It is hard to put into words my opinion of this place. When I first landed in Japan at Narita Airport–Tokyo’s main hub–my first impression was how clean and quiet the airport was–not to mention the humidity and wishing the air conditioning was turned on. The people were friendly, airport security was actually helpful, and strange cartoon characters seemed to be on every door and item in the store.
The flight to Okinawa was a relatively brief 3 hours compared to the unbearable 13 hour flight from Texas. Sitting next to a drunk woman who kept spilling her booze didn’t help either. Upon landing, it was noticeably more humid than even Tokyo. In many ways it felt like moving back to Florida. It was May 6, 2014.
I spent the next week at the hotel on base spending much of my time trying to deal with typical government red tape. Access card, passport issues, finding a new place to live, etc. I would be lying if at this point I wasn’t exhausted from the marathon I began which was after I accepted the job offer in early April. Honestly the entire transition took at least a month, though it seems like it will take much longer as far as finding a decent social circle around here. It’s not like the states where in a strange city you can simply go to meetup.com or the like. There aren’t many English speakers outside of the base surprisingly, which severely limits your options.
Driving was probably one of the more stressful things I’ve had to deal with. After buying a used 1998 Toyota Windom, I suddenly realized this vehicle was a damn cadillac by Japanese standards. Given how narrow the roads are around here I have to say it did feel intimidating. Thankfully after a couple hours of driving in the pouring rain on base I got out of the habit of hitting the curb and did well. I should also mention that the drivers here are actually courteous. Now I wonder how I will react when I return home to the States in December…
It definitely has a different type of beauty here compared to what I was used to in the American West. Instead of 100 mile vistas of stark lowlands surrounding beautiful mountains with not a cloud in the sky, I have ocean views with a hazy sun and lots of rain, not to mention lush green hills. Being used to a dry but comfortable climate, I would say hiking will be reserved for anytime except the summer.
I would say one of the hardest things about living overseas in a time zone 12-15 hours ahead of your friends and family is not having somebody to chat with after work. When I get home it’s usually 5-6pm, which is the early morning in the USA. I think it would be easier if I had a significant other and/or a network of friends, but all of that takes time.
There has been so much I have experienced so far that it is hard to put into just one post. I’ll make a few more posts to give people an idea as to what life is like here in terms of food, scenery, and the like.