Misawa Air Base is a US air base located on the northeastern shores of Honshu, adjacent to Misawa City in Aomori Prefecture, Tohoku, Japan. The base is home to 5,200 US military personnel, as well as 300 US civilian employees and 900 local national employees. Misawa is the only combined, joint service installation in the western Pacific. It houses all four US military services (Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines) as well as the Japan Air Self Defense Force.

In 1989, when I was a feisty little tyke of about six, my father (who was an Air Force officer at the time) was transferred to Misawa, with the rest of the family in tow. Young as I was, I soaked the culture right up. My parents never passed up an opportunity to tell me what a lucky kid I was, getting to live overseas, but they didn't need to -- I was having a blast. My memories of Misawa (and of Japan as a whole) are, to this day, my most cherished.

Growing up in Japan was amazing. Japanese people are some of the nicest (and strangest) people on Earth. During the six-month period when we lived off-base, I managed to get myself lost in Misawa one evening and wandered around for many, many hours, crying and looking generally helpless and, well, lost. And yet, nobody messed with me and I ended up stumbling across a very kind young Japanese woman who understood my sob-distorted English and helped me call my mom.

Living on-base was an adventure as well. Japan is a beautiful, beautiful country, and Misawa is a gem of natural and cultural beauty. Even within the confines of the base itself, there was a golf course (on which my friends and I wreaked endless havoc with golfers), deep dark jungle-like forests (which we explored with relish), and even a good portion of Lake Ogawara (which provided all the swimmy goodness of a beach without the deadly Japan undertow). I spent all my time exploring, and I never ever ran out of places to explore.

If I could go back, I'd do it in a second.

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