Mt. Koya:  A Pilgrimage of “Eat, Pray, Bathe”

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~Lao Tzu, ancient Chinese philosopher

Pilgrim on their Journey

Pilgrim on their Journey

Jody and I have only just arrived at Koyasan atop Mount Koya and we already feel like we’ve cheated on the pilgrimage…that we knew so little about.  It’s not long before we spot Japanese pilgrims dressed in mostly white, sporting walking sticks and topped with conical hats….  Although it’s much more common for a non-believing tourist to make the journey to this mountain retreat temple complex, the truly faithful pilgrims are still a source of great inspiration.  And 2016, the 1,200th anniversary of monastic settlement in the area, has increased numbers of both tourists and pilgrims alike.

First settled in 816 by the monk Kukai as a retreat far away from the more less faithful courtly intrigues of Kyoto (then Japan’s capital and center of power), Mt. Koya is located some 2,500 feet up in the mountains amid eight surrounding peaks.  The original quaint monastery complex has grown over the last millennial into the modern but still old-world religious town of Koya, featuring a university dedicated to religious studies and over 100 temples, many of which offer lodging to pilgrims and visitors alike.  In 2004, Mt. Koya and the surrounding area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Scenic Temples

Scenic Temples

The revered monk and scholar Kukai, now better known by his posthumous formal title Kobo Daishi, brought the tantric teachings of Esoteric Buddhism from China and developing it into the uniquely Japanese Shingon sect, and in the process founded the sect’s headquarters on Mount Koya.

While most modern-day pilgrims, upwards of some 100,000 annually, travel by tour-bus, a small minority still set out the old-fashioned way on foot.  This journey of ~725 miles linking 88 temples is a favorite of pilgrims, known as o-henro-san (formally).  Henro can be spotted in the temples and along roadsides and throughout the trails of the pilgrimage clad in a white jacket emblazoned with the characters Dogyo Ninin, meaning “two traveling together,” as all pilgrims travel with the spirit of Kobo Daishi.



While I refuse to associate with any given religion (I can’t speak for Jody), I find that Buddhism is, by in large, one of the most accepting, open, and non-judgmental of the major organized religions of the world.  However, quite irrespective of a specific faith or denomination, I find the idea of a cleansing journey of catharsis very intriguing.  And apparently so do many others, all around the world.

The “88 Temple Pilgrimage” (hachijuhakkasho-meguri) is Japan’s most famous pilgrimage, one that loops around the island of Shikoku.  Completing the course traditionally on foot is a serious undertaking that demands several weeks up to many months of rather strenuous travel.  Good physical fitness and stamina – and more than a little faith – are required to endure the stress of constant walking over the uneven terrain of Shikoku, in every type of weather.

Larger-than-Life Staffs

Larger-than-Life Kongozue!

Many pilgrims choose to dress in traditional attire, which can include a byakue (pilgrims’ white coat), wagesa (scarf-like accoutrement worn around the neck, usually purple, indicating a religious pilgrimage), sugegasa (iconic Asian conical straw hat), and kongotsue (uniquely pilgrimage-specific walking stick, also spelled as kongo-zue).  In addition, most pilgrims carry a book called nokyocho or shuincho where red ink stamps called shu-in are collected as each temple is visited.  All of these items can be purchased at Mount Koya or at Ryozenji, traditionally the first temples of the trek.

Pilgrims' Staffs

Pilgrims’ Staffs

The Brocade Cover We Selected

The Brocade Cover We Selected

Jody and I wanted a meaningful souvenir of our spiritual visit to and temple stay within Koya, and the wooden staffs pilgrims were spied walking with caught our eye, and imagination.  The kongo-zue or kongo-jo is the wooden staff carried by henro (“pilgrim,” informal) on the Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan, and is full of symbolism.  It is said to represent the body of Kukai/Kobo Daishi, who metaphorically and physically supports the henro along the way.  In this sense, it is to be treated with great reverence and respect, having its “foot” washed at the end of the day’s journey, and brought inside to rest for the night.  They are inscribed with the chant Namu-Daishi-Henjo-Kongo and Dogyo-Ninin:  “We Two Pilgrims Together.”  The staff is also traditionally carried aloft when crossing a bridge; Kobo Daishi was known to sleep under bridges, and pilgrims should take care to not disturb his sleeping spirit found in such locales even today.  A bell is usually affixed, which jingles during the journey to warn and avoid accidental harm of other sentient living beings, a critical element of the more orthodox Buddhists.  Further, the bell also acts as an o-mamori, or protective amulet, to help safeguard the pilgrim while on their path.  Many pilgrims use a colorfully designer brocade cover to protect the top of the staff, but this doesn’t seem to be obligatory.

Jody on a Pilgrim's Trail

Jody on a Pilgrim’s Trail

Our Rosary / Prayer Beads

Our Rosary / Prayer Beads

Nenju, also called juzu, are the Buddhist version of prayer beads (rosaries), found in so many religions.  A standard nenju has 108 beads, one for each of the “afflicting passions” that Buddhists recognize.  The number is determined based on our six senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch and mind/conceptualization), our six reactions (desirable, undesirable, neither, painful, pleasurable, neither), and the temporal aspect of those reactions (past, present or future).  In other words, 6 x 6 x 3 = 108.  These “afflictions” are what bind humans to Samsara, the world of suffering.  Other larger beads may be present (“parent beads), but this are not counted as above, and beads are also used to assist in counting recitations of various mantras.  Many different styles of nenju can be found, from round to flat beads, some topped with metal rings and others without, while still others are adorned with decorative tassels.  When traveling, the nenju should always be held in one’s left hand, which symbolizes Samsara, while the right hand represents Nirvana.  It is only through handling the nenju that these two worlds come together into “Oneness.”


Prayers near a Daishi Hall

Jody and I had made up our minds.  Being adamantly rebuked after trying to get pilgrimage stamps affixed in our own booklets, we started to look to put together our own kongo-zue.

Wooden Grave Tablets

Wooden Grave Tablets

Stupa Top with Elemental Divisions

Our Staff’s Stupa Top with Elemental Divisions

Sometimes extensive calligraphy can found on the staff.  The top usually has four sets of notches, dividing it into five sections. Each section has a character, and from the top to bottom, they represent Ka or khah (space), Ra or Rah (air), Ha or Hah (fire), Va or Vah (water), and A or Ah (earth).  In this way the kongotsue symbolizes a Buddhist stupa, originally a reliquary for housing a relic of the Buddha or other revered monk/teacher.  These stupas form the basis of the Japanese pagoda.  Pagodas in Japan have taken the form of five-storied structures, each story representing the same elements as scribed on the walking staffs.  There are the elements to which the body returns upon death.  Considering the staff as a representative pagoda, combined with its pyramidal top, also represents a sotoba, or wooden grave tablet.  In this function, the kongo-zue was historically used as a gravestone if a pilgrim were to die upon the trail.  In fact, some pilgrims still write their kaimyo, their posthumous name by which they will be known in the next realm after death, just as it would be on an actual gravestone.

Cemetery Path Leading to the Daishi Hall

Cemetery Path Leading to the Daishi Hall

We found a shop in Koyasan, not far from Okunoin, the famous cemetery found there.  The staffs themselves were all very similar, but there was a huge array of accessories that made choosing very difficult.  Prayer beads of every sort, brocade covers, and decorative tassels.  In another store we found just the perfect bell to adorn our walking staff.

Our Staff

Our Staff

Written in the middle area of the staff are passages from the Gohogo Mantra, whos central message is roughly, “Homage to the Savior Daishi, the Illuminating and Imperishable One.”  This Mantra is chanted by pilgrims three times in front of the Daishi Halls found at each temple visited during their journey.

Jody at Koya's Main Gate, a landmark for Pilgrimage Beginning or End

Jody at Koya’s Main Gate, a landmark for Pilgrimage Beginning or End

Most pilgrims leave their kongo-zue at Okubo-ji, the 88th and final temple of the pilgrimage.  Interestingly, a funerary practice can still be found in Shikoku and some other parts of Japan whereby the decedent is dressed as a pilgrim (unlike the West, in Asian white is the color of death), complete with a staff and pilgrim’s stamp book, preparing them for their final journey.  Finally, there are two different colored staffs.  Novice pilgrims use bare wooden ones, while those experienced who serve as leaders or guides utilize scarlet-colored staffs denoting their elevated status.

Buddhist Texts on the Staff

Buddhist Texts on the Staff

And even when you reach the 88th temple, you’re still not technically finished!  The formal trek requires a return back to your 1st temple starting point.  Many select Mount Koya, the site of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum, for the end and beginning, where thanks can be given directly to the monk for his spiritual companionship along the way.  The journey is a rather lengthy and difficult ordeal for those who attempt it, but then again, that’s rather the point.

The mountain is accessible primarily by the Nankai Electric Railway from Namba Station in Osaka, which connects to Gokurakubashi at the base of the mountain, with journey times of 80-90 minutes.  The final half of the trip is a slow twisting train climb up into the heavily wooded mountains and can be beautifully scenic in the right weather.  The train fare includes the final and steep 10 minute funicular train ascent from Gokurakubashi to the town of Koyasan.  Once off the funicular you’ll have to take a short bus or taxi ride into town.  Like elsewhere throughout Japan, the train, funicular and bus schedules are all synchronized like clockwork, with very little time to spare.  We barely had even five minutes between train, cable car, and bus.

Funicular Connection Train Service to Koyasan's Bus Terminal

Funicular Connection Train Service to Koyasan’s Bus Terminal

A good value if planning a visit is to purchase the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket available from any Nankai ticket counter.  This ticket includes roundtrip train, funicular, and an all-day Koyasan bus pass, for either a day-trip, or overnight stay, and also includes coupons and discounts to the area’s most popular destinations.



Most pilgrims ending their journey at Mount Koya would claim they do so in order to give thanks for a successful pilgrimage.  While Jody and I visited for very different reasons and with knowing very little of the sacredness of the area, I think we ended our own little journey still as a culmination of something much bigger.  Koyasan spoke to our souls, and we to this day proudly and respectfully display our kongo-zue in our home.


“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.”  ~Abraham Joshua Heschel, Polish-born American Rabbi

Our Home: “Kwuirky” with a K!

"Kegger" with a K - this would be the coolest home.  Ever.

“Kegger” with a K – this would be the coolest home. Ever.

予測できない, Yosoku dekinai = “quirky” in Japanese

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” ~Bashō, born Matsuo Kinsaku (1644-1694), then Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa, the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan

“Home is where the heart is.” ~Pliny the Elder

This home was, unfortunately, not available

This home was, unfortunately, not available

Our home away from home in Okinawa is, shall we say, quirky.  Well, it’s a wee-tad more than the standard American idea of quirkiness, so I’ve decided to characterize and name our domicile Kwuirky.  Yep, that’s right:  Quirky with a Kapital “K.”

It’s hard to easily explain and fully capture the vast gulfs between the ideals of aesthetic design, comfortable outfitting, and tasteful decorating that Americans have honed into high art, contrasted with the cultural paradigm that I believe the Japanese hold of how such aspects of style and layout render across the vast Pacific ocean.  In other words, like most other qualities of life in Japan for a Gaijin, there is something “lost in translation” between here and there.

Sadly our home did not come furnished with these pillows.

Sadly our home did not come furnished with these pillows.

In the case of our condo conundrum, there is a LOT lost in translation!

But in order to even begin to attempt capturing such charming idiosyncrasies and trinkets of traits gone awry, I’ll provide a simple explanation surrounded by imagery.  Which, in these cases, speaks volumes more than a quantified thousand-word cliché.

Find the handles.  On the outside.  I dare you.

Find the handles. On the outside. I dare you.

A.  Grand View Balcony.  Our “front” balcony is what sold this condo about all the other properties that we considered.  Even through the hassle of high-rise living, through the rectangular, boxy layout of this particular space, the view provided here is, in a word, stunning.  That is, until you exit the condo to stand on the balcony.  And close the sliding glass doors behind you.  And then you realize there are absolutely no handles or other hardware on the outside that allow for easy or any opening of the sliding glass.  Yes, the glass is already covered with fingerprints from our attempts at griping purchase for opening, and will remain so for the next three years.  Who designs doors without handles for their most basic manipulation?

Find the kwuirkily-placed quad light switch!!

Find the kwuirkily-placed quad light switch!!

B. Light Switches.  Light switch placement is critically important.  Those of you that have ever designed a home or re-walled or rewired a room know of what I speak.  Not only is there concern for logical and easy access given traffic flow and the fixture(s) operated, but there must be consideration for their impact on the space itself.  One of the limiting factors in placement is that most switches feed into an electrical box located in the wall that has to be stud-mounted.  But, for the love of gawd, the placement of this quad light switch in our condo simply exceeds any and all reason.  Put some bookshelves there?  No – would block access to the lights.  Couch?  Maybe, but one would be reaching over those seated…awkward.  Picture on the wall?  Sure, off-center of course….

Lighting:  options without functionality

Lighting: options without functionality

C. Lighting.  Lighting is much more than pragmatic light.  Lighting provides functionality, but more so, creates ambiance.  It also must make sense.  Most of the overhead fixtures in our home act in a very odd 4-way fashion.  Click the rocker switch and the lights come on where the sequence last left off.  And that sequence goes a little something like this:  all lights on; two lights on; overhead nightlight on; and all off.  So, say, for instance, you want to read at night and rock the rocker but only two of the lights illuminate.  You have one of two solutions:  rock the rocker three more times to get all the lights on, OR, walk over to the light fixture in question and pull the lighting chain…yep, you guessed it, three times.  This holds true for all the bedrooms, our office, and our kitchen.  I hope the switch mean-time-between-failure ratings are much higher than those in America.  Each operation could actually be three.

An ugly, expensive, but necessary transformer for our American stove.

An ugly, expensive, but necessary transformer for our American stove.

D. Power.  Japan is different.  Some say the capital of all things “weird.”  But I like different, and am enthralled by weird, so I’m right at home here…in our home.  But my toaster is not.  You see the 100VAC (50-60hz) used in Japan is just enough different than our standard and highly controlled 110VAC (60hz) to make a tremendous difference to our machine brethren.  The toaster takes at least two, if not three cycles to “toast” properly.  Our hotpot will boil water, albeit at a slower pace, but seems to not roil enough to kick the darn thing off.  Microwave popcorn?  Add at least 30% more pop time….  These issues are all solved through the use of heavy, ugly transformers; alas, they are hard to come by from the base housing office, and are expensive to purchase.

Grounded Plugs - some o the only ones.

Grounded Plugs – some of the only ones.

E. Power, but this time more grounded.  I cannot figure the distribution of grounded versus non-grounded outlets in this condo.  Obviously the ones in the kitchen (but not all of them even there are grounded) and the ones in the baths make sense.  However, it seems that only one bedroom has a duplex box that offers a standard 3-prong female fitting.  Darn the luck; of course the two extension cords we brought – and I knew we would need them – are both grounded.  Hopefully the base Exchange sells the 3-to-2 prong adapters…which defeat the whole purpose of grounded power to begin with!  I guess I should be happy that our plugs work here without all those obtrusive and funky shaped adapters.

Common floor, tub and sink drain in our waterproof bathrooms.

Common floor, tub and sink drain in our waterproof bathrooms.

F.  Bathroom plumbing.  The most essential element of any bathroom, if you stop and think about it, is running water.  Water runs a little differently in Japan than it does back home.  Still downhill powered by gravity, but otherwise differently.  Aside from the toilet having two options for flushing (half and full) – and believe me, a full Japanese flush is already a short American rinse (I had to purchase a plunger as a result), the most interesting aspect of bathroom drains is that the sink and the tub both feed to a single open floor drain.  I guess this makes cleaning the floors a bit easier (more on that later), and during construction there is one less drain to worry about.  It’s just…quirky.

Bathroom by Tupperware.  At least it's waterproof.

Bathroom by Tupperware. Even the floor is plastic tiling.  At least it’s waterproof.

G.  Plastic bathrooms.  So about cleaning those bathrooms!  The Japanese design bathrooms as literally waterproof rooms.  Which is a neat concept.  Until you realize that what results is a bathroom by Tupperware, unless one was really to splurge and put in, dare we say, TILE.  On the one hand, no worries about water going anywhere; on the other hand, water goes everywhere.  There certainly is no luxury in Japanese bathrooms (besides the deep soak tubs), even in the higher-end properties we considered.

A really bad the wallpaper on the ceiling.

A really bad patch…in the wallpaper…on the ceiling.

H.  Wallpaper on the ceiling.  ‘Nough said.

Flamboyant doesn't even begin to describe this level of opulence....

Flamboyant doesn’t even begin to describe this level of opulence….

I.  Liberace’s Ceiling Fan.  I don’t know how the owners imported such an American treasure (probably eBay), but yes music and flamboyant-gay-man musical fans, there it is, in all its glory, sitting in an ornate coffer ceiling (of sorts), a thing of immeasurable beauty that we gawk at in bed every night until we literally are mesmerized off into deep, hypnotic slumber.  I’m waiting for the plethora of nightmares to begin.  We may come home with PTSD from this exposure.

Crown Molding.  Not quite fit or royalty.

Crown Molding. Not quite fit for royalty.

J.  Crown molding and baseboards.  Okay, they’ve really tried here.  But, the road to poorly adorned homes is usually paved with good intentions.  The ceiling molding is offset from the ceiling, something like 1/8th inch or so.  Just enough to notice, but not enough to do anything with or about.  I could see a rope strand of LED lighting perhaps….  Do they have to leave room, you know, for the ceiling-paper seams?  The molding is joined, at the ceiling and floor, like how I would imagine about a 10 year old would do the job…without any training or help.  The seams are not overcut and adjoined “seamlessly;” rather, there is a drastic 90 degree straight cut with large visible gaps between pieces.  At the baseboard, where it meets a door-jam, the baseboard sticks out about 1/8th and shows a wholly unfinished edge.  In the final coup de grace of fashion faux pas, the finishing nails are not finishing nails, and neither are they finished.

Kitchen cabinets...or giants.

Kitchen cabinets…for giants.

K.  Kitchen cabinets.  Our kitchen is the best kitchen we saw, not by a lot, but by enough.  Like Japanese bathrooms, they don’t seem to “get it” here when it comes to a well-designed, functionally sound kitchen.  For starters, the upper cabinets are for nothing less than giants.  This said by an American that is already something like four inches taller than the standard Okinawan.  And the cabinet finishing?  Well, let’s just say that we pay a little more attention to such details.  I’m not sure I want my guests to be able to inventory my canned goods, either.

Yes, we have a garbage disposal.  The Japanese kind.

Yes, we have a garbage disposal. The Japanese kind.

L.  Okinawan Garbage Disposal.  It will never break.  Well, I guess it could, but it would take an awful lot….  Most trash is burned on Okinawa, and even though many Americans think of a garbage disposal as a “magical” way to get rid of food waste, it really doesn’t – and there is absolutely no magic.  It just transfers that trash to the water stream, something already burdened on Okinawa.

Powder room.  Soon to be a linen closet.

Powder room. Soon to be a linen closet.

M.  Powder Room.  The condo is advertised as a 4/2.5, which is technically true, but it takes some looking to find that “point-five.”  There is a toilet room, opposite the washer/dryer area, and immediately adjacent to one of the full baths.  Although I understand that theoretically one person from one of the 4 bedrooms could be in the full bath taking a full bath, and another person from one of the remaining 3 bedrooms could be in the other full bath taking a partial shower, and this half bath could allow for yet another person to use the john, there is still the problem of the 4th person from the 4th bedroom who is stuck using the kitchen sink.  No, this space would have been MUCH better suited as a linen closet, something it will become during our tenure here.

Uber kwool Okinawan door curtain.

Uber kwool Okinawan door curtain.

N.  Awkward Openings.  Remember that wall with the misplaced quad light switch plate?  Well, it gets worse.  There is a door to the utility room/powder room/2nd bathroom which opens outward against this wall.  That settles it; either the wall is completely unusable, or the door has to go.  The door has gone.  We have hung a traditional Japanese indoor curtain in its place, with a famous image of a tsunami.  It actually is amazing how well this simple curtain acts as an air conditioning break, and how much ambiance it provides already to our unfurnished, undecorated living room.

Redneck run plumbing solutions.

“Redneck Run, Inc.” plumbing solutions

O.  Outdoor Plumbing.  Okay, it’s bad enough that the power in Japan is just different enough to cause a few issues here and there.  However, a much more serious issue is the different outdoor plumbing standards used here!  How an island that was under US administration until 1972 wound up using a British standard is beyond me.  I will tell you this – there is no easy way on the island to bridge this gulf.  I might as well be trying to build a moon rocket.  So, being Americans from the Florida panhandle, we used a little elbow grease and a lot of brute force, resulting in a Redneck Run of hose so that we have water access to the street (down 60’), and to our side balcony where our scuba gear will be washed (laterally 60’).

Tiling fit for the government.

Tiling fit for the government.

P.  Office Tiling.  I would be proud of the flooring in the condo.  If we were hosting government administrative offices here.  Yes, it is that exact same kind of office building tile.  Now, it is laid well, and there is actually a pattern in most rooms.  However, the patterns are neither centered on the rooms themselves, nor or they centered on the coffer ceilings and ceiling fans where applicable.  This makes for an odd appearance, one that we decided quickly that could, should, and would be covered up with more appropriate – and comfortable floor options.  Believe me, the “amoeba” rugs were not my first choice, but they are “growing” (pun intended) on me with time.

The Bar that Almost Was

The Bar that Almost Was

Q.  Kitchen Eat-At Bar.  It’s really cool, except it’s at table height.  So, instead of having really quirky circular swivel bar stools for people to sit at and entertain the chef(s) pretty much eye-to-eye, said chef(s) will be forever talking down to his (or her) guests…seated in regular dining room chairs.  We are exploring a few creative solutions to help deal with this bar, hopefully, without bruising our guests knees while making it all…functional.

Figure this out!!

Figure this out!!

R.  Central A/C:  Not.  The Japanese have a totally different philosophy when it comes to conditioning the air in their homes:  room by room.  Each room.  Almost every room.  So, in our condo, there are five air conditioners.  Right now, we are running three:  living room, master bedroom, and office, the latter of which is located at the other end of the condominium from the first two units.  I have to crank one or two up when we cook (with gas!).  And each unit is remote controlled, which are, as you probably guessed it, completely in Japanese.  That’s bad enough, but it gets worse; we have three different remote controls….  The cool thing about these units is that they have a “dehumidifier” setting, which allows for massively reduced power consumption when the weather is more pleasant.  Also provided in each room is two circulation aids; one in the ceiling which operates 24/7, and an additional wall unit that is user-controlled.  These aids pull air from the inside and exhaust it externally, helping to exchange the air inside the condo, rather than having it recirculated over and over again.  We were told that the latter is “bad air, no good.”  Perhaps there is a lesson there for America??

Our main A/C in our Living Room.

Our main A/C in our Living Room.

S.  Covered Parking.  But with an uncovered building entrance!  One of the decision points we used to select this residence was covered parking.  It is really nice to have your vehicle’s interior only, say, about 85 degrees, rather than the 120 it would be if exposed to the tropical sun here.  Equally important, the driving monsoon-like rains make the to-and-fro from the car a potentially drenching experience.  So, we thought, “great!”  This place had it all.  EXCEPT the building’s entrances – stairwells and elevator lobby – are accessed from the street, not the parking garage, and necessitate a small but importantly uncovered passage.  Oh, and did I mention that our assigned parking slots are at the other end of the building next door?  It’s not too bad; just on the other side of the central elevator shaft…just quirky.

T.  Bedroom Closets.  I’m not sure what the Japanese do with their clothes.  A key indication is the vast number of portable hanging-closet solutions sold at the local “Make-Man” DIY stores on the island.  Jody uses the one in our bedroom; we are sharing the largest one in our designated office.  One of the “bedrooms” doesn’t have a closet at all; it will be our store room.  Our guest room has two, oddly shaped and not very functional closets.  We brought waaaaaay too many clothes….

Tiny, and in Japanese, but Gas-Powered!

Tiny, and in Japanese, but Gas-Powered!

U.  Japanese Dryer.  We have a gas dryer, a Japanese model, that is, like the AC remotes, completely in Japanese!  The translation I have covers only about half the options, from which I deduce that the other half are not that important.  Or just may be Japanese state secrets not privy to gaijin.  The dryer’s capacity is tiny, easily half that of our American-provided washing machine, but it actually is pretty “hot” at drying clothes.  I will be adding a Japanese clothesline on our side balcony when funds and opportunity permit.

You can still peer over the privacy treatment....

You can still peer over the privacy treatment….

V.  Window Privacy.  Since this is high-rise living, our windows necessarily overlook a condo unit on one side.  We wouldn’t have taken this unit, however, if it wasn’t the end unit of a building.  This provides a significant amount of standoff from our neighbors, especially since the two building sit ajar from each other.  Still, and even though curtains and drapes are provided on all windows, most are treated with graphic overlay.  So much for the view…of another condo unit.  Although we didn’t appreciate this treatment at first, it works pretty ding-dang well; our bedroom windows – that ones that count with an ocean view – have clear glass.

Reading light placement.  Go figure.

Reading light placement. Go figure.

W.  Reading Lights.  The master bedroom has some nice reading lights, placed on the wall where the bed makes the most sense.  However, the light is neither centered on the wall, nor centered on how a bed could/would be placed there.  So, it’s just a little strange when you examine the aesthetic appeal of this room.  Oh, and the CFL bulbs in the fixture cannot be read by, at least not by this aging-reading-glass-wearer.

Internal Windows??

Internal Windows??

X.  Portholes!  Would be great in an aquatically themed space…if they truly were portholes.  I’m not sure what to call them.  Every room door in our condo, less those to the baths, has an oval “window,” made of some cheesy frosted plastic.  And all of them are scratched, probably by previous guests attempting to cover them up (as we will, but more creatively and without damage).  This treatment, I’m sorry to report, just makes the door feel and look “cheap,” and certainly does nothing to dampen sound transmission.

Our Place isn't Quite this Kwuirky!

Our Place isn’t Quite this Kwuirky!

Okay, so I can’t talk all this smack without explaining the more charming aspects of living here!  All these quirky attributes of Kwuirky is typical of Japanese “mansion” style, a word used here to describe a large building with multiple units.  Remember, their culture and cultural philosophy in designing and furnishing a space are vastly different than ours.  Couple this with perhaps an aim to appeal to Americans, and what results, I imagine, is exactly something like our condominium:  a near-miss across the domestic domicile domain.  All these little things mentioned above – and they are indeed little in the bigger scheme of our existence on Okinawa – are easily acknowledged with a shoulder shrug and a coy smile.  Most will be creatively incorporated into a very comfortable and inviting home once we are finished furnishing our place how we wish.

Sunset from our Bedroom

Sunset from our Bedroom

Every day is indeed a journey, and the journey itself can be home.  To truly understand, you must make your own journey and come see, first-hand.  We have a guestroom.  Complete with a full-sized bed, oddly shaped and small closets, bizarre lighting, privacy glass, and an odd oval non-transparent window on the door.  Come visit, and help us enjoy our home away from home!

Even Cleo Approves!

Even Cleo Approves!

Kaizen – Change for the Better!

harass fur leather

“People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it’s safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs.”

~Alexei Sayle

pensacola-helen backTonight is my next-to-last biker night before moving to Okinawa.  It’s hard to imagine that it’s all coming so close now.  It’s almost August, and that’s when it will really finally sink in….

When I settled in Pensacola I didn’t really know if it would be long-term or not.  However, the longer I stayed, the deeper and further my roots grew, and I find myself very torn about leaving.

You see, Okinawa is a second home to me and something I am very familiar with already.  I am stoked about scuba diving there again.  About the polite, non-violent people.  About the food, the culture, and yes, all the weirdness (it abounds in Japan!!).Biker Night

However, Pensacola has become my home – my first and really only home.  I have worked the best job I’ve ever had here in Pensacola, and was instrumental in building something meaningful and lasting (National Flight Academy).  I retired from the Navy here, and lived, for the first time, on the water here.  I have grown two strong and lasting branches of my family tree here:  skydiving and bikers.  My home Dropzone is here, where I trained and literally obtained my human wings for flight.  My first brand-new motorcycle was purchased here, and it was here that I really lost my motorcycle training wheels.

DSCN0716And although these are “things” I am describing, what makes those things even possible, let alone memorable, are the people of, in, and around those things.  People like Dan “Danno” Flynn, Thomas “T” O’Neil, Time Mueller, and Jake Muehls.   I will certainly miss these family members here, every bit as much (and even more) as I’ll miss my own family spread across this country.  There are very hard to leave behind.

Although there won’t be skydiving in Okinawa, there is a motorcycle in my future there.  And who knows what my soon-to-be-discovered Japanese biker family has in store for me! Biker Club

As we bikers say, it’s not the destination but the journey.  I’m ready for this one to begin.

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