Thursday, January 31, 2013
The cleanser that I chose was a Korean product which to be honest I was excited to try. There are a lot of people all over the internet who talk about how much they like Korean cosmetics so I figured that this would be a great chance to wee if they were worth the hype. That night I opened the cleanser and was pleasantly surprised with the rich smell of the cleanser. It smelled like fresh squeezed lemons. After using the cleanser itself I was even more pleased. My face felt great and was no longer oily (which had been a challenge even for the last cleanser that I had purchased).
As I finished up my night time routine I couldn't help but think if this was the reason that these Korean products are so well liked. I mean, the cost was half that of the rest of the cleansers in the shop and it worked incredibly well. Put that together with the other matching lines of products that they have and I can't see how you can pass that up. Of course I have not yet tried the other products that they have available but I do intend to try them in the near future.
Have you ever tried Korean cosmetics? Do you think they are worth the hype?
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The FLOWER AND FOOD FESTIVAL is happening this weekend at ONOYAMA PARK located in NAHA CITY. You can expect to see flowers as well veggies which are common here in Okinawa. There also seems to be a lot of fun planned for those who are interested in taking classes however, there does not seem to be English Language support for those who are participating in the event so you might want to have some knowledge or Japanese or a Japanese friend who is willing to translate.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Park Week - Day 3: Today's video is taking us to Ishikawa Park. This park offers some wide open spaces to include a baseball diamond and even a beach. There is also a small skate park which is in "ok" shape and what looks like a staging area for live performances.
There is some mystery behind the park, however. Large cube like structures line the walking paths and make what looks like an underground area. The area is now closed off however it seems as though at one point you may have been able to walk through the structure. I have not been able to find any information on the park itself but if I so in the future I will be sure to share it with you.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
If you've been to Okinawa what do you think are the TOP 5 MUST SEE locations here in Okinawa?
Let us know by leaving a comment below, emailing us at email@example.com or checking us out over on www.facebook.com/okininjakitty and sending us a message.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
If you're looking for a quiet little place to enjoy some fun in the sun Wakamatsu Park is the place to be. Located in the vicinity of Camp Foster this park has a little something for everyone. For the kids there is a bunch of jungle gym equipment as well as a rollie slide and swings. There are also large grassy areas to play catch or tag if that's the type of thing that you're kids are interested in. For those who want to play sports there are tennis courts as well as baseball diamonds.
There are also bathrooms located in this park which is a definite plus. The bathrooms are also maintained regularly so you do not have to cringe if you find that nature calls.
For those who are history buffs this is also a historical site. You can walk just off on one of those paths that leads to some interesting sites such as the tomb pictured above. There is also information in English so that you can read about the tomb itself.
Overall this is a great little place to visit. It is not as big as some other parks that you may find on Okinawa but you really can't beat the location. If you've gone to this park let us know what you thought. How did the kids like it? Comment below!
Finding interesting things here on Okinawa doesn't always have to involve driving down an overgrown dirt road. In many cases the most beautiful things are right under your nose. One of these places is located in Kitamae which is right outside Camp Foster.
If you decide to take the back roads rather than Route 58 you will find yourself on a road that runs through some shops and apartment complexes. Along this road is a small bridge. In fact you may not even realize that it is a bridge at all if you aren't paying attention. On either side of the small bridge is a structure. On the top of each structure is half of a dome featuring an ocean front scene as you might imagine it here in Okinawa.
On a gloomy day this might not seem like much to look at but when the sun is shining and the sky is blue it is a sight to be seen
Although this bridge is beautiful and something I recommend checking out it's important to consider that this in not an attraction and therefore there is no parking. Your best bet for visiting this attraction is parking at the beach and making the short walk over.
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Friday, January 25, 2013
Why is it that you call it Yaedake? When I was there it was called Yaetake. Could you find out why this might be.
Loving the challenges that I receive from my viewers I quickly started doing some research on why at some time the "t" may have been replaced with what we now see everywhere which is the "d".
My research took me to various websites focusing on different topics but it was not long before a pattern started to emerge. Regardless whether I searched in English or in Japanese when I looked for something with the "t" in Yaetake all of the search results were United States Military Related, particularly focusing on the Battle of Okinawa. Almost every site that I found was in English and focused on the war time activity which took place on or around Yaetake.
When I looked for information with the "d" in Yaedake I found everything else. Websites in both English and Japanese provided information regarding not only the history of the mountain but also what is there nowadays.
This made me curious. In the interest of ensuring that I was not mistaken in my pattern I continued to look up more information through various different sources but it still led me to the same conclusion.
Overall my best guess is that Yaetake with a "t" is something that was for whatever reason used by the American forces during the Battle of Okinawa and stuck for an unknown period of time. This type of thing happens in Okinawa (and I imagine other parts of Japan as well) due to the English speaking Americans not having a clear understanding of the pronunciation of the words used here in Okinawa. A present day example of this is a group of people out there who pronounce MCAS Futenma (foo-ten-ma) as (foo-team-ma). This would explain why on a number of the military related material you will find Yaetake rather than Yaedake. I anticipate that this changed, however, when the government of Okinawa started putting up road signs and such which featured the mountains accurate name.
Of course with anything like this it can be hard to pinpoint exactly why it was that something happened or was changed. I do as much research as I can and put forth my best educated guess but do not mistake there is a bit of margin for error here. Either way I hope that I have at very least given a bit of perspective on this interesting topic.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013
As you may have guessed from the title of this post the far left lane that we are talking about is called the Bus Lane. The green part of this lane is designated for busses only during certain hours of the day. Generally speaking the hours are between 7:30am and 9:30am. This is posted on signs above where the Bus Lane begins.
Using the Bus Lane is relatively straight forward; during the posted times you should not be driving in the Bus Lane. The only exception to this rule is if you are operating a motorcycle. All cars, trucks and vans are to drive in the center and far right hand lane. So what do you do if you need to make a left turn? Merging into the Bus Lane to make a left hand turn is acceptable however it shouldn't be done much more than 100 yards before your turn. This will ensure that you have plenty of time to make your turn safely but are not obstructing the Bus Lane.
Why all the hullabaloo? Here in Okinawa, much like other parts of Japan, public transportation is used by an abundance of people. Although it is admittedly severely lacking compared to other parts of Japan there are still those who rely on what public transportation is available to get to and fro. This is especially important during the morning rush hour when people are trying to get to work. With the dense traffic that we have here on the island it is incredibly helpful to have a Bus Lane where the busses can stay as close to "on time" as possible.
If you're wanting to be a rebel without a cause and drive in the Bus Lane regardless of the rules then you're looking at a fine in excess of ¥10,000. Don't think you won't get caught either, especially on some of the most congested parts of Route 58. Police frequent those areas and pull over those who choose not to obey the law.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
It's probably fair to say that 98% of the locations that I have covered are marked on my map. Of course as someone who is operating with the goal of helping people enjoy their time on Okinawa it only makes sense that I would be happy to share the locations with those who are interested in visiting them. For the other 2% there are 3 reasons that the location can't be found on my map.
The first is because I simply forgot to mark it. It's true, I'm only human, and from time to time between editing videos, posting blogs and working on other projects I can find myself falling behind in some areas. This is usually fixed once someone asks how to get to a location and I realize it's not on my map. A few clicks later it has been added and the link sent to the person who requested it.
The second it because I honestly have no idea where I was at the time. As you may be able to tell from some of my videos I end up in some strange, and at times sticky, locations. There have been many cases where I see something interesting out of the corner of my eye quickly take my camera out to shoot it and then move on with my journey. Once getting home and going over the footage and try to recall where I was I realize that I was somewhere on a mountain or in a village and can't pinpoint exactly where. Of course this could be all resolved with a good high quality GPS device but that is not currently part of my arsenal although I will be happy to take donations.
The third and final reason that you won't find a location on my map is because I do not feel that sharing that exact location is the responsible thing to do. I am sure that this requires a bit more clarification for some of my readers so here goes. Doing what I do comes with a certain amount of responsibility which personally I feel is too often lacking in today's day and age. As far as I am concerned is this means not only showing respect for the location and the people that might end up in the shot but it also means being considerate of those who live in the surrounding area.
Now, there are some people out there who believe that this is incredibly selfish of me. In fact the title of this posts is an abbreviated form of someone's very real comment left on one of my videos. Unfortunately the poster removed the comment before I was able to ask him or her if they would like if someone gave out directions to their very crowded neighborhood via the internet. One might then ask why make a video at the location at all. The answer is because you can do like I did and find it on your own I just don't want to be responsible for sending unknown numbers of people to some locations. It's not impossible. In fact I can remember a time when the only way you knew where to go is if you saw an add for it on a tourist location or website. There was no site like OkiNinjaKitty or Map It! Okinawa to refer to. Even now, if it hasn't been covered by the very small community of us who go out and "discover" these things some people would never know about them.
Regardless how many people are grateful or how many think I am selfish I will continue to do what I do making blogs and videos for those who want to watch. As it stands I have one heck of a large video collection featuring videos of and about Okinawa and I intend to improve on that as time passes. For those who do support the channel and blog thank you for your support and I hope to earn your continued support in the future.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
There are many things that Okinawa is known for one of which is it's abundance of castle sites. It is said that Okinawa was the home of over 300 castle sites, however many have been lost to the test of time and war. A great deal of effort has gone into reconstructing and storing some of these castles while others sit in ruins to this day.
One of the castles which has been reconstructed and is now recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site is Nakijin-jo or as it is also known by many Nakijin Castle Site. This large castle sits on the Motobu Peninsula in Northern Okinawa, Japan. The castle itself is immense and takes up much of the tall hill that it stands on. The view from the castle makes it no wonder that the royal people of the Ryukyus would want to live here.
Nakijin-jo offers a great deal besides the castle itself. There is a large clean restroom with western style toilets as well as food stands and shops with various goods. Inside the castle itself there are various placards with information about each area with information in Japanese as well as English. If you intend on reading about the castle ruin one you've returned home or sharing the information with your family and friends you can also take English guide maps home with you.
The site is a beautiful one any time of the year but during spring visiting the castle is a special treat. Cherry blossoms bloom on the site offering a beautiful walk to the castle. During certain days of the celebration you can also see traditional dances and other celebrations. Whether you are making the trip during the spring or any other time of the year you will find yourself enjoying the Nakijin-jo.
There are many cherry blossom festivals, or Sakura Matsuri, which happen throughout Okinawa each year. This year we headed to some of the Sakura Matsuri that caught our eye and thought that we would tell you all about them. After heading to the Nakijin 6th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival we found ourselves driving around the Motobu Peninsula for a while looking for somewhere to eat. We were not anticipating heading to Yaedake as we had been there for the first cherry blossoms of the season but we drove by the entrance of the mountain and figured that we might as well head up that was and see the blossoms. As soon as we turned onto the road we knew that we were in for a treat.
The festival takes place on the beautiful Yaedake. On any given day this location is beautiful enough but during late winter and early spring the mountain road is lined with beautiful cherry blossom trees. The festival grounds are located at the park on the mountain. The park is great especially for little ones with a large playground area to include a huge roller slide. During the festival, however, that playground is just the beginning of the excitement. A stage and large seating area was set with various entertainment and food booths lined the entire perimeter of the park.
For the past few events we have managed to miss the festivities so the smell of matsuri food and the sound of music immediately put a smile on our faces. The booths themselves featured not only the matsuri food that you know and love as well as some special treats for the seasons. A particular booth sold sakura mochi another features hashi made from the wood of cherry blossom trees. There were also soba shops and some fried beef booth which was to die for.
Aside from the standard booth for food and games there were also other activities such as a velcro wall, bouncy castle and even this large pool of water that had these floating hamster wheels in them for your water treading pleasure. If playing in the grass is more your thing then there was plenty of space for that too.
To be completely honest there wasn't too much that I would call "bad". We did notice, however that there were absolutely no trash cans or bags anywhere on the property. Of course not having trash cans is standard practice in Japan but it's not often that you will see a festival completely void of trash cans.
The ugly for this event is the apparently broken men's bathroom. Of course this was not an actual reflection on the actual event itself but it was the only thing that we experienced that day that we could call "ugly".
Overall the event was everything that we were looking for in a cherry blossom festival. The music, the food and no shortage of cherry blossoms made for a great time. Driving up the beautiful winding mountain road with the blossoms on either side of you is just wonderful and then walking to the site itself amongst the blossoms was just wonderful. You could also enjoy a walk under the blossoms on the mountain road as well but we opted out because we arrived so late in the day. Overall this is our favorite cherry blossom festival to date.
I received a question today from someone wanting to know about what type of address they would have when they come to Okinawa. Seeing as how this is a really great question I decided not to wait until Fan Mail Friday and post a response right away here on the blog.
There are two types of addresses that you can get if you move to Okinawa. The first is for military member and anyone who works for the US government and the second is for everyone else. Each of these addresses are unique so let's talk about them.
Military and US Government Workers
One of the perks of your job is having an APO or FPO box. These are United States Post Offices which are operating on military installations within Okinawa. You will be issued a box number and have the ability to send and receive mail as though you were still in the United States. This makes it easier to send and receive items from friends and family. There are some down sides, however. Packages can take longer to arrive then they would in the US and are not tracked once they reach the military's hub in California which can be frustrating sometimes. You may also find that not all of your favorite online companies will ship to APO/FPO addresses.
This is what your address will look like:
PSC 00 Box 00000 APO, AP 00000
PSC 00 Box 00000 FPO, AP 00000
The rest of us who are here in Okinawa have a different kind of address. For all intensive purposes this address works the same as the way an address in the US would work only the country is Japan. You can order from stores online, ship internationally to your address and do all the great things that people will addresses do. The down side is that if you are sending or receiving something from friends and family it will be a bit more costly.
This is what your address will look like:
Okinawa-ken, Ginowan-shi, Ōyama, ０丁目０−００
Some of these airfields are still in use today and you may be familiar with them such as Kadena Air Base or MCAS Futenma. Others had limited function and were decommissioned and abandoned after The Battle of Okinawa. One of those abandoned airfields is the Motobu Airfield.
The Motobu Airfield is located on the Motobu Peninsula which is near the East China Sea. It was built in April of 1945 by the Unites States Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy Seabees as a means to support the Army and Marine Corps ground forces during the Battle of Okinawa. The single runway airfield was mainly used for bombers which is why it had a size of 7,000 feet by 100 feet. The airfield was used from August until October 1945 at which time it was decommissioned.
Today the airfield is for all intended purposes abandoned but is still easily accessible through some country roads. The tarmac is battered and broken. On either side are fields being farmed by those who live in the area. The runway is no longer it's full length either as some areas are now overgrown. One area actually seemed to have been dug out and a farmer had planed some crops.
The area is quiet and out of the way although there is some construction happening in the area. The future of the Motobu Airfield is still undermined although after all these years I imagine that it is not going anywhere.
Monday, January 21, 2013
Throughout my time here in Japan I have gone through many of these "tools". Most of these tools have sucked, and that's putting it lightly. Who wants to carry around a book full of phrases which only work if you find yourself in that very particular situation? Then there is the complete uselessness of carrying around a Japanese to English dictionary. I mean who has the time to flip through hundreds of pages looking for the word toilet? Finally
I found the Lonely Planet Phrasebooks - Japanese. This pocket sized phrase book is the best tool that you can have when coming to Japan (or any of the countries that the book covers the language of for that matter). First and foremost as I mentioned is the size. When I say pocket sized I literally mean you could fit this into your back pocket. This makes it incredibly easy to put into a purse or day bag without taking up too much precious space. Then there is the content. The book is divided up into 7 sections. Each section is color coded which makes flipping through to find what you need quick and easy. Once you flip to the section you are looking for bold topics divide up the phrases so you can again quickly find what you are looking for. When you finally find what you are looking for the book divides up the phrase into three sections: English, Japanese and Phonetic. This allows you to look for what you are trying to say, make an attempt at saying it and if all else fails hand the book to the person, point to what you are trying to say and have them read it. As if this is not good enough each of the headers and categories are also in Japanese so if someone who speaks Japanese is trying to unsuccessfully communicate with you they can also use the book.
The biggest draw to this book, however, is that it has real life practical phrases which you might need to know on any given day rather than in a particular situation. What kinds of phrases? Here are some as an example:
DVD & Video: Does this have an English-language preference?
Senior & Disabled Travelers: What services do you have for people with a disability?
Outdoors: Can I go through here?
Health: Could I see a female doctor?
There are also many other words which assist you with understanding responses as well as formulating your own phrases appropriate for your own situation with a "fill in the blank" type format. Another helpful section is the "Listen For" section which offers some phrases that you may hear after asking your question and/or making your statement. Finally cultural tips assist to tie up any loose ends.
I purchased my book new in 2008 for about $9.00US and have kept it with me ever since. I understand that there are more updated versions which I imaging only improve on an already great book. If you're looking for a useful tool for your trip to Japan I would definitely recommend picking up this book.
There are many festivals which take place throughout the island but this year the one that caught our eye was the Nakijin 6th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival which was scheduled to take place starting on January 19 2013. This festival takes place at the Nakijin Castle Site which is recognized as a World Heritage Site because of it's cultural significance. The event which included scheduled performances to include Eisa dancers during the weekend against the backdrop of the beautiful castle was too much to ignore so we make the trip up to Nakijin on the Motobu Peninsula to enjoy the festivities.
As we made the trip up the coast towards Nakijin Castle Site it was clear that it could not have been a better day. We knew that once arriving at the site we would not see full bloomed cherry blossom trees but the view from the castle, which we had visited before, would be amazing on a day as clear as this. Once arriving at the site we were directed to a parking lot by the staff and made the walk up the hill to the castle site. We promptly purchased our tickets (¥300 for children ¥400 for adults) after navigating through the thick crowds and made our way to the castle site.
The event takes place at the beautiful Nakijin Castle Site. This beautiful castle is very large and sits on a hillside. Once you walk up the stone stairs you will find yourself with a gorgeous view of the ocean. The view would be beautiful on any given day but on a clear day it will take your breath away.
The site itself also has some shops, food stands, lockers and rest rooms (including western style) near the ticket booth. This is very useful especially if you are one of the many who are making a long trip to the site and want to refresh yourself.
There are not many cherry blossom trees on site. Now, just to be clear and reiterate we went to the festival with a clear understanding of the fact that we were not likely to see many blossoms but the distinct trees seemed to only line the stairway to the castle. Inside the castle itself there were a few cherry blossom trees but from what I could see the main attraction was the path to the entrance of the castle.
Most of the trees were on the walking path leading into the castle, which included some stairs which can only be described as uneven and ancient. At times this made seeing the cherry blossoms a bit rushed and crowded. This did not make it impossible to see the cherry blossoms and enjoy them, it just require a bit more caution as to not knock down anyone who was trying to move past.
It's also important to note children who require a stroller may struggle with this event as there is no stroller accessibility.
The flyers and posters for this event seemed slightly misleading. Based on what we saw in photos on the flyers it seemed as though we could have expected dancers and the concert in front of the castle, however, it turned out that we were mistaken and the performances took place in front of the ticket booth. Normally I would not classify something like this as "ugly" however the area in which the performance was taking place was incredibly small and obstructed the ticket purchase booth. It was also very congested because of the people who were trying to use the rest room, get some food, purchase goods, purchase tickets as well as the performers and equipment all shared the same space. The decision to have the performance here is still a mystery however we unfortunately decided not to watch either performance which we had planned on seeing because of the amount of people and complete lack of space.
The event is a nice one especially for those experiencing the castle ruin for the first time. Cherry blossoms are icing on the cake adding something to the castle site which can only be experienced for a short time in the early spring. I would not recommend this event for those who are looking for an "intimate" experience with the blossoms.
If you want to attend the event it runs from now until February 3rd.
You may have heard of The Old Man In The Mountain but here in Okinawa we have "Gorilla Chop Rock. This rock formation is a common enough site in Okinawa but if you look close you can see that it looks like a Gorilla doing a karate chop.
The location itself is a popular dive location in the Motobu area. It is easy to find as it sits just before the Motobu Port and has it's own parking area.
For those of us who are not divers this location is still a site to see.
The beach is small but beautiful and although it is immediately off the main road being below the level of the road somehow makes it very quiet. This is a great place to listen to the rush of the ocean.
Now, as I am not a diver I can't tell you about the actual dive location itself. In doing some research on the rock formation I found some dive sites which informed me that this is a great dive location for all times of the year. I also found some images of the area which seems to look nice. If you are a diver and have tried out this location and/or are going to try it now please leave a comment and let us know what you thought. This will help us let our viewers and readers if it's worth the trip as far as diving goes.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Snow may be falling in Tokyo but here in Okinawa it's already cherry blossom season! There are many places where you can enjoy watching the cherry blossoms but one of the places which caught my attention is the NAKIJIN 6TH ANNUAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL.
What could be better than looking at the cherry blossoms wile walking through a historic castle site? Seeing it all in a beautiful night time display of course!
The opening ceremony for this event takes place tonight (Jan 19) at 6pm. If you can't make it out there tonight not to worry you won't miss out on a good time. Each Saturday and Sunday during the festival EISA DANCERS will perform at the entrance of the castle starting at 5PM. On JANUARY 20TH Meio University will perform a CONCERT starting at 4PM and on the 26th of JANUARY you can also enjoy a performance of "The Wind Of Hokuzan" which starts at 4PM. All of these performances can be watched for free as they happen at the entrance of the castle, however, if you would like to walk the grounds and enjoy the cherry blossom's night time display the standard price of admission applies (300yen for children, 400yen for adults).
Here are directions courtesy of our friend over at Map It! Okinawa:
The most simple route is Highway 58 North to Highway 449, then on turn on Highway 505 heading towards Nakijin Village. You will see signs directing you to Nakijin Castle along the way.
If you enjoy looking at beautiful flowers mark your calendar for APOC11 the 11th Asia Pacific Orchid Conference in OKINAWA & the 27th Okinawa International Orchid Show.
This annual event takes place at the Ocean Expo Park and is the largest orchid show in the country. This is also a competition so be prepared for some amazing flowers and arrangements.
Friday, January 18, 2013
One of the reasons that I have the OkiNinjaKitty Channel as well as this blog is because I want to help people enjoy themselves during their time here in Okinawa. Unfortunately at this time I am not equipped with a vehicle to take people on tours throughout Okinawa. I am, however, happy to assist you with your trip planning needs such as helping you find the places you want to see during your time here.
If you would like more information please feel free to contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are three types of housing agencies here in Okinawa. The first specializes in working with military members. The second specializes with the local residents and the third works with foreigners. Each has a specific set of guidelines and each is only willing to do so much for certain groups of people. It may seem harsh to hear but it's the way things are so there is no reason to dance around the bush. Seeing as how we are talking non-military housing agencies we will be focusing on the third type of housing agency.
Again pinpointing one specific agency which is reliable is difficult because of the way that housing agencies work. Let me explain and it will hopefully clarify. Landlords will work with a housing agency to get tenants. They work together to fine tune the details such as whether pets are allowed or if the rent price is negotiable. This allows the housing agency to find tenants. Somewhere along the line you will come along to check out the property. Let's suppose for the sake of discussion you decide that you like it. You've already talked to the housing agency and determined what you can pay on a monthly basis, explained that you had pets and so on. The housing agency still has to get the "ok" from the landlord. This is where things can sometimes get tricky. They might not like your particular pet and deny renting you the apartment. They may also decide that although the apartment was negotiable on price they now no longer want to negotiate. As you can imagine this can make the process of finding an apartment incredibly strenuous.
With this being said is there anything that you can do in order to make the process of finding an apartment easier? Yes. The first and most important piece of advice is know exactly what you are looking for. For example we were looking:
- Minimum 1 bedroom
- Under 80,000 yen per month
- 2 parking spaces
- Pets allowed
- Japanese style (This was key to us finding a good apartment. Many of the non-military "american style" apartments that they tried to push on us were from the 70's and had been in great disrepair. I honestly kid you not when I say that they looked like abandoned buildings with tiles chipped, splintered wood as cabinets in the "kitchen" and a bathroom that would make you cringe.)
We approached every housing agency that we could with this list. At first they tried to get us to move into apartments which did not accept pets and were on the up side of 200,000 per month but with a little bit of determination and stern voice they started showing us only what we were looking for. It still took a lot of determination, effort and let downs before we found a landlord who was willing to take us but had we not known what it was we were looking for we would have been shown every piece of property on the island.
Happy house hunting!
The start time for this protest is approximately 2:45PM until 4:45PM. The protest is not anticipated to be large however as always there may be traffic delays in the area.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
At this time it does not look as though the protest will be a procession such as what we recently experienced in Ginowan, however, for an area which is already highly congested it might not be a bad idea to reschedule any plans you may have had in the area (Kokusai Street).
I do not have a start time for the protest but judging by the pattern of previous protests it may be safe to assume that it will kick off so me time around noon and go into the evening.
I will provide updates if/when they become available.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
There are many ways that one can go about exploring Okinawa. Almost always some sort of preparation is made in order to ensure that you know where you're going and how to get there. This can be done in many ways although the best, at least to our knowledge is via an internet mapping system. This allows you to zoom in to specific areas and have an idea of what to expect during your trip.
Knowing where we were heading we found ourselves on a tight road which is not uncommon here in Okinawa. We continued moving towards our target destination and once we got close and started looking around we found ourselves in a spot where the road was no longer paved and was now the red clay that Okinawa is known for. There was a turn around point just about 10 feet in we we went for it and it was too late. We had gotten stuck.
Certainly this is a funny situation and I was happy to post the video because I figured it would get a good ole chuckle out of some of you but the truth is I hope that some of you who are preparing to explore Okinawa take this into consideration. Sometimes the roads we think are good to drive down simply aren't.
Saturday, January 12, 2013
A common question is whether or not Okinawa is cheaper than the United States. This is one of the difficult questions to answer because there are so many factors but I am going to do my best to give you a general idea.
Over all whether or not Okinawa is expensive compared to the US greatly depends on how it is that you want to live while you are here. If you live like the locals you will find yourself finding that yes it is much more affordable then living in the United States. On the contrary if you want to live like an American you can very much do that during your time here however you will find that some things are much more expensive then the same thing would be in the United States.
So let's take a moment to talk about some examples. The first example is housing. There are two major types of houses in Okinawa; American style and Japanese style. American style houses and/or apartments have all of the feel of a home in the United States. You may also find that those houses have American appliances as well. Living in an American style apartment can be a comfort of home but there can be some financial downsides. First and foremost American style apartments can sometimes be more expensive rent wise. With the US Military here there are a lot of people who would desire this type of apartment so of course the cost is higher. Aside from the cost of the apartment itself there can also be a much higher cost in utilities. Being that American appliances draw more power the cost of electricity can be much more then you would spend with Japanese appliances.
In a Japanese style apartment and/or house there are many more considerations taken in order to deal with the weather that we encounter here in Okinawa. More natural light is available meaning less electricity is required. The appliances available in the Japanese style houses also require less electricity and therefore will not run your bill as high. There are also other ways that you can find yourself saving money if you choose to live like the locals rather than spending money on western style goods. For example if you choose to sleep on a western style bed rather than a futon you will find yourself spending quite a bit more money then if you were to just buy a futon.
The same concept is also true for food. Those who choose to eat the local cuisine rather than stick with an American diet will also find that they save a significant amount of money. This is not to say that there are not Japanese versions of American foods which can be enjoyed, however, to say that they are the same is just not the case.
Overall my answer is yes generally speaking Okinawa is cheaper than the United States if you live like the locals. If you find yourself wanting to maintain the lifestyle that you have in the United States you will find that it is going to be a lot more expensive.
Friday, January 11, 2013
The holiday season is pretty much over but there are still a few places that are continuing the celebration which is why tonight we packed up the car and headed out to Ocean Expo Park for the Illumination that will be continuing until January 14th of this year. Rusty had seen something about this illumination and since it would be running through the 14th we figured why not. Once Rusty got back from work we packed up the car and headed out.
Once arriving at the Ocean Expo Park we noticed that there were a great deal of parking spaces open. In fact some of the lots were even closed down. Finally we found the appropriate lot, parked the car and headed towards the lights.
Once we started towards the large open area we both became rather surprised. There were a few lights on either side of the rail but there didn't seem to be anything in the distance. Knowing that the park is a large area we moved onward. The first stop was towards the planetarium. The staircase was appropriately lined with white lights forming astrological signs. It was certainly beautiful. The planetarium itself was also open and offered a show which we had just missed by a few minutes.
We continued to move on towards the aquarium but unfortunately we found that there were only a few more lights which were on trees and along the walkways.
As we returned back to the car we took some time to look at the lights again. Canopies which were now taken down indicated that at one point there were vendors lining the larger area once visitors came down the stairs. Being that it was almost the end of the event's run we came to the conclusion that they probably had left. I imagine that the event may have felt more festive with them around. There was also a stage which made me feel as though there may have been live music or performers at one time. Tonight there were no performers but there was music playing throughout the park.
Overall the "event" as it had been advertised seemed very anticlimactic. There was not much to see and virtually nothing to do other than walk down a small path which even at our slow pace taking time to get good photographs took us no longer than about 15 minutes. Some shops were open but all were empty. The only people left in the park were the few who were trickling out of the aquarium.
Once arriving back home I took some time to do some research about the event and see if there was any more information on the internet that I may have missed. It turns out that according to the Ocean Expo Park website this is the first year of this illumination which leads me to understand it's small size and believe that it can only improve over time. Overall I would not say that that this is the type of event that you should plan to do as a stand alone. From what we saw I would say that this is a good button on a day full of fun at the Ocean Expo Park. Those who were in the aquarium and exited to the array of lights leading them back to their cars seemed to enjoy this but for us the hour long drive was not quite worth it. To be completely honest had we known that the lights would be less of an event and more of an addition to the time that you were spending at the park we may have left the house well before sun down and enjoyed one of the many things the park has to offer ahead of time and then close out the evening with a walk through the lights.
I have not made a current events blog or vlog for a while but after the continuous posting of this story and having had received comments and messages regarding the current state of Okinawa as a result of this story I could not help myself.
Before I get into the story itself let's go back to March 11 2011. For those of you who are not already familiar this was the date when a huge earthquake shoot the northern part of Japan and resulted in a devastating tsunami. The tsunami then resulted in a nuclear disaster in an area known as Fukushima. Many people lost their lives as a result of the horrible disaster and radiation concerns caused many people to leave their homes in the area. Many other people in the surrounding areas also became concerned and decided to relocate as a precaution. These people relocated to various areas throughout the country to include the southern islands of Okinawa. Again, this started in 2011 after the disaster.
Now fast forward to December 2012. The AP (which was the first place I saw the story released although I am also aware that The Japan Times also released it as well) releases a story which it titled "Radiation-averse evacuees flock to Okinawa". The article, which pictured a young mother and her beautiful son, goes on explaining about how Okinawa is as far south from Fukushima as you can get and explains about how the prefecture is offering financial assistance to those who have relocated on the island. More information is included such as quotes from the mother and other important details that will be disregarded by many of the readers.
As I have been living here for as long as I have and keeping up with the news as I do there was not much thought that I invested into the story. Most of what was said was pretty much old news aside from the fact that those who applied for aide by a certain date got another year of assistance from the Okinawa Prefecture. Among others, however, this seemed to be big news. In fact a viewer over on my YouTube channel even went so far as to hound me for not covering the "real story" about what is happening in Okinawa. I took a few weeks to think about what it was that I wanted to say if I wanted to take on the story at all. Now here I am. You're about to read the "real story" of what has been happening here in Okinawa. **Spoiler Alert** you're going to be disappointed.
First and foremost, as mentioned in the articles, Okinawa is the furthest away from Fukushima as you can get without leaving the country. Couple that with the fact that Okinawa does not have nuclear power and is a very popular vacation destination, then it doesn't seem difficult to understand why some would choose the location to relocate here. The question is how many people are, as the article says "flocking" to Okinawa? According to the article in question "more than 1,000 people". Now what I find interesting about this statement is the the lack of timeframe given during which these people have come down to Okinawa. Common sense and knowledge of the local news tells me that they are referring to the number of people who have come down since 2011 when the disaster first occurred but for the sake of being through I did some research to see what I could come up with. Turns out that they are in fact talking about the total people since 2011. In fact in an article released by The Asahi Shimbun in November of 2012 it was stated that "About 700 Fukushima evacuees still live on Okinawa Prefecture". If we bring this full circle 1000 people moving down to Okinawa over the course of what is about to be 2 years isn't much of a "flock" is it?
It's also important to understand that a number of people who relocated to Okinawa chose to relocate here. There was never a time where planes full of people from the Fukushima area simply dumped them at the Naha International Airport with nothing but the clothes on their backs and nowhere to go. Some stayed with families and friends and others undoubtably stayed at the many hotels on the island until they could sort out the aid that was available to them from the Okinawa Prefecture. Does this mean that there were no people who came down here without a plan? No. But it is a misconception that people just magically appeared here hopeless and afraid.
Now, when it comes to the "real story" as to how life has been effected here in Okinawa by these evacuees the answer is simply. . . not at all. There have been no shortages or lack of resources and no overwhelming swarms of evacuees roaming the streets with nowhere to go. Again the number of people who have come down here is relatively insignificant on an island with a population of 1,400,000 people (give or take) not to mention the tourists. The aquarium alone gets about 2.5 million visitors a year. This is not to say that there is absolutely no effect on Okinawa. Certainly the financial assistance that the prefecture if offering will have an effect on the prefecture itself. However, when it comes to the matter of every day life there has been no change or at very least the change has been incredibly minimal.
As I said it's disappointing isn't it? Most stories are when they are not embellished or when important details which offer context to the story are taken out. Funny how leaving a few words out like "since 2011" can turn a flock into a trickle. Unfortunately that's the nature of the news when things are slow; drudge up what you can to make a headline.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Yesterday I showed you a photo of a barred locked area. From the photo it doesn't seem like much and to be honest neither did it when I was walking by. This is located just off an open path in a park located in the vicinity of Camp Courtney. The park is in a bit of disrepair today. The fountain is no longer working and much of the playground equipment has been left without maintenance. Distracted as I was I almost didn't notice what it was I was about to walk past.
The first thing that called my husband's attention was the smell of pine. You don't often find pine trees in the city here in Okinawa unless there is a special place. I am not entirely sure of the meaning that pine trees have to the people of the Ryukyus but I know that at a popular shrine in Futenma pine trees once lined a path traveled by the royals. Knowing that my husband stopped me and called my attention to the right side of the walking path. He pointed out the seemingly freshly planted trees, one of which had fallen presumably due to the typhoon season that had passed a few months ago.
Behind the trees I could see the bars which had faded red paint. They were inclosed by a stone wall and there was a clear path leading towards it. Now paying attention to the area it was clear that something was inside. Upon closer inspection we saw the statue.
Jizo as he is known here in Japan stood behind the bars. This Jizo is larger and more detailed than any I have seen to date here in Okinawa. Here in Okinawa parks are a common site for Jizo because he is a beloved deity who is the guardian of children.
The facts as to why this statue is behind bars remains a mystery. Other Jizo that I have seen around have the statue in the open. My best guess is that because of it's location the bars are meant to protect the statue from vandals.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Natural springs can be found all over Okinawa. This one was unique, at least I thought so. It was located in a park which I will cover here at a later date which seems to be abandoned. Beyond a small fence and a bridge in a corner is the spring. At first it doesn't look like much with it being square and the fallen leaves covering the bottom but when you take a closer look you can see the stairs and a small place for offerings.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
"Wait a second, what's a teaser?":
A teaser is a fun little photo that I post the day before I post a video, blog post or photos to my Facebook page. The teaser will give you a taste of what you are about to see next without actually showing you the content of what you will see in the video, blog post or photos.
"Why are we seeing them here?"
I have been posting teaser photos on my Facebook page and they seem to be popular so I figured that I would do the same for those who may be following in other ways. I hope that you enjoy.
Just beyond this fence is something interesting and forgotten.
Those who frequent the area around Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan may be familiar with this area. Others may drive by day after day not giving the small parking lot that they pass a thoughts. This is Agena Central Park and is the home of many interesting things that we will explore over the corse of the next few videos and blog posts. The first focus is a beautiful monument which is set up for those who's lives were lost to the war.
Although I was unable to read the monuments themselves I later found a bit of information which clearly stated that this corner of the park is dedicated to mourn those who lost their lives in the war. Although there was no distinction of what war is being referenced it is clear to assume that they are referring to the Battle of Okinawa which took place during WWII.
The area consists of a few different monuments all which are situated in one area. They are very similar of other monuments which I have seen in northern parts of Okinawa memorializing the same cause.
The monument is beautiful and seems relatively well kept because although flowers which had been left at the monument seemed to have been dried out for quite some time. This is one of the many places in the area of Ishikawa which make me wonder. I will get more into that in a later post.
The park is located next to the Agena Bull Ring and parking is available. There are also restrooms as well as vending machines.