Make the most of your stay in Japan

Make the most of your stay in Japan

by Samantha Lymburn-Law
Stripes Japan

If I had to sum up our tour in Japan with three words, it would be: enjoyable, productive, enlightening.

And unfortunately, it has gone too quickly.

During our stay, my husband and I learned all about the Japanese culture, and at the same time were able to visit other countries.

We completely fell in love with the country. From the delicious food to the polite and considerate people, it’s no wonder why so many people want to stay or extend their time here.

There are many things I have learned during my stay at Camp Zama. There are also many things that I wish I had known when we first moved here. As we prepare to move out of Japan, here is my list of tips that I hope will help you enjoy your time here in the Land of the Rising Sun.

- MWR Trips – I am so grateful for MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) trips. We were able to see many different places that we would have otherwise never gone to on our own. What I really appreciated about these trips was that we did not have to worry about a thing. You basically get on the bus and go. If the trips were early in the morning, you could easily fall back asleep on the bus, wake up for the rest stop to grab food, then fall back asleep until the bus reached the destination. The tour guides and bus drivers always took great care of us. If you are nervous about traveling in a foreign country, then MWR trips are the way to go!

- ITT Office – We’ve utilized the ITT (International Tours) office for several of our traveling excursions. Having them plan our itineraries lessens the stress of traveling and makes our trips more enjoyable. From the flights, hotels, activities and transportation, ITT covers it all. We’ve had nothing but great experiences from them and highly recommend turning to ITT for traveling assistance.

- Make friends with locals – It’s challenging moving to a different country and not knowing anyone. After three months, I was ready to go back to the states. That was when I met my friend Mai. She was extremely friendly from the beginning and showed me around the area. Mai brought me to different grocery stores, restaurants, and shopping areas. She even taught me how to make Japanese dishes. Being friends with her gave me a deeper appreciation for Japan and she showed me just how kind and friendly Japanese locals are.

- 7-Eleven/Lawson/Family Mart – Who would have thought that convenience stores (especially 7-Eleven) had such delicious food?!? I quickly became a fan of convenience stores when I discovered the great quality of food they had at such affordable prices. Some of my favorites include: Onigiri (rice balls), canned coffee and meals that are ready to go (they even heat your food up while you pay). If you are looking for a tasty and cheap meal, convenience stores are the way to go.

- Local Cuisine – Enjoying the local food while living in Japan is an absolute must! Japanese cuisine has so much variety and I could not wait to try everything. My top recommendations are Ramen (from Ichi Ran), Sushi (from Sushiro) and gyoza (dumplings). The most unique food I tried while living here was raw horse meat. It was an interesting experience, and I recommend that everyone try it at least once. There are so many restaurants to choose from, so I am sure that even the pickiest eaters will find something to enjoy.    

- Get the right information – Some people forget that there are differences between being stationed stateside and being stationed overseas. This can cause confusion and uncertainty when dealing with information that can affect the service member and their family. The best way to avoid any misunderstanding is getting information from the right people. For example, going directly to Finance, Housing Office or MPD (Military Personnel Division) for any questions in regards to your tour here in Japan. It’s better to ask questions earlier rather than later. Doing so could potentially save time, money and headaches down the road.

Having the opportunity to be stationed in such a beautiful country has made me appreciate the military lifestyle more. It can be challenging living so far away from home, but I am glad my husband and I were given the opportunity to live in Japan.

Not everyone gets assigned this duty station, so I feel very fortunate to have lived here. This experience has pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow and improve as a person.

My advice for people who are stationed overseas is to enjoy your time here. Embrace the culture, travel, and try as much of the food as you can. The military is paying you to be here, so why not make the most of it?

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