Bunnies

Yesterday was the start of the new year; the Year of the Rabbit, A very cuddly year to you all.

We celebrated with an epic picnic on the boat.

Albrecht and Martine show up from Switzerland!

We pass a wonderful afternoon.

Martine, Tomomi, Ichiro, me and Kano san.
Octopus coctel.

Kiyuna san and his doggie Jacko arrive.

Kiyuna san and Albrecht ponder important stuff
Tomomi does the cooking – thanks!
She keeps the sizzling lamb chops coming. We eat lots! Delicious!
Wonderful afternoon
We did not eat this Pacific Golden Plover
I finally track down silver polish.

Ginowan, the town where I live, has lots of little specialist shops.

This guy only sells leather. He cuts me a nice chunk for my gaff jaws.
High time I replaced the old stuff
This lady does every sort of clothing repair and alteration. She recently darned moth holes in one of my woolen sweaters. Amazing job – impossible to find the darns.

Ginowan is a nice place to live.

Happy New Year
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I Did It My Way

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.

I go to Izumi which is a bit North of Kagoshima. It is the wintering ground for thousands of cranes. Apparently 80%of Asia’s Hooded Cranes winter there. https://www.google.com/maps/@32.1028334,130.2728827,737m/data=!3m1!1e3

Hooded Crane

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.

Hooded Crane on the ground. Click twice on all photos.

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.

A family of White Naped Cranes, mum, dad and sulky teenager.

We are right on the coast, which means only one thing – seafood!

There was also a plate of sashimi, so good, so cheap ~ $14.

There are lots of other birds.

Northern Lapwing. Look at the colors on his/her back!
GreyHeron
Shelduck
Grilled sprats – delicious!
Broad billed Crow
Intermediate Egret
Hot, deep fried sweet potato for lunch snack – delicious!
Black eared Kite

One day I ramble over to Nagashima. Wonderful sea views.

https://www.google.com/maps/@32.1842546,130.1016436,26946m/data=!3m1!1e3

Winter

Nagashima birds.

Brown Booby – miles out at sea.
Japanese White Eye doing yoga
Eurasian Teal

That night I stay in an Onsen Hotel. It is the best place, book now. https://www.nukumorino-yu.com

I wallow in the steaming hot water and the sauna. Japanese men have no shame in nakedness, I am bashful.

After an hour in the Onsen.

I have to go back to Kagoshima. I notice a little restaurant with drawings of fish displayed. It is lunchtime.

Vegetable and fish tempura, sashimi, fish head, fish soup, rice, pickles, pork with vegetables, salad, fruit all exquisitely prepared and presented. One of the all time great lunches. 2000 yen.

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.

Wave at the White naped Crane

A truly wonderful trip.

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Just Birds

Sorry, just birds, with a bit of fish.

I return to the stinking Triangular Pond so beloved by birds. https://www.google.com/maps/place/Triangle+Pond/@26.1720552,127.6541474,893m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x34e569efb7fbab57:0x465dddfa94de705c!8m2!3d26.1720552!4d127.6563361

The Black faced Spoonbill loves the stench. It is a truly rare bird. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-faced_spoonbill I am so lucky to have such birds so near.

Shorter hours, better pay. You must click twice on all these bad photos to gain maximum joy.

The light is still very dull but I thrill to see the birds. I dread that old men staring at young birds will soon transgress a rule of decency. I get away with it for the moment.

Great White Egret amongst Spoonbills. You must double click on these photos to get super hi-res views,
Northern Shoveler who didn’t get what he wanted for Xmas
Black backed Stilt hopes the Black Ferns style of rugby becomes contagious.
Mrs Shoveler
VADE RETRO SATANA 
Great White Egret contemplates 2023
Scruffy Eurasian Teal

I love watching birds.

On my way home I stop off at the Tomari Fish Market to get some hours old fish for dinner.

Huge lobster, difficult to get the scale but as Burns would have it is “as lang’s my arm”
Normal Lobsters
Slabs of Tuna.

Happy New Year everybody!

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Fresh Bread

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.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Yamagami+Bakery/@26.2898017,127.754021,16z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x34e513327b6f62fd:0x2aa3869cf32fd778!8m2!3d26.2878968!4d127.7550942

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.

One drawback with Japanese bakeries is that they open at 10:00 – too late for breakfast.
Stroll to the bakery. Super clean and the stream is full of fish.
Fresh loaf of bread, croissant, pain au chocolate and a fried chicken and egg roll.

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

Taken from my terrace.

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!

Pork, Beef, Chicken
Camembert in olive oil and garlic

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.

Such a satisfying job.

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 know, it makes me uneasy too to see a hiking boot on a tatami mat but I was only trying them on

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.

Mrs Eurasian Teal
Grey Heron
Black Faced Spoonbill wakes up for a scratch
Mr and Mrs Eurasian Teal sleep it off.

Lots of birds but terrible light. maybe there will be some sun tomorrow.

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What a Happy Time!

Xmas approaches and it is still very cold by our standards. I spot something that I never thought I would see on Okinawa – a hot water bottle!

Hard to believe.
Pacific Golden Plover dreaming of hot water bottles

Anyway on Xmas Day we have a fantastic dinner at my place. Few people have ovens on Okinawa so traditional roast turkeys and geese are out. Instead, we have a Mexican/ Spanish extravaganza.

Menu:

Aperitif – Manzanilla de Sevilla

Coctel de Pulpo – http://www.comidamexicana.com/recetas/item/338/coctel-de-pulpo – Champagne

Tacos de Carne Asada, Lengua, Tripas and Pescado – Champagne

Paella – Rioja

Okinawan Salad – Champagne

Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter – none of us can drink anymore

Dundee Cake – various Japanese tisanes.

It is a staggeringly delicious and fun meal!

Coctel de Pulpo. Just add the cold Clamato!
Saora san and Izumi sensei cook up taco meats.
We gorge on tacos
Paella! with Naoko’s delicious salad, it it skillfully interlayered with salad and tuna. A healthy millefeuilles.
Christmas Pudding!
Arisa, Izumi, Manami Sophia, Naoko! Ichiro, Saora, Tomomi. I am so lucky to have such talented and funny friends. A singer, a professor of neuroscience, a university administrator, an artist, a Yachimun potter, an ikebana sensei. So much more I could add!
Tomomi san bakes a delicious Dundee cake!

Especially good to see guests of honor Naoko and her daughter, who now live in Hokkaido.

Everybody brings something and the cooking is communal, much glee.

Yep

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Freezing!

Well, not really but very cold for Okinawa.

It went down to 11 yesterday. The island is in shock

I actually like this as I can wear a sweater and even socks!

The engine is fixed!

Thunka, thunk

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 wood glugs down teak oil.
Getting better but a couple more doses I think.

The cabin is a disgrace, especially the roof.

Buy this stuff. It is instant death to mildew.
Cabin roof before
Cabin roof after.

All the painted surfaces are grimed and I patiently wash them down.

Tuna eyes, here only to mark break in this narrative.

I get this.

Google translate tells me that Ginowan city wants to give me 50,000 yen because times are hard for we old timers

Unfortunately there is a form to fill in that defeats even Google translate.

See what I mean.

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!

Invest in education!

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The Goose Is Getting Fat

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.”

High pressure water line

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.

Notice belt.

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.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Isa+Post+Office/@26.2900926,127.7519198,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x34e513321e552b85:0xc423973c37e6b243!8m2!3d26.2900393!4d127.7545323

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.

The Post Office. The 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.

No longer!

Oh no

Now everything has to be done online through an app.

I try but fail totally. Click on image a couple of times to get a close up.

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!

Happy official Post Office poster
Another – so playful!

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!

An octopus

Living is easy in Japan.

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La Foule

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.

So annoying especially at 02;00.

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?”

“Now”

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.

Very nice guy

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.

The cylinder is packed with ancient stones.
Curative
Job done, he roars off on his 1945 Harley.

So Jiang Zemin has died. I met him. He visited CERN and went to see the L 3 experiment, conceived, built and led by the redoubtable Sam Ting. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_C._C._Ting

L3

Emportez par la foule, excuse poor grammar but I can’t find accents on my Japanese keyboard, I end up standing beside him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvijcuD6lbU Hey watch on YouTube. You will not regret it.
Yep. She died a year later

The conversation went like this.

“It is very big.”

“Yes it is very big”

“It is red”

“Yes it is red”

” I do not understand”

” No, no”

Most powerful man in the world. Probably.

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Music to my Ears

The engine repair is nearing completion.

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.

Tripod and hoist

Anyway, I come back a couple of days later and it is installed.

Snug

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.

Music to my ears!

There are still a few jobs to do but the end is in sight, I think.

Nice dry bilges.

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.

My ring

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.

Chips

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!

Kinjo sensei, a dab hand with the auger and ratchet.

It is not much fun but passes the time. There are several more procedures before the whole thing is finished.

Spot the implant.
Unusual selfie

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.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Villa+Muse+Okinawa+(旧称:屋我地あんさんぶる)/@26.6725986,128.0179498,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m8!3m7!1s0x34e457f0424fe00d:0x36e34b5e8d206cad!5m2!4m1!1i2!8m2!3d26.6725938!4d128.0201385

Ryukyu Robin
Benny Weed
Tomomi san with one of her Ikebana works

Off to an afternoon of Sibelius. A friend plays in the orchestra. Amazing new concert hall in Naha. Wonderful performances.

Music to my ears

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.

Thank you Kitty

Oh yes, Japan beat Spain! They top their group that included Germany and Spain. I am so proud of Japan!

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Smorgasbord 

Just lots of bits of pieces that I will enjoy remembering when I am very old.

The weather has been a bit gloomy.

It is raining. Glamorous Isa from my terrace! You will notice that the great fish restaurant across the road did not survive Covid. There is now a meat restaurant! Haven’t been yet.

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.

Traditional
Okinawa

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.

Leafbare

As soon as I get back, it perks up and immediately new leaf buds pop up on all the main branches.

One of many, even in late November

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.

We have a joyful evening! Thank you Teruya san, a great Okinawan.

My plughole. Not the most interesting subject you might think but it gives me great gratification. There are many layers of subtlety.

What you see.
Inside there is a big plastic basket filter into which you place a very fine net pouch.

When mood takes you, pull out the pouch and bin it.

I usually let the pouch fill more.

I have just bought a new packet of pouches, of which there is a vast range of choice at the 100yen store.

Clear instructions.
I place a new net – so gratifying!

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.

Spot the dog shit. Actually, the square looks unusually clean. Normally it was strewn with garbage.

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.

High performance model. Thanks Kiyuna san!
Always good to have some handy.
Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work I go.
Lunch as I write. 564 yen from San A
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