Our flight over wasn't too bad, as far as flights go. Aeroflot turned out to be pretty decent, especially on the long flight from Moscow where we actually had in-flight entertainment systems which go a loooong way to making a long flight more bearable. Kerri says the last few times she's flown to the states there have been no such thing, so we were grateful. Nonetheless, it was plenty long and other than Rowan (who slept for a couple of hours) we did not sleep. We arrived at Narita and made our way to immigration.
We had been told by our in-processing manager at CSC to present our "orders" (2 letters) to immigration and we should get our SOFA stamp. (SOFA = status of forces agreement; it means that we work for the military and are therefore under a different set of rules as far as living in japan is concerned). Well we did that, but they said they couldn't do it there and gave us 90 day stamps instead. They said we could change them later.
Fine, so then on through to baggage, where everyone else had already left and so our bags had been put onto a cart all ready for us! Easiest baggage experience evar. Outside to the pickup area where we were to be met by someone whose picture had been given to us...but there was no one there! In our near delusional state, we began to try and figure out how to make a phone call. The phone machines all accepted phone cards, which you could buy from some vending machines. So we needed Yen. Found a money changer, found the little form, waited til I got to the front and then saw that you needed your passport.
He was very apologetic for being late, but there was terrible unusual traffic on the way (which we saw still backed up on the way back). In our stupor we made conversation for the 1 1/2 hour drive to the Yokosuka Naval Base, just south of Yokohama (which is just south of Tokyo). The fast roads are all toll roads here, and the signage is profuse. I'm sure we'll get used to it eventually, but for now I couldn't imagine navigating my way by car. Apparently though, when you rent a car for a specific route, the car rental companies give you all the pre-paid toll tickets you need to get there and back, which is convenient.
So, first impressions of Japan? Not too many since I don't feel like we've really seen Japan yet! At the airport it was a bit disconcerting how difficult it was to make a simple phone call (I was kinda hoping the phones took credit cards). But I was on my way to figuring it out. The drive back was mostly blocked by walls as they do a good job of trying to prevent road noise from seeping into the surrounding town. It was pretty much one contiguous city from the airport to just past Yokohama. At least once we started getting into the Yokosuka area proper the topography changed a bit and became really hilly with lots of trees and scrub brush. Everything is very dry...as in brown and gray. Odd, but I guess common as winters are quite dry here, so all the plant life dries up.
We were very tired, so we went straight onto the base (which is humongous!) and all the way to the other end, right at the northern tip on the water, where the Navy Lodge is located. We checked in, got our stuff upstairs and bid adieu to our friend who had driven us. After a couple of showers (it was about 4pm) we walked next door to the Chilis (I know, I know) ate dinner, walked back to our hotel and barely managed to take clothes off before falling asleep in bed at 5pm.
So now it's almost 3am after writing this post and Rowan and I are awake. Kerri's still sleeping though, so that's good. Once we are all awake I guess it's time to tackle our bags and stuff. We will be living here a maximum of 2 (possibly 3 but I hope not) weeks, so we need to kind of treat it semi-permanently. Can't have stuff lying all over the place or it wlll feel lots smaller than it is.
One big surprise to me yesterday was that apparently you have to register your bike to ride it on base. Yikes! My whole plan was to ride my bike on base (especially at first) because it is soooo huge! We'll have to try and figure that out today if possible as I have to start being places on Tuesday. Monday is a holiday though, so it might not pan out. Nonetheless, I plan on riding my bike and pleading my case if caught. There is a bus system here, but we're not sure how frequently it goes (especially on holidays).
We can leave the base and come on (passports + orders are necessary) so we might even venture out today if we feel up to it.
Tomorrow we attend the Housing brief, where we'll learn more about the process of finding a house. They give you several days up front to start the search, so that's nice. We are leaning towards finding a furnished short-term lease at first so we can have more time to find the place we really want. We'll see...
That's it so far, not much to go on yet (and no pictures!) but hopefully we'll have more for later.