Ginowan City – Culture and Kitsch

Hello Everybody!

I am watching a Japanese movie on Netflix to help me with understanding the language as I write this. Of course the idea was to have subtitles, but something seems to be awry as there is no way to get subtitles. All I keep thinking is, I could go out to a bar and hear this and not understand what the heck they’re saying. But I’m going to push through as it looks interesting…

It has been an eventful week as all weeks are here in lovely Okinawa. Work is busy and constantly challenges me in ways I’ve never experienced as a therapist. What a great opportunity.

me at the air park
Hanging out at the air park on Kadena Air Force Base.

I thought this week I’d give you all a little idea of how I spend my days and nights in my so fair adopted home.  I spent some time today doing all those mundane day to day activities we must get done, you know, going to the Exchange at the Air Force Base and getting macadamia nuts, getting an oil change and having a cultural exchange with an Okinawan named James who told me that if I am to live here, I must ‘learn the lingo’. He told me all Okinawans drink too much and then gave me a history lesson on the three styles of karate that originated in the Ryukyu islands. He then attempted to convert me (his words) to Uechi Ryu.  Just your average Saturday!

walking in chatan
Bright lights, big city on the left, Camp Foster on the right.

So I don’t know how much I have conveyed being in love with my home city here, but I am in love. I wake up happy to be here and yearning to return whenever I stray away, even to Chatan or Naha. I am preparing for another little three-day foreign country jaunt, to Korea this time, and I know I will have Ginowan in my heart as I go.

I spend a lot of nights when I am not otherwise occupied wandering the side streets and waterfronts of Ginowan. Often I get home from work, get changed and prowl. There had been an urgency, almost a compulsion to get out and explore. In the past week however, I still feel the desire as strongly, but it is more relaxed. Again that feeling of being in love, at the beginning, the overwhelming desire and push to be with the one you love, then as it progresses, the warmth and comfort of just being in their presence. Like a love, Ginowan shows me different aspects, the silly, unexpected humorous tackiness of the shops, and the soulfulness and quiet of the green waters crashing into the sea wall.

Speaking of the plastic culture, there is a store that Amanda and I remark about and laugh each time we drive by, it is called American Space and it is the picture at the top of the blog.

the wind from america
My Supervisor told me that Japanese (and Okinawans) are in love with words in English, whether or not they make sense is of no accord.

We ask each other what the heck does that even mean?  We ask that a lot, I can say this…Google translate leaves much to be desired. “The wind from America for you”. Okay…? Well tonight I ventured in. I had decided to find out how far I was in walking distance from a few soba restaurants, so I went out into the sometimes rainy, always windy night. I found a few restaurants and then I wandered down past the Patchinko palaces and into American Space. The Rolling Stones were playing as I walked past a large statue of Elvis, white jumpsuit Elvis no less. Surprisingly enough, it was just a store that had American brand jeans, tee shirts and clothes. I was almost disappointed. The second floor featured used clothes from the U.S. When I walked in, the only Gaijin in the place, the guy behind the counter smiled at me. I gave him the thumbs up on the way out.

I continued my stroll down by the canals that take in the overflow from the East China Sea and instead of going straight to Araha Beach, which is my custom, I decided to walk along the street and look at some of the shops. I went by Araha Park, and marveled again at how pretty it is. I remember when I was at home and I saw pictures I thought, I’m going to hang out there all the time if I get this job. In truth, today was the first time I’ve ventured in and I thought, why haven’t I been hanging out here all along?

park at araha
I think this is supposed to look like Ryukyu glass, or maybe it is Ryukyu glass and I am not educated enough to know. Any way, it’s beautiful and a lovely little respite in a very populated area.
araha beach and park
Araha Beach and Park – Okay, it’s in Chatan, but it’s walking distance from my home and I spend a lot of time here. Seriously, look at that water!!

As I walked toward my house, I passed a little place that I’ve been thinking about for dinner. It is an Izakaya, I hope I got that right. A bar/restaurant that usually has some form of music, be it live or Memorex, but it is the place to be for a single person. Amanda and I went to one on a Friday after work one night, and they might have thought we were having a ‘date night’! So tonight I had on my stars and stripes hat (which I bought for 300 yen at the Daiso) as I passed by the window. There were about four Okinawan men in there, probably 50’s or 60’s facing the street. I was smiling because it just seemed strange to me that they would be sitting there looking out at street. One flashed me a peace sign and I smiled again and continued on my way home!

fake lip tattoos
I went to this store, Tokyu Hands, last weekend. If you need some temporary zebra lip tattoos, I’ve got you covered! And for only 463 yen, how can you not buy them?

I’ve also been checking out an area below Tropical Beach, maybe a mile and a half south of my house. Their malls are different from ours and not crowded with languid teens who have a hard time looking up from their personal devices. In just about all of them is a giant screen TV with some sort of sporting event and a bunch of folding chairs to watch. I usually plunk down with a vending machine coffee in my hands and watch some Sumo. That day there was rugby first, then not to be disappointed, the Sumo. I am having so much fun learning about this. It is a little frustrating to wait for them to get to the action. There’s a lot of rice sprinkling and posturing before they get down to it. I am reminded of some Major League baseball players who take forever in the batters’ box.

big head!
How can you not love a place like this? Tokyu Hands has EVERYTHING!

I think tomorrow I will head to the Futenma Shrine, a Shinto shrine not too far from Camp Foster. The tradition here is to visit the shrines on New Year’s to make your manners as it were to the Gods or Goddesses that inhabit them. I was going to go to Futenma, but I hear the Goddess is not happy there right now, so it’s best to get your blessing elsewhere.

I will leave you with a little video from my brief visit to the beach tonight. This is Araha! Have a great week, I will be late next week because I will be in Busan, Korea. Be safe and have a great week!