JETSTAR AIRLINES*


For my recent trip to Tokyo I had not intended on flying JETSTAR AIRLINES* mainly because at the time they did not fly to Okinawa. It was by chance, however, that I read an article which informed me that in July they would be flying out of Okinawa for the first time so I jumped at the chance to get a competitive rate on a flight to Narita. This turned out to be a financially good choice because the flight was much cheaper than the other airline I had planned on using for my flight.

Ticket Purchase 

Purchasing a ticket is really easy. The website is formatted with step by step instructions on how to purchase your tickets which also includes information regarding the choices you make and because they operate out of English speaking countries the site is also available in English which makes the booking stress free. It is important to remember when booking flights through most non-American discount airline websites that the tickets are sold one way only. Although this might be a turn off for some people it’s still extremely affordable and extremely easy to do.

Once you have decided when and where you would like to fly to you will then be asked about options for your flight. For me I chose the cheapest option which means that I do not have a refundable or changeable ticket but because I wanted to be safe I chose to pay a bit extra for heavier luggage. This comes at a discounted rate if you do this online as opposed to at the airport once your luggage is weighed. Overall it was still extremely affordable and worth the extra money in my opinion but that’s because I do my best to shove as much as possible into my bags and I want to avoid hefty fees later on (at this time I do not know what the extra fees are once at the airport).

Once you have completed the booking process you will then have the ability to pick your seats. In some cases some seats, based on location, come with an extra fee. The fee is extremely small and worth the money if you want a bit more leg space. During the time of my booking none of these seats were available and so I skipped this option. Now that you have completed this process you will review the information and pay for your flight. Enter your credit card information and you will receive a confirmation of payment. Within the next 24 hours you will then receive an itinerary/confirmation email. This will include all the information that you need including your itinerary, in flight services (to including seat numbers that you chose) and all of the information based on what you have to do in order to have a smooth flight.

According to the information (as of July 8 2012) to have a smooth flight JETSTAR AIRLINES* opens web check in 48 hours before your flight, you should arrive at the checkin counter 2 hours before your flight, web checking closes 60 minutes before the flight and the check in counter is closed 30 minutes before the flight. They also ask that you are at your boarding gate 25 minutes before the flight so that you are ready to go. Your itinerary/confirmation email will also include information regarding cabin baggage as well as information regarding checked baggage. From what I can see it looks like your standard airline information so I won’t go too much into it.

Making Changes/Web Checkin

The one thing that is super noteworthy about JETSTAR AIRLINES* is that you have the ability to change and make updates to your flight without jumping through hoops. When you do your booking you will put in your email and a password which will essentially become your login information for JETSTAR AIRLINES*. When you type in this information you can check out all of the information about your flight, status, what you purchased and change anything if necessary. I do have to say that I did not require any changes to be made so I do not have first hand experience of this process but I do know that you are capable of changing your seat or upgrading to one that will give you more leg room, upgrading the weight of your luggage or converting the tickets to refundable or transferrable.

Getting To The Airport

Being that I would be on the first JETSTAR flight out of Naha I got to the airport early to ensure that I had enough time to get things figured out if there was any confusion. When I found the counter there was a large area which was being used for the press events that had been happening presumably throughout the day. There was also music, television cameras as well as other media outlets there who were documenting this flight. When the counters were finally opened and I could check in it was speedy even though the staff were clearly new. JETSTAR representatives were assisting the new staff members ensuring that everything that taken care of. I ran into a slight issue with my online check in information. The staff were not familiar with the way that this pass had looked and I was most likely the first one that they had come across but it was acknowledged right away and before long I was on my way to the gate. Once arriving at the gate it was clear that we were one of the first flights out of Naha.

There was a large table with the signature JETSTAR banner as well as an orange carpet which was rolled out. While we were waiting staff members gave us a special JETSTAR bag which included some items to commemorate our flight. Each bag contained some flyers, mouse pad, hat, certificate of boarding (showing the information about the flight) and a stress ball JETSTAR airplane. It was really cute and a nice touch. Finally a woman came by and took our picture which we were allowed to keep also.

The flight out of Okinawa was special but so was the flight that was arriving. In fact is was so special that Miss Okinawa came to welcome the passengers of the first flight arriving in Naha. When the plane arrived it was very exciting. Many people were on their feet looking at the new jet. In fact if you had not known any better you might have through that we were the first people to fly to a mysterious new land on a new type of aircraft that no one had ever used before. There was a lot of excitement!

When finally boarding the flight we were also each handed a teddy bear which had a JETSTAR t-shirt and pilot’s coat and goggles. It is incredibly cute and again just another way to excite all of those who were on board, even the adults who were all (well mostly) excited about the stuffy too.

The Flight

To be completely honest the flight was your typical flight. There are some things to note about the flight, however. There are no free refreshments but you can pay for a variety of drinks and snacks. There is a large assortment also from rice balls to instant ramen to Pocky. In my personal opinion the prices were a bit high (pocky and juice box for 500yen or Kirin Chi-hi for 450yen) but I suppose that if you need a snack you can purchase it. You were permitted to bring snacks on the plane so that was good and much more affordable which is what I chose to do. The service was great and the space for each passenger was that of any other plane.

Arriving At Narita

Arriving at Narita (which was my destination) was a bit of a surprise for me. We all got off the plane while it was still on the runway using mobile stairs rather than pulling up to a sky bridge like a typical flight. Once off the plane we then took busses to the terminal where we could retrieve our luggage. This was not a problem and was easy enough although I think that it would have been helpful to know ahead of time if you were flying with young children or a great deal of carry on luggage.

Flight Back To Okinawa 

Although the flight out of Naha was very simple and straight forward I feel that it is important to mention the experience I had flying back to Okinawa. Checking in was simple, although it must be done no more than 2 hours before your flight. Once checked in you will then need to bring your luggage to a separate area which was 80 meters from the check in counter and located outdoors. This was inconvenient but easy to find. Once the luggage was taken care of it was time to move to the gate. Much like the arrival in Narita the gate led us to a buss which would then take us to the plane and we would board again on the portable stairs. Once again we were not notified of this ahead of time and I think it would have been appropriate for the airline to let us know especially those with small children and large carry on items.

Overall Rating

I give the flight out of Okinawa a 9 out of 10.

They did a great job, however, the only area I felt they could have improved on was being aware that customers could check in online. As I mentioned above I was stopped twice and told to check in again but had to explain that I already had online.

I give the flight out of Narita a 7 out of 10.

There was a slight lack of organization at the bag check in counter which caused delays. Two computers were working and only one person was actually taking bags while 2 others were simply standing around supervising.

Overall JETSTAR gets a 9 out of 10 rating from me.

I would have liked to see water or tea at least complimentary or slightly lower prices on refreshments.

 

Overall the service was wonderful and there was honestly nothing to complain about. For the price I will SURELY fly JETSTAR again and I definitely recommend them to anyone wanting a low cost flight out of Okinawa.

*JETSTAR AIRLINES is not affiliated with OkiNinjaKitty. This is not a paid endorsement.

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30th PEACEFUL LOVE ROCK FESTIVAL


This weekend was the 30th anniversary of the Peaceful Love Rock Festival (PLRF) here on Okinawa. If you are not familiar PLRF is the biggest rock and roll event on island which is hosted each year on the first weekend in July. This two day event is unlike any other on Okinawa. Local bands who set the stage for rock and roll here on Okinawa are featured as well as some other bands from around the country. The event is also family friendly (for the most part) and ton of fun! This year is a tradition for many music enthusiasts on the island and we are no exception. This year, however, because of prior obligations we chose to only attend one day which turned out fine because our favorite (and soon to be favorite) bands were playing on Saturday (the day we chose to attend). Let’s go over some of the talent.

伊舎堂さくら

The first band to perform was a new artist who I have spoken about before in other posts. She is a 13 year old who has always had the dream of performing at the PLRF since she was 5 years old. To be completely honest I was not skeptical of this young girl when I first read the article but she did blow me away seeing her live. We knew that she was going to be a good performer because she made it through the audition but I had anticipated she would be on stage singing with the band and it would be a great accomplishment and a good performance. Nope, I stand corrected. Not only was this girl a good singer BUT she was also doing it while playing the drums. . . yes that’s right what a talent! She told her story which was very cool but then she tells it again, in perfect English. Is there anything that this girl can’t do? Of course she has a lot of years ahead of her and I am sure that this means she will only improve and achieve greatness in the future. Keep it up Sakura!

ZUKAN

The second band is one of the bands that I could not wait to see and it one of the reasons that I go to the PLRF each year. ZUKAN is a band who comes from Okinawa and are extremely proud of their home town of Kin. (You can see many images of Kin in the video above.) They are extremely energetic and always ready to bring an exciting show playing with the crowd. This year they brought out watermelon for the crowd and sprayed everyone with a squirt gun before throwing it into the crowd. Regardless whether you understand what they are saying you can’t help but tap your toes and dance. The music is in my opinion very representative of Okinawa not only in it’s feel but also in some cases with the use of “eisa” both in the dance that they do and encourage the crowd to do and in the lyrics themselves. It’s a lot of good fun and they certainly did not disappoint this year. They never do!

Hello Sleepwalkers

The third band was one that we had not been familiar with before. I am not sure if they had played PLRF before but if they had it was not within the past 5 years that we have attended. They were very good and we enjoyed them quite a bit. None of the music was recognizable to us but that didn’t prevent us from tapping our toes and flapping our fans to the beat. There is a female guitarist or bassist (I really could not tell from where I was sitting) who had fantastic presence and did a great job. It was very cool.

陸奥守吉行

陸奥守吉行 was my favorite band of this entire show. I hate to go ahead and put that down here so soon before I finish talking about the other bands but there is no use in waiting until the end. They had me in the first 30 seconds of their performance as they started all walking out onto the stage and I saw that the sanshin was being played (I am a huge fan of the rock/classic Japanese style music). The fact that they were all dressed in these beautiful Japanese style samurai outfits also added to the appeal of 陸奥守吉行. Once the set started it was all over I was hooked and I needed to get more! The lead singer had a voice that I just can’t get enough of and combine that with the sound of the sanshin and mix in rock and it’s all over. The music is catchy and the stage presence was just fascinating. I would honestly love to say more about 陸奥守吉行 but to be completely honest there is nothing more to say. The sound was amazing, the performance was amazing, I will be searching for their CD once I get back from Tokyo.

D-51

D-51 is a pop group from Okinawa which consists of two main guys. They are usually not very interesting to me because I am not into the type of music or the style of performance but this year my might was slightly changed. Usually they perform with a background track and although they are energetic on stage the performance never really stands up to the rest. This year, however, they surprised us with a full band and background singers which was a great surprise. This had made the performance much more energetic and lively. There is something better about live performances which I enjoyed quite a bit. Although the band does not rank high on my list of favorites (sorry D-51) I did enjoy their show this year better than the previous years.

Civilian Skunk

The first time we saw Civilian Skunk it was last year at the PLRF and they were good then and super cute (they all matched from hair all the way down to their shoes). The music was good but you could tell by their stage presence that they were new to this. They were confident but more into playing music than they were into working the crowd. This year all of that changed. Civilian Skunk has moved up to the top of my “favorites chart”. They worked the crowd and have developed their own style. This year they were not matching like last year but they were all dressed fashionably which was super cool because you could tell the personality of each and I think it made them all more comfortable on stage. The show was great and they have already made leaps and bounds. I certainly think they will keep gaining popularity among people here in Okinawa and hopefully expand beyond the island.

Kachan Band 

Katchan Band. The Okinawa Legend. People come from far and wide to listen to the Katchan Band over at Jack Nasty’s on Gate Two Street or at least they did. Jack Nasty’s recently closed it’s doors (so I read although this could have changed) but the band played on at the PLRF this year. So what to say about Kachan band? If you like everything balanced, understandable and with proper function you are not going to like the Kachan band. They are known for doing something ridiculous, strange and humorous most of the time and in my opinion most people can’t wait to go and see how they are going to twist classic rock songs in a way that is going to make you laugh and sing along. This year the Kachan band started off with a woman in a black veil summoning via dance a large egg which was carried on a ritualistic looking platform by about 10 men and pulled by a man dressed like Moses if he were an inmate as he was wearing orange and tied with ropes to this large egg thing. The “egg” was brought down to the stage while the woman continued her summon and it got more intense the closer the egg got. Once the egg was on stage a man dressed like a middle eastern person (white robe with large veil over his head and the tight scarf which circles the veil to keep it on (I am sorry those of you of middle eastern decent I am not sure what any of this is called) comes out and begins singing “born to be wild”. The egg eventually hatches to reveal our legend himself who this year is dressed as a monkey with a top hat and exposing his bare bottom to the crowd. (I should mention that this is nothing new for the Kachan band lead singer/main attraction who is often doing something outrageous. He has with him his signature fishing pole with a flying stitch toy on the end so we know it’s him for sure, well because of that and the hat. The performance consisted of him singing various songs which everyone knows the words to putting his monkey spin on it grunting and giving an “ug” when the music would make it funny. This continues on the the entire set with the leader making sure that hey is commenting on the crowd. It’s a good time but I admit it might not be something for everyone. This was what I considered the best “performance” as it usually ends up being. There is something that has to do with the fun, recognizable music and all around ridiculous nature of the show which screams rock and roll to me.

Freddie Eto & Queeness

Freddie oh Freddie, I can’t help but get excited each and every time that this band plays. Freddie Eto & Queeness is a Queen cover band made up of Japanese people. I honestly am not sure where they are from but they rock the house each and every year. The best part about all of this is that they take the performance to the next level. Although Freddie is short and quite a bit bigger than Freddie Mercury was he still keeps true to the movements, the way he walks all the way down to the way that he talks to the audience. That’s right he speaks in English and with an English accent. Does it get any better than that? The way that he plays with the crowd all the way down the the way that he interacts with other band members screams QUEEN! It’s a lot of fun especially for those of us who know all the queen songs by heart.

美女♂men Vlossom

I am not going to lie I very much anticipated this band since I saw that they were playing. There was something about the picture of them on the flyer which interested me and then when I looked them up WOW I was even more interested. You don’t have to read Japanese to understand that the name of this band has the man symbol in it as well as “men” so what’s up with this? Well in short these girls are actually guys. Yeah that’s right no lady parts under those cute outfits. If you weren’t confused already this group does not even pretend to be girls at all. They all speak like men and are clearly a group of men who dress like women to sing and dance. It’s almost comedic, their act that is, especially the way that they conduct themselves which is clearly to show that they are men. The show started out, for example, with the lead singer demanding that everyone come down the the center of the arena in front of the stage because they came all the way from Tokyo. He was loud and used a roaring voice which was in and of itself. In fact he stated that he would be taking three minutes for everyone to figure out what they were doing and come down to be part of the crowd. There is a lot more that was said but my listening skills are not very good when someone is speaking as fast as he was.  Once he started singing I was again taken by surprise when they opened with a metal song (not heavy metal but close enough for me to raise an eyebrow). They continued on with another exercise like song which was hilarious in my honest opinion especially because a lot of people who were exercising with the band. It was. . . ridiculous and great at the same time. Ultimately they kept us guessing the entire time which was great.

We ended up leaving after this band because we were beat by this time and we had seen everyone we wanted to. There were a few more bands that played this evening but we called it quits because we were both exhausted and in need of something cold and refreshing. Overall the event was great as it is every year. We didn’t go for the second day but I am sure that the bands were wonderful as well. I cannot wait for next year. I am hoping that some of these bands come back because I would love to see them again! So did you go to the PLRF? If you did leave your comments below!

 

Celebrating Non-Japanese Holidays In Okinawa


Today is the Fourth Of July and for many Americans it is a day to celebrate America’s Independence. But what if you are here in Okinawa? I mean it is Japan right? So how do people celebrate Non-Japanese holidays here in Okinawa? This is actually a great topic for discussion and I think that it is one that many of you will be interested in so let’s discuss.

The first and most obvious thing to discuss and understand is that here in Japan there are a set of holidays which are simply not celebrated like they are in the states because they do not hold significant meaning here. Independence Day, MLK Day, Columbus Day, Memorial Day and so on. These are the days celebrated in America because of American achievements. Naturally the Japanese don’t have any interest in these holidays and therefore these days are just like any other day of the week. However, there are some Japanese companies which actor to American customs here in Okinawa that may have these days off. You may also find that if you are working on or for the Military bases you will usually observe these holidays as you would in the US but be advised that this is not always the case and you should always take special care to ask your employer or command whether or not you are granted these days off. It is also important to note that if you are American and part of the military bases you may find yourself having the ability to attend special celebrations on some of these holidays. MLK day usually has some sort of African American in America Pride/Accomplishments type seminar or event. Memorial Day usually has some type of memorial service and Independence Day has a celebration also. It used to be that the Air Base known as Kadena did a thing called “America Fest” where they would have a ton of different activities for all including the local people who were not normally allowed on base but this year they did a small cookout style event with a live performance from some local bands with fireworks.

So what about these other holidays that are celebrated by Americans?

Halloween

Kids all over America can’t wait for Halloween and for the American kids being here in Okinawa is no exception. So how does Halloween happen here in Okinawa. If you are in a standard neighborhood out in Okinawa you are not going to see anyone observe Halloween. It’s not something that people do here even though you might see little basic costumes out in town or halloween decorations BUT this is not the case if you are on a base. The bases do have an observance of halloween which usually consists of the camp commanders determining when children can go out from house to house and what children can go from house to house. That’s right. The date, time and age of the children who can trick or treat is determined by each camp. Unfortunately this leave some kids out in the cold, for example one year if you were over the age of 12 you were not allowed to trick or treat which I found a bit silly but again that’s my opinion. There are other celebrations you can attend as an adult and sometimes you may have halloween events to attend as a teen but there is usually a large gap between the little kids and the adults where there is not much to do unless you organize it yourself.

Christmas 

Christmas is one of the holidays that although you might not have the day off in a Japanese company, is still celebrated here in Japan. Unlike in the US it is not religious in nature and is more of a romantic holiday comparable in my opinion to valentine’s day where you and your loved one can go on a date, do romantic things and enjoy each other’s company. There are still decorations and it is a beautiful sight to see. Again if you are on the military bases you may or may not have this holiday off.


To be completely honest I can’t think of any other holidays that are celebrated in America to mention. That’s not to say that there re not others out there but I just don’t have them to comment on right now (feel free to ask away and I will add more information). Now the question most of you are probably wanting to ask about, how do I celebrate the holidays here in Japan. Well to be completely honest it depends on what the holiday is and how much money and effort I am willing to put into it. The best celebration we have had recently was Thanksgiving last year when we went around from place to place trying to make a “thanksgiving dinner” out of random things. The word “Thanksgiving” has the link to that video so please check it out. As for other holidays we take them as they come. We celebrate Christmas be doing some fun little things but we really don’t to too much as far as decorating goes because of the cost of electricity and the lack of space that we have. We do still exchange gifts though and we do maybe go out for dinner or something nice like that. Other holidays really aren’t a thing though. Today for example we are just going to have another day like any other. Maybe we will do something like eat hamburgers or hotdogs which is not something we would normally eat and that will be a bit of our celebration to remind us of home but other than that it’s just another day for us here in Okinawa.

How do you celebrate the holidays?

Leave me a comment below, on Facebook or email me at okininjakitty@yahoo.com

Making friends in Okinawa


Friends. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t live without ’em. So how to you make friends here in Okinawa?

This is a topic that is constantly coming up among the foreigner population here. “How do I make friends?” Unfortunately in the years that I have been here I have not truly found a good answer to this question. Okinawa is extremely unique for many reasons but one of these reasons is that many of the foreigners here are only here for a short time due to their connection with the US Military. In many cases by the time that a person is settled in enough to become your friend they are less than a year out of preparing to pack up and move to the next location. Although there are some families who are lucky enough to stay in one place for a long stretch of time this is the reality for many others. As you might imagine this can make it difficult to make friends and for some it can make it difficult to become friends with these people. There are probably various reasons for this but one that I have heard a lot is that people do not want to spend too much time trying to connect with people who they most likely will lose all contact with once they move on from Okinawa. This is understandable and I completely sympathize with how emotionally taxing it can be to try and make friends and gain trust in them only to have them leave and potentially never talk to them again. Even with social media this still happens.

Making friends can also be extremely difficult if you are here in Okinawa and on the younger side. I have seen a great deal of people on various websites putting out ads wanting to connect with others and be friends with little success. It’s unfortunate but this too happens all the time. So what is the best way to connect? Well the reality is that the best way to connect is not to take out ads on local websites but rather to get involved with some sort of group. In my opinion the best and most beneficial way to do this is to get a job. Entering the work force is a good way to spend some of your extra time, make some money and overall get involved with other people and therefore make friends. It’s a great way to build a connection with others because you will have the commonality of having the job and it’s a great way to meet people that you might not have otherwise met.

“I’m sorry I can’t hang out with you.”

What a horrible phrase to hear from someone who is trying to connect and make friends. Unfortunately this is something that you may hear if you are married to a military member and are trying to make friends with a military member of a higher rank. You might not find yourself capable of inviting them over to a BBQ or a game of MW3. In cases like this it’s not you but it’s the policies that are in place by the military. That’s correct. In some cases military members of certain ranks can not socialize with military members of other ranks. To my understanding this does not apply if you want to hang out with the spouse and this does not apply if you are a non military family who wants to hang out with a military family but it is something that occurs from time to time. This may also be the reason that some people are distant from the beginning.

My final word of caution for those out there who are wanting to make friends is to find a group that you are comfortable with and don’t force yourself to enjoy something or do something that you are uncomfortable with. There are people out there who feel as though they have to be part of something and then they go out, get drunk and later get reprimanded. Others find themselves wanting to be part of the motorcycle community, going out and ending up going down because they didn’t want to be strong and set their own boundaries. It’s important to know your limits and know what you want to do. If you can’t find friends right away you will find others around the corner but it takes time and it takes patience. Okinawa can be tough for making friends. For some it is a great experience whereas for others it is a nightmare. My best suggestion for those out there in Okinawa who want to make friends and feel as if they cannot make it without involvement of friends is to just relax, and take this time to explore you. If the right person’s out there you’ll find them.