Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jack metal detecting!

Okinawa sunset

An original Okinawan house!

An Okinawan Cemetery!

Zakimi ruins!

Zakimi Ruins 2!

Zakimi ruin view!

Today's epic adventures

Today I awoke around the same time and settled into my usual routine of getting ready and then heading upstairs to have coffee with Kurt and Mary. We discussed what we anted to do today and looked out and noticed that there were still white caps on the water,therefore the seas were still too rough for our whale shark expedition. Oh well, one of these days we'll get out there. After an entertaining morning with Kurt and Kristyna's "discussion" on making pancakes, which invoked both parties getting marked with markers, I conducted a solo Order of Morning Prayer (short form).

Then I had an absolutely delicious breakfast of pancakes and we then discussed what we would do that day. Kurt suggested we head to the Torri Station beach and catch it while it was still at low tide in order to metal detect. So around noon time, we headed out to the beach to begin our extremely fun afternoon. A bit of World War II trivia, this was the beach where the U.S troops landed unopposed on Okinawa during the Battle for Okinawa. Today this beach is very calm and peaceful, compared to the devastation of the battle which will be 69 years ago on April 1st.

The low tide was perfect for our metal detecting adventures. We discovered many interesting things, most of it junk, but we did find a small piece of copper, which later broke in two, but we believe it to be a part of copper jacket plating of a round. We found mostly bent nails, rebar pieces, lead fishing weights and bolts. Then after our metal detecting adventures, we hung out with the family and Kurt's friend Pat and his family on the beach. We stayed at the beach for about 5 hours before we headed back home. I took a nice warm shower to clean off, then I had a yummy quesadilla for dinner. I am currently relaxing and probably will head to bed sometime within the next hour or two.


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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Today's events, another busy day with the Thomases

Today I awoke around 1830 and proceed to get ready and go about our day. I was in excited expectation of going kayaking to see the whale sharks. I started out with coffee and later a very delicious omelette made by Kurt. We then decided that we would work on a rock climbing wall for Nyah and the other Thomas clan kids after our breakfast. The kayaking trip came to an unexpected ted end when Kurt saw and noticed that the waves out in the ocean were white capped and looking rather rough.

So we then decided to stay home and work on the base for the rock climbing wall, we would take some palates and attach them to the base to make it a triangle shape. It was a long, laborious work of 2.5 hrs, when we finished with adding more climbing rocks. We then wanted to make the wall more stable. So we decided to put a 55 gal bucket under the wall base and Kurt and Nyah climbed up on the wall to fill the water bucket and hook the bucket to the wall, so that the weight of the water in the bucket would hold down the wall to stabilize it.

Today was also the significant event of Nyah's 9th birthday party, with guests coming who would utilize the rock climbing wall. We hung out at home while waiting for Mary and the guests to arrive. When they arrived, Kurt and I went out to a beach that had a cave that had been used as a fortified defense during the Battle for Okinawa. We also brought metal detectors to look for old war relics. Alas, the tide was not low tide and we could not access the cave. Well we will just have to try again tomorrow! Tomorrow is going to be a very fun day, as all my days have been so far! Good night ya'll!

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Yesterday's activities

Yesterday was mostly running errands with the Thomas family. I got to experience going on base at Kadena for the first time. Man is it a huge base, and a very busy one! For breakfast I had cream of wheat with fruit! It's as very delicious as per usual for Thomas family food! We stopped on our way into town and got nagetti, which is tuna in rice, wrapped in seaweed. It was surprisingly very very delicious! We got it at a local mart called FamilyMart (think a Japanese 7/11)), and when we entered, after a minute, the employees loudly greeted us with "Welcome to Family Mart" and bowing.

After our errands, we went on a scenic route that took us through Torri Station. Of interest, this beach is where the Marines went ashore, unapposed on April 1st, 1945. Then later in the evening we went to a get-together that Kurt's boss, who is a very nice guy by the way, invited us too. There were some chocolate cakes for Nyah's birthday (happy birthday Nyah!) and a bunch of really really good food. The get together lasted for about 3.5hours, but it was pretty fun and entertaining and the people were very nice! Today, we are going to go kayaking out to maybe see the whale sharks. I am not sure what else is on the agenda for today, but when I know, I will as more pictures and updates to the blog!

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The arrival saga

Arriving at Narita airport was a very interesting experience. I had inly seen pictures of mainland Japan/Narita airport. In person it was way prettier than the pictures showed. It was flatland, which consisted of green trees and a bunch of what looked like farmland and houses in the country. In a sense it reminded me of the scenery in and around Charlotte NC when I went there two years ago for the church convention.

I had also throughly researched the procedures of immigration and customs at Narita. It is fairly simple process. When you debark from your international flight, you walk down until you come to two signs, one says Domestic and Arrivals and the other International Flights

I took the left turn for Domestics and Arrivals until I got to the line for immigration/passport control, in which I had my picture taken and passport stamped, which I passed, then I collected my bag and went through customs and they asked me for the purpose of my trip and where I was going.

I then headed towards the Domestic Departures and checked my big bag in and then breezed back through security, which is more efficient by far than the TSA! I then explored a bit before headed to the gate where I then waited to board for the flight to Okinawa.

Arriving at Naha went fairly smoothly, except my luggage was among the last of the baggage to arrive on the baggage carousel. Then I was able to joyfully meet up with Kurt and Mary and then 40 minutes later I was at their house and soon was unpacked and ready to take a shower and get ready for bed...

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Jack and the Rykuku Islands elf


At the gate, boarding in 9 min!

Our 787 at Narita

Sunset at Narita!

Arrival at Narita

After a nice long 12 hour flight, we landed at around 1625 local time, 30 minutes earlier than the expected 1655 arrival time. This was very nice, as I was then able to go through Immigrations and Customs in about 25 minutes, picked up my bag and rechecked it and went back through security in about 15 more minutes!

The flight was nice if a bit long. I shall post pictures of the meal in a bit. I am now at Gate 65 anxiously awaiting my final flight, a three hour breeze of a flight, to Naha, Okinawa!


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Made it to Narita!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Halfway to Narita!

Mid Point of JL65 Flight

At 1835PDT, Jack was exactly halfway: 5+36 down and 5+36 to go.  Flight Level 400, 470 knots ground speed.  The jet was talking to Anchorage Center and had just passed a few miles South of Kodiak Island in Alaska.

We passed just South of Kodiak Island, home of the one way runway!

Airborne at 1303L SAN -> NRT

All you need to know about the flight is RIGHT HERE!
A very Happy Jack in his aisle seat!

Taxi out!

Airborne two minutes early at 1303L

Inside Security waiting for the jet to turn

The Jet!
Jack got his boarding passes, two aisle seats!  Now, for the jet to be cleaned, re-stocked and fueled.  Oh, and a new crew!

The JOURNEY begins!

Curbside - Terminal 2 San Diego!
JAL Flight 65 is set to depart KSAN (San Diego) for Narita, Japan (RJAA / NRT) at 1245L.  He got dropped off at the curbside at 1045L.  He reports his bags are checked and he is inside security.    You can track his flight RIGHT HERE ON FLIGHTAWARE.  Looks like the winds will drive them up over the Aleutian Islands, where Uncle Pat used to fly and near the Sahkalin Islands.  He should be in Narita about 0100 San Diego time, then a two and half hour layover and off to Naha (OKA).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Three Days and a Wakeup!

The Big Picture Naha, the Okinawa airport is in the middle of the map

Here is where I am going!

Step time is nearing, so I thought I would find out a bit more about Okinawa.  I know we lost almost 15,000 great Americans there in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, which was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II.

The invasion of Okinawa
 The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.

The battle has been referred to as the "typhoon of steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or tetsu no bōfū ("violent wind of steel") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Based on Okinawan government sources, mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds). Simultaneously, 42,000-150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting at Okinawa.

Being a student of history, that much I knew.  But, what about Okinawa itself?

No one knows when human beings first appeared in Okinawa.  They probably arrived a long time ago from the Chinese mainland.  But there have been many come from Japan, Australia, and elsewhere.

Hunter gatherers and sleeping pet pig
Okinawa midden culture or shell heap culture is divided into the early shell heap period. In the former, it was a hunter-gatherer society, with wave-like opening Jomon pottery. In the latter part of Jomon period, archaeological sites moved near the seashore, suggesting the engagement of people in fishery. In Okinawa, rice was not cultivated during the Yayoi period but began during the latter period of shell-heap age. Shell rings for arms made of shells obtained in the Sakishima Islands, namely Miyakojima and Yaeyama islands, were imported by Japan. In these islands, the presence of shell axes, 2,500 years ago, suggests the influence of a southeastern-Pacific culture.

Surviving Gusuku
After the midden culture, agriculture started about the 12th century, with the center moving from the seashore to higher places. This period is called the gusuku period. Gusuku is the term used for the distinctive Okinawan form of castles or fortresses.  In this period, porcelain trade between Okinawa and other countries became busy, and Okinawa became an important relay point in eastern-Asian trade. Ryukyuan kings, such as Shunten and Eiso, were considered to be important governors. In 1291, there was an intended invasion of Mongol, but the Eiso Dynasty defended its land. Hiragana was imported from Japan by Ganjin in 1265. Noro, female shaman or priests (as in shintoism), appeared.

In 1429, King Shō Hashi completed the unification of the three kingdoms and founded one Ryūkyū Kingdom with its capital at Shuri Castle. The Chinese Ming dynasty sent 36 families from Fujian at the request of the Ryukyuan King. Their job was to manage maritime dealings in the kingdom in 1392 during the Hongwu Emperor's reign. Many Ryukuan officials were descended from these Chinese immigrants, being born in China or having Chinese ancestors. They assisted in the Ryukyuans in developing their technology and diplomatic relations. 

In the 17th century, the kingdom was both a tributary of China and a tributary of Japan. Because China would not make a formal trade agreement unless a country was a tributary state, the kingdom was a convenient loophole for Japanese trade with China. When Japan officially closed off trade with European nations except the Dutch, Nagasaki and Ryūkyū became the only Japanese trading ports offering connections with the outside world.

In 1879, Japan annexed the entire Ryukyu archipelago and the Ryūkyū han was abolished and replaced by Okinawa Prefecture by the Meiji government. The monarchy in Shuri was abolished and the deposed king Shō Tai (1843–1901) was forced to relocate to Tokyo.

King Shō Tai
Hostility against mainland Japan increased in the Ryūkyūs immediately after its annexation to Japan in part because of the systematic attempt on the part of mainland Japan to eliminate the Ryukyuan culture, including the language, religion, and cultural practices.

The island of Okinawa was the site of most of the ground warfare in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, when American Army and Marine Corps troops fought a long and bloody battle to capture Okinawa, so it could next be used as the major air force and troop base for the planned invasion of Japan. During this 82-day-long battle, about 95,000 Imperial Japanese Army troops and 12,510 Americans were killed. The Cornerstone of Peace at the Okinawa Prefecture Memorial Peace Park lists 149,193 persons of Okinawan origin - approximately one quarter of the civilian population - who either died or committed suicide during the Battle of Okinawa and the Pacific War.

Okinawa Cliffs - 1945
During the American military occupation of Japan (1945–52), which followed the Imperial Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay, the United States controlled Okinawa Island and the nearby Ryukyu islands and islets. These all remained in American military possession until 17 June 1972, with numerous U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force bases there.

As of September, 2009, the Japanese government estimates the population at 1,384,762 (less than half the size of the County of San Diego, California where I live) which includes American military personnel and their families. The Okinawan language is called Uchinaguchi or "Hogen" and is spoken mostly by the elderly people. Okinawan people have been forced to speak Japanese since the Ryukyu Kingdom 1879 annexation by Japan. 

Whereas the northern Okinawa Island is largely unpopulated, the south-central and central parts of the island are markedly urbanized—particularly the city of Naha and the urban corridor stretching north from there to Okinawa City (Okinawa-shi).

There are six gusuku, medieval Okinawan fortresses, most of which now lie in ruins.

Kadena AB
The central part of the island has an American presence which creates a cultural blend. In the north, American presence is less concentrated, although several smaller bases and recreation facilities are there.