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Several George Washington sailors were ahead of the cross-cultural curve, either having lived in Japan for years or arriving a few months back with the aircraft carrier’s advance team. Following are some of their impressions and tips on how to make the most of a tour in Japan:

Chief Petty Officer Kinyatta CooperAge: 34; Hometown: Sellers, S.C.

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "I tried sushi even though my family believes fish should be eaten fried, not raw. I also rode the world’s fastest roller coaster. It was like getting shot off the catapult on a carrier."

Upon arrival (two years ago): "At first, it was horrible. But the kids were able to get around, and the smaller classrooms meant more assistance with schooling, which speaks volumes."

Advice for Nippon newbies: "I work in alcohol and drug management and awareness and there are a lot of ‘do’s and don’ts.’ Basically, be respectful and think before you drink."

Chief Petty Officer Ferdinand QuintoAge: 44; Hometown: Lemoore, Calif.

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "Eating raq fish, though you see that in the States. Same with the fresh squid ... once you try it, you like it."

Upon arrival (six years ago): "I had a good sponsor who showed me around Atsugi, where I was first assigned. Everything was new — the culture and environment. At first I was hesitant to go off base because of all the signs in kanji. People used to give directions in landmarks and I was always wondering, ‘What if the landmark isn’t there?’ Or, ‘There are a thousand 7-11s.’ Now all the signs are in English."

Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus SteedAge: 23; Hometown: Columbia, S.C.

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "I went to a restaurant where they cut meat off the fish while the fish is still moving. It was still twitching. Never again, but I tried it once."

Upon arrival (seven months ago): "It was rough in the beginning. I lost my passport, but people were helpful. Now we go to the MMA fights, New Sanno, Kadena ... a little bit of everywhere — except Yokosuka."

Advice for Nippon newbies: "Take the trains and get away from the base. If you stay on the base, you’ll be miserable."

Petty Officer 1st Class Steven DeMayAge: 35; Hometown: Ormond Beach, Fla.

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "The onsen. Walking around naked at the hot springs. People at home don’t get that — and it does take some adjusting to."

Upon arrival (in 1991): "As first, I couldn’t stand Japan — couldn’t understand the idea of becoming part of the Japanese defense when I signed up to defend the U.S. I was young and dumb — and my 1st class told me that I was a better man than that and to give it a chance. I did, and Japan grew on me."

Advice for Nippon newbies: "Go out there and get lost. Take enough yen to get back."

Lt. Manuel ArandaAge: 37; Hometown: Lennox, Calif.

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "What’s fun is taking the kids to modeling auditions. The get called for auditions and I have to wonder, ‘Are they going to be famous in Japan? Are they going to hit it big?’ It’s fun."

Upon arrival (eight months ago): "We were really excited to come to Japan ... As a kid, I was intrigued by Japan, the movie ‘Shogun’ sparked my interest. When we got here it took a couple of weeks to get over the time difference. I was also worried about what was going to happen after customs. That’s why we now have sailors meeting people at the airport with a ‘rock star’ sign."

Petty Officer 2nd Class Lehvy DavisAge: 25; Hometown: Rifle, Colo.

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "What was weird to me — and still is — is seeing kids no older than my 5-year-old son walking to school by themselves. That was a big shocker. I don’t know if I’d send my 5-year-old to get a pair of socks, much less to school."

Upon arrival (eight months ago): "At first, there was the feeling that you stand out. Not because of color and size, but unless you are Japanese there is no way to blend in."

Advice for Nippon newbies: "Keep the mind-set that it’s different. Don’t be afraid to step out."

Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas EstelleAge: 34; Hometown: Chicago

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "I eat sushi and tried the habu sake once. I also went to the Fertility Festival in Nagoya and rubbed the giant ... well, you know, with everyone else for luck. I’ve also been to the beer festival, ice festival and Bon Odori festivals."

Upon arrival (eight years ago): "I’ve lived here so long because I love the culture. People are very peaceful and kind. I can leave my door unlocked and I know my neighbors will help me out if I need them."

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesus GarciaAge: 29; Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "My son loves the squid balls here. It’s also shocking how nice everyone is and how quiet it is on the train. We expected everyone to be staring at us, but people are really nice about it."

Upon arrival (two years ago): "I was initially concerned about how my wife and son were going to like Japan. My wife had never left the States before Japan. Now she doesn’t want to leave."

Petty Officer 1st Class Guillermo AcenasAge: 34; Hometown: Quezon City, Philippines

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "I’ve been living here so long everything seems normal to me now."

Upon arrival (11 years ago): "When I got here, I just started following the crowd. I like the culture. Japanese people are honest, very honest."

Advice for Nippon newbies: "If you’re living off-base, live like your neighbors. Don’t blast loud music. Don’t have loud barbecues. Don’t bring American culture here. ... Treat people the way you see they treat each other."

Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew SpanoAge: 24; Hometown: Phoenix, Ariz.

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "I climbed Mount Fuji in the rainy season. It rained nonstop. I lost my glove on the trail and found it in exactly the same place I left it. I also left my laptop on the train once. Through learning Japanese, I was able to communicate what happened. The conductor called the train and I was able to pick it up at the next stop."

Upon arrival (four years ago): "When I first came to Japan, I was excited to be here but thinking ‘Wow, everything is in Japanese.’ I bought some Japanese software and started to pick up the language."

Petty Officer 3rd Class Greg BunderAge: 22; Hometown: Greenville, S.C.

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "I tried the octopus balls and I didn’t like them. I also went to Fuji-Q Park and hiked Mount Fuji in a thunderstorm. It was fun, I enjoyed it, But you couldn’t see three feet in front of you."

Upon arrival (four months ago): "I’m getting used to it. It’s different, but I’m getting used to it."

Advice for Nippon newbies: "Get out of the Honch and see the real Japan."

Petty Officer 1st Class Berton VanRensAge: 29; Hometown: Green Bay, Wisc.

Weirdest thing tried in Japan: "Well, I never ate a fish that still had scales on it before."

Upon arrival (two years ago): "When I first arrived here, I was shocked at how polite everyone was ... and the driving on the other side of the road."

Advice for Nippon newbies: "Don’t get in trouble and don’t stay on base. See Japan for what it is. I’ve seen more in the last three months than I have in my whole time here."


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