Posts Tagged With: Culture

Earth Day, Nippon-Style

In three days, I am getting on a plane in Naha and making the long journey over to the US. I could not be more excited to see my friends and family in the states, but I must say that this trip makes me very nervous. I am an awful traveler; I worry about leaving my husband, furry children, and my life for almost 2 months; and, regretfully, I’m not sure I want to be in America right now. Don’t get me wrong– I am a proud American military spouse who believes in freedom, sweet tea, and the American way. But the last week has left me glued to the news, biting my fingernails in concern over the events that have transpired: potentially homegrown terrorist attacks, the explosion of a poorly regulated factory, a failed attempt on the President’s life, and a Senate that is more concerned with the NRA than the people they represent. I believe that we will pull through all of this, but watching the process unfold in such frustratingly terrifying ways from almost 10,000 miles across the world has been difficult, to say the least.

On a lighter note, I wanted to celebrate something the Japanese do very well: protecting the Earth. As today is Earth day, I thought it appropriate to discuss the Earth-friendly things I have noticed during our 6-month love affair with Okinawa.

First of all, as I discussed in my earlier post on the variety of flower festivals on Okinawa, the Okinawans celebrate their plant life like none other. With beautiful gardens and fancy tropical greenhouses dedicated to orchids, fruit trees, lilies, and many other plants; there is no shortage of daily celebrations of Okinawan flora. The Japanese have even made an art form out of cultivating beautiful little bonsai trees.

Image

In addition to this obvious reverence of the Earth, they are in general very conscious of reducing the impact of their daily routines on the Earth. Here are just a few examples: Japanese toilets have two different flushing options, depending on the type of business you’ve made there. I’ll leave the details out, but as you can imagine, one of these options uses less water than the other, making for a more Earth-friendly flush. (Now, if only I could figure out which is which)! Another common bathroom tactic they employ is to not use paper towels. Some bathrooms have hand dryers, while others have nothing at all. I realized recently that people carry hand towels in their purses to use when drying their hands, so they will never have to use paper towels! I am not so big a fan, however, of their half-ply toilet paper…

The Okinawans typically do not have what they consider unnecessary appliances in their homes, such as dishwashers and dryers. Every day I drive past tall apartment buildings with elaborate laundry hangers they use to dry everything from rugs to socks. Finally, their “do more with less” mantra manifests itself in the cars they drive. The government of Japan subsidizes driving smaller vehicles with better gas mileage through their road tax system. For example, Casey drives a Toyota Camry, which is going to cost us about $230 a year in road taxes. I drive a Daihatsu Naked, which is designated as a Kei (mini) car, and will only cost us about $30 a year because of its tiny engine. As a result, most cars on Okinawa are tiny, adorable, and environmentally friendly. Read more on this here!

Most importantly, the Okinawans recycle everything. There is a mandatory, very complicated system of recycling on the island, which on base military only kind of have to abide by. Everything placed in the trash must be burnable, and everything placed in recycling must be clean and label-free. Here is a picture of a McDonald’s trash can, where they have clearly noted the baskets each piece of your trash belongs in:Image

Everywhere you go, businesses do what they can to recycle and reduce their impact. We visited Orion brewery yesterday, and they indicated that they recycle 100% of their waste by donating, reusing, and recycling. If running a road race on Okinawa, the race workers will hand you a water cup and then pick it up off the ground where you left it so that they can dip it in bleach water and refill it for the next runner. (I could do without this one, however, because some people have gotten very sick from drinking too much bleach while trying to run a marathon…)

Overall, while not perfect, the Japanese work together to do their part to keep our Earth clean today and every day. What are you doing for our Earth?

Advertisements
Categories: Culture, Nature, Okinawa Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

I Think I’m Turning Japanese

Yesterday marked six months since we arrived here on Okinawa. I cannot believe that we have already been here that long. The time has flown by and I cannot help but worry that the rest of our time here will, too. I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the things that have surprised us about Japan throughout our 6-month relationship with it.

Our top five surprises about Okinawa:

1) I thought all of Okinawa would look like this:

P1030393

While much of Okinawa is home to the most beautiful scenery I have witnessed, a lot of it also looks like this:

P1030462

It is quite the concrete jungle. If it weren’t, it would be carried off quickly by the typhoons that wreck this island for almost half of each year. We were also surprised by how big Okinawa is! It can be hard to see on some maps, given that it is only 67 miles long by 2 to 17 miles wide. However, the island is packed with wonderful restaurants, adorable little shops, and beautiful scenic views and cultural sites. I am seriously worried we will not be able to see it all before we leave.

2) The Okinawans are basically the coolest people on the planet. They are always look about 10-15 years younger than they are because they are very active and health-conscious in all that they do. They are the most helpful, courteous, environmentally friendly people I have come across, and I am excited to learn Japanese so I can communicate with them better.

3) There are tombs all over the island. You got it, tombs. Okinawan families are both superstitious and respectful of their elders. When their family members die, they lay them to rest in a family tomb where their soul is expected to hang out for eternity. More on this later. πŸ˜‰

P1030478

4) Casey and I were both surprised by how quickly we adapted to driving on the left side of the road. This may have been the most terrifying thing about moving to Japan, and I almost cried when Casey forced me to drive out here for the first time. After a few almost critical errors, I adjusted fine. Now, whenever we watch American shows or movies, it is strange to see people driving on the right side of the road. It just looks wrong to me. Read more about our driving adventures here!

2013-03-26 16.16.48

5) I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the uniquely useful little items the Japanese have come up with to assist with even the tiniest of problems. I have no shortage of examples of this, and therefore will write more on the subject later. In the meantime, enjoy the little socks on this chair:

2013-01-27 17.28.23

There are so many things that surprised us about this place, but coming to know Okinawa has been a very exciting time in our lives. I did not choose to land here, but I am falling in love with this island. Sorry, America, but I think I’m turning Japanese. I really think so. (Sorry– I had to do it)! πŸ˜‰

May you find things and people to love wherever you are!

Always, Amanda

PS: Stay tuned for more on our Okinawan favorites! I’ll be writing complete posts on some of these (and more) in the coming weeks!

Categories: Okinawa | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

A Light Stroll in a Japanese Garden

One of our first outings here on Okinawa was to this beautiful little garden nestled into the city of Naha: Fukushu-enΒ  Garden.

Image

It was as peaceful as they come, with calm waters surrounding beautiful ancient Chinese architecture. Constructed using material from its sister city of Fuzhou, China, Fukushu-en Garden was built to celebrate the role of Chinese influence on the history of the island.

Image

We enjoyed feeding the turtles and coy (living symbols of longevity and wisdom in Chinese culture) in the ponds, although the fish were so aggressive that the poor little turtles did not get their fair share of the food, despite our attempts to aim it right at them.

Image

Image

I am sure we will be back to visit, when we need a moment away from the hustle and bustle of the busy Okinawa streets.

Image

Where do you go to find peace? I hope there are turtles there, too. πŸ˜‰

Always, Amanda

Categories: Okinawa | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Lives Lost Underground

It is no secret that the relationship between the United States and Japan is a complex one, but living in Okinawa has provided me with a new perspective on the alliance. Okinawa has had a fairly rough history for such a peaceful people. On their own they lived in relative peace for many years until the Japanese stepped in and claimed them. With such a strategic location, it is no wonder Okinawa has for centuries now been a popular geopolitical asset. The impact this has had on the people here, however, has at times been no less than tragic.

I will save my international political rant on the current state of affairs for another day. Living in a foreign country while on orders from the US military has revealed things to me that I would never have found in a history book or on CNN. I have seen first-hand the results of international politics, but being an American has still allowed me the naive comfort of being sheltered from some of the worst stories history has to offer. Until I ventured underground in Okinawa.

P1030463

This is the monument outside the Japanese Naval Underground, where the Japanese forces dug a tunnel system towards the end of World War II. The Americans were winning the war, so the Japanese Navy literally went underground. These tunnels were by far the most ominous place I’ve been in my life.

P1030464

P1030468

P1030476

P1030469

P1030470

This is the room where the Japanese Navy decided that committing suicide en masse was preferable to surrendering to American forces. You can see the marks the grenade shrapnel left in the walls where many men met their deaths. It is a strange thing to be an American in a place such as this, but forcing myself to witness these places has helped me come closer to understanding the complex dynamics of the relationship between these countries that now mean so much to me. May we not forget those who came before us and the sacrifices they made to bring the world where it is today.

-A

Categories: Culture, History, Okinawa | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

An Okinawan Flower-thon

Two weeks ago, Casey and I decided to make good use of the little time he had left with me this month (he has been on a detachment off the island for most of February) and visit a few of Okinawa’s flower festivals. The Okinawans take nature very seriously, and their appreciation of flowers is both fun and admirable. We went first to Kitanagusuku, an area not too far from where we live, towards the Southern end of Okinawa; where the Sunflower festival was in full effect. With three beautiful fields of sunflowers, local vendors, and a singing troupe of face-painted Okinawans marching through the street; it was a fun event!

Image

Image

Image

After spending time in the sun with these gorgeous sunflowers, we headed up north past the city of Nago to see the International Orchid Show! Apparently people had flown in from all over the world with the most beautiful orchids to showcase their hard work and the stunning diversity of the orchid plant. I’ve never been much of an orchid girl, but I was amazed by how perfect these flowers were. They almost looked fake! The show had everything from potted orchids to beautiful bouquets to huge displays of orchid forests! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves (although I must say they did not quite capture it)!Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

ImageAfter the Orchid Festival, we headed back down to Nago city to Nakijin-jo castle to see the Cherry Blossom festival! The cherry blossoms were not cooperating for the Okinawans this year, so many of the trees had not yet bloomed. However, the ones that had were gorgeous! I’ll post more pictures of the castle later, but for now, enjoy these gorgeous cherry blossoms!

Image

Image

Image

We were exhausted after a long day of exploring the island, viewing millions of flowers. Through our Flower-thon, we came to appreciate the diversity of Okinawan plant life, in addition to enjoying the day with each other before Casey had to plunge back into preparing for his month-long trip. I miss him, so it’s nice to look back on a great day! Wishing you all happiness and the prettiest flowers the world has to offer! Talk to you soon!

Always, Amanda

Categories: Culture, Okinawa | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.