Iwakuni Marines explore Japan’s capital

With a population of over eight million residents, this city is home to both Japanese culture and history. With areas like Shibuya for shopping, Roppongi for partying, and the Imperial Palace; this city is a must for anyone who travels to Japan.

Station Marines and sailors visited one of the most populated cities in the world, Tokyo, during a Single Marine Program trip, July 12 through 18.

“I was looking for ideas to give Marines and sailors a chance to see the many culture sites through out Japan like Miyajima, Kintai Castle and Shuhodo caves,” said Jay Stovall, SMP coordinator. “The logical choice was to visit the largest city and capital of Japan. The trip was an extension of the SMP’s parameters of providing constructive recreation that was originally designed and guided by single Marines themselves. From south Japan, we don’t get many opportunities to seize some of the sites in Tokyo and Mount Fuji.”

During the week-long visit, the service members stayed at the New Sanno Hotel, which is located in the Azabu residential area of Tokyo. The luxurious hotel offers services to military personnel and their guests. It is in walking distance from the local train station, which networks around Tokyo.

“The hotel was awesome, we had great service,” remarked Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronnie Nix, station adjutant clerk and native of Maplesville, Ala. “I felt like I was a millionaire staying in a very expensive hotel, like in a Hilton.”

During the trip one of the first places the service members visited was, Disneyland. The fun-filled amusement park offers a cozy and child-like atmosphere for everyone, no matter what age. Though out the day, it was common to hear a Marine burst out and say, “Let’s go check out this ride, it was one of my favorites when I was kid.”

“Disneyland was pretty good, it was a little different than the one back in the states, but for the most part, they seemed to have the same things,” said Lance Cpl. Mathew T. Weigand, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron air traffic controller and native of Ventura, Calif. “Disneyland is always a good time, it’s for kids, but at the same time, it has all of the characters that you grew up with. Even as an adult, it gives you that idea that you can go back to childhood and just hangout. One of my favorite rides is ‘It’s a small world.’ It’s been a tradition ever since I was a kid. Being in Tokyo I had to go on it.”

After a day of walking around with some of America’s most famous cartoon characters, it was time for the service members to change it up a little bit by experiencing some of the culture and history behind the capital of Japan. The group visited Kamakura, which is located in Kanagawa Prefecture. While walking around the many temples, shrines, and historical monuments, the Marines and sailors learned many interesting facts about the area and the history surrounding it.

“It reminded me of the old Japanese architecture in the movie ‘The Last Samurai,’” said Weigand. “Even though that movie takes place a long time ago, all of the buildings looked exactly the same as in the movie.”

On the last day of the trip, it was time to check off one of the many obstacles on every adventurers check list, Mount Fuji. The volcanic mountains towers 12,388 feet above the sea, and has been awing artists, admirers, and climbers from all over the world for centuries. For the service members it was a challenge, which tested them both mentally and physically.

“Mount Fuji gets really challenging when you get to the high altitudes and the oxygen is really low. You have to stop frequently just to catch your breath,” said Nix. Not being able to see the top is kind of discouraging. But once you get to the top, you’re glad you did it. It is a once in a lifetime thing, how many people do you know from your hometown who will be able to say, ‘I climbed Mount Fuji.’ There’s not that many people who can. Plus you got the Fuji stick to prove it, with all of the stamps on it.”

On the 12-hour bus ride back to their home in Iwakuni, the Marines and sailors were able to reflect on the past five days, dazed after the visit to one of the biggest and interesting cities in Japan. Not only will they have stories to tell their friends back in Iwakuni, but will have them for the rest of their lives.

“I’ve been to a lot of places and every time I go somewhere new, I sit there and think to myself, I can’t believe I am getting paid to do this,” smiled Nix. “I grew up in Alabama and if you would have told me I was going to climb Mount Fuji, I would have been like, what’s Mount Fuji? But now that I have done it, it’s like wow, not too many people get to do that in their lifetime.”


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