Other than the amazing sightseeing, my personal highlight from my day exploring Kyoto with my family occurred as we were ready to leave Kinkakuji. It involves a conversation between an American soldier and my sister.
There are about 50,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan. This is due to a treaty signed with Japan at the end of World War 2. The United States has pledged to defend Japan in cooperation with the Japanese Self Defense Force. Due to the large numbers of servicemen, it’s not uncommon to encounter them especially in popular tourist areas.
There were a small group of American soldiers in civilian clothes doing some sightseeing. While we were taking a short break before returning to the hotel, one of the soldiers started chatting up my sister. She seemed to enjoy the attention of the nice looking young man.
At some point my dad walked over, which forced my sister to awkwardly introduce him. The young man shook my dad’s hand politely. Then my sister mentioned that my dad was a retired Captain in the Canadian Forces. Instantly the young American snapped to attention, standing straight and tall. My dad tried to engage him in some small talk, and the soldier started responding with “yes sir” and “no sir”. He seemed to be intimidated by my very non threatening father. My sister was not amused at all.
Shortly after the soldier excused himself to rejoin his friends. My sister was annoyed, my dad didn’t understand why, and I stood off to the side laughing. Good times!
(2014 Update) My dad could have been a Major, but turned down a promotion so we didn’t have to move while I was in the middle of high school and my sister was in the middle of junior high school. If the young American soldier reacted so strongly to a Captain, I would have loved to see his reaction to a Major!