Posts tagged ‘Japan’

Sayonara Okinawa

…And so after 6 short months I bid adieu to the island of Okinawa…

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Farewell Futenma flightline,

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Bye bye beautiful beaches, and the snorkeling that went with them,

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So long seaside sunsets, with your rich dusk colors,

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Goodbye drink vending machines that I could find on every street corner,

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Au revoir Orion beer, which is only found on Okinawa,

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Adios vodka tonics from Panic Bar (and the associated hangovers the next morning),

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Have a nice life Habu Trail, for the countless miles I trampled over you have finished,

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Until we meet again, endless open Ocean.

Parting Shots

As we prepare to depart Okinawa to return home, these final glimpses appeared before my camera lens.

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A (mostly Flightline) Thanksgiving dinner in one of the barracks

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Mission to H-60 Crash Site

A U.S. Air Force HH-60 helicopter crashed while landing at night on Monday, August 5 in the Central Training Area of Okinawa. Unfortunately, one crew member perished and the other three survived as the wreck — partially made up of magnesium — burned up and caught some of the surrounding jungle on fire.
There was very little left of anything resembling a helicopter, but the tiny pieces of melted metal and few larger components totaled thousands of pounds. No military trucks could reach the crash site; it was 1/2 mile from the LZ through thick triple canopy jungle and roughly sloped terrain. The Air Force’s own HH-60’s and the local USMC CH-46’s and MV-22 Ospreys were not capable of performing the external pick-up of the parts. A CH-53E was required.
The exact area was on the 45-degree slope of a hill, so to provide the necessary clearance for the helicopter to be able to hover over the cargo, a nearly football field-sized area of trees had to be cut down. An extra long cargo pendant, also for rotor blade clearance for the trees at the top of the hill, had to be used and was obtained from the Japanese military. All of these complications led to a lengthy delay of the retrieval of the helicopter wreckage, while cultural friction built as some Okinawan civilians voiced their desire to have the debris removed from the jungle on their island.
HMH-772 finally sent a Super Stallion to recover the Air Force HH-60 wreckage on October 12, making over a half dozen externals to successfully bring the metal remains to an LZ with trucks waiting.

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Inside the Refurbished Hangar and Shop Photo

We have a hangar, technically, but we aren’t allowed to move into it or perform maintenance in it. The only purpose of the hangar so far has been to shelter the CH-53’s and Cobras inside when the base is at risk from a typhoon. When we stuffed the hangar with all our planes recently, I slowly walked through the quiet open space, taking pictures.

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Traditionally, there usually is a squadron and/or shop photo associated with a deployment. Instead of making a mundane shop photo wearing our cammies after the squadron picture, we did ours several days later dressed in our usual working wear of oil-stained coveralls and flight suits. A driving idea behind these shop photos is the aircraft we used had no rotor blades yet, sort of a summary of the difficult battle we’ve had with the helicopters the entire deployment.
Also one trend I’ve noticed over the years is to take one serious-looking picture as well as one with any manner of ridiculous poses. We did both styles for the two different setups.

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Normal

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Goofing off

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Normal….

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…..and Goofing off

Pre-Hash

Meeting up before the “World Peace Through Beer 2013” Hash of the Okinawa Hash House Harriers. Our start point was some small park near Torii Station on the Yomitan peninsula.

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Chad Jones, taking a ride on the panda bear

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Burroughs and Shane “Train” Hensley

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The Grandmaster initiates the day’s event

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Work Spaces

Instead of working in a traditional hangar, our lack thereof forced us to keep our tools and computers in interlinked white containers called vans. There is something about the sterile quality, and the muted, cool-tone walls that reminded me of a ship. I took several photos of the area over the past several months. The truth is, though, we are hardly ever in them except for a few minutes in the morning, and the last few minutes of the workday before we leave in the evening.

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SNCO Van. The Gunny at work

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Intersection

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Medlicott

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Flightline shop Van

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Barnes posing

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Stanley in the corner

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Wide Angle Lens

…I caved in and bought a pricey wide angle lens which I had wanted for a while. No longer would I run into the problem of not being able to fit all of the picture I wanted into the frame; this thing can go so wide it warps the photo like a fisheye. So the day I bought it I was driving around already and wanted to play around with the lens.

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Zanpa Beach

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Central Okinawa Coast, facing East China Sea

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Zakimi-Jo Castle ruins

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Work Randomness #5

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Turning the camera diagonally was the only way to fit the C-130’s wingspan into the picture

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Passengers out the side; cargo out with a forklift

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I’ll be damned, one of the few photos of me

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What bored Marines do when we couldn’t find our computer… make one out of a wooden box

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Wolf and Clinger replacing a tail disconnect component

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Tail Pylon detail

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Rain on the horizon

Secluded Waterfall

These are photos from several days before when I was at a Hash House Harrier event. The nice landscape with the waterfall tucked inside it was a surprise bonus to me. I brought my camera along, but since every Hash is in a different place, I had no idea where we would end up at. Reminded me of some of the waterfalls on Oahu, Hawaii that were hidden in the dense growth where the windward side of the mountains rose up from the flatter ground.

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Shredded paper, caught in a spider web, casting a floating illusion

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Messages etched in stone surrounded the basin of the falls; some in Japanese, some in English

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Fuel Cells and Sunsets

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Venting out the fuel vapor fumes

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Fuel Cell maintenance

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Wolf, draining out the last drops

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Futenma flightline sunset

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Super Stallion framed by light

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Same as above, but achieved a silhouette effect

Hashin’

Well, thanks to Hensley, I was introduced to a little thing called Hash House Harriers. He was very tight-lipped about it, treating the activity as if it was some secret cult. I knew it involved running, following some sort of marked trail, and drinking. Those happen to be three things I enjoy doing, so my curiosity was piqued. The first run — or Hash, as it is called — I went to in the beginning of September, but I never brought my camera until several weeks later. The Okinawa Hash House Harriers are apparently typical of all Hash House Harrier groups all over the world; they are a strange and eclectic mix of people. The rules are very arbitrary and strict, and the pre- and after festivities are steeped in tradition but must look silly to whoever passes by, or someone who attends for the first time.
The essence of the weekly events are the actual trail, where a ‘Hare’ lays a set of markings with chalk or what appears to be ground-up newspaper (“chad”), and the rest of the group starts off later to follow the trail. There is really no winner, even in the rare instance when someone catches the Hare, and the first person to finish, along with the last person, has to drink for their transgression. That’s about all I can say about it; I might have already said too much. These photos are of one such Hash, but they can only tell a small part of the story.

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A worn running shoe, and the ‘hash’ or ‘chad’ to mark a trail

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Hydrating myself with the beverage of choice before the Hash begins

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The van used for Hashing, owned by the group, which appears to have been passed down since long ago

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You write your name (or nickname — “Hash name”) in chalk at the finish

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Where the festivities were conducted after this particular Hash, near a waterfall

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The grand master of this group, hitting an offender in the face with fruit punch, in lieu of a beer

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Two individuals getting doused on the occasion of their last Hash

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Singing one of the many songs I have not been able to memorize yet. Typically well-known tunes with the lyrics replaced by questionable verses

Food

I have had some opportunities to sample the local cuisine, but have never really shared anything on that topic. While sharing much in common with Japanese food, Okinawa still has its own distinct food culture, influenced by not only its tropical island climate and location, but outside influences from other Asian countries, and even from the American presence that has been here since the Second World War.
Seafood is, of course, heavily represented in the Okinawan dishes. Even sushi that is just so-so here is twice as good as the good sushi in America. From the Hispanic Americans came the now classic Okinawan meal called “Taco Rice”. Essentially, just think of everything that goes into a taco shell, except put it on a bed of white rice. Try eating that with chopsticks, it’s not easy.
While I do not have pictures of the delicious sushi or the Mexican-Asian remix of taco rice, I have found a couple that I have taken over the preceding months:

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A sort of BLT, but with fatty pork cut extra thick. I actually feel fatter just looking at it.

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Stanley consuming the above sandwich, at Daisy’s Cafe at Araha Beach.

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A meal of a whole cooked fish, before….

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….and after.

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Barnes eating what I think is Squid-on-a-stick.

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And Wynn from the Cobra Flightline, eating regular American processed food.

Work Randomness #4

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Two Cobras and a Super Stallion

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Thanks Gunny. Not everybody loves the camera

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I felt like a wildlife photographer taking this picture through the bushes, of a helicopter in the ‘wild’

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Portrait of Russell showing off his close-cropped moustache

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The AMO showing up for the morning maintenance meeting

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FOD walk, while the sun was still low in the sky

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After a rain shower

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I liked the conflicting angles of this view toward the tail

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Rotorheads appearing through the wavy heat rising up from the curve in the flightline

Shisa, the Guardian ‘Lion-Dogs’

The Shisa is a staple of Okinawan culture and even more prevalent when considering their architecture. It seems as if nearly every building on the island has two Shisa statues at the entrance, gate, or roof.
A Shisa is a cross between a lion and a dog, and the designs of them are distinctly East Asian. The origin of the symbol came from China hundreds of years ago. The twin Shisa dogs are believed to protect the building from evil spirits. One Shisa is male, and the other; female. Typically, the two Shisa are distinct by their mouths. I cannot remember which gender is which, but one’s mouth is open to scare away the evil spirits, while the other’s is closed to keep good fortune from leaving.

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Shisa at near the aquarium park

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At Shuri Castle.(Is that a soccer ball under his paw?)

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A Shisa fountain near Kokusai Street

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Two, seen at night, in a store window

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One I previously displayed, at Shuri Castle

Naha’s Nighttime Landscape

These photos are from earlier in August, when a group of us went to Kokusai street in Naha for a festival. I had too many pictures to include, especially the ones I captured on our way back to the monorail station after the sun had set. Since I started getting into photography seriously, I have been intrigued by night photos, and particularly those taken with natural night lighting and no camera flash. These are somewhat random, there is no theme. I just like the mood and contrast of colors and artificial light of a city at night.

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Inside a cafe, with the fading daylight

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Canal and monorail track

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Lanterns in front of a restaurant

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The long walk back

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One of the thousands of brightly illuminated drink machines

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Ascending the escalator

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Side street

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Sharing a smoke

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Monorail arrives

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Finding the van in a parking garage

Flying Pictures

We have not been doing much flying, so I’ll put some photos up from several weeks before.

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The Kerama Islands

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Inside the cockpit

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Rocky outcroppings

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Small island settlements

Botanical Gardens

The whole island is a botanical garden, you might think, but the huge footprint of urban and suburban development dominates a large portion of the landscape. The Southeast Botanical Gardens provides a secluded habitat for flora from Okinawa and the rest of the Pacific.
We set out earlier in the morning, but even then, the humidity at the gardens was sweltering. I took an idea from the local Okinawans and walked around with a small towel around my neck to dab the frequent sweat that trickled down my forehead. The air was fresh and the whole scene was green with a lively saturation to it. Near an arching bridge, we stopped to buy fish food and throw the pellets in the pond. Ravenous Coy fish quickly appeared to devour every last bit of food. The final area we went through was a pond completely covered with water-resistant lillies, with long stalks and funny looking brown bulbs on top.

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The entrance

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Rows of palm trees

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Just a purple flower, couldn’t tell you the name

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Looking up

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Feeding the local fish

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Bridge underside

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Lilly-covered pond

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Taking a break in the shade

Return to ‘Secret Beach’ on Ikei Island

Several weeks prior I described how we found this somewhat isolated beach on Ikei Island, a small island connected to Okinawa by a bridge. Now  that we knew where it was, several of the guys from Flightline and I we prepared and packed up our snorkeling gear. The last time I was here, it was late in the evening during the fading sunlight. We left early and it afforded us ample opportunity to explore the underwater landscape stretching out from the rocky beach. Past thick seaweed fields were 10 to 20 foot deep coral environments, brimming with fish. Stanley and Medlicott didn’t come out of the water for about 3 hours straight, they were so involved in trying to catch fish with their spearguns. Stanley actually caught several colorful fish, his first and only other catch was months ago. Russell laid on the beach the entire time and despite my warnings, put only tanning oil on his lighter skin. We all laughed when his thighs looked like a lobster the next day at work.

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View of the beach once you make your way through the jungle path

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Walking to a spot to drop our gear

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Thick tropical growth that hides the beach

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Clinger searches for unique shells, (note the extremely short tan Navy diver shorts)

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Hermit Crab

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Stanley cleaning and gutting his catch of the day

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The vibrantly colored fish that met the wrong end of the speargun

The Bullfights of Uruma

Ah, getting back to my Spanish heritage with bullfights. Medlicott and I had heard or read about the bullfights and decided to see what the spectacle had to offer. We picked up a couple of our guys and went north along the Pacific side to Uruma city, where the bull ring lies. This was no Spanish-esque bullfight though. No matadors here. Bullfighting on Okinawa literally means bulls dueling each other. This is still PG rated for the kids, though, since it’s more of a shoving match for dominance. The bulls horns are dulled and they do not charge at their competition, they simply lock horns and push against the other with their heads until one gives up. The winning bovine is presented with an extra large bottle of Orion beer (like champagne at a race). Each bull is supported by a team, that is best thought of as a pit crew is to a race car; they all wear matching clothes and tend to the animal like one would a race-prepared vehicle.
I enjoyed it, despite the fact that during two of the three matched we caught, no fight occurred when the second bull chickened out shortly upon entering the ring. I also like the experience of being some of the very few Americans there. I appreciate immersing myself in what the locals do.

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Wolf and McClernon looking out-of-place in the bull waiting area

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Tending to the horns

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I wish I was given this much attention by someone

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The bullfighting arena — exterior

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The bullfighting arena — interior

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Tiered spectators

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The struggle begins

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‘Coaching’ his bull on

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The victor

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