Blood, Nurses & Vampires: Halloween in Okinawa


Blood drops for ears?  Forget about the Logic - they are CUTE!!

Blood drops for ears? Forget about the Logic – these Blood Donation mascots are CUTE!!

The Japanese can take most any idea, animate and anime it, which almost always results in a cuter, friendlier, more happy version of most anything.  This is no less true in terms of donating blood, or, given the season, in regards to Halloween and vampires!

How can you resist this cute-covered Blood-Mobile?!?

How can you resist this cute-covered Blood-Mobile?!?

A few weeks ago we ran across a local blood drive at the Okinawan Mihama Jusco.  What caught my eye, and set the vector for this blog, was just how cute the graphics of the campaign were, in print, poster, but mostly on the bloodmobile!  How could you resist such frivolous happy-go-lucky blood-based critters?

Surely one of these critters is your...wait for it...TYPE.

Surely one of these critters is your…wait for it…TYPE.

Well, I still could resist.  But then again I have a “thing” about needles….

needlenurse

In all seriousness, The Japanese Red Cross says the decreasing birthrate and aging population throughout Japan are causing a drain on blood supplies, since more elderly people are in need of transfusions and fewer young people donate.

Imagine the kids' games you can play with THIS.

Toys to increase blood donation.  Imagine the kids’ games you could play with THIS!

And contrary to what some people here may think, foreigners (to Japan) can donate blood.  However, there are some conditions which do preclude such giving, including “anyone who has sexual relationships with random people in the previous six months….”  Define random.

The Japanese LOVE Mascots

The Japanese LOVE Mascots.  I think the “O” is for OMG!

And, in a Japanese twist on the American culture of fear, British nationals are not eligible due to scares from Creutzfeldt-Jakob (mad cow) disease if they lived in the United Kingdom anytime from 1980 through 1996.  But not to call out the Brits; anyone who has resided in “certain countries in Europe (yeah France) since 1980″ are also included, but you have to specifically ask about these.  Odd.

Karin - a Pubescent Blood-Producing Far Eastern Vampire

Karin – a Pubescent Blood-Producing Far-Eastern Innocent and Fun-Filled Vampire.  She even rocks the “horns of the devil!”

Now for a refreshing take on vampires, you know, in honor of Halloween.  Karin is an anime show in Japan that not just happens to be about vampires, but is about an interesting spin on the vampire mythos that perhaps is distinctly Japanese.  But it’s more:  Karin is also a romantic comedy about a clumsy and somewhat dull-witted vampire girl and her vampire family trying to survive in modern day Japan.  However, what makes this all so unusual, and unusually Japanese is that Karin is a rare vampire that produces blood.  So, as a result, when she gets the urge to bite, Karin actually gives blood and can heal rather than feed on blood which leads to more dreadful results!

Asian Sun-Goddess Amaterasu

Asian Sun-Goddess Amaterasu

Being this unique type of vampire allows for certain advantages over the more traditional fare; Karin can walk around in sunlight, although sunlight still harms “normal” vampires in the series’ unique reality – which is usually representative of the judgment of an Almighty.  This may be attributable to a Japanese nod to Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess who represents growth and fertility, elements that seem present in Karin in her ability to pass along blood.  And, consuming her blood induces fertility in what are normally sterile run-of-the-mill western-flavored vampires….

It seems that Karin has violent nose bleeds when she resists her...urges.

It seems that Karin has violent nose bleeds when she resists her…urges.

There are certainly many other elements of Karin that are rather fascinating to contemplate, including all the more common if not less-known representations in the vampire mythos, including the central theme of a vampire’s bite and feeding as intercourse and orgasm – the vampire’s true sin, which in the anime series makes becoming a vampire nothing more than an analogy for puberty.  And therein lays the real themes of Karin.

The Peace Sign is given by all-things Japanese!

The Peace Sign is given by all-things Japanese.  Or is that simply “V” for Vampires??

But, who would like this more traditional Halloween-horrors Battle Royale??  My vote is for the vampire girl.  How can you lose in a Japanese school-girl-sailor suit with those sultry Flashdance leg-warmers ?  The Franken-kimono is way too limiting in terms of dexterity…and that obi looks terrible!

Vampire Girl versus Frankenstein Girl:  who would YOU want to win?

Vampire Girl versus Frankenstein Girl: who would YOU want to win?

In a “heartfelt” connection to blood (pun intended), it seems we have on-island in Okinawa, the individual who is currently recognized (in 1994) as the Guinness Book of World Records holder who has donated more blood than anybody else.  Yep, 79-year-old retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Dennis Provencher has donated well in excess of 34 recorded gallons of blood.  Provencher has been regularly donating blood since arriving on Okinawa in 1961, and reached!  Born in Milton, N.H., Provencher enlisted in the Air Force in 1951. Ten years later, the radio operator received orders to Okinawa. He said he fell in love with the island and its people and kept extending his assignment until he retired in 1971. He has been donating blood since his arrival.  “It’s for a good cause. It’s like an oil change: They take the old blood out and make way for the new blood.”

This is NOT

This is probably NOT Provencher….

“I challenge anyone to catch me,” Provencher said. (Stars & Stripes, 2010)

AnimeNurse

And to end this Halloween installment of the Far East Fling, I offer a special treat!  A sampling of the fetish Japanese anime has for nurses!  Naughty, sexy, or simply scantily-clad, I’m sure their standard of care…like their virtue…is irreproachable, and probably untouchable.  Enjoy!

Jody, notice the HAT....

Jody, notice the HAT…(and stockings – wink).

Are You Breaking Up With Me…On Mount Fuji???


img20090115

“A wise man climbs Fuji-san once, but only a fool climbs it twice.” ~Japanese proverb

“Two words. Three vowels.  Four consonants.  Seven letters.  It can either cut you open to the core and leave you in ungodly pain or it can free your soul and lift a tremendous weight off your shoulders.  The phrase is:  It’s over.” ~Maggi Richard

“Are   You   Breaking   Up   With   Me…ON MOUNT FUJI?!?” ~Kevin to Lynn just after summiting Mount Fuji

“Just you here didn’t protect my heart turned to stone.” ~a message left by Lynn on my refrigerator using those magnetized cardboard-backed word cutouts….

Fuji,_Japan_-_Cherry_Blossoms_and_MountMount Fuji (富士山), located on Honshu Island, the main island of Japan, is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24m (12,389ft).  It is an active volcano that last erupted in 1707–08, which lies about 100km (60mi) south-west of Tokyo, from where it can be seen on a clear day.  It is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains” (三霊山, Sanreizan), and was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site in 2013 since it has continually inspired artists and poets and has been the object of pilgrimage for centuries.

Approximately 300,000 people climb Mount Fuji annually.  The most-popular period is from July to August, when huts and other facilities are operating at various “steps” on the way up the mountain.  Climbing from October to May is very strongly discouraged, having resulted in a number of high-profile deaths due to severe and unpredictably cold weather.  Most Japanese climb the mountain at night in order to be in a position at or near the summit when the sun rises.  The morning light is called 御来光 (goraikō), or “arrival of light.”

Me Just at the Summit on Mt. Fuji-san

Me Just at the Summit on Mt. Fuji-san

244373678_abea94e677_oFlashback to the fall of 2006.  Lynn and I are dumbfounded at the summit of Fuji-san.  We made it!  But it was completely anticlimactic:  tropical storm force winds, blowing clouds, driven sleet and rain, and near-zero visibility was what greeted us at our sunrise summit.  The soil buoying our descent was bereft of life, and strong clouds of acidic sulfur stung our noses and made our eyes water.  We passed through the last tori and reached our “goal.”  We literally took a few seconds to look this way and that, and after barely being able to discern the volcano’s inner crater, we started down on our escape without even discussing it.  The wet, cold, fierce wind did all the talkin’ that was necessary….

Coming out of the goo at about 10,000-11,000 feet, we were greeted by a beautiful day down below.  Clear skies, lightened winds, and perhaps a chance to finally dry out.  We continue on a bit in relative silence, but as we reach a switch-back in the rather step and dusty trail, Lynn whirls around and says, “You know I’m Emma online….”  I stopped, confused at first, trying to connect the dots that she was peppering me with.  She sensed my lack of understanding, and continued, “You know, Emma C. on Yahoo 360.  She’s all me.  And you are so busted….”

10532293616_39bc3a86d9_o“What?”  Is all I could mutter back, rather meekly I must say.  My mind was racing a million miles a minute, trying to match what I was hearing to what I had experienced with “Emma” online….  And before my mind could fly through all the permutations of what this declaration could mean, Lynn looked steely into my eyes and said simply, “It’s over.”  And just as coldly and quickly, she spin on a heel, and literally took off hauling ass down Fuji.

I remember watching her drop down below me, on this step dusty trail, admiring the way each of her steps seemed to pound into the earth, releasing a portion in cloud form, freeing it the same way I felt a tremendous weight coming off my shoulders…in soul-freeing fashion.

10531983636_7fb90eae8e_oAs I continued to watch her separate, the opening physical distance between us seemed to be matched by an emotional split just as large.  Now both clearly recognizable.  And as she was approaching the outside range of my voice, I cupped my hands to my mouth and yelled with all I had, “Are you breaking up with me…ON MOUNT FUJI?!?”  No echo, not another person within sight.  And complete silence, less the whispers on the wind.

Lynn spun back around, ejecting a much larger cloud of volcanic ash and dust from her sudden stop and about-face, and yell back, even louder and without so much as a measurable hesitation, “YES!!!!!”  And just as quickly, she spun back around, and was off again in her dust-emitting temper-tantrum.

And all I could do was just stand there and watch, and think to myself, how odd this is to be breaking up on this spiritual quest up and down Mount Fuji….

Me and Lynn prior to our Spiritual Mountaintop Split

Me and Lynn prior to our Spiritual Mountaintop Split

A fellow blogger recently posted a story about trekking to a mountain top in Japan in stormy weather.  Such adventures make for the most entertaining and colorful stories, and instantly reminded me of one of my own favorite stories…that just happens to involve a mountain and a whole plethora of stormy weather bur more so typhoon-powered emotion.  While I am often heard to say, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” what you will read here is every bit true.  And therein lays the beauty and preciousness of this story!

Tori at Step 5

Tori at Step 5

It’s early 2006, and I have my first girlfriend in the states after returning from Okinawa, where I was stationed with the Navy from 2004-2005.  During that timeframe my then wife and I separated; well, more like she cheated – repeatedly – and left, which in hindsight was fine with me.  After a rebound relationship I had on Okinawa, I dated here and there for two months in Pensacola, and then met Lynn, who lived in Mobile, Alabama, about an hour’s drive away.

Starting out on our Misadventure from Tokyo

Starting out on our Misadventure from Tokyo

Fast-forward to the fall of 2006 and Lynn and I started out to attempt Fuji-san from Tokyo, and simply getting to the mountain was an adventure:  subways, buses and trains!  And, in foreshadowing of our misadventure, it was already raining as we left our hotel.

Taking the Bus to Step 5

Taking the Bus to Step 5

We started out from Step 5, which is not really cheating for Fuji.  We did so partly because we were climbing late in the season, the 3rd week of September.  While this makes for unpredictable and often bad weather, and many of the concessions and lodges on the mountain are already closed, it also made for a rather solitary climb.  Not only were the summertime crowds and long lines of climbers absent, there were barely any other people making the climb – up or down.  This too should’ve forewarned us about the events that lay ahead!

Some of the Only People we Encountered Along the Way

Some of the Only People we Encountered Along the Way

10532051386_91083001c5_oLynn was a nurse who worked in Mobile, Alabama, divorced herself for just a couple of years, and perhaps most unapologetically, a bleeding heart liberal Canadian.  She also owned her own home, was wickedly smart, a quick-witted triathlete, and an extremely creative and artistic individual who ran an interior decorating business on the side.  All attractive qualities, especially given the women I had been dating up to that point.  We hit it off, and started dating steady after about two weeks of seeing each other.  The distance was an issue (Pensacola to her place outside of Mobile was easily an hour), but also a blessing; that type of physical separation can help one retain their own sense of identity, especially when both of us were still really just starting to mend from our respective divorces.  For those of you that have survived such calamity in their lives, full recovery is measured in more than a couple of years.

One Gigantic Rock Climb

One Gigantic Rock Climb

10532135036_f5169276f7_oWe start our climb up Fuji-san, fully unprepared in almost every respect.  While I am in decent shape, I was not aerobically prepared for the mountain’s assault on my lungs and heart.  Lynn, being the active and trophy-winning triathlete, barely broke a sweat the entire time.  I was climbing in jeans – a BIG mistake, and while Lynn had on more athletic wear, she didn’t have on or carried enough of it.  We didn’t tot along nearly enough provisions; the liquid I brought for the ascent was gone in the first two hours….  Instead, I decided to carry up my new expensive Nikon D200 camera along with all its lenses, of course all protected in a large and heavy waterproof backpack.  So, in essence, only the camera gear was fit to climb.  And it didn’t need to drink, or bathroom breaks (although I peed all over the mountain), it didn’t get cold, and oh, it was the ONLY stuff that stayed dry.  And of course it didn’t bitch, nor encumber us with a poor attitude!

I Have a Habit of Peeing on Most Things Holy.

I Have a Habit of Peeing on Most Things Holy.

Climbing Mt Fuji 2006, Lynn conquering the mountainLynn’s ex was a college chemistry professor, who taught at the same school where she graduated with her nursing degree.  She taught at the school’s charity hospital, all of which to mean that she maintained fairly close contact with her former husband.  And when we met, he was still trying to mend the faults between them, even if they were simply half-assed attempts.  One night he called her yet again, and she was fed up with his sad, depressed tales of woe and want.  Basically she exclaimed in an exasperated tone, “Look, there’s no way you can compete with something new.  Stop calling and stop trying.  It’s over….”

Climbing Up Into the Nasty-Ass Weather

Climbing Up Into the Nasty-Ass Weather

Even though we were climbing late in the season – way too late for how we were dressed and provisioned, thankfully a few of the huts at a few of the steps on the way up were still open where we could grab a snack and replenish our fluids.  We started climbing in mid-afternoon, and planned to climb until last light, where we figured on eating dinner and grabbing some shuteye at the 10,000 foot step.  We would get up early the next morning and climb to summit at sunrise.

Buying Some Much-Needed Provisions

Buying Some Much-Needed Provisions

But back earlier that year in the spring, Lynn’s declaration to her ex-husband that “it’s over” with healthy dose of finality could go one of two ways:  if could can either cut him to the quick, or, present a source of freedom that perhaps had been eluding him since their own separation and divorce.  In Lynn’s ex’s case, he took it as the former…

….and committed suicide the next morning.

Prayer Can Always Help

Prayer Can Always Help

10532333946_47f6a40ed5_oBut back on the mountain, we made decent progress.  No doubt I was slowing Lynn down.  But Lynn was more in a hurry not just to climb, but to get out of the weather.  The higher we climbed, the more intense the weather became.  The temperature steadily dropped, the winds constantly increased, and the rain started to shift from pelting annoying drops and driving hurtful sleet.  We were both drenched at this point, and Lynn was getting chilled.  The physical activity of climbing wasn’t even enough to keep her warm as the sun started to drop low on the horizon.

Soaked Somewhere on the Way Up

Soaked Somewhere on the Way Up

10532071553_f001326bbb_oLynn’s ex was dead.  Now, Lynn was still quite fond of her ex-husband.  And was totally floored and completely shocked by his irreversible actions.  As a chemist, he knew what he was doing when he took orally enough potassium cyanide to ensure he’s if not quick demise, at least a permanent one.  And, then the guilt set in….  Her sister flew down; I spent many long hours and nights with Lynn trying to console her best I could.  And what ended up happening, at least from my point-of-view and perception, was that Lynn changed.  And necessarily so did our relationship.

Sparse Berthing at 10,000 Feet

Sparse Berthing at 10,000 Feet

10532307495_b6a40c802f_oOn Fuji, however, we made it to our accommodations.  And initially we were the first – and only ones there.  The hut’s proprietor welcomed us in, and oddly enough he was reading a pamphlet on the Nikon D200 – the very camera that was hanging around my neck, and heavily so!  We were shown our less-than hostel-like berthing, and we ordered dinner.  He cooked in the middle of the common area over a cutout opening in the floor filled with hot coal (which also served as the only heat); dinner was both hot and rejuvenating, but Lynn was still freezing.  There was little heat to be found anywhere in the berthing area, a separate facility adjacent to the hut’s warm dining room and living area.  It was time for both of us to get out of our wet clothes and dry ourselves, then retire to the covers and try to share some bodily warmth to ready ourselves for the final push not long after midnight.

Kitchen and Heater at 10,000 Feet

Kitchen and Heater at 10,000 Feet

After her husband’s death, Lynn was no longer the rather energetic and carefree woman who was really into me.  Gone was the excitement of seeing each other, of looking forward to the future with gusto and anticipation.  Replaced was a woman who became anchored down by deep, dark feelings that I had little hope of adequately dealing with.  And although I started to lose my intense feelings for Lynn, I certainly wasn’t going to abandon her in such a condition.  So I stayed….

Lynn Recovering from Hyperthermia

Lynn Recovering from Hyperthermia

Under the covers at 10,000 on Fuji-san, Lynn was literally shivering in our “rack.”  The hut’s bedding was a series of long, continuous tatami mats with only the lightest padding.  We were provided some linen, and our pillows were small sacks which were filled with what felt like was rice.  There was no light, and no heat in this room.  We hung our soaking wet clothes in the hopes they would dry, knowing they would not.  As I held Lynn in an attempt to restore her body temperature, I had my doubts of summiting early the next morning.  Between her physical state and my physical unpreparedness, I was seriously contemplating going back down once the sun rose high enough in the morning sky to take some of the chill away.

Wet and Nearly Frozen Above the Clouds at 10,000 Feet

Wet and Nearly Frozen Above the Clouds at 10,000 Feet

But back in 2006, not yet divorced and just getting used to my newly unencumbered lifestyle, even though I was with Lynn I certainly still found myself restless and unsettled.  At the time I was a very active blogger on “Yahoo 360,” an old social media site that I believe at the time was competing with MySpace.  So I had a lot of “friends” online, especially because back in that day I was writing daily about not only my own life, separation, divorce, and family issues, but also about all the political turmoil of the time with the Bush Administration and the wars we were fighting overseas.  I was successfully able to funnel and channel the restlessness and displaced passion of my life into my prose, and it became in a sense quite addictive.

Rack-Time Before our 0300 Wakeup

Rack-Time Before our 0300 Wakeup

10532312836_0e8d356479_oHowever, on Fuji something quite amazing and almost unbelievable happened in the middle of the night that simply and profoundly changed my mind about conquering Fuji-san.  I had to get up to pee, which I was NOT happy about.  There was no way I was putting on my cold, wet blue-jeans, so I found my cold, wet underwear and headed just outside to the bathroom.  There was a male and female toilet, but as I was standing at a urinal in the men’s room, I heard a growing commotion outside, one that was closing in, coming closer and closer.  Turns out there was a group of rather old Japanese women climbing Fuji during the night and in the rain, with only those miner-type headlamps to light their way.  Well, it was potty-break time for these women, and they literally took over all the facilities!  So, a steady stream of 5-foot, 65 year-old Grandmas are streaming in past me as I try to retain my own composure, trying to force myself to pee and deal with shrinkage issues!  And I thought to myself:  if these women can do this in these conditions, I certainly am!  The imagery of that night remains one of the strangest of my life…but it served to cement my will to conquer Mount Fuji.

Wet Steps

10532636464_560b6dc340_oEarlier in the year, however, as my relationship with Lynn slowly and continually morphed, I took more and more solace online.  Believe me, online “friends” are an odd lot; you have no real way of knowing who is who, what is what, and where reality and fantasy merged, let alone where they are delineated from one another.  Yes, I engaged many people online.  And Lynn, knowing me well at that point, used her intimate knowledge of me and us to create an online Yahoo 306 profile that she knew I would with which I would connect.

10533006693_9bce4eeff7_o

In our 10,000 foot hostel, however, we got up around 3 am to make our final push to the summit, just over 3,000 feet above, but a much longer linear haul to be made.  Ah there’s nothing like putting on wet jeans that are chilled to an ambient temperature of about 45 degrees!  Lynn was certainly worse off, but in much better spirits; there was no holding her back.  After my tales of the night, we both set out refreshed in one sense, but dreading what lay ahead in another.

Hypoxia Eases the Spirits above 10,000 Feet!

Hypoxia Eases the Spirits above 10,000 Feet!

Mountain StepsBut back online, yes, she created a complete profile online, which is an eerie thing to even consider.  Why?  Because it wasn’t like a basic match.com profile with a few pictures, an astrological sign, and a few iniquitous paragraphs of wants, needs and desires.  No, her online persona had existed since about the time we met.  She had many friends of her own, who she interacted with often and at length.  She found and put up pictures of “herself,” along with a complete fictitious family, other friends, pets, places and things.  There were long exposés on dreams and wants and needs, along with the more mundane recollections of social events, vacations, and holidays here and there.  I have to hand it to Lynn:  she did a very good job creating her alter-ego online.  She fooled me, along with her other 200+ “friends” online.  And she fooled me for many months prior to our trip to Japan.

Bottled O2.  Mighty Tempting!

Bottled O2. Mighty Tempting!

Nearing the summit I was literally climbing for two minutes and resting for one, at times almost gasping for oxygen.  The weather was, in a cliché, like dog-shit.  Low visibility, driving winds, and rain shifting from a bone-chilling soak to pelting sleet.  Finally, the summit came within view.  We were going to make it after all!!

Summit Goal!

Summit Goal!

247753034_235334ebaa_oNow, in my own defense which acting online, I did not approach Emma for a date, for sex, or for anything that would or could be construed as cheating or approaching unfaithfulness.  Looking back upon the whole “affair,” especially after having had numerous post-breakup discussions with Lynn, the very worst thing I did was take a “phantom phriend” into my confidence.  When Emma questioned me about my plans or future with my girlfriend Lynn, I replied, quite truthfully mind you, “Lynn is not the one, but only a one.”

10532818256_020d1e8d5c_o

Now the lead-in break-up scene should make a little more sense….

10532127384_02ed48525b_oAfter our spiritual breakup on Mount Fuji, we descended the rest of the mountain alone.  It was a peaceful hike; I believe we didn’t even pass anyone on the way down.  I generally kept Lynn in sight, although she tended to make better time than I was able to.  Believe it or not, descending the mountain was in many ways harder than climbing; the path is so steep and the ground so shifty that different less-used parts of your quads and hamstrings take not only a repetitive impact at an odd angle, but the literally shifting sands stress those muscle groups out even more.  I had trouble walking for at least three days after that descent.  For those of you yet to make the trip:  take your time on the way down!!

Sign Post

So, considering my shared confidence with Emma and my comments online.  Did Lynn deserve to know this as soon as I felt it?  Absolutely.  Should I have voiced these feelings sooner – you ‘betcha, eh.  But I could not figure out the timing of when to leave given the emotional minefield that Lynn and I were negotiating, even if Lynn already had an inside track on the more truthful reality of our relationship.

10532017676_fdfc996df9_o

After descending down, we met up back at Step 5, the place where our hike literally began.  And we had a quiet yet respectful lunch together.  I was torn; I felt as though I was used for a trip overseas (I paid for it all), and I certainly didn’t look forward to the three days we still had to spend with each other in Tokyo, let alone the idea of flying all the way across the Pacific and the Continental United States sitting next to this lady….

Climbing Mt Fuji 2006, Kevin taking a rest in the lowlands

10531828396_7507ccd385_oI learned a lot from the spiritual adventure to Japan.  You see, climbing Mount Fuji is a calling for the Japanese, a pilgrimage to their most spiritual mountain, where you climb through the night to reach the summit at sunrise to say a prayer and toast to life at the first arrival of light.  And I had no issue sharing such a spiritual quest with Lynn, regardless of the near-certain breakup that was coming.  Although initially I was quite shocked at her timing which initially for me ruined this particular spiritual quest, I came to realize that there was really no better place for our breakup to occur.  The mechanics of this type of emotional exchange in both of us coming clean in essence helped wash away our transgressions, resulting in a much-needed catharsis.  We are both better people for it, and we both have a rather terrifically entertaining story to tell about climbing Mount Fuji.

Temple at Step 5

Temple at Step 5

Lynn is married, and has become a CRNA.  I do not keep in touch with her, but I do carry something from her in my heart every single day.  One of the last times she was over my condo after our breakup, she ended up leaving after I did.  And before she left my physical presence for good, she left on my refrigerator the shortest note, spelled out in those magnetized cutout cardboard letters and words that can be so fun to spend some idle time with, this phrase that said all there was needed to be said:

“Just you here didn’t protect my heart turned to stone”

Climbing Mount Fuji helped teach me that spiritually we all share in a great responsibility to tread carefully with others’ hearts.  That we are all fighting hard battles, no matter how things may appear superficially.  And that we all deserve more in terms of honesty and openness.

And Lynn, if you are out there, thank you for helping to make me a better man.  I have never forgotten our lessons learned in our transcendent escapade – and breakup – up and down Mount Fuji.

Lynn

Lynn

Hotto Motto (ほっともっと): Take-Away Food for the Gods!


Our Hotto-Motto Take-Away Dinner

Our Hotto-Motto Take-Away Dinner

“Fast food is equivalent to pornography, nutritionally speaking.” ~Steve Elbert

Jody's First Visit!

Jody’s First Visit!

Okinawa Oct 2013, Eats HottoMotto, Okinawan fast foodHotto Motto:  Japanese fast-food take-out chain, with over 90 locations on Okinawa.  Some open 24/7, others serving either side of lunch and dinner.

Ambiance:  Take-away only; clean and brightly lit stores with limited parking.

Service:  Good & quick.

Cocktails:  None; beer may be available in standalone coolers.

Food Quality:  Very Good.

Features:  Well-staffed, but some with only a single register.  Orders can be called-in prior to pick-up.  Dollars may be accepted, but better value will be realized if Yen is used for payment.  Kid-friendly meals are available.

Cuisine:  Bento-style Asian-inspired meals cooked fresh and served hot.

Price/Value:  Very good.

My Waitress was NOT Wearing this Uber-Cute Outfit

My Waitress was NOT Wearing this Uber-Cute Outfit

Okinawa Oct 2013, Eats HottoMotto, bright logoHotto Motto (ほっともっと) is a Japanese fast-food chain specializing in take-out bento, found in all but five of Japan’s 47 prefectures.  They are generally small storefronts which offer limited parking, and with the vast number on Okinawa (90+), there is probably one just down the street from you which you might not even know about!  But you should.

Find the Western-Inspired Meals!!

Find the Western-Inspired Meals!!

I’m not sure if this generally proves to be true, but as fast-food, it seems that most of the staff at various locations cannot speak English, so have your cell-phone translators ready.  However, English menus, or at least subtitles, are readily available and are enough to the job using the point-and-smile-at-the-picture method of ordering.  A Google translation of their menu is available, but the site can be cumbersome (and frustrating) to use.

Thank Goodness for Cell-Phone Translation!

Thank Goodness for Cell-Phone Translation!

Okinawa Oct 2013, Eats HottoMotto, dinner in a box for 5 dollarsThe food at “HM” is cooked fresh to order, and most is served Bento-box style.  The 50+ menu items are centered Japanese-grown chicken (tori), but other meats are available.  Additionally, there are soups (Soba of course), salads, rice bowls (-don), and surprisingly a variety of items seemingly inspired by American eating habits (“hamburg”).  The chain is very kid-friendly, and offers a wide selection of kids’ meal options.  And, most interesting and different for fast-food, the chains’ specials change every few weeks, which no doubt draws people back early and often.  HM also offers party plates which range from ¥3,000 to ¥5,000, while their reasonable lunch bento boxes cost between ¥290-590.   Small add-ons – mini-soups and small salads – can be purchased for ¥100-150.

Cheap Enough to Pay For with Change!

Cheap Enough to Pay For with Change!

Hotto Motto’s owners tout the healthy aspects of their take-out cuisine, which is both cheap and tasty, sure signs in America that the food is most certainly bad for you!  That doesn’t seem to be the case here, however.  The chicken is fresh, and the ingredients are simply and wholesome, and most importantly, every request is cooked-to-order to insure maximum hot freshness.

Girl-Group AKB48 Members Can't be Wrong!!

Girl-Group AKB48 Members Can’t be Wrong!!

2010-12-28-044531Stop by Hotto Motto, decipher the menu, and surprise your loved ones with Japanese fast-food take-out.  Everyone will be happy, including your wallet/pocketbook!

Do Sweat the Small Stuff


dont-sweat-the-small-stuff“From small beginnings come great things.” ~Proverb quotes

“When you drink the water, remember the spring.” ~Chinese Proverb

So, with the majority of our stuff still firmly rooted in the states (see Castaway), I’ve decided to, every once in a while, focus on the smallest things that I find myself missing the most.  In other words, I think we all should actually start sweating the small stuff.

enjoy-the-little-things1

Just make sure it’s the little things worth sweating. In other words, a year from now when you look back upon your life, what will matter most?  It won’t be our household goods SNAFU….

give-me-butterflies-butterflies-cover

Little-thingsA couple of years ago I bought a book for me and Jody as either a Valentine’s Day present or anniversary gift; don’t hold that lapse in memory – it’s a small detail!  The book is You Still Give Me Butterflies: Feel Like You’re Falling In Love…Again by Laura Corn.  From the book itself, “There’s nothing like brand–new love.  It takes your breath away.  It makes your heart race.  It feels like butterflies inside you, all taking flight at once.  BESTSELLING AUTHOR LAURA CORN is back with two dozen fun, flirty, romantic and sexy surprises for committed couples.  The Red pages are For Her Eyes Only, and the Gold pages are For His Eyes Only….”

A Cuteness-Based Japanese Approach to Saving

A Cuteness-Based Japanese Approach to Saving

Each Chapter focuses on inspirational ideas, complete with “secret” instructions, clues, or invitations to play printed on beautiful butterfly cutouts for him and her contained in sealed envelopes, which will tell how exactly to prepare a breathtaking romantic surprise for your sweetheart.  The idea is to exchange cards every month or so.  Not only is the card a love note, it heralds a delicious surprise is on the way!

Life with Jody 2013, the Love JugJody handed me a butterfly and lead me into the kitchen.  It was a simple, yet brilliant idea:  THE LOVE JUG.  The idea:  recognize, enhance, and generate acts of intimacy between us.  The execution:  a glass candy-jar, decorated with instructions and icons of love.

Our Love Jug!!

Our Love Jug!!

Life with Jody 2013, the Love Jug (vertical)So, every time we do something intimate for each other, we pay into the Love Jug.  And this is important:  intimacy does not equal sex; intimacy starts in the mind, and is inherent and best recognized in the smallest acts done for one another.  Anyone can buy a card on Valentine’s Day, and anyone can go out to dinner.  But what about a love note in her lunchbox, or cooking her breakfast, or writing her a steamy sexual fantasy, or hell, even doing domestic engineering chores so she doesn’t have to?!?  The amount deposited is rather unimportant; spare change at times, dollar bills at others, maybe a tax return or refund from an overpaid account.  Change hitting the glass vessel results a very distinctly audible announcement.  However, it is the sword-drawing echoing “sha—RING” created by taking off and putting back on the thin metal top as it slides against its glass coupling that is wholly unmistakable and so totally audible throughout our home.  Either sound alone is enough to bring a smile to your face and warmth into your heart.  It is the sound of intimacy.  And it happens often with our Love Jug.

Never-get-tired-of-doing-little

Life with Jody 2013, the Love Jug (dark)We committed to this idea for just over a year, maybe 15 months.  We decided the focus of the money would be for a yet-to-be planned overseas vacation as a graduation present for ourselves once we both finished our graduate degrees.  We settled on Scotland, and when the Love Jug was cashed in, we were amazed to find that we had almost $1,800!  And while it’s almost too tempting to focus on the numbers – how much is that a year ($1,440), month ($120), week ($30), and day ($4) – it is much more important to realize how amazing that such small but frequent acts of intimacy and love accumulate so quickly in our lives.  What a difference this small idea has had in our lives…all for the “cost” of less than a foo foo coffee at Starbucks a day.

Yeah, those will work.  But our way is a lot more fun!

Yeah, those will work. But our way is a lot more fun!

4f45f0bab8ef4542c722700f3c28b0c2And out of the over 6,000 pounds of “stuff” coming our way in seven weeks (hopefully), right now I miss our Love Jug the most.  Thank you Wife:  you still give me butterflies!

Castaway


3870_headingI know what I wrote way back when in August under my blog Leaving Home for Home.  And while I still be in those central tenants of the idea of “home” as opposed to stuff in the physical world, I need to re-characterize my thoughts just a bit.

You see, our “stuff” has been castaway by our moving company Deseret Forwarding International.  Please read below (the graphics are from the company’s website)….

shday-movers

“Mr. and Mrs. King,

I apologize for your shipment being so severely delayed, and unfortunately, I do not think there is going to be an explanation that is sufficient.

NOT

NOT

In meeting with my operations team today, and specifically our outbound coordinator Rachel Sigala, it appears that she mistakenly thought all 7 pieces moved on the original load plan that arrived to Okinawa on 9/24. We have gone back over our operations procedures in hopes that this type of mistake does not happen again.

The Fortune Rachel Sigala Should Receive

The Fortune Rachel Sigala Should Receive

I also spoke with our port agent to see how/why your shipment has sat at the port waiting to sail for so long. They stated that they had no other freight going to Okinawa, and as a result were not able to load your shipment into a sea container. They never did find enough consolidation in Jacksonville, FL, so they moved it to the port in Savannah, GA where they will have enough freight for the sailing scheduled to depart on 11/6 and arrive in country on 11/26. This is the soonest sailing that we are able to place your shipment on. We are not able to move HHG through the military AMC system (like code J shipments move.)

Except in Our Case

Except in Our Case

I understand that no reason is sufficient, and that your family has suffered a great inconvenience. I sincerely apologize for our lack of service in your case and for any feelings of neglect or abandonment. It is never the type of service we aim to provide to our customers.

Except for the One About Actually Shipping Our Stuff

Bar for the One About Actually Shipping Our Stuff

I have attached our form with information on filing an inconvenience claim, and if you will send it directly to me, I will get it processed asap.

If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Well, All of Them Less Us

Well, All of Them…Less Us

Sincerely,

Lizzy Escobar

Deseret Forwarding International

http://www.deseret-intl.com

Phone: 915-615-0802

Fax: 915-774-5177

lescobar@hopeadmin.com

So, given this change in our circumstances, certain “stuff” really can be sorely missed, and life can be at least, well, quite cleaner with certain items.

Pick Movers Who Will Move You

Pick Movers Who Will Move You

We had been holding out for our shipment.  When a single crate arrived, the alarms bells should’ve been going off – and that very day I should’ve been on the phone tracking our “stuff.”  But we waited, having faith in the system, the government, and the military.  We assumed the shipment was split for whatever reason.  We reasoned that the back-to-back storms on Okinawa delayed arrival of our goods or resulted in a ship’s re-routing.  But alas, every check and balance in the system failed us.

Wooden Sailing Ships Would've Been Faster

Wooden Sailing Ships Would’ve Been Faster

So we’ve been doing without a vacuum cleaner.  Two of the four drinking glasses we brought with us have broken.  We have only the most basic kitchen supplies of a frying pan and a sauce pan or two, along with one small Pyrex baking dish and a tiny cookie sheet.  No rice-cooker, no blender, no toaster (for which I would trade the microwave which we do have), no utensils, no coffee mugs, and very limited flatware.  No iron or ironing board.  We have very little cleaning materials.  Only a single set of linens and pillows.  No cool-weather or winter clothes.  No furniture, no Blue Ray, no computer desk, none of our papers or files.  No scanner or printer (sorely needed for work and applications).  I have none of my pro-gear, which includes the vast majority of my scuba diving equipment I need to tech and dive out here; this is GREATLY affecting my earning potential.

My Reaction Upon Reunification with My Asian Rice-Cooker

My Projected Reaction Upon Reunification with My Asian Rice-Cooker

But that stuff aside, it is still only a very few focused items that we find ourselves longing for.  Our coveted “chair-and-a-half” and its accompanying ottoman which fit us as a couple like a glove and where we are able to decompress from the day’s pressure close to one-another.  We would very much like to move the computer off our dining room table so that we can eat like normal well-adjusted adults.  Lamps would allow us to read in bed in the evenings.  A printer/scanner would update us to at least 1997.  And our outdoor furniture would permit us to take full advantage of the panoramic views from our fabulous balconies now that the weather has cooled off and the humidity has dropped….

Tom's Furniture is More than We Have on our Balconies at Present!!

Tom’s “furniture” here is more than we have on our balconies at present!!

An X-Files word of advice to those moving in or with the military:  trust no one.  The military (which for purposes here is the same as the government) literally didn’t care when our shipment was late, nor were they willing to help or were they even able to track our shipment.  We had to go through a moving Japanese moving agency here (who were extremely helpful), which contacted the shipping lines, who contacted our moving agency in the states….  Who ultimately simply dicked-away our household goods shipment, and then forget about our “stuff” sitting around a warehouse…or two it seems, nor did they inform us of anything adverse along the way.  CHECK ON YOUR SHIPMENT when you move.  No one is watching your back or protecting your interests; you are and remain your own best and sometimes ONLY advocate.  We are both so very through with the military and this type of treatment.  One would think with the hardships endured by the US Military that there would be more recourse or relief for situations like these.  That is sadly not the case.

David_Duchovny___Trust_no_one_by_PascalWagler

We started to buy essential supplies that will be billed to Lizzy and Deseret International.  So, in effect, we went shopping tonight with someone else’s checkbook…but we did and will continue to do so in moderation and well within reason.  Tomorrow I will be able to vacuum, clean the floors and toilets, and put away our new dishes and cookery.  I have a wetsuit for the cooler weather and waters, along with a shiny new steel 80 cubic foot scuba diving tank so that I won’t be paying $10 in rental fees for every class and each dive.  And that’s for starters…for now.

Send a Review of this Blog over to Deseret!

Send a Review of this Blog over to Deseret and perhaps It’ll be their Featured Monthly Review!  (probably not)

If you can empathize with our situation, and you’d like to help do something about it, drop Deseret Forwarding International and/or your local congressman/senator a note and let them know how terrible you found/find this/our situation.  While Lizzy did a fair job “answering the mail,” she will never know the inconvenience she and her company have caused in our lives – until it happens to her.  I understand bad things happen and mistakes are made, but it’s much too easy to brush them aside with a simple email and “so sorry;” in the end, we are nothing more than a bill of laden number to both this company and our own military and government that is already forgotten.  And I have do doubt that the expense of our travel claim is already well-accounted for statistical in the company’s costs.  In other words, this is nothing more than a cost in this case of their failing to do business.

This is about the extent of our in-home entertainment

This is about the extent of our in-home entertainment

And although we choose to find and leverage the humor in it all while still making the best we can of our qwuirky home and far east fling here in Okinawa, deep-down inside, we still feel like we were abandoned and castaway.
At least seven additional weeks to wait for our stuff….

dreamstime_s_8736416

It’s a good thing our “stuff” can’t share in such feelings.  No one – or thing – deserves to be abandoned or be made to feel like such a castaway.

Typhoons: A Divinely Okinawan Experience


A "Rishi" Calling up a Divine Storm

A “Rishi” Calling up a Divine Storm

Divine Wind destroying the Mongrels in the 13th Century

Divine Wind destroying the Mongols in the 13th Century

Kamikaze (神風):  literally, “God wind,” but more commonly translated as “Divine wind.”  Kami is the Japanese word for “god,” “spirit,” or “divinity,” and kaze translates as “wind.”  The word kamikaze originated as the name of major typhoons in 1274 and 1281 that dispersed and destroyed Mongolian invasion fleets under Kublai Khan which otherwise would have most likely defeated Japan at that time.  However, Kamikaze has been forever negatively morphed in meaning due to the incomprehensibly suicidal Japanese actions against the Allies in World War II, many of which occurred right here in Okinawa.  But this latter context certainly doesn’t apply to our current-day experience with typhoons and their still-divine winds in Okinawa.

Crimson Typhoon - Not a Threat to Okinawa

Crimson Typhoon – Not a Threat to Okinawa, but to Godzilla!

The word typhoon comes from the Cantonese word tai feng, meaning “great wind” and when pronounced sounds very close to “typhoon.”  A typhoon is defined as a tropical cyclone in the western Pacific, where these storms generally track in a westward and northern direction and occur most frequently in the western Pacific region of East Asia that includes the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, southern China, South Korea, southern Japan, Guam, the Marianas Islands and parts of Micronesia.  It is essentially the same thing as a hurricane occurring in the west Atlantic and the eastern Pacific.  Similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called tropical cyclones.  Ones that strike Australia are NOT called willy willies contrary to popular belief (and I hate to burst your and my bubbles), which are nothing more than a small dust devils that often occur in parts down-under.  Cyclone is a catch-all phrase which describes all low-pressure systems over tropical waters and includes typhoons and hurricanes.

Typhoon Alley; hitting Okinawa is considered a Strike for Mother Nature

Typhoon Alley; hitting Okinawa is considered a Strike for Mother Nature. She has come close to rolling a Turkey this year so far….

Massive Storm Earlier this Summer

Massive Storm Earlier this Summer

The typhoon season here is very similar to that back home and lasts from the early summer to early autumn (June to November), often coinciding with the monsoon season in Southeast Asia and the wet season in eastern Japan.  An average of 2.6 typhoons make landfall on the four major islands of Japan annually since record-keeping began in 1951, while on average 10.3 approach within 180 miles of the coast each year.  Twelve named typhoons in this part of the Pacific are considered “many,” while eight or less is considered “few.”  Rarely is there a year without landfall, with a record 10 making landfall in 2004.  Landfall on the relatively tiny island of Okinawa occurs at three times the rate of any other prefecture of Japan!  In fact, Okinawa lies right in the heart of “Typhoon Alley.”  It gets hit by an average of seven typhoons a year.  It is customary that the finances of the families of Okinawan fishermen are in the name of the wife in case the fisherman go out to sea and don’t return, historically a common occurrence, but a seldom modern occurrence due to modern weather-forecasting and storm warning.

The Japanese can find a sexy Manga Character in Anything!

The Japanese can find a sexy Manga Character in Anything!

Japanese Fetish: Umbrella use during Typhoons!

Japanese Fetish: Umbrella use during Typhoons!

Living with typhoons on Okinawa is a completely difference experience than surviving storms back home.  Often there are literally back-to-back storms threatening the coast, and Category 3, 4, and even 5 “super typhoons” are more common and commonly encountered here.  We have lost track of the number of named storms we’ve dealt with in just the eight weeks we’ve been on-island; we are either at seven or eight, with the next due here this week sometime on Wednesday or Thursday.  Oh, and there is another depression out there just waiting to be named….

Wipha 3

Really, what's with the umbrellas and storms??

Really, what’s with the umbrellas and storms??

BUT, given this what Americans would consider a threat, the reaction of the Okinawans is calm and subdued to that of America; even the military here doesn’t “panic” over a strong storm barreling down on their people and bases like they do back home.  Here there simply does not exist the pervasive culture of fear and the media-driven frenzied-panic to which Americans mindlessly prescribe and react without any critical thought.  The Okinawans learned long ago that they must learn to live with the furious side of nature, rather than react to threats and the effects of such storms.

Yikes!  It actually wasn't bad at all....

Yikes! It actually wasn’t bad at all….

 

Pre-Strom American Runs Deplete Shoppette Supplies of Ramen!

Pre-Strom American Runs Deplete Shoppette Supplies of Ramen!

While the Okinawans utilize a wide variety of talisman to help ward off evil and offer protections from damaging typhoons, they also utilize construction techniques that have, for centuries, offered much better shelter than that of many areas of the modern west.  Starting in the mid-19th century, culturally centered construction customs helped to defeat the threat of such storms, and still today include heartily tiled roofs adorned with protective shisa statues (lion-like dog creatures that ward off evil spirits and are omnipresent in Okinawa), and a stone wall and high deeply rooted trees for protection against damaging winds.

Nkamurake Home - Nearly Typhoon-Proof

Nkamurake Home – Nearly Typhoon-Proof

More modern construction codes here are deceiving; while structures look bland and unappealing, it is only because they are designed to withstand both earthquakes and typhoons at the same time.  This means that structures are poured concrete with rebar reinforcement attached to strong, deep foundations.  Modern roofs are flat concrete slabs.  Windows are generally barred, not to defeat crime, but for protection from wind-borne missile hazards.  And, by law, homes are required to have a certain capacity of roof-mounted gravity-fed water storage, which provides for families even when water and power are not available from the authorities.  And due to the harsh climate here and proximity to wind-driven salt-laden air, painting becomes a secondary concern, giving many homes and apartment buildings a rather dingy external appearance.  They are, however, every bit as nice on this inside as we would expect to find anywhere in middleclass American.

Do you sense a recurring theme here??

Do you sense a recurring theme here??

However, unlike back home, in Japan and Okinawa more damage is almost always caused by heavy rains (and resulting floods and landslides) than by the winds or storm surge.  This, in relation to huge swaths of the America eastern seaboard and gulf coast, is opposite in experience and effect. Japanese-centric flood prevention measures, improved planning and construction and storm and flood warning that began in earnest in the 1960s have dramatically reduced the number of people killed in typhoons.  Even the most destructive storms today – including Super-Typhoons (Category 5) – rarely kill more than a dozen people.  By contrast, typhoons even in America still can take hundreds of lives.  There is an obvious and blatant lesson to be learned here….

Two Typhoons and a Tropical Storm.  Can you even image this back home?

Two Typhoons and a Tropical Storm. Can you even image this back home?

The most interesting result of these types of construction practices?  Our sizeable condo building – at 5 floors situated not 20 meters from the East China Sea coastline – actually moves when strong typhoon winds strike just right.  That’s right – glasses rattle, and the floor literally moves.  The building is actually on rollers or tracks to help defeat the transmission of earthquake energy.  It is an eerie feeling indeed to have such a large structure shift beneath your feet!

Strom Survival Kits are the Same World-Round

Strom Survival Kits are the Same World-Round.  But with gas, we can continue to cook gourmet meals!  In other words, the Ramen is wholly optional….

Okay, maybe it's a sport.  He's probably bragging about his attempted umbrella use!

Okay, maybe it’s a sport. He’s probably bragging about his attempted umbrella use!

I wish our friends and family could see the rationale and grounded approach to nature that is part and parcel of the culture in Okinawa.  Acknowledge nature, respect her, and learn to live more in harmony with your surroundings.  But do not FEAR nature.  I’m convinced it’s part of the Okinawan secret to enhanced longevity (and to their less stressful quality of life); not just because they in large part survive storms relatively unscathed, but that they fail to freak like the American populace does at the slightest perceived threat from inclement weather.

The primary drawback of tiny Asian cars!!

The primary drawback of tiny Asian cars!!

Change your longitude next summer, and come visit us in Typhoon Alley.  You’ll go home with a much-improved disposition about life.  And perhaps, just maybe, you’ll see the beauty of the divine wind inherent in such magnificent machinery of nature, especially if Mother Nature decides to bowl a Turkey!