I'm (David) down in Kumamoto on the southern island of Kyushu right now for our annual command post exercise with the Japanese. It's been in the planning process for about a year now, and it's nice to finally be in the execution phase. We get started with it in earnest in the next week or so, but in the meantime, everyone is involved in wrapping things up.
We set up a small medical clinic, and we've got some folks out of New Orleans helping us man it. It's a pretty diverse group of docs, nurses, a physician assistant and a few medics. So far, there hasn't been a lot of work for them. The weather is cold and wet, though, and there have been a few folks showing up with the standard upper respiratory colds and sniffles. We have a small holding area, and if necessary can take people to the local hospitals with whom we've already coordinated to take our patients.
I'll be working at the CPX part of the exercise, which should be interesting. It's my first time to participate in one of these...some general info on the exercise can be found here http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/yama-sakura.htm
Haven't gotten outside of the gate yet, but will be having supper with some of our Japanese counterparts during the week ahead. We had a medical social last night which was a great time. I did finally had a chance to try karashi renkon, or hot mustard stuffed lotus root. Very strange but delicious. Also had a bit of basashi or raw horse meat, which is very good, once you get past the idea that you're eating a horse. And it's raw.
We had a bit of beer, wine and shoju, but kept it in moderation. After the official part of the evening was concluded, I stuck around with my specific counterparts and chatted. As with other experiences I've had with beer and language ability, my Japanese improved steadily.
Flying down here we flew right over Mt. Fuji and I was able to get some good pictures of it. I'll try to post them while I'm here. The weather got wetter and cloudier as we went south, and since arrival here in Kyushu, it's been around 40 degrees (F) and rainy. Fortunately, I am used to the cold, as our house is pretty chilly when we turn off the heat at night. In our entryway about a week ago (which you must walk by on the way to the shower room) it was 41 degrees. At least it's not rainy inside the house. We keep doors closed to rooms we're not using and only heat the areas we occupy.
I'll be here for about 2 weeks, then head up to the north of the country to Morioka. It was tough to pack for the trip as it will be a whole lot colder up there than it is down here.