plates, they might take you through the narrowest snaky roads but you'll get there faster! Japanese pays higher taxes on older cars, the older the car - the higher the tax. So Japanese people buy new cars after 3-5 years. The used cars are usually very nice and well kept. Since American Service Members are exempted from the the tax rule, they can easily find a nice car for cheap at the used car dealers or lemon lots. We bought a roomy seven-seater Toyota Van for only $1,200 and a nice Toyota Cresta with digital control panel and leather seats for only $500!
  • Vending Machines: Those soda vending machines come in handy especially during summer. We'd say Japan is not only the Land of the Rising Sun, but also the Land of Vending Machines! They are literally found in every neighborhood, anytime, anywhere, even in most secluded areas in the middle of rice fields! And Japan has vending machines for just about everything: sodas, food, juice drinks in all flavors like salad or the infamous brand Calpis (a yogurt flavored soft drink that comes in both carbonated and non-carbonated forms.), cigarettes, cameras, batteries, phone cards, soap, coffee, and some not appropriate to mention.
  • Food and Snacks: Foods, drinks, and delicacies come in beautiful packages and different flavors. Ask first what it is in English. Care for some Green Tea ice cream? Most food look very appetizing, but be careful, it could be Octopus!
  • Fine Dining: Dining at restaurants are also fun! The first time we entered a Japanese restaurant, we were startled by a loud yelling by all the employees - all in unison they were saying  "irashaimase!"  We found out later that it is a very polite and customary way of welcoming someone to a business establishment.  "Irashaimase" means "welcome" or someone once told us it means "our food is fresh!" So don't be shocked when you're greeted by a bunch of Japanese yelling at you when you enter a store or a restaurant! Ordering food is quite a challenge, most restaurants do not have English Menus, but most have pictures so we normally employed the "point, point" ordering technique!
  • Tipping:  Absolutely a No, No! It is rude to give a tip in Japan! It is considered rude to count your change if front of them after paying in a store or restaurant.
  • Cherry Blossom Festival, Cookies, Cakes: The Cherry Blossoms are really beautiful in Spring! Rows and rows of Cherry Blossom Trees!  During the Cherry Blossoms Festival, the Spouse's Club bakes all kinds of cookies and cakes to raise funds, Most of the cookies and cakes are made from Betty Crocker ready-to-bake mixes. But Japanese people love "American Home Made" goodies and they would pay a lot of money for them! It does not matter if they came from ready mixes!
  • Open Gate Events, Anything American: Actually, during any open-gate events like Wings (Navy Air Show), thousands and thousands of Japanese folks would come to the base with their cameras to take photos of airplanes and  anything American! They also bring lots of Japanese Yen to buy anything American! They would even make an offer for used-raggedy-torn baseball caps and t-shirts that you are wearing!
  • Japanese Trash, The Gome Pile: - Gome means trash. But Japanese Gome is for us Americans perfectly useable items. Because they have small houses, when they buy new furnishings, it is customary for Japanese folks to leave their unwanted items on the curbside for anyone to take. We have a few beautiful things we kept from several "Gome-diving" trips!
  • Bargain Shopping: The 100 Yen Store  is our favorite store! This is like our Dollar Store in the US. Everything is only 100 Yen (approximately .80 cents) from toys to household items. If you are into Hello Kitty or Sanrio stuff, this is heaven!  There are also many recycling shops, they are second-hand stores where you can find anything from toys to fine china at only fraction of the original cost. Most of the items there come from people like newly-weds who simply do not have room to store these items because their house are typically small. We have collected a number beautiful pottery and Japanese bowls and platters from these shops.
  • Majestic Mt. Fuji: On a clear day, we can see the beautiful peak of Mt.Fuji from Atsugi Naval Base . Mt. Fuji in close view is as majestic as it is in pictures! We came close to climbing Mt. Fuji, but we chickened out! We were told we are doomed to come back to climb it!  It seems that every American stationed in Japan has climbed it!
  • Christianity in Japan: Although only less than 2% of Japan's population are Christians, we did not feel isolated from the rest of the Christian world (the internet has been a great resource for us). Atsugi Naval Base has a wonderful Chapel, with anointed Chaplains and plenty of ministry opportunities. A significant number of local Japanese people attend the base Chapel. Various missionaries have already planted churches around the area. We learned that when Americans are away from home, they tend to become more spiritual. More come to the chapel because it is as familiar as churches in the US. Believers have a stronger fellowship, there is no "shopping" for a church, we supported the base chapel and the handful local church ministries.
  • Train Etiquette: Train rides are very amusing! You can spend half-an-hour just looking at the train map to figure out what train to catch next. There is usually a train employee wearing white gloves and a flag, his or her job is to shove people into the train during peak hours or kick them out of the train if they do not have the right ticket (it happened to us - we boarded the so called Romance train)! People are very quiet, to most, this is the only time they get a personal quiet time. Although trains are packed, each passenger seems to be in his/her own world and has the ability to ignore everyone next to him/her! They just read a book or magazine, put their headsets on, or just simply look down or look through you like you do not exist! If you hear some laughing or conversations, there must be some "inconsiderate" fun-loving Americans on board!
  • High Tech Toilets: Perhaps our most favorite thing in Japan is the "Japanese Warmlet or Washlet" - a high-tech toilet with heated seat. The heat is adjustable. It has buttons for automatic personal washing (with warm water too!). The buttons are in Japanese character or pictures. Be careful what button to push, it might spray you on the wrong spot! The water tank doubles as a sink with faucet where you wash your hands and the water falls into the tank. The water is then used when you flush the toilet. Great Japanese invention with recycling and water conservation in mind! It was our dream to buy one and install it when we buy a house in the US.


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The Japanese American Family Album
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Tokyo Rising : The City Since the Great...
Christianity Made in Japan : A Study of...
Japanese Naval Vessels at the End of...
Complete Origami/an A-Z of Facts and...
Japanese Lessons : A Year in a Japanese...
Count Your Way Through Japan
The Samurai's Daughter : A Japanese...
Little Japanese Girl Paper Doll (Dover...
Baseball Saved Us
1st Thousand Words Japanese (Fist...
Japanese Americans
Cooking the Japanese Way (Easy Menu...
Food in Japan (International Food...
Mathematical Knowledge of Japanese,...
Japanese Children Abroad : Cultural,...
Japanese Children's Songs
God, You Are Always With Us

black-arrow-01_R Related Pages: Japan Resources and Christianity In Japan



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