Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Okinawa Periodical

It's been fairly busy here, what with getting up to speed on the new job, optimising my commute and all the rest. As I wrote earlier, I will visit Okinawa fairly regularly from now on. I went there a few weeks ago, in fact, and we'll have a face-to-face project meeting there every other month or so. In the meantime I join the weekly group meetings remotely by web camera. We tried using Skype and it worked OK, but the sound was pretty bad. We tested Google Hangouts last Friday, and that worked much better. It's not quite like being there, but it's surprisingly close.

Airport downtime is OK; you can relax and be productive. A coffee and a book is never wrong.

Going to Okinawa is not a problem, as there's plenty of flights and the travel time isn't all that long. The only issue is the trip from Naha to OIST. It's not really that far but Okinawa is famously car-dependent, with very little in the way of public transportation. I don't have a Japanese driving license, and wouldn't dare drive even if I had1, so renting a car is out. There's a bus line, but it's irregular and runs along a long, circuitous route that takes forever to reach Onna village and OIST. The only alternative is taking a taxi, which still takes an hour and feels pretty wasteful. A rail line would have been great, but I guess there's just not enough travellers to make it worthwhile.

Early-morning Bedroom
Dawn, and time to go to work. This is far, far better than a typical big-city business hotel, and that's before you take in the ocean view on the terrace. There's a stove, coffee maker, microwave and fridge, so you get your morning coffee, and you can cook for yourself if you want. And the room charge for the university is no more than the coffin-sized rooms in a drab chain business hotel.

One thing about the place is the lack of business hotels. It's a village, after all, not a city. But there's plenty of resort hotels along the coast so it's not a problem in practice. I think OIST has a contract with some of the nearby hotels, so we can get a room at a price similar to that of a normal business hotel in Osaka or Tokyo. Resort hotel business is pretty strongly seasonal, with peaks during summer holidays and weekends, so it's easy to get a room for weekday visits, especially during winter.

In practice, it seems that staying two nights is nearly optimal. I can leave in the afternoon and get to the hotel by dinnertime. Work two whole days, then leave in the late afternoon and return home by late evening. I could make it just one night, but that would make the travel too large a part of the time I spend away from home.

Make an Entrance
Entrance tunnel to OIST. If you build on a hill you might as well make good use of the terrain. Besides, as somebody pointed out: Most of the cost of large-scale construction is for stuff like foundations and access facilities; utilities; and following building codes for fire, earthquakes and so on. The extra cost to make things cool and pleasant to work in rather than drab and dull is minor.

Part of Onna village, downhill from OIST.

A house and a full moon along the road to the hotel.

#1 I got my car license in the Swedish army, driving six-wheel all-terrain trucks and tracked vehicles. I drove an actual passenger car only three or four times before getting the license, and less than a dozen times afterwards. I did drive a motorcycle up until I moved to Japan, but I haven't been in the drivers seat of a car for over twenty years. I frankly no longer even remember which pedal does what, so I'd have to relearn how to drive from the very start.


  1. Great to hear things are rolling well. Janne, I must thank you as every once on a while, on your posts you put some advice that a now college) student can use.

    Didn't know about Google Hangout, Sounds useful for group work, as I have to commute 1:20h for getting to my uni, and on some days it ain't worth it.

    And about optimising commute, the morning commute is about resting, looking at the landscape (sunrise). And back home it's about talking with classmates.
    The nice part of commuting through a railway that passes a popular mediterranean coastline is the landscape, but it doesn't help to do work.

    I found your driving license matter amusing. Having driven trucks for the swedish army yet now.. nothing... all about practice and getting used into.

  2. Hi George!

    You stop doing _anything_ for 20 years and you will forget how to do it. And live traffic is _not_ the place to get back into it. Lessons really would be necessary.

    But really, I don't like driving. It's boring and a chore. Being a passenger in a cramped, dark, shaking car is not much better. Much prefer public transportation, where I can read, surf the web or study.

  3. Lovely pictures. I must get a decent camera, but I fear it's the photographer and the subject matter that make the difference. I love Abiko, but could admit Okinawa maybe has its charms. Maybe.

  4. Neither camera nor photographer I'm afraid, but volume. Take lots of pictures, then delete all but the very few that accidentally turn out OK.

  5. "Take lots of pictures, then delete all but the very few that accidentally turn out OK"

    Hope you're not doing that with film! Well, it would be bad for the artistic part but good for the industry.

    That is something digital does very well and a reason that I fear going MF; The format might be too big for the photographer.
    Should try however because I'm a very low volume shooter (like you mentioned sometime in the blog) and a 8-12 exposure roll plus the bigger neg sounds great to me.

    Somehow, my interest in 35mm wore off and well, the camera is there, behind my desk, and the rolls are frozen. I fear that going up to MF would end like this too... or it could be a boon...

    On labor days I always use the cameraphone to snap things I come across... Usually during commute (trains) or stuff happening at uni. The phone can be used as a recorder (for lectures and such) too!

    On the topic of driving, so true! My dad has taught me driving because we live near a small deserted industrial park where no one sees you drive. Great place to practice driving. Farther away there are some small country roads where no one passes and it's a good place for driving.

    But somewhere like Spain, and in the periphery of Barcelona, a driving license is a must. Not for daily life (I commute in train) but for other general uses, outside of the big city.

    (my bad, seems like I write too much)


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