Our erstwhile correspondent, AT1 Charles Berelmann, joins us from the Land of the Rising Sun æ—¥æœ¬, specifically from the homeport of the US Seventh Fleet, our Forward Deployed Naval Forces in Japan.Â For one who was an East Coast sailor, as we’ll see, it certanly has come as a cultural revelation.Â One of my enduring regrets was the furthest “east” I ever got in our deployments was a visit to Singapore.Â I’d have gladly traded one of our (many) visits to Toulon or Naples for Yokosuka.Â I’m sure Skippy-san would agree – oh, and Skippy-san, might want to hide any sharp utensils before reading 😉 -SJS
Just finished up a four day visit to Yokosuka and Japan. Lots of interesting things to do, food to try, and I was able to knock out a whole bunch of Christmas shopping while in town as well.
To start with we pulled in on a Monday, and I had to work as standby duty until about 5pm. Standby duty is where you’re not really in a duty status, just working to help the duty section get ahead of the work schedule. After I got off, it was too late for me to hook up with anybody and head into town. Instead I went over to the Navy Exchange on base and bought nearly all of my Christmas gifts for the upcoming holiday season there. The one thing that I wanted to get but didn’t think the wife would have approved was a replica full size samurai armor set with swords for about five grand. Instead I did the usual of buying some cotton kimono style robes for my in-laws, a couple small curio’s for the wife, and some decorated chop sticks. After bringing my treasures back to the ship I went to the base club and grabbed a bite to eat followed up by gong to do my laundry. That was about it for my first day.
Second day went out with a bunch of guys to downtown Tokyo. The first thing to do when traveling in Japan is head to your local train station.Â (ed. Skippy would approve – SJS) From there you stand in line trying to figure out where you want to go. At each automated ticket center there is a sign above you telling of all the stops from the lines serviced by that station. You just need to find your destination and next to that is a price. Pick what type of ticket you want and then put in the right amout money. Trying to figure that out and get to some of our locations was an adventure in itself. I am positive that are some people out there that have some words of advice on how to travel by train in the Tokyo area. After arriving in Tokyo we navigated around the Ginza district to start with which is one of the primary shopping districts in Tokyo. All upscale and out of my price range, waist line, and coolness factor. When ever you see the classic shot of the lighted signs, that is part of the Ginza district. After realizing that we couldn’t afford anything in Ginza we got on the subway over to Roppongi district and tried to find the Tokyo Tower. It isn’t that hard to find as much as hard to navigate to. On the way over there we ran across the Zojo Buddhist shrine. This is a shrine built and financed by the Tokaguawa shogun about five hundred years ago. After the Tokaguawa shogun fell out of favor in the region the shrine became a national park. It is still an active shrine and there are Buddhist monks there and people still come to pray. All around the walls of the shrine were these little stone statues. These are called Jinzo statues and they are basically the Buddhist saint that protects children and helps them navigate through the demon world to heaven. People put clothing and stones in front of these little statutes as a way to pray for their children who have passed away. Passing on through the shrine we also saw the monks come out for a photograph while chanting. It was very interesting to watch. A number of us foreigners were obviously unsure of what to do, but watched as thirty or so monks came out stood on the steps; then the head monk in orange came out sat down had a couple of photos taken and the whole thing broke up.
We then walked over to the Tokyo tower. This is a combination observation and broadcast tower. I forget how tall it is, but the observation deck is up there and you can navigate around it pretty good to get a decent view of the city. At night the place is really light up nice. For dinner that night we came off the Tokyo tower and went into Roppongi to find a place to eat. We found a little restaurant kind of back in a corner with no body really in it. We couldn’t read the menu, but it did have pictures so we picked a couple of things. I picked this item, can’t even tell you its name, but it was composed of a hot plate with cabbage and onions in it, had a plate of bacon meat cut like prosciutto bacon, and a bowl filled with what tasted like miso soup broth. Basically you dropped a couple of pieces of bacon in the onion broth let it boil and then taking that out you dipped it real quick in the miso broth and ate it. It was great. Thinking about eating all over the place in Japan there are drink vending machines. What is really cool about them is that in the same machine you can buy a hot can of coffee or a cold soda pop. Most of the drinks weren’t much more then 150 yen. Part of me wants to figure out how they are able to pull off cooking the cans of coffee so it is scalding hot when it comes out and yet able to keep a soda ice cold.
My third day in town went over to Obadio island. It is a man-made island that has a bunch of shopping malls on it, the home of one of the national broadcast stations (Fuji TV), a few museums and a couple of parks. When we got there they were in the process of tearing down a full size replicate of a cartoon robot called Gundum. It was built as part of their bid for the summer Olympics in 2016 and to talk about how it has been thirty years since Gundum came out in Japan. All that was left as I walked around was the feet. Walking around on Obadio island we went to a shopping mall that also had a Toyota museum attached to it. On one level was what Toyota is doing with car technology. Things like small one person automated people movers, to small four people cars that rolls the door up and swings your seat out to the curb. On another level was the history of Toyota racing and finally a level talking about how Toyota is leading the way with hybrid cars in all sorts of categories (like racing, passenger, suv). Really interesting stuff. After that we checked out the Tokyo Maritime Science museum which talks about ships from the earliest tied reed boats to the latest supertankers. Then got on this Ferris wheel that hello kitty themed. After spending time on the Ferris wheel myself and a few others went to a sushi place and ate a large platter of sushi while drinking down a bottle of Sake having a good time.
The only thing that really marred our trip was in Yokosuka was at the train station every day till about three you had to navigate past the anti-nuclear carrier crowds. They had a boat escorting us in with a large electronic billboard in both English and Japanese expressing their displeasure and then there was a street protest. The only thing in my mind was how these street protests were very civil and except for a guy with a megaphone very quiet. Petition takers asking real respectfully for signatures and people passing out pamphlets. For sure a change from other places that I have been where there have been protests (both in Europe and the states)