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 November, 2011

Film To Be Made About Lindsay Ann Hawker’s Killer

Posted By Dave on November 26th, 2011


Well it looks like the barrel of tastelessness is well and truly being scraped by Japan this time.  Tatsuya Ichihashi, the killer of English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker back in 2007, has already has his autobiography of his 2 years on the run from police published and well received when I last heard some sales figures.  But it seems like that is not enough though.  A film has now been commissioned based on the book, to be released sometime in 2012, will dramatise Ichihashi’s life post-murder and up until his arrest.

This is just bad and wrong on so many levels.  The Hakwer family have already declined to receive any money (which was initially offered after the book was published) as they don’t want to profit from his death.  This was a very wise decision as a decision to accept the money could have had the courts see it as “condolence money” and lessened the sentence against him.  I believe accepting this kind of money made the Lucie Blackman murder by Joji Obara much more complicated.  Now the UK has laws that a criminal isn’t allowed to profit from a specific crime in this way but, surprise surprise, in Japan no such law exists.  I’ll be eager to see if a charity is chosen by Ichihashi to donate his proportion of the film proceeds to.  Or maybe it will just go towards more plastic surgery, which he became fascinated with after killing Hawker.

Which provides a nice Segway to my next point.  When Ichihashi was arrested, a number of Japanese bloggers were more interested in his looks than the charges against him, commenting on how handsome he looked and how someone that good looking must be a nice person.  Whether that’s a huge naivety by the Japanese public is probably a subject to discuss in a later posting.  Now I’m well aware that a couple of internet blog posts does not equal the collective thoughts of a nation, but it is worth addressing.  My reckoning is that some young actor will be given the role of Ichihashi; one of the many (effeminate?) Japanese heartthrobs that you are unsure at first glance what gender they actually are.  But it will be someone that the Japanese public see and are attracted to because of his looks.  And then once the looks have drawn the viewer in they then get their sympathy.

The story is going to be from after the murder until his arrest.  So it’s a fairly safe bet that any regards to Hawker or her family will be minimal at best.  And since it is based on his autobiography, no doubt the film is going to be filled with Ichihashi’s fights with his inner demons, the hardships he and his family faced over the 2 years he was on the run, and the daring & last minute escapes he had until he was finally captured.  In short, it’s going to be a film intending to make Ichihashi the victim and make the viewer pity him and cheer him on as he narrowly evades the police time and time again.  The director, Dean Fujioka, has said that pretty much on his website in his defence of taking on the film.

I may be able to shed some light on an angle that may not have yet been explored.  The forces in society that may have distracted this man to make him what he is..

So we’re going to pity Ichihashi as he should not be viewed as a killer; but as a victim of modern society which forced him to attack her, beat her around the head, strangle her, before shaving her head stripping her naked and putting her in a bathtub on the balcony, filled with sand.  I’m feeling sympathy for him already, aren’t you?

And last of all, it is likely that this film will be released before Ichihashi’s appeal is heard by the courts.  I could easily see a sympathetic film resulting in a lesser sentence being imposed on Ichihashi.  The only saving grace is that international eyes will be on them and judging the decisions they make.

I hope I’m very wrong about the film, and on very rare occasions I have been known to be wrong!  But we’ll see as time goes on.  Put it this way though; I’m not going to be beating down the doors of my local cinema for some overpriced tickets to see this.

All-Japan English Speech Contest Final

Posted By Dave on November 25th, 2011


Bit of a nervy afternoon but this evening I got the call I’d been waiting for all day. My student who got 2nd place in the Nakagami English Speech contest, and then 3rd in the prefecture-wide Okinawa contest, has qualified for the all-Japan final tomorrow, where the best 27 JHS students will compete for the Prince Takamado Trophy. She came in the top 7 out of 40 students from southern Japan (Kyushu and Okinawa), and tomorrow will give her speech in front of over 1,000 people at the very prestigious Yomiuri Hall in Tokyo. By all accounts she has a damn good chance of getting placed tomorrow, as long as she she performs as well as she can.

Getting so far in a contest like this requires a combination of a lot of factors: a talented and motivated student, a well-written speech about an event that will get the judges’ attention, a good coach, and a little luck are just a few of the things that have to come together in a given year for you to be successful. Maybe one or two of those things can give you results in a local contest, but as you get further along the competition becomes stiffer and you need all the stars in alignment for success.

The final is tomorrow from 11:45am and I’m gonna be waiting for the phone call a couple of hours later, most likely with even shorter fingernails than usual!  Will let you all know how she does.

UPDATE: Well she performed her speech in front of 1,100 people at the Yomiuri Hall in Tokyo and my aim of having her peak at the right time worked as she delivered the best speech I’d heard her give.  27 students gave their speech with the top 7 being placed and given prizes.  And my student did well enough to get 6th place in the whole of Japan.  She’s done better than I ever thought she could and it’s been a very good few months helping her on her way to this success.  The task now is building on 6tn place and working out how to get even higher.  Am already reading articles and finding out how to coach better!

Pre-Thanksgiving House Cleaning in Okinawa

Posted By Dave on November 15th, 2011

If you’re living in Okinawa then please take a minute to read this.  Am trying to help someone get a bit more work under their belt as the festive season approaches.  Wouldn’t normally put something like this up on my site but I’m willing to stick my name on it and recommend the service.  Anyway, let’s get on with this little commercial…

Thanksgiving is just over a week away and I know it’s the busiest time of the year for many of you. You get the turkey in the oven, the drinks in the refrigerator and everything is ready. And then you look around the house and realize you’ve not had time to clean!

Well this is where I come in. I run a small and personal cleaning service called Okinawa Closets. I have been cleaning home on and off base for over a year, and am pleased to be able to help you this Thanksgiving.

I can offer you a full cleaning service for your home including vacuuming and/or mopping & brushing all rooms, cleaning kitchen & bathroom areas, and dusting all surfaces. I’ll make sure it’s sparkling for Thanksgiving, giving you one less thing to worry about, and giving you more time to relax and enjoy this time of the year.

Price will depend on the size of your home and the amount of cleaning desired. Slots are sure to go very quickly so leave a comment below or email direct at [email protected] with the size of your home and I will get right back to you with a price.

Here’s hoping to make your Thanksgiving a happy and clean one!

Posted in News

1995 Evo… And Now for Something Completely Different

Posted By Dave on November 5th, 2011

I’ve had my 1995 Mitsubishi Evo III since February, when I bought it with a dead engine. Once I got it running right I was pleased with it, but I like my boost and drag racing. And I’m also very aware I have a 2nd and 3rd prize trophy from drag racing events here in Okinawa, and really need a 1st to go with it. So I thought maybe I’d upgrade the turbo to something a little bigger. And then my plans got a little crazy and out of control.

So the engine I got hold of was one with about 1000 miles on it and had this spec:
-Mahle pistons
-Scat rods
-Eagle 4340 crank
-fully ported head by Motorworx Engineering
-stainless valves, FP springs and retainers
-removed balance shafts
-FP2 cams
-Fully rebuild

Plus a few other goodies:
Holset HX-40, full twin-scroll, T4 17cm turbine housing
JM Fabrications top-mount manifold
OS Giken twinplate clutch
Treadstone intercooler & custom piping
Custom downpipe
Custom exhaust
VW Scirocco radiator
Walbro 255
Blitz SBC iD boost controller
Integral knock warning setup

And all the trimmings. Before I can even think about putting my foot on the gas in anger though, I’ve got a big long build ahead of me.

Two half-days of work are done and we’re well and truly getting stuck into it. First up was pulling the engine and everything around it so we can start putting new things in. The exhaust was getting changed from my whatever-it’s-called (left) to a one-piece setup on the right. Much straighter, less resonators and much better flow/noise.


Next up was getting the old engine up and out. No big problems with that and we got it all disconnected and pulled in a few hours.

Now my car has lost its lope in the past couple of weeks and seemed to be stuttering when I put my foot down sometimes. Think I found 2 possible culprits. First off, the connected going to the cam angle sensor has one pin pretty much broken. Could have been that it wasn’t making a consistent connection with the CAS which would definitely throw things out. And then I came across this when I was taking the piping off the intercooler to pull it.

Yes, that is just the intercooler piping rusted off the rubber coupler. There was a tiny bit of the piping still inside the coupler but even before I started yanking it I could feel a big crack/hole going about halfway around. Says something that I was still making just under stock boost level even with that much of a leak.

Next up was a bit of porting work. We wanted to lower the oil pressure a bit as at full boost and higher rpms we were hitting close to 100psi on the engine before, so we set about porting the oil filter housing around the hole next to the oil check valve. This is how it looks normally:


A drill and a couple of carbide bits and the hole was looking a little bigger.


And then after some cleaning up it was ready to be bolted back onto the engine. Should make for much better oil flow and some lower pressures.


I’m also going to be using a bored out throttle body so the intake manifold needed to be ported a little to make a completely smooth transition for the airflow. Again, we started by marking it up.


A bit of porting later and we have this:

That  leads us today, where the plot got a hell of a lot  thicker.  One  of  the centrepieces of my build came in today, in the  forum of a  JM  Fabrications top-mount manifold.  I don’t want to go  into how much  it  cost as it will just depress me!  I’d rather just  look at the  pictures  as it’s a thing of beauty, especially the porting  that was  done to maximise airflow.

And if you think it looks good like that, you should see it when it’s on the engine.

So  today  we test fitted the manifold on the engine, and put my  new  forged  engine (with twinplate OS Giken clutch) into the  car.  And  here’s  where it got interesting.  First off, I’m gonna be  using a  Holset HX40  with T4 17cm turbine housing as my turbo.  Now I’m  still  waiting for  this thing to get to me in the mail, but I’m a  little  anxious about  whether it’s going to fit on the manifold.  It should,  as  it’s  crazy to think a company with the reputation as JM  Fabrications  would  offer a T4 turbo flange without the sizing to fit a  full size T4  turbo,  but it’s gonna be damn close to hitting one of the  primary  runners on  the manifold.  And the next concern is one of  the  wastegates, namely the  one that is emerging just next to the  turbo  flange.  Now again, I’m  hoping they made provision for large  turbos but  it is going to be very  close fitting a wastegate with the  turbo the  size that’s going on mine.   Not going to know that for sure  until my  turbo comes in or I can borrow  a Holset HX40 from someone to  test fit.

And  the  next issue is, of course, going to be clearance.  I  have  currently  got a VW Scirocco radiator from Spectre which I’m  afraid of  breathing  on too heavily incase it breaks!  Putting it in  the car  though, I’m not  sure I’m going to be able to have anything  thicker due  to size  restrictions.  My fans are already going to have  to be pusher  fans at  the front (there is space between the manifold  and the front of  the car  at the moment, but bear in mind I have a 3″  exhaust downpipe to  get  down there too somehow, and some crazy mods  are going to have to  be  done to the front end to get it working.  Of  course, I’m gonna  do  something I’ll regret and pull the a/c from the  car to have any  chance  of it all fitting.

The top of the  thermostat housing is  going to have to be modified to fit  around the  turbo of course, and  we’ve been mulling over the idea of  going for a  straight pipe without a  thermostat if needs be.  As well as  fitting  things, cooling is going  to be a big issue.  I know running  without a  thermostat will mean I  need much longer to get up to  operating  temperatures, but I’m wondering  if without one, it would  give me more  coolant flow than running with  one.  Or whether the  velocity increase  from the slight restriction that  a thermostat causes  will pretty much  negate that.  I’m gonna need a  wing and a prayer  with cooling (and  probably a custom aluminium  radiator down the line)  so every little  thing helps.  Radiator tricks,  some ghetto scoops from  below bringing  air into the engine bay etc are  all probably gonna be  used.

A hell of a lot to do, even though  we’ve pulled one engine  and got the  new one in.  Gonna be a pretty  impressive project though  when it’s all  said and done, providing it all  fits and keeps cool.

Posted in Cars

Anti-Bullying Month

Posted By Dave on November 2nd, 2011

First off, big props to the Youtube show “Kids React to…“, the latest episode of which has focused on bullying and which has given me motivation to plan something for my school and write this up on my site.

October was anti-bullying month over in the States, and I believe November is Anti-Bullying Month in the UK, with plenty of events scheduled for November 14th-18th.  While bullying is something that should really be focused on year-round, it is still good that a spotlight is focused upon it for a month.  Any attention brought to this can do nothing but good, as it’s understandably a very taboo subject for children to talk about, and even tougher for them to overcome sometimes.

Japan has a problem with bullying in schools, as do most countries, although there are no strong government or NGO-led programmes to deal with it.  And contrary to Japanese belief, putting a cute 20-something Japanese girl on a poster with a big smile and her fist in the air, shouting, “Stop bullying” or words to that effect, doesn’t change anything.  It didn’t have an effect with drink driving, it didn’t have an effect with getting parents to strap their children in the car (children are expendable as soon as they get into a car in Okinawa, apparently), and it doesn’t have an effect here.  So with no programmes in place and not much anti-bullying built into the educational framework, it leaves the kids in a bad position.  Japanese people (including children) don’t like to talk about their problems at the best of times, and bullying is something that is taboo and embarrassing to start with.  The school can only act upon what it sees and hears, which usually isn’t much.  Maybe the school nurse will get a hint of something going on (if it occurs in school) and report it to the school counselor (if there is one), but the children are not really encouraged to speak out about it.  The Japanese mentality of just keeping your head down and dealing with it (similar to the stereotypical British stiff upper lip) makes them much more likely to try and deal with it in their own personal way.  Which can lead to sadness, depression, and sometimes thoughts of suicide.

With all of this in mind, I’ve elected to try and do a little in my own school to promote anti-bullying and encourage students to speak out if they are victims of, or witnesses to bullying.  Throughout November I’m going to have at least one class where the focal point of the class is going to be bullying.  There will be videos shown (including the infamous Casey Heynes bullying video), the classrooms arranged for discussion rather than being teacher-centred, and different activities planned including discussions and gruopwork.  Prior to the classes I’m planning a completely anonymous survey (in the students native language) asking them if they’ve ever been bullied and where & when it happened.  If the students know they will never be identified then they might be more inclined to be open about it.

That’s going to be the tough thing though.  In my senior high school classes I had taught the students for at least one year and in some classes 2.  I had a couple of classes with them a week at least and they all knew me pretty well.  Frequently classes were just me and the students so they were less fearful about talking in front of their classes.  One girl telling us all how she was almost pulled into the sugarcane fields near our school by some strange guy as she walked home from school on an evening, and another telling us how she was a kleptomaniac until the previous year are two very memorable classes I had.  I know at the junior high school level it will be tougher to get any stories like that, but I’m hopeful that in a class or 2 I might be able to break through to some of the students about it.

The plans I have could completely bomb if the students don’t go for it, but I’m really pinning my hopes on giving them something that will affect them, and treating them with some maturity (and only a minority in English) about it, they might come out of their shell a bit and talk about it.  If anyone has covered this subject, and especially if you’ve covered it in an ESL environment, please let me know what things you did and how it went.

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