Just Don’t Get Bit By A Habu


Habu. You’ve probably heard about these little buggers in passing while looking up stuff about Okinawa. Since the weather is warming up and everyone else seems to be talking about habu I figured that this was a good chance for me to put in my 2 cents (or yen?) on the matter.

The term Habu refers to a particular type of snake (trimeresurus flavovirdis) which is found in the Ryukyu islands or as they are referred to today, Okinawa Prefecture. These snakes are nothing to take lightly because not only are they venomous but they are also very versatile. The snakes themselves are relatively large growing from 4 to 5 feet although they have been seen larger. (An almost 8 foot long specimen was recorded in 2011.) Coloration of the snake includes light olive or brown overlaid with dark green and brown splotches. Sometimes you can find yellow spots in the splotches as well.

The habitat of the habu usually lies between forests and cultivated fields which pretty much sums up most of Okinawa. They are often found on rock walls, in parks, in tombs and caves. It is also not uncommon to find habu in areas which you might otherwise consider city. Habu can also be found resting in trees and can swim. Is nowhere safe? Naturally this makes it important to be aware of habu at all times, especially in the hotter months of the year and at night.

Needless to say habu are not friendly. They are very irritable and man are they quick. If you’ve ever seen one of these things strike it’s prey it’s quicker then a blink of an eye. And if you’re the lucky target of the habu you can expect some nasty side effects. The venom of the habu is highly toxic however the fatality rate is remarkably low (1%) if medical treatment is sought right away. You’re not out of the woods that easy though. up to 8% of people who are bit my a habu suffer permanent disability. This can be anything from losing limbs or even huge chunks of flesh and muscle.

So what should you do if you happen to be unlucky enough to get bit by a habu? Unsurprisingly enough there are two very different ways to deal with this scenario; The Military Way or The Okinawa Way. Because both of them pretty much contradict each I figure why not just talk about both so here goes:

The Okinawa Way – 

1. STAY CALM AND IDENTIFY THE SNAKE – Although it may be difficult staying calm (i.e. keeping your heart rate down) will slow the flow of blood and therefore the spread of any potential venom throughout the body. Identifying the snake is also very important to ensure that you receive the proper treatment. If you do not get a good look at the snake you can tell the type of snake by the bite marks. Habu have 2 sets of fangs which, on a clean secure bite, will leave 4 total puncture wounds. Typically within 5 minutes the bitten area will swell and become very painful.

2. CALL FOR HELP – Do not run! If you must walk do so very slowly to keep the heart rate down.

3. SUCK THE BLOOD AND POSION OUT OF THE WOUND – Carefully cut the area of the wound and suck out the venom and infected blood. If you have a scratch in your mouse the venom may cause slight inflammation. Although the venom is toxic even if swallowed it is broken down my the stomach and will cause no harm.

4. IF THE HOSPITAL IS FAR AWAY BIND THE AFFECTED AREA – This will reduce blood flow to other parts of the body and prevent the venom from reaching the heart. Bind the area loosely enough to insert one finger. Loosen the binding once every 15 minutes. Do not bind too tightly in order to prevent adverse effects from lack of circulation.

The Military Way – 

1. REMAIN CALM – Excitation can increase the heart rate causing venom to move through the body quicker then normal. Also, reduce movement of the bitten limb as much as possible.

2. APPLY A TOWEL OR CLOTH FIRMLY AROUND THE BITE SITE -This is supposed to slow the bleeding and slow the spread of the venom throughout the bitten area. The military recommends that you do not apply a tourniquet, with an exclamation point!!!!!! This cause pool the venom in one area causing increased damage to the surrounding tissues.

3. ELEVATE THE LIMB – This should be above heart level, well according Lt. Daniel Szumlas, PhD of the US Naval Hospital Okinawa. However, according to U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Lawrence Decker also of the US Navy Hospital Okinawa (listed only as “emergency medicine physician”) it should be below the level of the heart.

4. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY – The venom can be destructive especially if treatment is not received within 2 to 3 hours. Also DO NOT (in caps) attempt to make an incision or “such out” the venom, again with exclamation point!!!!! The reason for this is because you could risk cutting arteries, veins or muscles.

Night and day huh? Ultimately the choice comes down to threat assessment, what you’re willing to risk and what it is that you are comfortable doing. That being said I am sure that there are some of you out there who are wondering what I would chose considering that I spend so much time exploring. Personally I subscribe to The Okinawa Way simply because I want a fighting chance. Yes it would be convenient if I were to get bitten by a habu for it to happen in my front yard, 10 feel from my car or better yet in the hospital court yard but that’s not likely going to be the case. You’re probably going to find yourself in a situation where you’re hiking or away from immediate contact with civilization. Then what? Would you chose to be slightly passive and risk the venom getting to your heart or taking the approach where you might lose part of your leg but you’re giving your heart a fighting chance? For me I’ve only got 1 heart and I can learn to live with a disfigured leg or no leg at all.

Once you make it to the hospital treatment (according the the US Naval Hospital Okinawa) will will include pain medication and an intravenous drip. You’ll be monitored for hemolysis and kidney function as well as pain. Treatment for infection and other complications will also be administered but you will not be given an anti-venom right away. This is because the side effects of the anti-venom are relatively serious to include anaphylactic shock. The anti-venom may also cause what is referred to as “serum sickness” which includes a rash, fever and polyarthritis. If you have received the anti-venom previously the risk increases if you have to receive it a second time. This can sometimes result in military personnel being sent off of Okinawa after recovering from a habu bite if they received the anti-venom.

Now that we’ve got all that nitty gritty out of the way lets talk about the simple things you can do to prevent contact with the habu while here in Okinawa. The first thing is save your exploring for the winter months. A lot of people think that summer is the best time to get out and see Okinawa but if it involves being outdoors in the woods or off the beaten path save it for the winter months. Not only will it be better for you because the summer heat can be brutal but you will avoid contact with these types of things. Next you’re going to want to stay away from overgrown areas these are the resting places for snakes and the things they like to eat. When you’re out exploring make your presence known by poking around with a walking stick or better yet get yourself a boar bell. You don’t want to take anything by surprise and give it a reason to feel threatened. Also wear clothing which protects your legs and ankles. Long pants and tall boots are idea when you’re going into an area where a habu might be a threat. Although it might not fully offer you protection is is certainly better then skin to fang contact. Last but not least stay aware of your surroundings even when on base, in the park or in the city. There are grassy remote areas all around the island where creatures can hide out. It is especially important to ensure that children are supervised during summer play for this very same reason.

As scary as I am sure this blog post sounded to most of you who are coming to Okinawa in actuality habu aren’t anything to get overly concerned about. You should know what to do in case you make contact and know what to look out for but you’re not likely to see one of these things in the wild. Whatever you do, just don’t get bitten by one.

 

 

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Being Sick Fengs With My Shui: My experiences having not your average cold while in Japan


Being sick sucks. (That’s it end of blog post. lol) 

No seriously! This is especially true when you come down with something that is not your average everyday cold. Aside from the normal Japan is different from the US (or whatever country you’re from) bla bla bla there are a lot of other bits and pieces that you will find yourself experiencing. For some reason people don’t mention these pieces in their blog posts or whatever. It’s probably because there is so much else to talk about regarding health care and how it’s different but since I am sitting here with not much else to do but think about it I figure I will share my experience so that maybe you’ll find yourself better prepared for this type of situation if you happen to end up in it.

First off, and I know how harsh this is going to sound, coming down with something while you’re here in Japan is a huge reality check. This is true whether you are here by yourself, with your spouse or with a family which you feel is well established. If you’re not ready to be independent having even a minor case of the flu will let you know it. And in a very blunt way. The reason I say this is because your support system, although not gone with today’s technology, is not readily available to keep you company, make you soup or run to the store and get you some meds. This means you’re ultimately going to have to get these little things squared away on your own which although I realize are not that big of a deal can seem much more like a mountain when you’re in a place where Chicken and Stars isn’t readily available.

Since we’re on the topic of family let’s talk about the challenges that you are likely to face with those back home. This is a bit of a tough subject because you really need to see things through both the eyes of those back home who are worrying about you but it would also be incredibly convenient if they would do the same in return. Of course that is wishful thinking on my behalf but what can I say? I’m a dreamer.

Odds are your family, if they are anything like mine, probably worries and that means everything they have in their heads is exaggerated. My mother, for example, thinks that after telling her that “I am going to the hospital” I am making a trek up a mountain to see a shaman in a grass hut. Naturally this is not the case but still after 7 years and 2 trips to Japan she still somehow has images of a WWII field hospital in her head. You’ve got to love her though, she is just a caring individual which is probably why whenever I have so much as a headache she worries that I could have come down with some crazy illness like yellow fever or diabetes. Of course I can laugh these things off now because I have been here for so long and at this immediate moment I am not struggling with something that has me bent over in pain (at least not anymore) but it’s important for family members to remember that suggestions of this sort can often cause those of us over in Japan a lot of unnecessary stress. Not only are we already worried about being sick, being in another country, getting the right medicines, taking the right dosage, communicating with our doctors, communicating to you that we’re find but we wanted to update and now in the back of our heads is that notion that my mother thinks I have encephalitis. Great.

Again, I cannot stress enough how much these concerns come from loving parents who worry about their kids. But parents. . . if you’re reading this. For the love of all that is keeping us sane. . . try to understand that we’re not moving into The Last Samurai. 

So what about having a not your average cold and trying to work through it? This is what I am going through right now. In fact this is an all new experience for me because this is the first time that I have come down with something that I either couldn’t take care of on my own or didn’t already know the type of treatment for. The first struggle is trying to explain what it is that is going on with you. However, we are pretty lucky here in Okinawa. Not only do we have the military hospitals (for those who have access to them) but we also have a lot of doctors who speak English, some are even from places like the UK and Canada. In all fairness however explaining what is going on with you when you have never really experienced it before is still a challenge regardless the language. One thing that I did this time which was incredibly helpful was track all of my symptoms and the medicines that I took on my iPad so that way I could bring it to the doctor and not have to worry about trying to recall everything that had gone on up until the appointment. This turned out to be incredibly helpful. It can also be helpful to insert words from a Japanese phrase book (such as Lonely Planet) which are designed to help you get through a medical situation if necessary.

The second thing is that although I have a lot of experience in Japan and have adapted a lot of my lifestyle to a Japanese lifestyle when you’ve come down with something you’re not familiar with some of those things can just be down right irritating to deal with. Now I know how silly this might sound coming from someone like myself who is always saying how much I love this and that about Japan but when  you’re sick it’s like an entirely different story. For one having a futon and not a bed has been particularly brutal. It’s not the softness or anything like that but because it is on the floor and trust me when I say: when you’re sick the floor is further away then normal. Then there is the food. There are soups and similar foods here to what you can find in the US but there are some things that I like to snack on when I am sick that I can’t find here like dry cereal for example. Although they do have it you can’t find it as commonly at small local grocery stores which I personally frequent when I am sick and don’t want to go to a huge department store. This probably sounds like I am nitpicking but it’s not that. It’s just the things that I have been thinking about over the past few days.

Overall being sick in Japan whether it is something simple or something beyond what you’re familiar with is really no big deal. You are ultimately going to have access to everything you need and get yourself figured out just like you would in any other country. The main thing you need to do is stay focused and positive to ensure that you can carry out the steps to get yourself squared away.

 

 

楽庵 – Japanese restaurant in Aeon Chatan


Aeon Chatan (formerly known as Jusco) is a hub for South Central Okinawa. It’s ideal location makes it a favorite place to shop and enjoy for US Military members and tourists alike. The shopping centers include a number of places to shop as well as eat. Today we’ll be  talking about 楽庵.

IMG_0459楽庵 is a medium sized Japanese restaurant located on the second floor of Aeon Chatan. The first thing you will notice when entering is the very nice atmosphere. The colors are bright and the wall paper is beautiful. You will be given some water (pitchers of water are available upon request) and menus.

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Menus are clear and easy to understand with picture as well as English. There are a variety of offerings from tempura to noodles. There are options which will suffice for picky eaters as well, however, there are no American options at this restaurant. For those who are vegetarian or vegan unfortunately there are no options to satisfy your requirements. There are, however, healthy options for those who may be paying close attention to their diet.

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I went with the Tachibana set which included tempura, steamed veggies and tofu, miso soup, pickles, rice, grilled fish and green tea pudding. My husband went with a chicken nanban set with Okinawa soba.

IMG_0462Pricing for the meals that we had ordered was reasonable. My husband’s set (pictured above) was about 700¥. The amount of food was very reasonable as well making it perfect to hold us over until dinner.

IMG_0463My set on the other hand was 1100¥ and although it was ore expensive it has a lot more food selections. I cannot speak for my husband’s meal but mine was absolutely amazing. The grilled fish was the best. It was the perfect combination of sweet and savory. It’s a must try.

We walked out of here for under 2000¥ which was great! We also had the chance to sit down and enjoy or meal. Naturally there are times when the restaurant is more packed then others but on this particular Sunday afternoon we seemed to make put pretty much ok. They taken yen and credit card and there are yen exchange machines down in the main floor of the building so you shouldn’t run into any conflict there. The staff is friendly and speaks English to some extent. If you are looking for a place to eat during a shopping trip at Aeon Chatan definitely give this place a try!

The Language of Okinawa: A common misconception


“The people of Okinawa don’t speak true Japanese.”  That’s what people say when they want to throw out a fact that makes them feel superior. It’s usually proclaimed proudly by someone who doesn’t speak Japanese and/or someone who has not spent a lot of time here on the island. Statements like this trickle down creating a boat load of misconceptions. This post is my attempt to try and set some things straight.

Let’s start with present day. The people of Okinawa speak Japanese. It’s not some back woods encoded version of the Japanese language, just Japanese. It’s the same Japanese that you learn in Japanese language classes and the same type of Japanese that they speak in Tokyo. This means that when you go to Mc Donald’s they will speak Japanese. When you go to see a movie it’s in Japanese. And when you go to purchase a soda the can has on it’s label, you guessed it, Japanese. True, honest to goodness, Japanese.

So why would anyone think that the people of Okinawa speak anything other than Japanese? This is because at one point Okinawa had a language all it’s own. History happened and then around WWI the Japanese started pushing out Uchinaguchi and enforcing that Japanese be spoken instead. More history pressed on leading us to where we are today.

What can you expect in Okinawa today? Well, a lot of Japanese and in most parts English. That is not to say, however, that Uchinaguchi is completely gone because despite all things it’s not. In some small communities throughout Okinawa there are still some people, mostly elderly, who speak Uchinaguchi on a daily basis. Some of their children understand the language as well, at least to a certain limit. Unfortunately this does not by any means imply that you can go out and speak Uchinaguchi to your average Okinawan resident and be understood. In fact after learning how to introduce myself in Uchinaguchi I only crossed paths with one person with whom I could exercise that skill. She was 93 at the time.

Not everyone has the opportunity to communicate with someone who has been living on Okinawa for long enough to understand Uchinaguchi but the Okinawa Prefectural Government makes an effort to incorporate key phrases whenever they can. For example you may see a sign that says “mensore” rather then “youkoso”. You may also find yourself hearing “haisai” rather then “konnichiwa” from time to time. These novelty type words become part of our vocabulary to supplement but by no means replace the words which share their meaning.

When all is said and done Okinawa is must less unique then some people make it out to be, at least in the language department. You’re not going to need an Uchinaguchi Phrase Book to figure out what people are saying and no those resort attendants aren’t studying Japanese as a second language. Although the story loses a lot of it’s romanticism it’s just the way it really is.  

 

 

 

Friendship Challenges When In Japan Long Term


There are always challenges when moving to a new country. However, when moving to a country so very different from your own, like Japan, the number of challenges you face increase. For those who live in Japan long term one of those challenges is making and keeping friends.

Friendship, like any other relationship, takes a lot of time to develop. Sure you might be friendly with someone on a train or at work but there’s certainly a difference between that and having that person that you can talk to and share experiences with. Developing these types of friendships living in Japan (or presumably anywhere else other than your home country) can be very difficult especially if you are a person who lives in Japan long term. There are many reasons for this but probably the biggest is because most foreigners who come to Japan are here short term and then move on to a new place. This is especially true down here in Okinawa where there is a large presence of US Military members who come and go every few years.

This can be hard on those of us who are here long term because we find ourselves saying “goodbyes” almost constantly. Just as you start to really get to know someone they find themselves whisked off by Uncle Sam or the appeal of a new adventure and we’re left here with the promise of staying connected through social media. It doesn’t take long to learn that you are not likely to be contacted again. It’s understandable, people move on, but it still takes a toll.

Another challenge that those of us who live here long term face when it comes to making friends is continuously having to explain ourselves. I am not sure if this is something that those who live on the main islands experience but here in Okinawa this has been a big challenge for me. From my experience the longer I live in Japan the less “from America” I become. Naturally this goes both ways because no matter how long I’ve lived in Japan, specifically Okinawa, I am always treated by those Japanese people I meet as though I just walked out of the airport yesterday. This usually makes me the center of attention, in a very side show freak kind of way, regardless who I meet.

Americans can’t figure out how I can sleep on a futon, eat a primarily Japanese diet and enjoy squid legs as a snack where as the Japanese people I meet can’t figure out how I can sleep on a futon, eat a primarily Japanese diet and enjoy squid legs as a snack. Regardless who I am with it feels like the worst kind of cultural exchange. Everything I do is unusual and requires some type of explanation. Sometimes it’s almost like you simply can’t be yourself because if you do something as nonchalant as ordering the goya chanpuru you will end up starting the “wow you actually eat that stuff” or “that looks disgusting” conversation.

There is no doubt that over time this can be difficult to deal with. A thick skin and incredible amount of patience is required in order to not find yourself in the middle of a restaurant exclaiming “of course they don’t have forks this is a sushi place” or “don’t call over those people that neither you nor I know so that they can watch me eat fried squid”. (Seriously this did happen to me.) Instead we gingerly explain that chopsticks aren’t that hard to use or smile as the old man offers to buy me yet more squid.

At the end of the day the reality of being in Japan (or anywhere else) long term is that there are going to be hardships in many areas. Finding and keeping friends is one of them. I am of the opinion that your personality will determine your experiences as will your location. Being in a place like Okinawa is not easy for a long term foreigner to make friends. I think this is because there are more people who are here by chance then by choice but that’s a topic for another blog post all together. I hope that this brief account of my experiences can give you a little insight on what you might expect or if you happen to be experiencing the same thing as I have at maybe some piece of mind that you’re not the only one.

TYPHOON SEASON PREP: The TCCOR system


Once the food has been purchased and the flashlights have been made easily accessible it’s time to familiarize ourselves with the warning systems available to us. The system we will discuss in this post is the Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness or as you may know it TCCOR. This is a system used mostly by the US Military during the typhoon season here on Okinawa, however, it can also be helpful to others as well.

The TCCOR system has 9 levels. Each level outlines the current conditions, forecast conditions, and things you can do to prepare:

TCCOR 4: 

TCCOR 4: Destructive winds of 50 knots or greater are possible within 72 hours. TCCOR 4 will be continuously in effect as a minimum condition of readiness from 1 June to 30 November annually.
Now is the time to stock-up on food and Typhoon Supplies.

The most common TCCOR level is TCCOR 4. This level is in effect from June 1 to November 30 as an attempt to remind personnel that the time has come to prepare for the storms that may be on the way.

Although it’s best to prepare before typhoon season hits seeing TCCOR 4 means that is your last reminder that you should have stocked up on supplies and have your plans in order.

TCCOR 3: 

TCCOR 3: Destructive winds of 50 knots or greater are possible within 48 hours.
Initiate a general cleanup around homes and office.

When you see TCCOR 3 that means that there’s a storm that is actually out there and heading our direction. It’s not uncommon to see nice weather during TCCOR 3 which is why a lot of people brush it off but in actuality TCCOR 3 is the best time to get everything situated at your residence. After all why wait until the rain and wind starts up right?

So what should you do during TCCOR 3 to prepare for the coming storm? The biggest priority is to ensure that anything which could be carried by the wind and thrown needs to be secured or brought inside. This means toys, lawn and garden equipment, bicycles, lawnmowers and even motorcycles depending on your location.

Speaking of motorcycles if you happen to have one TCCOR 3 is the time to bring it to a place where it won’t be tossed around by strong winds. This could be a friend’s garage or even a storage company. In most cases you may even be able to speak with co-workers and they may be able to assist you.

TCCOR 2: 

TCCOR 2: Destructive winds of 50 knots or greater are anticipated within 24 hours.
Remove or secure all outside items.

If you weren’t already paying attention TCCOR 2 should be your wakeup call. Generally speaking this is when the weather starts to get nasty. The winds may not be 50 knots yet but they’re probably picking up and it may be raining. Remember all that prepping that I said people blow off in TCCOR 3? Well, now is your absolute last shot to get it figured out.

TCCOR 2 should also be the time when you start to pay close attention to the weather. Although winds of over 50 knots are “anticipated within 24 hours” that does not mean that they are unlikely before that time. In fact, my past experience has been that once we are in TCCOR 2 we are already experiencing storm like conditions.

Despite what you will read as we continue through this list TCCOR 2 is really when you should start taking your evacuation plan into consideration. If you are in a low lying area or feel that you would be safer staying with a friend then this is the time to make the move. Although the island is likely experiencing wind and rain it is still relatively safe to travel which is why I recommend doing that now rather than waiting.

TCCOR 1: 

TCCOR 1: Destructive winds of 50 knots or greater are anticipated within 12 hours.
No school for DoDDS students. Staff and teachers will work normal hours, unless changed by DoDDS superintendent. Fill any containers you can use for water storage. If you live in low lying quarters, make arrangements to stay with a friend. Make final check of food and other supplies.

By TCCOR 1 you and your family should already be in a secure location and ready to ride out the storm. Remember just because it says “anticipated within 12 hours” doesn’t mean that we are unlikely to see bad conditions before then.

According to the US Military, who releases this information and guidelines, this is the time to make a final check of food and other supplies. This is something I could not disagree more with. The “final check” should have been completed at TCCOR 3 absolutely latest. The reason? Between panic shoppers and the limited stock they leave behind if you have not already gathered enough food for your family you’re too late.

If you are part of the US Military this is the time when you will start to see school canceled, however, teachers will work normal hours. All other facilities are still open and functioning.

TCCOR 1 Caution: 

The TCCOR system starts to get a bit wonky once we approach TCCOR 1 Caution.  What’s so wonky? The biggest flaw with the TCCOR system is that rather then being solely dependent on the actual weather conditions the final decision to declare what TCCOR level we are in rests in the hands of the Commander (or in other words: the military boss man). This means that sometimes the conditions outside may or may not be reflected appropriately by the TCCOR system. I cannot stress enough how very important it is to understand this and always use your best judgement regardless of what the current TCCOR may be.

TCCOR 1 Caution: Destructive winds of 50 knots or greater are anticipated within 12 hours. Actual winds are 34-49 knots.
All nonessential personnel will be released to their quarters at this time. DoDDS schools will close at this time. Staff and teachers return home or remain home. Base exchange, shops, Commissary, Shoppettes, Gas Station, Services facilities, Clubs, Restaurants, Recreational Facilities and Post Office will close. Movement about the base should be kept to a minimum. SFS will enforce “essential vehicles only”policy.(Reference Base O-Plan 32-1 “Base Disaster Operations Plan)

Although we have been experiencing storm conditions up to this point TCCOR 1 Caution is best known for being the level when everything starts to close. Once TCCOR 1 Caution is announced all base workers go home with the exception of nonessential personnel. If you are not a base employee this is a great indicator that you should be off the roads and in your homes waiting for the storm to pass.

Whether or not TCCOR 1 Caution will be declared for a particular storm really depends on the Commander as I mentioned above. There have been a number of storms in the past 7 years that have not seen a TCCOR 1 Caution but still did a lot of damage so again as I mentioned use your best judgement and common sense.

TCCOR 1 Emergency: 

TCCOR 1 Emergency: Actual winds of 50 knots or greater.
All outside activity is prohibited.

Much like TCCOR 1 Caution this level is not declared for every storm that we experience. At this point all outside activity is “prohibited” according to the US Military.

TCCOR 1 Recovery: 

TCCOR 1 Recovery: Destructive winds of 50 knots are no longer occurring. Actual winds are 34-49 knots.
Nonessential functions remain closed unless directed by the commander. All but emergency essential personnel remain in their quarters.

TCCOR 1 Recovery is declared after the storm’s worst winds have passed. . . . sometimes. In other cases this level is skipped over and we move right down to ‘All Clear”.

If it is declared it’s important to remember that the storm is not over yet. We’re still likely experiencing some nasty winds. In recent years TCCOR 1 Recovery has been used as a time when select base personnel assess and clear damage around the bases. This doesn’t not make it safe to go out, however, by any means. Actual winds are still 35-49 knots making it just below the dangerous conditions of TCCOR 1 Emergency.

Storm Watch: 

Storm Watch: The typhoon is moving away but the base is still feeling some effects. Hazardous conditions may exist due to storm damage. In some cases the storm could return to Okinawa , so stay alert.
All military and civilian personnel will return to work within 2 hours or at normal duty hours unless otherwise instructed by their commander. The Commissary and BX will resume operations, unless directed otherwise by the installation commander.

Within a few hours of the storm moving away we may find ourselves in Storm Watch. During this level the storm has moved away and although there may still be some residual wind and rain it is not anticipated that we will feel any further typhoon conditions. This, however, is not always the case and in the past storms have changed course slightly coming back towards Okinawa. That being said it is always important to continue following the weather during Storm Watch.

Although Storm Watch is often skipped over like TCCOR 1 Recovery when it is declared the base begins to function regularly. All military and civilian personnel are to return to work within 2 hours or at their regularly scheduled time of duty the next work day depending on the time when Storm Watch is declared. The only time that this is not the case is if the Commander of a particular base announces differently.

All Clear: 

All Clear: Hazardous conditions and winds are no longer present. Return to normal duties. All Clear is announced when all hazards have been cleared.
DoDDS teachers, staff and students will return to school during normal hours. From June 1st to November 30th Okinawa will return to TCCOR 4.

Last but not least we have All Clear. As I mentioned above All Clear is usually announced once the storm has shown that it is moving away. Declaration of All Clear indicated quite literally that everything has gone back to normal and that all hazards have been cleared. Although it may be true that hazards have been cleared on the bases it is not always the base for the roads throughout Okinawa so great caution should be used when moving back to work, school or wherever you are required to go.

 

As you can see TCCOR is a guide that you can certainly use to assist you in your storm preparations and riding out the storm itself, however, it is always important to ensure you are paying close attention to what is happening around you as well.

The Islands of Okinawa


When you hear “Okinawa” you probably think of one particular island in the southern part of Okinawa. However, Okinawa is also what is known as a prefecture. A prefecture is a section of the country, almost like “New England” although in Japan the prefecture has it’s own government jurisdiction. That being said Okinawa Prefecture is not just one island but a collection of islands.

So how many islands are there to visit and now accessible are they? That’s a great question especially with so many tourism websites focusing on Okinawa Prefecture for the 2013 travel season. There are three different categories of islands in Okinawa Prefecture. The first is the islands accessible via bridge from Okinawa’s main island. The second are the islands accessible via ferry and the third are the islands accessible by plane.


By Car (Average Cost: $0.00)

Okinawa prefecture’s most accessible and affordable islands to visit aren’t far off the cost and don’t require anything more than a car to get to. These islands are connected to Okinawa’s main island via a bridge and you can travel to and fro without any additional cost.

Although these islands are close to the main island they have various unique characteristics making each one worth the trip even if you’re only there for a short drive. One of the things that makes visiting these islands so great is that since you drive to them you don’t have to worry about sticking to a strict schedule like you might have to in order to catch a ferry or plane.

By Ferry (Average Cost: $12.00 to $130.00)

The next set of islands which are close to Okinawa but not close enough for a bridge must be accessed via ferry. In most cases a trip on a ferry will cost anywhere from $12.00 to $130.00 depending on where you are planning on visiting and how you plan to travel. Naturally if you plan to visit the island on food you will pay less but if you want to bring your car the cost will be much higher.

To visit one of these islands you will need to find out which port has ferries which travel to your desired destination. Also be sure to check for the most up to date prices because as always prices are subject to change. One thing you may also want to consider is weather and sea conditions. If sea conditions get too bad (which sometimes even happens on days which seem beautiful) the ferries will stop running which means you may find yourself on the island and unable to return that night. In that case it may be wise to plan ahead in the event that you may need accommodations.

By Plane (Average Cost: $500.00)

Finally are the islands which can be accessed via a plane. These are by far the least accessible and affordable islands to visit. A trip to one of these islands will cost you at least $500.00 per person without accommodations and/or ferry trips to other islands. As with any other destination that requires a plane these islands require the most preparation and consideration when deciding to make the trip.

 

What islands you want to visit really depends on the amount of time and money that you have as well as what you want our of your trip here to this part of the world.