Japan: Through the Eyes of a Visitor Part 1
Little Woman...Excited to Be in a New Country
Have you written about living in another country yet?
Little did I know how my life would change in my 24th year of living in the US of A.
During that year my life changed in so many ways. The year 1973 was the beginning of an odyssey that would take me along with my baby daughter to the land of the rising sun many miles away from my parents who I adored so.
. Changes had already come into my life:: graduating from college, getting married, beginning teaching, and becoming a Mother. Those were experiences that redefined who I was and the new passages that would be written as time unfolded would take me away from my beloved homeland to another country for a time. New yet undiscovered opportunities and experiences would await as my life's journey, which was really beginning as an adult, continued to unfold.
Travel to the Land of the Rising Sun
As a young Mother, I would be asked to travel to Japan to live for four years while my husband served his tour of duty for the Air Force at Yokota Air Base. The thought of it was exciting and frightening. .
I had never been further away than a three hour plane trip away from my parents. Now I would be around the world in a new culture unable to make a quick drive to visit them. But I was madly in love with the person I had married and would follow him wherever his work took him. The separation from my parents and other family members would be filled with many letters, pictures, and cassette tapes.
Baby and Momma, Tachikawa, Japan, 1973
Baby girl playing in our yard at Tachikawa Air Base
Not flashy but describes the Japan I visited and called home for four years
This AFB was the base we left the States from and returned to after our four years in Japan ended.
Beginning of a new passage in our lives.
On a very hot, beautiful Georgia day, a whole new world of experiences were beginning.. The sky was the blue of the fragile-looking bluebell flower, deep blue only nature can capture interrupted only by a lone feathery, wispy white cloud. That crystal clear sky seemed to be signaling days to come that would be filled with calm and promise.
As a young mother, I climbed the stairway to an airplane. I was barely able to manage the stairs with my eleven month old baby girl on my hip, diaper bag, and overflowing purse on my shoulder. As I gingerly climbed each step, I would pause a second or two, turn around and glance across the tarmac hoping for one last glance at my precious niece, Karen, who had been with me the last two months before this trip. Tears streaming down my face and heart aching, I had no idea how different my life would become as I learned more about others and more about myself.
The first part of the trip would take us to Travis Air Force Base in California.
Passengers boarding plane in California
The morning after we arrived in California, we had a light breakfast and were taken to the terminal to await departure. Without knowing it would happen, a little country girl like me very quickly learned to voice concerns and to stand on her own two feet. This story would be so prosaic, so romantic if I could tell you that my baby and I were called ahead of all of the other waiting military men and wives and children, whisked onto the plane, given a blanket, pillow, and tucked in for our flight.
Not gonna' happen in this story!!
Military men were called to board. Mothers were called with their little ones to board. Mothers with teens were called to board. The terminal waiting area had only a few of us left waiting to be called. There was a fatherly type Air Force gentleman next to me, and, he was a gentle man, who offered to hold my baby daughter while I tried to figure out why we had not been called to board the plane that would take us to be reunited with my husband.
More of Life's Journey....
You can read part 2 at:
part 3 is at
Japan, Through the Eyes of a Visitor part 4
No travel to Japan
"What's your name?' the young man asked when I stood at the counter.
I told him my name. 'And, uhmm, who is your husband? Where is he?'
And, I am thinking I am in the Twilight Zone. Why would he be asking me this??? He was holding the paperwork which answered all of those questions.
Reluctanlty, I filled in all of the blanks for him, including giving him my husband's social security number, and then I waited. He shuffled papers and reshuffled papers. He conferred with first one person and then another. He called this person in charge of military wives. He called that person in charge of being in charge. Who knows who else he called. I think the only one he did not call was the President, for goodness sakes. After way too long he came back to me with this look of disdain on his face. Somehow I knew this was not good.
What was he saying?? Welllllllllllllllllllllll," he began...when a sentence begins with well and it is drawn out with that much emphasis, you know this is not going to be something you want to hear. Sure enough, it was not something I wanted to hear.
He continued, 'You see, Mrs. Scott, uhhmmm, you are not on the manifest. You will not be leaving on this plane today. You will need to go back to Georgia until we can straighten this out and get new orders cut for you."
I can still remember that moment. Shaking my head, I explained, probably not very calmly, that I had no money to travel. I had no home any more. I had no 'things' any more. We were married only a year and had less than two nickels, "no pot to potty in and no window to throw it out of" either.The very idea of turning around and going back was not an option. As I continued my explanation I also pointed out that it was not just me here to consider, I had my baby daughter with me. I could not, would not drag her halfway back across the United States again just to turn around in a few weeks to do it again.
I ended by saying, "I really don't care what plane you put us on. Just put us on a plane. Please!'
This was the AFB where we landed, where I would teach school, and where my husband had reported for duty.
Baby girl in our Paddie House, Japan, 1973
Enjoying time together that first summer...
This Video Made Me Nostalgic....Such a Lovely Country
Change of plans---getting on the plane
By this time , I had begun to feel bad for the young man. He was only following orders given to him by someone with more authority than he had. He realized though that this little woman standing in front of him was not going away, like a pesky mosquito, she would continue to buzz in his ear. He turned and walked away.
By this time my size six feet were screaming. I took off my shoes, each toe thanking me as I did, and hurried back to the seat next to the kind man who was holding my baby girl. She was smiling and enjoying her day, thank goodness. I did not have to wait too much longer before the young man motioned for me to return to the counter.
'Well, Mrs. Scott (this well was sounding much better to me!). Here is what we are gong to do. Since your paperwork shows who you are, who your husband is, and where he is, you will be boarding the plane today. If you will just gather your belongings, you and your baby can board right now.'.
Scrambling to get everything,while refraining form jumping over the counter to kiss that young man, I ran to my gentle man friend who had held my Baby daughter and kept her entertained, and gave him a hug. We walked toward the plane together relieved and expectant
Settled on the plane, baby soundly sleeping, I begin to relax. This flight was uneventful. We flew and we flew and we flew. I was aroused by the pilot announcing that we would be landing at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, soon. When we landed, we were able to disembark and each of us received a lei as we did. That was so exciting...I had always wanted to have that experience.
We were only on the ground there for a short time.The plane was refueled and given a maintenance check. Each of us were then allowed to return to our seats somewhat in a fog.
Days kind of melt into each other for me when I travel and that was especially so on this trip as it was so unlike any other. Getting settled once again, my baby girl was ready to eat and soon thereafter was fast asleep. I, on the other hand, was not sleeping.
My mind was racing with the newness, the unknown. Where would we live? What about furniture? What would it be like in a foreign country? Would this pain go away that I felt as I missed my parents already? It took me many years to try to stop second guessing the future. Clearly I had not mastered that art as I made this transition to a new life.
Yokota West Air Base Yokota Japan
Midway is a tiny island.
After trying to sort through all of those questions, I finally gave in to exhaustion.. Never deeply asleep, as I was holding on to my baby girl as tightly as possible, my body did have a chance to rest.
It seemed I had just closed my eyes when the pilot came on again, announcing that we would be touching down on Midway in about thirty minutes. We would disembark while the plane was refueled and a second maintenance check be conducted. A bit annoyed was how I felt. I did not want to get off the plane. I wanted to get to Japan. It did not however matter how I felt or what I wanted. The plane was going to land, refuel, and be maintained.
Twenty of those minutes passed. I noticed we had descended noticeably since the last time I peeked out the window to my left. I was on an aisle seat. The plane continued on its descent more and more rapidly and my concern increased. All I could see was ocean waters. No land. Not a hint of land. This pilot was going to land in the ocean. Our lives would be over, ended in such an untimely way.
Strangely, no one else was reaching for the floatation devices or squirming in their seats. They must not see what I do, I thought.
Lower and lower we went, still, no land. Finally the plane touched down on a strip of land that somehow that pilot managed to find. He knew he had it under control all of the time. That was why HE was the pilot. Our wings were over water, no land could be seen, as we touched down on the narrow strip of land which was the runway.
Thankful that the pilot had not been insane as I was sure he was, I disembarked with my fellow travelers. Another part of our journey accomplished. Phew...I was relieved.
The next time we would leave the plane would be after dark on Yokota Air Base, Japan, our home for the next four years.
© 2012 Patricia Scott