Cosplay in Okinawa: Halloween Costume Contest!

“Clothes make a statement. Costumes tell a story.” ~Mason Cooley

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, zoombie suicide girl nurse

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, an American Beauty (Cuckoo Clock Bird)

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, bloody bandaged nurse

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Star Wars fans (and costumes)The local heavily western-influenced “American Village” and “Carnival Park” at Mihama held their annual Halloween costume contest this past week.  And even though the weather was NOT cooperating, with rain most of the night along with colder temperatures, the place was still packed, and the costumes were still rocked!  The main street was closed for pedestrian-only traffic, and a large, well-lit stage was setup, funneling to a relatively long runway for contestants to strut their stuff.  Jody and I managed to get a good spot up front, and hunkered down as long as we could until finally we (and my poor camera) needed to retreat to Starbucks for some dry cover and a mug of hot chocolate….  Remember, our stuff isn’t here yet (see Castaway), so I don’t even have a jacket!


Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, quick dinner for two kitty-cats!Halloween was not like this my first time here in 1999, when the locals in our neighborhood made special trips to see our lit-up pumpkins on display at night.  I still wasn’t aware of much of a tradition when I was back again in 2005, even though I lived in a rather western-influenced part of the island.

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, sexy costumed legs

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, the new and improved armyHowever, this year, I could spy car loads of Japanese kids in costume being dropped off all along the seawall to go trick-or-treating alongside their American counterparts here in the Miyagi neighborhood of Chatan Cho.  AND, the vigor and energy the Japanese put into their costumes!  It wasn’t just those who entered the contest, which must have number at least 200 entries (most with multiple people in costume), but the wide variety and surprising number of people just out and about in costume to enjoy the festivities.  Jody and I are already planning our entry for next year.  And we are known to be Halloween costume contest first-prize winners….

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Japanese couple in costume

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Japanese snowwhite!

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, ferris wheel at Carnival Park MihamaOf course the Japanese are already into cosplay (costume play), which primarily centers on anime and manga characters.  BUT, they certainly have adopted well our Halloween traditions, where I’m happy to report that really, for a change, nothing much was lost in translation.  My personal favorites?  Sexy Japanese nurses of any flavor, dead, zombie, or just anime!  Enjoy the photos, and the Japanese version of a Halloween theme favorite.

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, toy story

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, ghouls' wedding

This is Halloween…in Japanese!!

Nozoite minai ka

Fushigisugiru sekai wo

Annai suru yo

Bokura no HALLOWEEN!

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, goldielocks, times three

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Sexy nurse with a bunny phone!



Kabocha ga himei wo ageru

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, chain-saw massacre

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, ghouls melting in the rain


Machijyuu sawagu


Minna ga shinu hi made

Kyoufu no machi hibiku himei


BED ni kakureru ore wo miro

Surudoi kiba ni

Makkana me

Kaidan ni kakureru ore wo miro

Hebi no yubi ni kami no ke kumo

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, ghostly bride

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, sexy nurses!




Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Cuckoo bird fantastic costume

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, sexy costumed legs

HALLOWEEN TOWN kono machi wa

PUMPKIN SONG ni daikassai

HALLOWEEN TOWN kono machi wa

Minna ga kyoufu wo daikangei

Toori no kado wo magatte goran

Wakuwaku shichauze nanikaga

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, fencenet hose and combat boots are hot!!

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, quite a random collection

Suki da ze! HALLOWEEN!

Akakuro! Nebaneba! Kowai darou?

Ara, zenzen yo! Noroi no kotoba tonaeru dake de

Yamiyo no tsuki ni noru wa

Kyoufu no koe hibiku himei


Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, nurse lipstick and her crew

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, legs and midriffs on young Japanese women

Atashi wa PIERO yo okao ga hen

Ikinari araware sugu kieru

Senaka ga tsumetaku kanjiru kai

Boku da yo kurokami yurasu kaze

Oresama tsukiyo ni utsuru kage

Kyoufu no yume nara omakaseda

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, ghoul women

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, happy fairy and her escorts



Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, the great pumpkin greets

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, form of a pizza pie!

Acchi mo kocchi mo kowain da

Sou ja nai to tsumaranai

Kore ga minna no shigoto sa HALLOWEEN

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Japanese bat-girl

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, bad boys always get the hot chicks

HALLOWEEN TOWN kono machi wa

Minna ga kyoufu wo daikangei

Sutekina JACK ni odokasaretara

Tachimachi shinzou tomaru yo

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, police raid!

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Japanese geenie

Suki da ze HALLOWEEN!

Minna de GYAA! Taisetsuna otoko no otoori da

Eiyuu JACK warera no ou

Minna hakushu de tataero

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, spectators and partiticpants

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, kitten siblings on stage



Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Japanese princesses

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Japanese females in costume


Kono machi wa PUMPKIN SONG ni daikassai

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, whee!

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Halloween warriors fire a salute

Okinawa Oct 2013, Mihama Halloween, Carnival Park on a rainy night

Blood, Nurses & Vampires: Halloween in Okinawa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Imagine the kids' games you can play with THIS.

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

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

The Japanese LOVE Mascots

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

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

Karin - a Pubescent Blood-Producing Far Eastern Vampire

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

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

Asian Sun-Goddess Amaterasu

Asian Sun-Goddess Amaterasu

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

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

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

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

The Peace Sign is given by all-things Japanese!

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

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

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

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

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

This is NOT

This is probably NOT Provencher….

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


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

Jody, notice the HAT....

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

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

A Peaceful Okinawa Centenarian

A Peaceful Okinawa Centenarian

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

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

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

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

Floyd Christmas Failed to Respect his Elders

Floyd Christmas Failed to Respect his Elders

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

101 Years Young

101 Years Young

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Longevity; it's all relative

Longevity; it’s all relative

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

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

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

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

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


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

okinawa-diet plate

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


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

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


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

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

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

…but not to tell her about this….

Honor & Bushidō (武士道)

Bushido Encompasses Great Things.  And Ritual Suicide.

Bushido Encompasses Great Things. And Ritual Suicide.

“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” ~Winston Churchill

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” ~Sophocles

“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” ~Japanese Proverb

Happy Bunny Faces a Crisis of Faith in Fellow Bunny

Happy Bunny Faces a Crisis of Faith in Fellow Bunny

At varied and sometimes unexpected moments in life, we all experience doubt and crisis in faith of some sort or another. This variety of distress can be confounded when it involves core beliefs of a body long held in high esteem, or, perhaps worse case, when it simply compromises the honor and integrity of a friend, shipmate, or peoples familial. Although this story seems to be excessively focused on the very recent purchase of my truck in our first weeks on Okinawa, the conspicuous moral imperative that lies beneath centers on the very character of the United States Marine Corps and bushidō (honor). Before the nonfictional car-buying tale begins in earnest, what exactly is “bushido,” and what is its tie to Okinawa and Japan?

"Bushido" in kanji

“Bushido” in kanji

Bushidō (武士道?), literally “the way of the warrior,” is a Japanese word for the way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry, which may be much better known in the West.
Bushidō originates from the samurai moral code stressing frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death. Born from Neo-Confucianism during times of peace in Japan and following Confucian texts, bushidō was also influenced by Shinto and Zen Buddhism, allowing the violent existence of the samurai to be tempered by more religious-based wisdom and serenity. Bushidō developed between the 9th and 20th centuries, while numerous translated documents dating from the 12th to 16th centuries demonstrate its wide influence across the whole of Japan. Under the Tokugawa Shogunate (1600-1868), aspects of bushidō became formalized into Japanese feudal law.

The word was first used in Japan during the 17th century, and came into common usage in Japan and the West after the 1899 publication of Nitobe Inazō’s Bushido: The Soul of Japan. In Bushido (1899), Inazō wrote, “…Bushidō, then, is the code of moral principles which the samurai were required or instructed to observe…. More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten…. It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career.” Similarly, in his text Feudal and Modern Japan (1896), historian Arthur May Knapp wrote, “The samurai of thirty years ago had behind him a thousand years of training in the law of honor, obedience, duty, and self-sacrifice…. It was not needed to create or establish them. As a child he had but to be instructed, as indeed he was from his earliest years, in the etiquette of self-immolation.”

Samurai in Japanese Armor

Samurai in Japanese Armor

Under the bushidō ideal, if a samurai failed to uphold his honor he could only regain it by performing seppuku (ritual suicide). In the world of the warrior, seppuku was a deed of bravery that was admirable in a samurai who knew he was defeated, disgraced, or mortally wounded, which offered a way to end his days with his transgressions wiped away and with his reputation not merely intact but actually enhanced. The cutting of the abdomen released the samurai’s spirit in the most dramatic fashion, but it was an extremely painful and unpleasant way to die, and sometimes the samurai who was performing the act asked a loyal comrade to cut off his head at the moment of agony.

This is a terrible pun....

This is a terrible pun….

Bushidō was widely practiced, varying little over time, and across the geographic and socio-economic backgrounds of the samurai, who at one time represented a small but substantial and substantially powerful segment of the Japanese population. The first Meiji era census at the end of the 19th century counted 1,282,000 members of the “high samurai” (allowed to ride a horse), and 492,000 members of the “low samurai” (allowed to wear two swords but not to ride a horse), in a country of about 25 million.

Bushidō includes compassion for those of lower station, and for the preservation of one’s name. Early bushidō literature further enforces the requirement to conduct oneself with calmness, fairness, justice, and propriety. The relationship between learning and the way of the warrior is clearly articulated, one being a natural partner to the other. Other parts of the bushidō philosophy cover methods of raising children, appearance, and grooming, but all of this may be seen as part of one’s constant preparation for death — to

Chuck Norris Invented Bushido.  Not Really.

Chuck Norris Invented Bushido. Not Really.

die a good death with one’s honor intact, the ultimate aim in a life lived according to bushidō. Indeed, a “good death” is its own reward, and by no means assurance of future rewards in the afterlife. Notable samurai have throughout history held such aims or beliefs of reward in the afterlife in disdain, or at least have expressed the awareness that their station — as it involves killing — precludes such reward, especially in Buddhism, an extremely pacifist and nonviolent belief system. In fact, reinforcing this notion, the soul of a noble warrior suffering in hell or as a lingering spirit is a common motif in Japanese art and literature.

The Virtues of Bushido

The Virtues of Bushido

The Bushidō code is typified by seven virtues: Courage (勇氣 yūki), Benevolence (仁 jin), Respect (禮 rei), Honesty (誠 makoto), Honor (名誉 meiyo), and Loyalty (忠義 chūgi). However, there are additional virtues strongly associated with the code, which include Piety (孝 kō), Wisdom (智 chi), and Care for the Aged (悌 tei). And it is in these tenets that the American military itself defines its set of core values in our modern age. Well, except for caring for our old. We as a people and country really are shameful in that regard…and although the VA has gotten exponentially better than, say, of the Vietnam era days, there still are massive shortfalls in the care owed to our veterans. In any case, the US Navy and Marine Corps today utilize HONOR, COURAGE, and COMMITMENT as their own succinct form of bushidō. Although not nearly as intense as of days old and past, the contemporary military struggles to maintain and uphold our own flavor of the “way of the warrior.”

Bushido:  The Way of the Warrior

Bushido: The Way of the Warrior

Now, about that truck….

Awesome Truck, and not so Awesome Temporary Lodge

Awesome Truck, and not so Awesome Temporary Lodge

Jody and I would scope the used-car lot on Kadena Air Base daily, sometimes twice so. We moved at the end of the PCS/moving season here, so the vehicle selection was rather slim, and if there is one thing that is true on this island, it is this: a good deal won’t last until tomorrow.

Wizard is a Rodeo, with a Much Cooler Name

Wizard is a Rodeo, with a Much Cooler Name

We spied a terrific looking truck/SUV, recognizable as a familiar model seen on the streets back home. Although we were looking for a Toyota “Surf,” nothing more than a 4-Runner, those models are very hard to come by, and what was available was offered only at a premium often not worth paying. Personally, I wanted something with size and power to haul scuba diving gear all over the island, and also needed 4-wheel drive in order to get to a couple of special dive sites up north. Plus, with Jody driving naked and all, we needed something a bit less lewd and lascivious. This truck offered all, was in great condition, and although it was priced on the higher end of our desired spectrum, it was after all the right color: WHITE.

I called the owner on a Sunday morning, not wanting to chance losing this opportunity. “Chris” cheerfully answers, and when I ask how long the truck was on the lot, he replied that he had just put it there the previous night. Not thinking he would want to burn a weekend on showing the vehicle, I asked about seeing the car on Monday, but he responded with a better idea: “How’bout this afternoon?” We arranged a meet, and meet we did.

That's Just a Cool-Ass Name

That’s Just a Cool-Ass Name

The Isuzu Wizard is the exact equivalent to the Rodeo back home. Except with a much cooler name…and steering wheel on the wrong side. Seriously, how many cowboys are there really in our country? I bet fewer than there are fans of Dungeons and Dragons and Harry Potter! The car drove really soundly – beefy, heavy, a powerful V6, torque-on-demand to all wheels, or full 4-wheel all with the turn of a knob on the dash. The car came with many extras: tow bar, removable bike rack, and spare parts (timing belt, new fog lights, brake pads and discs, new plugs) to boot. It had relatively new tires, new front-end brakes, was low mileage for its vintage, and the AC was super cold, as advertised (of course).

Imbued The Powers and Talents of Pokémon Mew!!

Imbued With The Powers and Talents of Pokémon Mew!!

Oh, and did I mention that the rear wheel mud flaps were labeled “Mu”? Anyone who knows anything about Pokémon knows that Mu is the stuff of legend, the most powerful pocket monster around, one that can learn any monster’s moves, and can transform itself at will to emulate whatever it desires. In fact, Mew is thought to be the single ancestor of the entire pocket monster race!

Chuck Norris is Mew's Ancester

Chuck Norris is Mew’s Ancester

Fine. Mu is actually spelled Mew (in Pokémon land), but that rather ruins this part of the story – along with the wizardly connection the truck shares with Japan…and with the craze that swept the country and my kids’ imaginations in the late 90s. And, since I’m a math-lete, the pronunciation of “Mew” is the same as the Greek symbol “μ” so often used in the world of figures.

Awesome Tow Bar and Bike Rack.  I guess I have to buy bikes now....

Awesome Tow Bar and Bike Rack. I guess I have to buy bikes now….

Chris was a senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) in the US Marine Corps, working for the Marine Air Wing headquarters staff on higher-order maintenance and logistics issues. He was cheerful, friendly, and very excited about showing off his vehicle, and talking me through all the work he had done, along with all its eccentricities, which all vehicles have, but which are seldom acknowledged upfront in a potential sale. He was selling the vehicle since he upgraded his wife/life to a minivan – not sure that’s really an upgrade, but probably is a smarter move on Okinawa after he showed me the areas where his wife had scraped the truck on who knows what. This truck is a BIG vehicle for Okinawa.

I was so impressed after driving the car, and after establishing a camaraderie with Chris that I told him that I wasn’t even going to haggle, that I felt his vehicle and his word were both well worth his asking price of $4,500. So, we decided to close the deal with a security deposit by personal check of $500 to hold the vehicle until we could meet on Tuesday to actually purchase the car.

Hello-Good Lookin' & All Powerful Wizard!

Hello-Good Lookin’ & All Powerful Wizard!

Initially we agreed that the purchase would be executed through personal check. On Monday, however, Chris texted me and asked if we could meet and setup an electronic transfer of funds that evening. I took this to mean that perhaps he was worried about our funds-follow-through, and not without good basis; selling anything in exchange for a piece of paper carries some risk, and at this amount of money, the risk is great. Okay, I thought; although this was a bit odd, it was not out of the ordinary.

We met and figured out how to transfer the necessary funds, even though I was equally as leery about paying for property not yet received. Our debit and his credit were executed using a mobile app, and both Jody and Chris were utilizing the same bank (USAA), it still required 24 hours to clear for both parties. It probably wouldn’t be completely processed by the next morning, when the title and official ownership of the vehicle would be transferred. No worries, he says. Good to go.

We meet on Tuesday morning, and the transfer goes without issue. He even mentioned that he topped the tank off that morning for me, and I thought to myself, what a great transaction this was turning out to be. He was in uniform, as was Jody, so there was no question as to rank and last names; it’s easy enough to track military members down on this island if something truly criminal was to happen. We parted ways, me happily with keys in hand to my new wheels, and Chris with cash almost in hand. Jody went to drive naked. Again.

The truck drove fine.

Until Wednesday night….

First I noticed the rear-wheel torque indicator lights on the dash were inoperative. Funny, the truck still drove…and it’s rear-wheel drive…. BUT, when I cycled the “Torque on Demand” (TOD) rotary knob to “4WH,” the front wheel torque lights would simply flash, showing them not locked in, even though I can feel the 4-wheel drive kick-in through the steering wheel. Confusing. And not what I wanted in a “new” used truck. Oh, and on startup, when the dash lights all come on in test mode, those rear-wheel lights did NOT light up…. Could this be a bulb issue, one which is wired in series that was keeping the torque system from working properly? Or, was it a $1,000 set of sensors at the wheels that are known to fail on this model??

Okay, about that last point. Lesson learned on this purchase: DO YOUR RESEARCH ONLINE before buying something you know little about. When looking online, I also noticed that the gas mileage for this vehicle was between 15-18 mpg (city), and that it required premium gas or better (93 octane). I was literally watching the gas gauge move every time I ran to base and back home, AND, the military offers one and only one grade of gas island-wide, and it is 86 octane. Yes, you read that right – 86. I didn’t even know such fuel was made or avaialbe.

Okay, so there's 85 too.  Sue me.

Okay, so there’s 85 too. Sue me.

Next the truck starts to idle extremely rough, with the RPM dropping to ~500, and bouncing up and down 200-300. On initial acceleration it felt as if the car was missing and chugging, until the RPM came up into the 1600-1800 range, where the truck ran fine…. This was MUCH more disturbing that the torque issues outlined above.

I call Chris that night – no answer, and left a voicemail. I texted him, with no response. No response from someone who was always on the ball and raring to go. “Oh boy, this is not good,” I think.

Mew's Many Talents do NOT Include "Car Mechanic"

Mew’s Many Talents do NOT Include “Car Mechanic”

I call again Thursday morning. No answer; another voicemail left. I text again, and then again, both with no response…. Now I am thinking that he dumped a lemon on me, and has washed his hands of the whole situation. After this realization, and a slew of cuss words directed at Chris and the notion of being had by someone that should hold honor in much higher regard, I resolve to do what I can with and for the truck. I can’t sell it for 90 days, so I have to make do best I can, at least in the short term.

Now, it happens that I wanted to get the bicycle rack of the back of the truck, to improve mileage but more so to allow the rear door to open all the way. Since we have yet to get our shipments of “stuff” from the states, we are devoid of tools. I decide to hit the Camp Foster Auto Hobby Shop, where I know that I can at least borrow tools, if not get help with the vehicle.

We arrive there and after the required paperwork and tool inventory, we are given an auto berth and turned loose as pretend mechanics. I have to admit that using a pneumatic socket driver is pretty ding-dang cool and easy, and off comes the bike rack. And since that exhausted my automotive know-how, I start asking about the truck….

Turns out the mechanics there know the truck – and Chris – quite well. They asked if I just purchased the truck; “why yes, yes I did. What do you know about Chris and the work he did on it?”

“Chris is good people,” one responds.


I was informed that Chris did a GREAT job with the work he did on the truck, emphasizing that he bought all new parts directly from the states, and that he worked closely with the mechanics at the shop to ensure that he did everything correctly. They also stated that for the last month or so, he was constantly in the shop every weekend doing a lot of work on the car. He was characterized as “good people,” and the shop mechanics blamed the engine on not only the low octane gas available on base, but also on the poor quality of low-octane gas provided to the Americans. Seems the island has a large issue with water in the gas…. Funny though, it doesn’t seem to affect the jet fuel; I’ll just say that the airplanes are not falling out, or chugging through the skies.

This notion of Chris is clearly at odds with the one developing in my mind. I had thought, after not hearing a word from Chris since the sale, of sending him a text stating something to the sort, “You are the type of scumbag that give enlisted and the Corps a bad name….” I wanted to question his honor in the whole affair, and maybe even try and track him down.

But something I learned long ago is that such types of overly emotional and reactive impulsive responses are made much too easy in the digital age. And, no matter the situation (with very few exceptions), it’s best to wait at least 24 hours before hitting send on anything so potentially inflammatory. So I wait, and think about it over the long Labor Day weekend….

The truck continues to run rough, and the TOD system continues to improperly function. I put an engine/fuel cleaner in the tank (“Sea Foam”), which does little. I continue to stew, about the less than optimum purchase, AND about what kind of character Chris was actually turning out to be. But I do not act. Not yet.

And then there is a phone call Tuesday morning. It’s Chris!

He immediately starts to apologize for not responding sooner. Turns out he was released early from work the previous Thursday, and got an early start to an off-island adventure vacation with his wife and family among the surrounding islands. He was due back on Monday, but couldn’t get back due to the seas from Tropical Storm Toraji, and had only gotten back on-island that day. He was appalled at what I was probably thinking about him not responding, he was sickened by my problems with the vehicle, and he was determined to “make things right” with the truck. We followed up with some texts about meeting later in the day, one where I asked him that no matter what, he needed to at least “meet me in the middle” when it came to the truck repairs – which I still expected to be substantial.

Turns out he spent the rest of Tuesday researching the issues we spoke of over the phone, and after missing each other that afternoon and most of the day on Wednesday, he decided he needed to come by my place ASAP after he was freed from work that afternoon. He came ready, tools in hand and parts in car, ready to make things right.

In true aircraft-mechanic-showing-the-aircraft-aircrew how it’s done, he immediately got in the truck, started it, noticed the rear wheel torque lights out (which should be on and solid green), and simply tapped the dash. The indicator lights came on instantly, and the torque and 4-wheel drive system worked (completely), and has ever since.

I was soooooo embarrassed. I’m an old-school A-6E Intruder guy, where we literally kicked and punched various boxes and instruments to help to get things to work, let alone work properly. But this notion of a mechanic so effortlessly and succinctly schooling a highly trained and over-educated pilot is seriously a tale as old as time in the military.

Next he took it for a drive and immediately noticed the missing and chugging, and turned and looked at me and stated that this was not the truck he sold to me the previous week. His research pointed to a couple of possible issues; having pressure-washed the engine just prior to the sale, the electrical plugs and leads from the electronic ignition to the plugs might have been fouled. He cleaned them all. And, since he had just put in after-market plugs, he bought a set of spec plugs and changed all of them – right there in my building’s parking lot. The plugs were definitely fouled, showing a heavy rust-colored coating, indicative of water in the fuel. Thanks military. Only the finest for our troops, right??

New Gas Station Pumps; Old Shitty Gas in Them

New Gas Station Pumps; Old Shitty Gas in Them

After at least 90 minutes of working on the car, we took her out again. The truck ran powerfully smooth, with no chugs, no hesitation, and no misfires. The TOD system was cycled numerous times, and worked without exception. He finally packed up his tools and supplies, and left, but only after a couple of calls from his wife…. He was determined to make sure we were square with each other, and with the truck.

The truck continues to run without issue. Chris texted me numerous times Thursday and Friday to check on the vehicle, and even called Friday afternoon to make sure there were no other issues as he was going to be unreachable most of the weekend. We both have big scuba diving plans, and chatted about getting together sometime to do some dives together….

In the end, it was exactly his honor that Chris was concerned about. And his own personal bushido implored him to act in defense of honor.

The Tenets of Bushido Made Japanese Suicidal in WWII

The Tenets of Bushido Made Japanese Suicidal in WWII.  Chris Survives….

Honor. Bushidō. They are central elements of a life worth living, and a worthy life lived well. It is also the first of the United States Marine Corps’ core values: Honor, Courage, Commitment. When I questioned Chris’ honor and character, along with his military affiliation, I was in actuality rushing to judgment against both he and his Corps, without the requisite knowledge to do so.

As the opening Japanese proverb entreats, even when Chris’s character was in dire question, I should have kept more faith with his numerous friends, the Marine Corps. Their character can be summed up in two nearly immortal words linked through long service, selfless sacrifice, and the strongest brotherhood: Semper Fidelis. Always Faithful.

Next time you find yourself facing a crisis of faith, give faith a chance. Faith may very well pleasantly surprise you.

And thank goodness I never sent a nasty text!


Kishikaisei: Long Odds & Unlikely Connections

“Kishikaisei” is a Japanese phrase which is used when someone “recovers from a hopeless situation,” for example, in sports when a loosing side snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.  Or like when a man meets not one, not two, but three Godzilla on the mean streets of Japan.

Not 1, Not 2, But THREE Godzilla!

Not 1, Not 2, But THREE Godzilla!

“It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in.  However, not every one of them is inhabited.  Any finite number divided by infinity is as near nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero.  From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely products of a deranged imagination.”  ~Douglas Adams quotes (British comic Writer, 1952-2001)

“At different states in our lives, the signs of love may vary:  dependence, attraction, contentment, worry, loyalty, grief, but at the heart, the source is always the same.  Human beings have the rare capacity to connect with each other, against all odds.” ~Unknown (sourced from

“WATO.” ~A former Skipper in the Naval Aviation Training Command.  WATO stands for “What Are The Odds,” implying that things will happen if you keep pushing or testing them, even against the longest odds.

The Odds of a Meltdown are Supposed to be Quite Long.... Oops.

The Odds of a Meltdown are Supposed to be Quite Long…. Oops.

Although some of my friends may consider me a product of their deranged imagination – and you know who you are, I try and keep the schizophrenics in my life to a bare minimum.  Mr. Adams makes an interesting and humorous point, but being a former “math-lete” from high school and college, his underlying assumptions are flawed.  Technically speaking, his stated quotient tends towards zero as a limit since there is, in fact, a finite number of worlds, but it is not zero.  Whew.  Dodged a bullet with that whole imagination thing and actually existing and all….

I do math, therefore I am.

Oh, and nerds need love too.

Love a Nerd

Love a Nerd

As those of you who have been following my blogs may recall that one of my most cherished pieces of prose is the “Desiderata.”  It has played in central elements of my life for the last two decades now, from helping me through a painful divorce, to being the keystone of a recent memorial I penned for a departed friend, to forming the basis for my wedding vows with Jody.  I have even nicknamed my wife “Desi-D” in acknowledgement of the very meaning of the singular desideratum in Latin:  Desired Thing.

Tom Cruise Makes an Odd Yet Alluring Samurai.  Maybe the Last One....

Tom Cruise Makes an “Odd” Yet Alluring Samurai. Maybe the Last One….

The ability of humans to connect is quite amazing, no matter the odds.  Famous, timeless books, award-wining movies, the most popular songs, and the greatest emotional poetry all find some common root in at least facing, but usually overcoming all odds.  What makes The Notebook so damn good?  Love against all odds!  Okay, I’m a former mathlete who likes chick-flicks, and yes, I do own the movie.  This notion remains quite congruent with the very nature of Desiderata, which expounds that “…no doubt the universe is unfolding how it should.”  One would think in this age of massive information overload shared in mere instants anywhere across the globe, that unlikely connections would be less likely to occur.  That they happen at all should amaze and inspire each of us to contemplate the very nature of our personal lives.  We all live the greatest stories and star in the most profound roles.  We just have to see and embrace our parts.

The Odds are Exceedingly Good of Me Owning This Movie

The Odds are Exceedingly Good of Me Owning This Movie

Jody was in training this morning at the Hospital here on Okinawa where the safety briefings she was receiving included motorcycle safety.  Why this subject is covered in such a broad-brush safety overview is beyond me; very few Americans ride motorcycles on Okinawa, thanks to the US military making it such a royal pain-in-the-ass thing to do.  The opening slide of this particular section of the briefing contained a textual overlay and introduction to the subject, but had as its background, two photos.  Turns out one of the photos is me (see below).  On a motorcycle, in Okinawa, from 2005 just before I sold my bike and moved back to the states.  What are the odds?

WATO of this photo being used at Jody's new workplace?

WATO of this photo being used at Jody’s new workplace?

I have had a keychain since either 1999 or 2000 that I purchased in Okinawa my first time stationed here, but have never used…until now.  Someway, somehow, out of all the things I’ve moved (4 complete relocations since that tour:  Japan-Miami-Japan-Pensacola-Jody’s), the stuff lost in my divorce, and those items trashed, sold, or given away over the last 13+ years, this thing has not only survived, but it resurfaced in this move to Japan after being completely forgotten about and stashed away.

The Odds of a Blonde Short-Skirted Nurse in Japan are Lower than a Meltdown.

The Odds of a Blonde Short-Skirted Nurse in Japan are Lower than a Meltdown.

I probably didn’t use this back in the day as my kids were younger and my ex-wife was psychotically jealous, even of such an icon.  I really don’t know why I picked this particular image at the time, although I am a total fan of pinups and their associated fashion from bygone eras, and remain a lover of hats on women.  Plus, the Japanese anime quality of the image is so iconic for anyone who’s spent any amount of time in the wonderful and weird country.  And, without being too chauvinistic, what man doesn’t like the notion of a nurse taking care of him?  No disrespect to nurses or the nursing profession, mind you.  At the time, there was no nurse or nursing in my life.  But there is now.  In fact, I often introduce my wife as “…the prettiest nurse in the Navy,” something she no longer embarrasses over.  And now this keychain serves, proudly, as the keeper of my keys here on Okinawa.

Now, if I could only get Jody to wear one of those hats….

The Odds of Godzilla Risking Spilling His Beer in an Attack?  Infinitely Low....

The Odds of Godzilla Risking Spilling His Beer in an Attack? Infinitely Low….

And finally, just before we relocated to Okinawa, Jody’s command was throwing a formal military event called a “Dinning Out.”  This event, as a military function, required of course the males to wear uniforms; traditionally for evening formals, females in uniform are given the option of even gown or dress uniform, much to my happiness.  The formal uniforms, generally called “Mess Dress,” are not often worn, and usually those that just frantically purchased them have many questions and concerns about how to wear one properly.  When Jody’s coworkers were googling “Navy officer mess dress,” guess what comes up as one of the top results?  See below….  Don’t ask me why they weren’t reading the Navy’s uniform regulations.  Google is way too full of bad gouge….

Google has made me a Navy Uniform Reference

Google has made me a Navy Uniform Reference

These connections which appear from time-to-time in our lives, much too often to be attributable to mere chance, are a tangible illustration that we are not that far removed from one another as we may seem.  It hints, strongly given the long odds of such occurrences at all, that there is more to the universe than simply matter and energy.  That while all of its systems large and small may continually tend to disorder (the Law of Entropy, more correctly the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – remember, I am a nerd), it is in such uniquely human connections that we can start to find order in the chaos, and we can take some measure of comfort that the universe is, indeed, unfolding how it should.

The Odds are Good that you'd find a Japanese Woman still wearing this Bikini

The Odds are Good that you’d find a Japanese Woman still wearing this “Bikini”

What are the odds?  Indeed.  Sometimes they don’t matter.

Real Airplane?  The Odds would Emphatically State:  NO

Real Airplane Paint Scheme? The Odds would Emphatically State: NO


Keep Calm & Love a Sailor.  Oh, and mail a care package!!

Keep Calm & Love a Sailor. Oh, and mail a care package!!

“If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.” ~Maya Angelou

CARE Package:  The CARE Package was the original unit of aid distributed by the humanitarian organization CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere).  Although “CARE Package” is a registered trademark, the term has become widely adopted as a generic term for a parcel of food or supplies sent for relief or comfort purposes.

Goodies from Home

Goodies from Home, Courtesy of Mom

Mission Accomplished, For Real this Time

Mission Accomplished, For Real this Time

Thanks Mom, for our first care package received in Okinawa!  It actually got to Japanese customs on the 17th, and after mailing from the states only on the 12th, I’d say that was fantastic service.  As much as many Americans may speak poorly about the USPS, having traveled extensively on 5 continents, I can proudly and assuredly say that we in the United States have the best postal system on the planet…for the cost paid.  The package was waiting for us by the time we got our keys and finally around to our PO Box to pick up mail, so, in the infamous words of Bush, “Mission Accomplished,” but for real, this time.

Still the Best Dang Postal System on the Planet

Still the Best Dang Postal System on the Planet

In 1945, the newly-formed CARE organization initiated a program to send food relief to Europe, where large numbers of people were at serious risk of starvation in the devastating wake of World War II.  The organization obtained permission from the US government to send army surplus “10-in-1” food parcels to Europe.  The “10-in-1” parcels were also prepared for the planned (but never carried out) invasion of Japan, and delivered later throughout Asia and the Pacific.  Americans were given the opportunity to purchase a CARE Package for $10USD to send to friends or relatives overseas, where packages were guaranteed to arrive within four months.  Even when a donor did not know an address of a beneficiary, CARE would do everything possible to find that person using the last address known and network of contacts and distribution centers abroad.  The CARE package in that way became a “missing person” service in the chaos following World War II.

Care-ful Far East Fling Welcoming

Care-ful Far East Fling Welcoming

Customs are an Artifact of Plentifulness

Customs are an Artifact of Plentifulness

Customs is so Customarily Pleasant...and Intrusive.

Customs is so Customarily Pleasant…and Intrusive.

However, in more modern times, we have domestic customs with which to deal on the international stage.  Administrative burdens seem to become the rule and standard, you know, when your population is no longer starving and in dire need from abroad.  The customs and military officials on Okinawa are nice enough people though to leave this note and all, a step up from our friends at the TSA.  Oh, and they did a bang-up job re-taping the box.  Mom, good stuff to know if case you’re planning on sending any contraband, like say weapons, or even more frightening and dangerous, Minnesota vowels.

The Dreaded Minnesota Pronunciation Plague

The Dreaded Minnesota Pronunciation Plague

Care Package Contents circa 1948 (European)

Care Package Contents circa 1948 (European)

The contents of a CARE Package in the 1940s is approximated by:

1 lb beef in broth

1 lb steak and kidneys

8 oz liver loaf

8 oz corned beef

12 oz luncheon loaf (like Spam)

8 oz bacon

2 lbs margarine

1 lb lard

1 lb fruit preserves

1 lb honey

1 lb raisins

1 lb chocolate

2 lbs sugar

8 oz egg powder

2 lbs whole-milk powder

2 lbs coffee

cupofjoe2First thing I did actually was have a “Cup-o-Joe.”  And for those not in the know, this term originated in the Navy as a slang and rather unflattering reference to Secretary of the Navy “Joe” Josephus Daniels, who decided to ban liquor aboard ships on November 24, 1913.  As added trivia, traditional Navy coffee is in fact brewed very strong, with up to 3 times the amount of more standard measures of grounds, while a pinch of salt is often added to reduce the acidity of the brew….

Those who have never traveled far, far away from home cannot truly understand how substantial of an impact and boost in morale come from the simple act of receiving mail, let alone getting a gaggle of goodies to enjoy.  Tastes, trinkets and memories of home can help to renew a spirit that can become mired, lost and confused in its wanderings through a distant, unfamiliar foreign land.

In our case, we have replaced the rather lame coffee pot in our room with the kick-ass hot pot, courtesy of Mom.  Jody says thanks for the coffee, AGAIN (she hates coffee and wishes to remind her mother about a past coffee machine gift – wink).  Nah, Jody got some stress-reducing chamomile tea, perfect for the tense daze these days getting settled on the island.  And, no worries Mom, electrical appliances from America do work in Japan, although off-base appliances that heat or cook do so a little slower since the electrical standard here is 100VAC vice America’s 110VAC.  When it comes to electricity, size matters, even 10%, regardless of what anyone might say on the subject!

CARE packet contents were also adapted for different cultural diets as well as non-food items including tools, blankets, school supplies, and medicine as needed and most appropriate.  Later in the 1940s, the program was expanded throughout Asia, recognizing the vast need there as well once Europe become more stabilized.

Asian Child Care

Asian Child Care

Those of you that have friends or relatives overseas, irrespective of why they may be there, in service of their country or not, would deeply value such a taste of home.  But what they would cherish and embrace is the thought and love put behind the deed of assembling and sending care from such distance.  If you have ever thought- about-that-care-package-that-you’ve-always-meant-to-send-but-just-never-got-around-to-it, now’s your chance.

Generous Good Looks

Generous Good Looks

Just do it.  Even though your loved ones aren’t literally starving as back in the day, they are in a very real sense starved for home.  In bringing Home to their homes, where ever they may be, you have truly succeeded in caring…from afar.  Thank you, Mom.

Elvis is My Navy Callsign

Elvis is My Navy Callsign