So I've been in Japan for four months and its been a pretty interesting trip so far. I'm in Okinawa which is a topical island southwest of mainland Japan. The base that I'm on is in a relatively remote part of the island, about 45 minutes from the main city of Naha. Our base is right on the water and its absolutely beautiful. The water is crystal clear and a blue that you see in movies.
My view on a daily basis! Unless there is a Typhoon (Hurricane).
Since I've been to Japan, I've tried to embrace the culture and experience what Okinawa has to offer. I've even been to a few authentic sushi restaurants, delicious I must say! Down south, there is an area called American village just outside the main center with the American bases. There is a ferris wheel and most of the locals there speak english, but its expensive. We've been down there several times to hang out. About a month ago, we went down to go to a professional soccer game that US Service Members were invited to. We were walking to the soccer stadium, which is right next to a baseball stadium. It just so happens that there was a high school baseball game going on at it was the bottom of the 9th inning. So, naturally we stopped by and the game went into extra innings. 3 of them in fact. The experience was awesome, the stands were packed and what I'm assuming was the JV teams were there cheering on their respective Varsity teams. They even had cheers and noise makers. It was pretty awesome! A buddy of mine took a video, I'll try to get it for your viewing entertainment.
(The JV team (aka cheer leaders)!
The team that we were rooting for lost, but it was a great game. The home team won with a walk off single in the bottom of the 12th. A great day for baseball in Japan.
The Japanese are very proud of the culture. A few weeks ago on a random Thursday, I took my platoon on a day trip to check out some local tourist traps. The first place that we went to was a glass factory. The Japanese love their glass artwork. We watched them hand blow it and then shopped for some souvenirs. Most of the stuff was pretty expensive, but for a small fee you could blow your own glass. Some of the Marines took advantage, but no one will be buying their artwork anytime soon. After that we visited an "animal farm", I'm not sure what to call it but it housed a bunch of local plants, fruits and local animals. That was pretty interesting but was mostly filling time until the next two stops. The next of which was at a Pineapple farm. This may not sound exciting, but the Marines loved it. The pineapple farm sells wine and other fruit flavored wines. You can tour the pineapple groves and then go wine tasting. I didn't personally enjoy the pineapple flavored wine, but there is literally something called a passion fruit, and that wasn't so bad. Two hours later, the Marines were drunk and we were off to our next stop. THE WORLD FAMOUS ORION BEER FACTORY! At the beer factory we got a tour from a tiny Japanese woman, (she was probably 4'10") and watched them make some beer. The best part was that a part of the tour was two free beers. The Marines loved this part best. I bought an Orion beer shirt. I'll have to rock it back in the states.
The rest of the time here has been filled with smaller trips like this on the weekends. I try to get to the beach often and have been in the gym a lot. The most interesting part of my time out here was a trip that I took to the Philippines for three weeks. A small detachment from the Battalion went to a Southern portion of the Philippines called Mindanao to do some joint training with the Filipino Marine Corps. Most people think of Manila when they think of the Philippines. Mindanao is in the southern portion of the island chain. Its population is mostly Muslim and there are several terrorist groups that operate in the area. The Filipinos do a pretty good job at isolating them, but in the first 6 months of 2011 there have been over 50 kidnappings and murders by these groups. The training went off pretty well and we made some great friendships with our counter parts. Although the area was dangerous, this was a great trip and a time in my life that I will never forget.
My dad was stationed in the Philippines during Vietnam. He would fly in and out of country on a regular basis. After the war he stayed in the Philippines at an Air Force base called Clark. In the 1990s the US government turned the base over to the Filipinos. Anyways, we flew in and out of Clark on our way South. I took some pictures for my dad. Telling him about our stop there made him reminisce about his experiences like I've never seen before. I think it was that his experience there was so profound, and fun at times. He had a great time at clark and to be honest, so did I. Clark is just outside of Manila. On the way back, a storm had hit Okinawa and we got laid over for the night. Naturally Libo (aka Liberty, aka time off work at night to the civilians out there) was on all of our minds. This was an experience for ages. I cannot divulge all of what I saw because women and minors might read this, but ask me about it and I'll tell you. What an experience.
US and Filipino MC Officers
Okinawa has been a great experience, professional it has been a great way to development myself as a Marine Corps officer. I've learned a lot about leadership in our time here. Personally, I've seen a part of the world that most people won't get to experience. For all of its positives, I can't wait to get back home to Sasha and everyone else. Time has gone by pretty fast actually and I think that is indicative the experience that I've had. Still, San Diego in the summer is pretty hard to beat. Can't wait to see you all this fall at the wedding!