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    Okinawa Days 1-5

    Nick Sowers
    Apr 6, '09 11:39 AM EST

    Damn it feels good to be sitting down with a LAN cable and an hour to kill before I collapse into sleep. I just finished another long day of walking on Okinawa, my longest yet. Today I visited about 12 military installations on a 25+ mile trek. The first five days have been great. I've seen and heard some really fascinating things, some surprises, and some eerie crossovers between American and Okinawan culture. Sometimes you think Okinawa is more American than America.

    Here is today's walk:
    Okinawa Day 5 at EveryTrail

    My first night I hung out with some Mormon missionaries and met a Marine who is also Mormon. It was great to get some inside information on the life of a Marine in Okinawa. He bitched and moaned all night about how good the air force guys have it. He was a nice guy, anyway. See if you can pick him out of the following photo:


    My second day I was willfully abducted by a gregarious lighting consultant and his son and taken sight-seeing (I got to watch him pray to his ancestors), and treated to a feast at an izakaya. His already meager English got a lot worse with each beer. I kind of think my Japanese improved. We went to a karaoke bar and I sorta wish I hadn't. There was a lumbering air force dude hogging the mic. Listen, I dare you:

    After the so-called-abduction (he wouldn't hear any of my excuse that I had to walk, not drive), I realized not only was I not going to be able to circle the bases, I might not even get to them all.

    So it wasn't until the third day that I started doing some serious walking. I love walking. It's more like a march, a cross between the door-to-door missionary's work and the "see how much BS you can put up with" Marine boot-camp. That actually makes it sound kinda bad. Well I have a loose itinerary, and am able to choose where I go on the fly, so long as I pass by all the military bases in the area. I ended up at a beach at the end of day 3:

    Five days ago on the flight from Kagoshima, I was reading some funny things in the Japan Times. On the first page I saw the bit about the Miss Universe Gitmo tour. Then I read about some Dutch tourists who described being kidnapped in Yemen as an "adventure." And finally, Cuba might soon be easier to get to. I sure hope I was one of the last who had to jump through hoops to get there.

    It's funny reading all of this because I myself am a military tourist. Going to all the bases on this island is a creepy way to spend two weeks on a vacation island. But it's fun, I can't help it. Is that creepy? Every time I see some Americans on the other side of the fence, I think 'hey, those people are in America, and I'm in Japan'. I saw some soldier's uncle taking photos of a flower on my side of the fence. I took his picture. Which one of us is the military tourist?


    Kathy, Im lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
    Im empty and aching and I dont know why
    Counting the cars on the new jersey turnpike
    They've all gone to look for America
    All gone to look for America
    All gone to look for America

    Every military base, every border fence, is a border to America. You don't even need a passport to be in Japan if you have a military ID. Isn't that funny? This is like college to some of these guys, fresh out of highschool. Instead of girls gone wild in Cancun, it's the Philippines.


    Okinawa: It's as if someone dipped a knife into the super-chunky Skippy jar that is America and spread it across a long rice cracker. The bases are everywhere, and clumped in some places quite disproportionately. I guess I have to make that map now.


    • Is that last picture where you stayed?

      Apr 6, 09 12:58 pm  · 

      I wish that was a hotel. It's actually an army surplus. I did stay here though

      <img src="" width="180" height="240" border=0 alt="Hotel American" />

      The "Lady Liberty Hotel American", a cheap Japanese business hotel across from a base. Nothing American about it.

      Apr 6, 09 7:48 pm  · 

      I spent a few days in Naha, Okinawa. Felt like the trashy parts of the Jersey Shore. But with nicer people. From what I understand, a lot of the hotels there are run by ANA and JAL. So a great deal of the tourist money ends up going back to the "mainland."

      Apr 6, 09 10:53 pm  · 

      Do you ever think you are being monitored? It just seems like being a military tourist is a sure fire way to keep Big Brother watching. Brilliant use of audio with this post though. Commendable!

      Apr 6, 09 11:51 pm  · 

      I'm sure they've already done a background check on me. I've written them letters announcing my intentions. That actually got me on several bases, simply being up-front about what I wanted to do. The Marine Corps on Okinawa rejected my request to visit, however. The situation is just too sensitive here.

      Apr 8, 09 8:43 am  · 

      I must concur with architechnophilia, the audio combined with the tracking maps, really puts those of us back home much closer to the mix. your pack is light and efficient, other than the noted absence of fake beef jerky, it's perfect. marines are scary.

      Apr 10, 09 9:58 am  · 

      Hi, everyone in the Okinawa-Berkeley Project. I would be interested to get your impressions so far of Okinawa and the US-Military presence on the island. I have been in Okinawa since August 2008, almost 2 years now. I would like to know more about your project.

      I instruct English at OCU, Okinawa Christian University, in Nishihara, near the Ryukyu University, Mondays and Thursdays; perhaps you came across the college in your travels while in Okinawa; if you have any points of contact there or anywhere else for that matter, I would be glad to meet with you to share experiences and thoughts about Okinawa and its relationship to Japan and the US, as well as China.

      Christopher Melley
      [email protected]

      Jun 27, 10 1:52 am  · 

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