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Life's Journey: Japanese Experience Through the Eyes of a Visitor Part 2

Updated on May 13, 2019
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This bench is easy to construct and is portable. It is an excellent spot to enjoy some cool breezes and hear the sounds of nature.

Baby girl and Momma in Tachi City


Japan never considers time together as time wasted. Rather, it is time invested.

— Donald Richie

Mr. Richie's remark is so spot on...and one that many of us would do well to consider and adopt as a mindset for our lives.

With so many things having transpired over the years that could take my family from me too soon, me thinks that perhaps I have moved much closer to adopting that philosophy for my life.

Change was Coming

In part one of our journey you were given the beginning of this new part of our life:

This little country girl who had only been away from home to attend college was suddenly about seven thousand miles from her parents and other loved ones. My husband was stationed in Albany, Georgia, prior to our move to Japan. He was an Air Force Sergeant at Turner Air Force Base. One noontime when he rambunctiously arrived on his beloved Honda 750 for lunch, he bounces in to our tiny 1 and ½ bedroom mobile home.

He was especially animated so certainly something was up. Busily preparing his lunch, I barely noticed as he sidled up to me and asked: “How do you feel about living in Japan for four years?” Never one to beat around the bush, he had gotten right to the point.

He had my attention now! No words came. Anyone who knows me has never known me to be unable to speak. At this moment, I was so shocked, surprised, taken aback that no words would come. I had to take time to process what he was saying. Gradually, I mumbled something.

In the spring of 1973, my daughter and I left the United States to join my husband in Japan.

McDonald's in Japan ...I could not believe it.

We had to go to McDonald's that first summer. After that we were too busy tasting all of the delicious foods Japan offered us.
We had to go to McDonald's that first summer. After that we were too busy tasting all of the delicious foods Japan offered us. | Source

My Home Away from Home...

My daughter and I traveled to Japan two months after my husband. Our landing on Midway and departure from that island was a little unnerving to me.

Our plane did make it off of Midway! We did get to Yokota Air Base. Uneventful, I thought. As we touched down, there were fire trucks lining the runway and foam blanketed it. All of this was new to me. No alarm bells went off. I just thought this was what was done. All of us were ushered off the plane quickly but without great urgency. When we were safely inside, we were told there had been, in fact, a ‘problem on the plane’; smoke was evident.

No details were ever given to us. We were safe; that was what we needed to know.

Our reunion with baby's daddy and my husband was joy-filled and gave me a sense of reassurance, a feeling that everything was going be fine now.

Hugging and laughing, the two pilgrims with Daddy left the terminal together with great anticipation for the days ahead. We were billeted again in military lodging until a place was available for us to live.

This is a sweet video that you will enjoy watching. It is a young woman's visit to Japan.

Tachikawa Japan:
Tachikawa, Tokyo, Japan

get directions

We lived on Tachikawa Air Base and I often exited through the back gate into the town of Tachi (we came to call it) to shop and sight see.

In Japan, I live in a little neighborhood in the middle of nowhere. I don't have a bicycle or a car or anything, so my only movement is within the boundaries of my feet. I feel there's a need for that kind of conscientious objection to the momentum of the world.

— Pico Iyer

Arriving at our Paddie House for more adventures


More of our experience

You can read part one at...

Life's Journey---Japan Through the Eyes of a Visitor part 1

Life's Journey---Japan Through the Eyes of a Visitor part 3

Paddie House Panty Raids

As it turned out it would be at least two months before we could move on base, so our first housing in Japan was on the economy in a small but adequate paddy house, as they were known, even though we were not situated in a rice paddy. It was located just outside the gates of Yokota Air Base. It was a place to hang our hat and begin each day together and that was enough.

We had a washing machine, no dryer, but there was an abundance of sun that summer. I was no stranger to clothes lines having loved the way clothes smelled when dried in the sun and the breeze, a clothesline was a welcome sight. Fortunately there were three lines inside of the small fenced-in area behind our house. I would wash clothes and hang them on the line to dry. Later in the day of course I would go out to collect them.

One day when I went out about half of my panties were gone!! This happened two more times. My husband decided he would see if he could find out what was going on in the great panty caper.

That very weekend he perched himself in the back bedroom where he had a clear view of the line. Sure enough, not long after the clothing was hung on the line, the culprit appeared. A youngish man in his mid-twenties like us climbed the fence and snatched the panties!! He scrambled back over the fence just as my husband reached the fence, shouting at him to ‘stay out of our yard!!! Leave the underwear on the line!!!’ Or, words that meant that. His words may have been a bit more descriptive and colorful. In any case, no more unexpected disappearance of the underwear occurred while we lived in our paddy home. (I might add these were not Fredricks of Hollywood underwear either.)

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

— Saint Augustine

A place for the little ones on top of a department store


Baby playing at the amusement park on top of the department store


Moving on Base

Our move to base housing was so easy. We packed and moved. Just that simple. Our new home was a very spacious 2 bedroom apartment adjoining three others known as a quadraplex.

Our place was situated on the end nearest the commissary. A fence ran along the perimeter separating the commissary parking lot from our yard. Very large yard, spacious house, our little family all in one place, we were beginning a new time of discovery.

Settled in to our new place, it was time to investigate my new home-away-from homeland. I had time to explore. Walking was an option to some places not so to others. We would be in search of a car soon.

Somewhat anxious about this total upheaval in our lives, uncertainty had loomed before me. I had not learned at this time to not try to second guess the a young woman of twenty four. That being said, this was a far easier move than I had anticipated; joy filled our space and our lives.

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.

— James Michener

Learn to Understand

Mr. Michener, aaah, yes. I totally agree. Learning to love and respect those of another country was a journey I never knew I would take.

But when I did, I found myself needing to know and understand as much as I could about the Japanese people as I could: about their religion, their culture, their way of life. And I found myself enchanted by these wonderful people.

Being able to learn of their beliefs helped me to know the lovely people whose land I shared on another level. Taking time to hear stories and learn the way of life was a revealing and wondrous journey in and of itself.

My life was forever changed in so many ways by experiencing life in the land of the rising sun.

Learning to Drive

When families rotated back to the States, there would often be vehicles that were unwanted. We were in the market. Locating vehicles was not a long process at all. Within a few days, we had two cars parked in our driveway. One a dark blue, four door Toyota, the second a white two door Honda, standard shift, which I had to learn to drive. Total dollars spent 75. We were pleasantly surprised to find those vehicles served us well for the entire four years we were there and were still working well as we prepared to rotate off the island four years later.

Learning to drive my little Honda was a new experience but I am happy to report that my husband was a patient teacher. No matter how many times we jerked along the parking lot and choked out the gas, he never once raised his voice. He was kind of like that most of the time anyway. After a while, I was over the hiccuping car method and was able to drive on base. It was some time after that before I ventured onto the real highways in Japan. That was an eye-opening experience for sure

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Music there carried me away

Stopping Traffic

Driving on the roadways of Japan was an eye-opening experience for me. Since I was new to the whole driving a standard shift thing, driving was an adventure for a while anyway. I then had to venture onto the highway and not crash.

The two lane roads were the roads we traveled to Yokota Air Base from Tachikawa Air Base a short distance that should have taken about 15 minutes. It usually took a minimum of an hour. By today's standards that is not a lot of time really as many drive for much longer periods than that each day, one way. However, that was then. And, then, I was used to traveling long distances in an hour so it was different.

The two lanes roads, interestingly enough, became four lane roads when the need arose. Now, I am not belittling my Japanese second-homeland, just stating what the situation was. One needed to respect the driver who wanted to share the one lane with you that you were going in and they wanted to go the same way. You did. You watched for whatever would transpire and dealt with it as it arose.

One phenomenon that I encountered was this. A person would drive up to the edge of the road obviously wanting to enter the highway. If you did not stop for them to weave themselves into the stream of cars, the driver of the other vehicle would simply put up his hand at you. It was not a rude gesture at all. It was a message, "See me.I am pulling out now!' And, that is exactly what the driver would do. Quickly and with assurance the vehicle squeezed right in front of whatever vehicle was already on the road.

Now I had to try it. I had to see if they would stop for me. An occasion arose where I needed to get into traffic and it seemed impossible. So, out of the window popped my arm. Much to my amazement, the traffic stopped and I was allowed to enter the flow of traffic!!! I was hooked that day, at that moment. I felt like I was really home now.

Learning About a New Land

The first few months of living Japan were the beginning of an unexpected journey into this new culture in which I now found myself.

Each new day offered a new experience. I was learning about life on the base, traveling to and fro on the base shuttle buses, and of course travel down into the town of Tachikawa. There was always something new to do and see.

I was learning about the Japanese people as I encountered them both on and off base. It was an immersion in a culture that I found both enchanting and puzzling. One thing I knew for sure was that I was so blessed to have begun a new passage in my life.

© 2012 Patricia Scott


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