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 August, 2011

Working On A Photoshoot with Chris Willson

Posted By Dave on August 24th, 2011


Something a little different for you today.  Last Sunday and Tuesday of this week I was given the chance to work with photographer and very good friend of mine, Chris Willson of Travel 67.  I dabble a little in photography but am just an amateur with a Canon 20D who occasionally manages to take a good shot or two.  So the opportunity to help out a friend, and learn a few new things too was too good to pass up.

So well before dawn on Sunday morning I got up and crawled into my car.  Not the easiest of things considering I have been destroying my bodyclock recently.  Watching sport from 1900 until about 0400 the next morning with a 50 minute sleep break and then just an hour’s sleep before getting up 2 days in a row is not the most conducive thing for being productive.  So I downed a coffee and put my foot down.

The shoot went really well actually, and was for jewellery designer Suzanne Somersall.  The model we were taking shots of was Amanda, who had had excellent foresight and brought a longboard along with her.  So we managed to get some very cool shots as the sun started to rise from behind the hills.  My role in the shoot was holding and positioning the diffusers and reflectors to make sure that we had enough (but not too much) light, and that it was coming from the right directions.  Doesn’t sound like a huge job, but someone’s got to do it and I was happy to.  It was also good working with Chris and seeing how he does things.  Gave me the chance to ask a few questions and learn a few things.

And then on Tuesday I dragged myself out of bed again and headed out for another photoshoot.  This time the main model was Bianca, but we also had one of an equine variety!  The horse’s name was Essa, and lived at a Mihara Horse Club in Ishikawa.  The shoot was again for Kira Kira Jewellery and was fun to do, but with its own challenges.  Obviously, a horse has its own personality and doesn’t respond as quickly as the models to commands about where to position their heads and bodies!  Everyone learned a fair bit and the horse didn’t bolt and run away or run over us, so I’ll take that as a success.

Chris has published a few of the shots from the first shoot on his website, so be sure to check out his page for more excellent shots.  But thank you to him, the models Amanda and Bianca, and Eve from Mihara Horse Club for giving me the opportunity to work with them.  It was a pleasure working with you all and hopefully our paths will cross on a shoot again very soon.  And Amanda, I’ll let you know when the car’s ready and we can head out somewhere!

Ken Block Gymkhana 4 For Download

Posted By Dave on August 17th, 2011


One of the most popular articles published on here has been my Ken Block Gymkhana article back in summer 2009.  Since then Ken has taken to the WRC, and destroyed half (at the last count) of the 40 cars that Ford provided for him to use.  Not sure he takes it as seriously as the other drivers; for him it’s just a game and a bit of fun whereas for the others it’s their livelihood.  But anyway, he’s back doing what he does best: making his “gymkhana’ videos.

I know it’s not real gymkhana, but it’s still very cool to watch.  Could have done with a little more driving in there, but that’s just me trying to find something to be critical about.  You can take a look at the video on Youtube, but best of all you can follow either of the links below to download the whole video in high definition.  I’ve given you a choice of a 720p download or the full HD 1080 resolution, so you can choose as you like.

So take a look, enjoy, and leave a comment if you like what you see.

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720p (179MB): here

1080p (349MB): here

Posted in Cars

Trying to be More “Social”

Posted By Dave on August 17th, 2011


I’m sure you’ve all tried to find me on Facebook before so you can find out what is happening to your dear blogger in his life.  No?  Anyone?  Anyone at all?  Bueller???

Ah well, possibly not.  I’ve never liked Facebook to be honest as the idea of sharing my whole life and thoughts with people I don’t particularly know or care about doesn’t fill be with that much excitement.  Plus, I never liked that once you had become someone’s “friend”, they would have the same access to your posts that all your other “friends” have.  There are some things I talk about to some people, for example with cars and playing around with them, that I don’t want everyone to be reading and seeing.  Plus I try to keep in touch with people via this site and other means.  But times change and I suppose I’m going to have to get dragged into the 21st century somehow.

So I’ve set myself up a Google+ account.  It’s similar to Facebook, or what Facebook should have been when it started up.  It’s still in a testing phase so there are some bugs that are getting worked out but it’s pretty promising at the moment.  One of my favourite aspects is the “Circles” that you can set up.  You can allot people to different circles and so when you share posts or media, you can select which circles will be able to see it.  So if there is something you post that will only be relevant to, say, your car friends, you can just post it to your “Car” circle.  I’ve also added the Google +1 button to each of the article headings and below each article post.  If you find the post interesting you can click it and it records on Google that you find it worthwhile.  It’s similar to Facebook’s “Like” button and I believe is being implemented into Google searches so search results will be ranked higher if one of your friends has clicked on the +1 button for a particular result.  I’m liking it so far and trying to post things up there whenever the need takes me.  I will still keep this site updated with longer articles, but random videos, pictures and thoughts from Japan will go up there.

If you want an invite to Google+, just send me an email or leave a comment below and I’ll fire one through to you.  Just for the record I do have a Twitter account but it’s updated very rarely.  I don’t feel the need for that to be honest; if something is happening in my life that’s exciting, I want to be experiencing it at that moment and not typing a short message on my phone about it.  I challenge you to convince me otherwise.

Typhoon Muifa… It Took Its Time!

Posted By Dave on August 6th, 2011


Well finally things are calming down after Typhoon Muifa came past Okinawa over the past couple of days, although it took its sweet time passing through.  Originally, we were expecting it to come and go by Tuesday of this week, as it veered north towards us.  At that point it was on a direct heading with mainland Okinawa, and JMA (the Japan Meteorological Agency) reporting a head-on hit with a supertyphoon.  But then as it got closer it started to veer westwards, and it looked like it would miss us by 50-100 miles.  And it slowed down, meaning it would pass by on Thursday night, probably meaning it would be gone by Friday lunchtime.

Well, on Thursday everyone got the word to go home as the public buses stopped at 1300.  I grabbed some essentials (crisps, soft drinks and chocolate), headed home and did my big typhoon preparations.  That is commonly known as bringing in my washing!  As Thursday passed the winds picked up to around 60-70mph – strong enough to be clearly audible outside but not really anything to be worried about.  And anyway, come Friday morning it would have passed and we could get back to our weekend.  Or so we thought.

The typhoon then decided to slow right down as it passed is, skirting around Okinawa but keeping us in the storm radius right up until Saturday afternoon.  Conditions got worse throughout Friday morning as it the typhoon approached but the early afternoon gave us a 3-4 hour respite as the eye of the typhoon passed close to the island and the winds died down slightly.  Once that had passed though, we were right under the SE quadrant of the typhoon and the 80-85mph winds it was bringing.  Some areas of Okinawa lost power last night for up to 8 hours, although my place stayed up with just a few flickers of the lights.

All in all it’s been a good 48 hours and more of typhoon Muifa passing by, and it didn’t even get that close to us.  While most typhoons that come are bad because they cause damage in a relatively short period of time (6-8 hours), this one was because it wasn’t as strong as a direct hit would have been, but just dragged on for so long.  JMA reported that since Thursday morning we had a mammoth 41″ of rain, and yes you did read that right.  At some points we were getting over 2″ an hour!  Needless to say, as soon as it was safe to go out today I was on the road grabbing coffee and checking the sea conditions.  I had a look at a couple of sites.  Firstly, Kadena North was unsurprisingly pretty rough as you can see below

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Then I decided to head up to Maeda to see the really big waves coming in.  What I saw though was quite a shock.  Noting.  No big surge, no white-capping, no huge crashing waves.  Just a bit of sporty water that I’d have been happy to dive in.  I’ve dived in a lot worse conditions at Maeda and it really took me back how good it looked.  This is actually because Maeda Misaki faces due North and was pretty sheltered so far from the typhoon; I’d imagine in 4-6 hours it would start to get pretty bad there.

And there you have it.  Typhoon Muifa has been and gone and is on its way to China now.  Hopefully it will weaken before it hits the Chinese mainland and the damage it causes will be minimal.  Let me know if you were affected by it in any way, and despite this one not being bad, you should never take these things for granted.

More Car Woes

Posted By Dave on August 1st, 2011

So the car out of the bodyshop looking good and ready for some driving and the last few niggles sorting out.  Or so I thought.  Since it’s come out Murphy’s Law has definitely been in effect, with problem after problem, and not just small ones.

Firstly, less than 24 hours after getting the car back out of the bodyshop I’d damaged the paintwork.  I pulled into a convenience store and, when driving into the parking spot, forgot that the newer bumper on my car makes me a good couple of inches lower than I was before.  Evidently now lower than the small concrete blocks they put in to stop your tyres from going to far.  I heard that awful sound of fibreglass on concrete and it didn’t sound pleasant.  So the lip of the bumper has a big crack/break in it at one side.  Not the end of the world though and one of my friends should be able to fix it.

Anyway an couple of days later we had some torrential downpours in Okinawa.  Noah’s Ark kind of stuff.  Go to my car afterwards to go somewhere and find standing water in the rear passenger footwell, and a bunch in the boot again.  So the fix that the bodyshop did obviously hadn’t done much.  I pulled away some of the headliner and on the inside the 2 rear corners were flaking rust like a leper flakes skin.  So they’ve obviously just done some little visual repair on the outside and not actually sorted the leaking problem.  Decide the next day after work I’m gonna head down there and tell them I want it sorting out.

Get into the car the next day, turn the key and the engine fires up.   Well, sort of but it sounded like it was a John Deere tractor.  It certainly didn’t sound pleasant.  Idle was all over the place and I had to put the throttle almost halfway down to even get the car to move out of my parking spot.  Definitely in no position to drive.

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So I checked ignition, the airflow sensor, fuelling and everything else I could think of.  I was working my way towards the thing I really hoped that it wasn’t.  And then I went to take a look at the marks on the timing belt.  You see those 2 little notches below; they should be right next to each other.

As you can see that’s not a good tooth and a half off, possibly more.  This is very very bad for an engine, and for those of you not mechanically inclined let me try to quickly explain why.  The engine has valves and pistons that move back and forth going towards each other and then pulling away.  The timing belt basically makes sure that everything opens and closes at precisely the right time.  If a timing belt is off you could have the valves at their lowest point and the pistons at their highest at the exact same time.  If that happens you get valves hitting pistons, damage to both and all sorts of trouble and expense.  So obviously at this point I’m not in the best of spirits.

Over the course of an afternoon and the following morning I took the timing belt off which is no easy task and found out that it had “jumped” a couple of teeth.  What I didn’t know was whether any damage had been done.  In between nearly passing out from heat exhaustion a couple of times, I got the belt back on and tensioned correctly so that (hopefully) it’s not going to slip again, and put all the accessory belts back on.  Turned the key and hoped for the best.

The engine started up and sounded much better, although something was still not right.  It was sounding like a V8 engine, or an Evo engine with some big cams that have some overlap to them.  You can hear it a little on the video below although the camera I took the video with actually makes the engine sound a lot more worse than it is.  Have talked to a few people and they said the belt might still be half a tooth off, but the belt’s getting pulled off again in September so I’m just going to ride it through until then and when it comes off again I’ll get another experienced pair of eyes on it.

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I did a compression check on the engine to try and determine if there were any bent valves, but the test came back showing perfect compression, which was a bit of a relief.

But I still have the car taking in water like a sieve and that needs sorting out ASAP.  Hopefully it won’t be too long until I have a waterproof and running car.

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