As a Marine family receiving orders to our fourth duty station near Tokyo, we were out of our element when we arrived at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. This was a new country and new branch of service, so we were culture shocked x 2. Of course three weeks after arriving, the hubby’s ship went underway for the entire summer of three months, typical right?
My 18 month old and I were on our own to learn the ins and outs of the Navy and Japan. Thankfully, one of the other Marine Corps families (there’s only 5 of us here) took us under their wing. We had the chance to travel with another spouse and our three toddlers to Tokyo and stay at the military hotel, the New Sanno for a few days. It was nice to get off base and break up our everyday routine for a mini-vacation.
The New Sanno is awesome and really a great place to stay if traveling to Tokyo. It’s like its own mini base with a small exchange, 7-day store, fitness center, a pool with a shallow end (perfect for toddlers) and hot tub. It also has several restaurants, dry cleaners, an amazing concierge desk and so much more. This hotel even has a babysitting service that I have not personally utilized but I’ve heard the sitters are great.
I was pretty intimidated to go off base for a few months when I first arrived at Yokosuka. This Tokyo trip really got me out of my comfort zone and immersed into the Japanese culture. Parking is at a premium, expensive with tight parking, even for the most experienced driver, so many revert to the easiest and most affordable means of transportation which is the public transport system. The train map is VERY overwhelming but once you get on and get used to their system, it is really convenient.
We decided to check out some tourist sites and made our way to Shibuya. I read that Shibuya Crossing was compared to New York City’s Times Square and has one of the busiest cross walk in the world, and I believe it. We were quite the spectacle with our kids, umbrellas, strollers and tourist clueless faces. Did I mention we decided to take this trip during the rainy season? At one point we needed help finding our way back to the train station, so my friend asked a random stranger using simple words only to realize that he spoke perfect English and likely could have been another American, but we were too embarrassed to ask!
The following day we made our way to Harajuku. If you are a Gwen Stefani fan you know that this is one of her favorite places. Understandably so the Harajuku girls are so…so…well, so much! Not familiar with the Harajuku girls? They are young Japanese girls with the over the top, outrageous hair-dos and clothes. I wasn’t sure that we’d do well there with our strollers and narrow sidewalks and streets, but thankfully the cars don’t attempt to drive down the main shopping road and we maneuvered our way through with ease.This area quickly made it to my favorite places because it’s just so colorful!! The intriguing people, yummy eateries, window shopping as well as some real shopping – I was in awe as were my travel companions and our kids (bonus!!).