“Then you will walk safely in your way, And your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 3:23-24 (NKJV)
I like to refer to our time in Japan as our ‘college’ years. Years where we discovered who we were and what we wanted. Dale and I were just 21 when we went to Japan. Neither of us went to college, so when we moved overseas, it was our time of self-discovery that many have in their college years.
We spent the first two weeks of our tour there in the Navy Lodge. Today it would not rate even one star, but, that’s another story. When we arrived there was an agent from the housing office that took you to three places that would rent to American servicemen. The first house we walked in and Dale slammed his head on the doorway. I laughed, the agent laughed and the agent reminded us to duck when walking through the door. The second place Dale ducked, I smacked my head, Dale laughed, the agent laughed. I believe the third place is what we rented. It was close to the base and it felt like home, all three rooms of it. The kitchen had parquet flooring and the other rooms were tatami. The larger room was six tatami (meaning six tatami mats would fit in the floor) and the other room was four tatami. It was small and cozy. We had a toilet room and a room with a traditional Japanese bath. Just enough for the two of us.
We lived in the upstairs apartment. The home held four apartments. The steps were like a fire escape, steel and steep. An open sewage ditch surrounded the block, so when the wind was just right we made certain the windows were closed.
Next to the building was a playground.
I loved watching the kids play with their parents and with each other. Trucks would drive up daily blaring announcements of the wares they were selling. They would pull into the area beside our home and park while women would go to the truck to buy their wares for the day. I would go when the fruit and vegetable truck would come, I was not confident enough to get meat or other things from the trucks.
Down the block there was a person who would play a Japanese zither each night. The beautifully haunting music still echoes in my mind.
Our first home was a peaceful place. It was a place of safety and security. We felt at home there, even in a foreign place. It was the true beginning of our journey together. We would bump our heads often and freeze in the morning before starting our space heaters (there was no heat in the building), but it was our home. We had rice paper doors within the apartment and the tatami mats were comfortable to sleep on with our futon. It was there that our love of Japan blossomed, the food, the people, the beauty of the country.
Our Lord has made a beautiful world for us. I am so grateful I was able to be a part of Japan for that time.