Jake and I drove to the Tex Mex place right next to the main gate on base to meet with my new Japanese acquaintance Miyabi. It was only a week or two ago when I first met her at the cold weather gear issue warehouse. Staff Sergeant Armendariz drove me to the building in order for me to collect my military winder jacket, long underwear, hat, gloves, ect. Miyabi was at the counter and checked in my stuff. We went into a short conversation; some words and phrases in english and some in Japanese. Right there I asked her if she wanted to hang out sometime. Its super difficult to find female friends on a military base, especially one who is Japanese and can speak english! We ended up scheduling this get together to talk about future possibilities of enhancing each others language skills. While Estle was driving I noticed how narrow the street was with little to no parking, henceforth, Jake parked in some random spot. We walked to the small Mexican restaurant and enjoyed some pepper soup appetizer. We were about to order our burritos, tacos, ect. when a elderly Japanese women came up to our table and started rambling off in Japanese way too fast for me to understand. I’ve been practicing Japanese, yet I could not distinguish any coherent word from her dialogue. Thankfully, Miyabi and her friend Osarah was there to translate what the women was saying Jake’s car was parked in the wrong place... It is mind boggling that this women who owned a restaurant down the road knew that we were there at the Mexican restaurant and that our car was not parked in that space for the intent of going to her restaurant. I suppose in a little Japanese town such as this one, that is a big deal. Back in the Mexican place our meals came out and Miyabi and her friend said “ittakimas”-bon appetit. As we ate we discussed interesting aspects about the Japanese culture. For example, if a person wants to jester to another to come their way they keep their palm facing down and move their fingers consecutively back and forth. On the other hand, Americans may turn their palm up and motion with their pointer finger or all fingers at once to emphasize they want someone to come to them. Another discussion we had was about the Japanese janitors on base. Apparently, they are called mama-sons. At work they always bring in food for my co-workers and I (they are the most hard working and generous people I’ve ever met)...Another interesting thing Miyabe told us is if we addressed a man we would say son at the end of his name or koon for a young male (Miyagi-son and Daniel-son) and chan after a womans name (Kayto-chan). My name in Japan is pronouced Kayto instead of Kate. The most interesting part of our conversation was about geography. On the western side of Japan they are known to have a French accent! If I lived there then my life would be complete (I speak fluent french)! A few hours passed, maybe three, before we were kicked out of the building. The Tex Mex place closed between lunch and dinner hours. To be able to speak to a local felt awesome. Next on the list of things to do was to find the Hachinohe Fish Market at the Hasshoku Center. We swung by Gallegos’ place (our little Pilipino friend) and headed off. The directions I got from my e-mail was difficult to understand. The standpoint of the sender (of the e-mail) was from one that was experienced in the area, per contra we didn’t know our way around and couldn’t recognize the referenced points. Eventually, we made it to our destination out of sheer dumb luck. We drove in a circle once and almost made a u-turn before we spotted the large yellow building. The reason we knew about this place was because the Ready Start brought us there a long time ago. Free samples were everywhere and we took full advantage of it. The only foods I regret trying were the raw fish eggs and squid jerky. Definitely a no go! A popular dessert from the market was the squid cake (also tried that on the Ready Start tour).For a small bag it was about $15...it was worth it though because it tasted so amazing and different from the regular kit-kats we are accustomed to back home in America. Actually, 15 various flavors of kit-kats exist in Japan and they are: strawberry, citrus golden blend, pear, shinshu apple, edamame soybean, purple sweet potato, hot Japanese chili, cinnamon cookie, strawberry cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake, matcha-green tea, hojicha roasted tea, brown sugar syrup, red bean sandwich, and wasabi. That’s a lot of flavors and many of them are seasonal. On the way back we tried to find the Kushihiki shrine that we saw on our Ready Start tour as well. My GPS lead us to a cemetery instead! Even though that was not where we intended to go it was still an interesting experience. The grave yard was covered with a blanket of crunchy white snow and the sun was already hidden behind the horizon. Grey and black tombs lined in rows had their own unique design, yet had a similar style (one could compare them to the tomb stones seen in the Disney movie Mulan). Lines of Japanese characters (kanji and kana) were etched in the reflective stones. Most of them had alters, places where food and flowers were left behind, an area for incense, ect. Sotobas- long flat wooden sticks with more Japanese characters as wide in length as my hand, thick as half my pinkey, and as long as a 5’7” female (myself) were held in place on these tomb stones. They overlapped each other near the ground and fanned out like a Japanese fan at the other end. It is unknown to me what their significance are henceforth I have made it my goal to find out and understand the Japanese traditions. The night was getting colder and the sky darker forcing us to quite the area and go home. All of a sudden I had an epiphany that many of my family members were about to celebrate their birthdays. My Grandma Westerham is on the 24th of January, Owen (my brother) on January 27th, my little step-sister Grace has her’s on the 29th, and I have mine on the 5th of February. It just goes to say that late January to early February is a huge deal (when thinking of death one tends to think about life and birthdays...). I convinced Jake to go to the grocery store in town so I could buy Japanese candy as gifts. A crepe shop in the small store caught our attention and we bought some. They were pretty scrumptious. In spite of the talented Japanese cooking skills, the crepes I made with my host family in Belgium will forever be the best. Thereafter we proceeded to go to Jake’s apartment to watch a movie and call it a night.