Old Guys Rule: Celebrating “Respect for the Aged” in Japan


A Peaceful Okinawa Centenarian

A Peaceful Okinawa Centenarian

“The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The foods that promote longevity, virtue, strength, health, happiness, and joy; are juicy, smooth, substantial, and agreeable to the stomach.” ~Bhagavad Gita quotes

“Mere longevity is a good thing for those who watch Life from the side lines.  For those who play the game, an hour may be a year, a single day’s work an achievement for eternity.” ~Helen Hayes

“Hey, I guess they’re right. Senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose. I’ll be right back. Don’t you go dying on me!” ~Lloyd Christmas to an elderly woman, Dumb and Dumber

Floyd Christmas Failed to Respect his Elders

Floyd Christmas Failed to Respect his Elders

funny-yeah-its-monday-said-no-one-ever-picsRespect for the Aged Day (敬老の日 Keirō no Hi) is a Japanese holiday celebrated annually to honor elderly citizens.  Although historically held on September 15, after 2003 its date was moved to the 3rd Monday of September due to the “Happy Monday System” of providing national holidays in conjunction with Sundays.  Remember, much of Japan remains on a 6-day work-week!

101 Years Young

101 Years Young

This national holiday traces its origins to 1947 when the Hyōgo Prefecture of Japan (prefectures are like our states) proclaimed September 15 as “Old Folks’ Day (Toshiyori-no-Hi).”  Originally, it consisted only of a small fishing village town meeting held to honor their seniors and listen to them speak so as to attempt to gain benefit from such words of wisdom.  Its popularity quickly spread nationwide as the Japanese society and culture started to recover from the devastation of World War II, and in 1966 its name was change as it became a national holiday.

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Respect for the Aged Day (Keiro-no-Hi) may signify to many in the west Japan’s rapidly aging population, but here in the East this national holiday emphasizes honor and appreciation for the contributions senior citizens have made and continue to make to society, while wishing them additional longevity.

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Being a relatively new holiday, traditions and customs associated with Respect-for-the-Aged Day remain fairly vague, but smaller communities tend to host some kind of special event in honor of their senior citizens.  On their day, many communities honor the elderly with parties and ceremonies and present them with gifts.  Media becomes centered on senior-related programs, particularly those concerning the (growing) number of elderly in Japan, and the oldest people in the country.  School children often visit facilities for the elderly to entertain them with song and dance.

But how old is old really in Japan? (Statistics provided by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications 2012)

• In Japan, people age 65 and older are considered elderly; people 75 and older are regarded as “late-stage elderly.”

A dilemma applicable only to those "late stagers...."

A dilemma applicable only to those “late stagers….”

• Japan has the highest life expectancy at 83 years (79.9 for men, 86.1 for women) out of 194 surveyed nations, according to the WHO.  The U.S. ranks 40th at age 79 (81 for women, 76 for men).

Longevity; it's all relative

Longevity; it’s all relative

• 24.1 percent of Japan’s population – 30.7 million people (17.5 million women, 13.1 million men) – is age 65 and older.  This number increases by 1.02 million annually.  There are 15.1 million people in Japan age 75 and older.

• There are more than 50,000 centenarians in Japan; the number increases by 3,000 annually.

Detrimental Health Effects of this western-derived burger start with choking hazards....

Detrimental Health Effects of this western-derived burger start with choking hazards….

More importantly though, it seems that more modern Western ways are beginning to trump world-famous Okinawa longevity and life expectancy.  Okinawa was once long recognized for having the highest longevity rate out of all 47 prefectures in Japan, and once held the most centenarians per capita in the world.  But times have changed according to a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare study conducted every five years.  While a 1995 survey showed that overall there were 22 centenarians for every 100,000 persons in Okinawa – 3.8 times the national average at the time – follow-on surveys show longevity has been declining in Okinawa ever since.  By 2005, male Okinawan longevity in Japan had dropped from first to 25th place.

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Most recently, in 2010, Okinawan women dropped to third place in the survey with a life expectancy of 87.02 years, slightly higher than the ministry’s national average of 86.35.  Okinawan men continued to drop, reaching 30th place at 79.4 years, just shy of the national life expectancy for males of 79.59 years.  The results are no surprise to many; the medical community has been predicting such trends for at least the last decade.

okinawa-diet plate

By all accounts, the old island lifestyle on Okinawa, centered to a large extent on diet, has literally been dying out with modern changes in lifestyle.  Such shifts, particularly those in the Okinawan diet,  have opened the door to diseases associated with obesity – once rare on Okinawa – like diabetes, heart failure and strokes, all illnesses that are now becoming all too common.  The chief factor is diet; most finger-pointing calls out now ubiquitous fast-food chains like A&W, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken sprinkled all over the island.  With the continuing loss of the Okinawan culture and tradition, younger Okinawans’ eating habits and levels of physical activity become more and more westernized, ways that are clearly detrimental to longevity.

pyramid_okinawa_diet_foods_program

In any case, with modernization, especially that of our western ways, not everyone in Japan will be observing these traditional customs and holidays in the ways they should be.  Just as in American, national holidays are more and more being treated as simply “days off,” providing merely a time to relax, visit with friends and family, and make the most of precious time off, rather than being celebrated for the important and worthy notions which such days of observance cry out for.

Which should beg the question of us all:  how should we – as a country, as a society and as individuals – honor our elderly?  A start would be such national and formal recognition, like Respect for the Aged Day in Japan.  But, what our elderly don’t need is simply another “day off” and lip-service to their mere presence.  We, as their children and good stewards of our nation and community, must do better.  As an old Far Eastern proverb goes, “what an elder sees sitting, youth cannot see standing….”

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How will you hold your own Respect for the Aged Day?

Start by calling your Momma!!  I’m as guilty as most everyone else….

...but not to tell her about this....

…but not to tell her about this….

Hidden Harvest Moon: Rain & the Shurijo Castle Autumn Celebration


Manga Moon

Manga Moon

“But even when the moon looks like it’s waning…it’s actually never changing shape. Don’t ever forget that.” ~Ai Yazawa, Japanese manga author

“I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Far Eastern Spectators

Far Eastern Spectators

Held annually on or about August 15 of the lunar calendar under the Harvest Moon (roughly coinciding with the fall equinox), the Mid-Autumn Celebration reproduces the Mid-Autumn Banquet Celebration, one of seven Sappou Shichien Celebrations once held during the historical Ryukyu Kingdom era which served to entertain and celebrate Sappoushi envoys from China.

More Modern Envoys...of a sort.

More Modern Envoys…of a sort.

Jody and I decided to attend this year’s festivities.  Up to this point, we have been rather overwhelmed with moving and settling on the island, trying to get by with what little we have (still no household goods!!), and with Jody trying to acclimate to her job at the Navy hospital.  However, we had been watching the moon’s slow and steady progression each night towards full glory, and concluded that the spectacle of the historical Shuri Castle, dressed and immersed in traditional Okinawan pageantry, under the harvest full moon during our 2nd wedding anniversary weekend was something we probably shouldn’t miss.  We were even surprised to find out that the admission was free, even though the event takes place in the castle’s central Una forecourt, normally requiring payment to enter.

Far Eastern Myth:  Rabbit in the Moon making Rice Cakes

Far Eastern Myth: Rabbit in the Moon making Rice Cakes

Ukanshin odori (“classic dances”) and Kumi Odori (組踊, Okinawan: Kumi wudui, “ensemble dance”) are performed under the harvest moon, and are a form of narrative traditional Ryukyuan dance.  Originating in the Okinawan capital of Shuri in 1719, the dances are founded on amusement and diversion for Chinese diplomats and envoys that traveled frequently between China and Okinawa at the time.  Tamagusuku Chokun, a Ryūkyū courtier (1684–1734), is credited with the establishment of kumi odori as a frequently presented court demonstration.  An amalgamation of several different types of East Asian dance, the kumi odori has continued to hold important cultural significant in Okinawan society, and remains today a prime example of native art sustained by and through the people of Okinawa.

Jody at the Shuremon Gate

Jody at the Shuremon Gate

Costumes & Pageantry

Costumes & Pageantry

The weekend festivities promised to bring the historical Ryukyu court to life.  Four show sets were programmed to take place Saturday evening between 6:30 and 9:00, each lasting about 45 minutes.  We arrived in plenty of time, and since this was Jody’s first visit to Shuri, we took our time wandering through and up the meandering path to the castle, passing through various ornamented gates and past massive coral blocked walls.  Unfortunately for us, the weather was not cooperating; rain was in the forecast, and overcast conditions prevailed.  The luminous moon was nowhere in sight, especially when our travel-sized umbrellas had to be deployed.

Castle Gate

Castle Gate

The Kingdom of the Ryukyus reigned over Japan’s southwestern islands for approximately 450 years from 1429 to 1879, although political collusion in these islands began to appear earlier in the 12th century, a period corresponding to Japan’s Kamakura era.  Through repeated fighting and reconciliation, local warlords known as aji were gradually reduced in number as power was consolidated by a few.  Finally in 1429, Sho Hashi defeated the major ajis to establish a unified nation, marking the birth of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus and the Sho Dynasty.

A Chinese Shishi Lion

A Chinese Shishi Lion

In the following years, the Ryukyus gradually evolved.  Through robust trade and growing diplomatic ties with China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia, the Ryukyus developed as an ocean-faring nation, with Shurijo Castle as its political, economic and cultural center.

Far Eastern Décor

Far Eastern Décor

During this festival, when twilight has passed, the visual effects of Shurijo Castle Park are spectacular, with visitors able to appreciate the grandeur of the illuminated Seiden State Hall from the adjacent festival location in the hall’s Una Forecourt.  The view from the Western Observatory provides a spectacular and breathtaking evening view of Naha City’s lights from far in the south up the coast to even Cape Zanpa, who’s lighthouse beacon was clearly visible.

View of Naha from Shurijo's Viewpoint

View of Naha from Shurijo’s Viewpoint

Okinawa Aug 2013, Shuri Castle, our view of the stage, mid-Autumn FestivalAs we formally entered the Castle’s inner grounds, we noticed three lines of people just outside the forecourt, one for each of the gated entrances found there.  Noticing that the lines to the right (far side) were shorter, I elected the middle line, not really knowing what to expect.  For those planning to go, get there early and get into the line to the far left; this line provides easiest access to seating on the left side of the stage, where the dancers and musical performers can best be viewed.  The musicians are seated on the right of the stage (as viewed from the audience), facing left, which can obscure the theatrics for some of those seated on the right.

Our View from Stage Left

Our View from Stage Left

Costumed Guard

Costumed Guard

In 1469, some 40 years after the Sho Dynasty assumed power, a coup occurred, resulting in the 2nd Sho Dynasty.  In 1609, the Satsuma Clan of Japan invaded the Ryukyus with a force of 3,000 men and seized Shurijo Castle.  For the following 270 years, the Kingdom of the Ryukyus maintained a nominally tributary relationship with China, historically their main ally and trading partner, while in reality it was controlled by Japan via the Tokugawa Shogunate.  Finally, in 1879, the return to Japanese imperial rule with the Meiji Restoration resulted in the dispatch of troops to oust the Ryukyu King from Shurijo Castle and place Okinawa formally under the Japanese Emperor, officially establishing Okinawa Prefecture and ending forever the Kingdom of the Ryukyus.

Okinawa Aug 2013, Shuri Castle, male performer of the Kajadihu dance, mid-Autumn Festival

Okinawa Aug 2013, Shuri Castle, the beautiful pair from the Shundo dance, mid-Autumn FestivalJody and I were able to attend the first three portions of the program, and unfortunately missed the most impressive dances that occurred later in the evening.  Not wanting to drive (and most likely get lost), pay the tolls (about $6 each way), and mess with parking downtown (quite expensive at the castle), we elected to take a military tour.  And although the provided bus was very nice and the driver excellent, the cost was probably higher than providing our own transportation, and oddly enough, the time of the tour did not coincide with the timing of the programmed events…thanks to the 10pm curfew imposed by the military on its junior personnel.  That combined with rain delays that caused the celebration to being twenty minutes late, resulted in our rather early departure.

Traditional Okinawan Music

Traditional Okinawan Music

Castle Grandeur

Castle Grandeur

Not really knowing what to expect, but having seen other forms of traditional Asian and Asian Pacific Islander dance across the Pacific Rim and within Asia proper, I was somewhat surprised at these particular performances.  The level of pageantry was not as I would have expected or desired (stage decoration, better sound, larger ensembles, period costumed staff), and the dances, while fascinating to watch and experience first-hand in such a powerful and historical location, are almost devoid of emotion and energy…at least by western standards.  Luckily, we had a guide, provided free at the venue, which helped explain what we were seeing and hearing.

Kajadihu Traditional Opening

Kajadihu Traditional Opening

First was Kajadihu, an “auspicious dance customarily performed as the first in programs presented on festive occasions.”  It is said to be the most preferred and popular of all the classical Ryukyuan dances.  It seems to portray a very old Okinawan couple, who moved very slowly, methodically, and nearly in unison, each with a decorated Japanese fan as a hand prop.

Amaka Dance

Amaka Dance

Another dance performed was Amaka, a dance presented along with a song about a married couple vowing their eternal love, although oddly enough, the dance calls for only a solo woman to perform.  This is a type of teodori, a dance emphasizing hand movements without props.  In this song and dance, the loving couple is compared to Mandarin ducks, regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity, playing together on a river called Amakawa.

Okinawa Sep 2013, Shuri Castle, performers from the Kajadihu open, mid-autumn festival

Shundo's "Ugly" Pairing

Shundo’s “Ugly” Pairing

Our favorite performance piece of the evening by far was Shundo, which involves two pairs of women artists, a beautiful pairing alongside an “ugly” one!  This is considered a “pair dance” and is the only piece in the Ryukyu classical dances that use masks – to make the ugly pair appear “ugly” – as props.  Although expressed in a humorous way, the melancholy and clunkiness of the ill-favored women runs throughout the work, contrasting with the gracefulness of the admired beauties.

Shundo's More Appealing Pair

Shundo’s More Appealing Pair

Next year we will be much better prepared, logistically and with our own expectations.  And we will hope for clear skies and a bright moon, whose beaming light would clearly make this a more spectacular evening for all to harvest.

Staged Performances

Staged Performances

p07_photo01Left:  Enormous moon sets the scene for “Jade Rabbit—Sun Wukong” from the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon. The giant disk, which became an expressive device in much Japanese painting, is a prominent element here. This image is from the allegorical Chinese novel, Journey to the West (Xi You Ji), in which the immortal monkey, Sun Wukong, transforms into a rabbit to fulfill his quest; the monkey taunts the rabbit in the moon.

Shūbun no Hi (秋分の日): Happy Anniversary to my One Wild and Crazy Wife!!


My One Wild and Crazily Beautiful Wife!!

My One Wild and Crazily Beautiful Wife!!

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Love is the only gold.” ~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Ride of Our Lives

The Ride of Our Lives

Japanese Marriage Dolls; Almost Caucasian

Japanese Marriage Dolls; Almost Caucasian

An anniversary is a time to celebrate the joys of today, the memories of yesterday, and the hopes of tomorrow.  Today is my and Jody’s 2nd Wedding Anniversary.  Yes, we are newlyweds (pretty much), but neither of us are new to marriage…which makes this, our 2nd chance together, more pleasurable to appreciate, and must sweeter to relish.

And although Jody has “Command Orientation” today at work, and we still lack most of our personal belongings, AND our celebratory cat decided to wake us up last night – early at 0430 and often afterwards – in order to voice her happiness in our union (but more likely in the prospects of an early breakfast), the Japanese have actually marked our day as a National Holiday.  And for many of the same reasons.  It’s really an over-the-top gesture for our host country to acknowledge “our day”!

They Probably Have the Day Off...for a Mental Counseling Appointment

They Probably Have the Day Off…for a Mental Counseling Appointment

“Autumnal Equinox Day” (秋分の日 Shūbun no Hi) is a public holiday in Japan that usually occurs on September 22 or 23, the date of the fall equinox in Japan Standard Time.  Autumnal Equinox Day became a public holiday on 1948; previously, it was the date of Shūki kōreisai ( 秋季皇霊祭), a religious event relating to Shintoism.  Kōreisai were days of worship in Japan that began in 1878 (Meiji 11) to pay respects to the past emperors and imperial family members.  After the 1948 passing of the Act on National Holidays, these days were marked in a non-religious manner as the national holidays of Vernal Equinox Day and Autumnal Equinox Day.  During these events, one prayed for good harvest in the spring and expressed thanks for the harvest in autumn.  The equinoxes were also the days of ancestor veneration in China.  Like most other holidays, this holiday was repackaged as a secular holiday for the sake of separation of religion and state in Japan’s postwar constitution.

Jody at the Shureimon Gate, Shuri Castle

Jody at the Shureimon Gate, Shuri Castle

Shuri Castle, our Anniversary Venue

Shuri Castle, our Anniversary Venue

In conjunction with this holiday, on Okinawa there is a Mid-Autumnal Festival held at the historical seat of royalty and government of the Ryukyus, Shirijo Castle.  We attended, honoring our anniversary is this traditional and long-standing Okinawa way, complete with traditional dancing, music, singing, and some level of pageantry.

Anniversary Pageantry, Just for Us!!

Anniversary Pageantry, Just for Us!!

Rich-King Wedding 2011, Route Love signageJody and I selected this rather sacred day of the calendar for our union due to its inherent importance and long history and tradition, like that described above.  The concept of “equal parts,” day and night, as well as the cross-cultural importance and timelessness of marking this particular day resonated with us both and reflects how we view our respective rules in this, our greatest adventure.  And in these ways, I can, during each autumnal equinox, express my thanks for the harvest we’ve nurtured and cultivated together through each spring, recognizing that the majestic circle of life revolves around Love, through equal parts, day and night, love and devotion, husband and wife, respect and honesty, but most simply, man and woman but hand in hand.

Dapper Couple

Dapper Couple

My Toast to Jody on our Wedding Day, September 23, 2011, as true today as it was back then:

“Family, coworkers (mostly ex-coworkers I guess), skydivers, bikers, friends, friends of friends, and additions of my newest family members, I energetically welcome you tonight, and humbly thank you for taking your time to celebrate with me and Jody.”

6317316640_3be5d90de1_b“A favorite quote of me, and if you look around, you can see that I really like quotes, is, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  Isn’t that the question for all of us?  Isn’t that central to what our respective journeys are all about?  ‘Your one wild and precious life.’  Thank about that for a moment.”

“To those of you that really know me, this day – marriage – was NOT supposed to happen.  I was rather vehement about that for a long time.  Dan – is that not true??  Kamyar, what was my one repetitive piece of advice to you for YEARS?? [his answer:  ‘don’t get married!’]  I believed that marriage just wasn’t in the cards that god dealt, and actually, I still believe that to be true.

Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

“Instead, god decided to write my way in the stars.  As the poem ‘Desiderata’ says so simply, ‘…the universe unfolds pretty much how it should.’  It is up to us to look, find, see, and interrupt the lettering.”

6317359844_5e6e502686_b“Jody and I found our ways to each other, through quite different mechanisms.  If you ask me how we met, I’ll probably tell each of you a different story – it’s a tradition of ours based on what a very good friend of mine is famous for saying:  ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story!’  She will tell you, I think, that she was wandering, not aimlessly, but still directionally challenged.  But I will tell you this:  it was I who was lost.  And Jody, my Desideratum, my desired thing, my compass, my north star – it was Jody who enlightened me to the way.  Jody has been the one, the only one that has taught me to navigate through my one wild and precious life with renewed purpose and complete meaning.  Know this:  the rules of navigation never navigated a ship….”

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“We are all children of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

and have a right to be standing here, in absolute love.

And whether or not it is clear to those here today,

no doubt for us, Jody, the universe is unfolding as it should.”

Toasts and Toasted

Toasts and Toasted

“As you, our family and friends, and this great expense of nature serves as my witness,

I promise to go placidly with you through the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there is in our silence.”

She Can Leave Her Hat On

She Can Leave Her Hat On

“As far as possible and without surrender, I will strive to be on good terms with you,

who with I shall be wholesome, disciplined, and gentle.

I will speak my truth quietly and clearly;

and likewise will forever listen to the whisperings of your soul.”

Direction

Direction

“I will enjoy your achievements as well as your plans,

and refuse to be blinded to virtue

as our lives will be one of striving for high ideals

and full of our own personal heroism.”

Rich-King Wedding 2011, happy couple close embrace

“I pledge to always be myself,

And especially never feign affection.

Neither shall I be cynical about our love;

for in the face of all barrenness and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.”

Rich-King Wedding 2011, fall equinox wedding invitation

“I will take kindly the counsel of our years together,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

I resolve to nurture your strength of spirit

to help shield you from sudden misfortune.

No longer distress yourself with dark imaginings;

Our fears born of fatigue and loneliness are no longer.”

Rich-King Wedding 2011, the bride waits

“I am at peace with God and this union,

as you have shown me peace in my soul ,

in the midst of the cluttered confusion of life.”

Rich-King Wedding 2011, Bride & Groom happy self-portrait

“In the face of the sham, drudgery, and broken dreams of the past,

You have made the world – my world – a beautiful place.

Be we cheerful this day as we always strive to be happy.

I love you Jody, my Desideratum, my desired thing

Wife from this day forward.”

Rich-King Wedding 2011, a classic car wave goodbye from the departing couple

“Tonight, the fall equinox, where like there are equal parts day and night, there are also equal parts love and support.  Thank you, each and every one, for supporting us, for your friendship, and for your Love.  It means the world to us both to have you all here tonight.  So, please raise your glass and toast with me to friendship that lasts; to family and the ties that bind, and to Jody King, my one wild and precious Wife!  Cheers!!”

Okinawa Aug 2013, A-Okay sunset at Sunabe Seawall

Surf Nazis Must Die!! Scuba Diving on Okinawa


Beaches as Battlefields?  Dang Surf Nazis....

Beaches as Battlefields? Dang Surf Nazis….

“Slime-sucking Neanderthal! How dare you question my loyalty?” ~Eva, Surf Nazis Must Die, but more likely, the staff at the Kadena Air Base weather office that make up the Sea Conditions for scuba diving on Okinawa in response to anyone who questions such determinations.

“I am the Führer of the beach!” ~Adolf, Surf Nazis Must Die, but more likely, the Officer-in-Charge of the office mentioned above, no doubt nicknamed “Adolf.”  He’s probably short, clearly with a Napoleonic complex.

Surf Nazis weld Too Much Power

Surf Nazis weld Too Much Power

“If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” ~Katharine Hepburn

“Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Intent of the Law should Trump the Letter; Principles are More Important

The Intent of the Law should Trump the Letter; Principles are More Important

I’ve been sulking here, in my condo, since Tuesday, watching through our picture windows overlooking the East China Sea the Japanese scuba dive charter boats come and go all day long to the calm, clear and warm waters of Sunabe, literally our front yard and playground all in one.  Although we have full sets of dive gear, humped across the 10,000 mile journey to Japan in order to use early and often, what we are missing are tanks.

Okinawa 2013, Japanese dive charters at Sunabe

It’s Friday and Great Weather – Look at all those Dive Charters!

You know, those thingies that allow you to breathe underwater and use all that heavy, expensive, and even cool-looking dive gear.

Even Cats Look Cooler in Dive Gear

Even Cats Look Cooler in Dive Gear

Alas, I cannot rent tanks.  At least not from the US-based dive shops on island.  And even if I do rent tanks from any one of the four Japanese dive shops within two blocks of my condo, I’m not “allowed” to enter the water on this beautiful diving day as a SOFA-status dependent.

Why you ask?

A Logical, Unemotional Nazi, but no less a Nazi

A Logical, Unemotional Nazi, but no less a Nazi

Surf Nazis.

And they must die.

Warning Maeda

Maeda Point Warning

Warning Horseshoe

Horseshoe Warning

You see, the military has decided that, like every other dark recess of what used to be our personal lives, that standard rules, regulations and common sense are simply not enough.  That, although we in the United States Military are entrusted to use lethal force in the name of the United States overseas and take lives, such a sacred level of trust simply cannot be extended to recreational activities.  And, even though the organization we work for will not hesitate to put us in severe and prolonged danger, they wish to shield us from anything remotely hazardous outside of normal working hours.  So, even though as certified scuba divers, schooled and tested in all-things dive safety-related, Big Cousin – the military’s fraternal relations to the government’s Big Brother – has decreed that they know better and can dictate our lives in a safer fashion through institution of yet more inane rules.

Onna Point Warnings.  Okay, we get it!!

Onna Point Warnings. Okay, we get it!!

Rules not based on principle.

A Good Idea Gone Wrong as a Rule

A Good Idea Gone Wrong as a Rule

There are “Sea Conditions” on Okinawa, for each coast – East and West.  Now, this is actually a pretty decent idea.  The principle could be sound.  But, “The Bigs Family,” the USG collection of overlords, don’t believe, it appears, it either higher education, or simple logic.  One element of determining Sea Condition is wind speed:  if it is over a certain amount, Danger Will Robison is sounded and not only are the scuba shops barred from renting gear, US personnel on-island are barred from even entering the water.

Okay, it's not this calm, and I didn't take the photo.  But you get the point....

Okay, it’s not this calm, and I didn’t take the photo. But you get the point….

Ludicrous.  Look at this picture taken this morning from my condo of the “dangerous” sea condition!!!  Wow, all those Japanese are surely risking life and limb to go diving today….

The Surf Nazis:  Responsible for Kitten Genocide

The Surf Nazis: Responsible for Kitten Genocide

The problem, you see, is that the Surf Nazis do not take into account wind direction, nor do they even bother with any measure of sea state, both of which are much more indicative of wave action and potential hazardous conditions to divers.  Most waves are wind-driven.  Even at very high velocity, winds need fetch in order to transfer energy to the water.  In other words, wind has to act across a large expanse of unbroken water for waves to build to significant and dangerous height.  Okinawa, being a north-south-oriented island, is a natural wind-break for winds from the east and west, which generally means one coast is rather smooth while the other can be somewhat rough.  Since the majority of diving activities are best situated on its western side, when the winds are blowing out of the east for days straight – as they have been, steady and true – there is not only a complete lack of fetch for the winds to act, the winds actually act in a restorative action to flatten the seas on the west coast, where I happen to live.  Hence the calm, perfect dive weather, even though the winds are blowing 20-25mph….

Beautiful Corals at Sunabe

Beautiful Corals at Sunabe

Diving is in my blood, and I have missed it so.  In Pensacola, I traded this particular hobby and lifestyle with another highly addictive one:  skydiving.  Now that skydiving is gone (there is NO jumping on Okinawa), I’m itching to go diving.  And not just for the fun-in-the-sun, outdoor aspect of being on the beach and in the water.  And not even to see the world-renowned and always entertaining “Girly-Show” of Jody putting on and taking off a wet suit (wink-wink; it’s a scene from a James Bond movie, at least the one that plays in my mind).

Burlesque & Scuba Diving Combined!

Burlesque & Scuba Diving Combined!

It is for the magical exploration that every dive brings, especially here in the sub-tropical Pacific.

Large Pacific Octopus at Sunabe

Large Pacific Octopus at Sunabe

Magical Tentacles

Magical Tentacles

Although I learned to dive in the states (Florida), and did much of my early diving in Florida, primarily in the Florida Keys in the 1990s, I truly didn’t “take” to the recreation until my first stint in Okinawa back in 1999-2001.  At the time my Ex decided to get certified, and she quickly became quite a proficient diver and excellent dive buddy.  This shared experience back then probably saved our marriage, or as it were, delayed its inevitable end for another six years.  Diving became a staple of our lives, mainly because of the world-class diving available on Okinawa, waiting just a few steps and few breaths away from the shore.  And thank goodness; many of my more found memories of that relationship (of which I seldom speak) are dive-centric.

Clowning around an Anemone

Clowning around an Anemone

Danny Diving at Sunabe

Danny Diving at Sunabe

Both my children learned to dive here.  Daniel back in 2001 when he was 13, and Naomi in 2005 at the same age.  We were only able to dive just a couple of times as a family before our nuclear family imploded, and I’m not even sure they have been diving since.  That is a real shame when I think back upon the opportunity wasted for everyone.  Such exploits can have exponentially dramatic impacts on young minds with audacious hearts.

Naomi Entering the Water at Sunabe

Naomi Entering the Water at Sunabe

And now I am able to share this enchanted realm and captivating activity with Jody.  Our first dive together was actually just two weeks ago, here, on Okinawa.  Yes, we have been together almost three years now, but the diving in Pensacola is…well…less inspiring.  And cold.  I have been worried about cementing our dive partnership, since I knew that a healthy portion of our leisure lives on Okinawa for the next three years were going to be concentrated on the water, or, more appropriately, what lies beneath.  And apparently we are doing okay.  She’s still alive, not bent, and not just talking to me, she’s smiling!  In my defense (and credit), in our first three dives here I did spot for her a sea turtle, a large octopus out in the open, and her first Pacific sea anemone, complete with a mating pair of aggressive but fun clown fish!  An auspicious start to this chapter of our lives together I must say.  I am eager to continue writing in this regard, but writing on this subject is best done post-dive, and diving we are, at the moment, not.

A more simplified list of Dive Rules....

A more simplified list of Dive Rules….

I also became a PADI Divemaster here back in 2001, and now I am enrolled in a PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC), where if all goes well, I’ll be a fully certified Open Water Scuba Instructor (OWSI) by the end of October.  And then my playground here will become my classroom everywhere…there is a beach.  And I will work where I love, and will truly be able to say that I love my work.

Me Diving Sunabe, 2006

Me Diving Sunabe, 2006

But first we gotta get those Sea Conditions changed.

SeaCond_fbu1

And those Surf Nazis?  They gotta die.

Surf Nazis should be replaced by the much more permissive Scuba Kitty

Surf Nazis should be replaced by the much more permissive Scuba Kitty

Surf Nazis Must Die

Surf Nazis Must Die

A Splash of Ramen: “Kitchen Splash” Restaurant Review


A Splash of Seashells

A Splash of Seashells

“Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.” ~Ludwig van Beethoven

“Having a good wife and rich cabbage soup, seek not other things” ~Russian Proverb quotes

“What’s a soup kitchen?” ~Paris Hilton

She has never had to live on Ramen.

She has never had to live on Ramen.

Good Soup is better than Second-Hand Art

Good Soup is better than Second-Hand Art

Kitchen Splash:  2-93 Miyagi, Chatan Town, 098-926-0151

Ambiance:  Average, except indoor smoking is allowed during dinner

Service:  Good

Cocktails:  Beer & Awamori available, cocktails very limited

Food Quality:  Average

Features :  Japanese cuisine, all you can drink, bar counter, close to Sunabe Seawall, international, pet-friendly (terrace only), ramen, set lunch, tatami rooms, terrace seating (very limited), English menu available.

Cuisine:  Japanese / Okinawan, Noodles

Price/Value:  Average

I often think gyoza and edamame make the world'go'round.  Oh, and blue-eyed beauties.

I often think gyoza and edamame make the world’go’round. Oh, and blue-eyed beauties.

Having a good wife, and needing only a local source of rich soup, Jody and I set out for “Kitchen Splash,” a noodle house of sorts located less than a block off Sunabe Seawall in the heart of commercial Miyagi.  And in the way of noodles, they do not disappoint.  However….

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

Group Tatami Area

Group Tatami Area

The restaurant is clean and fairly spacious inside, although the outdoor terrace seating is cramped and very limited, but pet friendly.  The décor matches the name; there are rustic touches here and there that both hint and call-out from the nearby sea.  There is a larger tatami area for group seating.  While we were there, the staff were playing a Japanese boy-group concert on their rather large flat screen TV mounted from the ceiling, and although the volume was higher than I would have liked, the music was actually good and the video?  Well, highly entertaining!

Rustic Seating

Rustic Seating

The menu has a full selection of noodles and soup, but offers little else.  The cocktails are very limited, and pricey by my standards.  However, there is a wide range of beer and Awamori.

Menu Selections

Menu Selections

Before the Kick-Boxing Match with her Meal

Before the Kick-Boxing Match with her Meal

We ordered gyoza and edamame for starters, both served quickly, steaming hot, and turned out to be quite tasty and fresh.  The service was prompt, although we were initially the only two in the eatery, soon joined by 4-6 others, most of whom appeared to be local shift workers just getting off for dinner.  When the soups came, we were both somewhat disappointed.  A large portion of our letdown, I believe, stems from our basic lack of understanding of the menu and options for our dishes.  I ended up with soy ramen soup with pork and vegetables, but instead of the yummy, meaty slices of pork that one can find in other ramen houses, my soup had a number of very fatty and what appeared to be second-hand pieces of pork, most of which I chose not to eat.  Jody tried a dish neither of us was familiar with, and although the spelling offered on the menus was “Tammen,” I believe what she wound up with was “Taman” soup, a spicy garlic and red-sauce concoction based on the local Okinawa fish Taman.

Fatty Pork...and Indoor Smoking - I'll Pass

Fatty Pork…and Indoor Smoking – I’ll Pass

We finished most of our meals, and took our short walk – 3 or 4 blocks – back home, where I remained somewhat disappointed in my ramen, and Jody quickly wound up with a pretty bad belly ache.  Even though we ordered her soup with “skoshi” spice, her meal was produced with a healthy kick, which she continued to fight through the evening.  Both ailments quickly passed, and we agreed we would splash in again at this kitchen, eager to give then another try.  But probably only for lunch, when indoor smoking, for some reason, is not allowed by the staff.  If the chances of Paris Hilton showing up here were even measureable, perhaps we would return for dinner.  However, we instead prefer not to share our evening meal with smokers in such close quarters.

Respectfully, No Microwave Used Here

Respectfully, No Microwave Used Here

Rustic Seating

Rustic Seating

• Open Lunch 11:30-15:00 / Dinner 17:00-24:00, Closed Wed

• $ accepted

• English menu available

• Parking is available, but problematic along the main seawall roads

• Pet friendly (terrace only)

• Takeout available

5 Anime Series for Non-Anime Fans


I really try to keep my site and blogs all-original content, but every once in a while, a blog is certainly worth reposting. As Japan-Hub states here in their blog, “In my humble opinion, the [anime] storylines are either too weird or too violent or just plain out ridiculous….” But, anime, as an Eastern art, is certainly worth investigating, if not appreciating, and the listing and reviews provided here I believe can offer anyone with a remote itch for something different and Far Eastern-centric a great place to start. I know I will.  It is time.

{Japan-Hub.com}

At least once a week, someone I know gives me a suggestion on an anime series to watch.  While I’m not an anime hater, I rarely give their suggestions a try.  In my humble opinion, the storylines are either too weird or too violent or just plain out ridiculous.  But once in a blue moon, I will get turned on to an anime that actually holds my interest and makes me look forward to the next episode.  Here are some of my suggestions for anime series that I feel any non-anime fan can enjoy and maybe even come to love:

#5 ATTACK ON TITAN

attack on titan

Attack on Titan is THE anime to watch right now.  The premise is definitely intriguing: Mankind has been forced to live behind 3 concentric walls in order to protect themselves from Titans, huge and ugly giants whose only goal is to gobble up humans.  When titans…

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