There is so much to do. Gas, electricity, water, air conditioning, in and out, sign new lease, un-sign old lease, move out of Onna son, move into Ginowan officially, change address on resident’s card and driving license, and so much more. In Japan, each step involves lots of paperwork but this is no burden as, as usual, everyone is super helpful and grin, giggle throughout each step. I think I am doing OK and feel quite pleased with myself.
Luckily, the weather has been windy, 15 -20 knots, which is enough for cowards like me to decide it is probably best not to venture out single handed. It is also very hot 32 degrees most days, which makes even routine maintenance on the boat hellish. Good conditions for bureaucracy.
One step is to set up a new internet connection to the Ginowan apartment. I go to Docomo, well known Japanese internet, phone, folks.
With great efficiency, fun and courtesy, they set me up with an 1Gbps signal.
Do you, dear readers, appreciate this incredible speed? In the center of San Francisco, I can only get 70 Mbps, which they hawk as high speed broadband.
The Docomo guy, whose name is KJ san, negligently drops the bomb that in a couple of months this signal will go to 10 Gbps. Insane!
During all this, I have great lunches with great people.
After weeks of disheartening search, suddenly I have a new apartment in Ginowan. I signed the lease.
I am so pleased. It is in a very shabby building with ghastly views but it is walking distance from 3 supermarkets, a million restaurants, 10 minutes on the bike to the boat, 5 minutes to the sea. I am so looking forward to living in the city after nine and a half years of being out in the very beautiful sticks.
Here is a preview.
It is much bigger than than my current place and super cheap. I look forward to entertaining.
Many thanks to Arisa san who has been so energetic and encouraging during the search. Without her help I would have given up weeks ago!
Lots to do; cancel contract on current apartment, cancel gas, electricity, water, fire insurance, organize movers, officially move out of Onna, officially move into Ginowan, set up gas, electricity, water, set up super high speed internet, get AC installed in new place. All this in a language that I do not speak. May sound daunting but it is stuff like this that teaches you so much about another country. I am looking forward to it. I am blessed with wonderful Japanese friends who will help me.
After the meal we chat a bit by the cars. Short chat as it has been and still is very hot with high humility. I vaguely remember placing my wallet on the car roof. I then drive 6 kms to Toya fishing harbor to buy a fat fish. Trying to pay for the fat fish, I realize my wallet is not in my pocket. I rush back to my car and find my wallet still on the roof of the car! Phew.
Anyway, I go to the dentist to have a crown fitted. This should be the last visit for this tooth, just glue down the new crown. I have had a lot of crowns fitted in various countries and it is normally 15/20 minutes of adjusting and Bob is your uncle. I had forgotten about the attention to detail of Japanese dentistry. Two nurses and a dentist fiddle and file and fit and remove and that sort of thing for over an hour. They then say they are not satisfied and will make a completely new crown; come back next week. Normally, you pay before you leave but they charge me nothing.
After the dentist I head down to Ginowan and visit an amazing wine shop. It is tiny but this is Japan. The owner is the more than delightful Hanada san who is wildly enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
I buy a 2007 Bordeaux. I ask if she sells wine glasses as I have broken all mine. She gives me two as a present.
I have been trying to find an apartment in Ginowan close to the Marina. I am so fed up of driving up and down the island. Arisa san has been super helpful and we have probably visited 10 places, none of which worked out. Mainly because I did not like them but the ones I did like fell through with the message, “We do not rent to foreigners.” I try not to get angry when faced with such clear racism but it was beginning to get to me.
After the wine shop, I went into one of the estate agents’ offices. Saya san says come with me Ryutaro san. She shows me a great place, very old, very Japanese, very close to the boat. I fill in the application. I ask if being a Gaijin would be a problem. She said no. Fingers crossed, I am looking forward to a new phase of Okinawanism.
The Government has announced that the Rainy Season is now over, so everything is OK. I am slightly unconvinced but celebrate by covering the cockpit lockers with a new layer of non slip stuff.
On Saturday we go sailing. It is very sunny, very hot and very windy. Harry, Alisa, Arisa, dog Beau and I go out.
We put in a reef. The wind is about 12 knots but very gusty. We reach out into deep water, eating black truffle chips or crisps. We then head up the coast at a steady 5 knots.
We turn around and once again the boat surprises us by her ability to to point high into the wind. It is a wonderful sail. The conditions are excellent, the boat is powerful, the Roseate and Black Naped Terns are diving all around us, we heel alarmingly in the gusts but Harry is an experienced helmsman and no-one is frightened.
Great day on the water.
During the night my apartment building trembles and shudders.
Next day, the lunch is to say bye bye to Sarah, an adorable colleague from OIST. She returns to the U.S. in July.
I will need a car so I contact Naoko, who rings in the evening of the accident to tell me that she has fixed for a car to arrive at OIST at 10:00 the next morning, Sunday. She is super efficient. She will pick me up at 9:30.
Naoko is a very spiritual person. She is very worried about me and explains that I have left part of my soul behind during the accident. I must go through a ceremony to restore that part of my soul otherwise the rest of my life will be damaged.
Okinawa has its own system of spiritual beliefs based on ancestor worship, which is still very much respected. Naoko, is a very good friend and we worked gleefully together for about 6 years. She is a priestess, her title is Kaminchu. She is not able to do the ceremony herself and asks Miki san, who is an Uta, to take charge.
Naoko takes me to a quiet place overlooking the sea, outside the OIST campus where she sets up an altar with incense, sake, and rice sweets. Miki san is on the phone giving instructions.
So, my attempts to describe and explain the ceremony will probably fail. I do not think the vocabulary necessarily exists in English, even the concept of soul is probably not accurate. However I hope to remain completely respectful.
Miki san’s spirits are in communication with both Naoko’s and my spirits. She explains I was seconds from death but was saved by a very powerful intervention by my Mother’s spirits and also spirits of Nature. My Mother’s spirit was there and guarded me.
Miki san explained that I had travelled around the world walking in and looking at Nature. My presence had been beneficial to Nature, the Nature spirits wished to protect me.
She told me that I had been thinking of death immediately before the accident – true. She continued that my soul had been damaged three times and not healed. These three wounds to my soul manifest as different colors, green, blue and translucent. The green and blue were the two car crashes, one in California 5 years ago and the blue, the crash yesterday. She had no information on the translucent.
Both Naoko and Miki san feel strong pain in their left temples.
Naoko kneels in front of me, I am seated on a bench. The atmosphere is very intense and there is not the slightest hint of chalatanry. Suddenly Naoko catches an invisible but clearly heavy weight. This she slams onto my chest over my heart. The weight is the green, blue and translucent wounds to my souls. These had been left behind but were now restored.
I had to place the rice sweets in a location designated by Naoko and also sprinkle the sake. The incense I had to take with me.
Naoko then prepared packages of salt, one she kept, one I keep, one stays in my rental car. We then drove down to the wrecker’s yard where she sprinkled salt on what is left of the car.
Thank you Okinawa. I feel honored that you cared enough to heal me.
The next thing I know a car overtaking me skids and swerves broadside in front of me. It takes a millisecond for me to slam straight into it. The shock is immense, the bang and crumple is very loud. Some physics vector catapults me across the expressway, I think my foot is still on the accelerator as it happened so fast and I smash into the crash barriers. The second shock is worse than the first and bits of car spray off in all directions. Physics takes over again and we career down and across the expressway luckily in the direction of the hard shoulder. The car is now lurching from side to side with the wheels loosing contact with the road. I am so scared that it will flip. I have no control over the car, the steering and brakes have been wrecked. We grind to a halt some 70 meters from the point of original collision. The car is steaming and hissing and the alarm has gone off. This was utterly terrifying. I thought I was going to die.
However miraculously I am unharmed!
Liquids pour out, I fear fire.
People stop to make sure I am Ok. I ask about the other driver and apparently he is Ok too. Thank God.
Debris scattered all over.
The police arrive quickly and are super efficient. A fire truck and ambulances also show up. I am not hurt but I am very shaken. A police man asks me to write down my phone number but I can’t. My hand is shaking too much! There are language difficulties but I have already called Arisa who arrives quickly. She is wonderful and the police are as pleased to see her as I am. The other driver is taken off in an ambulance. He has just phoned me to apologize. Nice guy, he has to stay at home for a week but will be Ok.
With Arisa’s help we establish what happened with the police and then they call a tow truck.
Arisa drives me home. Thanks Arisa.
I have a little lie down.
On the bright side, I never liked that truck. It was too big, heavy and clumsy for Okinawa and guzzled gas. I was also going to buy a new set of tires this week, so the crash saved me a lot of money!
Good luck has followed me throughout my life. Well, not so lucky to be in the accident but given the shocking violence and power of the crash, I am certainly lucky to be alive.
I saw a strange thing this morning; kids going to school. Okinawa is pretty much back to normal, no state of emergency, no new cases.
I rather miss the lockdown, doing very little with no guilt. One thing I did a lot of, was shaving.
I had a beard for many years but shaved it off in Mexico. I fiddled around with disposable plastic razors but they went blunt very quickly and were environmentally unacceptable. Just before I left San Francisco, I bought a traditional safety razor, made in Sheffield. It is wonderful. It has a real sense of purpose and great heft. The blades come from Japan and are very sharp and long lived.
I remember as a very young boy having to carry my Father’s boiling hot shaving water in the designated shaving mug from the kitchen to the upstairs bathroom. I recall the dread of stumbling on the stairs and scalding water splashing over my legs. I wore shorts until I was 13.
Previously I have always shaved in haste, late for work, stuff to do. During lockdown, I spent hours shaving with exquisite sensuality.
I pour the boiling water into the mug and lather up my face with thick shaving soap and repeated dips of the brush into the very hot water. This goes on for at least 5 minutes. The internet told me that the secret to successful shaving is the same as painting a boat, preparation is everything. The more liquid the whiskers absorb, the softer they become and so fall before the slicing Japanese blade with no resistance.
I start on the neck with relatively long strokes, exulting in the slight rasp as whiskers are sectioned. Then the cheeks, this is easy stuff compared to the care that must be taken on the upper lip and the curve of the chin, which take great patience and delicacy. If everything goes well the face is super smooth and clean with no blood.
Anyway, the whole process takes about 30 minutes and I enjoy it immensely. I wonder if I will go back to slapdashery now that lockdown is over.
The dentist has reopened and this morning I go for the first of what will be many visits as the teeth in my lower left jaw have disintegrated. On the way home, I stop at various birding spots.
I get a personal letter from Donald Trump. He also sends me a cheque for $1200.
As you can see from the great excitement generated by the title, I have not been doing much. This I have been enjoying as I find I am naturally lazy and very good at amusing myself.
However the state of emergency has been called off in Okinawa, one case in 20 days I think, and I shake off dull sloth a bit. Readers will remember the many wonderful picnics that have been had on the boat. Future picnics were endangered as the table became unstable and dipped alarmingly.
The problem was a sleeve in the supporting arm had worn out allowing considerable play resulting in the end of the table moving up and down by 20 cms or so. As the Chinese proverb says, “You can’t eat off a moving table.” I am very pleased with myself because I was able to track down the Swedish company that made the table and found replacement sleeves on their website. I order 4. They cost 12 euros. Shipping is 50 euros! I have no choice, I must picnic.
The new sleeve does not fit! I sand and grease. Finally the sleeve slides in, er with the help of a hammer.
I am so pleased that my table is stable again!
I had a colonoscopy at Chubu Hospital. This is always fun and I appear to be cancer free. Hooray!
No state of emergency, we have a dinner celebration, suitably distanced, for two birthdays and the opening of a new pottery studio. A wonderful evening with 5 star food.