Saturday, June 30, 2012

Car modification


Always drive responsibly and abide by the laws and guidelines that Japan and/or your command has in place. 

I have been asked a few times about cars here in Okinawa and there is no doubt that people coming to Japan want to know about what they can get their hands on which is usually followed by what type of modifications are legal to perform on your car here. Now before we go any further there are a few things I want to get out of the way so you know the direction of this post. 1. This information goes for anyone who is planning on modifying anything on their car. That's right. Whether you want to make your car look like something out of Fast and Furious, want to make your SUV roll through the mud and up mountains with the best of them or simply replace your headlight bulbs this applies to you. 2. This post offers information on the areas you will need to look out for but does NOT offer regulation or actual standards. If you want to know actual standards please conduct your own research and contact authorities on this matter. The reason for this? I'm not into giving out bad or outdated information. I am very aware of the basics but when it gets to the nitty gritty (which is what you are going to have to be aware of) like decibels and lumens I honestly don't know the exact requirements as of right now and therefore it's best if when you read this and when you choose to make your modifications  you do your own research (or suffer any potential consequences but we will get more into this later).

Let's start from the beginning: 

Chances are if you are reading this you have not yet come to Okinawa yet and you have preconceived notions about what Okinawa will be like. If you are like many of the people who come through here (whether you want to admit it or not) you have this image of or similar to Tokyo Drift embedded in your brain and yes you've got that itch to get into the bucket seat of some car that you are willing to make your masterpiece. That's completely natural I mean come on you're about to depart for the affordable sports car capitol of the world right? Before we slip her into gear and take off down the strip there are some things that you need to keep in mind right from the get go. Okinawa does not have the hustling bustling sports car culture that some people might imagine because of what they have read, seen on YouTube or even imagined based on movies about Japan. As far as getting around here in Okinawa goes (and I speak from experience) sports cars are expensive, difficult to get around in and inefficient. It is for this reason that you won't see many Japanese people driving their sports cars on the road, they usually have them for track use only. Now this is not to say that you never see them on the road, they are out there but it's not like you might imagine.

Now I realize that this is about car modification here in Okinawa but I am sure that you are going to want me to explain why I just said that sports cars here are expensive, difficult to get around in and inefficient. I will go through these quickly and briefly but if you have more questions please feel free to leave a comment or email me at and I will answer your promptly.


To say sports cars are expensive is much more than to say they will cost a pretty penny to purchase. In fact you may find here that it doesn't cost much at all to purchase a car outright. This, however, doesn't mean that the car will be affordable throughout the entire time you own it. Insurance and road tax are significantly higher on a lot of the more desirable sports cars out there. They also require a higher octane gas (if you are one of the people who is going to modify your car or has a high powered combustion engine and care about how it runs) than you can get from the on base gas stations (information based on current available gas octane os of June 30 2012.) You will also find that repairing and finding good (and I stress good here) parts for your car can also cost you a pretty penny. A lot of these cars are older and in some cases need parts special order. In other cases they can have parts replaces with newer models which are again expensive. There are also some cars out there, such as the Nissan 300zx, which requires a special mechanic to work on the engine because of it's complexity and therefore more money is involved. Another point which we will get into later is the amount of money it takes to actually modify and maintain these vehicles.

Difficult to get around: 

If you are serious into getting a sports car it's going to be a stick shift. I do apologize to all of those people out there who feel that an automatic is a perfectly good sports car mostly because they don't know how to drive stick. For your own benefit learn and I promise you that you will never look at an "automatic sports car" the same way again. Trust me when I say that there is nothing like trying to drive back from Naha to Okinawa City on a Friday afternoon in bumper to bumper traffic with a stick shift let alone a stick shift with some sort of high performance clutch. I've been here. . . . I don't care how much you like sports cars or what your passion is for them this is not enjoyable. This same concept goes for trying to get back home for many of us who live in areas where the size of a sports car (and to be fair a large van or SUV) is difficult to maneuver.


Aside from cost usually sports cars don't offer the same ability to get your family (which many sports car people have) from point A to point B so you're going to need a second car and for many families here in Okinawa you might find yourself with only one parking space if any at all.

Of course these things are solely based on my opinion and for some these things may not be a problem but I am just explaining what I had said before.

Back to modifications

I think that it is safe to say that things you couldn't modify in your home state are the same things that you are not supposed to modify here. Ride height (both too high or too low), window tint, headlights/tail lights, tires, how your wheels sit (under the car, camber) and exhaust (decibel based). It is also important that  in some rare cases you may run into a problem with adding things to your car like a roof rack or brush guard. I can't speak too much about this because I do not off road and therefore I do not have a full knowledge but I have seen people being ticketed (by military police) for having a brush guard on their SUV even through the brush guard was stock. Again just reporting what I have been made aware of which in this case I saw first hand. With all of this said this does tnot mean that you will never see cars with these types of "illegal" modifications here on the road. So if these modifications are illegal why do people have them? It's pretty much like anywhere else I suppose. You do what you want either until you get caught or until it's time for an inspection.

Enforcing the rules

So how are these rules enforced? To be completely honest how these rules are enforced are greatly dependent on how you compose yourself while you are driving. For example if you are drying a heavily modified car down the road like you would drive any normal car minding your own business, obeying the traffic signals/signs the odds are that you're going to be left alone. The only time that this is not necessarily the case is if you happen to be passing what many refer to as a safety check. To be completely honest I have never experienced one of these safety checks. I have heard about them from other people but I have not been pulled into one or even witnessed one. That being said I really can't speak about this.

Unfortunately the chances are if you are reading this you are going to be affiliated with the military bases. Your affiliation will mean that you are going through the gates at least once each day and therefore have a much better chance of being flagged for your car not meeting the standards required to pass an inspection. It is also much more common to be ticketed for modifications on a military installation.


Overall there are a number of details as to what can and can't be done to a car. My personal suggestion is to know what it is that you want to do to your car and then from there find out what your limitations are. If you are like me and prefer to stay within the limits while still doing as much modification as possible this is not out of reach. Good luck and please remember to drive responsibly.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Biggest Fan Mail Friday Yet!

Fan Mail Friday has never been so exciting and full of information. This week I received some spectacular questions from our viewers and readers. Many of these questions will be helpful to those of you heading out this way so let's waste no time.
I hear shops (clothing) in japan are more tailored to small size people. Is it hard to find clothes that fit or is it better to shop online?

WOW! Great question and one that I am sure has been burning in the brains of many who are preparing to come here to Okinawa. For the most part what you hear is right. Shops here in Japan have clothes which are meant for smaller people but that's because the average person here is on the smaller side. This doesn't mean, however, that you won't have the ability to find clothing that fits you here. There are shops which carry "Queen Sizes" as they are known here for us woman who are more of the American size and shape. At almost every department store you can find up to a 3L which is what I would consider (depending on the company of course) an American L or XL. There are also stores which will sell up to an 8L. Ultimately this means that there are clothes out there for you if you are not as small as the typical Japanese person.

** Side Note: Before I continue on let's talk about sizes here in Japan. There is XS, S, M, L, LL and then 3L, 4L and so on. Different companies can run slightly small or slightly large so it depends on what you are looking at. Either way it's always best to try it on if you have the chance before making the purchase.

It is important to note that a;though these clothes are out there you might not find everything in every size and if you are looking for these sizes you are going to have to put in some effort. Although you may be a common size in the US you are not a common size here and that is something you are going to find yourself dealing with. That being said I have never had trouble finding clothes here (I wear a 3L to a 5L depending on what I am purchasing and how I want that particular item to fit.) as far as basics, fashion items and pants go. Again that's not to say that every time I go shopping I walk out of a department store with my bags full but I can occasionally find items that I like and pick them up here and there.

Now, if you are here with the US Military you will have the option of shopping on base. This is good because you have the opportunity to work with sizing you are familiar with and with clothes brands you may already be familiar with but be forewarned there are two clear divides in the shopping centers on base: Juniors and Old Lady. If you are anything bigger than a juniors size and you are still wanting to look youthful you may have some trouble shopping on the base.

As far as shopping online it is really up to you. I have been here for 6 years now and what used to be a 10 is no longer a 10 if you know what I mean. It is for this reason that I really don't shop online because by the time it gets here, I try it on to see if it fits, I doesn't fit, I pay to ship it back and get another size. . . . Summer is already over and I am out more now because of the cost of shipping the item back and forth. For someone like yourself if you are coming here and know where you like to shop and what you want to purchase then you might find yourself purchasing online without a problem so it's entirely up to you.
I just found out you can get Netflix in Japan. Do you have Netflix? Why or Why not?

Unfortunately Netflix is not available in Japan and therefore I do not have it. I have done some research, however, and have found that if you are living on the military bases you can get Netflix DVD's mailed to your on base address but you cannot stream and there have been some pretty bad reviews because of the amount of time that it takes the DVD's to get here as they are sent 4th class mail. You can get Hulu here now although I truthfully am not very informed about that service so I could not tell you much about it.
Since you basically live on an island do you spend a lot of time at the beach?

This question made me chuckle. I am sorry I don't mean it but once you get here it will make more sense. I don't basically live on an island I definitely live on an island. Okinawa is only about 60 miles long and at times only 2 miles wide so yes it's very much an island. :-) But back to your question. Do I spend a lot of time at the beach? I am going to assume that by "spending time" you mean like you would in the US where you go to the beach in a swim suit set yourself in the sun and enjoy the sand and the surf. Let's first talk about beaches. Although Okinawa is an island it is comprised of coral and therefore it does not have sandy beach surrounding the entire island. In some places there are concrete steps leading to the ocean and in other places there are these large concrete "jacks" (called tetropods). Both of these prevent erosion. It is also important to note that although there are various beaches around the island they are not all safe to swim at recreationally. During certain seasons Okinawa has what is known as the box jellyfish which is extremely dangerous and people are strongly discouraged from swimming in areas that have not been sectioned off. (You will notice when you get here that there seems to be a big beach but people are only swimming in a small area. This is to protect them from the box jellyfish.

Ok so do I spend a lot of time at the beach. I do but not in the way that I think you are asking. In the summertime I do not spend much time at the beach at all. It is too hot. With temps in the 80's and 90's and humidity on the up side of 95% you really can't spend more than an hour out in the sun without overheating. It is nice to jump in the water but the fact of the matter is that before you get back to your beach towel you are already going to be overheating again. It is also very difficult to turn back from overheating here in the Okinawa summer. Especially if you are lying out on the beach. During the winter I am at the beach all the time going for walks, eating lunch and just enjoying the view. I do like to tan from time to time though but I am lucky enough to have a deck looking out on the ocean that I can use and when I want to cool off on a hot summer day and look out on the ocean my tub has a window which has the most perfect view of the sunset. I realize that is probably cheating but it works for me :-P
I'm big into movies what is the last big name movie plain in Okinawa like in America. We have have at least 10 movies to chose from. How many in Okinawa?

Okinawa is also big into movies. Here are some of the movies in English that were playing at a local theater called the Mihama 7Plex: The Amazing Spiderman, Bad Teacher, Navy Seals, Hungry Rabbit, Snow White and the Huntsman, Soul Surfer, We bought a Zoo, The Vow, Dark Shadow, Men in Black and Larry Crowe. Of course not all movies come out as quickly as they do in the US but they are still relatively on top of their game. The one thing that you will notice about movies here is that they are more expensive than in the US. Adults are 1600yen, High School 1300, Elementary School 1000, Senior 1000, Infant 600 and physically challenged 800. There are some deals that happen throughout the week also which offer discounts. Every Wednesday is ladies day where women get in for 1000yen and on Monday is men's day where they can get in for 1100yen. There is also a deal on the 22nd of every month where a married couple can see a movie for a total of 2200yen. Although the prices seem high they are off set by the cost of snacks which is relatively low. A popcorn and soda for example will only cost you 350yen so compared to what you are used to in the US it's quite a deal.
Is the water safe to drink in Japan.

When I first got this question I was wondering what exactly this person was talking about. I had responded to them in person and asked if they had been referring to radiation but they had explained that they were just referring to water in general. This person had been told that when in Japan not to drink the water or use ice because you would get very ill. This was interesting to me but at the same time when I think back to when I first came here I had heard some people warning me about the same thing.

Long story short it is perfectly safe to drink the water, eat the egg products, use ice and consume foods here in Japan. I honestly think that this is a tactic that some people use to make people feel as of they should not travel to another country in order to keep themselves safe but that is just my honest opinion. I have been here for over 6 years now and never once had a problem drinking water or consuming anything. I do use a filter for my drinking water but this is not because of anything other than I feel as though it's a good way to ensure that any water you are drinking is clean and free of debris of any kind. Have I drank straight from the tap, yes. No problems.
Will the humidity make me break out?

Truthfully I have no idea what the humidity will do to you. For me the humidity makes my hair frizzy but I suppose you could break out from the humidity if that is what generally happens to your skin.
How long is the flight from Denver to Okinawa?

The flight to Okinawa from Denver is anywhere from 16 to 25 hours depending on where you are flying into, the weather conditions and so on. Then there is the matter of how long it will take you when you add in the amount of time that you are laying over at the airports so yeah. For me flying from MA the trip took me about 48 hours which was brutal but that's what happens when you are traveling and having layovers here and there. When it all comes down to brass tax yes it is an incredibly long flight and it is important to ensure that you are prepared which will make the flight easier for everyone. Ensure that you keep yourself entertained, comfortable and busy for most of the trip and it won't seem as bad.
Are the airports scary and confusing?

This is one of those questions that depends on where you are flying through. I have flown through Haneda and Osaka without any problems. Each airport has it's share of English speaking staff, prompts and signs which will ensure that you know where you are going. The airport does not HAVE to be scary if you take the time to stop, breath and just listen. I realize that this can sound silly but seriously it is very helpful. Most of the time signs will go through a few different languages so make sure that you take time to stop and read what is on the sign. It won't take too long so again don't worry just relax.
Is it expensive to mail things from Okinawa to the US?

Since I am aware that you are going to be coming here as military no it is not expensive to mail things back to the US. You will have use of an APO or FPO which is basically the USPS here in another country where you can send your items as if they are being sent from California. It still may take a little more time for these items to arrive than they would if you were to mail them from the US but the cost will be the same.

If you are mailing from Okinawa's post office (the one out in town) then yes it can be expensive to mail from Okinawa to the US depending on what you are sending and how you would like it sent.
Can I use my American appliances in Japan?

Yes. American appliances can be used in Japan regardless where you live although it is important to remember that you may need to buy a special plug converter to make your appliances capable of being plugged in. It is also important to remember that if you are living off base you may find yourself shorting out circuits if you are trying to run too many American appliances at once so be careful. Overall you should not have a problem though.

Thanks so much everyone for the fantastic questions this week I hope that you have more in the weeks to come. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tomorrow is Fan Mail Friday

Tomorrow is Fan Mail Friday and to be honest I am quite excited for this week's video. The questions that have been asked are actually very interesting and have been well thought out by those who are sending them in. In the true fashion of OkiNinjaKitty I will be answering all of the questions that I received in one video tomorrow so if you happen to be reading this and thinking to yourself that you would like to have your question answered please ensure that you make a comment here or at one of the many other places where you can contact me within the next 12 to 16 hours.

So what else has been going on over here? The weather has been much hotter than it has ben at any point so far in the year. I think that the storm passing us by has caused the weather to be slightly cooler than we normally have but now that all is clear the humidity has moved in and we are starting to experience weather in Okinawa that is representative of the tropical island that we are. Actually today we even had a rain storm which lasted for only about 5 minutes and caused it to get so incredibly thick and humid that both Russ and myself came into the bedroom in which I am sitting right now with the AC on. Overall this type of weather will only last for a short while although it will feel as though it lasts forever due to the heat. WE are already almost in July and we just need to make it to September before we can start to have cooler weather again.

This is about all there is to report today. Thanks for reading everyone!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's quiet over here

It's true I have not been posting as regularly as I usually do in the past could of days. The reason for this is because there has been a lot of preparation taking place over here before I head out to Tokyo. Between trying to get in contact with my mother so that she is ready for the upcoming trip as well, preparing the house for my trip and getting myself ready I have not been spending much time sitting down in front of the computer and spending more time up and doing a number of different tasks.

Unfortunately there is not much more than I have to disuse right now because I need to do some more errands what I have already started for the day but during this moment while I am taking a little rest from my chores I wanted to say HI and tell you that I am still here and still intend on writing regularly. It is just a little quiet right now.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Buying a car in Okinawa

This topic came from a viewer who was watching a video that I had posted about buying a car in Okinawa and they asked what are some good places to buy a car from and what kind of headache is it to bring a car back? This is another fantastic question. Now I had asked this particular person what ind of car they were interested in and did not get a response back so I am going to go over a number of different car purchasing situations and hopefully one will be what you needing to get your question answered. So basically there are a few different ways to go about purchasing a car here in Okinawa. There are Military dealers who you can purchase from whether or not you are military but they usually have prices in dollars and have all English speaking staff which makes life easier. These dealers are also right outside the bases for super duper easy access. There are then the regular Japanese dealers and finally private parities. What kind of car you are looking for will determine what kind of place you will want to go in order to make the purchase.

If you are looking for a KCar then your best bet is going to be shopping at a regular Japanese dealer. There are hundreds of used car dealers here in Okinawa which will have a variety of used cars. It is important to remember, however, that here in Japan used cars are usually on the new side. What I mean is that if you are looking at a Japanese used car dealer you can expect to see (in the year 2012) cars that are 2010 and 2011 on the lot. You might find something older but the odds are you are going to find something only a few years old. From what we have noticed there is also a bit of pattern that occurs with the prices also. A 2010 will cost you approximately 1,000,000yen; a 2011 will cost approximately 1,100,000yen and so on. It is also important to remember that the prices at some of the Japanese used car dealers do not come with the mandatory inspections in the price so you will need to take that into consideration when purchasing also. There are some perks to purchasing from a Japanese used car dealer and one of those perks is that the car you purchase is going to be in new condition. The odds are this car has only had one or two owners before and you are going to get it as if you just pulled out of the manufacturer's parking lot. Of course the downside is the price. With today's yen rate these cars can be expensive but it is up to you to determine whether you think it is worth it or not.

If a non-turbo'ed standard car (sedan, mini van, wagon. . . . ) is what you are looking for then one of the Military dealers may be the place for you. Of course it always depends on what you are looking for and it is important to have a clear understanding of what you are looking for before you start to head over to the Military dealer. The pros of a military used car dealer is that the prices are significantly lower than the Japanese used car dealers and the cars come with the price of the inspections included. Unfortunately there is no real pattern to the pricing of the cars from a military used car dealer although you can anticipate approximately 5 to 6 thousand USD for a regular car and about 6 to 8 thousand USD for a sports car. They are also usually conveniently located within walking distance of the military bases which make them very easy to get to but unfortunately it is also one of the reasons that they are capable of taking advantage of many people. There are some big cons for using a military used car dealer but luckily a great deal of them can be avoided. The cars from these dealers are roughly in the 10 year old range (some less some more but 10 is a good round about) and a great deal of them have signs of wear a tear. It is not uncommon to have a car with a cracked windshield, dents dings or in some cases busted radiators. This is why it becomes very important for you as the buyer to take time to really inspect the car in great detail before making a purchase. Another con is that a lot of the perks which are available to you from these places have fine print attached which you might not find out about until after you have signed the dotted line. The most iconic example of this is warrantees. At most dealers if you have a car with a turbo (whether or not it is a sports car because there are other non sports cars with turbos as they are more efficient) they will not service the car. What this ultimately means is that once you drive that car off the lot regardless what happens to any part of the car the military dealer is no longer responsible. A friend of mine actually experienced this. Less than 24 hours after the purchase of the car the drivers side window stopped going down. When the car was brought back to the dealer they explained that they would not do anything about it because the car has a turbo and therefore was not covered under the warrantee. At the end of the day it is all up to what it is that you want to do. If you see something that you want and if the sale works out for you then this is a good option for you but there might be other feasible options out there for you as well.

Finally, the most anticipated car class for those coming to Okinawa sports cars. To cut to the chase you are going to most likely find yourself buying from a private seller. The reason? There is more variety from people trying to sell their cars than there is at the dealerships out in town. This is not to say that there are not dealers who have sports cars nor is it to say that there are not specialty dealers who only sell sports cars but you are going to get the most bang for your buck buying from a private party. There are some words of warning that I have about buying your sports cars here though. Let's go over a few:

1. Know the difference between a "sporty" car and a "sports" car. A good example of this is the Nissan Skyline. Contrary to popular belief not all Skyline's are created equal and no they are not all "sports" cars. Some are non-turbo some are not even stick. And please don't believe the few people out there who say "non turbo but you would never know it". Trust me you will know it. There is also an entire breed of car here that is "sporty" but don't perform when you put the pedal to the metal. One of these cars is the B4 Legacy. Don't let the twin turbo fool you it's piggy back system that they put in place with those turbos don't give you the power of a twin turbo but rather just a ton of turbo lag.

2. Don't just see the bells and whistles and get excited. If you are looking at a car that has a laundry list of modifications it is always important to take special care before making the purchase. Take time to talk to the seller and ensure that they are able to explain all of the modifications that they have done to the car. This will give you peace of mind knowing that they were not just someone poking and prodding at the engine during the weekends. Also make sure that the car comes with all original and JCI (Inspection) parts. This could include everything from headlights, tail lights, springs, struts, down pipe, cat back exhaust, rims and steering wheel. This will ensure that when the inspection comes due on the car you will not have to purchase parts. (And yes anyone who had modified their car and has a good solid knowledge of cars here on Okinawa should still have all of these parts for you) Also consider that some sports cars have been modified to not take low octane gas meaning you will not be able to purchase your gas on base and will need to buy fuel off base for approximately $10.00 per gallon. This can be costly.

3. Know what you want out of your car. What are you going to want to do with the car? Also consider what you are required to do with the car on a daily basis. Some cars like the Mitsubishi Evolution do not have back seats that fold down potentially making it difficult to move things in the trunk where as the Nissan 300zx 2 seater has a huge trunk. Of course this might not be important to you but if you are someone who enjoys scuba or other activities where you need to take around a lot of gear this might be something to consider. Of course there is the style of "sport" car that you are looking for. From drift to drag to rally everything is available here so know what you want and you will have an easier time finding a car that you can work with.

The second part of the questions was about the headache of bringing a car back to the US . To be completely honest a few years back when we were toying with the idea of going back to the US I was planning on bring my Evolution back to the states and so I did a ton of research on this and therefore I feel that I can give you a decent answer for this one. The short answer is that sadly the odds are stacked against you and your chances of getting a car back to the US are slim. I do want to make myself completely clear here, this is not to say that people don't do it. They do. And they get caught. This is also not to say that there are not ways to get parts of cars back to the states. That is also possible but for the sake of this post let's talk about getting an entire car back to the US. There are four ways to get a car back to the states. The first is if the car is an antique. I do not particularly know the process for getting an antique car back to the US because I did not have one but I am 100% aware that this is the easiest way to get a car back. The second is if the car is for the purpose of race only. This method is by no means easy nor is it cheap. There are a lot of things that need to be done in order to make this happen and it starts with having a license to race in the US and having competed in a certain number of events over a period of time. These events have to be sanctioned and Okinawa's competitions do not count (sorry). The car then has to be a special type of car which was designed to race (homologated) to prove this you have to obtain information from the car manufacturer to ensure that this is the case. This can be difficult if your car model was not released in the US. You then need to ensure that your car meets a set of standards which ensure that it is a race car. The list is incredibly long but it includes things like removing locks, removing glass (windshield needs to be replaced with shatter proof windshield, same goes for the rear, windows are to be replaced with mesh) there needs to be a fuel cell also and the list goes on. Once that has all been completed the car then needs to be shipped back to the US and inspected before it can be released to you. You then will need to prove that you are racing the car actively which is a set number of sanctioned races within a set length of time) and if you decommission your car it them has to be sent back to Japan. You are not allowed to break the car down or anything of the sort. Although this comes with a lot of rules and regulations the most troubling part about this is modifying it to be race ready. For my particular situation by the time that the car was modified so that it was accepted upon inspection prior to shipping the car back to the US we were looking almost at $10,000 to $15,000 just in parts not including the price to actually get it back.

Finally there is the ability to take a car back to the US just to drive. I must warn you this sounds ridiculous but it is all information that I received from immigrations and the people in charge over in the US. Let's suppose you want to bring back your Skyline to the US to drive on the street. Regardless if the car is made in the states or not it needs to go through vigorous testing to ensure that it is safe to be on the roads in the US. To accomplish this you will need to provide the US with 3 more of the same exact make and model car that you plan to import. This will allow them to complete the necessary crash tests to determine whether or not your car is safe for the roads in the US. Once that is all good if the car passes the tests you then have to modify your car to make it fit within the US standards which includes changing it over to left hand side drive. This needs to be done by an approved shop in the US from start to finish. Once that is done it is then inspected again and once you have paid the bill if it is approved it's yours.

Of course each of these items may be slightly dated because I got my information a few years ago so please consider that when you are reading. Also please consider that I have given a brief description of what I have learned over the time that I was researching taking a car back. As far as my opinion goes just getting the answers of what you need to do is a headache I cannot imagine actually going through with is. To be completely honest what is the biggest turn off for me is that amount of money that is potentially lost for the CHANCE of getting your car back to the US. With the money you spend you could be half way to your dream car.


From Magazines to Radiation this is Fan Mail Friday!

It's Friday over here in Okinawa and you know what that means, it's time for Fan Mail Friday. If you are still not familiar with Fan Mail Friday it's a time when I sit down and answer all of the questions that you have sent to me throughout the past week. This week you guys asked some awesome questions so let's get right into it!

A while back I had posted a video about magazines here in Japan. If you haven't watched it or if you don't already know magazines here are a load of fun and many of them come with some sort of gift such as a hand bag or mirror. For men's magazines you might get a hand bag also (as that is part of the fashion here) or you might find yourself with some sort of a DVD. One viewer asked where I get these magazines and unfortunately I was unable to respond to their comment because of some sort of error or glitch but I would like to answer that question now. All of the magazines that I get are usually purchased from FamilyMart or Lawsons. Of course you can purchase magazines in various other places like at book stores or shopping centers but as the convenient stores are by my house I usually find myself purchasing them from there. As I am sure that at least one of you reading are curious I am not sure if any of these magazines can be purchased online but if you purchase them here they are very affordable especially with the handbags and other items that come with them.

Another viewer asked me What are some good places to visit/live in Japan? This is an interesting question. The fact of the matter is that good places to visit or live in Japan are really different from person to person. If you like living in the city then you are most likely going to like living in one of Japan's cities where as if you like to live in the countryside then one of Japan's countryside's are going to be better suited for you. It's really not as simple as saying that one part of Japan is better than the other. Comparing Tokyo to Okinawa, for example is apples to oranges. The same is true for visiting a part of Japan. If you find yourself uncomfortable in the city, for example, you are not going to be comfortable in Tokyo because it's a city and there is a lot of hustle and bustle. In my own personal opinion I would be happy to live anywhere in Japan other than Hokkaido but that is just because I cannot stand the cold. If it were not for the cold weather I would happily live there too if I could. As for visiting Japan, again in my personal opinion, I believe that all parts of Japan are good also. Each different part of Japan has a different culture and different characteristics of how they go about daily life and to experience that is definitely something worth taking time to do if you have the means. Again it is all up to you.

I received another question from a viewer who asked am I concerned about the radiation in Tokyo. The person had also posted on another video that I needed to "get out now". Since the disaster that had happened over a year ago I had not approached this topic because aside from family back home in the US I had never been asked about it but I wanted to take a moment now to answer this question. I am in no way concerned about the supposed levels of radiation in Tokyo. There really is no more simple way to say it than that. The people of Tokyo have not been at risk of any grave danger due to radiation since this disaster over a year ago. That is not to say that there have not been precautions taken. This ensures that children, who are most susceptible to harm, are taken care of but this is precautions. I am not concerned about the food, I am not concerned about the water, I am not concerned about the air quality. Then there is the comment of how I need to "get out now". I am going to give  this person the benefit of the doubt and assume that they meant to ask me what my feelings are on staying in Japan rather than trying to tell me that I need to leave my home and life here in Japan. There is no reason to leave Okinawa or any other part of Japan for that matter (other than Fukushima) after the disaster that happened over a year ago. I do realize that for most of you who are on the outside looking in it seems like the easy route to say to get out of Japan because you may not be familiar with the geography of the country or the many other places where it is safe to live within the country. Imagine for a moment something happened in Boston and others were suggesting that the entire state of Massachusetts was evacuated. That sounds a little ridiculous as is the suggestion that Japan should be evacuated. My true and honest opinion of this is that there is a lot of panic created due to a lack of understanding. There is no denying that this is a topic that most do not understand, in fact I would wager that many people have learned more about nuclear energy and radiation now than ever before. What is troubling is where this information is being gathered from. I had watched one video of a person who sited an article by "Steve" with no last name who happened to hold a variety of degrees in the subject matter but did not state where the degrees came from. It does not take a lot to tell that this is not a good source of information. Nevertheless this information gets spread because it is the most alarming and at the end of the day the shock factor is what gets the ratings both on Youtube or on your local news station.

Now, as you will notice above there is not a lot of factual information presented to make my case nor are there sited sources as to what I have read over the past year which has given my the opinion and view that I currently have. I have done this for a reason. My blog and VLOG post are not the kind of informative that will give you a lesson on everything radioactive and nuclear. If you would like to learn about that there are a number of specialists out there who can help you out. Here in my blog you are going to get the information through my eyes and as far as this situation goes my eyes see that there are a lot of people who are on the outside looking in kicking and screaming about something that they do not fully understand.

This is basically all that I have for you right now. I have another topic that I am going to be discussing in another post because of the length but keep an eye out for that. Thanks for reading!



Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tokyo Disney: Benefits of staying in an on property hotel.

It is no secret that Disney is a world class vacation destination all over the world and Tokyo is no exception to the rule. If you are traveling through Tokyo and have any type of soft spot for Disney then you might want to check out the park and give it a little of your time. So you want to go to the Tokyo Disney Resort, now it's time to weigh your options on where to day. Of course there are options all over Tokyo of hotels where you could stay and still enjoy the Tokyo Disney Resort but in this post I want to focus on some of the benefits of staying what is known as "on property" or at one of the Tokyo Disney Report hotels.

The first and possibly biggest benefit of staying on Disney property anywhere in the world is that you are staying as close as you can get to the action. Usually the hotels which are on property are either within walking distance from the parks or if they are not transportation is provided free of charge. In the Tokyo  Disney Resort there are three hotels which are considered within walking distance: The Miracosta, The Ambassador and The Disneyland Hotel. These three hotels also have a bus service which transports you from park to park and a monorail which does the same. Both the buss and the monorail are free of charge for those who are staying on property, however, to ride the monorail for free you will need to get a special pass from your hotel during check-in. If you are not staying on property the monorail works like any other train in Tokyo and must be paid for. The cost is not very expensive but nonetheless it is a charge that you will have to pay if you choose to use the service and are not staying on Disney property. At this time I am not familiar with that is required to use the buss. I do know that it is free for those who are staying on property but I am not sure if they use the same type of pass that is used for the monorail system.

The advantages to staying on property don't stop at being in close proximity to the park, you also have advantages that other park guests don't have. To visit the parks you have to purchase tickets, but don't mistakenly purchase your tickets at the front gate, make sure you purchase you're tickets from the hotel you are staying at. If you are staying at an on property hotel you have the ability to purchase special tickets which allow you to enter the park before everyone else and they also allow you to reenter the park even if they have reached max capacity. This means that if you choose to go back to your room over lunch to get out of the hot summer sun you are guaranteed to be let back into the park when you return and won't be turned away. This is a great advantage because it allows you to take advantage of the fact that you have a room within walking distance of the parks.

The perks continue in the park as well. Want to purchase fun an interesting things you see in the park but don't want to lug them around. Also not too keep on the idea of going all the way back to the hotel just to drop off a life size Duffy Stuffy? No problem. If you are staying on property you can have any purchase you make (aside from open food items like popcorn) sent directly to your hotel. No need to carry anything around while you are enjoying the sights and sounds of the park. Once you go back to the hotel for the day just stop at it's gift shop and your goods will be there waiting for you. It's that simple.

Of course there are other benefits to staying at the hotel which you would get at any other high quality hotel. The rooms are themed with your favorite Disney characters as is the rest of the hotel. There are also restaurants with foods for everyone to enjoy and areas where you can purchase necessities and snacks. Some hotels also have smaller and quicker food options such as a diner, deli or other quick service options. These hotels do come at a cost, however, it is comparable to a Disney Resort Deluxe hotel hotel anywhere else in the world. Prices are subject to change with the season so if you are interested please visit the Tokyo Disney website. My personal opinion, having stayed at other Disney properties in the past is that it is very worth the money to stay here if you take advantage of all the perks which are available to you. If you choose to not take advantage of those perks you might find yourself spending extra money on something you were entitled to get for fee and that just seems unnecessary.

Although I have said some wonderful things about the hotels on property I have also taken some time to do some research on what other people were saying and to be completely honest the response was overwhelming good. There were some people out there who did have negative things to say about the hotels but overall I truly thing that the problem they had with the hotels was that they did not meet the unrealistic expectations of the person writing the review. One person had felt that staying at one of the hotels was too far away because it was a 10 minute walk to the park on foot and a 5 minute buss ride and that is "unacceptable for small children who want to visit the park". For me this comment was almost laughable as I have stayed on property before and traveled with young children making over a 20 minute walk to the park and feeling like I was extremely close. With a 10 minute walk and a 5 minute buss ride I am not sure how much closer you can get. This person then stated that they switched hotels to the Mira Costa because they could walk directly into the park and that is the way it should be. In my opinion these are unrealistic expectations. Another person had made a review saying that the accommodations were not very good at all. They stated that the bed was very firm and that there was not a grab deal of area for your clothing to be hung in the closets which I do not necessarily feel is unrealistic expectations but rather the result of not fully understanding the location you are traveling to. Here in Japan beds are extremely firm because people here are used to sleeping on the floor using futon. For some this is common knowledge but for others I suppose it is not as common as you would think. If you were to visit bed shops you will see that there is not a great deal of places for you to find the soft springy bed that you might find in the western world. As for the lack of space to hang things in the closets this is most likely again because of culture. Many Japanese people travel for short periods of time so you might not stay in a hotel for more than 2 or 3 days. This makes it unnecessary to have more than 2 or 3 hangers in a closet. Of course these are all things that are subjective based on your personal experiences in the past. The final complaint that I am going to talk about here is a person who had said that they were waiting for 45 minutes to get into Chef Mickey's for a character breakfast. This is actually one of the complaints that I would classify as not having traveled to a place which has a high capacity before. I also wonder if they had used another perk that you have as a person who stays on property called "priority seating".

One thing that you will find at some Disney restaurants is that they do not take reservations but they do have this thing called "priority seating". Priority seating is a list that those staying at the hotel can be put on, it's almost like a fast pass line. Although you are not guaranteed a table at a certain time you can find yourself waiting less than the people who simple decide to show up. Priority seating procedures can be found out during check in but it is usually as simple as letting the restaurant or your hotel know that you would like to be put on the list and showing up. When your name gets called you then go in. Simple as that.

Overall if you are spending time in the Tokyo Disney Resort you may find it beneficial to stay at one of the on property hotels. Fore more information about the hotels themselves you can always check out the Tokyo Disney Resort website which has an English page which is incredibly informative. You can also stay tuned through the month of July as I post information regarding my trip to Tokyo and about the hotel that I am staying at which will be one of the on property hotels that I described above. As always thanks for reading and I will talk to you soon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Rolling Stones make drinking MUCH more fun

There is always something interesting and exciting happening at your local Japanese supermarket. Ok, I realize that this sounds strange but if you have spent any time here in Japan you would soon find out that from incentive gifts for purchasing multiples of items to crazy products going to the grocery store is always an adventure. Today during my trip to the supermarket I encountered one of these items and much to the liking of the product placement people I couldn't help but pick some up.

What drew me in was the very recognizable Rolling Stones logo along with the bright yellow color of the packaging and boxes surrounding the product. The first one that I saw was the "Rolling Gold" bottle which screamed rock and roll at me and I could not help myself until I then turned the corner to see a number of other types. It turns out that the products weren't necessarily different but it turns out that these three types of drinks (which I will explain here in a moment) come in both a can and bottle variety.

Once I got home I started doing some research to find out more information about these products. According to a few articles these drinks are part of a campaign by Suntory to target some of the younger drinking audience who prefer drinks with a lower alcohol content. This is evident with the relatively low alcohol content in these drinks (between 4 and 5%). Of course this is not to target under age children but rather to target the drinkers in their early twenties (drinking age in Japan is 20 year old). The "Stones Bar" as it is called consists of three different drinks which both come in glass bottles and in cans. There is a beer, an energy drink flavored drink and a high ball (ginger ale and whisky). These flavors are very popular here in Japan and therefore there is essentially something for everyone here in the Stones Bar.

Today I have only picked up two drinks, one is the energy drink flavored one called "Rolling Gold" and the other is the highball called "Citrus Highball". I had tasted both and they were both very good although I like the Rolling Gold quite a bit and later regretted getting an entire case. Of course the highball is extremely straight forward it tastes of ginger ale and whisky with a hint of lemon and lime. It is a bit sweeter than some other highball varieties which are on the market which was good in my opinion. Rolling Gold was my absolute favorite. This tasted like smarties which which is sweet and citrusy. To be completely honest it is difficult to describe but if you have the chance to try it I would give it a shot.

The price on these items were similar to other products. The glass bottle was about 200 yen which is a good price for a glass bottled drink here. The can was about 180 yen which again was not that bad for a drink although if you are looking for a buzz there are other products with much more alcohol content that could have been purchased for the same low cost. Personally when I want to get a good buzz going I prefer something that is about 8 or 9% alcohol. Then again if you want something that had alcohol in it and tastes great without any flavor or sting of alcohol this is a good choice. I would also recommend this for an event when you might be wanting to drink for a long period of time. Overall this is a great product which I would definitely recommend.


My thoughts this week.

It's a dreary Wednesday here in Okinawa Japan. The sun is not shining and it looks as though we are going to get another day of heavy rain. These are the days when I like to set myself down in front of my computer and enjoy learning a little bit about Japan by reading blogs and watching VLOGS. I have always loved Japan but recently I have had a particular interest in some JVLOGGERS who are not new to YouTube but are new to me. Being that they are from various parts of Japan I hear about how Japan differs from city to city which I personally find fascinating. It is to be expected that different parts of Japan would have differences but it is still fun to learn about and hear first hand accounts from those who work, live and travel there. One of the things that I find so very interesting is that each part of Japan almost has a different culture. Everything from the style of food to the language to the style of dance is different in some places and that is just something I find extremely interesting.

With all of these differences there are bound to be some similarities and one of these similarities is "tatemai and honne". If you have been watching videos and trying to learn a lot about Japanese life and culture I am sure that you have heard these words once before. There are a great deal of people who are on YouTube who have tried to explain what "tatemai and honne" is but always seem to struggle because it is a difficult concept to understand. Many time Japanese people as well as some foreigners will say that this is a concept that is unique to Japan and that is part of the reason that it is hard to explain. I don't think that this is the case though. I would agree that the Japanese have coined a phrase for this concept but it is not as foreign to us foreigners as some Japanese people think. If I were asked to define these two words what I would say is that "tatemai" is the way that you present yourself in order to cause the least amount of friction possible and "honne" is the way that you really feel. You might find yourself speaking with a family member, friend or coworker and responding to them in a way that is not in line with what you believe because you do not want to cause an argument or say something that might have a negative affect on you or your work. If you are a man an example of this would be your response to "do I look fat in these~". I am sure that when a question like this comes along you go into overdrive trying to ensure that you are not giving an answer that might "cause friction". The Japanese have a slightly more intense approach with this concept due to the nature that they have for being non confrontational. You might not realize it if you are only here for a short time or if you do not have active relationships with Japanese people but the fact of the matter is that the Japanese are people who do not like to cause waves. In some cases they would even suffer through something difficult to deal with than try to resolve the issue. Again, this might not always be the case but I have experienced it enough times to say  that it is something that happens. This makes some people extremely hard to work with just because of the subservient stance that they can take. In some cases (and yes this has happened to me) they will expect you to go along with the situation they have created by not speaking their mind causing you more work and more stress. There is also a flip side to this and that is when "tatemai and honne" are used as a way to try and get you to chance your stance on something or indicate that you are doing something wrong. For example rather than saying "Could you please get me some milk" they would say something like "I would absolutely love a cold glass of milk". This again makes some people extremely difficult to work with. To be completely honest this is one of the things that I dislike about the way that some Japanese people handle themselves because for me this concept of trying to say something without saying something is a waste of time. In some cases you may even find yourself the target of some anger because someone said they would like some milk but you didn't get any for them. For my strong personality it is the most difficult thing that I have to deal with because I am not afraid of conflict nor am I afraid of confrontation.

The last thing that I wanted to talk about was language and I didn't end up talking about this in today's JVLOG video because the video's audio got messed up and to be honest I am not going to talk about it right now either because I do not want to cut this topic short of what needs to be said and I feel that right now I just do not have the endurance to write everything that needs to be said. Thanks so much for your understanding and keep posted and I will make sure I get that post up soon. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thoughts on Tokyo Safety

I have recently been asked a question regarding travel to Tokyo. The reader who had sent me an email asking my thoughts on radiation and food safety in the Tokyo area. After reading this question it took me a minute to really collect me thoughts on how I do feel about the radiation and food safety in the Tokyo area. I have not made any videos about this topic to date nor have I really taken the time to talk about it in any form of media but seeing as how I received the question via email I figure now is as good a time as any.

When it comes to radiation in Tokyo I quite honestly have absolutely no concern whatsoever. I realize that this may not be the interesting answer that some of you were hoping for but it is my answer regardless. In fact I have absolutely no concern for radiation or food safety in the area of Tokyo. To be completely honest and terribly boring that is really all that there is to say. Why do I not have concern? Well, why are you (some of you at least) not concerned about the amount of radiation which you receive going through a full body scanner like the ones now used in the US or the amount of radiation you then receive going up in a plane and flying cross country and/or across the ocean. I really think that it all comes down to asking yourself the right questions.

If there is a harmful amount of radiation in Tokyo (and I am not saying that there is) it would not be enough to kill you on the spot because there are thousands still living, working and visiting the city daily so it's a matter of what long term risks you might encounter. Maybe there is a chance you could get cancer. . . . . ok. There is always a chance that you can get cancer. Cell phones, tattoo ink, fried foods, microwaves, motorcycles, car engines, preservatives, smoking, breathing in polluted city air and plastic bottles (just to name a few) are all some of the things that can also cause cancer and we are consumed by these things each and ever day not to mention the things that could kill us on the spot like car accidents. The question then becomes where you are willing to draw the line. Are you willing to possibly not experience something amazing because there is a little off chance that it could end badly? For me the answer is no. I am not willing to not do something because of the off chance that in the lottery of what we call life I might just pull a card which could give me negative health risks. The same goes for food and food safety. I know what foods to avoid just in case and I know what foods I am going to enjoy. I also know that there is as much higher risk of me getting sick from food that is not cooked properly than there is from me eating something that happened to be irradiated. Again it comes down to what risks you are willing to take.

My real concern while I am in Tokyo. . . . earthquakes. I know that there have been a great deal of earthquakes still happening in the central to northern part of Japan and this causes some concern for me. I want to make sure that not only am I safe but so is my mother who is not used to the feel of the ground shaking under her feet. I have taken real life preparations for this installing various applications which detect earthquakes on my phone as well as having a plan for what to do in the event that there is an earthquake and tsunami during the time that we are in Tokyo. Again does the fact that there are still earthquakes concern me, yes but will it change my plans to travel to Tokyo, no.

Ultimately you only live once and you can choose to sit in the house or you can go and see the world.

Where was this weather yesterday?

Typhoon Guchol has passed by with less than anticipated strength. The storm gave us very little wind and rain which resulted in almost no damage. Of course we are extremely grateful for the lack of damage because it is important to keep everyone and everything safe especially during the typhoon season. This morning we even woke up with a clear blue sky which had shown us that the storm had passed and we would be able to go back to our very warm summery selves.

This was, however, very short lived when a thunder and lighting storm moved in a few hours ago. Although we are not experiencing and wind we do have a great deal of rain and thunder we are experiencing right now which has made a lot of people wonder. . . . where was this yesterday? I myself wondered the same thing and discussed it in the video below.

Typhoon Guchol passes without major damage

The very anticipated Typhoon Guchol struck Okinawa last night starting at approximately 5pm which is when the rain had started. At that time we had also started experiencing a little bit of wind but nothing too drastic. At this time we had started to recognize that the storm had been downgraded to a category three which meant that we could expect slightly less winds but it should have been a strong storm. Throughout the first part of the evening we had found ourself not really experiencing a great deal of wind. When checking the doppler it had shown that we were between two bands of storm which had resulted in the lack of drastic weather.

Over the course of the evening we really did not experience much wind nor did we experience much hard rain. I say this because my house if built like a house of cards and when we get rain or wind you can hear it clearly. There were two large gusts of wind that we had experienced over the course of the evening which had been surprising because with a category three it seems that we should have had more wind and rain. Either way it is a relief that we did not experience more wind and rain because it made today's clean up much easier. After going out and inspecting the outside of the house there doesn't seem to be much damage at all. The all famous palm tree which is often referenced in my storm videos seems to be fine.

Before I close this post I do want to thank all of you out there who had sent me and my family well wishes to stay safe over the course of this typhoon. It is incredibly kind of you. For those who showed concern know that we are well and there is nothing to worry about. For those of you who had wanted to see typhoon images and damage and the wrath of Guchol, I am sorry nothing exciting happened. Thanks for reading!



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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thirteen year old performs, Muslims enjoy Ryukyu food and Guchol: This is current events.

Another week has gone by and during that time there have been a few interesting things happening here in Okinawa as well. One of the most interesting things that I have found myself reading about this week is the recent decision that a 13 year old girl will be performing at the Peaceful Love Rock Festival this year. This performance will take place on the first weekend in July as it does every year for the past 30 years. This year is scheduled to be a very special year as it marks the 30th anniversary of the two day concert which brings together bands from all over Japan. I am sure that it will also be very special for this young girl who will be the youngest in history to perform. At this time we do not know what it is that she will be performing nor do we know when but it is sure to be an enjoyable time.

The Okinawa Tourist Association was pleased today to reveal that now Muslims who travel to Okinawa will have the ability to enjoy the cuisine of the island without having to worry about the religious obligations that they have not to eat pork. Here in Okinawa pork is a staple of the diet which means those who choose to visit the island are not able to eat the many delicious dishes that signify the Ryukyu era. This has changed now, however, due to the willingness of some facilities to prepare the dishes without the pork. I am not sure how this will affect those who are vegetarians and whether or not another animal was used in the preparation of these meals but I would definitely head over to the Okinawa Tourist Association and ask for more information if you are interested.

And now for the story which is taking everyone by storm. . . literally. Guchol is still on it's way. As I look out my window I see some blue skies so I can not be sure exactly what the weather conditions look like outside at this current time. I will be checking back throughout the day to give weather updates. That being said the storm is still a category four and is scheduled to have passed by us within the next 24 hours meaning that today will be the day when we experience most of the storm. As I have been saying in other posts that I have written the house is all taken care of and ready to go for the storm and the weather channels have finally got to the point where they have come together and recognized that the storm is out there. I anticipate that we should be seeing some more storm like weather within the next 1o hours or so but at this time we still do not have much to go on.

Finally to close this little current events post I would love to tell you what to look forward to in the coming week on both the blog and over at Youtube. Today over on the channel you will see a video talking about these topics as well as an update about the weather that we are experiencing. If the storm begins to start kicking I will make sure that I am also providing coverage of that whenever possible. On Tuesday keep an eye out for a video which will talk about learning Japanese here in Okinawa as well as encountering those who are learning English here as well. On Wednesday it's time for another JVLOG and you can look forward to some great topics like "tatemai" and "honne" as well as listen to me discussing some of the things I find interesting about different parts of Japan. Thursday will be a special Katventures video for those of you who are interested in traveling to Tokyo Disney Resort. I will be talking about the hotels which are on property and the interesting benefits that you get when staying at one of those hotels. Finally on Friday it's "Fan Mail Friday" when I am going to answer any questions that I have received throughout the week and maybe talk about some of the comments that I received. If you are interested in having some of your questions answered on Fan Mail Friday please leave them in the comments below or shoot them over to me at Facebook. You can also see a number of pictures that I took yesterday during a bike ride that Rusty and myself took on the Facebook page. Thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you next time.

Typhoon Guchol Update

Over the past 24 hours we have been keeping a close eye on the storm which is out in the ocean and heading towards us. The storm is still scheduled to hit us within approximately 24 to 30 hours at a category four which means that there will be a great deal of wind and rain heading out way. Today there have been a number of conflicting reports but finally by around 8pm all of the warning systems from the Air Force websites as well as some of the other weather sites have reported that it is time for us to get everything figured out.

Now that it is around 9:00pm we are starting to see that there is clearly a storm out there. The dark clouds have started to roll in and the weather has started to show signs of a storm. The wind has also started picking up and therefore we have made preparations to bring everything from outside into the house. We have taken down most of the screens and brought everything from outside inside. We have also checked the food and we are good to go for a few days if there is anything that for some reason does not allow us to get food at a shopping center.

Unfortunately there is not really anything else to report at this time. I will be giving information as I get more throughout the next week with both Facebook and Youtube. Please don't forget to "like" and "subscribe" for more information. :-)

An enjoyable bike ride through Oyama

[caption id="attachment_239" align="aligncenter" width="225"] OkiNinjaKitty and Rusty head out for a bike ride through the neighborhoods of Oyama and towards the beach.[/caption]

Today Rusty and I decided that we wanted to get out of the house before the typhoon which is scheduled to come our way in the next day or so and explore a little so we got on our bikes packed some granola bars and water and headed out on a journey down to the beach. The journey took us through the neighborhoods of Oyama which was a different route than what we had usually taken before and landed us on the Ginowan Bypass where we were able to go to the beach down by the Ginowan Convention Center. Today was not a day for swimming but it was a day to just take a look at the beautiful ocean and it sure was the perfect day for that.

It was a picture perfect day. When we got to the beach the sky and ocean were were beautiful and it was wonderful just to sit down for a few moments to enjoy. Although there was a storm that was less than 36 hours away the weather was absolutely beautiful. Although it was hot and humid there was a nice breeze which made it very nice to be outside.

There was also another group of people who had been at the beach enjoying the weather which Rusty and I thought were extremely humorous. They had clearly been there for at least most of the night. They had been un a tent sleeping in the sun and clearly drunk. As we were sitting on the seawall we hears two pull up on a scooter and say (translation) "it's good we've got water and sake". They clearly had no plans on going anywhere soon. I am not sure if I could have found myself out in the weather like that for a long amount of time and certainly not under the influence of alcohol but nonetheless they looked like they were enjoying themselves.

Finally our trip came to an end and we headed back the way we came through the small neighborhoods of Oyama and towards home. It was a great trip and on the bikes it was extremely enjoyable. Certainly a nice chance to get to of the house before we had found ourselves stuck in the house for the next couple of days due to typhoon Guchol.

We spent the ret of our day in the house sitting in the air conditioned bedroom watching television and enjoying being cool. Today was a lot of fun but it was also one of the hottest days that we have had yet this summer (or at least it felt like it).

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"Do you speak English?"

A few years ago a friend and myself were at a local shopping center just walking around looking at the things that we wanted to purchase but didn't necessarily have the money, space or use for. We were then approached by a young man between the ages of 17 and 20 (The truth is I never really know the age of Japanese people here. A ballpark figure is the best that I can do.). This young man then approached us and said "Do you speak English?" Of course we have just been speaking to each other within the store so to say "no" would have been an extremely rude and obvious lie so I said "yes" and he then said "I have a question". Of course with time to kill we then sat there and answered some questions that this young man had for us. After the occurrence my friend said to me "Why did you answer those strange questions? Don't you think it was odd?"

The truth is that yes I did think that some of the questions were odd but not int he way that you would expect. The questions had clearly been rehearsed and were in no particular order with no cohesive path. In fact the language was almost text book; English speaking text book. Having been trying to learn Japanese for some time now the questions made a lot of sense to me: "Nice To Meet You." "What is your name?" "Where are you from?" "Do you like ~?" "I like ~." "Nice to talk to you." "See you again.".

There are some JVLOGGERS out there who will say that Japanese people do not prefer to use English and are shy about it so they will not just approach you or in some cases will avoid you all together to try and prevent using English. Of course I am not trying to discredit them in any way but the fact of the matter is that here in Okinawa there are a lot of good incentives for learning English and therefore people will make more of an effort towards it and from time to find you will find yourself being approached for a moment or two by someone wanting to try and learn a little bit about the language by asking you some questions. There are people who find this threatening because these people could be trying to gather information about you and you could be putting yourself at risk however my thought is that if you have a Facebook page there is nothing you can give them by answering a few questions in English that what you are broadcasting on the world can't already tell them. You also may find yourself being asked by a group of giddy school children a few questions in English at various tourist attractions. This is one thing that I had been asked to do when I was in the Aquarium a few years ago with my inlaws and it was a lot of fun because the groups of girls who approached me were having a great time and actually seemed interested in learning English.

So what if you don't want to answer questions. Of course you can always politely decline. There is not always time to stop and have a discussion with someone in the middle of a shopping center or in the middle of your vacation destination, although I would encourage you to not only answer the questions but try to answer them in Japanese. This will allow the person to try and use their English and you can take this opportunity to try you Japanese which is a difficult thing to do for a number of reasons which I will discuss in an upcoming post.

Have you had any experiences like this? If you have share them below or please feel free to share them on our Facebook page!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Preparing for a Cat 4: Guchol kicked it up a notch

Waking up this morning I found myself making a regularly scheduled check on the tropical storm website that I check during this season. When I did I was surprised to find that the typhoon that is headed our way is now predicted to come at us at a category 4 (as of 0600 June 16). This was surprising to me because it is early in the season but nonetheless this doesn't change the fact that we have a storm headed our way. Before I continue on I feel that it is important for me to mention that there are a number of important facts to remember if you are reading this and are in Okinawa. First of all there is never a guarantee that the storm will follow the predicted path. We have these predictions to ensure that we have some warning and be prepared but there is still a chance that it could take a number of different paths or disappear all together.

Now that this is out of the way let's talk about what a typhoon is and what you should expect if you are here in Okinawa. To make it as simple as possible a typhoon is a wind storm which usually comes a long with rain although there are times when it doesn't and let me say that is an incredible interesting storm to experience (which I did the summer before last). They are incredibly easy to prepare for and are very survivable unlike some of the storms that you may encounter in the US or other countries. They are categorized according to the power of the wind that is traveling with the storm. There are tropical depressions and tropical storms which are the very basic warnings that there may be a typhoon on the way and then there are typhoons category 1 through 5. Category 1 is predicted to have approximately 90 mile per hour winds where a category 5 have winds over 156 miles per hour. All are possible and about 3 or 4 years ago we did have a cat 5 over here (which is also known as a super typhoon) but again you can prepare for these storms. In the case of this particular storm we are looking at winds to be approximately 130 miles per hour.

Being that you now understand what a typhoon is (roughly) let's talk about what is necessary to do in order to prepare for this type of storm. The first thing that you are going to want to do is ensure that you have enough supplies to get you through at least 7 days. These foods should be capable of being eaten with little prep time and should also be nonperishable. I understand that this may be difficult and therefore might not be as healthy as what you are used to but trust me when I say it is important to ensure that you have these foods. I am sure that there are some people out there who feel that 7 days is too long but the fact of the matter is that there are cases when you may be without food for this amount of time and so you want to be prepared. There was one storm a few years ago which had sat over us for 4 days and once it finally went away there was still over 24 hours before the roads were safe to drive on again and about 48 hours before the stores were open again. For some families, including my own, typhoon food is nutritious and as healthy as possible but I also take the advantage of getting some fun things to keep morale up because the fact is when you are in the house for more than 3 days non stop without being able to leave it can be difficult to handle and sometimes oreos are welcome. Of course it is also important to ensure that you have water available also. In some cases it is a good idea to ensure that you have the bath tub filled as well as bottled water.

There is also prep that needs to be taken care of outside of the house. When we have a storm, especially one cat 4, it is important to ensure that everything is taken into the house and/or storage rooms. There are also other helpful and interesting ways to put your outdoor items away like putting them in a car of van or in cases where you can not bring them in the house or put them in a secure area you can tie things down. Personally I feel that tying things down is not the best option because with steady winds of 130 to 140 miles per hour a cord is not necessarily going to keep things in place. I cannot stress how important it is to pick up your outdoor items. Any little doll or screw driver can be deadly during a storm like this and it is so important to ensure that you have taken care of your items in order to ensure that your assets are protected as well as the assets of those around you.

Overall preparing for a typhoon is relatively simple and can be done within a few hours (and your yard will look wonderful in the process so talk about a win win!). The most important thing to do, however, is to stay focused calm and do not worry about the storm. If you are going to focus energy focus it on the preparation and the rest of the storm will be a piece of cake!

Fan Mail Friday: "Did you lose weight when you came to Japan"

Today was Fan Mail Friday and that means that I take time to answer your questions and comment on some of the comments that you had made. There were a number of great comments that I received and I would encourage you to go over to the video link in the beginning of the post but in this post I would like to talk a little bit about one question that I received.

A person asked:
Did you lose weight when you came to Japan because of the change in diet?

The short answer to this is no.

Before I came to Okinawa I was a full time dancer and dance teacher. This meant that I was dancing at least 6 to 8 hours a day. During that time I was also eating a very healthy diet with limited processed foods. When I came here the type of diet that I had didn't change much therefore no I didn't lose weight when I first came to Japan.

My personal opinion of this is that I don't think that this is necessarily something that is going to happen unless you are actively trying to lose weight and change your diet. The facts are that Japan's diet is full of fresh foods and natural foods but this doesn't mean that there are not boxed and preserved foods. If you were to indulge in these foods you would find yourself gaining weight where as if you were to stick to the more fresh foods you might see yourself losing weight. There is also the matter of rice. . . . . No matter how hard you try if you are eating rice three times a day you are going to find yourself not only not losing weight but you are going to find yourself gaining weight. This is especially the case if you are eating rice into the night. I understand that this is something that Japanese people do from time to time or dare I say often but for some reason it does not affect them like it affects us. This is in my opinion one of the reasons that people gain weight (and there are numbers who do) when they come here.

Long story short I think that it all comes down to your will power. If you can't avoid McDonalds in the US you are not going to be ale to avoid it here. . . . . and yes we have it with a number of there places.

Typhoon season pushes on

[caption id="attachment_223" align="aligncenter" width="252"] Currently a category 2 the storm is expected to hit us in 96 hours at a category 3.[/caption]

It's Friday and a quick check to the weather forecast this morning shows that the typhoon season is showing no mercy this year. We are already into our 2nd storm of the year. This is Guchol and although the storm is still very much south of us the projections say that it is expected to hit us here in approximately 96 hours which. The storm is currently a category 2 (as of 2:16pm Friday June 15 2012) and is projected to come at us as a category 3 if it does not pick up any speed in the coming days.

This is an interesting storm because not only is it scheduled to hit us head on which is something we tend to have the ability to avoid but it is going to be coming at us from a different angel than we are used to. Of course this does not seem as though it would cause any more problems however at times when a storm comes from this way it could mean that there is slightly more damage because of the direction of the winds. Either way Okinawa will be ok. As I have said before Okinawa is built for typhoons although when a storm does come from this direction you start to see some things moved around like you wouldn't necessarily expect because of the change in direction.

I will be posting more as I hear more information and as I see more. Thanks for reading.



Thursday, June 14, 2012

High expectations the reason for bad travel reviews?

I have been doing a lot of research recently for my Tokyo trip. I am not looking for a great deal of information but just a few things that would make the trip easy like if the hotel has a laundry service so nothing big. During my research I ended up spending time some time reading reviews which I found were interesting and at times surprising.

To be completely honest I read only the English comments because I wasn't into translating. During the time that I was reading I started to see a pattern and that pattern is that basically I think people have high expectations when traveling to another country and in some cases feel that that country should accommodate to what is part of your particular culture or it simply is not up to good standards. This is best illustrated in the example of bedding. Now here in Japan it is most common for people to sleep using futon. Futon can be closely compared to a long thin mat that is rolled out on the floor and from there a sleepy person would sleep upon it like a bed because. . . . it is a bed. If you were to go to home shops you might also see the same type of thing where the futon is rolled out on a raised level which looks similar to a bed or in some cases a mattress is used although it is usually firm. Knowing this you might only assume that it is natural for the beds in Japan to have a similar build where they are firm. Unfortunately there are a great deal of people traveling to Japan who don't seem to know this and therefore feel extremely disappointed or even distraught about the fact that the beds are firm or "feel as if you are sleeping on the floor". The comments that I had read were absolutely relentless stating things like "Japanese obviously hate Americans" just for the feel of the bed. It actually makes me wonder if these people had ever traveled to another country ever before. My thought is no and the reason that I say this is supported by something else that I found myself reading during my research and that was that no one spoke English and "staff was extremely unhelpful because of it". Wow. This is always one of the things that surprise me the most when I hear it from people who travel to countries which do not have English as a primary language. Of course English may be available from time to time, however, just because a hotel has "english speaking staff" for example does not mean that everyone on staff at all times speaks English. Truthfully I do not feel as if there is a lot of explaining for me to do in order to try and help others understand that when traveling to Japan it might not be possible to communicate in English but I suppose that there are some out there who just feel this way and that saddens me. In fact the reason that I am most sad about this is because the way that these comments are made almost make it seem as if these families were traveling to Tokyo and going to certain destinations and then having no assistance whatsoever. It seems like they are made to figure out everything on their own and fend for themselves which I do not think is the case. What I can do is explain what I have experienced in the time that I have been here. I have been in Japan for approximately  6 years now but my language skills are not the best especially because Okinawa is not the best place to learn Japanese but I will get into that during a different post. Regardless my lack of language skills I have never encountered a problem doing anything here in Japan be it Tokyo, Osaka or Okinawa. I Have also take a number of steps to ensure that I do not run into problems. I have a great survival vocabulary and when I do not know I have taken time to make accommodations for ahead of time. Anyone can do this and I encourage anyone going to any country to do something similar.

There were other things that I had read about and just thought was amazing that people were not considering these things when they left on a trip to Japan. I suppose some people are just never satisfied. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What I have done to prep for Tokyo

As most of you know from watching my videos, reading my blog and following me on Facebook I am taking a trip to Tokyo here in the next few weeks. This trip is going to be a lot of fun because not only am I going on a trip but I am going to be meeting my mom there who I have not spent time with one on one for over 20 years. Of course this is incredibly exciting to me and so I want to ensure that everything goes as well as possible which means that there has been a lot of preparation to ensure that everything goes well.

This is not my first trip to Tokyo and therefore it is important to me personally to try and improve on the last trip that I took. I would not say that my first trip to Tokyo was a failure but there were a number of things that I could have done better to make a better overall trip. This involved myself as well as my hubby Rusty sitting down and talking about what we think didn't do right and therefore making the odds of this trip being good would be better. In this post I am going to go over the things that we talked about and therefore hopefully you can find yourself having a better experience if you want to go to Tokyo.

The first thing that we did was determine what it was that we were going to Tokyo for. What is it that is going to be the main focus of our trip when we arrive in Tokyo? For us this was really simple. My mother and I both very much love Disney and therefore it was a no brainier that we would be spending most of our time in Disneyland and Disney Sea. Once this decision was made, which was a quick one, we had to determine where we wanted to stay. For us this was again a no brainer. My mother is a member of the Disney Vacation Club  and as we were spending time in Tokyo Disney it was perfect to stay in one of the resident hotels. Once that was done it was time to book a flight. Of course this is something that you could can do by taking a number of routes. Here in Okinawa there are various places where you can get flights booked. If you have access to the military bases there are travel agents there who can assist you or if you can find travel agents out in town as well. If you are like me you like to stay away from the travel agencies and go ahead and find a flight on your own. This is the best way to get the best rate on a flight. For me I found myself finding an airline which was just string flights from Okinawa. This allowed me to get a stellar flight for a great price. Of course with some of the discount airlines you might find yourself having to make adjustments. For me the adjustment I needed to make was flying out a day early. If course this required me to find a hotel room for the day but luckily the flight was so inexpensive that I was capable of saving $100+ even after booking the flights and hotel.

When it comes to booking a hotel there are some more tips that I can offer. The important thing here is again do your research. One of the things that I have found myself doing is using Yahoo rather than using Google. There are tons of resources online where you can find information  regarding hotels. Booking is also really simple and can in most cases be done in English so don't fear. Of course if you are to go this route make sure that everything is printed out and that you have all of your information readily accessible to ensure you are ready to go during check in.

Now that all of this is taken care of it's time to start thinking about the other more in depth elements of your trip. Planning what you want to do is extremely important when traveling to Tokyo. Although I am a huge fan of just going with the flow you can find yourself missing out quite a bit if you do this during your time in the city. I often compare Tokyo not to traveling to a city in fact but rather like traveling to a state. You wouldn't just go to Massachusetts and say "let's walk around and see what happens". For this reason it is important in my opinion to ensure that you know where you want to go and what you want to do. This will ensure that you also have a plan on how to get yourself to those places and therefore you will loose less time than if you were to try and figure out how to get from here to there with the train system. To make sure that you can do this I always advise to have a map of the trains and subways. Of course these are available in the stations but it is also good to ensure that you can look closely before you get to the point where you need to buy a ticket. It is also helpful to look at these maps and such before you get to the station so maybe over lunch or before you leave the hotel for the day. I found this extremely helpful when I had gone to Tokyo the first time. Of course there is a good chance that I looked like a looser but I was never lost so that's a plus. Let me talk for a moment about the planning. Having been to Tokyo before I had an idea of what it would be like but my mother having never been to Tokyo it was different hearing what she had wanted to do and what I had experienced would be possible during the trip. My mom being an avid Travel Channel viewer she had plans of seeing Tokyo the way that you see it in the travel shows. She had seen Samantha Brown travel as well as Andrew Zimmerman and had wanted to do a number of the things that they do when they do their shows in Tokyo. Of course this was something we could have definitely accomplished but at the same time there was no focus. She had wanted to try street food and go to a theme restaurant and so from what I had experienced in the past it was important to make a plan on what exactly she wanted out of the trip. Street food was not something that I had seen in Tokyo during the time that I was there so I honestly am not sure where we would go to get something like that but nonetheless there were other areas that I could cover. The theme restaurant that my mother had experienced was the one which was on an episode of Bizarre foods. This one in particular was one that had some . . . . . questionable items on the menu. In fact I am not sure that I would want to go there myself and certainly not with my mom. I talked to her about it too and she agreed that she would like to go to a place a little more. . . cute rather than something scary and gross for a lack of a better word. The simplest answer for this in my opinion is going to a Maid Cafe. I searched around for a few and finally found one that was popular and touristy which means it has information online and english menu so that was very helpful. The other thing that my mom wanted to do was try something strange and interesting so I am planning on heading to Sunshine City and Ice Cream City. Here they have a variety of different ice creams that are unimaginable like chicken wing and squid ink. This is a must do during our trip and therefore another place that we wanted to make sure we put on the itinerary. The final part of the trip is going to be spent at Disney so that is extremely simple to plan especially because we will be just a 10 minute walk from the park itself. I could make an entire post just talking about Disney travel tips and tricks which I might end up doing for you in the near future but nonetheless this part of the trip is very planned out also. Everything from finding exactly what they serve at various locations to making sure that we can get on all the rides we want to it's going to be a lot of fun but took a lot of planning.

There are also so many other things that I have done to try and accommodate for my mom and ensure that this trip is one of the best ever. I was going to write more about that in this post but I think that to be honest it will be better if I go ahead and just post different posts to make it a bit more comprehensive and readable. So keep an eye on the blog and VLOG for more information about traveling to Tokyo.