In the beginning, Operation Tomodachi was huge. But once the search and rescue missions were called off and there was no need for helicopters to deliver relief supplies to isolated islands and coastal communities, the US Navy's role in Operation Tomodachi had come to an end.
Returning to port, the Navy set the record for the largest number of US ships inport in Japan since the end of WWII or thereabouts. I have my doubts about that, but the harbor was pretty packed all the same:
I volunteered to stay behind for a few days to help sort out the lessons that were learned in the course of the operation as well as handing off the few remaining chores to the active duty guys on the full-time staff. This meant shifting to something more like normal office hours and actually getting a couple more days off in Japan.
Wandering around after hours, I snapped a few random Yokosuka Images. Here's a Japanese Hell's Angel:
Here's a bank of vending machines in a local toy shop:
Many of them don't make much sense to me:
I also took advantage of the opportunity to hang out with my friend Rich and his family. Rich is still on active duty with the Navy and has been stationed in Japan for a few years now.
At some point they took me to a secondhand store called "Off House." Apparently it started out at "Book Off," a used bookstore, and then expanded to include much more than just books:
I'm not 100% sure what a "Hard-Off" is, but it sounds like the opposite of Viagra.
Inside the Book-Off there were all sorts of interesting things. Even in the "Junk" section:
I didn't find anything I needed, but I did find this:
A few days later we headed up to Tokyo's Ginza district:
The plan was to hit up a particular restaurant, but we were pretty early for dinner. While we waited, we decided to wander around the neighborhood and found a toy store. Japanese toy stores are a mixed bag of really cool and really lame stuff all under the same roof.
This is where I spotted LEGO ninjas:
Maybe I've just been out of the LEGO loop for a while, but it seems like there's a lot more cool stuff available now than there was when I was a kid. For example, check out some of this year's lineup of Star Wars minifigs:
There's a LEGO Wampa. A WAMPA for Christ's sake! My childhood suddenly seems pale by comparison.
I also made the mistake of noticing some very high-end collectible HALO: Reach action figures:
I contemplated buying one or all of them for costuming references. I'm proud to say that I was able to restrain myself.
After a couple of hours of browsing, we headed over to our goal for the evening, the One Piece Restaurant:
I'm not an anime fan, but apparently "One Piece" is a fairly popular animated series in Japan about a group of pirates who have a flying pirate ship and seem to be predominately dressed in business attire. I'm sure it makes sense if you speak the language.
Rich's wife and daughter are huge fans, so we made the trek, got tickets, and had a themed dinner based on all sorts of oddities that we didn't understand. I'd imagine we felt the same way a Martian might feel if his first visit to Earth was a trip to Disneyland. Here we are looking confused about the whole thing:
We were apparently underdressed too:
Still, Barbara and Jesenia had a good time:
The food was fun:
The souvenir shop was entertaining too:
By the time we'd finished with dinner, it was well past Ricky's bedtime:
A few days later, my role in Operation Tomodachi was completed and it was time to leave.
To underscore the end of my mission with obvious symbolism, here's a sunset in Tokyo:
Once I had my orders in hand and said my goodbyes, it was only a bus trip, a couple of plane trips, and an hour on the road before I was back on board the S/V Heart of Gold. Then I stopped being "LCDR Thorsson" and became "just some dude" again.