Land of the Rising Sun – Life in Iwakuni

Iwakuni MCAS

Corey, Joanna, and the girls live on base, at Iwakuni MCAS.

Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni or MCAS Iwakuni (IATA: IWKICAO: RJOI) is a United States Marine Corps air station located in the Nishiki river delta, 1.3 NM (2.4 km; 1.5 mi) southeast of Iwakuni Station[3] in the city of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi, Japan.

This was the base of operation for our 10-day visit.  It took a few days to get comfortable with the ins and outs of life on a military base.  Overall, it is quite livable, and like visiting a foreign country inside a foreign country.  As expected, security is tight, MUCH tighter than when visiting numerous NC bases when I was in food sales.  Sheree and I thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality, accommodations,  and the “girls”! (Sorry, no pics of the girls)

We ventured out, both on and off base, for some exercise and birding.  There is not much left of the original ecosystem of the Nishiki River delta, but nature finds a way.  There were good populations of a variety of waterfowl on base in the reservoirs along the seawall (Tsunami wall), and an awesome collection of birds in the “lotus fields” just outside the south gate.  Lotus?  Yes, Lotus.  What an unexpected surprise. At first, I thought the rectangular water-filled fields were rice pattys.  The plants were just breaking the surface.  

Funny thing, I totally forgot to take any pictures on base except for the apartment. 

Accommodations at Iwakuni MCAS

Glitter in my suitcase when we got home. (Pictured - Magee Beppu, our travel mouse)

Fun in the yard.

We had a wonderful afternoon decorating these planter buckets for Corey’s hanging garden, a necessary gardening approach due to limited space.  If I recall correctly, we painted/decorated a dozen buckets.  The weather was perfect, sunny, about 70 with a light breeze.  A nice relaxing activity, after touring Miyajima the previous day, and a good way to rest up prior to our departure the next day. 

Just outside the gate, this is how the lotus fields will look a few weeks after our visit.

Life in Iwakuni

Iwakuni is a city of stark contrast.  The military base, south of downtown, takes up a large area of the river delta, and adjacent is numerous large flooded fields used to grow lotus.  As you drive from the base, towards downtown, you pass a series of industrial plants – a refinery, plastics manufacturer and paper mill.  The highway reminded me of Capitol Blvd., yet I felt completely lost.  Nothing looked familiar, signage, buildings, and the challenge to find anything was thankfully left to Corey.   The downtown area is a typical city in some ways, yet very different in its vibe, it’s low noise level and polite people.    We most enjoyed walking around the lotus fields and along the sea wall (read “tsunami”), as well as eating out. Our first exposure to ancient Japanese culture was on the first day, at the Kintai Bridge.

Kintai Bridge

The Kintai Bridge (錦帯橋 Kintai-kyō?) is a historical wooden arch bridge, in the city of Iwakuni, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan.

The bridge was built in 1673, spanning the Nishiki River in a series of five wooden arches. The bridge is located on the foot of Mt.Yokoyama, at the top of which lies Iwakuni Castle.

Kikkou Park, which includes the bridge and castle, is a popular tourist destination in Japan, particularly during the Cherry blossom festival in the spring and the autumn color change of the Japanese maples (momiji). It was declared a National Treasure in 1922.

Our first day in Japan, 10% the jet lag we experienced on the return trip.

One of many memorial shrines in Kikko Park.

Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture is home to a unique albino snake that is generally found nowhere else in Japan.

Toilet Directions - and it was not unusual to have a remote control device on the wall.

Typical Japanese toilet. I used the lever, when available.

Cormorants used to catch fish in the river, an ancient Japanese tradition.

Thank goodness we have a guide.

Teamwork - one man with the trimmer, three to hold up the screening to keep clippings contained.

Typical Japanese bicycles, baskets essential.

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