If you are new here, please understand that I am unabashedly pro-American. I’m adamant that we serve a great cause worldwide. That a world without United States would be terrible. Yet, I had an experience in Japan that rattled these convictions.
Our plane landed at Narita Airport in the late afternoon. It was me and two contractors, both former Navy. One a retired Master Chief and the other, a seasoned tech.
We caught the train from Narita to Yokosuka. It took us hopping onto a couple of lines. Which ones, I could not say. And we rode each train for a dozen stops or more.
As we got closer to base, we switched to a crowded commuter line. Two things I noticed immediately about Japan: the locals were deathly quiet and it was clean. Very much so.
Having spent a good chunk of time in New York, I knew the rush of warm air, the squeal of the subway, and the voices. Kids yelling. Businessmen on cellphones. Rappers and guitarists on dirty benches at the subway stops. Sitting and playing. Standing and rapping. You won’t find any of that in Japan.
Four stops from Yokosuka, the doors opened and three American Sailors stumbled in. Flip-flops and tank-tops. One immediately started cussing. I glared at him. He looked away. The train was quiet for a second, just as it was the two hours before they came on.
Then another kid piped up. Man, I hate Japanese women. Why do they gotta do me like that? I have been here for f***in’ three weeks. And I hate it. Japanese girls. . .
You telling me, the other one, the cusser, mumbled.
I stared around the train. The Japanese men held their gaze at the floor. Maybe shamed. The locals seemed so quiet, I couldn’t tell if I understood their embarrassment. Or maybe they just do not understand English?
I do not like this culture, the complainer continued. With a couple more cuss words.
I cut in. Guys, please.
The one closest gawked at me with a rummy face. We can’t help ourselves, he said, slurring his words.
Everyone can help themselves, I replied. The retired Master Chief looked over at him and then me. He rolled his eyes and shook his head.
Look at me, I am covered in tats. I am screwed, he continued.
You can cover them up. And tats mean nothing.
They were quiet. Relatively so. Then they talked among themselves. About work. Deck Sailors. Catching jets during the day. And during night ops.
I knew their story: fifteen hour days in brown shirts. Purple shirts. White. Green. Yellow shirts. Blue. Red. Which flavor they were, I did not hear. One of them.
And the doors opened and the warm, humid night whisked them away.
We waved at a taxi and squeezed in. The driver was wearing white gloves. His taxi was older. As in ten years old. Lace doilies lined the headrests.
We rolled down the main drag. The edge of the Honch stared at us from beyond the taxi window. My Japan deployment was just beginning. . .