Visiting US military bases is fun for me. The US Army, US Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps use 75 facilities within Japan and Okinawa, 51 of which are dedicated and the rest 24 shared with Japan Self Defense Force. Though those facilities are usually closed to civilians, they are open to residents around them once or twice a year, and you can get inside the military places during these festivals.
Visiting those facilities is one of the few occasions to get
in touch with the United States. You can eat American-made hamburgers, hot
dogs, steaks, turkey legs, and other American foods. You can pay foods, sodas,
beer, sweets, and souvenirs with US dollars. You can talk to Americans in
English. And, you can find out how average Americans live their daily life.
What kind of groceries do they buy? What kind of foods do they eat? What kind
of newspapers do they read? What kind of school do they make their children
attend? You can catch a glimpse of those things without flying more than 12
hours to get to mainland America.
I have visited US bases and facilities in Japan and Okinawa for more than 15 years. With respect to what I have experienced, I’m grading each of these out of 5 by categories of accessibility, smoothness of entry and exit, freedom of movement, and availability of on-base building. 5 is the most excellent, and 0 the worst.
Though it was almost half a year ago, I visited Wakkanai, the northernmost end of Hokkaido. Since it was the beginning of January this year, it was extremely cold outside with plenty of snow and the streets were very slippery.
Wakkanai is deeply related to Russia, since this city is just 40 kilometers away from the southern end of Sakhalin. When Sakhalin was part of Japan in the beginning of the 20th century, the city of Wakkanai played an important role in connecting to ports of Sakhalin by ferry.
Defense is also important since it is very close to the border and there is such a risk to let illegal immigrants in and to let foreign ships invade this town.
Wakkanai is one of Japan’s cities symbolizing tragedy of the WWII. When the USSR began invasion to the southern half of the Sakhalin Island after Japan’s surrender in August 1945, nine young women were working at a telephone exchange in the island. They were encouraged to escape from the island to flee to Hokkaido as it was going to be a dangerous place very soon. They refused to do it and chose to stay there because they wanted to do their job until the last time. At the time when Soviet Union’s soldiers came to where they worked, they took their lives as they didn’t want to be captured and molested by the soldiers. The memorial monument for them is build on the hill of Wakkanai city. I was eager to see this monument, but I couldn’t do it since the hill was closed due to the heavy winter snow.
With one more day I could’ve visited the Cape Soya and see the Sakhalin Island over the Soya Channel. This would be a good reason for me to visit Wakkanai again this summer.
I think it’s too late to write this entry, but I visited Portland and Boothbay Harbor, Maine in this September. I watched a musical play Carousel at Kokugakuin Tochigi High School performed by its musical club a few weeks before. Carousel is a musical that features a love story of a young girl and a barker in Maine, filmed in 1956. That inspired me to visit this state and, if I could, eat some lobsters and clambakes.
There were no direct flights from Tokyo to Maine, so I chose flights from Tokyo (Narita) to New York (JFK), and from LaGuardia to Portland (Maine’s largest city). All flights were Delta Airlines.