Love Jugs in the Far East


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I love jugs.

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

And Jody has the best Love Jugs around!

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

Jug-themed Love Shack motel room

Jug-themed Love Shack motel room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scotland is proudly proclaimed our on Love Jug

Scotland is proudly proclaimed our on Love Jug

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

Our trip to Scotland was worth every penny!

Our trip to Scotland was worth every penny!

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

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

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

Hey Jody, nice jugs!!

Hey Jody, nice jugs!!

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

Our Jug in Okianwa

Our Jug in Okinawa

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

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

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

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

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Japan, You’re Doing it Wrong! (Sometimes)


 

Japan, you're doing this wrong!

Japan, you’re doing this wrong!

It’s not a shock to anyone following Far East Fling that Jody and I are huge fans of the Japanese and Okinawans, their culture, and their country.  I recently did a blog on our “Top 10 Things Done Right” in Japan, but of course, being in Asia, every yin has its yang, or vice versa.  In other words, there are things done wrong in the Far East, sometimes dreadfully so!  Thus, what follows is our (short) listing of the “Top 10 Vexes” that irks us here to no end.  While you may not agree, and it may counter to flirting with the Far East, I hope that at least you find the humor in the views of a couple of misplaced gaijin Westerners.

Colonel, you're doing it wrong in Japan.

Colonel, they’re doing it wrong in Japan.

10. KFC. That’s right, Kentucky Fried Chicken.  The KFCs in Okinawa are certainly not in Kansas anymore, and neither can one find a hint of Kentucky in Okinawa.  The chickens are smallish Asian birds, and the original recipe is served quite slimy (all personal opinion, of course).  The sodas are quite size-challenged, looking more like a kiddie drink in the states, and this strong American male needs more than a shot (or two) of Coke, diet or not.  But the worst offense, by far, one which the Colonel standing outside every KFC in Japan cannot overcome with his food aficionado’s charm, is the biscuit served here.  They are at once dense, lacking both butter- and buttermilk flavors, and presented with a hole in the center.  People, it’s more like a donut that a buttermilk biscuit!  And it should be considered a culinary crime.

I believe this is wrong.  On many levels.

I believe this is wrong. On many levels.

9. Christmas. Now that Halloween is about to come and go, Japan is already switching to Christmas.  Shop-fronts are being decorated with most-things Santa, trees are popping up in hotel lobbies, and you’ll find a plastic Colonel Sanders dressed in a Santa outfit outside many branches of KFC throughout Okinawa (still can’t make up for the dang biscuit tragedy).  But, like most places, the hype can’t hold up to actually delivering the Christmas spirit.  It’s no secret that Japan isn’t based on Christianity, and it shouldn’t come as a shock to hear that Christmas Day is just another working day for the Japanese.  In fact, Christmas in Japan is really for lovers (see my blog Christmas is for Lovers).  And, given that paradigm shift, December 24th in Japan is perhaps considered the biggest day for romance of the year.  But very shortly afterwards, the Japanese swiftly move on to more fitting and appropriate Asian-inspired holidays, like celebrating the Chinese lunar new year….  Of course there is the fixation in Japan on “Christmas Dinner,” which in the last 40 years has become completely synonymous with KFC (do you sense a common denominator so far??).  So instead of the biggest, baddest, bestest roast beast of the year, the Japanese turn to a family-sized bucket of the Colonel’s finger-lickin’-good chicken to season the season.  And they are dead serious about it here; orders usually are placed sometime in November, and KFCs publish a pickup schedule as timely and precise as they are known for the running of their mass transit trains.

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8. Red Lights and No Left (our right) Turns. There is no left on red here, the equivalent of no right turn on red in America.  Now sure, there are places where this may hold true at home in the states, but by-in-large, we endeavor to keep traffic moving along by allowing such turns…albeit after a full stop and checking for others who may have right-of-way.  In Japan, pedestrians hold sanctity over timeliness (which is itself next to godliness, or so we’re all told); here, people on foot or bike actually matter more than how late you may be to grabbing your overpriced Starbucks caramel mocha frappuccino.  Likewise, many neighborhood intersections stop traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross (read more in my blog Red Lights Running).  These two facets of Japanese traffic de-engineering – no turns on red and stopping all traffic – are bad enough alone or together, but when you realize that none of the lights are timed with any others, and every red light here works on a simple timer vice being traffic-triggered, grid lock assumes a new and potentially frustrating definition.  If the Japanese drivers and people weren’t so dang polite, it would surely lead to road rage…but her there is NONE.  Another amazing benefit:  it allows small children in Japan, like 5 or 6 years old, to walk to school alone, where they simply raise their hand when approaching an intersection as a signal that they intend to cross the road and you best stop and yield (which most do).

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7. Renting and Moving. Moving is expensive, relatively speaking, no matter where one resides.  With plots the size of most American backyards costing obscene amounts of money in Japan, it’s really no wonder that rents here are so high.  But renting an apartment involves far more expenditure than the same action generally requires back home in the States.  It takes handfuls of cash here to get handed a key!  When renting a domicile in Japan, generally speaking, you need a purse bloated enough to cover:  1) First month’s rent up-front, which seems to be an international standard of sorts.  2) “Shikikin,” or the Far East version of a security deposit, where like most places, it is mostly refundable but equal to one or two month’s rent.  3) “Reikin,” or a gratuity, where the capitalistic-lite money-trail in Japan takes its first dramatic and uncapitalistic twist.  Written in kanji as 礼 “thanks” and 金 “money”, reikin of up to two month’s rent is paid to some greedy landlords in order to secure an apartment.  4) Housing agency fees, which accounts for yet another month’s rent.  And finally, 5) Price Gouging.  This last one I’m perfectly okay with, being married to an Active Duty member of the US armed forces.  The Okinawans know all too well what the maximum housing allowances are for the American military, based on rank and dependent status, and often times will price a unit targeted at Americans at the very upper allowance limit, which is often times 33-50% more than would be charged for a local.  Since military members don’t get more than they actually pay in rent, no one loses.  In fact, I’m all for the local economy benefiting from having such a large and strong American presence on their tiny island.  For me and Jody, renting our Quirky Condo (see the blog Our Home, Kwuirky with a K!), priced at ~$2750/month, cost us out-of-pocket something on the order of $7,000 in cash.  And this is low considering that most property owners and housing agencies on Okinawa have come to realize (after probably being forced by the US government) that compulsory gratuities are incredibly old-fashioned and illegal in the American framework, and thus they ask only for partially refundable security deposits.  Add in the expensing, in cash, of buying, registering, and insuring two vehicles, and that total jumps to $15,000!  Yikes.

Japan isn't the only ones doing bureaucracy wrong.

Japan isn’t the only ones doing bureaucracy wrong.

6. Bureaucracy. Some rather silly traditions and rules past their primes result in a rigid bureaucracy in Japan, which they get incredibly “right.”  It makes this “wrong” listing since some elements of the Japanese society can be frustratingly backwards.  The Japanese positively excel at making inane processes even more laborious and painful; rules in Japan were and are never made or intended to be broken.  Ever.  Case in point:  we went to board an airport terminal bus, and were the only two getting on.  However, we were motioned off the bus and down along the curb about 40’, where, after the bus pulled forward, we were then allowed to board….  All Jody and I could do was smile at each other.  Japanese bureaucracy, however, is also largely responsible for many of the reasons why Jody and I enjoy living in a country where everything runs so smoothly, from on-time, every time mass transit, to first-class customer service wherever you go, to on-time almost-to-the-minute service calls and deliveries, all with zero fuss and all smiles.  These things are only possible through a comprehensive web of rules and standards.  In fact, I’ve been told that either in government service or civilian working life, the Japanese are often wary of those who try to effect change and bend rules as they run counter to the whims and greater good of everyone else.  A favorite line I like to quote:  “While the West invented bureaucracy, the Japanese perfected it!”

Wow.  You get the point.

Wow. You get the point.

5. Packaging. We’re not talking about handsome traditional Japanese packaging or beautiful Asian gift-wrapping here, both of which are unassumingly stunning and widely utilized.  What I’m talking about here is Japan’s craze with sealing most anything and perhaps almost everything in plastic.  Japan as a country is way ahead of America in terms of recycling and consumer participation in the direct management of waste streams, but from every appearance, there is a use of plastic more massive than anything in the West that I’m familiar with.  Now, who doesn’t like crisp, fresh and delicious crackers?  But not each individual one needs to be hermetically sealed.  Seriously, Japan, you are killing us and your small corner of the planet with plastic.  Give it a rest!

Television done so very wrong.

Television done so very wrong.

4. Television. Japan offers a wide array of quality anime and raw manga, and of course there are the cheesy dramas that the Japanese love with a passion, but much of the programming here (especially in Okinawa) is just crudely bad.  Silly low-budget chat shows, slapstick comedies, and the craziest game shows on the planet all make the menu of mediocre.  Now if variety shows tickle your fancy – ones with large panels of the same B-list celebrities week after week, each with carefully crafted lines and jokes and female audience members exclaiming “EEEEE-eee!” in amazement and disbelief, all presented in a format that looks like it was produced by a bunch of high-school vocational broadcasting students – then you’re in for a real treat in Japan.  Jody and I, however, switch on our televisions to Japanese programming only when we’ve run out of cute cat videos to watch online.

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3. Money and ATMs. Producing some of the world’s best technological gadgets, one would think that the Japanese would be paying for their commercialism by embedded RF chips in their forearms or via retinal scanning, let alone swiping a piece of plastic like most of the rest of the First World does.  While businesses are getting better and better about accepting credit cards, Okinawa (and wider Japan to a lesser extent) is still very much a cash-based society that necessitates have at least ten or twenty thousand yen in your wallet at any given time.  Especially on the weekends.  “Why,” I hear you asking?  Because the majority of ATMs (and their hosting banks) close completely – literally via an automated metal shutter – in the evening and on weekends.  Or if they remain open, extra fees for cash withdraws when most people want cash the most are charged.  Many local bars and Mom & Pop businesses remain strictly cash only, debit cards use remains rare.  Hey Japan, if you want your well-paid citizenry to roil up the economy, you’ve got to allow access to money!  Lucky for Jody and I, the ATMs on base are all run by the 24/7 American banking industry, and Bank of America ATMs discharge both dollars and Yen without any surcharges.  We still carry around gobs of cash, both in dollars and yen.

But people don't take garbage with them....

But people don’t take garbage with them….

2. Public Trash Cans. One of the most annoying facets of living in Okinawa is the island’s apparent abhorrence with public trash cans.  I can just imagine the bureaucratic logic:  “Hey Mayumi, if we put out public trash cans, not only do we have to buy them first, we have to pay for pickup!”  “Osamu, you’re absolutely right:  no public trash cans is the absolute and only solution!”  So, we live along an absolutely beautiful and popular seawall fronting the East China Sea, only to have it marred by constant litter everywhere.  No, the public doesn’t take their refuse away, nor does the community chip in to help.  Litter is ubiquitous, exactly because there is nowhere to put it.  If only Japan had their version of a proud, shirtless Indian crying along the seashore, things would be different.  Shame on you Japan, for being both obtuse litterbugs AND not providing a means for public refuse collection.

The dangers of low insulation and high humidity!

The dangers of low insulation and high humidity!

1. Heating, Cooling & (the lack of) Insulation. Like the Geiko commercials go, everyone knows that…houses in Japan are thin and poorly insulated because they’re designed to be as light as possible in order to better withstand earthquakes.  But that doesn’t have to mean they are either insanely hot during an Okinawan summer, or miserably cold in the northern reaches of Honshu in winter.  A lack of central air conditioning means each room has its own power-hungry wall-mounted air conditioner, a rather inefficient way to cool or heat a dwelling.  Add in what seems to be almost a national allergy to any material or design with even a hint of insulating properties, what results is an Island populace that is, in effect, cooling (or heating) the surrounding environment in their expensive efforts to make the indoors inhabitable!  Read Timeless Townhouse for more on historical Japanese home design.  In fact, What happens is that the external environment actually finds it way inside; see Tropical Troubles for one unfortunate result.  One day Japan will come to the collective realization that science has, indeed, already produced ultra-light, super-insulating and affordable materials that can be effectively integrated into Japan’s domestic domiciles.

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In the grand scheme of life in our Far East Fling, these pet peeves matter little. Life is Good in and throughout Japan!  But like anywhere else in the world, life in this island-nation of Asia has its pros and cons.  What do YOU who have traveled or lived here find most annoying about being a stranger in this strange land?

Things Done Right: Living in Japan


Although living in Okinawa is not without its faults, it is nevertheless an incredibly efficient and easy-to-live-in prefecture of Japan, and Jody and I have discovered numerous things that the Japanese get not just right, but almost perfect. Here’s a “Top-10” listing of some of our favorites.

Clock-watching at work sucks; for public transportation, it's FANTASTICALLY good!

Clock-watching at work sucks; for public transportation, it’s FANTASTICALLY good!

1. Punctuality: Things in Japan run smoothly. Very smoothly. Yes it is true that the Japanese can be rather stoically set in their ways, and their rules almost certainly are made not to be broken, but without this high regard for law, order and adherence to cultural norms, living in Japan would be wholly different…involving a lot more wasted time. It is so very refreshing that the Japanese take punctuality totally seriously, where it is considered common courtesy to be early, regardless of what they may be early for. This is in large part why services in Japan work and work so well (and as they should), and schedules can be relied on without doubt.

Sometimes clock-watching is a GREAT thing

Sometimes clock-watching is a GREAT thing

For instance, getting maintenance completed on our condominium. A quick phone call to our property manager to set up an appointment, often the same-day, followed by the nearly on-time arrival of the maintenance man, usually a few minutes early, but sometimes ringing the doorbell to the minute. At home in the States we Americans need at least a half-day set aside to get cable or satellite TV. Here, we had a set appointment time, and yes, the technician was on-time. On-time deliveries, movers who show up ten minutes early, and public transport that’s seldom more than a couple of minutes off scheduled times all conspire to make living in Japan the “time” of your life!

Conductors still use pocket watches....

Conductors still use pocket watches….

Delays are inevitable though, even for Japan’s super-punctual rail system. However, in those rare cases, the rail companies and their operators sounding sincere and serious apologies throughout the trains while handing out “proof of lateness” slips to pass along to those suspecting bosses (or wives), proving that it was in fact the train company’s fault and not yours that you were late for work…. They can’t do anything for lipstick on your collar, though.

If you have been promised a service call on a certain day at a certain time, there is a very high probability that’s exactly when it will occur. Such dedication to timekeeping is admirable; I cannot express enough how refreshing it is to have everyone’s time so well-respected by most everyone else.

This vending machine even walks TO you....

This vending machine even walks TO you….

japanese_vending_machines2. Vending Machines: Yes, there are the crazy web postings about all the crazy things that the Japanese sell through vending machines, but much to our combined chagrin, woman’s panty vending machines are not found here on every other street corner. However, if you need a thirst immediately quenched, you won’t have to travel more than about 100 yards…in any direction…for either a hot or cold beverage of your choice. From canned coffee (which the Japanese are gaga over), to almost anything that can be stuffed into a pop-top tin can, it can be found in vending machines throughout Okinawa. Prices are reasonably cheap at between 110-150 yennies (roughly $1.10-1.50), and some machines are even completely LCD screens, opting for CGI rather than showing those boring empty bottles and cans. Then there’s the slot machine-like feather lending further incentive for purchase by providing “let’s chance” for winning a free drink.

The ubiquitous market for families on Okinawa

The ubiquitous market for families on Okinawa

use-convenience-stores3. Convenience Stores: Back home in the states, convenience stores are primarily used for lotto tickets, smokes, booze and gas (more and more in that order), and generally are seen as a last resort for groceries, and then only around midnight when you realized you just used the last of the toilet paper in the house. Someway, somehow, we rationalize that the exorbitant prices charged by such establishments are worth the “convenience,” and equally accept the almost universally poor service from minimum-wage employees who certainly don’t want to be there any more than you do.

LAWSON

 

circle-kThe Japanese micro-corner of the world in this respect is clearly upside-down and rotating backwards! Convenience stores in Japan are actually convenient. The convenience chains – Lawson, FamilyMart, CoCo, and even 7-Eleven and Circle K (when is the last time you saw one of those?) in mainland Japan are all kinds of wonderful and they’re absolutely everywhere. You know, a city block is really too far to walk, so let’s put TWO, one at either end. Make you cross a street for that yakitori craving? Certainly not: let’s put another on the other side! Prices are reasonable, ready-made meals using real food such as sushi, rice, and vegetables replacing our all-beige fried foods and pizza, are prepared fresh daily (rather than a day-off of a week ago), but it’s the services offered that really set these fine upstanding establishments apart. Some examples are:

Courier Services: need to send a package across town and don’t want to hassle with the post? Take your package to your local convenience store, have them measure it, slap a delivery label on it, and they will ensure a courier service picks it up for often same-day delivery!

Bill Pay: Need to pay your gas, electricity, internet or mobile phone bill? Do it here and it’s processed in seconds. The plus side? Your lights are back on in moments. The drawback? Cash only, my friends. See the handy ATM in the store…which do much more than just delivery cash. Okay, so the Japanese aren’t as savvy with online bill-pay…YET. I have little doubt in the end they will do even that better than we ever could.

suicaBooking & Paying for Tickets: Many convenience stores have rather large ATM-style machines which can be used to look up and reserve things like flights, concert and theme park tickets, and other fun things to do. Some machines let you shop online, as long as the vendor takes “convenience store payment;” after securing your wants and needs online right there in the store, take the printed receipt to the cashier and hand your cash over to the clerk. Yes, these transactions often are cash-based, but with that there are worries about bad credit or debt here.

Printing: The convenience stores have online printing service websites where documents can be uploaded and saved, after which a pass code is provided. Putting a few yennies in the store’s printer along with your unique pass code, and your documents are printed in seconds.

Ramen and Gyoza, just about the perfect lunch

Ramen and Gyoza, just about the perfect lunch

4. Food: Yes, there are some odd dishes here; those WTF moments as you find a way (and place) to spit out whatever is assaulting your taste buds…like horse sashimi or weakly fried dough with some raw octopus inside. But seriously, the vast majority of Japanese food is simply superb – and this coming from a guy who doesn’t even eat the sushi! Here are a few favorites to sample:

12833840553_2478d5f55d_bGyoza: Japanese gyoza are most often fried, something the Chinese may find insultingly unrefined (theirs are steamed), but there is not one single reason not to adore them. Available in wide variety, these hot doughy dumplings, soft on two sides and crispy brown on the third, are perfect anytime of the day or night. And they are sold day and night. All day and night! It is one of the staple dishes here, often making up a large portion of lunch or dinner.

Donburi: Bowls of fluffy white rice topped with strips of marinated meat(s), kimchi, or raw tuna. Some would call this dish Japan’s version of American soul food, these bowls of goodness are hearty and filling. The dish is so popular that there are fast food-style chains that specialize in it, such as Yoshinoya or Sukiya, at a decent price for a decent rendition.

12834199094_a848c495cc_bRamen: noodles in soup with toppings, deceptively simple but no less than decadently delicious. This is NOT your starving college student’s soup. The soup is available is probably hundreds of varieties across Japan, but is usually pork, soy, salt, or miso based, and topped with “pork bone,” among other things. Served with 6 or 12 gyoza and a meal is made.

10048619414_bdde9ccda2_bSashimi & Sushi: Sashimi, strips of raw fish, usually served with wasabi and soy sauce, is only a distant cousin of sushi, perhaps Japan’s most famous dish. Sushi is special rice either topped with or wrapped around ingredients like fish and vegetables. Even cheap conveyor-belt sushi here is good (and at a buck-o-five, it’s the bargain of Japan’s culinary world), but sushi made by chefs who have trained for decades and use only the finest ingredients is nothing short of divine (or so my wife tells me). I’m not sure we found such a place…yet.

shabu_1Shabushabu: Enjoyed socially and family style, shabushabu consists of vegetables and wafer-thin strips of raw meat cooked by the diner in mere seconds in a communal boiling stock, fondue style. Using various toppings and seasonings (like sesame sauce!), this type of soup tastes absolutely wonderful and seems to warm your very soul.

Leave the stinky soil at the doorstep

Leave the stinky soil at the doorstep

asi35. No Shoes Indoors: Yes, it takes some getting used to, and yes, for some westerners it results in a complete change in their footwear selection (laces are BAD). However, if you stop and think about it, the idea of walking around your home wearing the footwear soiled with the outside world is kind of gross. Or, think of it this way: every time you sit with your shoe-clad feet up on your sofa, chair or bed, what makes you so sure you didn’t step in something’s guts or defecate while outside?? Or, look at it this way: wearing you shoes all around your house is basically the same as taking all your rugs, carpets and furniture outside and expecting them to stay clean while using them….

In the majority of Japanese homes – and also in schools, restaurants and some businesses – people remove their outdoor shoes before entering the building proper. While not unique to Japan, there is a clear desire here to draw a clear line between the clean uchi (“inside”) and unclean soto (“outside”).

13374414963_d1fe228ca2_bBut this notion carries on even within dwellings: that the home should never be unnecessarily dirtied is also reflected in the layout of a typical Japanese bathroom. Here baths are for relaxation and meditation, not for cleansing (why sit in a tub of your own grime). Everyone showers – the cleansing method of choice – before entering the bathtub. The toilet, the dirtiest place in the home, is usually found in a separate room from the bath, shower and sink.

Fast food.  It's certainly fast; still unsure about the "food" part....

Fast food. It’s certainly fast; still unsure about the “food” part….

6. Customer Service: working concurrently with the Japanese sense of punctuality, there’s something inherently awesome about having the staff at McDonald’s treat you like royalty…or is that Burger King? Speaking of Burger King, their drive-thru here on Kadena Air Force Base is probably the most efficient service I have ever witnessed, worthy of further study and publication with an aim to educate the American fast-food industry. Seriously, it moves that fast, even during the lunchtime crunch, which is HUGE here with limited eating options, and even more limited drive-thru’s. If there’s one thing you can say about the Japanese, it’s that they really know how to look after their customers.

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Space-saving genius:  pumps on the ceiling!

Space-saving genius: pumps on the ceiling!

Speaking of customers, whether they are from Japan or not, all receive polite greetings and smiles. Japanese employees are quick to find something to apologize for even when it’s clear that the customer is, in fact, in the wrong. Have a problem at the bank or post office? The staffs there will do their best to find a solution for you rather than simply apologizing and trying to move on to the next customer…an all-too-common occurrence in the States. Gas stations are still full-service; you never leave your car. The attendant cleans your windshield, side-view mirrors and even headlight housings; they run their cloths over your wipers, and finally inquiry about any garbage you’d like thrown away. And most amazingly, this same attendant will stand next to your car and bow as you drive away!

It's pretty much like the Space Shuttle's "Manned Maneuvering Unit," for your bowels.

It’s pretty much like the Space Shuttle’s “Manned Maneuvering Unit,” for your bowels.

peepo-choo-japanese-toilet7. Toilets: While bureaucracy was invented in the West but perfected in the East, the exact same thing can be said about toilets. Japan’s “space-age toilets” are truly things of tremendous technological achievement. Heated seats, with not one but two spray functions whose pressure, warmth and direction can be controlled, ambient noise to help hide any embarrassing bottom burps, lids that open automatically as you enter the room in a reverse bow, and multiple flush options to help save water (after wasting all that electricity) make using the facilities in Japan an adventure in itself (see my blog dedicated to this very fact here). There is plenty of debate still offered as to the health benefits of the old-school Asian squat-toilets, which unfortunately still exist here in droves, sometimes to a Westerner’s consternation. But it’s just impossible to resist tinkering with the plethora of buttons and dials, even if the health and well-being of the family jewels might “hang” in the balance!

Doorman not required.

Doorman not required.

item8_size_japan-cab-driver-rotator8. Taxis: They are not cheap (nor too expensive), but they are cool for one and one reason alone – automatically opening doors! After hailing a cab that has come to a stop at your curbside, the taxi’s passenger door will automatically open. Like unlock and completely open, swinging wide to allow for easy and quick entry. Once you’re safely inside, the driver uses a lever to close the door after you. Yes, it’s a small gesture, but it makes a world of difference and makes one feel like a minor celebrity.

ea0ad0_1d565cc2c112c34dd3e7d82b45b363c6_jpg_srz_3872_2592_85_22_0_50_1_20_0There is no creep factor in the Taxi industry here, nor or foreigners utilized in revolving-door human resource staffing. Rather, being a taxi driver is a recognized and appreciated profession in Japan, reflected in that most drivers wear suits, complete with tie and white gloves…and sometimes even a vest and hat. Oh, and as a side note, all Taxis in Japan are natural-gas driven, and while this does sacrifice some trunk luggage space, the no-emission nature of the fleet is very much appreciated in the car-choked streets of Japan’s greater urban areas.

Waste-not, want not, except for more recycling bins.

Waste-not, want not, except for more recycling bins.

recyclingjapan9. Recycling & Waste Management: Japan’s system for garbage collection and disposal is one to be admired, and quite possibly, emulated. Their garbage trucks are covered with stickers of cute creatures, and play music reminiscent of the ice cream trucks of yesteryear Americana. Most cities require residents to sort their household waste into distinct categories: burnable, plastics, PET bottles, glass, aluminum, and paper/cardboard. We, on the other hand, living in an American-centric high-rise here in Okinawa, only sort between burnable and unburnable. But even then, our trash is still sorted at pickup, which also allows for some very enterprising (and early rising) Okinawans the chance to collect on valuable metals and such in our building’s collective waste bins since only the thinnest see-through plastic bags are allowed to be used for refuse.

While sorting may seem like “work,” it really doesn’t make sense to try to cheat this system by being lazy. The refuse collectors will often leave wrongly bagged items behind, probably to shame you in front of your neighbors, forcing you to either commit hari-kari, or, more likely, into doing the right thing next time. Further, most towns each sell their own refuse bags in local supermarkets, DIY and convenience stores, and encourage proper recycling by making bags for cans and plastics much cheaper than the more general “burnable” bags. Besides being an adhered-to cultural norm, in Japan, it seriously pays to be green.

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Look closely for the booze in this photo!

Look closely for the booze in this photo!

10. Drink & Drinking: For Americans, public imbibing of alcohol is most likely illegal, and even if it isn’t, it is certainly frowned upon. But in Japan it’s considered perfectly OK to crack open a beer in the park, on the street, or in a bullet train. Perhaps it’s simply that so few Japanese make a nuisance of themselves and get violent (or naked, or BOTH) after drinking…. Whatever the reason, thanks to this relaxed approach to public drinking, parks all over Japan are filled with respectable revelers, primarily made up of families rather than just rowdy spring break students. Here in Okinawa, our front yard Sunabe Seawall is the place of choice to enjoy a cold one (or three) along with the most beautiful sunsets over the East China Sea. No brown-bagging your booze here; in Japan it’s “beer and cheers” as and when you see fit, and both Jody and I think that’s progressively refreshing over the prototypical over-indulgent and uncontrollable American drunk…which has to be constrained and often restrained by Johnny-Law.

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“Protected Green?” Diving in Japan


Any excuse for a party....

Any excuse for a party….

“I’ve stopped racing to get to the red light.” ~Kyle Chandler

“Experience is by far the best teacher. You know, ever since I was a little girl I knew that if you look both ways when you cross the street, you’ll see a lot more than traffic.” ~Mae West

“On a traffic light green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it’s just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the hell did you get that banana at…” ~Mitch Hedberg

My money is on these being invented in Japan

My money is on these being invented in Japan

I have an issue with driving in Japan.  No, it is not the “American Vehicular ‘Hello’…” which is flipping on your windshield wipers in the middle of a perfectly clear day when turning.

Think about it.

Right!  We drive here on the “other” side of the road, and thus we sit on the other side of the car to drive.  Since your shifting hand must be the more free hand – to shift, but more obviously to be placed on your main squeeze’s thigh and other important biologic landmarks – turn signals in cars are usually, by-in-large, on the outboard side of the steering wheel, opposite where the manual shift would be.  So, here in Okinawa, it takes some of us a long time (or longer than others) to break the habit of signaling for a turn…using our windshield wipers.

The American Vehicular Hello:  Windshield Wipers

The American Vehicular Hello: Windshield Wipers

At least it looks as if our car is waving.  That’s the charming thing about the Japanese:  they are able to always see the bright and cute side of things!

Happy Crab Crossing is as Cute as it gets.  Real Sign.

Happy Crab Crossing is as Cute as it gets. Real Sign.

No, it’s about traffic lights in Japan.

“How different can they be?” one may think.  Different enough, in some very important and potentially disastrous ways.

Confusing Traffic Lights

Confusing Traffic Lights

In Japan, by convention for which I really can find no clear reasoning, a green arrow is never displayed with a circular green, or even on its own.  Instead, green arrows must be shown with a circular red, which denotes that opposing traffic has come to a stop, protecting the flow of traffic in the direction of the displayed green arrow.  What results is the potential for a traffic signal to display green arrows pointing in all possible directions, along with a steady circular red!  At first this is very disheartening; when glanced while driving, your brain can quickly thin-slice your consciousness into believing you are running a red-light, or worse, your equally unfamiliar gaijin passenger cries out in terror assuming that a red light is being run!  Nah, this hasn’t happened to me….

Yes, another actual traffic signal.  The red denotes the arrows are "protected."

Yes, another actual traffic signal. The red denotes the arrows are “protected.”

Indeed, here is what a Japanese government site has to say about Arrow signals in Japan:  “Even when the traffic light is red, you can proceed in the direction of the arrow.”  Okay, so maybe they only want us to figuratively stop and think about the meaning of the conflicting colors.

For the Older Gen, I Guess

For the Older Gen, I Guess

In American, our turn signals are referred to as “protected greens.”  This means, basically, that the green arrow is “protected” by a red light applied to oncoming traffic and pedestrians, with the implication that you are protected in making such a turn across opposing traffic and through crosswalks.  In Japan, a “protected green” is displayed quite differently, with green arrows and a circular red combined.

Do I Stay or Do I Go Now?

Do I Stay or Do I Go Now?

However, something even stranger happens at certain signals in Okinawa.

Waiting to turn left at Hwy 23

Waiting to turn right at Hwy 23

At such dubious signals without turn arrows at all, you find yourself with a green circle waiting for a break in oncoming traffic to cross in the Far East’s version of our left turn – actually a right.  Suddenly, you see the oncoming vehicles slowing…and then stopping…without much reason.  Your light remains a steady circular green, but with no arrow to indicate a “protected” status.  Or, more eccentrically, you are waiting to turn at an intersection with a circular red and a straight green arrow, which then shifts to a steady circular green…while the oncoming cars remain stopped.  Such intersections actually are “protected” as the oncoming traffic light has turned or has remained red; it’s just that you, in the all-too-dangerous position of having to make that turn across traffic, has absolutely no indication of “their” red.  So you end up hesitating, wanting to believe that oncoming traffic has stopped, starting across very slowly while you remain very unsure…all the way through the intersection.  Sure, once you learn the location of these traffic signals you’re in the know and can zippidy-doo-da your day away on the mean yet slow and polite streets of Okinawa, but until that point, it is a very unsettling feeling indeed.

Same Signal, now green, but with no indication that opposing traffic is still stopped!

Same Signal, now green, but with no indication that opposing traffic is still stopped for the right turn!

Stop for Fire Hydrants? These signs will get'cha sooner or later.

Stop for Fire Hydrants? These signs will get’cha sooner or later.

Oh, and try and pick out the stop sign, the give way sign (actually, it translates to “proceed slowly”), and a fire hydrant sign!  These can really throw you for a loop, as you’ve probably never stopped to think about how much you subconsciously “read” traffic signs simply by their shape and color.  Catching a glimpse of a partially obscured fire hydrant sign can lead to a passing instant of panic since it is, during your first weeks here, misconstrued as a stop sign….

This is a Japanese Stop Sign

This is a Japanese Stop Sign

Driving on Okinawa is actually a very pleasant experience compared with home, ignoring the previously discussed eccentrics.  There is NO road rage here; the Japanese are very polite and professional drivers.  And that’s simply not just lip-service.  Chances are if you are pissed off on the road, it was due to a Yankee-plated American….  Okay, so it’s illegal here to make a left on red (our standard right turn), which can be very frustrating at times.  But, the speed limits are all very slow; the “expressway” is the fastest road on island, clocked at a blistering 50 mph (80 kph)!  And, using your horn is illegal unless for emergency, and oddly enough, people here actually follow their traffic laws.  It’s refreshing to see a community and country appeal to the greater good for everyone and set aside any narcissistic driving tendencies so prevalent in America.  Jody, who I believe was very anxious about driving here, had absolutely no issues with the driving, technically that is.  Driving naked certainly helps.

However, navigating around the island is a whole different matter!!  More on that later.

Okinawan GPS Spaghetti

Okinawan GPS Spaghetti

Tora! Tora! Tora!


Tora Tora Tora, The Attack on Pearl Harbor 1941

Tora Tora Tora, The Attack on Pearl Harbor 1941

Tora! Tora! Tora! (Japanese: トラ・トラ・トラ) is a 1970 American-Japanese war film that dramatizes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.  The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and stars an ensemble cast, including Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, Sō Yamamura, E.G. Marshall, James Whitmore and Jason Robards, and uses Isoroku (Admiral) Yamamoto’s famous quote, saying the attacks would only serve to “… awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve….”  The title of the film is the Japanese code-word used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved over Hawaii.  Tora (虎, pronounced [tòɽá]) literally means “tiger,” but in this case it actually served a duality, encompassing both the strength, stamina, and agility of the carnivorous hunter t which it refers, as well as an acronym for “totsugeki raigeki” (突撃雷撃, “lightning attack”).

Tora Tora Tora Surprise over Hawaii 1941

Tora Tora Tora Surprise over Hawaii 1941

That’s all well and good.

But “Tora” is also the name of my Okinawan-born cat, adopted by my then family in 1999.

We had left the states on “surprise” orders to Japan.  At the time I was what the Navy labels one as “Not Physically Qualified” (NPQ) for flight, suffering from chronic and debilitating back pain and serious sciatica resulting from a severe back injury in high school.  Due to this status, I was not slated for a Department Head squadron tour, and since such billeting is required to advance in the aviation community, I become for Naval Aviation the proverbial round peg that can fit most any square hole.  Are there are always a lot of squares that no one wants anything to do with.

Japanese Influenced Tiger

Japanese Influenced Tiger

So, after 9 months of living overseas in Italy (they “stashed” me there on short-notice after a reservist backed out of NATO-based orders), I came home to reassignment to somewhere I had, and never had any intention of living, let alone traveling:  Japan.  It was a one-two-three combo knockout blow.

Or so I thought at the time.

Combo #1, a stiff right jab to the nose:  “You’re getting orders to Japan.”  I stumble back a step, somewhat dazed by the sharp pain of the words.

Combo #2, crossing blow from the left to the check:  “It’s a non-flying job.”  Confusion starts to reign as the throbbing realization of not being able to fly sets in.

Combo #3, a right hook square on the chin:  “…and you’ll be assigned to a ship….”  Tunnel visions and stars orbiting my psyche as I think about being “stuck” on a boat for months and years at a time….

Down to the mat I go, unreactive and stiff as a board, bouncing lightly upon first strike.  But as quickly as the Detailer – the guy who assigns orders (jobs) every two to three years – dropped me with this TKO, his gloves were found to be over-weighted with a healthy dose of misinformation.  The fight was called; a draw ensued.

Japanese Warplanes 1941

Japanese Warplanes 1941

It wasn’t Japan, but Okinawa to which I was being assigned.  And there is a serious difference between the two.  It’s like trying to call Hawaiian or Puerto Rican culture as the same as “American.”  Okinawa happens to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful reefs in the world, all just an easy shore-dive away.

While it was a non-flying job, I was able to maintain flying status the whole time, which meant I didn’t have to give up my special “Flight Pay,” which at the time made up a significant portion of my pay.  Discretionary income became very important for scuba diving, and using the island as a hoping-off point for some massive travels.

And, most importantly, I was not assigned to a ship, but to a Flag Staff on Okinawa while ashore, and when required to go underway, I was assigned to an Amphibious Squadron Staff, which is in no way, shape or form to be confused with “ship’s company.”  Who the hell joins the Navy to be ship’s company anyhow?!?

Cats in Japan have a Long Loved History

Cats in Japan have a Long Loved History

The news had to be broken to the family, which, at the time in mid-winter of 1999, was made up of my spouse, my two kids Danny (10) and Naomi (6), and our cat “Tiger.”  My ex took the news well; she’s one to take on adventure, in particular those involving traveling in and around Asian (she’s of API descent, a mix of European and Philippine blood lines).  While we were most worried about our daughter Naomi, it was Daniel, our son, who took the news the hardest.  And, as you may know from reading my previous blogs, all my cats speak Spanish and I can barely understand a word.  I really have no idea how Tiger felt.

Our Cat Tiger, 1999

Our Cat Tiger, 1999

It certainly didn’t interrupt her sleep schedule.

My ex and I decided that since this move involved so many unknowns, extra expense, and quarantine issues regarding our cat, that it was best to leave our cat in the United States, were at least there is a fellow immigrant feline fraternity for her to converse with.  I had strong suspicions that cats in Japan would not only NOT speak Spanish, they would frown upon such a furry fake amidst their company.  We found a great home for Tiger with a good friend, and in order to make this arrangement palatable to my daughter – a tomcat like me (at least in character) – I had to promise her that as soon as we were settled on Okinawa we would rescue a cat and bring her home….

Weird Japanese Anime involving Cats

Weird Japanese Anime involving Cats

Fast forward a few months and we are moving into our home in Okinawa, a very large multi-story, multi-bedroom “mansion” worthy of most connotations of the word (but a word often misused and abused by the Japanese!).  We went to the shelter on Kadena Air Force Base, and strolled through the strays and rescues.  It’s a daunting process, trying to determine which furriness would become fast and ferocious friends.  I pointed one cat out in particular to Naomi and the family – a clam, quiet cat with salt and pepper whiskers who was demure and classed amidst the wild chatter and meowing of every other cat scrambling for a quick escape.  She literally was not making a sound, and simply tracked our movements with an interesting gaze from the depths of her cage.

“How’bout this one?”  The staff comes over and says she’s a stray, probably about 3-4 months old, current on all her shots, and still with claws.

“Look at how clam and classy she is, and I love her black and white whiskers!”  It doesn’t take much to convince a six-year-old homesick little girl who’s missing one of her best four-legged friends.

She’s ours.

Tora, Summer 1991

Tora, Summer 1991

On the way home we start to brainstorm for a name.  We already knew that “Neko” was Japanese for kitten (we tried to keep a stray kitten in our temporary lodging, but got busted by management), and that didn’t seem fitting.  We threw around a lot of the more obvious names, playing on characteristic of our new-found friend.  None of the suggestions, from any of us, seemed to be…quite…right.

And then I said, “How’bout ‘Tora’?”

My ex, sitting in the passenger seat of our car, looks over at me while thumbing through her Japanese dictionary.  While she’s searching, my son asks “Why, what does that mean?”

“Well, it’s a word from a movie I saw a long time ago called Tora Tora Tora.”  To tell you the truth, I had no idea of its meaning, literally nor its use in the attack on Pearl harbor.  “I’m not sure what it means.”

“’Tora’ means Tiger in Japanese,” my ex proclaims with a knowing smile.

“That’s it, that’s it!!” Naomi quickly shoots back, excited about the coincidence of this particular label.

Naomi & Furry Four-Legged Friend Tora, circa 1999-2000

Naomi & Furry Four-Legged Friend Tora, circa 1999-2000

The Desiderata states clearly that the universe unfolds pretty much how it should, and this was one of those times in life where all the right pieces fit all the right places.  We named this newest Okinawan addition to our family to recognize both her felis catus heritage, as well her spatial and temporal relationship to the piece of our American family left back in the states.

Tora is still with us today, and lives with Naomi in South Florida.  Except Naomi is now a 20 year-old college student, and Tora is a distinguished and less active but more charming old lady at 14.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen her since leaving Okinawa (the second time) in 2005 during separation prior to divorce, but she will always live on in my heart as one of most favorite and cherished “my cats.”

Cleo, our current cat traveling to Japan, has large paws to fill in Okinawa this time around, but I do believe that she is filled with, as the Admiral hauntingly proclaimed, a terrible resolve to be surprisingly victorious….

Tora, Tora, Tora!!!

The Current King Family on our way to Japan!

The Current King Family on our way to Japan!

“Always Listen to your Momma”


Kevin's Childhood Shot Record_edited-1

Or, “So you wanna follow your Prettiest-Nurse-in-the-Navy wife to Okinawa, do ya?”

Well you’d better have your shots up-to-date, Mister!

So, there’s the Holy Grail required to go overseas with a military spouse:  the DEA.  No, nothing to do the Drug Enforcement Agency, nor anything remotely close to a Data Encryption Algorithm (although give it time and the Navy will connect a dependent’s entry to BOTH), but the DEA is a document called “Dependent Entry Approval,” the couple of pages of paper that officially allow me to travel to and enter Okinawa as a “command-sponsored” dependent of an Active Duty member in the Navy….  Oh, and it prohibits two things (and only two things):  1) firearms (there is such thing as reasonable gun control & ownership in the world, contrary to popular belief & mystery in America), and 2) pornography.  Where is the fun these days in the military??

Blah-blah-blah.  What one doesn’t understand is the near (in)action of Congress that is required to get this dang document.  Case-in-point:  shots & immunizations.

So, as some of you may know, I’m a retired Navy officer myself.  Who’s been stationed in Okinawa TWICE before, for a total of four years.  AND, I deployed, numerous times, to numerous war zones.  Oh, and I maintained “Flight Status” for 20 years.  Big deal, you might say.  Well, this is all to mean that one just may think that just maybe I maintained my shots for all that time in the military, while have annual flight physicals, while deploying over and over again….

One might thing.  But then again, military intelligence is, as they say, an oxymoron.

So, during my medical screening at the Navy Hospital here in town, the Doc asked about shots.  I informed her – a Physician’s Assistant – that I was pretty sure I was good, and that my medical record should have everything there since I had recently retired, and retired here in Pensacola.  Cool.  Smiles all around.  “I’ll review your record and let you know,” she responded as we parted ways.

Weeks go by.  Nothing heard.

Then, in the prototypical “your-crisis-shouldn’t-be-my-emergency,” an Overseas Screening staff member calls me one day “looking for my shot record.”  Well, I inform the junior Petty Officer, “It’s in my medical record.”  “Oh, okay, of course.  We’ll look for that; I need your full SSN.”  Odd, I think:  seriously, you don’t or can’t find my full social security number?  Fine, passed, done deal.

More time goes by.

Turns out that my record cannot be located at the hospital.  The hospital where I have been treated since 2005.  The military treatment facility (MTF) that retired me, that assumed control of my medical record at retirement!  Turns out that it “appears” that my record has been archived, but amazingly enough, there is no firm trail, paper or otherwise.  Let’s ignore all the HIPAA implications at present.

Well, I have a copy of my shot record, and, in fact, a copy of my ENTIRE medical record, since copies are required at retirement for the VA.  However, that copy was only current as of 2008, and I couldn’t quite remember if I had gotten more shots.  More importantly, I am the type of person that likes to FORCE processes to show when those processes are either archaic or just plain broken.  Oh, and I like people to do their jobs at the same time as well.

As you might guess, this process was just plain broken:  no sign, no record, not even a hint of a medical record, let alone shot record to deploy to Okinawa!

So, numerous discussion ensue.  “You all realize that I’m a retired aviator, and certainly not only met entry requirements into the military, but maintained all those shot requirements for 20 years?”  “You guys realize that I actually deployed where smallpox and anthrax shots were required, and given those, don’t you think I had the MMR as a child??”  “Oh, and you realize that I actually was successfully screened to live in Japan, TWICE before, while on active duty?!?”  Or, thinking to myself, do you really think that all those checks in the military over 24 years (counting ROTC) missed some blatantly obvious shots that are, in fact, required for secondary school registration!

Sorry, need the “proof.”

Fine, Jody says.  She’s in the medical loop, and attempts to direct the junior Petty Office at overseas screening to access the electronic version of my shot record.  This version, a relative stand-alone document in the Navy’s medical world, specific to immunizations (as best I understand it), is not accessible by just anyone – wouldn’t want the overseas screening staff to actually be able to screen someone for overseas duty.  Turns out they can’t access this record.  Although I would prefer to push the issue and make THEM find a way, Jody accesses it herself, and sends a copy to overseas screening.  Oh, and she actually goes through my ENTIRE few hundred pages of medical record and finds all the areas where my shots & immunizations are annotated….

Not good enough.  No, there’s no proof of chicken pox (shots or the disease), and oh no, I need a flu shot!  Okay, we’ll handle these issues one-at-a-time.

I’m no conspiracy theorists, but I do harbor a healthy mistrust of the military (read:  government), shots, and my body.  Not that they are out to get me, but just that they have generally a pretty dismal record of, well, not even just not caring, but of maliciously doing things that are ethically questionable by any other reasonable standard.  Not that the flu shot falls into this category of concern (it does not), but then again I don’t fall into the at-risk population for that particular disease.  In my final personal analysis, I choose, for a number of (personal) reasons, not to take the flu shot/mist since retiring….

And they can’t make me.  You see, I’m not longer active duty, but a mere dependent.  Which means I am not their (government) property, as the cliché goes….

So, I tell Jody that they are going to have to show me in writing where the flu shot is required for me to do that.  I feign aggressiveness at calling the fraud, waste, & abuse hotline, as well as the inspector general at my “missing” medical record and all the privacy concerns that raises.  So, Jody goes back to overseas screen and asks about their “list” of “requirements” for dependents’ entry into Japan.  “Well, we use what the CDC recommends for Japan.”  “So, is it a requirement, or a recommendation??”  “Well, we use what the CDC recommends for Japan….”  Enough said.  I take that as a recommendation only.  No flu shot for this guy.

Finally, we come down to chicken pox.  Now I understand there is a resurgence of chicken pox, mainly because of failures in early childhood vaccination, or adults who were never vaccinated (properly).  Worse yet, there is no record of those shots for me:  I had the chicken pox as a child.  How the heck do you prove that?  Well, the Navy can draw blood and check something called blood “titers” for the right level of antibodies….  Needles?  Needles are worse than spiders, but just barely.  Another medical appointment and trip to the hospital to be treated poorly and seen late?  Heck no to both, I claim!  Don’t get me started on spiders….

So, I do have my original medical shot record from when I was an infant and child (pictured above).  Thanks to my Mother who insisted on copies, and insisted – and taught me how valuable and critical such a document was and remains.  It looks nothing like anything official; a collection of typed and hand-written notes on lined paper, some with date stamps, others with scribbled initials or signatures.  But it certainly is enough to show all those childhood requirements…once the medical hieroglyphics are deciphered and penmanship failures are placed.

But how do you prove that you’ve had chicken pox when you were a kid, like in the early 1970s?  C’mon.  Well, let’s just say that Photoshop is my friend, and that early childhood record captures my run-in with chicken pox just fine…NOW.

So, after all this back & forth over shots, after ignoring my own military service and previous overseas screening for Japan, after all the searching and attempts at accessing my health records, it all came down to a much-photocopied single piece of paper of immunizations which has really no possible means of positive verification.

And this, Ladies & Gentlemen, is what was ultimately accepted.  And I have my all-important DEA to follow Jody halfway around the world.  Thanks Mom, seriously.

Now, about those guns and porn…(wink).