Guest Post: Camp Zama, Japan Part 2

Here is the 2nd part of Jes’s post on Camp Zama. ¬†Make sure to read part one as well ūüôā

Jes  blogs at Bleu Dress and Dress Blues!

We have a wonderful spouses club {again, only one, not enough people to support separate enlisted and officer clubs…that’s a recurring theme around here.  It’s not encouraged but it’s not uncommon for the two to mix freely around here}.  ZaCSA {http://zacsa.org/}, the Zama Community Spouses Association, has a plethora of volunteer opportunities and hosts numerous events throughout the year. Some of these events are held with groups of local Japanese women {their groups are exclusively female}, including cooking classes {1, 2, 3} and new years parties {2011, 2012}.  If you get stationed here and are looking for a way to get involved, this is the place to start {we were still in lodging, had been in Japan less than 2 weeks, when I took my 1st cooking class}!

Japan

my 1st Japanese cooking class just days after arriving in Japan

Ok, enough about stuff on base, let’s see if I can begin to describe what life off base can be like when you’re stationed here. ¬†1st, I’ll state the obvious, living in a country where you don’t speak the language is difficult! ¬†It is very easy to be intimidated by the language barrier and never leave base. Those people are the ones who tend to HATE living here and I don’t blame them. ¬†If I never left the base, I would be MISERABLE here too! ¬†If you’ve ever read my blog, you probably know that I am NOT one of those people. ¬†From day one I was determined to make the best of my time here and I am confident that I will leave here feeling like I accomplished that goal.

Japan

embracing my inner Japanese at a temple in Tokyo

The food is…different, but, IMO, good! ¬†My favorite, okonomoyaki, I haven’t blogged about but it’s now on my blogging to-do list! ¬†Yakitori, or grilled chicken on a stick, is a close second and there’s a great joint between Zama and SHA. ¬†There is also a great¬†gyoza¬†{dumpling} restaurant close to SHA. ¬†Sushi here is a tad different that what we’re used to in the US. ¬†Not so many rolls with fancy sauces and toppings, more fish, rice and wasabi. ¬†My mom¬†was a trooper when she came to visit and tried everything I put in front of her which was basically every Japanese food I know! ¬†If you’d like to see more about the food here, I recommend checking out that post.

Japan

my mom’s 1st experience with sushi

There are lots of festivals and celebrations that happen throughout the yeah, especially in the summer months.  Some are family friendly, and others are not so PG.  Some you plan to attend {the one US radio station, broadcast from a near by AF base tells you about lots of events going on outside the gate}, some you randomly find by following the noise you hear while out in town for other reasons.

Japan

my friend, Melissa, and me playing a taiko drum.  these are often a part of festivals and celebrations in Japan

Working here can be a bit challenging as there are only a few job opportunities available.  I chose to go the route of teaching English.  There are companies here who match Americans with Japanese students who want to study English.  They make it very easy for you to get started.  I also teach a group of WONDERFUL Japanese ladies at a local community club.  These women have made my time here in Japan so much more enriching.

Japan

the ladies that I teach at the community center

Shopping in Japan can be difficult,¬†especially¬†if you aren’t super thin. ¬†Even as a size 4-6 US, I have trouble finding clothes that fit sometimes. ¬†And shoes? ¬†I don’t even bother, my size 9 is non¬†existent¬†here! ¬†The style here is a bit different than it is in America. ¬†I embrace it, others don’t, but I’ve always been a tad on the funky side of fashion. ¬†I’ve shared my shopping experiences¬†here¬†and¬†here. ¬† Most of us rely on online shopping though!

Japan

a sampling of some of the more extreme fashion seen in Tokyo

¬†¬†Driving and parking can also be challenging for some. ¬†The roads are small, the cars are small and the¬†parking spots¬†are even smaller and slightly complicated to figure out! {I highly recommend NOT bringing your car here. ¬†It’s very costly and large American cars don’t fit on the road here very easily} Your best bet, stick to the trains! ¬†They go just about every where, they’re efficient, very easy to navigate and way less stressful than driving!

Japan

watching a train driver on a local train

It took me a while, but I did find a few places to volunteer out in the community where at least some people speak English!  Through a local photographer, I found a food bank in Tokyo and through that food bank, I found an organization to volunteer with after the Tsunami.

volunteering at the food bank in Tokyo with my dear friend, Melissa

 Japan

Everyday here is an adventure. ¬†You never know when you’ll turn a corner and learn/discover something new. ¬†I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind. ¬†I wasn’t thrilled the 1st time we were out and I had to use the bathroom and could not find a Western style toilet but hey it’s all about gaining life experiences right?

 Japan

a Japanese style toilet AKA squatty potty

There are tons of sights to see here. ¬†I’m quite sure it’s impossible to see everything here in just 3 years but I’m sure going to try my best to knock as many off the list as I can! ¬†I hope you’ll follow along as my journey here continues and if you ever get the opportunity to be stationed here, I hope you jump on it!

Japan

Daibutsu located about an hour away in Kamakura, Japan

I could go on and on about life here but I think that is more than enough for now. ¬†If you have any questions about life in Japan, please don’t hesitate to send me an email.

PS, I asked some friends and we come up with these tips if you happen to be PCS’ing to Camp Zama:

1.  Our PX is small, very small.  It has most of the necessities but if you are particular about a certain product, especially make-up or hair color or shampoo/conditioner, etc.  I suggest you bring those things with you.

2. ¬†We have a clinic on site for regular check-ups and day to day health issues but we do NOT have a hospital/ER. If you find your self in a situation like¬†this one, or are/become pregnant here, you will be seen at either Yokota AFB or Yokosuka Naval Base {both are any where from 1-3 hours away by car depending on traffic}. ¬†Time sensitive emergency cases can be taken to a much closer Japanese ER and the base will provide you with a translator. ¬†As far as pregnancies go, you will travel to one of those bases for all of your¬†appointments¬†through out your pregnancy and then about 2 weeks before your due date, they set you and your spouse up in a hotel there so you are close by when the time comes to deliver. ¬†I have no personal experience with this but from what I hear, it’s a pretty nice set up.

3.  Most people like to take advantage of the numerous mountains near by, especially Mt Fuji.  If you intend to do any hiking here, I recommend purchase quality boots before you come.  You can find some boots off base but they are usually 2-3 times what you would pay for the same shoe in the US.

4.  Also footwear related.  RAIN BOOTS!  Public transportation is huge here and the rainy season gives us up to 3 months of pretty steady rain.  The last thing you want is to be walking around without proper protection.  You may want to invest in some rain gear before you arrive.  Rain boots & a rain jacket at minimum are pretty essential items here!

 

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About Julie

WAHM of three boys, wife of 12 years, blogger, photography and book nerd.

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  1. Hi Julie,

    I’m an Army guy on the medical side of things who is looking at places to live next year. Japan or Korea are high on my list, but I’m concerned about my travel through either country being restricted. Are you aware of any rules that would keep me, an active duty officer, from taking a train on the weekends to explore the country? As nice as Camp Zama probably is, I’d love to leave the base, practice Japanese on unsuspecting locals, and generally have a great time being one with culture shock.

    Any advice is much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Matt

  2. I cannot tell you how excited I was coming across your blog! My husband just received orders to Camp Zama and I have been trying to gain as much insider knowledge about living there. I was quite disappointed reading that employment was limited to spouses…I am not the stay at home kind of a person and really want to work and travel Japan, as well as the surrounding countries. I am currently teaching 2/3 grade combo class and was looking into teaching English while in Japan when I came across your blog:) was it difficult to get into a company to teach? Did you have a long wait for housing. We won’t be arriving until the end of Sept. to the beginning of Oct. I thought that might work in our favor since we will not be a summer mover. Thanks for all your great info…especially the toilet pic;)

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