Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Life in the Slow Lane (A Long One)

Travel Photo Thursday for April 28th, 2011

A couple of weeks back I blogged about a trip up to rural Kijioka in Ogimi village located on Okinawa's Northwest coast to shoot the Iris fields in bloom. In that post, you can see it right below this post, I mentioned how Okinawan's are noted for their longevity and how in this particular little hamlet, they live the longest overall.

Many have written books on the matter to include "The Okinawan Diet" plan and there is that guy on late nite TV hawking the benefits of Coral Calcium as the key to a long life. He's even got crews digging up the coral around Miyako jima to get it. I have little doubt that both ideas may have a little to do with it but based on my years of living here, I have another theory for the phenomena. Here on Okinawa, people, particularly the country folks, just don't give a shit!
The old gal on this bicycle above was totally oblivious to the terrorists, er make that tourists, in the rented cars behind her who came to her little village to see the flowers and spend their hard earned money. She wasn't being rude, just enjoying a ride back from the fields on a beautiful spring day!

Now when I say that they don't give a shit, I don't mean that in a derogatory way! Perhaps a better way to say it is they've learned to live and love life in the slow lane. I suppose I could have just said that right from the get-go but, I probably wouldn't have gotten your attention quite the way I did when I said they just don't give a shit!

That also doesn't mean that they don't have people down in the big city to the south who sit on their hands and do the minimum just to collect a pay check. That is true for some, my brother-in-law is a prime example of that but, they also have their fair share of folks down in the big city who, like other folks in big cities everywhere, worry about everything! Especially the stuff they have little or no control over! The late comedian George Carlin did a great rant on people like that called "Saving the Planet!"!

After we spent a few hours in tiny Kijioka, shooting the flowers and enjoying life in the slow lane, we, Ryukyu Mike and I, headed up the back roads into the mountains. Anyone familiar with Japanese road construction, particularly in rural areas knows that the back roads are usually quite narrow. Up in the mountains, they're often not much wider than the car you're in and instead of a shoulder or curb, they have these deep cement drainage ditches called a binjo. Suffice it to say, you really have to be careful not to round the corners too close or you may end up being there for a while waiting on a wrecker to pull you out. It can be even more fun if you meet up with another car heading the opposite direction.
That's Ryukyu Mike taking a picture of a roadside binjo, in this particular shot, you'll notice a set of steps built in to help the littler forrest critters climb out of it.

We were looking for the mythical Yonbaru Kuina. They are found only in the far north of Okinawa's main island and are endangered to a certain extent by man's encroachment in the area. Okinawa faces frequent water shortages so up here on this end of the island, they've built a bunch of dams to collect it and pipe it south so the city folks down there can wash their cars, take hot showers and make ice cubes for their sake. There are also all kinds of roads through the mountains, many that lead to nowhere and all this construction has taken a toll on this very rare and endangered species.

I had never seen a Yonbaru Kuina in the wild and heard that this was a good place to find them. When I saw all the little steps for them to climb out of the ditches, all spaced about 100 meters apart and the little steel plate bridges for them to cross over them was proof enough to me that I was in the right place. I figured that even if I didn't see a Kuina on this trip, I had to take a picture so you would know that I'm not Bullshitting you.
Now the Yonbaru Kuina doesn't fly and while the adults are large enough to jump over these barriers, their younguns ain't. So to help preserve the species, an intervention was needed. That meant spending a lot of taxpayer money to build all these little steps and bridges for the birds. Of course if the government hadn't wasted all of the tax payers money building all these roads to nowhere with the deep binjos or at least done it right the first time, they wouldn't have needed the intervention in the first place. Oh sorry, there I go again, taking the Austrian School position instead of the more popular but, utterly wrong, Keynesian economic view. To see what I mean, check out John Stossel's "The Broken Window Fallacy."
Here's another example of our government tax dollars NOT at work (Click on the image to enlarge and see what the yellow sign says).

Another problem they have on Okinawa is the Mongoose. You see Okinawa is also home to the deadly venomous Habu snake. Way back when, someone got the bright idea that if they imported a bunch of Mongeese, I guess that's plural for mongooses, like they did in Hawaii, they could get rid of the snakes. But once again, someone down in the big city worrying about everything and not knowing nothing overlooked something very, very important. Mongeese, mongooses, whatever, are daytime animals and Habu's are nocturnal hence, they rarely ever meet.

Now there's still as many Habu's as there ever were and maybe more. The mongooses/mongeese are everywhere too. In fact, there's so many of them that now they are threatening the Yonbaru Kuina's even more than the all people, the habu's, the dams and all the roads leading to nowhere combined ever could. So what was the next solution? They hired a bunch of folks to go out in the woods to trap them.

Now they could have saved a lot of time and money just by hiring a bunch of local guys to trap the Habu's in the first place. Guess they figured that Mongooses were cheaper. That's what happens when city slickers who worry about everything but don't know nothing and have no idea what they're doing get involved.

Sometimes I think we would all be a whole lot better off if we left everything alone and went about our own business like that old gal in the first picture. She was just as happy as can be! My guess is that is just one of the many reasons why the Okinawan folks who live out in the countryside, particularly in tiny Kijioka live so long. They have learned to live, let live and love life in the slow lane. And you didn't even have to buy a book to find that out.


  1. LOL, I thing the elderly gal on the bicycle was paying more attention to what was around her on the highway than that bearded bdude with the camera playin in the streets!

  2. Very interesting post, especially the part about building stairs to save the Yonbaru Kuina (but I understand about not building roads in the first place) and the part about bringing mongeese in. I also didn't realize that there was a deadly snake in Okinawa. Thanks, I learned a lot about Okinawa from this post.

  3. i love this - those little steps are amazing!

  4. The girl on the bike was too funny! And I love the little steps- so interesting!

  5. Well I'm delighted to see a cartoon pic squeeze in the middle of the post...:) Fun stuff! I enjoyed reading this btw... Thanks! :)

    Here's my Thursday photo: http://jorietravel.blogspot.com/2011/04/travel-photos-thursday-rain-oculus.html

  6. Those stairs are hilarious.........:)

    There's something to be said for I dont' give a s**t. :)

    Happy Travel Photo Thursday!