Military Monday: B- Misawa, Japan

12.17.2012

The Military Monday duty station feature on this blog is designed for us military families to meet our fellow military spouses and also to learn about duty stations across the world.  We all get to (or have to depending on your outlook and particular set of circumstances), move every couple years to different duty stations that are scattered throughout the country and the world.  This feature will allow us the opportunity to explore these different areas of the world before we get there.  

If you are interested in being highlighted for this feature, please send me an email.  
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Name and blog site: B - blogging over at Then There Was We www.thentherewaswe.blogspot.com
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Branch of service: Air Force (and a lifelong Army brat)


Where currently stationed: Misawa Air Base, Japan
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How long have you been there?:
I've been here 6 months, my husband has been here just under a year and a half.

Previous duty stations:

With my husband - Fort Meade, MD

With my dad - Fort Bragg (as a baby), a now defunct tiny post in VA, Fort Campbell, Fort Belvoir

Favorite restaurant in the area:
Most of the food we've eaten here is good but there are a couple of places that are our dining out staples (Disclaimer: There are still quite a few restaurants we need to make it to!):
- Kappa Sushi: A quick trip out the gate, sushi for about 100 yen (just over a dollar) a plate. You can pick what you want off the conveyor belt or use the tableside monitor to get a made-to-order plate (or plates) sent straight to you via tiny bullet train.
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- Curry House Coco's: I hated the idea of curry before moving to Japan and now we eat it several times a month. Basically anyone you talk to who is, or has been, stationed in Japan will go on and on about this place.
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- Pepper Lunch: This place is one of my all time favorites. You pick the type and size of entree you want, whether or not you want a combo or add-ons, stick your money in the machine and hand the ticket to the cashier. In return, you can a piping hot cast iron plate (think fajita style) with rice, meat, and various toppings. You mix it all up and cook the meat to the desired doneness at your seat. I could eat it everyday.
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3 favorite things to do in your current city:
- Visiting the malls: Shopping is shopping anywhere, but Japan has so many neat and interesting things. One of our favorite things is finding new goodies to send to family back stateside.
- Exploring the area: Getting out and seeing as much of Japan as possible is our top goal during our time here. We love exploring Misawa and the surrounding towns as well as venturing farther out across the prefecture. Since we're not sure how long we'll be here, we've also taken advantage of the bullet train. This summer we went to Hiroshima and Tokyo and for Christmas we'll be traveling to Kyoto.
- Going on tours: The travel office on base hosts a TON of tours and we try to take one every month or two. We've seen rice field art and made kokeshi dolls, witnessed an amazing nighttime parade of gigantic floats, gone to a chrysanthemum festival, watched baseball games, and will be going to a hockey game or two and a snow festival this winter.

Favorite duty station so far: 
As much as I didn't think I would like it before I moved, I'd have to say Misawa at this point. Fort Meade was nice since it was close to my parents, I loved my job, and it was a good location to see/do so many things. However, anyone who's ever been in/around the DC area knows how crazy and crowded it is. Misawa is a small, rural town where the base makes up a large portion of the population.

Who is your hero?
My mom! The model military spouse if there ever was one. She taught me everything I know (like keeping your friend circle small, avoiding drama, etc.).

What is the biggest draw back to where your current duty station?
By far, our least favorite part of where we are now is how far away it is from everything and how expensive it is to travel. Outside of Misawa proper, the closest sightseeing is an hour-hour and a half away. Most of the other "must see" attractions in Aomori Prefecture (where we're located) are several hours away by car. The easiest way to get to farther cities in Japan is by bullet train since flying is really expensive. The bullet train to Tokyo takes about four hours and costs $300+ (USD) roundtrip for one adult.
Getting from Misawa to the states (and vice versa) is expensive and burdensome as well. If you can get a flight to/out of Haneda Airport it makes things a little easier, but most flights come into and leave out of Narita Airport. From Misawa, you have to take a train to Narita Airport or a plane to Haneda airport. (Then, if necessary, you'll have to get to the other airport by subway, bus, taxi, etc.) From there you can fly to the exotic (or American) destination of your choosing. One roundtrip adult plane ticket by itself between the States and Tokyo runs around $1500+ (I once lucked out and scored a $1200 ticket).

How strong/ or not is the sense of community in the area? It depends really. I recently described this base to a friend as "like a college campus but less fun." The base is old (WWII era) and small, and living here is essentially like living on a college campus/in a super small town. Since it's isolated--both physically and with the language barrier, civilian jobs are less than abundant, and it's a "two-baby base" there are a lot of unhappy, bored housewives (and some househusbands, too). As you might imagine, that can lead to quite a bit of drama--a lot of it Facebook-induced, sadly enough! But on the brightside, there are also some really awesome people and at the end of the day being here is really what you make of it.

Are there any local festivals you have been to or are planning to attend?Oh, yes! The Japanese love festivals and so do we. Over the summer we went to a Nebuta Festival in Aomori City, a Tanabata Festival in Misawa, and a Chrysanthemum Festival in Hirosaki, and the USAF/JASDF Air Show on base. During the winter we plan to attend the Towada Snow Festival.

What is the overall feel of the community/area/base?
Like I mentioned above, it's very much like a college campus/small town on base. Off-base, or "outside the gate" it's very much a quiet town. The people are all very friendly and even if they don't speak English they will do their best to communicate, and they appreciate when Americans at least try to speak Japanese (and good manners get you a long way!). Misawa itself is pretty small and Japan as a whole is a very compact country. With such a small amount of land to squeeze buildings and homes onto, the Japanese are masters at getting everything super close together. Overall, we really like being here. We're glad we're not near the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, or on a tiny island down in Okinawa. Misawa is very much a unique, and much more Japanese assignment.

Have you joined any groups on base?
I ended up landing a decent job right away in one of the squadrons and participate in the unit's Booster Club. I also take a Barre Class which is a  nice way to meet people and get in my workout somewhere besides a crowded gym. There are clubs for both Enlisted and Officer spouses, but they both seem like pretty small groups. 
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If you are a military spouse or military member and want be featured for this post, please send me an email at HandlingWithGrace {at} gmail.com.  Duplicate stations are welcomed!

1 comment:

I love to hear your thoughts! XOXO

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