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An alternative look at life in the Land of the Rising Sun, coming from its southernmost prefecture, the island of Okinawa.
Posted By Dave on July 8th, 2014

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/getting-healthy-in-leeds-with-v-physique-body-by-design/

Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying.  It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though!  But after a couple of months of being back in England […]

 

Archive for August, 2010

Ch…ch…ch…ch… Changes!

Posted By Dave on August 29th, 2010

Made a few changes to the website over the past 24 hours, and hopefully it will make for a more enjoyable experience for everyone.  They’re pretty subtle, but the more perceptive of you might notice the following:

  • First off, the site fills up a little more of the screen.  Gone are the days when 1024 x 768 was considered a big resolution, and hopefully the increasing size of the blog reflects this.  I’ve not gone too big though, and kept to a size where almost everyone should be able to view it comfortably without having to scroll horizontally.
  • With the site size increasing, it also means there is more space on the left hand side for articles.  What does that mean for you?  Well easier reading of my ramblings without having to scroll so much and the potential for bigger pictures.
  • The Google-sponsored ad at the right hand side of the page has gone, thank God.  I mean really, did anyone actually notice it was there, nevermind click it?  And most browsers are being installed with anti-ad plugins on them anyway so it was just a waste of space.
  • In place of the Google ad though is quite a nice little widget I found to show off my photo albums.  Go on, move your mouse over there and see the photos spin!  If you find one you like you can click on it and you’ll be sent right over to the album you selected.  Neat, huh?

Also done a couple of little admin switches that should make browsing a little easier for you all.  I still have to renew the logo at the top of the screen, but am working on a new design for that.  Hopefully won’t be too long before I come up with something good.  Let me know what you think of the changes, if there are any feature requests, or if you find any little bugs on the site.

Beautiful Shinjuku Photography from Chris Willson

Posted By Dave on August 29th, 2010

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/beautiful-shinjuku-photography-from-chris-willson/

I saw these photos a few days ago and I knew as soon as they were published online I just had to link across to them.  The photographer in question is Chris Willson from the website travel67.com, who’s cracking behind the camera and takes shots I could only dream of snapping.

On his latest trip he headed to the neon-covered area of Tokyo called Shinjuku.  This, along with Shibuya, is probably the image of Tokyo people get when they think of Japan.  Wall-to-wall neon lighting outside and something happening every second of every day.  While he was there he met up with model Charissa Littlejohn, and did a pretty awesome set of photos.  Four shots have been published on his site, and my favourite has to be the one you can see below.  Don’t know what it is about it but the building in the background, the lighting, the subject… everything just works so well.
Shinjuku Fashion Shoot (2)[

Which of the 4 you can see on his page is your favourite shot?

Japanese Politician Working Hard to Ruin US-Japan Relations

Posted By Dave on August 28th, 2010

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/japanese-politician-working-hard-to-ruin-us-japan-relations/

Read this story at work and couldn’t stop laughing for a few minutes.  The story revolves around Ichiro Ozawa (see right), former LDP politician who then defected to the DPJ where he was president for a year (the usual duration a leading Japanese politician stays in office) before resigning from his post due to a scandal.  He still holds a lot of power though in the ruling party in Japan.

If you’ve read articles I’ve written on this page over the past couple of years, you’ll know how Japanese politicians have a wonderful way with words.  Whether it’s a health minister describing women as “birth-giving machines”, a prime minister declaring that nukes were secretly kept in Japan being merely “regrettable”, or a current Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara defiantly claiming that, “People say that the Japanese made a holocaust but that is not true.  It is a story made up by the Chinese. It has tarnished the image of Japan, but it is a lie”, they are always good for a soundbite or two.  And so it was that Ozawa called a press conference on August 25th.  In it he stated that “I like Americans, but they are somewhat unicellular”.  Am still trying to work out if that’s a compliment or not!  He then followed up by saying that “I don’t think Americans are smart”.  Just the bluntness of that makes me laugh, and that doesn’t seem to be something lost in translation.  Hearing it in Japanese is as clearcut as that pretty much.

Ozawa then realised he was on a roll though, and decided to have a go at the British.  “I don’t like British people” he claimed, although didn’t seem to give any reason for it.  However, he did compliment British soldiers on their marching in “The Bridge on the River Kwai”.  Yup, I’m as confused as you on that one!

Am pretty sure Foreign Minister could be his next role, as he certainly seems adept in international diplomacy!  Although he might get a chance to be Prime Minister again soon as current Prime Minister Naoto Kan is facing a challenge from Ozawa two months into the job!  This could be a spectacular record for a Prime Ministers’s tenure in Japan.  Usually they give them 12 months before the party throws them under the bus but this could be shorter than usual.  Stay tuned for more.

Discovering Scuba Diving at Cape Maeda

Posted By Dave on August 27th, 2010

For the first time in a while I have some diving to report, and for the first time in even longer, some dive instruction.  Last weekend I was chatting to a couple of my friends and they were saying Okinawa is great, but they’d done everything there was to do.  I instantly called their bluff and asked them about diving, as Okinawa is one of the best places around to do it.  They quickly replied that they weren’t very good swimmers, which is an all-too-common preconception about SCUBA Diving.  For the Open Water course, you do have to complete a 200m swim and 10-minute float in a pool environment to qualify for the certification.  But for the Discover Scuba Diving “experience” you don’t need to be able to swim at all!  The main reason for this is that the instructor will be in direct contact with you 100% of the time.  In my case, I usually do that by holding the hand or BCD of the students at all times, and is also the reason why I don’t take more than 2 students on this experience at the same time.

After learning you didn’t have to be a good swimmer, they quickly said they wanted to try it, and proposed last Monday at Cape Maeda.  Ironically, I’d said to my main dive buddy a few days before that there is no way I was going to dive between August 22nd and 25th because of it being Obon in Okinawa.  This is a festival where the spirits of your ancestors come back, and is a big event in Japan.  But one of the things you are told is that you should never go into the water as the spirits will pull you down or do similarly unpleasant things.  I didn’t know this in my first year in Japan and went diving right in the middle of this festival.  I didn’t see any ghosts or anything, but it was just one of those dives where nothing seems to go right.  It was a dive site we knew well but we still managed to get lost and had a huge surface swim at the end.  Someone had IMG_0004 crop_pp sharp-picasa.jpgequipment problems, and another had mask problems.  Now I’m not a big believer in the supernatural, but a couple of days later when someone expressed their shock that I’d dived in Obon, I decided that it was probably not to upset whatever might be out there so vowed to not do it again.  But when 2 people want to dive (and yes, they were female which is what you’re probably all thinking!) then how could I refuse?!

Monday was a warm day with temperatures in the low 30s and the sun blazing down inbetween heavy showers.  But I met the students (one of whom came with her husband, a PADI Rescue Diver).  They were both nervous but I did my best to reassure them them that there was nothing to be scared about and that they would be fine.  It seemed to work and they donned their wetsuits and equipment.  Have to say I was very impressed with how few complaints there were about the heat within the wetsuit or the weight of the equipment.  So kitted out and after a briefing about the skills we would do before we dived- we headed down the infamous Maeda steps…

The water was bathwater warm, around 32C at the surface, and with just a little surface chop.  There were plenty of people there, but all mainlander tourists, whose own Obon was the previous week.  We managed to find a quiet spot though to cover the breathing, regulator recovery & mask clearing exercises.  Both students performed very well on these, although on the mask clearing one of them was complaining that even after clearing some water was getting into her mask.  She tried changing with my mask which fitted her a little better, but still wasn’t completely happy.  We descended slowly to around 5m, equalizing our ears and mask as we went down and making sure we were all in close contact.  After around a minute or 2 one of the students gave me the “let’s ascend” hand signal.  I quickly got into eye contact with her to make sure she wasn’t panicking and could see she was calm.  So we all went up to the surface slowly and safely.

One of the best and first things things you should do if a student seems to have a problem is to establish eye contact with them.  First of all it allows you to look into their eyes and see if they are about to panic and liable to act unpredictably.  But it also allows the student to see you, and hopefully see that you are calm and fully in control of the situation.  I’ve found that goes a long way into making a potentially dangerous situation a calm procedure where everyone is comfortable with what is happening.  On surfacing the student told me that water was getting into her mask and even after clearing it was still coming in.  While she could do the mask clearing exercise, the said the deeper she went the more uncomfortable she became, as she was worried lots of water would come in and she would be unable to clear her mask.  It’s a psychological hurdle that many divers have to get over, and while she tried with different masks, after a few attempts during which we did swim around a little, we had to abort the dive.  The student in question felt bad, despite having one of the best diving skills you can possess: a cool head.  The other student was performing very well too, and she was the weaker swimmer of the two.  The diver with mask problems stated that if she could get comfortable breathing in a pool environment she would be much happier, but she did want to try it again.  That made me feel very happy, as an unsuccessful first experience can turn many people off diving, but I am glad she was determined to come back and try again.

So despite not having a full “experience”, it was great to get into the ocean and help people experience breathing underwater for the first time.  Hopefully they will return soon and they’ll be well on their way to becoming hooked on the world under the waves.

Before I go, a big thanks to Chris from travel67.com for helping with the photo editing on the shot above.  Came out pretty well 🙂

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New Clutch, Flywheel & short shifter in the RX-7

Posted By Dave on August 15th, 2010

http://www.biginjapan.co/biginjapan/new-clutch-flywheel-short-shifter-in-the-rx-7/

Well huge props to ImaKethings and MJR for help with the clutch swap.  Am confident that without them I’d still be looking up at the transmission, confused, wondering how the hell I’m even gonna start taking it out.  Think even if I’d somehow managed to get the mission off, the 54mm flywheel nut that greeted me would have destroyed me.  They helped me out (or rather did the work despite my best attempts to assist/hinder them) and now I’m well on the way to breaking this clutch in.

First of all, the clutch swap was something I didn’t plan on, but needed doing.  Was finding that in 4th gear when I floored the throttle, the revs would start flying up but the speed would just go up slowly.  Tell-tale signs of a clutch going out and so a new one had to be sourced.

As for the flywheel, I’d managed to get my hands on a used lightened flywheel.  Took it to ImaKethings and he tried to machine the surface to get it ready.  But as the surface was cut, 7 damaged spots kept coming up and wouldn’t give us a flat surface.  In the end almost 3mm was shaved off it in order to try and find an undamaged surface.  But find one we did and now the flywheel is extra-light.  Means I have to rev a little more on hill starts, but found out on the way home that without the silencer in my exhaust, hill starts now set off car alarms!  Felt so much lighter though: stock flywheel weighs 22lbs and the Exedy lightened one that went in was 10.2lbs after machining including rear counterweight which is a hell of a lot of difference (a weight reduction of 53% in fact).  There was a bit of concern whether the flywheel would be ok with that much taken off the surface, but we reckoned that with the power I was making it’s not gonna be an issue.

So it went in without any huge drama and even the notoriously hard to remove pilot bearing was pulled out relatively easily.  Threw in an ACT Street/Strip clutch setup which has been recommended by a lot of FC guys (cheers to Skylinessuck for help in getting that).  Over 300 torques was applied in putting the big flywheel bolt back on and everything lined up perfectly.  One thing I did notice while under the car is that almost all of the bushings I could see down there needed replacing.  Will have to work on that, especially the front end, as it’s a bit of a bumpy ride when you get onto the country roads.  Could be the front coilovers need overhauling/replacing but not sure yet.  Will go on the “to do” list.

Because the flywheel’s so light, it makes hill starts a little fun, but overall am very pleased.  The clutch pedal actually feels lighter than stock for some reason.  Still breaking it in so no boost yet but when I put my foot down I know I’m gonna have to watch the gauge for that boost creep as it’s gonna come up even faster now.

ACT Street/Strip clutch disc & plate

Clutch swap-1.jpg

Clutch swap-2.jpg

Counterweight to compensate for the lightened flywheelClutch swap-3.jpg

Extra stuff

Clutch swap-4.jpg

Off with the old flywheel…

Clutch swap-6.jpg

…and on with the new (should read 2.852mm cut)

Clutch swap-10.jpg

Clutch swap-11.jpg

The old clutch disc had seen better days.  It was worn down to the rivets on the flywheel side as you can see

Clutch swap-14.jpg

Rear of the 13B engine exposed

Clutch swap-7.jpg

New pilot bearing in & ready for action

Clutch swap-8.jpg

Counterweight fitted with 54mm nut on and torqued to 350lbs/ft

Clutch swap-12.jpg

All ready for the clutch

Clutch swap-15.jpg

Clutch swap-16.jpg

Shots of my trying to pretend like I did the work myself!

Clutch swap-17.jpg

Clutch swap-18.jpg

Extra stuff
[img]http://lh4.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaGU8y6JWI/AAAAAAAACDU/JQRsbEfMRZ4/s800/Clutch%20swap-4.jpg[/img]
Off with the old flywheel…
[img]http://lh4.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaGaC9hmuI/AAAAAAAACDc/R86qDvGKbbI/s800/Clutch%20swap-6.jpg[/img]
…and on with the new (should read 2.852mm cut)
[img]http://lh5.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaGnAmaLdI/AAAAAAAACDw/5_XsCjkc7OE/s800/Clutch%20swap-10.jpg[/img]
[img]http://lh5.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaGqMJa2II/AAAAAAAACD0/kPo4MOkGSEA/s800/Clutch%20swap-11.jpg[/img]
Old clutch disc had seen better days
[img]http://lh5.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaGyatZEGI/AAAAAAAACEA/4yAEm4HGJDk/s800/Clutch%20swap-14.jpg[/img]
13B exposed
[img]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaGdlRVFgI/AAAAAAAACDg/ViJxuD7FXxs/s800/Clutch%20swap-7.jpg[/img]
New pilot bearing in & ready for action
[img]http://lh3.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaGgwwtz0I/AAAAAAAACDk/qZB7vIdGhC4/s800/Clutch%20swap-8.jpg[/img]
Counterweight on
[img]http://lh5.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaGtLGC_jI/AAAAAAAACD4/pSsBITYn8v4/s800/Clutch%20swap-12.jpg[/img]
And ready for the clutch
[img]http://lh3.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaG3XlnimI/AAAAAAAACEI/mLUJLw447GY/s800/Clutch%20swap-16.jpg[/img]
Apparently I must have been asked to look as much of a tool as possible on the photos!
[img]http://lh6.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaG8dXW8hI/AAAAAAAACEQ/VyU_LmGLo2g/s800/Clutch%20swap-18.jpg[/img]
Final shot of my trying to pretend like I did the work myself!
[img]http://lh5.ggpht.com/_SxJkCkkFJ_Q/TGaG5ig0-WI/AAAAAAAACEM/d7IC4_qU3Dw/s800/Clutch%20swap-17.jpg[/img]

More goodies that I’ve added a little later.

Posted in Cars

Dive Instructor Killed in Okinawa by Stonefish Sting

Posted By Dave on August 7th, 2010

Sad news to report in this update, from the hot and humid shores of Okinawa.  On Thursday a 58-year old Okinawan dive instructor was killed in the north of the island after being stung by a stonefish.  This marks the first death in Okinawa from a stonefish in over 27 years and any death in the diving community affects people and their thinking.  The cause of death sounds like it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The man was giving students a lesson in shallow water on the morning of Thursday August 7th.  He was standing barefoot in the water when he felt a sudden pain in his foot.  Unconsciousness quickly followed and 90 minutes later he had passed away.

Whether he has other medical issues is a case for the coroner to determine.  Stonefish stings are always serious, but not so often life-threatening.  Now sometimes I’d be critical of people for touching the marine life, but in this case I’ve nothing but sympathy for the guy’s family as it’s most likely a freak accident.  Even if you’re looking carefully where you’re putting your hands and feet while in the water, stonefish are hard to spot.  My regular dive buddy is damn good at seeing these things, and I’m sure I just swim by plenty of them without noticing them.  Just take a look in the photo below.

So once again, a sad day for all involved in the diving community here in Okinawa.  It’s times like these you realise that the environment under the waves isn’t all Nemo and mermaids.

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