By Louis Wai
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
What kind of apartment do you have? Here in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan, apartments are identified by the types of rooms they feature. “L” stands for living room, “D” for dining area and “K” for kitchen. Thus, an LDK means the property is a studio with no bedrooms, per se. My apartment is a 3LDK, meaning I have three bedrooms, a living room, a dining area and a kitchen.
Here’s another interesting thing about renting an apartment in Okinawa: The rent rarely increases if you extend your lease after the initial lease period. I was told that this is because Japanese people like to rent new apartments. So, if you are a landlord, you don’t want to lose your tenant because you might have a hard time finding a new renter for your now-“used” unit. However, many Japanese companies regularly rotate their employees to different areas and prefectures of Japan, so there is generally a big turnover in tenants every two years around March and April.
Back to reset. I previously wrote about the daikö system. If you’ve forgotten, let me refresh your memory. It is a way to avoid getting into trouble with Japan’s very strict DUI laws and of getting both the drinker and his or her car home safely.
The Japanese word daikö means “in place of.” The daikö system employs two drivers who come to wherever you are drinking. One person drives you and your car home, while the other follows in the daikö car. Depending on how far away you live, it can be cheaper than taking a taxi home. For example, if the distance from the bar to your home is between 8 and 10 kilometers, or about 6 to 7 miles, it will cost 2,000 yen, or about $20.
The daikö are also consumer-friendly. I used a daikö recently to get home and was impressed with their service. After being picked up, I realized that I had given the driver the wrong directions to my apartment, as we were headed in the opposite direction. I told him we needed to turn around, which he did. When we got back to our original departure point, he reset his odometer to zero. How’s that for accommodating the customer!
One daikö driver told me that he averages about 13 trips on weeknights and 20 on Fridays and Saturdays. He said the most he ever collected was $160 to drive about 60 miles to the north. He also recalled that one of his customers, a drunk tourist, couldn’t remember where he had parked his car, so first they had to drive around “free of charge” to find the guy’s rental car.
Real postal service. On a recent trip to the post office to mail a letter to Hawai‘i (which costs 110 yen, or about $1.10), I arrived about 5 minutes before the opening time. The post office and a bank are located inside an electronics store, so I took a seat in the waiting area until the post office opened. A postal supervisor came out to help me get a number from the machine to keep my place in line. When the window opened promptly at 10 a.m., my number was called. The clerk helping me told me the amount for my letter. While he was ringing up the charge and getting me my change, the supervisor processed the stamp and stuck it on my envelope. Wow! Now that’s postal service!
Okinawa does not have curbside home mailboxes, so you have to drop your mail either at the post office or at a mailbox in your neighborhood. They also do not have postal trucks; deliveries are made on small motorcycles.
The main post office in Naha is even open on Sundays until 8 p.m. If someone mails you a certified letter and you are not at home when they come to deliver it, they will leave a number for you to call to schedule a time for the postal service to deliver that letter to you. Awesome service!
Okinawan word of the week: abunasan, which means a “dangerous.” In Japanese, it is abunai.
Louis Wai was born and raised in Hawai‘i. He practiced law in Honolulu for many years before earning a master’s degree in English as a Second Language in 2008. In 2010, he decided to move to Okinawa, where he now teaches English.