Dave, yes I was a navy brat. I was 9, 10, and 11 while we lived there. My sister and I soaked up the language at that age and were translationg for, and negotiating buying and selling at the genza for my parents and their friends within 6 months.
We lived off base for the first 2 years because at that time NAS Atsugi was still growing leaps and bounds and there was not enough base housing for the grwoing influx. It was the main foward-deployed Pacific Theatre "Tip of the Spear" against the Soviet War Machne. So I spent my first 2 years in the immersion method. We had our own mama-san etc. and our landlord has kids our age. We used to run the countryside without supervision because of course crime was vurtually non-existant.
Anywhere I went, having bleach blond hair, my head would get rubbed for good luck. i don't know if the current generatrion would do that I doubt it. When we were there it was still "Old" Japan in most of the rural parts like where we lived ... on a low plateau right smack dab in the middle of a titantic size rice paddy with one roud in and one road out. WWII vets, many of them lame or otherwise disabled/missing limbs etc. were everywhere.
I used to take the long walk out and explore and climb all over nearby mountain. One day I happened upon a large family all reaping, with sickles, a tall grasslike hay or whatever it may have been on this steep mountainside. I asked if i could do it too, and ended up working all day and going home with them for evening meal. My parents had got the Japanese police curry-combing the countryside for me and when i got back home the whole village hwas out looking for me. that was not the last time I took off and got a good busting.
I never did respond well to punishment I would take my thrashing, promise not to wander off ever again, and within a week I was off exploring Japan again.
i loved that experience. I wish my kids could have had a childhood like I did moving around every 2 to 3 years experiemce different cultures and states. Of course, I never developed any lifelong friendships like my kids have growong up in one spot either so, I suppose they have not missed anything. My wife and I have often mused about taking them to Japan but, I am sure I would be sorely dissapointed with it now being all westernized.
Once you start building, if you can find the time, start a new thread and post some pictures, and describe the process you have to go through with the local gov's or however they regulate building. I bet it is a lot of red tape?
And finally, if you don't mind telling, how did you end up there?