Life is a journey. Five years ago, I would have said that this statement was little more than a cliché. My twelve-year-old eyes would have seen it on colorful coffee mugs, in brightly colored greeting cards, and in feel-good movies but never would have thought that it would apply to my life. Living in Japan proved to me that this statement isn’t quite as a cliché as I once thought it to be.
Each and every day of the two years I spent in the thriving Asian metropolis of Yokosuka, Japan, was an adventure. When I stepped outside the guarded gates of the Naval base, I was greeted by tall, thin, multicolored buildings; many Japanese people mingling with foreigners; indecipherable signs; and an oriental smell unique to Japan. I watched the Japanese people in their everyday lives. Very young, well-behaved school children rode on small scooters while strangely-shaped, small, efficient cars sped by on narrow streets parallel to the main gate. Light gray smog was sometimes visible around the peaks of buildings and the litter-free streets allowed many enjoyable shopping trips outside the base’s walls. My friends and I were free to walk where we chose and our usually over-protective parents were never given a reason to worry about our safety.
Language differences were a huge barrier. I recall viewing a brightly colored map that was neatly posted on the wall at a busy train station and being thankful that my two friends with me were able to interpret it. Had I been in America, I would have been tempted to ask for directions. In the ‘Land of the Rising Sun,’ however, this wasn’t an option for me. Cultural barriers also led to many humorous moments in my interactions with local nationals. As my friends and I struggled to stand still on the fast moving, strangely silent train we wondered why, in a train as crowded as this, we were the only people talking. It was, at the time, rather awkward because people kept glancing over at us wi