Okinawa #3

Okinawa has a special history, it is the last addition to Japan becoming part of the country only in 1872 after being name Ryuku kingdom for centuries.

From 1945 to 1974, it was American, until 1965 and then a base for the Vietnam war until 1974, today, still 26000 Americans work in the bases of Okinawa, some of them are in fact in the city center of Naha, which creates odd situations and some challenges and problems.

one thing that I picked up is that the cars have a Y on their number plate if driven by Americans and, in case of accident, there must be both Japan and American police taking care of the paper work

 

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Valentine’s day in Japan

Here the tradition is that Japanese LADIES offer chocolate to their Valentine.

Men do nothing, just receive!

this turns into a massive commercial opportunity. look at the metro corridors in Ebisu this Tuesday evening, just before the big day, shops all along, ladies queuing and buying!

ANA – great airline

In Japan, as many other things, airlines work differently from the rest of the world, LCC have not invaded the market just yet simply because ANA and JAL dominate the market.

In the past, they even agreed on sharing some airports, for example Yonago is ANA airport while Tottori is JAL airport only. At the beginning of the air travel, these airlines spotted nice locations in every destination and build their own hotels to accomodate the travellers at their destination. Hence, in Japan, you find still a lot of ANA hotels and Nikko, JAL Hotels. along the years, they have sold some of them but the domination remains. they also sell packages, have brochures etc. with the economic downturn, JAL suffered and went into administration for the last 10 years, however, they went out of danger this 2017 and started to expand again opening new routes etc.

Now LCC start expanding from Korea, Thailand etc. but ANA has also it own airline, you can now fly Peach or Vanilla when you are in Japan

Both airline, despite of their domination, still maintain a very good level of service and I typically fly ANA and love it.

Flying domestic is easy, you turn up at Haneda, 30mn before your flight and you are good, I never do this as I still have the European stress on long queues, strikes, etc but here, all is organised and smooth and flights are always on time (unless typhoon, snowstorm, real reasons…)

Flying international, if from Narita, takes more time since the airport is far away (90mn by bus, 1h15 by train) but equally well organised

I flew ANA in December on long haul and the service was impeccable, great food, they offer broth, what a great idea, they serve ice cream after the meal in economy, the cabin attendants go round during the whole flight offering tea, coffee, water, blankets, etc. I can only recommend them

Gym and Fun

As anything they do, Japanese go to the max when it comes to sport. I noticed that a lot of Japanese people enjoy jogging.

Go to the Imperial Park and you will confirm my statement, the park is packed from 5am to 10pm with joggers. I now know a lot of regulars with same timeframe as mine!

Soon after I arrived, I subscribed to this studio, great atmosphere, a lot of Les Mills class (in fact only Les Mills classes), just next to Shibuya Crossing. All are extremely professional and I found here the same sense of team/club atmosphere as I had in Brussels.

When Izumi San left, it was very sad for me as she was the one subscribing me and making all possible efforts to get our broken Japanese/English communication going, always smiling, energetic, she was a sunshine in the club. Of course, it is great to see her challenge herself and move to Auckland but she is missed!!

 

 

Living in Japan almost meant I could attend the Les Mills Live day last November. In Europe, we are not so privileged and Les mills Live never happened in Belgium so I made it!! Let me tell you, getting the tickets when you are not a Japanese reader is an adventure

1- get the website and “understand” how to navigate

2 – choose your sessions, at that stage, I had to ask a colleague to handle for me

3- get the emails to confirm, one per session!!

4- find another colleague to go along with you and collect the tickets from the combini

5 – find out that these tickets are not printed out from the automated machines but at the counter in the Kombini (even my Japanese friend struggled with that)

6 – get the tickets one by one and not all together!!

7 – take a deep breath, it is almost over!!

the day itself was great, I enjoyed very much. As always, Japanese super equipped, very elegant and trendy, make you feel really underdressed and guilty!! they are all expert at whatever they do when I feel like a beginner after 6 years of Shbam, 6 months of Body Jam and 5 years of Body Balance, but great fun!! aim higher as they say…

 

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Okinawa – #2

One thing that is very visible in the island is the number of school trips from all around the country. Okinawa has a great image for the climate, the ocean, the nature and most of the highschool trips consider Okinawa

And again, I am so impressed by the discipline, the organisation. All students stand in line. all is cool.

At the airport, they simply sit in groups quietly on the floor waiting for their flight. Best practice we could use in Europe where we always end up with a noisy messy group

 

Clean!!

The company came for an annual check of the pipes in the apartment. as always, impressive!!

3 of them turned up on time, deployed plastic covers all over the apartment, checked the pipes, rolled everything back and Mn later were gone

that’s it, I am done for one year!!

Okinawa – #1

Okinawa is the south part of Japan, it is actually closer to Taiwan than Tokyo, 45mn flight to Taipei, 2h30 to Tokyo!!

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ANA has a large share of the flights to Okinawa, followed by JAL. there are a few low cost carriers as well from Tokyo mostly. Of course, you may connect from anywhere in Japan to Okinawa but also from Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, Seoul etc. into Naha, the main city in the main island, Okinawa Island.

Okinawa is over 100 islands but not only have people living on them.

There is a strong and unique history as the island once was a kingdom and is the last addition to Japan, in the recent history, the island was taken over by the Kagoshima people and then became Japanese. However, in 1945, the US took control of the region and the land was only given back to Japan in 1974, which implies that infrastructures did not grow at the same pace as the rest of the country and so, with the 1st oil crisis in 1973, the timing was not great and you can definitely feel that Okinawa did not benefit from the same economic boom as the rest of the country.

Okinawa is also the island with the highest demographic growth, the lowest average income, the highest level of poverty and social challenges.

The islands mostly live from agriculture and tourism. Tourism expanded as of 1974. JAL and ANA launched flights, Japanese people wanted to explore and visit the natural beauty of Okinawa once the region was given back. Both airlines therefore built hotels to accomodate the travellers.

Nowadays, there is a new wave of expansion, with many hotel extensions, new hotels, luxury properties in Ishigaki due to the boom of inbound tourism and senior travellers growing at fast pace in Japan.

 

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I could only stay 2.5 days for work purposes but was overwhelmed by the many histories and differences with Japan. I learnt a lot in this little time and will investigate further

to be continued…