Welcome to Japan! We know how you feel. You want to get out and see the area but you can’t retain any Japanese place names. Tachikawa, Ishikawa, Kamakura — they all run together in your mind. You see other Americans […]
Welcome to Japan! We know how you feel. You want to get out and see the area but you can’t retain any Japanese place names. Tachikawa, Ishikawa, Kamakura — they all run together in your mind. You see other Americans speak a few words of Japanese — asking for the bill, getting directions, speaking to shop clerks — and you think you’ll never be able to do the same. You’re nervous about driving off base. Rest assured: We’ve all been there. It goes away. Here are a few tips to get you started.
•Download the app Yokota Connect on the Apple App Store or Google Play. There is a useful section for Newcomers with up to date information. You can also go to the Yujo Center (across from the Chapel) and talk to the resourceful people who work at the information desk. They are unbelievably helpful and patient, not matter how specific or vague your questions.
•Get connected on Facebook. Even if you only use a social media account to help find information on base, the one most often used (as of 2020) is Facebook. Some useful groups to join and find a wealth of information and help you get set up upon arrival include: Yokota Spouses and Families, Yokota Eats and Travels, Yokota Swap Page, and the official page for Yokota Air Base.
•Trust in Google!! Thanks to Google Translate (including the live camera translate option on your phone) and Google Maps, getting around and exploring Japan has never been easier. Get used to hearing the phrase, “do you have a pin?!?!” because using GPS on your phone with Google Maps or Apple Maps makes it easy to find your way. It’s very common to find new spots and get recommendations from other people at Yokota Air Base by getting a pin to use on your own.
• Sign up for the free “Survival Japanese” course at the Airman and Family Readiness Center, the building behind Chili’s, by the Commissary. Take it as many times as you like, or just use it to get comfortable with a few phrases.
•Start with Japanese by trying to learn Katakana. This Japanese alphabet is used almost exclusively for English words, so if you see these letters on a sign or a menu, chances are you will know the word once you’re able to sound it out. You can learn Katakana in a few hours. There are some great Katakana apps available, or even print out your favorite chart and post it at home to keep practicing! Here’s one that uses mnemonics for easier memorizing!
•Use the train: Buy a Suica card for the train. It’s so much easier than using individual tickets. Read how here. Find a copy of the train map in English. They’re available at some English bookstores. Here’s an online version.
•Phone a friend! Make sure you have the base switchboard number — 042-552-2511 — in your cell phone. It’s an easy way to get connected to DSN numbers for services on base as you’re discovering what’s available to you, and extra assurance if you’re ever lost off base. You can call someone on base for help without making an international call.
Last updated July 11, 2020