Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Makes an Island?

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer
A View Toward the East China Sea from My Balcony

Yesterday was productive.  The air-conditioner man, a young fellow who spoke absolutely no English, showed up and worked an hour or so on the unit in my living room.  He was finally able to communicate that he needed to send for a part and would come back another day.   And even though he was unable to fix the air conditioner,  and spoke nary a word of English, we became good friends.

When the young man arrived I was sitting on the floor trying to screw a stand together for my new television - and it wasn't going together.  (Things never go together for me!)   The air-conditioning man noticed my frustration.  I had to go downstairs to my car for some reason, and when I returned, he had put the stand together!  As he was leaving, I showed him that the clothes dryer wasn't working, and it took him all of two minutes to figure it out.  At about that point I decided that I should adopt him!

My next visitor was the Norman, an Okinawan who was educated in American schools and spoke flawless English.  He came to install my satellite dish and collect 20,000 yen in installation fees that the bastard housing agency should have paid.  (That battle continues!)  Norman told me that the HBO mini-series, The Pacific, has recently started running on Japanese television, and he felt that it is treated the war in the Pacific in a fairly even-handed manner.

My 1998 Nissan Cube
Norman and I were discussing a large island in the East China Sea that I can see from my balcony.  He told me its name, though it escapes me at present, and said that he has been there twice.  He said there are two hundred people on the island and they make their living primarily by fishing.  Norman continued by talking about how important fishing is to the Japanese economy.  He said at one place off of the coast of Japan there is a rock sticking out of the water that is about the size of a home air-conditioner.   Norman said that the Japanese government spent one hundred million dollars (He may have meant yen.) building a barrier around the rock to keep it from sinking beneath the surface of the sea.  The reason:   the rock is officially a Japanese "island," and their fishing limits extend for 200 miles beyond the island.  If it disappeared beneath the surface of the sea, all of that fishing area would be lost!

A friend came over last night and we went to dinner in a quiet Okinawan restaurant.  I had pasta and mushrooms with (I think) spam.. Spam is huge here!  My meal was rounded out with garlic toast and iced tea.  A very large cat roamed beneath the tables as we ate.  He looked as though he did very well begging off of the diners and scarfing up what slips through their chop sticks!

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