This afternoon, Liam and I and our new American friend, O, took a stroll along the Japanese National Route 16. The highway runs alongside a good portion of Yokota Air Base and is known locally as the “Base Side Street.” It’s a good marketing tool for the shops and restaurants that sit along this corridor, at least judging by the brochure I picked up and the signage that shows up along the sidewalk. It’s hot and steamy here right now so walking along a busy road in a city in 90-plus degree weather would not usually be my idea of a good time, but it was worth it to get off base and out into the community. Plus, we promised ourselves a stop at our local Blue Seal, a Japanese ice cream chain with a wide array of flavors, which gave us a much-needed excuse to get out of the heat.
I’m such a newbie to Japan that I can’t place the area around base in any kind of context. Do we have more English signage than elsewhere in Tokyo? Does the variety of restaurants – this stretch includes Thai, Italian and Chinese, not to mention a bagel store – cater to the tastes of the large American population here or is that variety par for the course in Japan? What I do know is that the sidewalk was free of litter, the cars and large trucks barreled by on just the other side of the railing, and that we frequently had to step aside as cyclists rolled by us. The stretch we walked included several antique stores and used clothing shops, mainly offering vintage goods. Communication is still rather tricky for us, but Liam made the clerk in one of the shops giggle by his attempts to greet her with “Konnichiwa!”
We’d passed through this stretch of road on foot a couple nights after our arrival – we had gone out to dinner with another family — but this was the first time I’d lingered, not to mention walked it in daylight. We were only gone for a few hours but it felt good to take a few more steps toward getting to know our new home.
A few more images from our walk along 16 today: