I am feeling fairly smug as I write this in Kagoshima airport. I am on my way back home to Okinawa after the first mainland jaunt that I have organized all by myself. In the old days I was very well looked after and adorable people organized my travel and such, leaving me childlike once that support evaporated. I have tried in the past to set up jaunts but have always given up. Complex websites in Japanese for hotel, flight, rental car, bookings soon drained me of ambition.
This time I booked my own flights, a rental car and 3 different hotels with no help. I feel this is a turning point. Many more adventures loom.
The designated crane watching building is remarkable as it is surrounded by thousands of cranes. But when it comes to photography you really want to get as close as possible. This is not a problem as the fields surrounding the center are full of cranes who seem indifferent to my presence as I crawl around in my little car.
There are two species of crane, Hooded and White Naped. They are both very big birds! It is such a pleasure to see so many, so close.
We are right on the coast, which means only one thing – seafood!
There are lots of other birds.
One day I ramble over to Nagashima. Wonderful sea views.
I wallow in the steaming hot water and the sauna. Japanese men have no shame in nakedness, I am bashful.
I have to go back to Kagoshima. I notice a little restaurant with drawings of fish displayed. It is lunchtime.
Anyway, I could post a lot more photos but you have probably got the idea. I love birdwatching and photography. In my dotage, I find few things really excite me, much have I travelled in the realms of gold, but birds spotting and trying to get a good shot is still so enthralling.
A couple of vignettes of Japanese sweetness.
When I check out of the Onsen, all the reception staff and the manageresse come out to say goodbye. They help me put on my hiking boots, which are kept in a locker outside the onsen. They chortle and grin, “Come back Neil san! Happy New Year, Neil san!” No being cool, no innuendo, just happy people being sweet.
I look out of the airplane window as we slowly pull away from the gate at Kagoshima airport. All the ground staff and baggage handlers are in a line. They bow in unison then grin and wave until the plane moves out of sight.
One of the things that surprised me most when I came to Okinawa was the number of excellent bakeries. I had never associated Japan with bread and croissants. When I moved to Ginowan the outstanding Hoppepan bakery was just up the road.
To my distress, it moved as there was not enough parking for the devoted clientele.
I have lived in Ginowan for nearly two and a half years but did not know that there is another bakery, Yamagami Bakery. just 5 minutes walk away.
True it is hidden in a nondescript cluster of apartment buildings and there is no sign, but all the same I am astonished I have not spotted it before.
There used to be a good fish restaurant just across the road from my place.
Covid killed it but it has been replaced by a meat restaurant
We finally go. It is more like an izakaya that a thoroughbred restaurant. You can drink as much as you want for 90 minutes for 1500 yen!
It is OK but I prefered the fish restaurant.
I am lucky enough to have a beautiful mahogany table. I have spent a long time cleaning and waxing it.
I am planning two trips to the mainland, one to Izumi in Kagoshima to see cranes and then to Northern Hokkaido to see Steller’s Eagles and White tailed Eagles. Sub zero temperatures and snow in both places. I only have sandals and flip flops. Next to the marina is a huge sports store where I buy a fantastic and very expensive pair of waterproof hiking boots. They have my size! I am so proud of my new boots.
I take a friend to the airport. I like doing this as not far away is the famous triangle pond home of many birds; in particular the extraordinarily rare Black Faced Spoonbill. There are lots; in fact more than I have ever seen together at one time. Alas it is the gloomiest of days and all the birds have been partying very hard and are now fast asleep trying to slough off bad hangovers. Not great for dazzling bird photos.
Lots of birds but terrible light. maybe there will be some sun tomorrow.
I actually like this as I can wear a sweater and even socks!
The engine is fixed!
I start the massive clean up. The boat is filthy. All internal spaces are black with mildew and all the wood is dry and grey.
The cabin is a disgrace, especially the roof.
All the painted surfaces are grimed and I patiently wash them down.
I get this.
Unfortunately there is a form to fill in that defeats even Google translate.
I go up to the Ginowan Town Hall to beg help. Everyone is adorable and help me fill in the form with lots of laughter and smiles. I point out that I do not really need this money. “Happy Xmas Neil san ” they chortle.
All Japanese school kids carry a satchel. I am amazed how much they cost!
Japan do not qualify for the quarter finals but they have been magnificent. In some ways, through their joyful play, sportsmanship, good manners and of course the behavior of their fans, Japan won the tournament.
There has been nothing but praise here in Japan. Other countries might turn on their players and management when in defeat. Not here, it is just respect and thanks.
Some more stuff about how nice it is to live in Okinawa. When in the housing office, Tomiya Housing by the way, I notice a sign that indicates that they can organize, cleaning and servicing of air-conditioning units. Mine have been blowing away for getting on for 3 years, so I ask Sumiya san if she can get a technician to come round my place. A couple of minutes on the phone, “Neil san, two technicians will be there at 09:00 tomorrow.”
Two very cool young guys, wearing classic Japanese tool belts, show up at exactly 09:00. They are happy, smiling and of course extremely polite.
To avoid getting under their feet, I go to the Post Office, 5 mins walk away, to send off Xmas stuff to the family in UK.
If you do street view in the Post Office photos and scroll to the right, you can see my apartment building. It has a blue box on the roof.
Conveniently sister Rosy and husband Barry hold a big family get together at Xmas so I can send everything in one box.
This used to be relatively straightforward; pack all the trinkets in Japan Post Office box, fill in a reasonably simple form and that was that.
Now everything has to be done online through an app.
Although the instructions in English are clear, it does not work out like that and I get horribly lost. In the end I despair and give up. One of the ladies behind the counter notices my desperation and comes to see if everything is dai jo bu. I explain in useless Japanese and mime and Google translate that I am abandoning. “On no!” she says, ” Little children want Santa Claus come. They be very happy!”
She gets an IPad and does everything for me. This takes a really long time as you now have to describe each item and state its value. There are probably 20 knick-knacks in the box! The Post Office is very busy but she concentrates on getting my package sent. So kind!
Thanks so much Japanese Post Office lady.
I charge back to the apartment. I have taken much, much longer than I thought and expect the repair A/C guys to be understandably annoyed. Silly me, they are waiting patiently, all smiles. No charge!
Sitting in front of my computer I am disturbed by a recurrent beep. Where is it coming from? I imagine it to be computer generated and so switch off and then on anything that might emanate a beep; to no avail. I look everywhere with no success. It drives me crazy! Luckily on a call with illustrious friend Naoko, it starts beeping. She recognizes it as the fire alarm asking for its battery to be changed.
I try to open the device to change the battery but can’t. I worry abut breaking it. I go to Tomiya Housing who are my sort of landlord. They are so sweet! A young lady, Sumika san, who speaks impeccable English, organizes for someone to come and fix the difficulty.
“When do you think this person can come?”
I ask where she learned English.
” I was at school in Vevey in Switzerland.”
You never know.
The guy follows me to my apartment and installs new fire detectors in every room.
Everything is fixed within an hour of me walking into the office. This is living in Japan. There is no charge. It is the owner’s responsibility.
Kiyuna san worries about my health. He comes to my apartment to install a device which he has designed and built that turns, what he refers to as dead tap water, into living healing water. Well, you know, give it a go.
Kiyuna san does the work on the cockpit floor. How is he going to lift it into the engine compartment?He has a hoist which lifts it and lowers it but how to move it the meter or so forward to position it over the engine mountings is a mystery to me.
Anyway, I come back a couple of days later and it is installed.
I ask Kiyuna san how he did it but he evades my questions. I can only go back to his, “I am not a mechanic, I am a magician!”
What’s more it works.
There are still a few jobs to do but the end is in sight, I think.
I mention that since my trip to Mexico earlier this year I have had recurrent bouts of diarrhea. Kiyuna san says he knows and will fix it. The next day he gives my a black ring that he has made. I must keep pressed against my stomach.
I try to to understand how it works but Kiyuna san cannot explain. I doubt the concepts, let alone the vocabulary, exist in English. I am wearing as I write. Give it a go.
I spend a lot of my time listening to the 3rd volume of Henry “Chips” Channon’s diaries. It covers 1943 to 1957. It is an amazing document. It should be required reading at all schools. It details the life and behavior of the British ruling classes. He is a wonderful writer.
I do not know how much of this behavior still exists. Maybe more than I thought given the recent resignation of a long time Lady in Waiting. An incident that would fit seamlessly into the diaries. No wonder Meghan Markle skidaddled straight back to California.
The time has come for another dental implant!
It is not much fun but passes the time. There are several more procedures before the whole thing is finished.
The next day, feeling one degree under, I go to the opening of another exhibition by friend Kikuta Ichiro san. This time in beautiful villa resort on Yagagi island. Lots of speeches.
Off to an afternoon of Sibelius. A friend plays in the orchestra. Amazing new concert hall in Naha. Wonderful performances.
Incidentally, my friend gets me a half price ticket, 1000 yen. This is nothing. Obviously the full price is twice that, still nothing! The concert must be heavily subsidized by the Okinawan local government. Bravo Japan for supporting the arts.
On the same theme, the Ginowan town hall sends me a booklet of vouchers that I can exchange for sashimi and stuff in local shops. Hello Kitty.
Oh yes, Japan beat Spain! They top their group that included Germany and Spain. I am so proud of Japan!
Just lots of bits of pieces that I will enjoy remembering when I am very old.
The weather has been a bit gloomy.
I have been editing/proofreading a long organizational yearbook. It has been great fun. My boss and I go to breakfast for the final check.
Tim gave me a tree about 2 years ago. It is a very interesting plant. It hates it when I go away and sheds most of its leaves, even though it is well watered and in good light.
As soon as I get back, it perks up and immediately new leaf buds pop up on all the main branches.
This is a recurring cycle. I wonder why?
My friend Teruya san retires from OIST. He is a wonderful man. He has been at OIST for 19 years and was one of the very first people to work at the university. He was manager of the Community Relations Section and did an outstanding job in involving the Okinawan population in the adventure of OIST. Arisa, who also worked in Community Relations, and I take him out for a celebratory dinner.
My plughole. Not the most interesting subject you might think but it gives me great gratification. There are many layers of subtlety.
When mood takes you, pull out the pouch and bin it.
I have just bought a new packet of pouches, of which there is a vast range of choice at the 100yen store.
This cleanliness theme of course leads me to Japan and the football World Cup. What joy to beat the huge Germans, what pain to lose to Costa Rica! Japan are of course the winners following the vast coverage of Japanese fans cleaning up the stadiums. This sense of communal responsibility pervades Japanese society.
When I last lived in France, a neighbor took his massive dog for a walk each morning. Each morning, the dog took a huge dump in the beautiful square, usually outside my front door. He made no effort to clean it up.
I challenged him. “What! Are you crazy? I don’t pay taxes to pick up dog turds!”
So pleased I live in Japan.
I have a totally restored engine! Not installed but won’t be long.