Friday, December 31, 2010

Photos from the Buddhist and Shinto Shrines

Banners at Shinto Shrine
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

It is a cold (50 degrees) and windy New Year's Eve on Okinawa, and while 50 degrees might be welcome in some parts of the United States right now, here it feels damned cold!  I will be putting a second blanket on my bed this evening!

Here are a few more photos from our outing yesterday.  I still haven't gotten warm following getting caught in the rain yesterday.

Inside of the Cave

2011 - The Year of the Rabbit
Exterior of Shinto Shrine

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holy Ground

Rock Formations Inside of the Cave
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Friends and I took a quick road trip this afternoon to check out two shrines, one Buddhist and the other Shinto, located next to a cave.  The cave is apparently holy ground and the two shrines were built there to honor and preserve the site.  Tomorrow night there will be a New Year's festival at the site, but after getting caught out in a cold rain today, I am doubtful that I will venture to the celebration.

Large Bell Outside of Buddhist Shrine

Exterior of Buddhist Shrine
Interior of Shinto Shrine

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Wind is Howling!

The Surf from Murphy's Balcony on Christmas Day
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Christmas Eve was so warm and beautiful on Okinawa, and Christmas Day was crappy!  Overnight it had gotten much cooler and windier, and by the time we gathered at Murphy's yesterday the waves were crashing in.  A few surfers were splashing around on Christmas morning, but by early afternoon they had packed it in.

The Water's Edge at Araha Beach Today
Araha Beach, Okinawa:   December 26, 2010
Today it is still bleak.  After a brief visit to the gym at Camp Foster, I walked to the beach by my apartment, in my workout shorts, and snapped a couple of pictures.  Welcome to my world!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010 on Okinawa

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

It is Christmas morning on this small Japanese island.  The skies are cloudy and a light rain has just ended.  Later today I will be going out to a Christmas gathering with friends, but for now I am thinking about popping in a movie and just relaxing..  It is a very nice day.

Camp Foster Commissary
The Harley Bar
Here are a couple of pictures that I took yesterday.  One is the commissary (grocery store) on Camp Foster, and the other is of one of the many bars on Okinawa that cater to the young people in the U.S. Armed Forces.  I took the picture of the Harley Bar through the fence next to the Foster Commissary.

Notice the weather.  These were taken on Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday at the Office

The Shopette at Camp Foster
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Today I did something that I am not proud of - I actually went into my office on a Sunday and got a little work done.  I am so against giving up my weekend time that I have, on occasion, even ridiculed co-workers who slip into the office on weekends to play catch-up.  I will definitely not be making a habit of that odious practice!

I began the day making a run to the Shopette on Camp Foster where I gave in and purchased one of their grossly over-priced poinsettias to spruce up my office for the holidays.  After taking the flower to its intended location, I thought "What the Heck?" and did a little work since I was there anyway.
My Office.  See the New Flower!

The flower is nice - the work wasn't!
The Mental Health Building at Kadena Where My
Office is Located

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Visit to the Monkey Man

by Pa Rock
The Monkey-Man Store
Cultural Explorer

Usually the weekdays are nice on Okinawa, and the weekends are crappy - but not this week!  Thursday and Friday were cold (low 50's F) and rainy, but today, Saturday, is beautiful!  Thank you Jesus!  Or Allah!  Or Elvis!  The sunshine is much appreciated!

I began the day with a drive to Lawson's Quick Stop to pay my monthly electric bill - which came in at a reasonable 4,100 yen.  (I haven't had to use air conditioning or the heater, so the main drain on the electricity is the clothes dryer.  Many of the locals hang their wash out on the patios and balconies to dry, but not this extravagant American!)

Monkey-Man:  Another View
After Lawson's, I turned the corner and drove into American Village - a first, because traffic there is normally  awful so I usually make that trek on foot.  I wanted to visit the Make-Man Store, a local version of a Lowe's, where I was looking for a large plant for my office.  The sign out front of the Make-Man Store features a large monkey home re-modeler, so Americans often refer to it as the Monkey-Man Store.  The store had some beautiful plants, but I had parked too far away and decided that I didn't want to shuffle a plant, pot, and bags of potting soil several blocks to my car.

The next stop was at the Base Exchange on Kadena where I picked up a couple of small holiday gifts for friends.  Then it was off to the gym at Camp Foster, and finally home.

If the weather had been cold and rainy today, I would have never left my apartment!
The New Base Exchange at Kadena

Monday, December 13, 2010

Big Star Heads to Okinawa

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Jason "Wee-Man" Acuna, star of those heartwarming Jackass movies is headed to Okinawa where he will entertain the troops with his skateboarding abilities, dine at the Marine Mess Hall on Camp Foster, and appear at the local military premier of Jackass   3-D.   The arrival of Wee-Man is a really big deal on an island that seems to be continually devoid of anything resembling high culture!

Here are a couple of more photos from our trip north this past weekend.
Low Native Shelter in a Village Park
Tourists Peer Out Over the Point at Cape Hedo
Boat Tied to a Rock at a Deserted Pacific Beach

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Drive North

The Beach at Okuma
by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

My friend, Murphy, and I drove north today, as far north as a person can go on Okinawa without getting their tires wet!  We found a new port that has just been completed.  It offers a ferry service to Ie Shima, the island where war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed during World War II.  We had just missed the boat, literally, so after a quick exploration of the port's facilities, our drive continued.

Putt-Putt Golf at Okuma
Stop number two was at Okuma, a resort fun by the military on the East China Sea.  We lunched there at the Surfside Club, a surprisingly nice restaurant that was in the process of getting decked out for Christmas.  I had the best hamburger that I have encountered so far on Okinawa - and some fresh mango tea that was equally awesome.  I was scoping out the resort as someplace to take my youngest son and his wife when they visit here in April.  Nice beaches, quiet location, Internet connections - perfect!

Monument at Cape Hedo Signifying
the Northernmost Point
Our third diversion was Cape Hedo, the northern most point on Okinawa.  Hedo has some great views of surf crashing onto rocks, and several monuments whose inscriptions were all in host-country Japanese.  (I doubt that any of them said "Yankee Go Home!"  But one never knows!

We hugged the East China Sea while going north.  It has postcards views of the sea all along the route.  The government has also completed some expansive and expensive traffic tunnels that made the trip to Cape Hedo much quicker than it would have been back in the day when traffic had to traverse the hills that occasionally stop abruptly right at the ocean's edge.  (Okinawa is so much more modern and efficient than it was forty years ago!)

Our trip back south was on the Pacific side of the island.  We saw a few nice beaches, but basically the highway tended to be more inland than Highway 58 is heading north.   About halfway down the length of the island we cut across to the new Okinawan Expressway and finished our outing with a much appreciated burst of speed.
Surf at Cape Hedo

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Pet Fee

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

 I had to call Die Nasty Housing this afternoon to get some information for my friend who is moving to Okinawa in January and will be camping out at my place until she can find her own.  I needed to know what my official street address is.  (I get most of my mail on base and have never had a need to know the street address.)  I learned that it is a surprisingly brief string of three numerals and one short, hyphenated word - nothing more.

After getting the address information from Chatty Cathy, I asked her about the extra housing charge if I were to acquire a little dog.  She thought that was a wonderful idea and told me that the one-time pet fee would only be 30,000 yen.  That is over three hundred dollars in real money!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter, Okinawan Style

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Okay, fifty degrees isn't cold by real world standards, and I doubt that it was any colder than that here on the island of Okinawa today, but fifty degrees being pushed along by ocean breezes can feel damned cold!  I walked two blocks to the base convenience store this afternoon, hunkered down, hands in pockets, teeth chattering.  When I got there I ran into one of my co-workers who had driven the two blocks.  "I'm not walking in this weather!"  She declared crisply!

The Christmas trees have arrived on island and are being sold on base at the Base Exchange (BX).   (Where they have arrived from, I have no idea!)  Holiday decorations are going up.  It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Or, more realistically, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Language Barrier

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

I get my television through a Japanese satellite system.  I have two remote controls that allow me to turn the television on and off, raise and lower the volume, and change the channels.  I'm certain that the remotes probably have many more functions, but all of their buttons are labeled in Japanese kanji script which is eerily reminiscent of the art work that my chickens used scratch in the barn lot - and I didn't understand the chicken messages either!

Last night my television service was interrupted when I accidentally bumped into the table on which the television resides, and, try as I might by pushing every possible button and combination of buttons on both remotes, I succeeded only is getting the music stations and the "promo" channel - and the promo channel is in complete oral and written Japanese.

When I tried to get one of my regular channels, a text box appeared on the screen that undoubtedly was meant to inform the viewer of what the malfunction was and how to correct it.  But, again, the information was written in kanji.  What is a misplaced hillbilly to do?

I called my housing agents this morning, Die Nasty Housing, and they in turned called Norman, the fellow who installed my satellite dish four months ago.  Norman is Okinawan, but he had several years of English instruction in school and is good for dealing with the Americans who aren't smart enough to learn Japanese.  I am waiting patiently for Norman to make a house call.  Allah knows what that will cost, but at least I will have my noisy distraction once again operational!

Why can't they make remedial remotes with diagrams and English instruction for those of us who mistakenly grew up thinking that the world revolved around America?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Big Korean Wedding!

by Pa Rock
Special Seating for One Set of Parents.
World Traveler

The attached are photos of the preparations for a Korean Wedding that was being held on the grounds of the Korean War Memorial the day that I was there.  The family or families had hired a company to come in and set up for the event, and their truck was off to one side.  I wasn't officially invited - so I didn't bring a gift!

The Bride's Conveyance
The Groom's Conveyance

The Wedding Altar
Wedding Altar at a Distance with Seating on the
Right and left

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Adventure Continues

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Saturday mornings on Okinawa are when I usually concentrate on getting my chores done that can't be accomplished during the work week.  This morning was busy as I putted from task to task in my little golden car.

The first stop was at my landlord's office - Dynasty or "Die Nasty" Housing, depending on how pissed I happen to be at them when I make one of my sporadic visits.  Today wasn't too bad.  I took in what I thought was my gas bill - which they pay.  Although I have taken this same piece of paper in for several months running, today they finally told me that it wasn't really a bill, just a statement as to how much the bill was going to be, and I could quit bringing it in because they receive the actual bill directly.  Better late than never with that tidbit, I suppose.  They must be getting tired of seeing me so often!

The second stop was at the Kadena Base Exchange (BX) where I was accosted in the parking lot by some industrious Boy Scouts who sold me a bag of caramel popcorn for twenty dollars!  Opportunities for kids to do things on this island are not as readily available as they are in the States so I felt the need to do my part - even if the Boys Scouts are a fascist organization who keep their gay members stashed in the closet!

Once inside the BX I visited the AU Telephone Company to see about getting a cell phone.  There are only two cell phone companies on the island.  The other is called Soft Bank, and that is who I had my original cell phone service with.  Soft Bank has crappy reception, so, after getting mad and cancelling my service with them several weeks ago, I decided that I would try AU this time.

There were three people working at the AU counter including one man who stayed silent and must have been some sort of office manager, one man who was loud and spoke decent English, and a very timid young Okinawan girl.  The girl must have been on the other two's shit list because they gave me to her.  Poor thing.

The sales girl (and she was just a girl)  spoke very limited English and what she did say was in a whisper.  Of course, the more she whispered, the louder I got.  (That's an American thing:  when you can't understand someone, speak louder.)  I told her I wanted the cheapest phone and the cheapest plan, fully realizing that  it could not possibly be that simple.  And it wasn't.  She showed me one phone that was "free," and then started tapping on her calculator to show me how much the free phone would cost.  She showed me a figure.  I told her that I didn't understand.  She tapped on her calculator again and showed me another figure.

Then came the questions.  Did I use internet?  Not on my phone.  How much text messaging would I need?  None, I don't text.  (That answer seemed to concern her greatly.)  Did I know the phone numbers of three friends for my "free" calls?

"Let me explain," I said as calmly as I could.  I want a telephone, a cheap telephone with a cheap plan!"

At that point the loud male who spoke English stepped forward to give the girl a break.  I asked him, as politely as I could, if they sold any telephones and plans without gimmicks.  "No, sir."  He replied.  I took a brochure and left, feeling as though I had won the day by not having a stroke in their store!

Next I strolled into the vendor's section of the BX just to look around.  There were many nice things out on display for holiday shopping.   I stopped at a little incense stand and purchased a box of Nag Champa - a stick of which is incensing my living room as I type.  (Molly and Millie, I'm thinking of you!)

With my holiday shopping finished and in the mail, and realizing that I bought myself a total of two postcards while in Korea, I decided to explore a few more shops and see if I could find something for myself.  Some friends at work are talking about establishing a "game" night - which served as my excuse to buy a really sweet Maj Jong set.  The mamasan who sold it to me, an elderly Okinawan lady who lived in Nashville, Tennessee, for several years with her GI husband, was so excited to make the sale that she gave me a very nice lady's fan for my "wife."

Lunch was at the Burger King in the BX Food Court, and then I headed south.  I stopped at Lester Hospital to pick up insulin syringes only to learn that I would have to come back Monday.   From Lester it was on south another mile to Camp Foster, where, for the first time since I have been frequenting the place, Gate 4 was closed.  I had to find another way into the base - which I did - and then reported to Gunner's Fitness Center where I marched on the evil treadmill for one hour = 3.55 miles.  My final stop was also at Camp Foster at their Post Exchange (PX) where I was after a small filing cabinet and some file folders.  They had several cabinets, but no letter-sized folders.  I wound up making do with something else.

I took a different Gate out of Camp Foster and managed to quickly get lost.  I toured the city of Chatan for about fifteen minutes until I finally worked my way back to Highway 58, just blocks from my apartment.

I plan to spend the rest of the day recuperating from my Saturday morning adventures - recuperating and doing laundry!

More From the Korean War Memorial

Replica of an Ancient Korean Boat
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Here are a couple of more photos from the Korean War Memorial.  This place is a must for military and history enthusiasts.
Replica of Machine Used to Breech FortressWalls
Diorama of a Refugee Tent During Korean War
Large Oil Painting of Market Day in Old Busan

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cooler Days

Fighter Plane from Korean War
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Today it was significantly cooler on Okinawa, undoubtedly a forerunner of the mild Okinawan winter.  I don't have the official reading, but my guess is that the temperature topped out at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.   There was also a nice cool breeze.

Big Guns and Rocketry from Korean War
Attached are another installment of Korean pictures.  These are from the Korean War Memorial which is located just down the road (less than two blocks) from the Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul.  The memorial is actually a museum with exhibits of various types of planes, rockets, boats, and trucks outside, and displays and dioramas throughout the interior of the large building.  It focuses on all wars in which Korea played a role.  More will follow over the next day or two.
Truck Specially Equipped to Load Planes During
the Korean War
"Semi-Submarine" Used by North Korean Guerillas in an
Attempt to Slip into Busan Harbor on 3 Dec 1983

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm Back!

View of Seoul Tower on an Icy Day
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

After several days without my home internet connection, I am finally reconnected and ready to get back to publishing photos from my recent trip to Korea.  Here are a few more.  Enjoy!
View From Seoul Tower on a Crappy Day

Christmas Trees Made of Padlocks
Outside of Seoul Tower

Close-up of the Padlock Trees