The Daily Bento

Live from Okinawa, Japan


Slippery roads, soggy students, sloppy civil servants

Posted by dailybento on March 5, 2009 at 9:35 PM

As the seasons roll on from one to another, we enter what is for many just another, and for some the first real, rainy season. It’s a time when students come into school looking like drowned rats and proceed to strip off all manner of clothing to leave it to dry across the back lockers. It’s a time when one is likely to hear the clumping of a dozen clumsy baseball students pounding up and down the school stairway because they can’t train outside. It means that you need your air conditioner on in your car to keep the windows demisted, until it’s been on so long that the windows start misting on the outside, and it’s a time that makes me ask the most perplexing question of all; In torrential rain, how does one get into the car with an umbrella? The only two options seem to be either open the door, get inside, then collapse the umbrella, but meaning that the door is open unprotected and I have to pass my wet umbrella over my lap. OR, open the door, close the umbrella, and dive into the car, umbrella first. Both methods have their advantages, and both have their drawbacks, but everyone here knows that a few seconds unprotected in Okinawa’s rain could mean the difference between being dry in the car, and being soaked to the underwear.



And talking about wet undies, don’t forget to adjust your following distance, and stopping distance according to the conditions. These roads are horrendously slippery, and from what I’ve been told it’s due to the amount of coral that they use in the road’s construction. This will also affect your speed. Please always adjust your speed to suit the conditions. This means that on a rainy day you may have to limit yourself to only 20 or 25 kilometers over the speed limit. And heavy rain also makes it incredibly dangerous to stop at red lights. Please keep that in mind next time you are hurtling towards an amber light. Stopping may in fact be the most dangerous thing to do.


Of course I say all these things in jest. I am not advocating the breaking of Japanese laws. As with all things sometimes it’s best to just go with the flow and do as others do, and at other times it’s best to drive safely and stick to the road rules.



Having only been here for about a year, I am yet to see a habu, or a jelly fish, or a rock fish, or even a decent sized spider, but I am starting to believe that the most dangerous animal is one I see every day. You can see them on the streets as they swoop and dive for their prey. They defy normal laws of gravity, and physics as they hurtle towards possible prey and stop on a dime. Of course I am talking about taxi drivers. Beware these steel reinforced harbingers of death. They have no fear of man or machine as they dart indiscriminately from one side of the road to the other to snaffle any unsuspecting victim and take them away. Sometimes it leaves me in awe, simply astonished at the extents they will go to and the lanes they will hurl themselves across in order to pick up a passenger. I think the most astonishing thing is that after the passenger sees them hurtle from one side of the road to the other, blind-siding and entire lane of traffic, the passenger still voluntarily gets into the car, which makes me think that this animal also displays some kind of power of hypnosis. Do not be fooled by this elegant display of automotive acrobatics, where they are about, danger is afoot.



And finally, I can’t finish this series without mentioning our ever diligent and hard-working Okinawan police force. Always poised with senses heightened and ready to strike at the slightest hint of someone going into an area of car park where they shouldn’t be, or speaking on their cell phone while driving. The truth is the most activity I have ever seen from the Japanese police was a few weeks ago when I saw a large police van and another police car, both with lights blazing, stopped at the side of the road. I then observed as 4 police officers stepped out of the vehicles and proceeded to encircle an abandoned scooter and start simultaneously scratching their heads and wondering what they will do with it. In all honesty if the streets were HALF as policed as the beaches are then Naha’s roads would be a completely different world! There’s my answer for all problems! Get the beach nazis patrolling roads! Everyone would have to drive nicely, and no horsing around, no one can drive outside of the allotted areas, and at 6.30 pm EVERYONE GO HOME!!!



Anyway, welcome to newcomers, and best wishes to all those going home. I hope you guys can readjust to a land where driving seems to make a scrap of sense. And as always, drive safely everyone.

Categories: Driving

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