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Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

by mccalpin Online Now Nov 18, 2011 at 8:49 PM

The OSU (Official Spousal Unit) spent a number of formative years in Okinawa at the US SAC base there during the 60s (Air Force brat). It turns out that I have a number of system-wide upgrades on American Airlines that expire in early 2013. The OSU has never been back to Japan or Okinawa, so it occurs to me that if I come into a lot of money, a trip to the Orient before the upgrades expire would be prudent.

So, if you were going to Okinawa for a couple of days for old times' sake, what would you do? She had told me about the base (like the night that the fully loaded B-52 crashed on takeoff, making a very large crater), the unapproved little eateries that her mother would take the two kids to, the beaches where they hunted for rock lobster and occasionally found old ordinance, the places where she would ride horses...would do former Air Force brats do when they return after 40+ years?

I don't mind driving - I learned to drive in Rome at the age of 23 after all - so if a car is needed to see all the stuff that a former resident would want to see, that's OK with me.

I also assume that there is far more to see in Japan than in Okinawa (duh) but that is a separate discussion (I am not sure she went there more than once on R&R - she has some stories about how her diminutive blond gaijin mother would tell jokes in bad Japanese and thoroughly confuse the locals who wondered just who the heck this woman was...)

Anyway, thoughts on Okinawa itself would be appreciated...

Bill

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11 Answers
  • Rabbityama's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by Rabbityama Online Now Nov 18, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    I'm not sure I completely understand the situation, but if the trip is meant for nostalgia, I would probably ask her where she went or what places she would like to try and find again.

    Returning after more than 40 years though will surely be different, so she may just want to get reaquainted with the island. The beaches are all still there, but the shops and overall look of the place may be drastically different or unrecognizable. It's difficult to give advice for a nostalgic trip, because no one really knows what places she visited or treasures except for her.

    If you are driving, make sure you have the proper license/permit to do so. I don't know what country you are from, but if you haven't looked into it, don't assume you can drive.

    In terms of general travel, of course there are plenty of beaches in Okinawa. There are also many war memorials. I would probably go to some Okinawa spritual sites but that doesn't interest everyone. If you haven't checked around this site for ideas, it's a good idea. Also japan-guide has some of the top sites:
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7101.html

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by mccalpin Online Now Nov 19, 2011 at 5:16 AM

    Thanks, guys!

    Bill

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  • Odinnthor's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by Odinnthor Online Now Nov 19, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Hi there Bill. Sounds like a great idea. Some time ago I responded to a query on what to do in Okinawa, and here is the main stuff I input then.

    On my last trip there I was fronting a group of oceanographers on a tour through several islands, and the reason to stop in Okinawa, was what is likely the most amazing aquarium in the world. It is phenomenal!

    There is a film that just came out here in the U.S., regarding a "true story" about a dolphin that lost its tail, and with a dramatic rendering of how an artificial tail was designed and fitted onto the dolphin. The drama is largely fiction, but the tailless dolphin was real and the artificial tail was designed right there in the aquarium on Okinawa. They are not new at this, as they have a dolphin there now with an artificial fin.I believe they placed the story in Florida, but the technology is all due to the work done at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. Have fun!

    oki-churaumi.jp/en/guide/hai...

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by mccalpin Online Now Nov 19, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    Thanks, Erik. I read your story in the Okinawa forum before posting this...I have no idea what was there CME (the OSU) was there...more research!

    Bill

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  • Odinnthor's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by Odinnthor Online Now Nov 19, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    I should have known that you would read the prior queries before posting......d:o)

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  • olddude's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by olddude Online Now Nov 22, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    Have you taken a look at my Okinawa pages? They should give you some idea what you are in for. A lot has changed in the 40 or so years that your OSU was there. That said, in regards to your driving....no comparison to Rome. Okinawa driving is a challenge all its own; especially if you are not used to driving on the left, bumper to bumper and no use of the horn (unlike Rome).

    The general attitude toward the US military has become a little indifferent and some would say lately, a little hostile. However, that is mainly towards the Marines. No more unapproved eateries like she used to remember. Okinawa is a full blown tourist destination with little of its former self left with lots of hotels and restaurants. Resorts have taken over many of the beaches so getting onto the really best ones will cost you. That doesn't mean there aren't beaches to explore....just access to the best may be limited.

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by mccalpin Online Now Nov 22, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    Thanks, Al...fortunately, the OSU wasn't Marine ;-)

    Yep, I've driven on the left, too, the UK, going down narrow country roads where the branches of the bushes on both sides of the roads were coming in both windows, as well as in the city center of London...however, each place has its own unique rules, of course.

    Interesting to hear from you and others how Okinawa has become such a tourist destination (for the Japanese?). The island sounds a lot more crowded than it used to be.

    This evening at dinner, her mother was telling me how she had no idea how far afield the OSU and her brother went on horseback - her mother is pretty laid back person, but when she later heard some of their adventures...well, she was glad not to have heard them at the time. Fortunately, one thing they did understand even as kids was to leave all ordinance ALONE!

    I'll add your pages to the list...thanks!

    Bill

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  • olddude's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by olddude Online Now Nov 23, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    Just so you know, the population of Okinawa (main island) is 1.3 million.....with nearly half in Naha. There is an expressway that runs nearly the length of the island and there is a monorail from the airport to most of the major tourist areas in and around Naha. As to tourists, they are from all over. Of course there are Japanese tourists, but you may run into Brazilians, Australians, and of course Chinese. In fact, the area of Mihama, that was basically a trash dump back in the 60s is now a major tourist area that will remind you of Atlantic City and has the tallest building on Okinawa...a 23-story resort hotel....right on the beach.

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  • WebFling's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by WebFling Online Now Jan 26, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Bill, unluckily for you, I live most of the year in the US now. I wish I could give you a tour around the island. I will be going back this March and April but in between will be traveling to Tokyo and probably Manila for shopping. I am a certified tourguide USMC training in 1995 and G8 Summit in 2000 both I specialize in Okinawa, history, culture, arts and crafts and World war II. What I advise is to find a tourguide under MCCS Tours and ITT Kadena AB. Their tourguides might be able to work on the side. I was once in contract with the USO and ITT Kadena when I was freelancing as a tourguide on weekends. Going by yourself will not be feasible because you most of the sites are still in Japanese (no english "transration") If you have to travel this far, another couple of hundred$ to spend for someone to drive you around is worth the visit. With my expertise as a private tourguide. I advise at least 2 days and a half. First day History and the Battle sites going towards the south, second day going towards the North for sight seeing ending at the Expo 75 sites. Half a day window shopping and local stores. The rest of the day is for you to experience the area. Okinawa has changed since the 60's when I was their as a child. They no longer use the barrel to keep the dollars when the cash registers can not handle money spent by the GI who are passing thru vietnam. Gate 2 stores are now managed by 2nd 3rd generation Asian-Indians and the street next to it is still called the "whisper alley" The beach in front of Camp Foster was land filled in the early 80's and now has rows of shopping area. So don't wonder how the WWII canon at Camp Lester (Kuwae)reached the beach during the war. You can not find old ladies wearing just plain black clothes anymore and no hot milk deliveries in the morning in the little box in front of the houses. Message me if you need more info.

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  • Odinnthor's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by Odinnthor Online Now Jan 26, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Hey Bill, sounds like great advise from Taira. (I know I am a bit biased in favor of great tourguides.......d:o)

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  • mccalpin's Profile Photo

    Re: Trip for the Official Spousal Unit to Okinawa (and Japan)

    by mccalpin Online Now Jan 26, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    Thanks! I am still trying to justify the trip...I suggested to my business partner that I go to Australia this spring (fall, of course, in Australia), but it looks like he wants to go instead :-(

    Oh, well...

    Bill

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