Sunday, August 12, 2012

Venturing Off-Base

So, initially, we were planning to try and take the train out to Ikego - where our new apartment will be - to see just how far away it is and to check out the area a bit. However, shortly after we hopped off the base bus to walk towards the main gate, we changed our plans. The girls hadn't exactly had a fantastic morning - we'd already had a couple of meltdowns in the hotel room - so I guess I should have taken that as a sign of things to come. As soon as we started walking, both the girls were crying about how it was so hot and how their legs couldn't walk anymore. Instead of running back to the hotel room, we decided to head to a mall just down the street that apparently, has everything you could ever want to shop for.
We didn't pay attention to what time it was and as soon as we walked in, we realized that it was only 9:30am. The girls wake up so early that it felt like it should be almost lunchtime for us. Many of the shops/stores weren't open yet. But, the grocery store was quite busy. Yes, a grocery store. In the second level of most Japanese malls, there is a huge grocery store. Why don't malls in the US catch on to this? You can pick up all sorts of things in our malls, but you still have to go to a separate grocery store for food. Not so in Japan. And I like that idea. The grocery had a LOT more produce than the commissary on-base, so that was very encouraging to me and The Hubs (we eat mostly vegetarian when we cook on our own). However, I may need to make some Japanese friends and have them take me to the grocery store the first few times. If it wasn't fresh produce, I didn't know what kind of food it was. Ha!
After we wandered through the grocery store, we went up one floor to the children's department. It. Was. Huge. All sorts of adorable clothes, baby items, toys, bicycles... everything you could need. And, everything in Japanese. It was a bit overwhelming, but the girls seemed to be fine. I snapped a quick picture (if you look towards the center of the picture, you can see my two girls playing some video games), but only took one because I didn't want to be the obvious American taking pictures of the Japanese store.

We were getting really hungry, so we looked around the mall at the food options. There was a KFC (ha), a donut place, ice-cream, and a few others, but... it was intimidating to try and order when we don't speak Japanese and couldn't read the menus well. If it had been just me and The Hubs, we would have attempted it. But, with our kids already in a bad mood, if we went somewhere and ordered something they didn't like, it would have been a full-on meltdown in the middle of a Japanese place with all these Japanese people looking at us and thinking awful things about Americans. (I assume, of course.) So we resorted to walking back to base and eating at the Commissioned Officers' Club. I know, I'm disappointed in myself too. The girls were not excited to walk back. And by the time we reached the gate, The Hubs and I wanted to pull our hair out.

Thing 2 cried the entire way. Thing 1 complained about how bad her legs and back were hurting. And, she cried too.

I need to be honest here for a second. Even with experience being out of the States before (both my husband and I have been to Europe), we are WAY out of our comfort zones in Japan. And having two little kids makes it worse. When your kids are having a meltdown in the middle of a store in the US, it's embarrassing. But when your kids are having a meltdown in the middle of a store in Japan, and you already stand out because you look different than everyone else around you, you don't know what people are saying, and you can't read anything... it's incredibly stressful. If it were just The Hubs and I trying to navigate around Japan, it would be a little difficult for sure. It's just proven to be even more difficult than I had imagined when you throw two little kids in the mix.

Part of me wants to deny housing in Ikego and try to get housing here at the main base. Everything I could need is here. I wouldn't have to leave base at all. But I don't want to be that person. I WANT to get out and enjoy Japan. I want to learn more about Japanese culture. So I think Ikego will be good for me. Not having a large commissary and exchange right beside my house will force me to get out and explore a bit. Apparently, it's just going to be a while before we start to feel more comfortable. And it's going to take longer than I thought it would.

We have made some friends though! And that is definitely helping us feel more at ease. Here are my girls with some of their new friends.



  1. It is hard and stressful at first, Kim. But it does get better and easier really soon.

    On another note-- in general the Japanese (well, the Okinawans at least) are really kind and empathetic. They do discourage their children from being loud in public. But you are living in an area where the locals are accustomed to being around us loud Yankees. ;)

  2. Obviously I have been thinking about you, because last night I had a dream about you. I dreamt that you and Tim were so far out of your comfort zone that you put in a request to be transferred - to Kansas. ???? Kansas, really dream?? And I was SO MAD, quit???? You gave up????? YOu haven't even been there a month?? I was dream mad at you, lolol!! ISN'T THAT WEIRD? When I woke up, turned on my computer, and saw your blog post I was like DON'T GIVE UP. I know you must be ...really having a hard time right now. You are going through the biggest change of your life - Japan is such a different culture. But you are a strong person, and it is gonna turn out great!!! I am cheering you on! Don't quit. Don't get housing on base. You CAN do this, (you know that already). I bet by September, you will have your regular routine - your familiar stores, familiar faces...and soon you will grow to really love your new home. I really admire you - you are doing something so exciting. XOXOXOXO

  3. I agree with katie. DON'T GIVE UP! You will look back in 20 years and be so proud of yourselves. One day at a time. Poor Ila and Lorel. Remind them about the little travelers and how they walked everywhere! Love you and wish I were there! Mom