Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Quiet

At Lunch with a Spectacular View of the
East China Sea
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

After ten hours on the road yesterday, it felt good to sleep in this morning.  The weather is starting to cool down a little, and I have a couple of windows open for the breeze that comes in off of the sea.  It is wonderful sleeping weather!

I talked to two of my kids today (and the third one yesterday) and spoke to my two oldest grandsons.  Boone, age 11, had been deer hunting with his other grandfather, but didn't see any deer.  Deer hunting season is a big cultural event in southern Missouri where Boone lives - they even close the schools for a few days every deer season.

Tonight is officially Halloween, and I have not had any trick-or-treaters.  Last night when my friends and I got back to Kadena, the little tricksters and their parents were out in force.

Attached are a couple of more photos from yesterday.
Water Buffalo Pulling a Cane Press at the
Okinawan Cultural Center

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Day With Friends

Nefreddia and Murphy at Marek Park on Kadena
with One of Murphy's Many Kites
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

I spent the day exploring Okinawa with my two best pals on the island, Nefredia Covington and Daniel Murphy. We toured an Okinawan museum and cultural center, had lunch in a restaurant on a hillside with a commanding view of the sea, toured the Pineapple Winery, and topped off the evening with tea and desert on the veranda of the British Wine and Tea Shop.   It was about a ten hour day and we had lots of fun.  I'll run pictures over the next few evenings.
Dancer at Okinawan Cultural Center

Friday, October 29, 2010

Torii Beach

The Surf at Torii Beach
by Pa Rock

I am a Department of the Army Civilian working at Kadena, the largest U.S. Air Force Base in the Far East.   The Office of Personnel that administers my stay on Okinawa is located on a small army base about five miles north of Kadena.  That base is called Torii Station.  Torii is located right on the East China Sea and has a long strip of beautiful beach.  Occasionally I have to make a run up to Torii Station for administrative reasons, and today, my day off, was one of those times.  When my business was done, I headed to Torii Beach to see what yesterday's storms had washed ashore.

I got to the beach just as some Marines in uniform were leaving.  They assured me that it was fine to be there and wished me a nice day.  I headed out onto the sand, camera in hand, planning on snapping a few pictures the waves and maybe coming away with a couple of shell scraps.  Since today (Friday) is a workday for most of the military, I found myself as the solitary explorer on thee beach.

Shells and Pieces of Coral Washed Ashore
at Torii Beach
Much to my surprise, shells were varied and plentiful.  I came away with enough to probably fill a shoebox.  My haul also included a few pieces of sea glass and four golf balls!  As I was leaving, a couple of young ladies showed up with their plastic buckets to look for sea treasure -  and I had left plenty!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't Bother Knockin' Because This Joint's a-Rockin'!

by Pa Rock
Typhoon Chaser

I was up and out of the apartment by 0600 hours this morning headed for work in the dark.  We were at Typhoon Level One - winds of 65 mph or more - along with blowing rain - but Kadena Air Base was still planning work as usual.  The schools did close, but the Air Base tries to function until the level changes to 1-C (caution) where the winds increase to 75 mph.   We had a couple of meetings, cancelled appointments, and wrapped all of the computers and other electronics in trash bags before finally being sent home at 0900 hours.

Typhoon Chaba is rocking and rolling outside, and I am safely back home watching it blow across the island from my sixth story vantage point!

Typhoon Chaba

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

It's dark and the winds are howling this morning as Typhoon Chaba moves in toward Okinawa.  I received a call last night stating that we were in Level 2 (Level 1 is the worst).  Apparently work is still on for today - I am headed out in a few minutes unless my telephone rings in the interval - but we have already been told that the typhoon is expected to strike tonight and we will probably stay home tomorrow.  Tomorrow, as luck would have it, is my Friday off - and I will be stuck at home and unable to get my errands run!

Life in paradise!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Winds of Change?

Movie Theatre in American Village
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Strong winds across Okinawa today, but fortunately no rain.  It's one of those days where it is necessary to hang onto the car door when entering or exiting the vehicle because the winds will literally jerk the door from a person's grasp.  I just drove home in these strong winds, but did not come across any accidents - an amazing occurrence considering how small and light the cars are here.

Small Banyan Trees Near American Village
It still feels like summer on Okinawa, but I know that it will be somewhat colder soon (temperature will drop into the 50's Fahrenheit.  Could today's winds be bringing in the seasonal change?

Attached are a couple of more photos from my walk to American Village on Saturday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shisa Dogs

Shisa Dog with Closed Mouth
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Okinawans protect their homes and businesses from evil spirits through the use of ornate half dogs-half lions, commonly referred to as Shisa dogs.  The Shisa were adopted from China centuries ago and have gone on to become a uniquely Okinawan cultural artifact.

The Shisa dogs are usually present in pairs and sit atop entrances to buildings or along the front gates.   One version of the guardian tradition is that the dog on the right, the male, will have an open mouth to scare away bad spirits, and the dog on the left, the female, will have a closed mouth to keep in good spirits.  Another version of the tradition has the genders reversed with the male dog being the closed-mouth one on the left keeping bad out of the home, and the open-mouthed female on the right sharing goodness.  Either way, the male comes off as more of the protector, and the female is more associated with goodness.

Another tradition that I have heard from American friends is that the Shisa dogs are only effective in protecting the homes if they are given to the home's occupants as gifts.  Say, that sounds like another Christmas idea!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lunch at American Village

Cement Barriers Along the Sea Wall
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

I went to lunch with friends today at American Village.  Actually, I ate a burger on base before we left because I still haven't found much in the way of local food that appeals to me.  In fact, I have been dealing with a continuous upset stomach since my arrival here in July.  I did eat a small rice pudding, which was good, and drank diet coke while they all sampled Thai cuisine at the restaurant we chose.

I have a theory about the local food here.  Most would be good, but it seems like they always add one more thing which ruins the appeal for me.  My Dad, during his final years, had lost most of his ability to taste, and consequently put all kinds of spices into his cooking - his attempt to "rev it up" a little.  Cooking on this island is something like that - always just one more ingredient - one too many!

I didn't take my camera today, but am attaching some random shots that I took yesterday when I walked to American Village.
Graffiti Art Along the Sea Wall Leading
to American Village

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Night Market

Night Market Near Araha Beach
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Today was a day of walking.  I logged thirty-five minutes of huffing and puffing on the treadmill at Gunner's Field House this morning before it shut down.  The last time one of their treadmills quit on me - again at 35 minutes - I had walked 2.03 miles.  Today I had accomplished a bit more at 2.06 miles.  I have a theory that they set the machines to begin the five-minute cool off at thirty minutes during times of heavy usage.  If I go back tomorrow afternoon when there will be fewer people at the gym, the same treadmill will probably let me do the full hour.
Vendors Selling Wares at Night Market

After leaving the gym I drove to the big Shopette on Camp Foster where I found a book for my oldest grandson (It will go out in the mail on Monday, Boone) and a movie for myself - Dorian Gray - the remake of an old film based on the book by Oscar Wilde.  I may just have to watch it tomorrow.

Walking resumed after I got home from Camp Foster.  With camera in tow, I hoofed it off to American Village, following the paved path that runs beside the coastline.  I snapped a few pictures along the way and at the Village, then went to the big grocery and department store, Jusco, where I bought a few things to send home in Christmas packages -  and a few postcards.  I also treated myself to one rich scoop of ice cream at Jusco.  None of the flavors were labeled in English, so I chose what appeared to be Butter Pecan.  It turned out to be some coffee-flavored concoction, but it wasn't too bad.

Everything's a Bargain at the Night Market!
Tonight I walked to the Night Market, an open-air flea market that covers the better part of two blocks.  It is about three blocks from my apartment, and it is open on weekend evenings.  I didn't buy anything, but some pictures are attached.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Crane at Marek Park

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer 

Marek Park is a sprawling green area of several acres that sits in front of the building in which I work.  It is surrounded by a paved walking track that is at least half-a-mile in length.  When I arrive in the mornings, there are always groups of people doing their morning PT at Marek, and many civilian spouses bring their small children to walk the track while the military parents are busy doing calisthenics or playing soccer or football.  By the time I leave work in the evening, parents and children have converged on the park for soccer practice.

Today, coming back from lunch, I spied a lone white crane ambling across the park, pecking at the ground for the occasional bug.  The crane was so unexpected, yet he seemed to be a vibrant and necessary part of the park experience.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dark and Stormy Night, Part II

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Same crap, different night.  Again, the ride home was dark and rainy, with traffic limping from stoplight to stoplight.  Walking would have been quicker, even in the rain!  As a counter-punch to the miserable weather, a couple of more pictures from the sunny weekend are attached!
Grand Steps Leading from the Street
to the Beach
Picnic Pavilions at Araha Beach

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Dark and Stormy Night

by Pa Rock
Araha Beach,, Okinawa
Cultural Explorer

Children's Playground Disquised
as a Pirate Ship
It was dark and rainy as I made my way home this evening - not at all like it was last Saturday afternoon when I walked along the beach and took these pictures.  Of course, after living in central Arizona for nearly three years, ever dark and rainy seems beautiful!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sayonara Soft Bank

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

I lost my cell phone last weekend, not a huge loss because I seldom used it, but a concern none-the-less because if someone found it and decided to make calls, it would cost me 42 cents a minute to pay for their air larceny.

There are two cell phone providers on the island - Soft Bank and AU.  My phone was a Soft Bank for which I paid $11.00 a month, the absolute cheapest plan available.  I didn't learn until after signing my agreement with Soft Bank that it is basically worthless in some locations - such as the building that I work in.  In order to make a call from work, I had to go stand in front of the building.

Today I tried to suspend my Soft Bank service, but it turned into such a problematic affair that I wound up cancelling.  I may eventually try AU which apparently is more expensive but has better coverage, or I may just rely on email to keep in contact with my friends here on the island.  I think that I may wind up liking the freedom of not being leashed to a phone!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Books on Okinawa

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

I have been diligently searching for a new copy of Okinawa:  The History of an Island People ever since a friend loaned me his soon after my arrival here.  In the ensuing couple of months, I have read bits and snippets of the book, enough to know that it is an exceptional historical account of Okinawa.  I have been searching for my own copy so that I could read at my own pace, and return my friend's copy to him.  Amazingly the book which presents itself as the standard history of the island, has been exceeding hard to find.

Today, after burning an hour on the treadmill at Gunners, I stopped by the larger Camp Foster Shopette for a coke on ice, and as I entered the store I walked straight into a new book display.  There I found several copies of the elusive island history, as well as a nice selection of other books on Okinawa.  I also bought a copy of  The Battle for Okinawa  which was written by a Japanese Colonel (Hiromichi Yahara) who fought in battle.

I am planning on taking a Battle of Okinawa Tour which visits important World War II sites on the island including the Command Caves used by the Japanese troops.  I thought that reading the book on the battle might make the tour more memorable and meaningful.  We'll see.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


by Pa Rock
Menu Board for Burgers at a Restaurant in My
Cultural Explorer

A young man buzzed my apartment twenty minutes ago telling me that he had "specials."  He had a very pronounced oriental accent, so I didn't try to quiz him over the intercom as to what the "specials" were.  Japanese velvet paintings or handguns, I didn't care.  I was doing the dishes, and it would be a pleasure to take a break and visit with someone, even if his goal was simply to relieve me of some yen.

I buzzed the young man in and minutes later he was standing at my door holding a delicious looking try of sweets.  He was selling packages of three rice cakes (500 and 550 yen per package), pound cake (600 yen) and assortments of jellies (3 for 600 yen).  I bought a package of the the rice cakes, which he assured me were flown in direct from Kyoto.

The fellow was wearing a UCLA tee-shirt.  When I commented on it, he told me the shirt was a "gifto" and that UCLA was in Los Angeles.  (If a person pays attention, he can learn something every day!)  The young man went on to visit my neighbors.  Now that I had allowed him entry, the whole building was his oyster!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Drizzles

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

My place of work adopted a new schedule at the beginning of October that results in every employee being able to take every other Friday off - if they agree to put in an extra hour a day for eight days of the preceding two weeks.  Today was my first Friday off under the new system, and wouldn't you know that it would be drizzly and rainy.  It is almost dark now and the clouds are finally starting to move on.

But I didn't let the  crappy weather keep me inside.  My first stop of the day was at the Family Mart up the road to pay my electric bill.  Family Mart is a small, ubiquitous convenience store much like the Lawson's Station where I paid my bill last month.  This was my first trip into this particular little store.  In addition to paying my electric bill of just over 10,000 yen, I also found a Japanese toy for Sebastian's Christmas package.

My next stop was the small Shopette on Camp Foster where I picked up an unhealthy breakfast and a few supplies.  The guy there told me where to get my car serviced (next door), so that turned into Item 3 on the agenda.  The car maintenance was followed by a trip to Gunners Fitness Center, also on Camp Foster, where I  managed to put in a full hour on the treadmill (3.49 miles).  My final diversion was a trip to the Post Exchange (PX) at Camp Foster where I found some new gym shoes and shorts.  Then I came home, turned on the television, and discovered that it was exactly on the same segment of a Miss Marple Mystery where I had quit watching the night before.

All in all, it was a fairly good day off - even if it was drizzling!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Fine Art of Menus

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Dining on Okinawa tends to be a very graphic experience.  In order to cater to a culturally diverse population, restaurant menus contain pictures of every food item, along with lengthy descriptions.  It is not unusual for a menu to be ten to twenty pages in length.  Also, most restaurants have large signs outside of their doors which advertise the main courses served by the establishments along with photos.  Attached are photos from a couple of food signs outside of restaurants on Kokusai Street in Naha.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bats the Size of Small Dogs!

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

I have heard about the bats of Okinawa ever since I arrived on the island, but until yesterday evening I did not realize just how unique (and large) these creatures are.

There is a fairly wooded area just inside of Kadena's Gate One.   I have seen large black birds flying through that area on several occasions, and at a distance they appeared to be bigger than pigeons but smaller than vultures. Yesterday, one of these creatures, flying low, came straight at my car - and to my surprise, it was a bat, a really big bat!  In fact, it looked like a black chihuahua, on the meaty side, with about a sixteen-inch wingspan!

At least now I understand why there seem to be no mosquitoes on Okinawa.   These flying rodents are huge!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Views of Kokusai StreetL

Large Shisa Dog Protecting a Restaurant
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Sunday's tug-of-war was close to Naha's famous shopping area, Kokusai Street.  After leaving the rope-pulling event, I spent thirty minutes or so roaming around one end of Kokusai.  Here are a couple of photos of the shops and attractions.

Kokusai Wares


Monday, October 11, 2010

History of Okinawa's Tug-of-War

Balloon lady
Crowd facing large guide-ons at center of event
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Okinawa's famous tug-of-war dates back to 1600 and has been held continuously for over four hundred years except for a brief interlude during World War II.  The competition was originally a contest between those who depended on the sea and their neighbors who farmed.  It is said that if the east side (facing the ocean) won, there would be an abundant catch for the year, and if the west side son, there would be a fine harvest.

Food vendors
The gigantic rope used in modern competitions is two meters thick, 200 meters in length (656 feet), and weighs more than forty metric tons (44 American tons).  It is made entirely of woven rice straw.  There are many smaller extensions attached to the main rope that the competitors pull on, and after the contest is over, participants cut off pieces of these extensions and take them home for good luck throughout the year.

Estimates are that over 25,000 people are involved in the tug-of-war each year.  Yesterday's competition drew at least that many people.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


by Pa Rock
Street Ninjas
Cultural Explorer

I almost didn't think that I would get to go to the big tug-of-war in Naha today because I misplaced (probably lost) my military ID card, but I took my passport, orders, and hospital badge and was able to talk my way past the gate guards and onto Kadena where I caught the tour bus to the big event.

Those of us who rode the buses to Naha were given nice printed histories of the tug-of-war as well as cotton gloves to keep from getting our hands burned as we pulled on the ropes.  I will share that history of the event later this week - perhaps tomorrow.

Ready?  On the count of three!
The main rope, made from rice straw, was about one meter thick and laid in the middle of the street like so much very dead weight.  There were smaller ropes connected to the big one, and they were what people pulled.  There were thousands of people participating and that big sucker did move, but I have no idea which team wound up winning.

At one point I climbed over the rope to get a better view from the other side.  It addition to the rope, there were the ubiquitous food vendors, youngsters in the crowds putting on marshal arts demonstrations, and beautiful banners and displays held aloft by groups of colorfully clad young men.  The soundtrack for the event was continuous banging firecrackers and blasts from metal whistles blown by the guys who stood atop the rope urging the pullers onward.

One of my highlights for the day happened when I left the commotion and slipped quietly back to the area where we were supposed meet the buses.  I sat down on a park bench fifty feet or so from the bus stop just to relax and let my feet swell.  Across from me, about twenty feet away, sat an Okinawan gentleman about my age.  As I got comfortable, he began to sing - and he sang loudly, clearly, and beautifully.  His songs were in Japanese and had a cadence that was reminiscent of Native American chants.  I did recognize Silent Night and the old pop Japanese song from the 1960's, Sukiyaki.  After forty-five minutes or so of relaxing and listening to his music, I got up and walked past him to the vending machines.  The fellow smiled at me in a way that seemed to say "thanks for enjoying my songs.."  Then he followed me to the machines and spoke several sentences to me in Japanese.  I told him his songs were beautiful, and he seemed to understand my words.    He smiled and walked off.  I felt like I had been the only guest at a very special concert.  It is a memory that I will keep.
Several People Were Required to Keep
the Huge Banners Aloft

The other highlight was having dinner tonight at the Kadena Chili's with friends Murphy and Nefredia.  We relaxed, laughed quite a bit, and solved many of life's thorny issues!

Enjoy the photos.  There are many more to follow!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Morning Drive

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

I left my apartment a little before noon today with the intent of paying my electric bill and then going to Gunners Fitness Center on Camp Foster.  It was a sound plan, but just didn't come together like I had envisioned.

I drove north along a back road, one I had never traveled before, and somehow pulled back out onto Highway 58 one block north of Lawson's Convenience Store - the place where electric bills are paid.  After going a few miles out of my way, I circled back and found the store.  The sales clerk spoke absolutely no English, but when I handed her what I believed to be my electric bill, she shook her head vigorously "no" and showed me an example of the real bill.  The one that I had was smaller.  It said KWH (kilowatt hours?) in English and had what appeared to have a total due of just over 10,000 yen (about a hundred and twenty dollars).  Upon reflection, I remember getting some sort of "pre-bill" last month, too.  That's either what it is, or I owe some other vendor 10,000 yen.

When I arrived at Gunners Fitness Center, almost every space in the large parking lot was full.  I usually go on Sunday's when the lot is practically empty.  I didn't know what was going on today, but I did know that I didn't want hundreds of people watching me huff and puff on the treadmill!  (If those marines want a good laugh, they can go to a comedy club!)

I did use my unplanned free time to explore more of Camp Foster.  I found their larger Shopette - the one with the Class Six (liquor) store and the Taco Bell.  I bought a couple of movies (something that I never do) at the Shopette, and went home to veg out!  More on those movies in tomorrow's Ramble!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Working for the Weekend!

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

It's finally Friday evening on Okinawa!  Oh, the clouds are thick and close to the ground, but I don't care.  It's the weekend - a three-day weekend at that!

We started a new work schedule this week.  Instead of 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., those who wanted to could begin working an hour longer each day (7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) for eight days, and then get every other Friday off.  I signed-up because I live for days off!  But that extra hour has been pure hell.  It makes the days drag on forever.  And we were divided into two groups for the alternate Friday's off, and my best friends all seemed to wind up on one, and I landed on the other!  Oh well, I will use that day to sleep and do sanity restoration exercises!

Sunday I am headed into Naha on a tour bus to be part of the World's Greatest Tug-of-War!  Expect some hilarious photos - especially if it rains!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Housing for Americans

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Many of the Americans residing on Okinawa are able to live on their respective military bases.  Young singles are housed in "dorms" and eat their meals in "chow halls."  Married individuals whose families have accompanied them to the island often have the opportunity to live in family quarters on base.  Everybody else has to head out into the local economy to secure housing.

Housing for Americans on Okinawa is a very big business.  There are numerous housing agencies owned and run by local nationals whose business it is to find suitable housing for their clients, handle complaints and repairs, and collect rent.  Rents are outrageous because the American government subsidizes what Americans can pay, and the local nationals know exactly how much they can get away with charging.  As an example, my rent, along with some utilities comes to over $3,200 per month.  My apartment is decent, but certainly would not be worth that kind of money in a fair economy.

The people at my agency, Dynasty Housing, are very personable and quick to address any problems that I experience -  but for that money they should be!  There are 16 units in the building in which I live, and they all seem to be rented by American$!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kokusai Street

by Pa Rock
Street View on Kokusai Street
Cultural Explorer

Our last stop on the Saturday outing was Naha's famed Kokusai Street, the place where the Esai Drum Festival was held during my first week on the island.   I was fortunate to find a place to park my little car - a small parking garage that I encountered while driving down an alley the wrong direction.. We walked about six blocks up Kokusai Street, through a continuing throng of small businesses and street vendors, to a small brewery for our evening meal.

Street Opening onto the Market Mall
Kokusai Street is a very busy place.  It would take a full day to adequately explore it as well as the cavernous indoor (almost underground) market mall that opens onto the street.
A View from Inside the Market Mall

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fish, Squid, and More Fish

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

One of our discoveries Saturday was a large fresh fish market located near Naha Port.  The fish were varied, plentiful, and iced-down ready to go.  The place smelled like dead fish, but the odor seemed to fade the longer we were there!

My friend bought a fish that he took home and fried that evening.  I did my shopping out in the parking lot where there was a small farmer's market - I bought an apple (it was delicious), a pear, and a couple of carrots.  Attached are photos of some fish that won't be heading back out to sea with the receding tide.
And More Fish!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another Roadside Attraction

Roadside Clothing Vendors
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Saturday on the drive north from Peace Park we came to a group of roadside shops just south of Itoman.  It seemed like a good place to take a break.  There were a group of mama-sans selling tourist clothing, flowery shirts and things like that.  I tried to glance casually at one as a possible gift for a grandson, but as my eyes drifted shirt-ward, mama-san grabbed it from the line and held it in front of my face.  "Discount!"  She yelled proudly.  After being scared by her unbridled capitalism, I fled onto a side street where I enjoyed an afternoon ice cream cone.
A Variety of Okinawa Shisas - Half Dog / Half Lion
A Pair of Shisas Protect Most Okinawan homes.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peace Park

Diorama of Okinawan Fish Peddler
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Peace Park is located on the southern tip of Okinawa at a place where many Japanese soldiers committed suicide by jumping off of the steep cliffs rather than face capture or death at the hands of the enemy.  Forty years ago the park was a solitary walk through a couple of dozen markers and monuments.  Today it encompasses an enormous building that serves as a learning center about the war, along with many monuments to the brave soldiers of both sides who died fighting on Okinawa in 1945.  There were also thousands of civilian casualties in that harrowing battle.
Section of the American Wall

One of the most striking tributes is composed of many black granite walls that perforate the landscape.  These walls contain the names of the soldiers of both sides who died fighting the Battle of Okinawa.  (It is much like the Vietnam wall in Washington, DC.)

Live Rounds of Ammo on Display Under Floor of
Learning Center
The learning center had black and white documentaries of the battle running constantly, along with books at study carousels.  One section the I really enjoyed were diaries of Okinawans who were living on the island at the time of the battle.   One set had been transcribed into English for the American guests who came to the center.  (Unfortunately, these diaries were not for sale in the gift shop.)  There were also some amazing dioramas of life on Okinawa at the time of the war.

Bus loads of Okinawan school children - mostly young adolescents - were touring the park while we were there.  Many of them were undoubtedly the great-grandchildren of the brave souls who fought so valiantly to save their island and their way of life from the invaders - both the Americans and the Japanese.

View of the Pacific from Peace Park
Peace Park is a unique experience that would take many days to properly explore. I shall return.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Naha and Points South

Craftsman at a Glass Forge - Itoman, Okinawa
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

A friend and I motored over the south end of Okinawa today, visiting the glass factory at Itoman, Peace Park on the southern tip  of the island, rural Naha looking for the duplex that I lived in forty years ago (which we did not locate);  a fish market, and finally dinner on Kokusai Street.  It was a full day, and I took plenty of pictures.  They will run here over the next few days.  Enjoy!
Glass Art - Itoman, Okinawa

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rainbows and Dragon Flies

by Pa Rock 
Cultural Explorer

Rains on Okinawa are usually light and brief, often falling beneath predominantly blue skies, but occasionally we get a real storm with thunder and lightening and wind.  One of those blew through the night before last, waking me with some serious thunder and flashes of lightening.  By the time I finally was ready to leave for work, the worst had passed, and when I arrived at my office, Kadena Air Bare was adorned with a beautiful rainbow.  It was not predictive of how the day at work would be!

The weather was hot by the time I left work, with nary a hint of rain.  The warm and dry brought out dragon flies which were everywhere - big ones.  When I arrived on the island in July, the locusts were so noisy that it was often hard to hear outside.  They are gone now, replaced by the dragon flies, which  are sometimes hard to dodge, but mercifully quiet.

To everything there is a season.