Monday, September 26, 2016


Everywhere you go here, people are wearing colourful short-sleeved shirts called "Kariyushi". They're similar to Hawaiian Aloha shirts, but dressier, with an upright collar and often more muted, abstract designs, and they're worn buttoned up, not open. The name "Kariyushi" means happy or joyous. And I love them.

Me, in my newest kariyushi shirt. I don't think I'll quit my day job for a modelling career just yet.

In the 1970s a hotel association designed Hawaiian shirts with Okinawa-inspired designs for hotel staff and guides to wear. They proved quite popular, and started spreading beyond the tourism industry. In the 1990s an association trademarked "Kariyushi wear". To call it "kariyushi" the shirt must be sewn in Okinawa and "promote Okinawan tourism" - meaning, I guess, no tacky patterns, logos or things like that. The shirts quality and their image improved, and people started wearing them for "casual Friday" and other informal situations.

The kariyushi shirts got a lot of national exposure in 2000 when world leaders wore the shirts while attending a summit in Okinawa, and the shirt got another push when it was promoted nationally as an alternative to suit and tie for the very successful "Cool Biz" summer campaign. You can see cabinet ministers attending meetings in kariyushi shirts every summer.

Former prime ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Mekere Morauta. Koizumi always rocked kariyushi shirts; current prime minister Abe, on the other hand, just looks sad and a little lost, like he misses his tie.

Shirts are available at clothing stores and department stores in a large range of designs and fabrics. A cheap shirt might cost a few thousand yen, while a formal one made from Okinawan fabric can easily cost twenty thousand yen or more. During summer (April to November) they're worn everywhere in Okinawa, including the Okinawa government assembly, government workers, bankers and regular office workers; from young fashionable women to old Pachinko-playing guys. Many companies have their own special designs for their customer-facing employees.

A lone salaryman nursing an Awamori in Naha. He likely came here straight from the office.

The shirts are considered formal wear. Not only are they fine for banking and office work; people wear them for weddings and other formal occasions. There's even black unadorned shirts for funerals. They're so common that when you see a guy in a suit in the summer, he's probably here on a business trip from outside the island.

Office workers waiting for the bus.

I really love these shirts. They're cool and lightweight during summer. They'll dry quickly when you get caught in a sudden rain storm. And while the patterns are colourful patterns and the style is relaxed, they still manage to look neat, even proper. Much better than a rumpled suit jacket and soggy see-through white shirt with sweat stains.

They're the perfect working clothes for the hot, humid weather here in Japan, and I can only hope they will one day become as accepted on the mainland as here in Okinawa.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Naha! Internet!

We've arrived, settled in and I've started working. Lots of things to write about, so I'm just going to summarize briefly.

We finally got internet! A 1Gb fiber connection straight into our apartment. The installation was far more involved than I thought; three people and a lifter truck that laid fiber from the nearest substation along the telephone poles to the building, then in through the telephone conduit.

Laying down fiber along the telephone poles, then in to the house.

Now we have a fiber connection in the hallway and a router for the network and IP telephone. I get about 350-400Gb/s to Tokyo from here, with 40ms ping time. Not bad for an island out in the Pacific ocean.

A view from work as I was leaving for home.

We got here Tuesday last week. A lot of our luggage was plants, since we couldn't send them with the moving company. We sent the larger plants by post. Amazingly, all but one seem to have not only survived, but are actually thriving in our new, little garden. My coffee plant already needs a bigger pot.

The apartment really exceeds our expectations. Airy and light, with high ceilings. Really easy to live in. We're in central Naha, with four supermarkets and one department store within easy walking distance, but the neighbourhood itself is very quiet. The tiny garden in the back really adds a little extra. Perfect.

Our things arrived over Wednesday to Saturday, with the stuff from Osaka delivered Friday. Now it's one week later, we've actually managed to unpack, assemble and install everything. We're still picking up a couple of storage boxes, a kitchen cabinet and a carpet for my desk next weekend. But other than that, we're all moved in.

Nice café just a stone's throw from the apartment. A bit expensive, but really good when you want to sit for an hour or two. There's power plugs, wifi and big tables for laptops and notebooks.

I finally got a standing desk. Adjustable legs and a big desk surface, and a high chair for sitting down without adjusting the desk. All from IKEA, and works perfectly. The only downside is that the surface is too thick for the clamp on my small vise. Have to find some solution to that. I also need a carpet to avoid floor damage.

My half of the bedroom. The standing desk works great, and the high chair is comfortable when I want to sit down.

We had a lot of paperwork to do at city hall — formally moving in, registering our new address and parking space, get certificates of residence, register an inkan, updating my residence card and My Number card and so on. I thought I'd spend the rest of the day chasing documents from counter to counter.

Instead the information desk took all our documents and directed us to a counter, where a clerk looked it over and told us "This looks fine. Welcome to Naha! It will be about two hours; if you like we can call you when it's done."

We went to lunch, came back two hours later, and after just a few minutes the phone calls and our number comes up. Everything was done. Simple. Easy. Quick. When I later went to the police to change the address on my driver's license the experience was much the same. No waiting around, no stress, no running in circles.

Naha city hall.

The weather is more pleasant than Osaka so far. It's cooler, and there's usually a breeze to keep the edge off the heat. We can normally keep the windows open instead of using the air conditioner. But it's very humid on the other hand; mould is a constant worry, and drying laundry takes forever. We got a dehumidifier for the bedroom this weekend; see if it improves things a bit.

And sudden rainstorms (called "squalls" here) are common. The first day here we had four quick rainstorms in succession — one with thunder — in between clear blue skies. I got caught out in one, and was completely soaked. It can go from sunny to wall-of-water in a minute or two. Twenty minutes later it's clear and sunny again. The weather forecast is not terribly useful here.

Naha monorail station in Omoromachi. There are several malls and other stores around in the area; great when you're moving in and need things for your new place.

The supermarkets have a whole separate section for things designed to kill insects. Cockroaches of course, but also ants, moths and other bugs. The apartment came with insect traps in every corner and mesh screens on every window. There is good reason for this; we've had a couple of cockroaches visiting us so far, and something has already taken nibbles off the leaves of my coffee plant.

Naha is hilly. It's also fairly hot during summer, with lots of rain, sudden squalls and high humidity. There's also a lot of traffic. Which all means it's not the ideal place for a bicycle. Nevertheless, biking has apparently increased the past few years, and it's not uncommon to see bicycles as well as bike shops in the city. I did bring my bicycle; we'll see how much I'll actually use it.

Student on a bike passing by while they were installing the fiber for us.