Summer Update: What I’ve Been Up To & Why It’s Been Quiet


Things have been rather quiet here on the ONK Blog so far this summer and it hasn’t been without good reason. As most of you who have watched my videos in the past few months know the house that I was living in started quite literally falling apart. There were massive leaks, bug infestations and the ceiling starting collapsing.

In an attempt to resolve these issues we contacted the housing agency so that we could get a scheduled time for a maintenance crew to take a look at the house. This process alone, simply scheduling a date for them to come, took over 2 weeks. The reason was because the landlady didn’t want anyone working on the house other than her approved construction company. To boot the only way to arrange to have this approved company to our house was to first get in touch with the landlady who has no cell phone or landline. This meant that all requests and contact made to her had to be via Japan Post. . . . . snail mail. When the 2 weeks had finally passed we had a scheduled appointment for someone to take a look at the house. They came in and within about 10 minutes determined that there was a problem that needed immediate attention. This was then followed by 9 straight hours of construction work on the house.

When the construction crews finally left we were told that it could not be determined whether or not the house was safe to live in at this time and we wouldn’t know for at least another 2 weeks during which time the construction crews would be working 9 hour days removing rubble that had been falling from the ceiling for however many years. Of course I was not going to accept thing as an answer and informed the housing agency that they needed to find us a new place to live by the end of the weekend.

The weekend for me was horrible. Concrete dust that had filled my house made it difficult for me to breathe. I had a headache that lasted for days and I had begun to develop a cough. . . . only over 3 days. I had also not been sleeping because the house was so infested with bugs that we were literally waking up in the middle of the night because they were crawling on us of falling from the ceiling onto our begs. When at last Monday rolled around we had gone to the housing agency, this time with photographs and videos, to demand a new apartment. We also informed them that we would not be paying for repairs and/or cleaning fees as the house was currently being torn apart by a construction company. When the people at the housing agency saw the pictures they were disgusted. We had shown them piles of bugs that were gathering at parts of our house, the lines of them along the ceiling and of course the huge chunks of our roof that were now gone. Immediately they looked into our options which unfortunately was only one. That same day we went to look at the apartment and decided that we would be signing the paperwork.

We had to spend another week in our decaying house while preparations were made in the next one but it was a good opportunity to get everything in order so that we could prepare for the move. We did our best to gather all of our things, throw out what had become ruined because of the house (which was much more than we anticipated it would be) and then were on our way. We finally got our keys on Friday. The only problem was when we received our keys we were told that some of the things in the house (stove, air conditioners and fridge) might not be working properly. This would not have been a problem if we were told this prior to moving in but the housing agency kept this information from us until after we signed the contract.

Over the course of the next 4 days we slowly moved into our new apartment. It was a long and hard process to do on our own but we simply couldn’t afford to hire a moving company so we had to make due with what we had. Everything worked out well enough and finally we had everything moved in. Then we learned, the same day we moved all the cold items from the fridge, that it was not working. We called the housing agency and informed them that the fridge was not working and that we needed to have it repaired/replaced and we were swiftly told that if we needed it replaced we would have to replace it ourselves because the fridge, as well as all other items in the house, was not “part” of the house and therefore was not the responsibility of the owner. Of course this is not something that I was expecting. We were already having to pay out a number of bills because of a move that was out of our control and now we were going to have to purchase our own appliances. This was not good for our checkbook.

Pissed off and out of options I started looking for a fridge that we could purchase with our modest budget. We looked for something used but they were either too expensive or not what we were looking for. Then finally we decided that our only option was to go and buy something new. We went to every appliance store on the island and finally settled on a little fridge that was perfect for us and only about ¥20,000 which we could swing with our budget. The only catch is that it would take one week for it to be delivered.

The next week was one of the hardest I have ever had. Summer in Okinawa is bad enough but when you’re trying to survive without anything more than a cooler to keep food and drinks cold it is a huge challenge. We were eating mostly takeout and prepackaged foods which were making us both feel horrible because our diet usually consists of nothing but fresh foods. We were trying to get vegetables but because of the heat and humidity they would spoil in about a days time sitting on the counter in the kitchen. It was brutal. Then finally the fridge came. It was amazing! I was so happy that it arrived and I would not have to eat any more preserved pre packed junk. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . then it didn’t work. It wasn’t getting cold at all. In fact it was hotter in the fridge than it was in the house. It took us a few days to get the issue resolved because at the time there was a major typhoon coming through Okinawa. Nevertheless I marched over to the store and informed them that it was broken and it needed to be replaced. They were happy to replace it. . . . . but unfortunately there were no more in stock. I could either wait another 2 weeks to have one sent down from mainland or I could pick another fridge. The thought of living for another 2 weeks without a fridge made it feel like I was going to puke so I decided to go with the second option. . . . pick another fridge. The only downside to this option is that I would ultimately have to pay another ¥10,000 that I didn’t really have but it seemed totally work making financial sacrifices later.

It took another 6 days to get the new fridge delivered and to my delight it worked just fine. I cold finally start getting my life back together! At that point I had to start focusing quite a bit on the foods that we were eating and the money that we were spending. Our usual food budget runs us at about ¥1000 per day but that had gone up to about ¥3000 a day without a fridge. On top of that I was sick for about a week because my body was literally detoxing from all of the nonsense that I had been eating for the last 2 weeks. It was horrible.

Thrown in a typhoon, tropical storm and some other little hiccups and you’ve got yourself all caught up with where I am right about now. As you might imagine I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend making videos or writing blog posts which is why there hadn’t been much up on the ONK side of the house.

So where are we going from here? I’ve got a new channel called YenniePincher that focuses on cooking videos. That posts new videos every Tuesday and Thursday. I also have an all new channel called Kitty Does Japan which is posting daily vlogs and other videos to come in the future as well. I will continue writing here but it might be a week or so before things get back into full swing as I learn how to juggle everything that I am doing right now.

Stay tuned and of course thank you for your support!

Summertime Freebies – Japan’s way of making summer bearable.


Summer in Japan . . . . . well . . . . kinda sucks. (Especially if you’re in Okinawa!) The beaches are crowded, the streets are packed with traffic from tourists and oh yeah there is enough humidity to make you wonder how the people who live here long term haven’t developed gills. Doesn’t sound very pleasant huh? Well it’s not (I haven’t lied before and I am not going to start now!), but there are some fun things that do happen during the summer that can help keep our mind off the fact that we are living on the surface of the sun.

Back in Bean Town we used to call them “Freebies” but here in Japan they are usually referred to as a “Campaign”. Simply put a campaign is an opportunity for companies to push their product and consumers to get stuff. Sometimes it will be an item which is attached to your bottle of tea at a convenience store and other times it’s a display that looks a little something like this:

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As you can see this particular display is featuring Coke-a-Cola* as well as DVD’s. Other displays for various products this summer alone have featured child size backpacks, fans, cookers, oversized beer mugs, drinking glasses, hats, sandals and much much more.

Now, I’m sure you want to get in on this “Campaign” action so let’s talk about how it works. This type of display usually means that you are required to purchase a certain number of items before you are eligible to receive the free item. In this case it’s 4 bottles of Coke product  to receive 1 DVD. Take a look at the photo above one more time. See that happy family? If you look just below them you will see that the sign says 4本で1つ this means that when you purchase 4 you can get 1. This might vary depending on the particular campaign but it’s usually about 4 to 6. Now look again and you will see that list of Coke products that you can choose from (Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta, Aquarius and Green Tea). You can’t see it in this image but the other Coke products are off the the right.  Now all you have to do is decide what it is you want, put it in your cart, and pick the DVD of your choice. It’s really that simple.

This goes on throughout the year but the summer is the prime time for some awesome stuff!

 

*No paid endorsement.

 

Another Summer in Okinawa


Summers in Okinawa are “hot”. At least that’s what most people say. In fact most people start complaining about Okinawa’s heat way in the spring months because they are new to the island and think that the first sign of humidity is the “worst it can get”. Unfortunately for them once June rolls around that’s when we start to see some real humidity and then come July we’re in full blown summer and THAT is when it can’t get any worse.

Okinawa’s summers are actually quite mild if you’re looking at temperature alone. We are mostly in the 80’s maybe in the 90’s and rarely in the 100’s. Unfortunately the numbers don’t say much at all about the summers here in Okinawa. The problem that we usually encounter is the combination of humidity and dew point. Here in Okinawa we’re usually at between 70 and 80% humidity on average (and by that I mean on an average night). Depending on some other factors we may find ourselves with as much as 100% humidity and I say that assuming that you understand I am not talking about when it rains. That alone might suggest some difficult conditions but then consider the dew point. Our dew point here in Okinawa is usually around 75 to 81 degrees. Put it all together and what do you get. . . . .

Have you ever heard the expression “air so thick you could cut with a knife”? I think someone who lived a few summers here in Okinawa must have come up with that phrase. All the above conditions make for this swampy thick hot environment here in Okinawa. It’s almost like you’re in a greenhouse or something. At times it is so hot that the air conditioners can’t keep up which is why (as well as the cost) we don’t run them as often as you might expect someone living in these conditions to. Even if you did run the air conditioning constantly it wouldn’t do much to combat the constant stream of sweat.

So how do I deal with the heat and humidity of summer in Okinawa? Well I could tell you that I have gotten used to it but that would be a complete and utter lie. In all the years I have been here I still find myself asking how the heck I got through this last year. The reality is that I do what I can to keep cool through other more “realistic” and cheaper means. I might use a fan in my home and rearrange the layout of where I spend most of my time in order to avoid some of the hot sun rays that peak in through the open windows. I also buy certain products like UV curtains and sprays to keep me cool. In actuality I find myself changing clothes at least 3 times a day and probably taking about 2 showers most days. I avoid being outside and like most people in Okinawa I take refuge in shopping centers when I want a nice cool blast of AC rather then putting it on in my house.

Either way regardless my efforts I find myself struggling through the two or three short months of summer before the fall rolls along. Then when fall is finally here I can’t believe I made it through alive. . . . then I wait for next year.

Okinawa’s Rainy Season: April Showers Bring May. . . . Goya!


If I were to guess I would say the the second least enjoyable season here in Okinawa among Americans (summer coming in at the first) would have to be the rainy season. Usually starting around the April time frame rainy season is Mother Nature’s way of saying that summer is on it’s way.

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What Is Rainy Season: 

As I mentioned above rainy season usually kicks off in April and continues into June. During this time of the year it’s common to experience rain (go figure) and a lot of overcast days. According to some travel websites that I scanned in the interest of “science” before beginning this post we can expect rain about 40% of the time during rainy season. Now, I’m not saying that I’m an authority or anything but I will say that it feels like more of 70% of the time. That’s just me though.

These aren’t your average “drip drip drop little April showers” either. When Mother Nature makes it rain during rainy season she’s not kidding around. It’s not uncommon for rainy days to include non-stop hours of rain which sometimes last for two or even three days at a time. Most times this can lead to incredibly inconvenient puddles waiting to make your new shoes all soggy or even flooding in some areas.

Why Rainy Season Is A Nuisance: 

I don’t know about you but I hate being wet and soggy. More than that I hate showing up to work after 30 minutes of getting ready to find myself looking like I put my clothes on before I stepped into the shower. Then man oh man there is nothing like stepping into an ankle deep puddle on your way into the first stop on your list of places to go for the day.  Sound like rainy season is a nuisance? Well yes it can be. (More about how you can fight back later.) 

One of the other reasons that rainy season can be tough for some, especially those new to the island, is because this is the season when the humidity starts setting in. You’ve probably heard that Okinawa is hot during the summer months which is fair enough to say but it’s the humidity which is the real killer. As the rainy season presses on and the temperatures start to change the humidity starts to increase. This usually means that you start to feel sticky and grimy. This can add to the all around nasty of rainy season.

Fighting Back Against Precipitation:

Rainy season doesn’t have to be a drag. In fact there are a few things you can do which will make rainy season much more of a pleasant or at very least a less soggy experience. The first thing you can do is get yourself a pair of rain boots and/or rain shoes. Not only are they are great way to prevent you from recreating the ice capades at the grocery store or on your way back down the hill after taking your dogs outside but they are also a great way to preserve shoes from becoming waterlogged. You can also get them for a great price out in town too! I paid about ¥2000 for mine two years ago and it’s worth every penny.

Another very worth while purchase is a good rain coat. No I’m not talking about a wind breaker which is “water resistant”. I mean a good ole’ “I’m plastic I laugh at the sight of rain” rain coat. I spent a lot of time trying to find what I was looking for without any success until one day I was killing time at my local Makeman (a DIY and garden center) and found the rain suit section (insert heavenly chorus here). Now I know what you’re thinking. . . “why do I need an entire rain suit”? Chances are you don’t unless you’re like us and spend time outdoors a lot and/or ride motorcycles BUT even if you never use the pants ¥3000 is a great price for a rain coat! These are good raincoats too! I know because I have had mine put to the test:

Last but not least is the umbrella. In my honest opinion the umbrella is the “oh sh*t it’s raining and I am completely unprepared” option. Although it doesn’t offer near the same amount of protection as a rain coat and will do absolutely nothing to protect those shoes of yours it will at least ensure that your head and potentially parts of  your torso are covered. (And ladies let’s be honest. . . everything else will dry but if your hair gets wet. . . it’s game over.) 

Umbrellas are incredibly inexpensive also. Even at their most expensive you might only find yourself paying something like ¥300 for a standard umbrella. If you’ve got a keep eye you might even be so lucky as to pay closer to ¥100 or even less. With a price like that I usually have one in the house and one in the car at all times so no matter where I go, or if it stats raining once I leave the house. . . I’m good.

Turn That Frown Upside Down: 

When all is said and done rainy season isn’t much to be gloomy about if you’ve taken the time to prepare yourself. As you can see above just a little bit of effort can make things a lot more bearable during this transitional season. So turn that frown upside down, pull on those rain boots and go splash around in the puddles!

Never Doubt Obaasan!


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I live in Oyama, one of the very congested parts of Ginowan which is sandwiched between the coast of the East China Sea and MCAS Futenma. At one point it used to be a large area full of fields (some of which are still in use today even though the city has grown up around them) but now this is no longer the case. Fortunately there are still a great deal of people who work in their small yards making the best of every available inch to grow fruits, veggies and flowers as I am sure their families did before them (although on a much smaller scale.)

At least four of these backyard gardens are immediately next to my house all being tended by older women (obaasan). Day in and day out they are out there working in their gardens waving to me and yelling out an occasional “konnichia” up at me while I am out on my deck. Like clock work they are out there tending, weeding and sometimes just watching their gardens grow.

Now that it’s spring time, however, there has been a change in the attire worn by the obaasan. Rather than just a light covering over their heads they have started to wear their straw hats. These straw hats come in all different shapes and sizes. Some of 384133_10200842905217195_376062264_nthem seem like easter bonnets where as others look like a traditional Japanese style hat with a point on the top. Seeing as how I have a garden now and will be spending a great deal of time out in the sun tending to it I figured I would take the leap and pick one up for myself. After all if wisdom comes with age then these women (easily on their way to 90 years old) have got to have something here right?

Then the other day while I was at my local DIY and Garden Center I spotted it there out of the corner of my eye. I almost missed it because it was on the bottom rack hidden behind the veils of a few other visors and hats that hung above it. I immediately grabbed it saw that it was about ¥500 and tried it on (thank goodness my husband had his camera phone handy lol). Yep this was for me because if nothing else I would at least look super kawaii (and probably a little silly but I’m fine with that)!

Unfortunately as luck would have it soon after getting the hat home I had a day of clouds and then almost 12 hours of non-stop rain. Needless to saythere was no chance to see my hat in action. . . until today. I was so happy to see that the sun had come out I couldn’t help myself. I grabbed my folding chain, book, sunglasses and hat then headed out onto the deck. After spending much time on the deck under the sun I realized how nice it was to have a straw hat. Not only did the hat breath really well but it kept the sun off my neck and face. I knew those obaasan knew what they were doing!

Springtime Flowers in Okinawa


Recently cherry blossoms and orchids have been the topic of conversation but Okinawa has a lot of beautiful flowers blooming during the spring time. Unfortunately springtime flowers here in Okinawa don’t get their own festivals, aside from the cherry blossoms and orchids that is, so I thought that I would take a moment and share with you some of the flowers that I found today while enjoying some time in the sunshine.

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This is by far the best flower that I saw today and one of my favorite flours that I have ever seen around in Okinawa. (Sorry red powder puff you’re now number 2.) This pink flower almost looks like a lily and shares it’s characteristics as well. The color is bright pink, so pink in fact that the image I am posting doesn’t do it any justice. What really caught my eye, however, was the pattern on the inside of the flower. It almost looks like leopard spots.

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This little yellow flower doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. They are very small and no you’re not going to get a vase full of them on Valentine’s Day. In fact you might classify them more as weeds then flowers but for me they are a cheery reminder of spring. My favorite time to see these flowers is when they are growing along a coral wall.

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Here’s another one that I very much enjoy. These little white flowers grow in bunches. They are white and simple but very beautiful.

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These are common flowers here on Okinawa. We saw these today while walking around a stone path. The small bunches of purple flowers added a splash of color to the dull path.

Now I know what you are thinking and no these flowers might not seem like much. However, they are one of the many things that puts a smile on my face and many people just walk by them every day without a thought. Next time you’re out take a moment to look all around even at the little things. You might be surprised by what you see.

 

 

Shiokawa – Okinawa’s Salty River


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When driving around Okinawa’s Motobu Peninsula on Route 449 there is quite a bit to see. There are mountains on one side and the beautiful blue ocean on the other. For some the drive itself is beautiful enough but if you’re like me and looking for something interesting to explore this is a great place to do it.

If you’re not careful you might miss the small white sign with a blue border and blue writing. The sign simply says “Natural Monument” and doesn’t look like much aside from a small sign on the street but if you pull over be sure to grab out your camera because this is a pretty neat little place.

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As you follow the small path you will see a set of stairs which leads down to water and another path. Immediately you notice that there is seaweed growing in this river. For me it was strange because it looked like the seaweed I am familiar with from back home in New England. Long nasty looking brown strands. (I call it nasty because I think of going to be beach and getting my feet tangled in it. Ick.) Once following the path you come to an open field and then a monument. The monument has an inscription that exceeds my Japanese language ability but it stands there with a few offerings that had been left behind.

After later research I found that this river is special because it’s quite literally a salt water river. The salt content in the river is notable which is why it is considered to be one of Japan’s natural monuments. It is also known for the seaweed that was growing in it. Unfortunately the extent of my knowledge of the area ends there due to the rough translations that I was reading but it is a very interesting place to visit.

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