Okinawa: in pictures worth 31,000 words… (click pics for larger views)

January 29, 2011

Fuji-san from the airplane window

An Okinawan delicacy

The roots of tie-dye

The flora was lovely

As was the fauna...

Glass bottom boats for exploring the reef

Tourists behaving erratically

From the tour bus window

Okinawan delicacy rears its ugly head again

At the butterfly preserve


And wow again; a real shark jaw

Sing along..."When the eel in the sea is much bigger than me, that's a moray!"

Bad day at the aquarium

If you're lying, he'll bite your hand off

This guy will bite you just for the hell of it...

Imagine trying to get a building permit for this

On the beach

Beneath the bridge

Going native

The coast near Naha

Sunset at Elephant Rock

Anatomically correct statuary

The feudal warlords lived well


Bottles o' Snake

There's really nothing I can add to this...

...except perhaps a closeup from a different angle

Much friendlier than he appears

Traditional Okinawa dance

The end of the tale...

Carshopping, Mark II

January 29, 2011

Hi again, apologies all around for not having written anything for the past several days. I have been on the road a fair bit (Okinawa, for example), writing the Whodunit column, resolutely combing the used car classifieds, and plotting my mandatory midterm exit from Japan (visas are good for only ninety days at a shot); somehow, I guess, the time has gotten away from me.

I got to thinking about the car purchase notion a little differently, not a complete turnaround, but a distinct tweak to my original idea(s). Cars have some truly unusual names here, and it would be just endlessly amusing to me to drive something called a Suzuki X-Head, or perhaps a Daihatsu Mud Master C. How cool it would be to be able to answer queries about my vehicle with a response something along the lines of “Why, Bob, I drive a Mitsubishi Guts!” These are all real car names, by the way. Seriously.

So, to that end, I did a bit of research on the choices available to the car or truck buyer in Japan. Some of the names will be familiar to North American buyers (Accord, Camry, Legacy, etc.), although they don’t necessarily apply to the same vehicle as they do stateside. Boring, ne? (“Ne” is Japanese for “eh”, the old Canadian sentence-ending standby.) Some other car names are just made-up words (Tiida, Demio, Altezza, etc.), but there’s not much fun to be had there, either. Time for a trip through a huge Japanese auto auction website, to see just what amusing choices might be on offer.

Almost immediately, I turned up an old favorite, the Mazda Bongo Friendee, which is a lovely name, but a less lovely vehicle:

Equally unlovely (perhaps more so) is the Toyota Deliboy, but, hey, what a name!

Same goes for the Toyota Avante Lordly, which sounds posh, but looks like a slightly tarted up Camry (the sharp-eyed reader will notice that the name tag says only “Chaser” and “Avante”; you’ll have to take my word for the “Lordly” part; how could I have possibly made that up?):

How about the Honda Life Dunk? (If you have an accident, it might be a Slam Dunk…) There is also a Life Dunk Turbo for those with a need for speed.

I don’t quite know why the name “Toyota Blit Mark II” appeals to me, but it does. It’s like calling a car a “Blecchh!” or perhaps a “Flurk”. Also, the “Mark II” adds just that soupcon of pizzazz.

This one is truly outstanding, in my opinion, a true “Godzilla” among contemporary car names, the Toyota Ractis, the name of which sounds to me either like a persistent skin condition or some sort of predatory alien life form.

Here are a few others I found along the way: Mitsuoka offers the Viewt (pronounced like “newt” with a leading “v”) and the Galue (like “galoot” without the “t”); Nissan shows up to the party with the Pantry Boy Supreme and the Prairie Joy; Mitsubishi, not satisfied with the Guts, also brings us the Active Urban Sandal, as well as the impressively monikered “Mum 500 Shall We Join Us?”; Suzuki joins in with the Every Joy Pop Turbo, characterized by a Singapore car reviewer as “a cute white automatic mobile fridge with steering” (apparently the a/c is first rate); Mazda has a plain Bongo, as well as a Bongo Brawny to go along with its Bongo Friendee; Isuzu offers a 4 x 4 called the Mysterious Utility Wizard (gotta love that!).

But at the end of the day, the one that speaks to me is a tiny Daihatsu called the “Naked”.

This one has real possibilities, I think. I could tell my friends “I’m going out driving in the Naked,”  or “I’ll pick you up in the Naked.” It is not quite like “in the buff”, but close. Disturbingly so. If only it came in a convertible…