In Hot Water

Kawazu, Japan

The last month has been challenging. All my spring allergy symptoms culminated in a diagnosis of pneumonia a few weeks ago. I spent a week almost entirely in bed. Thankfully Will’s school allowed him to attend extra days and kept him late. This was especially helpful as Mike was out of town for work. The next week I desperately tried to rest between three trips to Tokyo where Will had another modeling job. We also quietly acknowledged our first Japanniversary. I had hoped to spend the week celebrating with lots of fun activities but instead I barely made it up a flight of stairs to watch the Zushi Beach fireworks from our neighborhood. It was a fairly lame celebration although Will had a great time playing with the neighborhood children. Last week I got out a bit, but learned how easily I became fatigued. In short, we have not been having a lot of fun.

5.1466133549.zushi-fireworksLast week was also frustrating as on Monday, June 6, the Navy Forces in Japan implemented an Alcohol Ban and Liberty Restriction order. This is in response to a few severe incidents involving navy personnel and others associated with the navy largely in the Okinawa area. All active duty are currently prohibited from consuming alcohol even in their own homes. Last week, all active duty was prohibited from traveling off base unless they live off base (like us). In that case they were allowed to travel home. Essential travel such as picking up and dropping off children at school, grocery shopping etc was also allowed. Spouses have been asked to comply in solidarity. Although I understand the need to limit alcohol-related incidents, I really struggled with the execution of these orders. First, I simply resent being treated like a child, and I find it insulting that my husband can die for his country yet cannot consume an alcoholic beverage especially at home or if on vacation. Second, I was greatly bothered by people in positions of leadership using language that misled some spouses to believe they could be sent home from Japan for not following this policy. Third, the leadership has continually emphasized that these restrictions are meant to help remedy the situation but it can’t help but feel like punishment when it’s been extended into one’s own home. I further believe the ambassador argument falls flat as I we are not ambassadors of the United States while enjoying a glass of wine and watching a movie on our couch. In addition and perhaps most importantly, I feel the Navy has done very little to provide resources for those who may be struggling to abide by this policy despite continually stating the policy is a remediation. It’s shameful when at a Thursday Town Hall meeting a weekly Wednesday AA meeting is the sole resource offered to help those with dependency issues. It’s also worth noting this base is a very small community, and I find it impossible to believe an AA meeting could actually be anonymous. And it’s not like there are English AA meetings held off the base either. I have been extremely angered by the way in which this has been handled, but will limit my discussion here. Although I hope that in 2016 my husband won’t suffer any career repercussions because of his wife’s personal opinions, it’s probably better not to test that theory.

The policy did have an impact on our latest adventure. The initial Liberty restrictions only allowed for Mike to travel directly home from work and remain there since we live off-base. It was hard not to feel like we were grounded because someone else made a mistake and the admirals found themselves in hot water. It was also very frustrating as we had signed up for an ITT tour on Sunday. ITT kept changing their policies as multiple clarifications of the liberty policy were distributed throughout the week. Mike and I concluded the only way we could guarantee getting all our money back for Mike’s spot (if he was not going to be allowed to go over the weekend) was to cancel his place on the tour by the normal Wednesday deadline. Mike and I discussed cancelling the tour for all of us, but the weather looked perfect (we’d cancelled our spots on this tour in the fall due to a nasty weather forecast). Mike also felt that if he were prohibited from leaving the house over the weekend that he would benefit more from a quiet, relaxing day at home alone. We decided Will and I would go, and if we enjoyed it we could all go again another time. Of course on Friday morning of last week, they announced that active-duty were now allowed to travel off base for recreation. Unfortunately Mike’s spot on the trip had been filled. I tried to not let this bother me even though there were empty seats on the bus come Sunday.

5.1466133549.joren-waterfall-in-izuWill and I boarded the bus at 5:30 am. The summer sun already shining brightly in the sky. We stopped for breakfast on the way and arrived at the first waterfall, Joren Daru, at 10 am. I reminded Will about the time Mike fell in the water at the waterfall in Thailand. It was meant to be a cautionary tale. Instead, my usually brave and adventurous boy became scared to see the waterfall. I had to carry him kicking and screaming down A LOT of stairs to the observation deck. He quickly calmed down, but refused to venture down the narrow path along the river. Instead of beautiful Joren Daru, the highlight for Will at this stop was a pair of cats in the souvenir shop dancing to a horrible Shania Twain song.

5.1466133549.kama-daru-or-kama-fallsA short bus ride later, we arrived at Izu’s famous seven waterfalls, Nanadaru National Park. We followed the paved path along the Kawazu river stopping to admire the various falls. It was an easy stroll which was appreciated since I didn’t have a lot of energy. Will was very happy playing with rocks and sticks and enjoying the spray from the waterfalls. He especially loved jumping up and down on the various suspension bridges causing them to bounce. I’d picked up lunch at our breakfast stop which we ate by Kama Falls. We later enjoyed an ice cream cone along the Kawazu river, vanilla for Will and black sesame (one of my favorite Japanese flavors) for me. At one o’clock, we met back up with Kazumi, our favorite ITT guide. She escorted us to the Hot Springs (onsen) at Oh-daru, the seventh and largest waterfall. Once we changed into our swimsuits, we began the long walk down to the base of the falls. Along the way, we ducked into a small cave that contained a small hot springs pool. I’m not sure why but this particular cave made a lot of creaking and moaning sounds. Will quickly got scared of the monsters in the cave so we continued our way down to the main onsen. Several small pools were scattered along the perimeter of the large falls and river. The pools varied in temperature from warm to almost too-hot to bear. Will had a fantastic time dipping in and out of the pools and climbing the rocks along the side. I tried my best to relax in each pool before following him to another. Will finally settled in the closest pool to the falls. It was the perfect temperature and had a pipe shooting water into it which held his attention long enough for me to fully relax. Shortly before we had to leave, Will discovered a hallway that soon turned into a waist-high hot waterway leading into a cave. We wound our way back through the vast cavern. It was a fun addition to an already wonderful onsen experience.

5.1466133549.loving-the-hot-springs-pools-at-oh-daruI admit I was nervous about overdoing it on this tour since it was such a long day. Luckily, Kazumi was a great help–she even carried Will to the car for me at the end of the day. Despite being pretty wiped out on Monday, I do think I greatly benefited from going on this tour. It was actually quite a relaxing trip. Will behaved himself even with spending seven hours on the bus. I think I really needed to get out and enjoy Japan again. I realized my illness had been making me feel a little depressed lately. All the stress, tension, and unpleasantness surrounding the alcohol and liberty ban have also contributed to a negative environment. This trip was very much needed and appreciated. I am feeling almost fully recovered and restored. I can’t wait to see what our second year in Japan brings. Though I must add that I hope it soon sees a complete lifting of the alcohol ban as next week we travel to Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido for our next family vacation.5.1466133549.oh-daru-hot-spring-pool

UPDATE: The alcohol ban was eased this morning (after almost 2 weeks) to allow for alcohol consumption in one’s home and on base. Alcohol consumption off base for navy personnel anywhere in Japan still remains in effect indefinitely. This afternoon ITT announced that the Fourth of July fireworks have been cancelled. Although our base has yet to receive an official reason for this, other bases in Japan have released that all Fourth of July fireworks and concerts are cancelled as part of the response to the events in Okinawa. As you can imagine, this is not being very well-received. Many are extremely offended that those who fight to preserve our independence and freedom are having their Independence Day celebrations cancelled due to the actions of a two individuals.

More info and photos below…

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