Visiting United States military bases in Japan

Visiting US military bases is fun for me. The US Army, US Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps use 75 facilities within Japan and Okinawa, 51 of which are dedicated and the rest 24 shared with Japan Self Defense Force. Though those facilities are usually closed to civilians, they are open to residents around them once or twice a year, and you can get inside the military places during these festivals.

Visiting those facilities is one of the few occasions to get in touch with the United States. You can eat American-made hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, turkey legs, and other American foods. You can pay foods, sodas, beer, sweets, and souvenirs with US dollars. You can talk to Americans in English. And, you can find out how average Americans live their daily life. What kind of groceries do they buy? What kind of foods do they eat? What kind of newspapers do they read? What kind of school do they make their children attend? You can catch a glimpse of those things without flying more than 12 hours to get to mainland America.

I have visited US bases and facilities in Japan and Okinawa for more than 15 years. With respect to what I have experienced, I’m grading each of these out of 5 by categories of accessibility, smoothness of entry and exit, freedom of movement, and availability of on-base building. 5 is the most excellent, and 0 the worst.

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Another Asadora: a talk show by Yurie Omi

On August 31, I went to NHK Culture Center at Aoyama-itchome in Tokyo to attend a lecture presentation of Ms. Yurie Omi. As I wrote in this entry, I have been a fan of the NHK Announcer, and once met her at her talk show in Nagoya two years ago. This time it was held in Tokyo and it was much easier to have access to the venue, so I applied to this lecture presentation as soon as NHK Culture Center began selling the tickets.

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Shofukutei Riko

Shofukutei Riko (笑福亭里光) is a professional rakugo artist who speaks Kansai-dialect rakugo stories. Rakugo is, as written in Wikipedia, a form of Japanese verbal entertainment where the lone storyteller sits on stage and depicts a long and complicated comical (or sometimes sentimental) story using only a paper fan and a small cloth as props.

He was one of my classmates when we were junior high school students. Besides, he was one of my best friends. In junior high I talked him a lot, played with him a lot, belonged the same club as he did, and resigned from the club together with him on the same day. He sometimes played rakugo on stage in school events. His performance was rising above the level of amateur, so he was called shisho, a title which is used to a professional rakugo storytellers.

After we graduated from junior high, we went to different high school. We didn’t see each other for ages.

One day in 2012 I was staying in a hotel room watching an entertainment program on TV, where several rakugo artists who had just promoted to the shin’uchi rank were on stage and they were giving speeches in turn to show their thankful feelings for the promotion. The program reminded me of the wanted-to-be-a-rakugo-storyteller classmate. I wondered if he still kept up his hobby. Watching TV, I thought he might appear on such an entertainment program someday. To my surprise, he really did it in the very program that day.

According to the information online, after graduating from university he became one of the disciples of Shofukutei Tsuruko (笑福亭鶴光), one of well-known rakugo artists, to start his rakugo career in 1998. He promoted to the futatsume rank in July 2002 and became a shin’uchi in May 2012.

I tried to contact to him. Since he had a Twitter account, I sent a direct message to him. He replied to me soon. We talked a bit on Twitter for a while. Several months later we met face-to-face for the first time in more than 25 years. He had not changed at all since we saw in the junior high.

Now I sometimes go to his stage to listen to his story, and see him offstage. Last night I saw him in Shinjuku and went for a drink with him at an izakaya in the westgate area of Shinjuku. He was fine. We talked a lot. I drank too much and I have hangover this morning, though.

I think that being friends with public figures might help me have a chance to see the celebrity world, and maybe it would even change my life.







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Yurie Omi

Yurie Omi

According to Wikipedia, “Yurie Omi (born July 27, 1988) is a Japanese female announcer, television reporter, television personality, and news anchor for NHK. Omi is one of the hosts of NHK morning news show NHK News Ohayō Nippon. She is also the co-host of NHK television series Bura Tamori aired from April 2016.”

I’ve been a big fan of Yurie Omi since the beginning of this year when I sat in front of the TV by chance at my parents’ house and watched her for the first time in Bura Tamori (I had rarely seen it before, though). This program is a travel show where NHK’s broadcaster strolls Japan’s particular town or area with Tamori, one of Japan’s renowned TV personalities, and a geophysicist, a local historian or a curator, to investigate the place’s topics such as terrain features, history, culture and civil engineering.

Why do I think she is so attractive? I think the reason is three-fold. Firstly, she sometimes shows goofy behavior in her TV programs, although she is actually very smart and good-looking. She wore her dress back to front in the news show. In Bura Tamori, she read the thermometer incorrectly. (She said the temperature of hot spring water was 940 degrees Celcius while it really pointed 94.0 degrees.) Such slight weaknesses mean imperfection, which is what Japanese people value in tradition. This mentality makes the Japanese regard her weaknesses as charming. Secondly, she acts or speaks less highhandedly than average so-called “joshi-ana” and TV personalities. They often show off, but she doesn’t. They often speak aggressively, but she never does it. Her attitude like this gives a favorable impression to many Japanese viewers. Thirdly, most of her personality looks so similar to mine that I find something congenial in her. I don’t think she is such a personality that is good at thinking on her feet and speaking off the cuff with a ready wit. Rather, she looks genuine, and she can only do diligently what she has to do with simple honesty. Such characteristics of her is just like mine.

For those reasons, I got fascinated by her. I watch every TV program she appears in. I get up at five in the morning on weekdays to watch NHK’s morning news show she hosts. In Saturday evening I watch Bura Tamori to see her traveling with Tamori.

In addition to watching her on TV, I had a chance to see her with the naked eye. One day I got the information that she was going to hold a lecture presentation at Nagoya on September 30 and was requesting for audience. I applied for it because it might be my once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet her up.

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Tribute to stewardesses

To be honest, I love stewardesses, or female flight attendants working on the aeroplane. As is often the case with Asian airlines, Japan’s airlines such as Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have many attractive-looking stewardesses because of the history they once hired such women as flight attendants.
Nevertheless, I love them not only because they look good. It goes without saying that they aren’t so much “the waitresses on the plane” as “the security staff” who maintain the security of the aircraft cabin. To satisfy passengers in normal or emergency conditions, they need to have hard training and pass tests to be qualified as flight attendants. Even after they manage to become stewardesses, they should have and pass periodic tests to avoid being disqualified. Their attractive smiles, dignified attitudes and graceful behaviour on the plane, backed up with their pride in strict training, mesmerise us very much. They are really noble and saintly women, differing from similarly good-looking women like newscasters of telly stations or campaign girls in pits of motor racing circuits.
Their brave and cool-headed actions often save many passengers. When the ANA 857 aeroplane was hijacked at Hakodate Airport in Hokkaido, Japan on 21 June 1995 by a desperate banker, a flight attendant was captured by him, being got a full nelson with a knife pointed at her, and taken in hostage in the cabin for tens of hours with the passengers and the other crew. After the criminal had been captured by police and all the passengers released, she attended a press conference and had an interview with the press corps, talking calmly in front of TV cameras what had been going on in the cabin at that time. She behaved as a real professional. A standard young girl would’ve been too shocked and mentally damaged to appear in public and talk in front of press staff if she had experienced such tough circumstances. The crew members were so calm, disciplined and strong-minded that the criminal didn’t get so much furious, resulting in killing or injuring no personnel until arrested.
When it comes to strong-minded actions in a dangerous situation, policewomen and military servicewomen may have such professionalism as well. They don’t enchant me, however, for police officers are the personnel who controls us, regulates us and exercises the power over us, and the soldiers, sailors and airwomen don’t appear in our daily lives so they aren’t familiar to me.
For me, stewardesses offering us their best service on board are the best women. It’s the happiest time for me that, on the taxiing aeroplane preparing for takeoff, I catch the eyes of a stewardess sitting in the jump seat facing me and when our eyes meet we smile each other.
As a passenger, I always respect them. When getting aboard I don’t forget to say hello to greeting crew at the entrance door. When I lift up my heavy luggage to stow it into the overhead stowage I do it by myself instead of making her do it. I order a food or drink in a polite attitude and when she serves me and clears the table, I always say thank you to her with a smile. Of course I say thank you and goodbye to them to show my most gratitude when I’m getting off the aircraft at destination.
Needless to say, annoying the cabin crew is absolutely unacceptable. Deplorably, there are such idiots that smoke in the lavatory, use a mobile phone in the cabin, yell at her for trivial matters, or even use violence or pervert actions on her. Such vulgar passengers should get off the plane, as they don’t reach the level of class to be qualified to use it.
An aircraft cabin is a salon for sophisticated ladies and gentlemen. The noble hostesses will smile at only such cultivated persons that can enjoy travel in a prudent manner.