Even Monkeys Fall From Trees: Moving to Japan


Even He Scratches His Head at Our Missing Items

Even He Scratches His Head at Our Missing Items

Head-Scratching & Expressly Missing

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” ~John Wooden

“Little things console us because little things afflict us.” ~Blaise Pascal

“百日の説法屁一つ” ~Japanese proverb, loosely, “breaking wind in front of the congregation ruins 100 days of sermon….”  Or, that the little things sometimes mean the most.

Or, “Saru mo ki kara ochiru (猿も木から落ちる),” literally, “even monkeys fall from trees….”

even_monkeys_fall_from_trees_postcard-rd1092d78fd70496baf49699b90a1bb16_vgbaq_8byvr_324

That last Japanese proverb is more commonly interpreted as anyone can make a mistake.  And mistake we did in setting aside items for our “express shipment” to Okinawa.  You see, when you move overseas in the military– technically called a “Permanent Change of Station (PCS)” – you are allowed two moves.  Three, if you are not entitled to your full weight allowance, which figures on both rank and whether or not one has dependents (read:  a family).

The Majority of Our Stuff Going into Storage

The Majority of Our Stuff Going into Storage

To Okinawa we are limited to ¼ of our nominal weight allowance, which is odd because the Army and Air Force generally come with their full moving entitlement.  The Navy (and Marine Corps) argue that the places here are too small to handle the American plethora of goods, and while there is some truth to such a statement, the truth is always somewhere in the middle.  And by middle I mean that it saves the service money at the expense of the member….

It takes more than the village...to move properly to Japan.

It takes more than the village…to move properly to Japan.

At the Lieutenant Commander rank with dependents (that’s me), our moving weight entitlement is something like 17,000 pounds.  Thus, moving to Okinawa we get about 4,300 pounds for this move…which includes all three individual moves:  1) an “Unaccompanied Baggage (UB)” express shipment to Okinawa of about 1,000 pounds maximum; 2) a HouseHold Goods (HHG) shipment of the remainder, or about 3,300 pounds; and 3) a Non-Temporary Storage (NTS) shipment of the rest of our “stuff” that goes into storage state-side for the three years we are assigned to Japan.

We actually used 700 pounds of UB, and almost 7,000 pounds of household goods!  Not sure how the Navy is going to feel about that, and we still, as of writing, have no idea how much our storage shipment weighed.

Our Express Shipment Crated

Our Express Shipment Crated

Our Express Shipment was picked up on the 8th of August in Pensacola, Florida, and had a “Required Delivery Date (RDD)” of 12 September.  That’s about 35 days for those of you who are counting, and believe me, I am a counter…when you are depending on a loaner-kitchen.  Prior to the arrival of this “stuff,” we are literally living out of six suitcases carried with us via commercial airliner.  This included one 65 pound bag dedicated to two full sets of dive gear, and a whole host of cat-equipment, including not one, but two pet carriers….  See “Feline Fiasco” and “Nine Lives and Hard Travels” for more on those particular necessities!  We did get the most basic kitchen utensils from the Marine Corps’ “loan locker” here…but for just 30 days.

So, one can quickly image that after five full weeks of living out of suit cases and kitchen something like you might find while camping, and trying with all your might to attempt to delay purchases for those items which you know are coming, for which you start counting not only days, but hours until that all-important unaccompanied baggage is due to show.

In our case, there was nothing heard from the military personal property office on our express, right up until the required due date.  I, of course, being jaded about the military and their intelligence at times, was already considering the worse:  the shipment, clearly, had washed overboard from some third-world-lowest-bidder freighter in one of the four tropical storms to affect Okinawa since our arrival.

Surely our crate washed overboard....

Surely our crate washed overboard….

Alas, Jody calls on our due date and, like pennies from heaven, our shipment did indeed arrive Kadena Air Base on the 12th.  Or so we were told.  Talk about a “just-in-time” means of delivery; it makes me wonder whether or not the shipping company shipped to arrive at the latest possible time, or, did they have the opportunity to get it here earlier?  Like I said, I’m jaded at times…and every time when it comes to the government.

Our Crated Goods in Japan

Our Crated Goods in Japan

Unfortunately, our shipment didn’t or couldn’t clear costumes and the military officials in time for delivery that day.  But it was scheduled for the next day, and thanks be the gods (or at least Hermes), our long-anticipated and much-needed 700 pounds of mystery possessions do indeed show up at our doorstep.  Or at least in our parking lot.

Secured Goods.  We Hope.

Secured Goods. We Hope.

After okaying the costumes seals were still intact on our crate, the movers open and start brining boxes up one after another.  The first thing I will say is that 700 pounds doesn’t go very far.

And the most important thing I’ll say is that no matter how much weight you receive, if you didn’t pack the right things at the shipping end, you end up revisiting all those purchases you’ve been denying yourself thinking certain things were, most certainly, on their way!  But aren’t.

That Sinking Feeling of Items Forgotten

That Sinking Feeling of Items Forgotten

So, for those of you either packing to come overseas, or for those of you just merely interested in where we fell short, here’s an expressly short list of things we really wish we had packed for Okinawa:

Christmas Can Be Early:  Check Your List Twice

Christmas Can Be Early: Check Your List Twice

  • A Vacuum Cleaner, especially since we bought a brand-new one for Japan; our new rugs are looking old before their time, and will have to be swept I guess….
  • Except we didn’t pack a Broom, either.  Or a Dustpan, or Swifter, or even Basic Cleaning Supplies.  We’ll wait, unhappily, for the vacuum, but we had to get these basics to help clean up this mess, literally and figuratively.
  • Pillows & Blanket.  Well, we ended up buying pillows and a lame blanket two weeks ago to used on our military-provided full-size bed (yes, I said full-size), so this one isn’t so bad.
While there may be cushion in the government's budget, there is none in their beds.

While there may be cushion in the government’s budget, there is none in their beds.

  • Except that I set aside the Pillow-Top under-covering for our bed since I was afraid the dang thing would take up too much room.  It was the size of a small Japanese car, mind you.  Make sure you have the linens you really want; sleep is a very important commodity when you are dealing with ten time zones of change.
  • Coffee Mugs.  I did a great job setting aside about ¼ of about the ½ of the kitchen we are bringing (did you follow that math?).  This 1/8th of our state-side kitchen is quite well-appointed; in fact, as the familial domestic engineer and kept man, I cooked a kick-ass Sage & Basil Chicken Fettuccine dinner just last night with our newly arrived cookery.  Included are enough pots, pans, utensils, flatware, and dish service for four.  There is Tupperware for storage and for Jody’s lunches, along with our microwave.  And we even have our K-Cup machine…but with no mugs in which to brew all the good get-me-up juices.  I consider this a good investigation of our tempered drinking glasses.
Okay, you got us:  we are tea drinkers....

Okay, you got us: we are tea drinkers….

  • Toaster.  We have a microwave – another boxy but larger cooking accoutrement, and it’ll heat bread like nobody’s business, but it won’t brown bread to an ultimate crispy, golden deliciousness.  The microwave’s littler boxy cousin takes up no room and weighs next to nothing; do yourself a favor and keep the kissing cousins together!
Bring Your Toaster

Bring Your Toaster

  • Iron & Ironing Board.  Can you begin to even imagine how wrinkled our clothes are having spent the 36 day journey in a lay-down wardrobe…that’s been shifted to and fro?  Do you really think that those clothes stay neatly packed and their hangers??  The government really should throw in a few extra bucks so that we can at least have standup wardrobes for international moves.  They don’t, ‘cause such standup boxes take up too much room…which equates to money.  The Navy should be paying for some amount of dry-cleaning and pressing, at least.
Built-in Shelving from our Okinawan Home in 1999

Built-in Shelving from our Okinawan Home in 1999

  • Shelves.  They are not just for books in Japan.  It’s odd to me that while traditional Okinawan homes often have a wide variety of built-in storage, modern construction here lacks almost any type of storage outside of the most basic (and small) closet.  We have, over the years, accumulated a number of those stackable, customizable heavy metal shelving units that are so popular in Japan.  I had a number from my last time here, and Jody purchased some while stationed in Cuba.  In any case, although we have a whole host of linens, towels (beach & bath), and wash-cloths, we have nowhere to put them!
Sexiest Cartoon:  I am the Spouse...and Domestic Engineer...and Kept Man!

Sexiest Cartoon: I am the Spouse…and Domestic Engineer…and Kept Man!

small_things_quote_webWe are often told to “…not sweat the small stuff,” and that the little things don’t matter.  And while this type of philosophy may result in chicken soup for your soul, it’s awfully hard to cook that soup without a kitchen.  Accordingly, sometimes the littlest things do matter, and they do very much.  If you stop and give this discussion a dose of contemplation, and then think about what you would really want if you only had a thousand pounds of your “stuff” to live with, your list would be quite drastically different than if asked what things you would want to live for.  The latter includes all those big-dollar items of plenty that make our lives so (and maybe too) busy and full in America…so crammed that self-storage business in the United States is BIG business.

But it is the former where we are able to make living a life not just feasible, maybe not quite comfortable, but so much more agreeable.  Delicious freshly-cooked food, newly-brewed hot teas and coffees, a hygienic home and clean clothes, and, at the end of the day, sound slumber.  In all these ways, it is indeed the little things that allow for the big things in our lives to materialize.

Where's the Book on "Packing for Japan"!

Where’s the Book on “Packing for Japan”!

PS – Check out this link for a rather eccentric yet comprehensive list of things to pack for Japan.  It’s part of this blog about surviving a move to Japan!

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