Friday, September 30, 2011

Marines consolidate Pacific installations command - Stripes

The Marine Corps said it will consolidate all installation staff in the Pacific region under a single command located on Okinawa this week.

The newly created Marine Corps Installations Pacific Headquarters will bring facilities throughout Japan, South Korea and Hawaii under the command of Maj. Gen. Peter Talleri, who has been the commanding general of Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler on Okinawa since 2010.

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High court overturns ruling on disclosure of Okinawa reversion papers - The Mainichi Daily News

The Tokyo High Court on Thursday overturned a landmark lower court ruling that had ordered the state to disclose diplomatic documents on the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japan from U.S. control, saying, "It cannot be said that the state owns these papers."

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United holds ceremony for new Okinawa route - KUAM.com

Guam - The first official United Airlines flight on Guam departed nonstop to Okinawa on Wednesday evening. A special ceremony was held at the Guam International Airport for the inaugural flight. United Airlines managing director for Micronesia and Southeast Asia, Barry Bergmann says there were one hundred passengers on board, adding the new route will contribute to the tourism market.

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Pilot Error Plunges Plane 6,234 Feet - ABC News

What goes up, must come down.  Very quickly.  Especially if you press the wrong button.

That was the lesson learned the hard way by a Japanese pilot who nearly tipped a plane full of 117 passengers last month on a flight from Naha, on the southern island of Okinawa, to Tokyo.

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A Japan Photo per Day - Zen Garden of the... Christian Cross

Some of the most beautiful things I have seen during my travels in Japan are the karesansui gardens, the Japanese Zen Buddhist gardens. Made of rocks, sand and sometimes moss, the karesansui Zen gardens abstractly represents miniature islands, oceans, beaches or even bridges. The water is represented with sand carefully raked to suggest the streams, the islands are illustrated with rocks and the moss evokes the woods. More than this, the Zen gardens are also allegories for Zen teachings…

But amongst all the Zen gardens, in the Zuiho-in Temple from Kyoto I found a very special one, with a supplementary level of abstraction…

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guam wants Japan's funds for transfer of U.S. Marines from Okinawa - The Mainichi Daily News

Visiting Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo called on Japan on Tuesday to continue financial support for the transfer of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to the western Pacific island, Japanese government officials said.

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Plane flips over after pilot's switch blunder - ABC News

All Nippon Airways flight, with 177 passengers and crew on board, was heading from Okinawa to Tokyo on September 6 when it rolled more than 130 degrees to the left, leaving it flying almost belly-up.

The plane dropped 1,900 metres in just 30 seconds off the southern Shizuoka district.

The manoeuvre happened when the co-pilot, in trying to unlock the cockpit door for the captain who was returning from the toilet, mistook a command button for the cockpit door lock switch nearby.

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Futenma-Kadena merger not on table: U.S. brass | The Japan Times Online

Integrating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma with the Kadena Air Base is "not on the table" in the U.S. military realignment plan for Okinawa, the top U.S. military officer in the Pacific region said Tuesday.

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Noda dismisses Obama's reported comment seeking conclusion to Futenma relocation - The Mainichi Daily News

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda downplayed a reported comment from U.S. President Barack Obama that the time to settle the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture was nearing, saying he would work on the issue with Okinawa Prefecture in good faith.

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Prime Minister Noda to Okinawa: Move Futenma or Keep it Permanently

Unlike his predecessors in the last two years, Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appears ready to try the hardball approach with Okinawa, suggesting the stalemate over a controversial U.S. Marine air base has come down to one choice: either it moves further north within Okinawa to Henoko Bay or it stays at Futenma permanently.

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A Japan Photo per Day - Senjokaku, the Hall of One Thousand Tatami Mats

Very close to the Itsukushima Shrine you can visit another landmark of Miyajima, the Senjokaku. Built in 1587 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Senjokaku was intended to be a Buddhist library and a place for chanting Buddhist sutras. However, because Hideyoshi died, it seems that the building was never finished and that’s why it wasn’t painted, there is no ceiling and it doesn’t have an outer gate.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chinese marine research ship spotted near Senkakus | The Japan Times Online

A Japanese Coast Guard aircraft on Sunday spotted a Chinese marine research ship sailing within Japan's exclusive economic zone near the Japan-administered Senkaku islands, which are claimed by China and Taiwan.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Amazing Cosplay Photography Collection

Cosplay is a Japanese subculture, people that participate in this subculture represent anime, manga or other computer-character using costumes and different accessories.

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Japan's prime minister to urge Okinawa's acceptance of U.S. Marine base plan | Sacramento Bee

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Friday he would make every effort to persuade the Okinawa prefectural government to accept a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station within the prefecture.

"People in Okinawa strongly hope to avoid the Futenma base becoming permanent," Noda said at a press conference shortly before leaving New York. "I'll do my utmost to explain the government's stance."

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Hopes for a better Okinawa | The Japan Times Online

In the most recent general election, I and many others voted for the Democratic Party of Japan chiefly because DPJ lawmakers appeared to be considering the relocation of U.S. Marine Air Base Futenma, Okinawa, to another prefecture in Japan or, possibly, to a foreign country.

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Confronting Agent Orange - Analysis

South Korea’s neighbor Japan has also been grappling with a similar confession from a U.S. veteran. Japan is another invaluable part of the U.S. strategy to strengthen its military presence across Northeast Asia, as well as in East Asia as a whole. However, the recent allegation will add considerable fuel to the anti-base movement in Japan. According to the soldier’s claim, the U.S. military dug a large pit and buried dozens of barrels of Agent Orange in an area around the town of Chatan on the island of Okinawa.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

More centenarians than ever | The Japan Times Online

Japan is older than ever before. On this year's Respect for the Aged Day, celebrated Sept. 19, the number of Japanese centenarians topped 47,000, the largest number on record. After the disasters of this year, the large number of centenarians in the country presents a picture of hope for a healthy life with the chance to grow into the wisdom of old age.

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Chirugwa Restaurant, a Pork Lovers Paradise

I believe that No Reservations host, author and Chef Anthony Bourdain is correct when he says "show me what people eat and I’ll show you the culture." That definitely applies to the people of Okinawa and in particular one little restaurant that I’d like to highlight in today’s blog.

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I love Okinawan Cuisine and I love the price!

I believe that No Reservations host, author and Chef Anthony Bourdain is correct when he says "show me what people eat and I’ll show you the culture." That definitely applies to the people of Okinawa and in particular one little restaurant that I’d like to highlight in today’s blog. 
 (A member of the staff in period costume cleans up after a customer)

Chirugwa is a really nice restaurant in the Hamby town district of Chatan Town, not far from the massive U.S. Marine Corps base Camp Foster. It specializes in providing the customer not only delicious local cuisine at an outrageously affordable price (think really super cheap) but, the hospitality and ambiance of old Okinawa. 
(The Magi Katsu before adding the sesame and Tonkatsu Sauce)

The staff are all dressed in traditional costumes and greet every customer who walks through their door with a hearty “Mensore” or welcome in the local Okinawan dialect. The same goes for when they depart holding their extended stomachs in their hands as they happily send you off with the traditional “Nihedebiru” or thank you.
(Just add sauce and dig in, hope you brought your appetite, you're going to need it to finish this!)

Traditional Okinawan music is gently piped over the sound system and customers have the choice of sitting in western style chairs at a table, at a counter or making themselves comfortable, taking off their shoes and sitting on tatami mats at a traditional Japanese table. They even have a choice offered not seen at too many restaurants any more, the choice of sitting in a smoking or non-smoking section.

The menu is based on the favorite meat of Okinawans and believe it or not, Mr. Bourdain’s too so I know he’d feel right at home here. Just what meat do Okinawan’s love? In a word, pork! From breaded pork cutlets called “Tonkatsu” to the ever popular Pork ribs or “Soki” and my favorite sliced pork belly or “San Mai Niku” and everything in between, this is a pork lover’s paradise! I think it safe to say that the only place in the world where you'll find more pork on the menu is a budget debate in Washington DC!
(Katsudon, super tender breaded pork cutlets and egg served over rice. Soba soup with San mai nikku and kamabokko on the side)

Okinawan Soba soup is the specialty and you have your choice of meat provided your choice comes from a pig. The “Magi katsu,” sounds like “McGee cuts,” means “BIG” and that is exactly what you get, a breaded pork cutlet that fills your plate and you too if you have the stamina to finish what you started.

Did I mention that the prices are reasonable? More correctly, I’d say they were insanely low. A typical dish will run well under 1000 Yen and you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that you get more than your money’s worth eating here. Speaking for myself, a late lunch here means I can skip dinner altogether.

Lastly, for those American’s on Okinawa who are deathly afraid of succumbing to a terrorist attack while stationed overseas and cringe at the idea of eating out in town, fear not. The emphasis on pork practically guarantees that Israeli/Palestinian flare ups in the dining area will be non-existent and suicide bomb wearing practitioners of a certain "religion of peace" are bound to steer clear!
Getting to chirugwa is easy. It’s on the east side of the road that runs parallel to 58 in-between Hwy 58 and Araha beach. There’s a small creek right next to it and it’s just a few blocks north of the Hamby town Shopping Mall. Just look at our picture and find that building. There’s plenty of parking so it’s not sandwiched in by other buildings.

Here's another blogger's recent post on this place for you to check out!

Four women are rescued from sea | The Japan Times Online

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. — Four women were rescued Friday from the sea off Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, after drifting for 16 hours, rescue workers said.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Asia Unbound » Blog Archive » Prime Minister Noda Outlines His Priorities in New York

U.S. officials seemed upbeat about the prime minister’s meeting with President Obama. Yet, media questioning about the infamous Futenma Marine base on Okinawa set off another round of speculation about the state of the relationship. Earlier in the week, at a George Washington University conference hosted by Professor Michael Mochizuki, the governor of Okinawa, Hirokazu Nakaima, laid out current political realities in Okinawa and argued the U.S.-Japan governments’ plan to relocate the marine airfield was too difficult to realize.

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Unrealistic promise on Futenma | The Japan Times Online

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with the U.S. President Barack Obama for the first time Wednesday in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. While the two leaders agreed to deepen the alliance between Japan and the United States, Mr. Obama urged Mr. Noda to make serious efforts to ensure progress in the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from the densely populated Ginowan city in Okinawa Island to the coastal Henoko area on the same island.

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We're living in a slow-motion 1930s - The Mainichi Daily News

I first started studying Japan 20 years ago, and I've been writing about it for a decade. It has been interesting over the years watching commentary on the country swing back and forth.

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Okinawa is home to many castle ruins - Stripes

Okinawa is an island of castle ruins, the remains of a time when regional kings fought a series of wars that eventually led to a united Kingdom of the Ryukyus.

On Okinawa, castles are often called gusuku and, except for the reconstructed Shuri Castle, most now are but mere stone walls. At some sites, little is visible, yet their existence has a strong impact on today’s Okinawa.

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WWII Japanese artillery shell found on Miyakojima - JapanUpdate.com

A 75mm Japanese artillery shell dating to World War II was discovered on a Miyakojima City school playground a few days ago, but authorities took care of the ordnance without incident.

The Japanese Imperial Army shell was found on the Hirara Dai-ichi Elementary School playground in Miyakojima by a student who dug it up, and then reported it to a teacher.

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Obama hosts Noda, advises action on base | The Japan Times Online

In his first summit with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, U.S. President Barack Obama vowed to continue helping Japan recover from the March disasters but also pushed for progress on the long-delayed plan to realign American forces in Japan — especially a contentious air base in Okinawa Prefecture.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

A Japan Photo per Day - Hundreds of Daruma Dolls

The Daruma doll is one of the most popular Japanese good luck talismans and probably the richest in symbols. The name daruma comes from the Sanskrit word dharma and it refers to Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

United/Continental Announces Fare Sale to Promote Launch of New Guam-Okinawa Service

United Continental Holdings has announced the launch of a fare sale and double mile campaign with the introduction of non-stop four-times-weekly service between Guam and Okinawa, Japan, which will begin September 28.

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Senators share worry on Futenma relocation plan: Okinawa gov. - The Mainichi Daily News

Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima said Tuesday key U.S. senators share the view that the current base relocation plan within Okinawa Prefecture has been deadlocked and a new solution is necessary for breakthrough in removing the danger posed by the Marine base.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Swimmers finish Taiwan-Japan relay | The Japan Times Online

A Japanese team of six swimmers arrived in the Taiwanese town of Su-ao on Monday morning after completing a 110-km relay from Yonaguni Island in Okinawa Prefecture to express gratitude for donations sent to victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

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Okinawa governor insists Futenma must relocate off the island - News - Stripes

The U.S. and Japanese governments have repeatedly promised to move forward with plans to relocate a controversial U.S. Marine Corps helicopter station from a populated urban area of Okinawa to a more remote location on the island.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mike's Ryukyu Gallery: Then and Now: An Okinawan Sweetheart (Photos)

Yup, I got her permission.  Nope, I ain't givin her name away. Here is a photo of this gal, I met up in Bise Okinawa, Japan. It was taken, probably, before colored film became popular and maybe, before it was even invented. Let's just say this picture is from way back then.

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A Japan Photo per Day - Lady Shizuka's Sad Story

Lady Shizuka (Shizuka Gozen) is one of the most famous women from the history of Japan, known as one of the most talented shirabyōshi (female dancers performing dances for the gods, dressed as men). Lady Shizuka was the concubine of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, and their tragic story begins at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura:

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Portraits of an Island People: Nakandakarihijya in HDR

A few months ago, I upgraded my camera from a Pentax K200D to the newer and much more capable K7D. It has a few extra features and knobs on it and since I don't get out as much with my camera as I did when I was making a living as a freelance writer/photographer to supplement my retirement income, I just haven't quite figured everything out just yet. Be patient, eventually I will.

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Nakandakarihijya in HDR

A few months ago, I upgraded my camera from a Pentax K200D to the newer and much more capable K7D. It has a few extra features and knobs on it and since I don't get out as much with my camera as I did when I was making a living as a freelance writer/photographer to supplement my retirement income, I just haven't quite figured everything out just yet. Be patient, eventually I will.

One of the features this camera has that the old one didn't is the ability to shoot HDR in camera. To do that with my old one, I'd have to take a series of three to five individual shots at different settings and then try to merge them into one using developing software. Hell, I can barely navigate the features of this blog software, how in the hell do you expect me to merge three to five photos?
(The contrasts of shadow and light made this a difficult shot. The roofed section to the right is where the old public bath is located complete with functional traditional wood burning water heater)

So the other day when Ryukyu Mike and I stopped by an old village spring called Nakandakarihijya to do some shooting, I decided to give it a try. The weather conditions weren't that great as the sky was vivid blue and the shadows extremely dark. The high contrast was giving me fits so when Mike suggested taking some HDR shots, I said to myself what the heck!

This old spring is a really neat place located not far from the Sefa Utaki, one of Okinawa's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It had been destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa but, because it was designated a tangible Cultural Asset by the Okinawa Prefecture government, was restored to it's former glory.
(A similar composition using the camera's built in HDR feature)

The one thing that makes this place different from all of the other natural neighborhood springs that I've found here is that this place also had a traditional Japanese style communal bath or "sento" added to it. Most others around the island are just for drawing drinking water for the home, washing off the vegetables you picked from your garden that morning and even doing the laundry. The bath feature makes this one pretty unique.

As we were snapping away one elderly lady passed by and looked at us rather suspiciously. I greeted her with the traditional Okinawan Hogen "Haisai" or hello and asked how she was doing with the traditional "chaganju?" Immediately she smiled and chuckled to herself and in perfect English replied, "I'm fine thank you!"

It turns out that she was a retired U.S. military base worker and more than just functional in English. It made me jealous that after having lived here a few years my Japanese is still at the two year old child level. I asked her if they still used the bath, not that the site of some elderly Okinawan lady or gentleman coming out in a bath towel might thrill me but, more about is it still utilized in the traditional way. She said that it hadn't been used that way since before she was born.

We snapped a few more pictures here at this site and headed out on more adventures about the island. As you can see from the photos posted here, I still have a little more experimenting to do in HDR but I'll get there eventually. But, this little adventure told me that if you just take a little time and treat the locals with a at least a modicum of respect, there's no limit to what you can learn about life on Okinawa. It's a wonderful place if you take the time to get to know it!

What I miss most when traveling | Wanderplex | Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration for World Travel

When you spend your days within the confines of your claustrophobia-inducing office cubicle, it’s only normal to fantasize about escaping it. To travel to some far away land where there are no Excel spreadsheets or Power Point slides to worry about, no reports to write and no meetings to endure.

The irony however, is that travel itself can also do this to you. If you’re a long-term traveler or in a particularly arduous environment, it’s easy to start craving the comforts of home. Things that seemed mundane – or perhaps things you were completely oblivious to – start to look incredibly appealing all of a sudden.

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A Japan Photo per Day - Dai-San Daiba

In 1853, planning to protect Edo against attacks from sea, the Tokugawa shogunate started the construction of 6 fortresses built on artificial islands. The fortresses were armed with cannon batteries - daiba in Japanese - hence the name of today’s islands Daiba and Odaiba. The main threat was at the time the Kurofune (Black Ships) fleet of Commodore Matthew Perry, which was just arrived.

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Stronger defense for region | The Japan Times Online

In his first telephone conversation with the newly appointed Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly urged Noda to vigorously push the plan of realignment of U.S. forces in Japan including relocating Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa. U.S. Ambassador John Roos reportedly made a similar request to Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba when they met on Sept. 12.
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Warning of heavy rain across Japan as typhoon moves near Okinawa - The Mainichi Daily News

Typhoon Roke, moving slowly north near Okinawa Prefecture, brought rain Sunday to parts of Nara and Wakayama prefectures, where landslides triggered by a powerful typhoon earlier this month produced mud dams that are in danger of collapsing and flooding downstream areas.

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When men were men and smoked like chimneys | The Japan Times Online

The question "tabako wo osui ni narimasuka?" (「タバコをお吸いになりますか」"Do you happen to be a smoker?") is something you don't hear all that often. So many public venues in the Tokyo area have banned smoking altogether, or simply operate on the assumption that no one in their right minds will smoke. And now that the new Kōseirōdōdaijin (厚生労働大臣, Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare) Yoko Komiyama mentioned the possibility of sticking a ¥700 price tag on a pack of cigarettes, aienka (愛煙家, heavy smokers) everywhere are, um, fuming.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Tropical Storm 18W (Roke) - Pacific Storm Tracker - Stripes

Tropical Storm Roke should (finally) make its closest point of approach to Okinawa this morning, some 150 miles east at 9 a.m., after which it’s forecast to start picking up steam and racing toward the Tokyo area.

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Japanese swimmers make progress in relay to Taiwan - CNA ENGLISH NEWS

Six Japanese swimmers navigating their way to Taiwan to show gratitude for the aid the country provided following the March 11 disasters were steadily making progress toward their goal Saturday night.

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Castles and Crafts on the Yomitan Peninsula | The Japan Times Online

Most people come to the Yomitan Peninsula on Okinawa's main island for the sand and the scuba opportunities. I, however, am one of those island residents on whom paradise is wasted — I like neither a sweltering day at the beach nor an afternoon spent exploring the intimidating world beneath the waves. I'm more of a mountain lover, and while Okinawa is a bit short on elevation, recent explorations of my island home had me steering my car to the highest hill I could find in the area.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Okinawa-Hawaii OTEC experts meet at NELHA | Big Island Video News

U.S. and Okinawan technical, environmental and financial specialists in ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) swapped knowledge during a two-day Ocean Energy Workshop at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA) facility.

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Japanese swimmers embark on journey of gratitude to Taiwan - The China Post

Six Japanese swimmers braved strong waves yesterday as they embarked on a two-day voyage from Japan's Okinawa to Taiwan to show gratitude to Taiwanese for the generous donations in the wake of March 11 earthquake-tsunami that hit their country.

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American out to save boat-building art | The Japan Times Online

Douglas Brooks is a man on a mission. A boat builder and craftsman originally from Connecticut, Brooks is committed to helping keep afloat the dying craft of traditional boat building in Japan.

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Goya Republic: Typhoon TAD Update

There's a typhoon out there just to the east of Okinawa right now that is just proving everything about Algores Anthropogenic Global Warming theory is for the birds. First of all, according to those fancy computer models, this thing was supposed to hit us three days ago. Well, all I can say is where the hell is it?

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Typhoon TAD Update

There's a typhoon out there just to the east of Okinawa right now that is just proving everything about Algores Anthropogenic Global Warming theory is for the birds. First of all, according to those fancy computer models, this thing was supposed to hit us three days ago. Well, all I can say is where the hell is it?
(Click on the image to enlarge! The solid blue line showes where it's been and the dotted white lines show where they think it will go, By the way, they've been adjusting this on the fly several times a day for the last several days)

Where it's at is spinning around out in the Pacific Ocean around two small islands called Kita and Minami Daito. Kind of an odd name when you consider it because in Japanese "Kita" is north and "Minami" is south. But the name really goes south from there as the "Dai" means large, which they aint and "To" means small island. A rough translation would come out the north and south big small islands.

That might be along the line of what the Vikings did when they came up with the names for Iceland and Greenland. Common sense would tell you the names of those two islands should be reversed. Not that Iceland is that green but it most certainly is a helluva lot greener than Greenland.

Based on the way it is staggering around out there in the deep blue, my theory is that this typhoon is obviously under the influence of something. It reminds me of my experiences from many moons ago when I was on active duty. Periodically we would go TAD which is short for Temporary Additional Duty. Most of the time this was to go someplace else away from our parent commands for additional training.

But, you all know what they say about what the mice do when the cat is away. Well the same damn thing happens when it is the mice who are away from the cat. Hence, we used to refer to going TAD, away from our parent command and the evil eyes of our "alleged" superiors as "Traveling Around Drunk!" I think that is exactly what this Typhoon is doing now and it also makes me wonder what those small islanders have been drinking as of late, must be some good shit and how can I get me some.

Now instead of hitting us three days ago, the latest forecasts, using those infamous computer models has this damn thing hitting us two days from now! I mean jeez, give us a freaking break will ya. If it ain't possible to accurately use your precious computer models to tell us what this thing is going to do 30 minutes from now, give up on telling us what it's going to do 3 days from now. Moreover, give up on telling us how much warmer the planet will be 100 years from now if we don't give up every damn convenience invented in the last hundred years yesterday!

Since this thing appears to be under the influence, I think the best thing they could do is send a police boat out there and arrest the damn thing before it really does hurt someone. for that matter, I think someone ought to go out and arrest Algore before he hurts himself!

Okinawa: It's a slippery slope to falls - Stripes

During a scuba diving adventure last year off beautiful Kerama Islands, a fellow diver was singing the praises of a river trek he had done recently: Tadake Falls.

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Hawaii sailor finds message in a bottle from Japan - The Mainichi Daily News

A sailor participating in a beach cleanup in Hawaii found a message in bottle that had been dropped in the ocean more than five years ago by a school girl in Japan.

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Unexploded WWII ordnance discovered on Shuri HS grounds - JapanUpdate.com

Three unexploded World War II ordnance pieces have been discovered on the grounds of Shuri High School, sending school officials and other authorities on a more extensive search for more.

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Just add people: Ramen museum opens doors ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion

Nissin Foods opened a cup ramen (noodle) museum on Saturday charting the history of the speedy snack where visitors even get the chance to create their own tasty version.

About 500 adults and children queued up before the museum opened in the port city of Yokohama near Tokyo with celebrity guests ranging from former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to a retail business tycoon.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pachinko: Japan’s lifesaver or time waster? | CNNGo.com

Perhaps it was by mistake, out of curiosity, or just to sneak in and use the restroom, but if you’ve lived in or visited Japan, it’s possible you’ve  walked into a pachinko parlor at least once.

And if so, it was surely an experience you’ve not forgotten. 

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Japan trying to repair ties with Washington - The Washington Post

The new Japanese government is trying to earn back trust from the United States, its most important ally, by showing support for initiatives that recent prime ministers in Tokyo have let languish.

The ideas include support for a multi-nation free-trade agreement and for allowing easier exports of Japanese weapons technology, ventures that have strong support in Washington. New Japanese leaders have also signaled their intention to carry out a long-stalled agreement with Washington that would put the U.S. Marine presence in Okinawa on a more solid footing.

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Weather forecast for the Asia-Pacific region - Taiwan News Online

Tropical Storm Roke will continue spinning just southwest of Okinawa, Japan. The system will make a westward turn on Saturday, it will slowly advance into the East China Sea. However, flow around this system will continue pushing ample moisture onshore, triggering heavy rains and strong winds.

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U.S. may keep Marines in Okinawa - UPI.com

The U.S. government is considering moving combat troops from Okinawa to Guam instead of its headquarters staff, Japanese and U.S. officials say.

The change is aimed at saving money, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported Friday. Because most combat soldiers are single, their relocation would not require the construction of housing for families and other facilities, sources told the newspaper.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

7 tips to save money when staying at a hotel | Wanderplex

I was fortunate to be featured recently in a Fox Business article giving advice about how to cut costs on hotel stays. Accommodation is generally one of the biggest expenses you face when traveling, so any steps you can take to keep the price down and avoid those pesky add-ons can make a huge difference to the final bill for your vacation.

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Tropical Storm (Roke) - Pacific Storm Tracker - Stripes

Although destructive 58-mph sustained winds aren’t forecast, to be on the safe side, 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base set Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 3 at 9 p.m. local time. Tropical Storm Roke is still forecast to rumble 12 miles southeast of Kadena Air Base at 10 p.m. Saturday.

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US Military Defoliants on Okinawa: Agent Orange | Truthout

On August 19th, 2011, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement in response to recent media coverage about the US military’s use and storage of defoliants (including Agent Orange) on Okinawa during the Vietnam War. MOFA announced that, although it had requested the US Department of Defense to investigate these allegations, Washington had replied that it was unable to find any evidence from the period in question. As a result, Tokyo asked the US government to re-check its records in more detail.

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How to save money for travel and still have a life | Wanderplex | Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration for World Travel

So you’ve decided you want to go traveling and you need to find a way to come up with the cash to make it happen.

Perhaps you’ve even read my 12 tips to save money and are implementing some of those ideas.

But there’s just one problem.

Saving money is hard. Painful even.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Japan centenarians rise to record high - World News | IOL News | IOL.co.za

An active lifestyle and spartan diet have helped make Okinawa home to one of the highest percentages of centenarians in the world - 39.5 per 100 000 residents.

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Welcome to the family, Kumejima

The County of Hawaii has entered into a Sister City Relationship with the island of Kumejima, Okinawa, Japan. The relationship was formalized Sunday during a Ocean Thermal Energy Workshop (OTEC) at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii.

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Tasks set for Mr. Noda | The Japan Times Online

As part of an effort to deepen the alliance between Japan and the U.S., Mr. Noda said that he will push the plan to transfer U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma from the urban city of Ginowan in the central part of Okinawa Island to the less populated Henoko area in the northern part of the island.

But if the Noda administration is preoccupied with the Henoko plan and implements it, Okinawan people's protest movement will become fierce and the Japan-U.S. security setup in Okinawa will be surrounded by strong local resentment, undermining the whole security arrangement.

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The Ritz-Carlton Opens Two New Hotels in Japan | Haute Living Magazine

The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa will offer 97 luxurious guest rooms with views over a golf course down to the East China Sea, the Motobu Peninsula and beyond to Ie Island. The hotel will be situated within the premises of the Kise Country Club and surrounded on three sides by its 18-hole Championship course overlooking the ocean.

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Japan to uphold accord on U.S. base relocation amid hint on review - The Mainichi Daily News

Japan will continue to abide by its accord with the United States on relocating a key U.S. base within Okinawa Prefecture, top government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said Wednesday, even as a senior U.S. official suggested a review of the current plan.

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Tropical Storm 18W (Roke), # 8 - Pacific Storm Tracker - Stripes

Tropical Storm Roke will affect Okinawa early next week, but will take a rather roundabout way of getting there. Currently headed northeast, Roke is forecast to make a sharp turn northwest, head that way for a couple of days, then hook southwest right over Okinawa Sunday night into Monday as a severe tropical storm.

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Plane unable to land as traffic controller sleeps

A Japanese air traffic controller fell asleep on the job on Tuesday, leaving a plane unable to land as attempts were made to wake him over the radio, a report said.

The man, in his 50s, told bosses he had nodded off after feeling "drowsy" during his overnight shift at Naha Airport in Okinawa prefecture, southern Japan, Jiji Press reported.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mike's Ryukyu Gallery: Shuri Castle Day and Night at the Moon Viewing Festival

It was a busy day and night for me at Shuri Castle in Naha Okinawa, Japan today.  I got there early because I knew the place would get crowded and I wanted to make sure I could find a parking space.

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9 creative uses for dental floss that don’t involve your mouth | Wanderplex | Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration for World Travel

One of the things about traveling to remote destinations without access to modern conveniences – or simply being a frugal traveler for that matter – is that it forces you to become very resourceful with what you do have.

Today’s gear post focuses on something you should really be carrying with regardless of where you travel – dental floss.

More than just an enabler of good dental hygiene, strong and durable floss has a multitude of creative uses you might not have realized but which could be handy in getting you out of a bind.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Portraits of an Island People: Sefa Utaki

Here's a couple of photos from a recent trip to Okinawa's Sefa Utaki. For those unfamiliar, an Utaki is a holy site in the local religion known as So Sen Su Hai. That roughly translated comes out something like "Therefore because of them, therefore us" or more simply put, we exist because of them. It's a form of ancestors worship that incorporates a little Buddhism, a little Shinto, A little Taoism, Confucianism and a couple of other "ism's" I probably haven't even heard of yet.

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Sefa Utaki

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursdays for September 15, 2011

Here's a couple of photos from a recent trip to Okinawa's Sefa Utaki. For those unfamiliar, an Utaki is a holy site in the local religion known as So Sen Su Hai. That roughly translated comes out something like "Therefore because of them, therefore us" or more simply put, we exist because of them. It's a form of ancestors worship that incorporates a little Buddhism, a little Shinto, A little Taoism, Confucianism and a couple of other "ism's" I probably haven't even heard of yet.

One of the things that make this place special is, in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage site, the interesting rock formations and the super low entry fee of only 300 Yen is the history of the place. This is considered the most holy of all the utaki's in Okinawa and it served as the official site for several annual ceremonies during the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Lastly, the site overlooks Kudaka Jima a small island to the east of Okinawa where local legends have it that all life began.

To my knowledge, there are no longer any "official" ceremonies still held here but many locals will come here to pray and make offerings to the ancestors and the spirits when things aren't going too well on the home front. Given the hard economic times we all face, this place is likely to be a hot spot of spiritual activity for the foreseeable future. Word of advice, if you happen to visit and see some of the locals doing their thing, be respectful. It's their island and even if we have a different orientation to things spiritual, we should at least have the decency respect their ways.

Tropical Depression 18 Forms Southeast Of Okinawa, Japan - Irish Weather Online

The eighteenth tropical depression of the western North Pacific Hurricane season was born over the weekend and was captured by NASA’s Terra satellite on its slow track to the west-northwest. 

Tropical Depression 18W (TD18W) was born on Sunday and by Monday afternoon it was still a depression. TD18W had maximum sustained winds near 30 knots (35 mph) at 11 a.m. EDT, Sept. 12, 2011. It was located about 500 nautical miles southeast of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, and is moving to the west-northwest at 2 knots (3 mph).

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Instant fun at Japan’s noodle museums | Wanderplex | Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration for World Travel

Just when you think you’ve seen enough museums to last a lifetime, you find one so wacky you just have to add it to your to-do list. Take for example the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum in Yokohama, Japan – the self-proclaimed food amusement park pays homage to the humble noodle that has nourished so many a college student. Visitors can enjoy walking through a replica of Tokyo in the late 1950s when the idea of ramen was first cooked up (see picture above), or simply stop by for some late night nosh.

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U.S. envoy calls for base relocation in line with bilateral deal - The Mainichi Daily News

U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos asked Japan's new Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa on Friday to relocate a key U.S. base within Okinawa at an early date in line with a bilateral accord, Japanese officials said.

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Maehara, Inouye agree on Futenma | The Japan Times Online

Democratic Party of Japan policy chief Seiji Maehara agreed with an influential U.S. senator Thursday to proceed with the current plan for relocating the Futenma base within Okinawa Prefecture, a DPJ source said.

Maehara reached the agreement with Sen. Daniel Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii, in a meeting in the U.S. capital, the source said.

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Scenic View on a Shioya Hilltop, Ogimi Village - Map It Okinawa

Shioya is a small town in Ogimi Village. It lies on the outskirts of Shioya Bay. The hilltop that you see above pretty much lies in the center of the town and has a wonderful view of the bay and the town itself.

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Shuri Castle Park Mid-Autumn Celebration this weekend - JapanUpdate.com

The music and dance will be performed by Living National Treasures of Okinawa as Shuri Castle Park commemorates the Mid-Autumn Celebration Saturday and Sunday.

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A Japan Photo per Day - Old Japanese Stories, the Cupid of Japan

In Kyoto, inside the Kiyomizu-dera, you can find a small but colorful (and quite crowded) Shinto shrine. Although located in the temple’s premises, the shrine (built by the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1633) is separated and it is dedicated to Okuninushi-no-Mikoto, kami (god) of love, marriage and matchmaking.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

DVIDS - News - American Village offers taste of home to service members

Okinawa offers much to its visitors and residents, from beautiful scenery and rich culture to fine cuisine, but it is far from America and can leave Americans stationed here longing for a taste of home.

American Village, in Chatan Town, a cluster of restaurants, stores and entertainment, offers Americans an accessible mix of American and Okinawan culture.

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Ritz-Carlton Signs Two Hotels in Japan

Ritz-Carlton has signed two new hotel agreements in Japan, doubling the brand’s presence in the country from two to four hotels.

The agreements were signed with Kanehide, a prominent conglomerate in Okinawa, for the development of The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa, as well as with Sekisui House, Ltd., one of Japan's leading home builders, for the development of The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Japan's new defense minister eyes no deadline for Futenma relocation - The Mainichi Daily News

Japanese Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa pledged on Thursday to keep negotiating with the local community in Okinawa Prefecture in "good faith" over the stalled relocation of a U.S. base in the southwestern prefecture, saying he does not think a deadline should be set for resolving the issue.

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DPJ's Maehara, U.S. senator confirm promoting base transfer as agreed - The Mainichi Daily News

Visiting Japanese ruling party policy chief Seiji Maehara agreed with an influential U.S. senator Thursday to proceed with the current plan for relocating a U.S. Marine base within Okinawa Prefecture in southwestern Japan, a Democratic Party of Japan source said.

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Okinawa: Find quiet at Peace Prayer Park - Military Life - Stripes

Nestled on the southernmost tip of Okinawa is a memorial park thta should not be overlooked if you're inclined to go sightseeing.

Peace Prayer Park, a 45-minute drive from Kadena Air Base via the Okinawa Expressway, offers a full day of beautiful views, spectacular memorials and a museum.

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Asia Times Online :: Crouching dragon, rising sun

Beijing has finally achieved its aspiration to be a force to be reckoned with on the high seas. The long-awaited launch of China's aircraft carrier signaled the incremental readjustment of power relations in East Asia. However, the rise of one power does not necessarily translate to the decline of all others in the vicinity. The rise of China as a naval power will inevitably highlight the indispensability of Japan and prompt Tokyo's ascent to a position of greater political and military importance in Northeast Asia.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Court rejects suit against Yasukuni | The Japan Times Online

The Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court upheld on Tuesday a lower court decision rejecting a suit by five residents of Okinawa opposing their relatives' enshrinement by Yasukuni Shrine.

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PressTV - Japan ministries signal new push to build US Base in Okinawa

Despite his admission that he is an “amateur in security issues,” he has a bundle of major challenges to face in the months ahead. 

One of his greatest challenges lies far from the rain-swept Defense Ministry courtyards in Tokyo, but in this place-Henoko beach in Okinawa.

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Tokyo to Okinawa: New Timetable Set for Futenma Replacement Facility, Determined to Move Marines

Japan's Defense Ministry is redoubling efforts to gain ground on building a new U.S. air base on Okinawa's remote northeastern coast to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, announcing a timetable to complete the required environmental study and seek approval for coastal land reclamation.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Inamine again hits Futenma plan | The Japan Times Online

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. — Nago mayor Susumu Inamine, repeated Monday that he doesn't see any chance of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma being moved from Ginowan to anywhere else in the island prefecture.

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Okinawaology Blog: Goya Farmer

Every year I get a little bit better at growing these bitter melons in my garden. They are extremely healthy and taste great is you prepare them correctly. The secret is to use a spoon to scrape as much of the white fibrous material from the center before using it in you recipes. The plant is called by different names depending on what country your in but we like to call it Goya the Japanese name for bitter melon.

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Guthertz pressing for buildup answers | Pacific Daily News | guampdn.com

Sen. Judith Guthertz has repeated demands to know the position of military and federal officials on the buildup, and on the long-term presence of the U.S. military in the Pacific.

In a letter sent Aug. 30 to Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, assistant secretary of the Navy, Guthertz asked that President Barack Obama issue a strong statement to members of Congress reaffirming the administration's support for the agreement to relocate 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam.

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A Japan Photo per Day - Old Japanese stories, Shibarare Jizo

I wrote before about the very popular Jizo statues, which can be found almost everywhere in Japan. But yesterday I visited a very unusual one, a… rope-tied (shibarare) Jizo. Yes, he is literally tied with a lot of ropes and can be visited at the Narihira Temple from Katsushika, Tokyo.

When I first heard about this Jizo I also wanted to know its legend and so I learned an old and quite funny story dating from the Edo period:

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Futenma impact study due by yearend: ministry | The Japan Times Online

A top defense official told the governor of Okinawa last week that an environmental impact study on relocating a contentious U.S. Marine base within the prefecture will be finished by the end of the year, sources familiar with the meeting said Sunday.

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Japan: Visiting Shrines - Stripes

There are many reasons and occasions throughout the year for the average Japanese citizen to visit a shrine, or jinja. One of the most popular times to visit is during the first three days of the new year to pray to the gods of Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion, for a good and healthy year.

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Discover Aha Falls on Okinawa - Military Life - Stripes

Let me start with this: I had no idea that I would stumble upon a beautiful oasis when I went looking for a strenuous hike through the lush tropical forests of northern Okinawa.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Portraits of an Island People: Terrorists on Okinawa

There’s an awful lot of talk around the globe about the problem of terrorists in this country or that. Fortunately in Okinawa, we don’t have a lot of religious fanatics who strap bombs to women and children and tell them to go up to the nearest foreigner and blow themselves up.

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Terrorists on Okinawa

There’s an awful lot of talk around the globe about the problem of terrorists in this country or that. Fortunately in Okinawa, we don’t have a lot of religious fanatics who strap bombs to women and children and tell them to go up to the nearest foreigner and blow themselves up.

Instead, the terrorist we have here clog up our highways with their rent-a-cars, pay outrageous sums of money to stay at an overpriced beach resort, throw away outlandish sums of money for local, made-in-China, trinkets, drink up our home brewed Orion Beer and Awamori Sake, eat all of our healthy cuisine and then leave.

That being the case, I think the rest of the world could learn a lesson or two from the Okinawans. To all terrorists, please come and visit, spend all of your money, have a good time and then leave.

We recently got a good look at some of the last batch of terrorists to visit our little jewel of the pacific in action and even got them on film, albeit digital film. It was during a recent trip to Manza Mo to get some photos of the Twin Jizo’s at the Elephant's Nose.
Manza Mo and the "Zoe no Hanna" or "Elephant's Nose"

I don’t know about you, but by the looks of these terrorists, I hope they come back and bring a few of their friends with them next time. It’ll be good for the local economy.
 If they ever need someone to frisk them for bombs, I'll volunteer my services!

Tiny village demands military stop using Ginoza local road - JapanUpdate.com

A tiny Ginoza Village district is taking on the American military, demanding that U.S. vehicles stop traveling a military road connecting Camp Hansen with national highway 329.

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Asia Times Online :: Another disposable leader for Japan?

With six prime ministers in five years, it's becoming increasingly clear who is the most popular name in Japanese politics: a person called "nobody".

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Improvement of Japan ties with U.S., China urgent task for Noda administration - The Mainichi Daily News

The newly inaugurated Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda faces the urgent task of improving Japan's relations with the United States, China and other neighbors in the diplomatic and security fields.

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AFP: Japan opposition calls for defence minister to quit

Japan's main opposition party called for the new defence minister to resign on Saturday for referring to himself as an amateur shortly before he took office, but there was a poll boost for the new premier.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Japan sets up task force for U.S. troop realignment - News - Stripes

Japan’s Defense Ministry has set up a task force to facilitate a multibillion-dollar realignment of U.S. forces in Japan.

The realignment would see Marine Corps Air Station Futenma relocate to northern Okinawa and 8,600 Marines move to Guam but it has run into strong opposition from Okinawans and, more recently, from U.S. politicians concerned about the cost in a time of economic crisis.

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The 29th annual Okinawan Festival brings folk dancing, food to Waikiki | HAWAII Magazine

The Okinawan Festival, held each year toward end of summer in the Waikiki area, mixes together music, dance, culture and an assortment of popular Uchinanchu (Okinawan) cuisine for a fun weekend.

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DVIDS - News - 2nd MAW controlled skies during bloodiest WWII battle

In 1945, Okinawa was a battered and rugged place. Its hilly terrain provided cover for Japanese defenders intent on fighting to the last man. Tunnel networks and camouflaged positions made the enemy incredibly difficult to root out. From above, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing flew such fierce sorties against the defenses that the Battle of Okinawa would later be likened to a “typhoon of steel” by survivors.

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NIKKEI.com - New Foreign Minister Sits Down To Full Plate

Japan's new top diplomat has a tall order ahead of him, including dealing with the issue of relocating a U.S. military base in Okinawa and China's increasingly assertive maritime expansion.

Koichiro Gemba's biggest challenge as foreign minister will be deepening Japan's security alliance with the U.S., which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda calls the "basis" of Japanese foreign relations.

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Defense launches U.S. realignment teams | The Japan Times Online

The Defense Ministry has set up four teams to expedite the stalled realignment of U.S. forces here.

One will coordinate and oversee all realignment issues, while the other three will handle relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, moving thousands of marines in Okinawa to Guam, and transferring the U.S carrier aircraft landing and takeoff practices to Mage Island off Kagoshima Prefecture.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Goya Republic: Twin Jizo's at the Elephant's Nose

If you ever happen to be on Okinawa, it's almost compulsory that you have to visit a place called Manza-mo. The place gets its name from a visiting dignitary, allegedly the King, who saw it and said to himself, (Engrish Translation) Holy Carp, you could sit 10,000 men in this field. Hence the name Man 10,000 Za or sit and Mo for field. If that doesn't register on your Japanese translation widget, it may be because of the local "Hogen" dialect.

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Twin Jizo's at the Elephant's Nose

If you ever happen to be on Okinawa, it's almost compulsory that you have to visit a place called Manza-mo. The place gets its name from a visiting dignitary, allegedly the King, who saw it and said to himself, (Engrish Translation) Holy Carp, you could sit 10,000 men in this field. Hence the name Man 10,000 Za or sit and Mo for field. If that doesn't register on your Japanese translation widget, it may be because of the local "Hogen" dialect.

The place is best known for a unique rock formation called the "Zoe no Hanna" which is Japanese for the elephant's nose. Many terrorists, err make that tourists visiting Okinawa will come here (by the bus load) to walk across the field and snap a quick photo of this famous rock formation, buy a quick overpriced trinket from the local vendors and rush off to see the twenty or so other sites on their busy travel schedule.

For the life of me, I often wonder why the Japanese go on vacation in the first place. They always seem to be in such a hurry to get everywhere and see everything that they must be exausted by the time they finish their trips.

Anyway, another lesser known fact about Manza mo is that this was one of the many places where mass suicides took place during the battle of Okinawa, often referred to by the locals as the "Typhoon of Steel!" The cliffs here are around 60 meters above the water and the jagged coral and rock formations below. The locals, brainwashed by the military authorities were told that they would be beaten, raped and after much humiliation, eventually killed by the evil American invaders. So they were told by the authorities that it was better to commit suicide than suffer such a fate. Unfortunately many did just that. And people who read my posts wonder why I don't trust the government!

Anyway, by now you're wondering what the two Jizo statues have to do with this. Well, like I said, if you ever happen to visit and go to Manza mo, get off the regular nicely paved path and go southward past the Zoe no Hanna rock formation and you'll find these two little guys in a small clearing of the brush looking out over the ocean.

Be advised, there is a large hole in the ground just to the right of these two little fellas. It's an opening in the top of the cliff and you can see down to the ocean and the rocks some 60 or so meters immediately below. A bit disturbing if you happen to be a man of girth like myself. Not to worry, its been jammed up with rocks so no one could fall through to their deaths but you could give yourself a big hurt if you fell there.

Some folks might speculate that the Jizo's, who in Japanese lore are protectors of traveler's, are there to warn you about the hole. I like to think that they are there for all the lost souls who were lied to by their leaders and died needlessly during a tragedy known as The Typhoon of Steel..

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday for September 1st, 2011. If you like to see other great travel photos from places around the globe, click on the link and check it out.

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Mike's Ryukyu Gallery: A Travel Photo of UNESCO World Heritage Site: Sefa Utaki

This photo gives viewers a sense of the size of the rock formations at the UNESCO World Heritage Site called Sefa Utaki.

The travelers are standing on what could be called Okinawa's most sacred ground.

From the position they are at, they can see Kudaka Jima, a small island off the east coast of Okinawa, where locals believe life originated.

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Get groovy, Okinawan-style - Honolulu weekly

The 29th Annual Okinawan Festival is back again this year for another event full of food, performances and games. The festival lasts for two days, so you’ll have plenty of time to check out everything from the karate dojo to the taiko show.

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Okinawa diplomatic cables gone from website | Pacific Daily News | guampdn.com

A batch of consulate cables that gave a backdoor view of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma controversy vanished a few days after they were published by Wikileaks, and it is unclear if the disappearance is linked to an alleged hacker attack on the site.

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U.S. military commissions environmental impact survey on Okinawa for Ospreys - News - Stripes

The U.S. military has commissioned a survey to gauge the environmental impact of replacing Sea Stallion helicopters on Okinawa with tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey aircraft.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Defense Ministry launches teams on realignment of U.S. bases - The Mainichi Daily News

The Japanese Defense Ministry set up four teams Tuesday to push ahead with the stalled realignment of U.S. bases in Japan.

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TODAYonline | Travel | Travel 101 ... Okinawa Island

Okinawa Island is just one of the hundred of islands that make up Japan's southernmost prefecture. And it has more than just gorgeous sandy beaches like Cape Zanpa that keep travellers coming back. From the historic Ryukyu castles and ruins to great parks and forests to American-style malls to the unique cuisine - with Chinese and South-east Asian traces - Okinawa feels like another side of Japan you feel you haven't even begun to experience.

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Ancient forearm bone from tall man found at archeological site in Okinawa - The Mainichi Daily News

Researchers have unearthed an ancient forearm bone from the Mabuni Hantabaru archeological site in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, believed to be from a Jomon period male roughly 169 centimeters tall -- much taller than the average for the period.

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Futenma not top priority for Japan’s new prime minister - News - Stripes

Newly elected Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda vowed Monday to uphold a controversial U.S.-Japan agreement to keep a Marine Corps air station on Okinawa despite a planned drawdown of forces in the coming years.
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AccessJ: Japan and Marijuana

Among the weird characters, objects, and symbols that Japanese adopt as cultural icons (including, but not limited to, Stitch from Lilo & Stitch, human feces, faux-Russian rabbit-centric series Usavich, the V sign, popularizing NG as a handy opposite to OK in everyday life, the abomination that is Sento-kun, and Sento-kun's girlfriend) is one that still catches me off guard every time I see it:

The seven-pointed cannabis leaf.

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A Japan Photo per Day - Shinto Shrines, Fushimi Inari Taisha

There are over 32000 shrines dedicated to Inari, the Japanese kami of fertility, rice, agriculture and industry. The head shrine of all of them, and the most spectacular, is located in Kyoto: the Fushimi Inari Taisha.
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