Escape…to China!


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Xian_guerreros_terracota_generalShanghai_yuyuan_gardens2The Far East Fling is getting ready to be flung to China for a well-deserved vacation!  Due to the rather poor connectivity we are expected in China, crossed with their fascinating paranoia with Social Media, Jody and I will be taking a much-needed escape from the digital world online.

Vacation_Club_china

xian-city-wall20110517014512571257We are spending 7 days/nights in China, traveling to Shanghai, Xian, ad Beijing.  Of course, I’m traveling with all the camera gear, so please stay tuned for what promises to be a few entertaining tales from our continuing Far East Fling abroad the first or second week in December.  In the meantime, perhaps it’s time that you got caught up here in the Far East Fling blog.  Enjoy – and leave a note!

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Hopefully we’ll have no issue in escaping back to Okinawa….

Cheers, and as always, thanks for the Far East Fling flyby.  Kevin & Jody, Okinawa, Japan

Blog Break Sign

Love Jugs in the Far East


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I love jugs.

All shapes and sizes.  Hard or soft.  They make me tingle with giddy excitement as I think about fondling them.

And Jody has the best Love Jugs around!

Now, for those of you with your minds in the gutter wrapped around the more vulgar slang definition of the word, and while I salute your rather singular and worthy focus, those are not the kind of jugs I’m talking about.

Jug-themed Love Shack motel room

Jug-themed Love Shack motel room

No, I’m not talking Love Jugs in the guise of some weird morphing of Japan’s Love Motels (see Tin Roof Rusted) expanding franchises into their prisons or jails, as “jug” sometimes refers to…at least for the criminally minded.

The P-47 Thunderbolt is affectionately known as the "Jug."  This French one is certainly more of a lover than a fighter....

The P-47 Thunderbolt is affectionately known as the “Jug.” This French one is certainly more of a lover than a fighter….

And, although as an aircraft aficionado one could easily assume I’m talking about airplane piston engine cylinder assemblies (a much less well-known and equally unentertaining slang use of the word) , you’d be wrong once again.

Can you spot the Love Jugs on this Harley?  It must be cold out (wink)....

Can you spot the Love Jugs on this Harley? It must be cold out (wink)….

Or, perhaps you guessed that I’m longing for the melodious sound of my Harley’s jugs rolling down the country roads of Pensacola, Florida…. You guessed wrong.

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What I am describing is our “Love Jug,” Jody’s idea from a couple of years ago.  Taking a rather pedestrian old-tyme glass candy jar, the kind with the opening at a 45 degree angle and capped with a thin metal top, Jody transformed the humdrum container through decoration and ribbon into our very own sexy “Love Jug”!  See my earlier blog Do Sweat the Small Stuff for more on our Love Jug in our lives.

So what do you do with Love Jugs?  I can already sense your minds wandering off-topic again….

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The Love Jug serves as a repository of recognition for any intimate behavior that we deem worthy of acknowledging through a monetary contribution.  Now I know this sounds like we are walking a fine line between intimacy and, say, prostitution, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  The point is, when you and your partner make deposits into your relationship’s intimacy account, you find yourself wanting to add more and more credits.  Intimacy begets intimacy (compounded daily, no less), and then, over time, you have a Love Jug full of cash that you can use to celebrate the intimacy that you’ve created, nurtured, and furthered.

Scotland is proudly proclaimed our on Love Jug

Scotland is proudly proclaimed our on Love Jug

Our first Love Jug was started about two years ago.  We decided, for our particular goal, that the proceeds from our intimacy (since they were no longer going to result in a child), would go towards funding a big yearly vacation.  So, the first Love Jug was decorated to reflect our aspiration of traveling to Scotland once we finished our Masters degrees that we were in the process of completing.  Eight months later, when we went to cash out our Love Jug for our European fling in the spring of 2013, we found that we had amassed over $1,800 in just fifteen months!

Our trip to Scotland was worth every penny!

Our trip to Scotland was worth every penny!

“How is that possible,” I hear you asking?!  Well, prostitution pays.  I’ve always not-so-secretly wanted to be a male gigolo….

Duce Bigalow is a master of intimacy.  And a gigolo!

How it works is deceptively simple.  There are only a few rules.  Rule #1 is that you must recognize intimacy early and often.  No IOU’s, no credit with interest.  Nope, you just have to DO IT.  Yes, you have to physically put the cash-money into the jug!

Hey Jody, nice jugs!!

Hey Jody, nice jugs!!

10436758926_f445d0b8e8_bRule #2 is equally as important:  use an exceedingly loose definition of intimacy.  Intimacy is not sex, nor is it the concept of “love.”  Intimacy starts and ends in one’s mind, and can include anything from cooking a favorite meal, to surprising someone with a small gift or card, to washing, folding and putting away the laundry.  These are the deeds that most people would not consider intimate, but think about it:  overly time, it’s always the smallest measures in life that have the most impact.  Anyone can send flowers on an anniversary; how many men can shop successfully for clothes (not lingerie) for their wives, let alone know their sizes?  Intimacy takes on many forms, and those forms depend entirely on your perspective.  If you free your mind from the more predetermined constructs and norms of typical relationships, you’ll find yourself making many trips to the Love Jug, cash in hand.

Our Jug in Okianwa

Our Jug in Okinawa

pavlov_conditioning_dogsNow that you are ready to recognize some small act of kindness as intimacy, and since you most likely already have some loose change in your purse or pocket (or murse for you progressives out there), Rule #3 comes into play:  the amount doesn’t matter.  Seriously.  One of the best things about our particular love jug is the sound the tin top makes as it clatters against the glass jug.  It’s an unmistakable cacophony of chords, and can be heard throughout our homes, both in the states and here abroad.  And when you hear that sound of your partner making a deposit, I dare you not to smile as you your heart swells and feels all warm inside!  That sound is enough to entice you to make your own deposit, in a reaction not unlike Pavlov’s dogs…only with less slobber.  Pennies, yennies, dollars bills, and even refund checks – they all work exceedingly well as tacit and tangible reminders of the intimacy in your life.  And, of course, they all add up over time….

never-get-tired-of-doing-little

So why write about this in connection to our Far East Fling?  Well, we are readying to leave for China on Sunday, our big international trip for 2014!  And, I am getting ready to cash-in our intimacy of the last 15 months to fund what will surely be yet another intimate fling within the far reaches of the Far East.

7396745592_80e51b6e91_bStay tuned, and I’ll let you know the value of our intimacy…this time around.  And although Jody’s Jugs are precious and priceless to me (and to other admirers no doubt), it’s the cash money which her jugs garner that will help us travel far and abroad.

Start your own intimate love affair with the Love Jugs in your life today!

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Jody Turns 25…in Naked Age Years!


“Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.” ~C. S. Lewis

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“Happy 25th birthday Jody,” I say with a knowing smile and a wink.  Jody rolls her eyes in response, like she has so many times before.  She knows that for this particular birthday wish, I am speaking strictly, proudly, and knowingly of just how young she really is…

…in her birthday suit!

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, Jody's birthday celebration

“Act your age!”  Is that something you’ve been told?  If so, congratulations!  The only appropriate response to such an untenable command is, “Why?”  Besides, what actually is age?  How is it, and should it be measured?  Let me explain.

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, birthday celebration 2

Now that is Princess Hair!

Now that is Princess Hair!

Since meeting Jody I’ve solidified my viewpoint on the rather nebulous concept of “age.”  It was starting to coalesce based on my own alternative understanding, but when I realize that Jody has next to no gray in her beautifully flowing and naturally colored hair worthy of any princess, AND that after having served almost 27 years in the military, you realize that chronological age is really a lame measure of age….

How mature is THIS?!?

How mature is THIS?!?

Who runs for their birthday?

Who runs for their birthday?

hello-kitty-40th-anniversaryFor instance, take Hello Kitty, a Japanese native.  She is turning 40 this year, and shares the same birth-month as Jody.  She too, as far as I can research, maintains her natural hair coloring.  Coincidence?  I think not.  While Jody would not so much appreciate the same “cute-a-bration” that the Japanese seem to expend so much of their GDP upon, they both reflect that there are other, much more interesting ways to measure our time on planet earth than simply by the Einsteinium space-time continuum, as fascinating as that truly is.

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Soon after seeing Jody in her never-out-of-style birthday livery, I quickly concluded that there were no less than three measure of “age:” biological, maturity, and…NAKED!  Since that time four years ago, I’ve restacked the list and added a fourth:  chronological, biological, maturity, and, of course, my favorite, naked age.

Aircraft livery is all well and good, but not nearly as exciting as Jody's

Aircraft livery is all well and good, but not nearly as exciting as Jody’s

Wow!

Triple-Digits Wow!

Chronological age, like most concepts that contain the suffix “-logical,” is as boring as it is straight-forward.  As simple as a measure of how many times around the sun one has traveled, it’s the most pedestrian measure of one’s age.  In fact, only when it is in the single or triple digits does it really hold the interest of a wide array of people outside of immediate family.  Oh, and maybe a few more specifics milestones, like turning 16 to get a driver’s license, or 21 for drinking.  Or, see my blog about Coming of Age in Japan.  Of course these don’t compare to the truly odd coming-of-age rituals that are still practiced in the world.

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, Jody enjoys her birthday cards

Dinner at Sea Garden

Dinner at Sea Garden

Birthday Dinner

Birthday Dinner

Next we have one’s biological age.  While this notion involves that dreary suffix noted above, it is, at least, slightly more interesting.  Here we have the first distinction between space-time travel and life’s biological ticker.  For instance, I have an Asian friend here in Okinawa who, pictured with her teen-aged children, cannot be distinguished as “mom”!  Or, in Jody’s case, she biologically appears at least 12 years younger than her time spent breathing air on this earth.  Some might say this is partly due to good genetics, but I beg to differ (sorry Mom).  Rather, I believe the secret is in the same body lotion she’s been using since her early teen years.  And she continues to use it daily…on her whole body…for what I like to think is my personal viewing pleasure!  This show, suitably entitled “Lo Sensuale,” (which must be read and verbally stated with a haughty French accent), remains a highlight of my mornings, and to which I have permanently reserved front-row seating.  Oooooooooooooh-la-la!  Sorry, the show’s sold out indefinitely.  Oh, there’s probably some value in the makeup she’s been using for just as long, the kind with embedded sunscreen.  Jody’s biological age is clearly well over a decade younger than her chronological age, but the distinctions don’t stop there.

A very immature depiction of Hello Kitty.

A very immature, and hilarious depiction of Hello Kitty.

Jody as not-quite-matured schoolgirl.

Jody as a not-quite-matured yet matured(!) schoolgirl.

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, birthday celebrationOne’s general level of maturity can also be used to reflect, to some prosaic people, a more realistic representation of one’s overall age.  We’re told, by all those really mature PhDs out there, that maturity helps one know the correct time and place to behave (or, the way I like to think about it, misbehave), and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society in which one lives.  How dreadfully boring is that?!  In my case, Jody would consider me an adolescent boy at times!  In other words, if you response to being called a “smart-ass” (cause you are being one) with, “…better than being a dumb-ass,” you most likely rate very low in terms of maturity.  And in that case, you and I would be fast friends.  If you say, in response to someone’s opportunistic phrase like “it’s not stiff enough,” with “that’s what she said,” we are kin on a spiritual level.  Or, in terms of my taste in music (angry white-boy scream-o music) and movies (Zoolander, Dumb & Dumber, Wedding Crashers), I remain quite possibly still stuck in my (early) 20s.  And my lack of maturity is something I believe that helps keep Jody young in this measure as well.  Is it me, or is it true that potty humor never really goes out of style?!?  While a high degree of maturity may help emphasizes a clear comprehension of life’s purpose, directedness, and intentionality, which contributes to the feeling that life is meaningful, great for the masses of atheists out there, all the proof of good and god in this world I need is my wife’s naked age!

Fireworks over Jody's Naked...age.

Fireworks over Jody’s age.  All of them.

Much like the naked truth being always better than a well-dressed lie, so too is naked age so much more revealing than the well-dressed person.

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Naka's youthfulness lends to our celebration.

Naka’s youthfulness lends to our celebration.

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, birthday celebration 3If you haven’t noticed, Naked Age happens to be my favorite measure of age!  And yes, although many of you may not want to admit to having one, you do.  It’s that inescapable birthday suit of yours that you can’t quite seem to part with, even though it may need to be ironed and/or taken in here or there.  When I talk about this with new friends (and I always do), I see many people get visibly uncomfortable.  Why, exactly, I remain dumbfounded about.  Is it the American puritan heritage?  Is it that we replace a healthy respect for nudity (like you can find in Europe) with violence and gore (missing in many areas of the world)?  Is it the Church (all of them) and their insistence that sex is for procreation…and between a priest and young boys?  No, I just think it’s because we Americans continue to characterize sex as dirty, shameful and overly private.

Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker!

Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker!

We did a Hello Kitty birthday last year.

We did a Hello Kitty birthday last year.

Okay, I didn't get her a plane with her image on it....

Okay, I didn’t get her a plane with her image on it….

...but she's my all-time favorite nose-art pinup!

…but she’s my all-time favorite nose-art pinup!

Jody, already famous for driving naked in Japan, shouldn’t be too embarrassed by putting into print what I so much like to bring up in public.  And besides, it’s her birthday, regardless of the measure of age chosen.  While I couldn’t give Jody the worldwide Hello Kitty celebrations, like the Hello Kitty Con in Los Angeles and the Thanksgiving Day-like parades in Tokyo, we did manage, like we always do, to have a quietly intimate celebration together.  But Jody can be sure that she shares with Ms. Kitty much younger alternative measures of age.  Taking a number of online tests online as Jody’s proxy, I have scientifically and irrefutably verified my own personal assessments of Jody’s age, all four of them:

Chronological Age:  45

Biological Age:  33

Mature Age:  20s-30s

Naked Age:  25

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, Jody with her apple caramel birthday cupcakes

Happy Birthday Jody.  Here’s to looking forward to a few years of you turning 25, again and again (wink)!  Oh, and for the guys, remember, you’re only as old as the woman you date!

Thank god, because my naked age is most definitely NOT 25….

How old are YOU?

Jody's Birthday Okinawa 2014, birthday dinner at Sea Garden

For some of the online tests I referenced, see the following:

http://www.biological-age.com/

http://www.allthetests.com/quiz03/dasquiztd.php3?testid=1035132458

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2518019/Whats-YOUR-real-age-New-calculator-reveals-old-body-really-based-mood-diet-exercise–youre-probably-older-think.html

Okinawa Eats: Seaside Terrace


Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Dining Cafe Seaside Terrace

You can take a candy but they won't take your card

You can take a candy but they won’t take your card

Ambiance:  Recently opened (2012), contemporary finer-dining eatery located along Sunabe Seawall in Miyagi, Chatan-cho.

Service:  A small establishment which prides itself on fresh food perfectly cooked-to-order, which means the wait times can be, if busy, longer than what you may be accustomed to, but which is well worth the culinary adventure awaiting you when finally served.  The friendliness and personal attentiveness of the staff is superb.  The maximum group size accepted is six persons; reservations are highly encouraged for groups of 4 or more in order to ensure prompt service.

Food Quality:  Above-Average to Excellent.

Features:  Quaint eatery with conditioned indoor and shaded outdoor seating.  Romantic atmosphere, but kid- and pet-friendly.  An affable and engaging chat with Chef and Owner Taka-san is a highlight of any visit!

Cuisine:  Japanese-fusion, with a weighty European (Italian) spin.  The clearly American-influenced breakfast selections are hearty and filling, and they proudly proclaim they serve “Okinawa’s #1 Fish & Chips”!

Price/Value:  Above Average to Excellent.

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Welcome

Yes, it’s hard making your way in the world today.  It can take everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.  Wouldn’t you like to get away?  Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came?

Cat Friendly

Cat Friendly

If that’s you then sometimes you may want to toast “Cheers!” at Seaside Terrace!  A local restaurant with no pretenses and the friendliest staff around.  And yes, they – Taka-san and Christy both know our name there.

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, inviting atmosphere

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Chef's SpecialFinding little gems along Sunabe Seawall is a favorite pastime for me and my wife.  Walking the wall to and from these eateries not only settles our full bellies, but also negates the potential for “trouble” involving the mixing of adult beverages and automobiles.  But it is just the serenely peaceful and stunning views of the East China Sea, especially during our sea-breeze cooled, coral-colored autumnal sunsets, that makes this place so…special.  Taka-san’s Seaside Terrace sparkles in this regard, offering indoor Contemporary European-sheik seating amidst a relaxing, romantic atmosphere, outdoor garden-inspired and umbrella shaded accommodations, and although it doesn’t offer views of the ocean, it’s literally across the street from the seawall.

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Welcome

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Chai-latteOkinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, interesting accoutramentsWhen we first discovered the Seaside Terrace, Taka-san was running two eateries (the other, Seaside Café, located near Araha Beach), and was open for dinner.  However, to our sad disappointment, dinner is no longer served here.  The menu is heavily influenced by Taka-san’s classical European culinary training, especially in the Italian dishes he offers.  However, although we continue to ask him about his opening again for dinner, the bistro remains opens only for breakfast, lunch, and everything and anything in-between until 1700 (last order 1600).

Kid-Friendly Books

Kid-Friendly Too

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, contemporary seatingHowever, it is in his breakfast options where Seaside Terrace really shines, particularly in their special “desert” French toast that is, in my wife’s opinion, the only way to truly eat breakfast.  Scrumptious French toast, topped with ice cream, capped with banana, drizzled with both chocolate and caramel sauces, topped with whipped cream and then finished with frozen fresh fruit?  What’s not to like about that! The menu, however, offers a full range of lunch options, including appetizers and salads.

The only way to do breakfast...served all day!

The only way to do breakfast…served all day!

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, intimate seating

Have you heard about their Fish & Chips?!?

Have you heard about their Fish & Chips?!?

This café offers a relaxed, quaint, and welcoming dining experience.  The food is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients, and is crafted with care and presented with the personal pride of the owner.  There is limited seating, with a maximum capacity of somewhere around 12 inside and 12 outside.  The layout provides an advantageous space for small groups of friends, family or coworkers to gather and enjoy comforting company along with a fabulous meal.  Please note, however, that there is only one chef, working a small kitchen fashioning each meal to order, so be patient.  In fact, Seaside Terrace only takes groups of 6 maximum, and if you have 4 or more, Taka-san highly encourages reservations.  The food and service are worth it; the contemporary surroundings and the soft, sensual soundtrack make any type of wait relaxing and enjoyable.  Be forewarned:  on Sundays during brunch hours and on major American holidays (like Mother’s Day), the joint can be hopping!

Their prettiest customer.

Their prettiest customer.

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, breakfast served all dayThe pasta sets are large and indulgent, and I’m told that Taka-san has perfected his very own delightful trademark sauce over the years.  Having eaten here more than a few times now, we find ourselves being friends and neighbors to the staff…of two!  The owner is friendly and proud, and he always greets and chats with us whenever he has time.  Christy, the half-Japanese, half-Filipino hostess/waitress is studying English, so be sure to chat her up.  One of the finer aspects of eating with Taka-san is the personal indulgence one feels in having a 5-star chef cook just for you.

Owner & Chef Taka-san; tell him the Kings sent you!

Owner & Chef Taka-san; tell him the Kings sent you!

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, afternoon specialOkinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Chef's specialsIn addition to the standard (yet scrumptious) menu fare are the specials listed daily on two blackboards.  And don’t forget the bar service, although without dinner entrees the drinks offered have been somewhat reduced.  One of my and Jody’s favorite cocktails ever were enjoyed here – the Moulin Rouge – and we liked them so much we brought our own bottle of Cassis to Taka-san and had four of them made to go with our afternoon brunch!  They were delightfully surprised at our throw-back to last year’s menu; we were sensuously satisfied with the playfulness of the frozen fruit, Casis and whatever other concoctions were stirred into that brew.  Ask for the drink when you’re there; perhaps with enough demand he’ll put it back on the menu!

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, always a way to open a door

Taka-san has always dreamed of operating a high-end American-Japanese fusion restaurant.  And he is off to a wonderful start on achieving that goal.  He and his staff are more than willing to make sure you have a truly indulgent dining experience.

Hopefully this won't greet you in the window....

Hopefully this won’t greet you in the window….

Check it out for yourself.  And be sure to tell them your name.  Cheers!!

An open and welcoming door.

An open and welcoming door.

Directions (from Kadena Gate 1):  On Route 58 heading south make first right at the first light (Family Mart).  Travel west to the 3rd light (which is the last light before hitting the Seawall), turn left.  Head south two blocks and turn right at the signage for the Sunabe Smile Dental Clinic.  Go all the way to the seawall and turn right (the seawall road here is one-way).  Traveling one short block along the seawall, look to your right and you’ll see a large billboard for Seaside Terrace.  Although there is some parking across the side-street, it is best to park along the seawall here.

Phone: 098-936-2556

Hours:  Closed Tuesdays, open 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. weekdays and 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. weekends.  Reservations are suggested.

Payment:  Cash-only, Yen or U.S. Dollars

Website:  www.facebook.com/SeasideTerrace

Culture Club in Japan: Bunka no Hi


“What sets worlds in motion is the interplay of differences, their attractions and repulsions. Life is plurality, death is uniformity.  By suppressing differences and peculiarities, by eliminating different civilizations and cultures, progress weakens life and favors death.  The ideal of a single civilization for everyone, implicit in the cult of progress and technique, impoverishes and mutilates us.  Every view of the world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life”

~Octavio Paz

There’s more to Japanese Culture than an SNL skit would lead you to believe

“Thanks for sharing,” Jody coyly says to me as the autumn winds blows and cold drizzle sets in just after sunset. Sure, I checked the weather and told her the high temperature for the day, along with the chance of rain we could suffer.  But she’s a smart, well-educated woman, and clearly should would understand the nighttime lows, especially given we’ve been sleeping with the windows open the last couple of days.

“Cold is a state of mind,” I flatly respond with my oft-repeated joke of how they taught us to embrace cold in Navy SERE (Search, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) training. She does nothing but glance disapprovingly in my general direction.

Shurijo Castle Festival 2014, Ryukyu Dynasty Parade, somber processional approaches

Earlier, things were different as the processional came into view as it passed over a rise in the roadway on the horizon. Even at this distance, the colors and pageantry of the parade already shine true in the bright afternoon Okinawan sun.  The crowd gathers has the spectacle closes, and slowly the somber sounds of Chinese horns, drums, and hand cymbals grow ever louder, setting the tone and cadence for all involved.  The pace is dignified and slow, and the King and Queen held high in their large, ornate litters.  And so went the Royal Ryukyu procession of guards, warriors, musicians, and dancers for the Chinese Investiture Envoys for the next two hours….

Shurijo Castle Festival 2014, Ryukyu Dynasty Parade, golden fans

The Ryukyu King

The Ryukyu King

And his Queen.

And his Queen.

The Shuri Castle Festival is certainly one of the biggest annual events on Okinawa. And there’s no mistake that it’s held in conjunction with the Japanese National Holiday, “Culture Day.”  For a day, the capital city of Naha is transformed into the Ryukyu Kingdom’s old hub.  The Ryukyu Dynasty Parade is truly a splendid sight to see.  A grand parade in brilliant period dress recreates the Ryukyu Kingdom’s most formal and picturesque procession.  In three groups — the dignified King and elegantly beautiful Queen’s procession, the dark and mysterious envoys’ procession, and the colorful and lively traditional arts procession — a throng of almost one thousand costumed period players parade along Kokusai Street in downtown Naha, the same route that has been traveled over the past six centuries.  The costumes are authentic, down to the same stitching used in robes and gowns worn in antiquity.  At the same time, traditional song and dance is performed free of charge and on-site at the castle’s park.  Clearly, to the Okinawans, this is more than just a chance to dress-up; rather, it’s a city-wide embrace and revival of the Ryukyu Dynasty in all its former glory.

Shurijo Castle Festival 2014, Ryukyu Dynasty Parade, costumed happy dancers

Culture Day (文化の日, Bunka no Hi) is celebrated annually on November 3.  It is expressly set aside by the government to promote culture and the arts.  Events typically include art exhibitions, parades, and in Tokyo, even an Imperial award ceremony for distinguished artists and scholars.

Please not this kind of Culture Club in Japan!

Please not this kind of Culture Club in Japan!

keep-calm-and-love-the-japanese-culture

Still more to Okinawa than this....

Still more to Okinawa than this….

First held in 1948 to help promulgate the ideals of love of peace and freedom organic to the post WWII Japanese Constitution, its roots go much deeper. November 3 was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1868 when it was called Tenchō-setsu (天長節), a holiday held in honor of the birthday of the reigning emperor.  An interesting aside, the Emperor’s Birthday (天皇誕生日, Tennō Tanjōbi) remains a national holiday here, but with a differing date based on the specific reigning Emperor.  For contemporary Emperor Akihito (born in 1933), it is celebrated on 23 December.  During the reign of Hirohito (Showa period, 1926–1989, the sitting Emperor during WWII), the Emperor’s birthday was observed on 29 April.  Due in part to the nation’s reverence for Hirohito, regardless of how western history taints his role in the incitement and sustainment of World War II throughout Asia and the Pacific, that date remains a public holiday, but was renamed Greenery Day in 1989, and then finally Showa Day in 2007.  Coincidentally, and oddly enough, Showa Day also happens to be the same day in which the Allies’ International Military Tribunal for the Far East condemned key officials of the Imperial Hirohito government during World War II to death, including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, back in 1946.

Chinese inspired castle decor.

Chinese inspired castle decor.

Shurijo Festival Oct 2014, Chinese-inspired Seiden of the CastleShurijo Festival Oct 2014, Shurijo, Shurijo Castle FestivalShurijo Castle prospered as the Ryukyu Kingdom’s center of politics, diplomacy and culture for 450 years, well into the late 19th century.  The castle was the residence of the Ryukyu Kingdom’s King and royal family, as well as the headquarters of the Shuri government, which traded with China, Japan and far-reaching Asian countries, shaping forever the distinctly Okinawa society.  Shuri also served as the heart of the kingdom, a center of culture and the arts, where classical court dance was born in order to welcome Chinese envoys and ambassadors.  After the Ryukyu Kingdom was unilaterally annexed by Japan in 1879, the King was removed from power and position, and the castle was relegated for use as a simple barracks for the Japanese army, falling into some significant measure of disrepair.

Shuri in complete ruins 1945

Shuri in complete ruins 1945

Shuri in complete ruins 1945

Shuri in complete ruins 1945

Confederates in Japan??

Confederates in Japan??

The more appropriate standard.

The more appropriate standard.

A “National Treasure” before World War II, it was fiercely attacked for three days during the Battle of Okinawa since the Japanese military had located its headquarters in the castle’s underground maze of natural caves and tunnels. On May 27, 1945, Shuri burned for the fourth and last time, and was effectively razed to the ground by intensive shelling and bombardment.  Oddly enough, upon capture a Confederate battle flag was hoisted over the castle by the “Rebel Company,” Alpha Company of the 5th Marine Regiment, and there remained visible for three days until it was ordered removed by Marine General Simon B. Buckner, Jr., himself the son of Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr., who felt that all Americans helped to win the battle, and was replaced by a more appropriate standard.  For an interesting take on the role and continuing consternation over this odd intersection of flags, see Should the Rising Sun Finally Set.

Sacred Suimui Utaki

Sacred Suimui Utaki

Shurijo Festival Oct 2014, court dance, female straw hat dancerAfter the war, plans were set in motion to rebuild and recapture the past. Castle reconstruction began in 1958, and was largely completed in 1992 with the restoration of the complex’s main buildings.  In 2000, along with other gusuku, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  See more on the Castle and other festivals held there in my blog Hidden Harvest Moon.

Shurijo Festival Oct 2014, dragon-topped Seiden rooftop roofline structure

Shurijo Festival Oct 2014, court dance, female dancer and minature puppet shishimaiShurijo Castle Festival 2014, Ryukyu Dynasty Parade, footstepsJody and I went down early and parked near the castle, then took the city’s monorail over to the parade grounds. We thoroughly enjoyed the parade for close to two hours, trying to take in as much of the show as our overwhelmed senses would allow.  Jody let me jockey for a better photog position, which is thankfully much easier here in Asian surrounded by rather polite Japanese.  While I’m still sorting and sifting through over a thousand photos taken on no less than three cameras, a few selected ones are included here to help demonstrate the pomp of the ritual.

Shurijo Castle Festival 2014, Ryukyu Dynasty Parade, Eisa ghost dancer

Shurijo Festival Oct 2014, court dance, female Yosudake dancer traditional Okinawan costumeShurijo Festival Oct 2014, court dance, colorful female dancerAfter the parade we decided to try another one of the “Sam’s” eateries, a popular chain here on Okinawa, and enjoyed an overpriced but delicious teppanyaki lunch at Sam’s Anchor Inn while we recharged our bodies and reset our senses. Taking the monorail back to the castle, Jody finally was able to tour the inside of the primary buildings of the castle, and we both attended a few displays of traditional Okinawan arts on the stage nearby.  We were, on the one hand happy that there were very few Americans in attendance, but saddened at the same time by this lack of interest and participation.

King's Throne in the Seiden

King’s Throne in the Seiden

Shurijo Festival Oct 2014, court dance, male and femaleAlthough Culture Day is statistically one of the best days of the year weather-wise – in Tokyo there have only been three years with rain in something like 40 years – the forecast is often much different in the sub-tropics, including Okinawa. While the rain Sunday night didn’t keep the crowds away, it did cut short our enjoyment of the candle-lit grounds during the Shurijo Castle Illumination.  Jody’s sleeveless blouse, which threatened to lead to sunburn just hours before, was ultimately no match for the strong fall winds and cold rain of early November.

The Shureimon Gate Illuminated

The Shureimon Gate Illuminated

But she sure does have nice shoulders. And besides, it gave me a chance to hold her close as we strolled through the romantically candlelit castle grounds on the way back to our car to zoom away to a steaming bowl of Ramen and freshly fried gyoza.

Shurijo Festival Oct 2014, Shurijo, Kankaimon gate and castle approach at night

And as we warmed our hearts together on the ride home and over a late dinner, reminiscing, mostly in silence, about the rich fabrics in the colorful cloth of Okinawan culture, I found myself thinking, “Thanks for sharing.”

Thank you, Jody, for sharing this day of culture with me.

See my Flickr Set Shurijo Castle Festival 2014 for more photos as I process and post them.

Shurijo Festival Oct 2014, court dance, male golden fan dance

Scuba Certification in Okinawa: Get it From The King or Don’t Get it At All


A blush-inciting, overly-flattering blog written about me as a scuba instructor here in Okinawa by a recent star student, Mermaid Mindy.

Walking Through Wonderland

Just kidding. Every person we have met in the Okinawa diving world has been so laid back and helpful and happy to share their diving knowledge with us that I can’t imagine you could have a bad experience getting your scuba certification out here… But our instructor was Kevin King, aka Elvis, and we had a blast with him.

When we moved out here we had heard that if we didn’t get scuba certified in our first couple of weeks, we would quickly find that we didn’t have time to do it at all, especially since Dane is a flier. We looked at a couple of ways to do it, and ended up signing up for a week-long open water certification course through the Kadena Marina with the King. Our dog is not sure what she thinks of him… she met him only once after he finished a Halloween dive…

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