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


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 May, 2011

Post-typhoon Check-in

Posted By Dave on May 29th, 2011

Just checking with you all after Typhoon Songdu just came through Okinawa last night.  People have been watching it over the past few days as it was initially forecast to come right over Okinawa.  Then yesterday it looked like it would pass just north of us as it weakened slightly.  What seemed to happen though was just as it was north of us yesterday evening, it turned east and got closer and stronger.  Winds on island were hitting 135mph according to the local weather centre and plenty of places lost power (I was without power for 4 hours or so).  Doors out to my balcony also started to let in a little water.  I woke up in the night and could hear that every time the wind gusted it sounded like I had a lovely little water feature in my apartment!

No personal damage except for a wind deflector being ripped off my car which is now probably half way to Taiwan.  Outside my place though a big tree has come down, almost severing power and/or internet lines.  It has taken some people a little by surprise though as it is already the 2nd typhoon of the season which only usually starts on June 1st.  Rainy season arrived 9 days early and it looks like typhoon season has come a couple of weeks early too.

They are worried now up in mainland Japan that the typhoon might come close to the Fukushima plant and really mess things up (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13587264).  I have had to contact the BBC though and complain a little about the article.  It seems like the journalist who wrote the article is unaware that Okinawa is part of Japan.  Sloppy.

Hope everyone else is ok with as little damage as possible.

The BBC: Sometimes Too Harsh?

Posted By Dave on May 20th, 2011

I was reading a few articles from the BBC website a week or so ago.  Alongside the story you are reading, an average BBC website page also includes links to the most read stories, as well as daily features that it wants to promote.  Usually the British Broadcasting Corporation tends to be pretty middle-of-the-road and not so controversial in its news reporting, but this take a look at the third feature below from their site.

Although the story itself is about a serious topic the main title and description made me laugh a little.  It’s not like everyone who was sent to the Treblinka extermination camp was given a crash course in basic artwork and a set of HB-9B pencils!  I could imagine the researcher coming back to their computer after visiting Samuel Willenberg.  The researcher is thinking, “What angle should I put on this story: the horror of the camps themselves, the stories Willenberg told, the hopes and dreams of someone who survived the camps maybe?  Let’s just go back to some of those drawings he gave me.  Man those are some poor quality pictures… hang on, I’ve got it!”

Will just finish this entry with a postscript.  No doubt because some people will think I’m heartless and making light of something awful that happened during WWII.  While the former may be true, the latter definitely isn’t.  Actually reading this article and then researching Treblinka helped me learn about another dark part of WWII that should never be forgotten.  I encourage you to do the same:

Japanese Celebrity Found Hanged at Home

Posted By Dave on May 12th, 2011

Sad news coming through the wires here in Japan, as celebrity (known as tarento here) Miyu Uehara has been found hanged in her Tokyo home.  The TV star and former gravure idol (in very loose terms this translates to bikini model) & race queen had just turned 24 years old at the start of the month.  Although she does not appear to have left a note in her apartment, her last blog entry revealed she was unhappy because she hadn’t been able to find true love.

Now whether that’s a young girl deciding to make a final solution to a short-term problem, or someone who’s just been sucked in and spat out of the less-than squeaky clean gravure industry, it’s a crying shame that someone so young has taken their life.  Over the past few years I’ve written numerous times about suicide rates in Japan and how it has one of the highest rates in the world.  Despite the rate being so high, and the annual announcement that this is “regrettable”, nothing ever seems to be done to counter it or help people with feelings of depression.  There is no support structure in place, or campaign (which the Japanese love so much).

A Japanese trait is to deal with things quietly and not to burden others with your troubles, but I don’t think there is any well-known organisation similar to the Samaritans.  While Befrienders International do a sterling job with the limited resources they have, I doubt almost anyone in Japan would know who they are or what they do.  If the rate is ever to go down, it needs to end the practice of just sweeping suicide under the carpet and being afraid to talk about it for fear of disrupting the harmony.

Reading the article makes me think back to the suicide of Ako Kawada’s suicide back in 2008 and the sad situation surrounding that.  We should remember though that for every celebrity and famous face leaving us through suicide, there are countless others who don’t get mentioned in the headlines, and simply become part of an increasingly alarming statistic for almost everyone except the government in Japan.  And also that even here in Japan there is help and someone who will listen just a phonecall away.

Befrienders International: Tokyo (Japanese)
Tel: 03 5286 9090
Website: http://www.befrienders-jpn.org/index.html

Tokyo English Lifeline (English)
Tel: 03 5774 0992
Website: www.telljp.com

Continuing the Evo Resurrection

Posted By Dave on May 12th, 2011


So when I left you with my last car update, I was just about to turn the key after a solo engine rebuild, and had all sorts of thoughts going through my head.  Was the car going to start?  Was the timing right?  Were the conrods tightened up right or were the pistons going to try and introduce themselves to the bonnet of my car?!

Well, none of the above actually.  The starter turned a few times but the engine didn’t show any real signs of starting up.  I tried again but this time put my foot down on the accelerator a little and it fired up momentarily with a bang from the exhaust and then died again.  Kept at it though and a few bangs later the car finally started up.  Although it didn’t have that familiar Evo engine sound.  To be honest it sounded more like the lovechild of a dirtbike and a tractor!  Take a listen

It wasn’t filling me with enthusiasm although the engine hadn’t exploded in a fireball so that was something I suppose.  Had no idea what the problem could be though.  It sounded like the timing was way off but I’d checked, double-checked and triple-checked when I put it back together that everything lined up.  I’d put new lifters in the car but the distinctive noise from them had died away very quickly.  Someone else said that the balance shaft of the car sounded like it was out by 180 degrees, which would contribute to the vibrations I was also getting at idle and then at around 2000rpm, but I could have sworn I’d checked that too.  But I must have made a mistake somewhere so I started to do some research and troubleshooting.

Started with airflow and made sure that everything was attached and that there weren’t any huge leaks but had no luck there.  I then went onto ignition for a quick check before I started tearing into the timing belt and taking all that side of the car apart again.  For an engine to fire it needs fuel, air, and a spark, and for the latter you need  good plugs and wires.  I bought some new plugs even though the old ones looked in fairly decent condition.  And then I went over to my spare engine to grab some spark plug leads to throw on.  I was just pulling them off and as I did I thought to myself, “Hang on a minute… those wires aren’t in the same order as the ones on my car!”  I went over to my engine and checked the spark plug wires.  Out of the 4 wires, 3 of them were going to the wrong spark plug connector!  So the signal for the spark was coming at completely the wrong time in the fuel/air injection cycle.  Not the most conducive thing for a well-running engine to say the least.  Rather embarrassed I changed the wires over to the right sockets and tried to start it up again.

This time after a few seconds the engine fired into life and was, quite literally, firing on all cylinders.  The engine was sounding strong and didn’t need any extra effort on the accelerator to keep it going.  Result!

I let it warm up fully and the engine made it’s typical post-rebuild smoking in the engine bay as all the grease and oil was burned off parts getting hot.  I kept topping up the radiator with coolant, and topping it up, and topping it up still.  After a fair few attempts at doing this I started getting a bit suspicious that the coolant was going somewhere and wasn’t being circulated or evaporating as it got hot.  A quick glance under the car confirmed my suspicions.  There then followed a process of me tightening up one hose or replacing it, only for the weak point in the cooling system to move somewhere else.  The cooling system was always something I had a concern about, knowing that that the engine had blown a headgasket but not known the reason.  Also, when I changed the water pump I didn’t expect the old one to look like an artificial coral reef!  Take a look:

So I went from one hose to another until I thought they were all sorted out and fired the car up again.  It seemed to be going great until it got to full working temperature and I dropped underneath the car again.  There was a leak and a pretty decent one coming somewhere from the front of the engine.  Shined a torch in there but couldn’t fathom where it was coming from.  The water was only coming when there was pressure in the system as it wasn’t leaking when it was cold.  I replaced the rubber turbo hoses down there but the leak kept on coming.  Eventually I had to resort to calling up a buddy and have him come over with a leak tester to find it.

This is basically a handpump with an adapter to fit it to the top of a radiator, where the cap would go.  You then pump it up to the required pressure and look around for the leak.  You’ve got no heat, noise and vibration so it should make the leak easy to find.  And so it did.  it was leaking from 3 pinholes in the main waterpipe running between the turbo engine.  Looks like a 16-year old pretty poorly done weld had given way and was way beyond any sort of repair.  I could have replaced it with a used one but decided to fork out for a new one so I was safe in the knowledge that it would be good for some time to come.

Fitted that up with a bit of effort and fired it up again.  Result – no coolant leaks!  Now there are a couple of other leaks (transfer box and one small leak at the front of the oil pan) but as long as the car passes inspection then it can be dealt with.  So the car starts and idles just about right… now to get it moving!

Posted in Cars

Maldives: Trouble in Paradise

Posted By Dave on May 11th, 2011

Now I usually try to keep track of what’s happening in the world but when I heard about this story from my family it took me a little by surprise.  Thought it worth writing about; if nothing else it might show some people that the paradise that is displayed in the Maldives isn’t the whole of what’s going on.

For those that didn’t know (which might be quite a few of you as I don’t think I’ve mentioned it much here), my first real job in the teaching profession was on the island of Malhos in North Arti Atoll, Maldives.  It was a baptism of fire and I remember to the day what I was told soon after I landed at Male International Airport.  I was greeted my my employer and told, “We told you that you would be teaching with a Maldivian teacher, but actually you’re going to be on your own from day one… your first class will be in 2 days’ time, but the school is still being built… your first class will be the first ever English class for primary school first years’.  They have never heard English before, and you’re probably the first white person they’ve ever met”.  I was…

maldives (800).jpgMalhohu Madharusa school in Maldives

But more about that another time.  The news regarding this idyllic country is one of unrest, rioting and violence throughout the capital city, Male.  It seems the demonstrations by pro and anti-government parties that started in the Middle East is increasing in popularity.  The demonstration were allegedly started by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his party.  The party deny this though, claiming that the protests were spontaneous and in response to rising commodity prices.  Police have become involved in the protests, using tear gas and arresting at least 100 people, with reports now of 350+ injuries among the protesters there.  The opposition leader was also detained for some time.  A la Egypt and other places, the protesters have vowed to continue their actions until President Mohamed Nasheed leaves his position.

Nasheed came to power back in 2008, following the first truly democratic elections in the country.  Prior to that, Gayoom had been president for 30 years.  There were elections during that time, although opposition parties were not allowed to take part, and the president always received around 99% of the vote in the first round, so there was never any real opposition.  Throughout 2003 while I was there, there were murmurings of discontent with the government.  This turned violent in September of that year after the fatal beating of a prisoner by guards.  The protests in the nation’s capital sparked a strong response from the government, with curfews being imposed and armoured vehicles being seen on the streets.  All the time this was going on the holiday-makers were arriving on the airport island and being transported to their resorts, oblivious of what was going on just a short boat trip away.

It looks like these protests are going to continue for some time and it comes down to who breaks first; the demonstrators or the government.  It’s always concerning though when people without weapons are in violent conflict with people with them.  Fingers are firmly crossed for a quick and peaceful resolution to the demonstrations.  Unrest will bring nothing but trouble to the country in general, which relies in the most part on tourism for its foreign income.  If holidaymakers see Maldives as a potential dangerzone then they’ll go to other countries, harming the nation even more.

maldives (216).jpg

Looking out from Male

Posted in News
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