Get off base and explore Japan

by Laurel Anne Powell
Stripes Okinawa

Editor’s Note: Laurel Anne Powell from Yokosuka gives her views on taking advantage of life overseas. Laurel Anne, thanks for sharing! We hope your words motivate others who have yet to venture outside the gates.

Here I am, facing down the last year of an overseas duty station. Once again, trying to be content instead of muttering under my breath how tired I am of this place - feeling the deja vu and remembering saying the same things about the last duty station. Complaining, at the time, that we were so isolated (living an hour from Los Angeles), and everything around base was too boring (I won’t go into detail about the base-access beaches and nearby hiking trails).

Now here I am, smack in the middle of an Asian metropolis, creature comforts of home tucked away in the Exchange, delectable Japanese treats and one-of-a-kind adventure just outside the base gate (give or take an hour for transportation time). Not to say that I’ve been a hermit the entire time I’ve been here, no: we’ve see the Imperial Palace Gardens, take the train countless times, become familiar with the Godzilla slide at Kurihama Flower World, and collected sea-worn pottery pieces on the sands of Tomyodo Beach.

Our first year was fairly exploratory.

And then something changes - you know - maybe it’s the extra long deployment schedule that keeps your family apart, maybe it’s your main travel buddy PSC’ing, and somewhere in there, it’s been weeks since you left the base.

Long story short: I don’t want to move on and regret not enjoying my time here. A majority of the issue is solved by practicing an attitude of contentment - noticing the attributes of this location that I love and will miss. Not many people have the opportunity to live here and experience the beauty of Japan year-round. The other part of the equation is making the effort to go explore. Maybe my budget doesn’t allow for ITT trips (nope), maybe I can’t handle my kids on a bus for hours (double nope), but I can take the train to Hayama and find a kid-friendly hiking trail and a delicious lunch and take a silly picture in front of a a beautiful building. i can enjoy living somewhere I can walk instead of somewhere I have to drive.

Hence, a few ideas to keep your time in Japan on the appreciative side…

Leave the base for somewhere familiar: We started our season of appreciating Japan with a trip to Kodomo No Kuni Koen, also know as Children’s Land, in Yokohama. We had been there before and our second trip was a great reminder of the inexpensive and beautiful offerings in this country.

Take a picture. Use your phone, your disposable, your fancy pants camera with three different lenses, whichever. Commemorate a moment here to help cultivate an appreciation for the fun moments at this point in your life.

Write a list of what you love about this country. Art on the manhole covers.

Delicious treats from 7-11. Stones covered in moss at the temples. The beach with the ocean-washed pottery shards.

Remind yourself to appreciate your opportunities. Most of us can at least take a trip to Kurihama Flower World, visit the Museum of Modern Art in Yokohama, or grab a chu hi with friends.

All of us can be grateful for a host country that treats our presence with respect, the kawaii factor even on roadwork signs, and the breathtaking beauty of cherry blossoms floating from branches as icy winter weather melts into spring.

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