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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — From expectations of sumo wrestlers and geisha, to the reality of a language barrier as big as Mount Fuji, sailors aboard 7th Fleet’s newest destroyer are coming to grips with life in Japan.

As the reality of two weeks of living in an entirely new culture in a densely populated urban landscape emerges, there’s one thing USS McCampbell crewmembers new to Japan agree on: they definitely are not in Kansas anymore.

“I was at a restaurant and I kept looking for a fork,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Natalie Kiel, one of ship’s 115 or so sailors now calling Japan home for the first time. “That was when I realized that I was in a different country. All there was to eat with was a cup of wooden chopsticks. I didn’t even get a spoon for my soup.”

Eating utensils aren’t what stumped Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Portubal. For him, it was getting into a taxi.

“I almost jumped in the driver’s seat,” Portubal said. “It’s the whole driving on the other side of the road thing. And there are flashing lights on everything. I’m still confused.”

The experience of discovering what’s different can be a little disorienting for some. But for others, it can reveal pleasant surprises.

“The girls sure seem to like blue eyes,” Lt. j.g. Mike Brough said with an impish grin. “And while people back in the States are polite, here the politeness seems to be truly genuine. People are very respectful.”

Others are finding that Japan’s love of technology can trigger adventures in the most unsuspecting places. “I went into the restroom at a McDonalds and the toilet seat automatically lifted,” Ens. Giuliana Vellucci said with a laugh. “And then I couldn’t figure out how to make it flush. I just started pushing buttons.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Erin Campbell said she was fascinated by how Japanese men take care of their hair. “I couldn’t believe how many men there were in the hair salons,” Campbell said. “It’s cool I guess. I mean, whatever, more power to them.”


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