Daiko: Chariot of the Gods…almost.


“Of all vices, drinking is the most incompatible with greatness.” ~Walter Scott

Daiko can help you avoid trouble with the law, but it won’t help urinary incontinence.

We left the Butler O’Club looking quite dapper in our formal attire, our spirits buoyed by both the company of the night and the copious drink we enjoyed. Remember, the drinking “rules” the military places on us here in Okinawa, the ones I find so hard to swallow? Well, most of ’em don’t apply on base, where apparently it’s still acceptable to be a drunkard. Mixing drink with driving can make for a dangerous cocktail, no matter where you are. But a typical taxi can’t get your car home…. The obvious solution? Have someone else drive your car home while you enjoy the convenience and comfort of a Japanese taxi.

Pre-Rickshaw Taxi Days

Pre-Rickshaw Taxi Days

Leave it to the Japanese to work out the perfect solution. Just outside the main entrance of the Club is not just a taxi queue, but a service unique to Japan, one tailored to avoid DUI/DWI: Daiko. Daiko is a Japanese word that translates to “surrogate,” and implies a meaning of “to do something for someone.”

Daiko service is a substitute driving service. When you drink, you must not drive. So we drive your car and we take you and your car to home, safety,” reads one Okinawan website. Having just vented my frustrations with the military’s fetish with drinking and driving on Okinawa in Sober and Sobering, I realized that Japan actually is just about the easiest place to imbibe…and never have to worry about driving!

Taxi-2

For people who are unfamiliar with Daiko service, which to my knowledge probably includes the whole of the United States, literally two life savers are dispatched to wherever you happen to be and take you along with your car (separately) to your next destination. Whether you want to go home or to another bar, doesn’t matter; Daiko will gladly take you where you want to be, and they’ll do it on the cheap. Because the service is to popular and affordable, there can be a wait on the weekends.

A Daiko Day-in-the-Life

A request for the service results in two licensed drivers showing up, one to transport you the patron via taxi, and the other to drive your car. As you’re being whisked away via private chauffer, your car follows closely behind. No matter how plastered you may be, in the morning’s hangover haze you’ll find your car securely at home.

An actual game.  Lucky for you the Japanese drive...gentle.

An actual game. Lucky for you the Japanese drive…gentle.

But of course you never get some’in for nothin’. “But what’s the cost,” I hear you pleading. The fee is generally 1.4-1.6 times the price of a single taxi ride, cheaper than roundtrip via cab. So in our case, the normally 2,000 yen taxi ride home (~$17.25 at the current exchange rate) came to 2,800 yen total. At just over $24, it’s a small price to pay! I’m not sure how the Japanese work a profit margin into this cost; it’s got to be one of the best deals around.

These Girls got a thang for Mr. Taxi. With Daiko, so do I….

So, there’s really no excuse to avoid a good holiday shin-dig if you want to drink, with the brilliant and convenient Daiko service. All you need is the phone number to Daiko: 645-8888 (on-base) or 098-970-8888 if you find yourself off-base. Do yourself a favor: put the number in your cell phone. Right now. The service may, one day, literally save your life.

But make sure you watch out if this guy shows up....

But make sure you watch out if this guy shows up….

Jody Drives Naked in Japan!!!


Naked Buttocks

Naked Buttocks

“It’s not illegal to drive naked…if you have your seatbelt on….”

“Like, would you drive to school naked?” ~The Breakfast Club

“Art can never exist without Naked Beauty display’d.” ~William Blake

Naked Displayed

Naked Displayed

One of the first priorities in Okinawa is buying freedom.  Remember from my last blog, it costs at least a buck-o-five.  Seriously, without wheels, this island is prison-like, given the locales that must be covered to search for lodging, treks that must be made as part of required indoctrination, and the Ramen House that must be sampled.  Oh, and Jody has to go back to work, sometime….

Jody's Near-Naked Leg

Jody’s Near-Naked Leg

So it’s important for those intending to come to Okinawa at the invitation of the military and pleasure of the sequestering-President to know that it is not allowable such prisoners (actually, more accurately those on Status-of-Forces-Agreement [SOFA] status) to rent cars on the island until they have a United States Forces Japan (USFJ)-issued driver’s license.  Even though car rental is provided at various places on various bases.  Where people without license congregate and need transportation most.  Like at the Shogun Inn main building just down the street from our Temporary Lodge Facility (TLF), where rental prices are a wee-tad higher than those in the states, but where you can be zipping down the road at a raging 50 K’s an hour faster than you can repeat three times “SOFA Status Superstar.”  Don’t ask me how I know this; I, of course, would never improperly rent a car (wink)!  In any case, as of yesterday, I am a SOFA-licensed driver, so such conjecture about car rental is OBE.

Go Naked.  We don't own fur....

Go Naked. We don’t own fur….

But part of getting that all-important SOFA license is to take a driver’s test.  This, of course, administered after military-specified required prisoner mistreatment, courtesy of the Marine Crops’ safety department on Camp Foster.  This test is offered on various days during the week, but is only given at 10 am.  And although your on-island sponsor and annoying command may not think so, taking and passing this test must be a priority.

Naked Feels Great.  Cosmo Says So.

Naked Feels Great. Cosmo Says So.

Remember, freedom is at stake.

However, the license is only issued after attending the required island new-comer brief given on Wednesdays.  Now, since military intelligence is, as they say, an oxymoron, this “brief” lasts from 0730 through at least 1430.  Yes, it’s one of those times where the briefs will continue until morale improves (beatings are no longer tolerated in the modern kinder, gentler military as it was in those nostalgic days of piracy).  And since the “brief” is required for all family members, the kids and babies are all ripe for testing at the end of such an enlightening day of nothingness.  The SOFA license test is given upon the conclusion of this day of the dead, but if you have already taken the exam, you’ll simply pick up your license and save yourself at least 90 minutes…of freedom.  Or at least finally obtaining the free freedom to buy real freedom.

Naked Feels Soooo Good!

Naked Feels Soooo Good!

One note about his test.  This is a test, like in one that you have to study for, especially if you have never driven overseas.  Get your hands on the driver’s manual, and seriously, read through it at least twice.  Unlike the states where you’ve been driving already for a year (or more), you take this test COLD, without benefit of real-life, real-road experience.  Oh, and the test has very little to do with driving…but more to do with whether or not you studied.

Drive Naked Today

Drive Naked Today

So, once you have your SOFA license, which took us almost a week, you can purchase a car.  There are two basic approaches:  buy from a Japanese used-car salesman, or, buy from a pardoned prisoner (those who own vehicles).  The latter preferably in a way that takes advantage of another’s misery, which is really how capitalism operates most efficiently (think about how we all get those great deals on homes and yard sales and the truth is no longer “out there”).

He Can't Drive Naked.  He Won't Fit....

He Can’t Drive Naked. He Won’t Fit….

The island has the usual suspects of car dealers – less ALL the American brands – but is literally covered with used-car lots, most targeting American GIs.  One of the absolute truths of the Universe, though, is that used-car salesman share an almost incomprehensible amount of genetic material worldwide, the same scary stuff that would, in another era, result in a Darwin Award, and the eventual extinction of the species.  The cars from these lots may come with warranties, and probably on average are at least checked and/or repaired prior to sale, but alas, such services and assurances come with a price.  And there’s no real consensus whether that additional expense is justified.  Cars on these lots often can be gotten at times on-base for almost half the cost….

They Are All the Same

They Are All the Same

Which brings me to the Kadena Air Base “Lemon Lot,” more properly known as the “Auto Resale Lot.”  It’s been moved since I was here last time, and is now much closer to the Exchange, located in the parking lot of the uniform/dry-cleaning shop across the street of the base’s main shopping complex.  All the vehicles I have purchased on-island were acquired this way; 3 out of 4 did me just fine.  The one dud turns out to be a recall issue on Toyota Surfs (the direct equivalent of a Toyota 4Runner) due to over-heating issues in hotter climes such as Okinawa.  Which is exactly what happen to my old truck, which had to be junked.

Me, my Young Kids, and the Old Surf

Me, my Young Kids, and the Old Surf

Lemon Lot

Lemon Lot

Jody and I started looking for cars almost immediately.  It’s a daunting prospect, but easy enough process.  The cars are registered on-base, who are supposed to “vouch” for advertising accuracy.  And the owners (usually) put an information sheet in the car’s window, which must include – it seems by base regulation – “super cold AC runs GREAT!”

Really, I’m sure they all do.

What you are secretly hoping for is someone pressed for whatever reason (and there are many) to sell their car now-now-now, but not that guy who’s dumping a lemon and knows it.  So we go from car to truck to van to car, and discuss the relative merits of each vehicle.  It’s odd there are NO pickup trucks here.  Of course we act like we know a lot about cars, and no doubt you can tell much by kicking a car’s tires (just like in aircraft:  “kick the tires and light the fires!”).  Oh, and it’s like 97 degrees outside with 97% humidity, which makes the whole affair, well, in a word….

Moist.

Green Naked Envy

Green Naked Envy

And then we come upon “it.”  NAKED.  There is not much talk at first glance between Jody and I, but I know we are thinking the same thing:  this is the perfect name for a car.  For us.  Especially for me.

Ask my postman in Pensacola.

Naked Porn

Naked Porn

We start to examine the car.  It is small.  Boxy, like most modern Japanese cars tend to be, but with welcome relief in not its lines but its very construction.  It’s a great puke-military-green color, shinier and more attractive than olive drab, and strikes us immediately as a mini-Humvee.  Like the cube root of an H3.  Naked may suffer from tire envy (my motorcycle has bigger wheels), but size doesn’t matter when they’re carrying the torque of 659 white-lightn’n cubic inches of shear, raw 58 horse-power-generat’n combustion!  And that, my friends, is less than half that of my motorcycle, and not much larger than a Vespa!  Seriously, road taxes in Okinawa are based on engine size, and this car with its motor qualifies for the coveted “A” plate – much cheaper taxes – a can’t miss yellow plate with, yes, you guessed it, the letter “A.”  For those not in the know, the majority of cars on Okinawa have white plates, and those registered to SOFA status personnel are marked with a leading “Y” on the plate.  The joke is that this stands for “Yankee.”

"A" Stands for Acceleration

“A” Stands for Acceleration

"Y" is for Yankee!!

“Y” is for Yankee!!

I’m not so sure it’s a joke.  Or the joke may be on us.  Or at least the Rebels….

We fell in quick like with this car.  Which as we looked more and more (and it got hotter and hotter) quickly turned into a moist love affair.  A phone call to Steve, the owner and Air Force EOD officer, a test drive, and handshake later and the deal is done.  Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

Freedom.

Celebrating Naked

Celebrating Naked

After $3,700 for the car, about $275 for title transfer and insurance, and 90 minutes standing in various lines at the military’s version of the DMV (and every bit as thrilling), we are literally handed the keys to our freedom.  And to Jody’s first drive in, well, let’s see:  Okinawa, Japan, Asian, west of the International Dateline, and oh yeah, on the left side of the road!  Although she was dreading it, it finally came time to put her big-girl panties on and take the great Naked leap of faith.

Right-Hand Drive on the Wrong Side Ride!

Right-Hand Drive on the Wrong Side Ride!

The only drawback?  We’ll probably have to tie the car down in typhoons….

Sometimes being Naked Blows

Sometimes being Naked Blows

POV: Point-of-View of my Privately-owned-Vehicles


If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he entitled to happiness?” ~Stanislaw Jerzy

or

“Entitlement is the opposite of enchantment.” ~Guy Kawasaki

Shouldn't You Know Where Your Car is Stored??

Shouldn’t You Know Where Your Car is Stored??

Well, I can count, and I am completely disenchanted with the Navy…so what does that say about my entitlement to be happy?  Let’s talk about POV.  And that means, oddly enough, both my Point of View AND Privately Owned Vehicle, the euphemism that the military uses to refer to your cars.

But maybe not RVs or wheeled campers.

Not boats.

And certainly not motorcycles or mopeds.

So, we are moving to Okinawa.  There are very clear restrictions on bringing POVs (vehicles) to the island, specifically those built after some year in the early 1970s…the actual year escapes me…but is rather unimportant.  The specific restriction is that we can’t bring our western cars to eastern Japan.  The rules and regulations governing what a service member’s entitlements are in relation to vehicles in such a situation are equally as clear:  we, as a married couple with no children, are entitled to store a POV at government expense.

entitlement-usa-america-liberal-democrat-obama-lazy-funny-de-demotivational-poster-1232250678

Now, as you may recall from my previous entries, I’ve done this move not once, but twice before.  Oh, and both times, I’ve stored at least one car (one move I stored twice), so you would figure that I know this drill.

You – and I – figured wrong!

Jody and I own three cars and a motorcycle.  Yes, that’s a lot of wheels for a couple, but the Harley is just for fun and to drive fast and take chances (a bike should never be a primary mode of transport), and Jody likes to have both a car and truck, you know, for those year-long home-improvement projects that requires multiples trips to Lowes and Home Deport each and every week.  Renovating all the bathrooms in our home just before leaving for Japan for 3 years will be the subject of another blog, however (wink).

What we really want to do is to dispose of the cars – by selling two (to create the cash for buying two cars and a bike in Okinawa), transferring one to my son (his young family is in dire need of a more reliable vehicle), and storing the motorcycle.  Remember, we are entitled to store a POV….

But not a bike.  Or moped, if you prefer the European-sheik Vespa/scooter mode of travel.  You see, after weeks of back-and-forth emails and phone calls with at least four different people in the Navy’s “Personal Property” chain of command, it has been proclaimed by a royal “they” that, for the Navy and Marine Corps, such two-wheeled vehicles are “…treated as HouseHold Goods (HHG).”  This means that such vehicles are, for all purposes, treated the same way that your living room couch or toaster or picture frames are treated.  They are thrown into a non-climate controlled warehouse and forgotten.  Even though the Defense Travel Regulations (DTR) clearly state that a member is entitled to store a vehicle “with two wheels” in lieu of a POV with four wheels when there is an entitlement to store a vehicle at government expense.  It seems, someway, somehow, the Navy/Marine Corps gang has decided that there’s “no motorcycle” in “team,” and has restricted POV storage entitlements for some unknown reason through a publication labeled no more than “NAVSUP.”  More on that later.

DTR

 

Okay, at least I have an answer.  But how to work an end-run around such nonsensical regulations?  You see, if I’ve learned anything after spending 20 years in the Navy, it’s there’s always a way, or that anything (and everything) is “waiverable” as long as you can find the right person with the right authority who remains somewhat enchanted with remaining part of the human race and treating the military servicemembers who are asked to already sacrifice so much with sound reason and some measure of respect.  An unlikely proposition I must say.

So, I contact the company I stored vehicles with before during my previous overseas assignments.  They do take care of motorcycles, but charge the same they would for a car, which happens to be exactly what the government will reimburse, which is $222/month!  Businesses aren’t stupid; I would do and charge exactly the same thing.  This company, (ADKOS – look’em up online), owned and operated by retired and ex-military, caters to vehicle storage for the military.  They have sites all over the country, and located a site with qualified and experienced bikers who can care for my bike while in storage (starting, riding, rotating wheels, keeping the battery charged).  Long story short, after explaining my sad, disenchanted story, and after reducing their price for the bike to $160/month(which I am still not paying out-of-pocket), the retired Navy commander running the site in Montgomery, Alabama, made me a deal that as long as I stored a car with him (at the going rate), he would take care of the bike on the side.

ADKOS

Done deal, yes?

Oh hell no.

Seems even though the regulations again state that we, since we are entitled to vehicle storage, are also allowed to self-procure commercial storage, the local Personal Property office claimed (initially) that we could only use the government’s contracted storage system…which will not accept a motorcycle….  You see, the government has their own vehicle storage contract, but anything the government can do, private business can do better.  These VPC’s as they are called collect your vehicle at like seven different locations across the nation.  So, for starters you may have to drive a really long way to use one….  Worse, they then sub-contract our storage of your vehicle, which literally – and get this – may be anywhere in the country!!  So, there is yet another contract for transporting the vehicles, and even another subcontract for warehouse space for the vehicles, since the company responsible for the storage leases storage space.  I dare anyone to explain to me how that’s cost-effective!  Further, there are so many additional middlemen in the chain, and so many more chances for damage to vehicles that there is no-doubt increased claims against the government for damage and failures in providing quality service.  With a self-procured company, you can visit the site, meet the people who will take care of your vehicles, and avoid additional risk from transportation and uncaring and non-value-added middlemen.   This whole government vehicle storage program is in desperate need of Lean Sigma Six initiatives…

Not only that, Personal Property claimed that we are only allowed to use the “Vehicle Processing Center” in New Orleans…when we wanted to use Atlanta if we were going to be forced into this option.  There are rumors of kick-backs from the various VPCs to specific personal property offices for directing vehicle traffic, but I won’t pursue such hearsay here.  However, I don’t take “no” that easily.

hearsay

After numerous other phone calls and emails to people in Pensacola, Panama City and Jacksonville, and even talking to the Commanding Officer of personal property in Jacksonville, Florida, I finally am referred to someone that agrees that we are “allowed” to self-procure storage.  But of course no one really seems to know the process….

We can’t be the first people to do this, right??

I’m still slightly worried that we’ll be gone and in Japan, I’ll have a car and bike in storage, and the Navy is going to reject our entitlement because of some SNAFU in paper or what seems to be multiple interpretations of governing instruction.  Fingers crossed and breath held.

Now, let’s take a journey down a logic by-way.  Two or four-wheeled, doesn’t matter to me – whatever moves you.  The central question I have is this:  why does the Navy care about what type of vehicle I intend to store?  If I have an entitlement to store a vehicle, and storing that vehicle results in no-cost difference (and maybe even lower cost), what does it matter to Uncle Sam?  In my particular case, it is the exact same cost to the government whether I store a car and bike, or just my bike.  Surely Uncle Sam is a closet-biker; it’s simply too American to think differently.

Uncle-Sam-Biker-Large

There is not an increase in paperwork.  There is no additional staffing that is needed, no hidden costs, no supplementary per diem or travel expense to worry about.  It is, as politicians and policy-makers like to say, “transparent.”  But we know that many policy makers are at least color blind, and most simply see with eyes-wide-shut.   All that results from this business transaction with the Navy is a HUGE amount of frustration on our part, increased workload with the Navy as we chase rabbits down through a series of Wonderlands of rules and regulations, and ultimately, a large degree of disenchantment with the service.  Businesses realize that such chasms of loyalty are tough to put a price on and are to be avoided at almost all costs; government often fail because it/they never apply rational, logical business sense to completely analogous business transaction situations….  And don’t get me started on the personnel they hire to front the customer.

project-management

Occam’s Razor would conclude these parting thoughts.  First, that one of the modern great evils to the Navy is owning and operating motorcycles, and second, that people are really not their most precious resource.  It is, in the end, their dollars that are most precious.

OccamsRazor

I am more disenchanted with the Navy than ever, but my own POV remains bound in a complete refusal to allow any type of flavor of POV – car, bike, unconstructive, reticent, or other – to taint my search for that four-leaf clover.

One assuredly is waiting for me across the pond in Okinawa.