Nuts for nuts. One of my distant uncles in Hawai‘i was noted for eating whole Samoan crabs . . . and I really mean the whole crab, including the shell. So, what does this have to do with nuts? Hold on, I’m getting to that.

In Okinawa, macadamia nuts, cashews and pistachios are very expensive — so expensive that I don’t buy them here. I wait until I go to Hawai‘i and then buy them as omiyage for friends in Okinawa.

I recently delivered some to one of my students and his family. His oldest daughter, who is 6 years old, served each of her two younger siblings one cashew, one chocolate-covered macadamia nut and one unshelled pistachio in tiny dishes before eating any herself. Her brother was trying to bite through the pistachio shell so I opened it for him. After he ate the meat of the nut, I thought I heard a cracking sound. That’s a cracking sound — not a crunching sound. Could he have . . .? Yes, indeed, he was eating the shell, too! His father and I told him to stop, but he was determined. He must have liked it, because he ate the other half of the shell, as well. The little guy was nuts about nuts.

Haisai=Kids street
On Sunday afternoons, Kokusai Dori is closed to vehicle traffic so that children can play.


Same scenario, different response. Three months before moving to Okinawa, I was doing some shopping at Don Quijote and inadvertently forgot my wallet at one of the check-out counters. It wasn’t until after I had driven away that I realized I did not have my wallet with me. So, I turned around and went back to the store and asked the cashier if anyone had turned in my wallet. She directed me to the manager, who told me that no one had turned in my wallet. I had about $150 in cash, my driver’s license, all of my credit cards and other items of value and importance to me. I was angry at first, thinking to myself, “The person was probably right behind me and knew I had left my wallet there.”

As angry as I was, after thinking about it for a while, I felt sad for the person who had found it and kept it. I imagined that he or she was probably thrilled to get the money and I felt sad for that person, because if something like this made them happy, that individual must have a sad life.

The police sentry on duty.
The police sentry on duty.

So why I am telling you this story? During my two daughters’ visit here a few months ago, my younger daughter Leila and I went grocery shopping at Ryubo on their first morning here. The grocery store has a booth that specializes in onigiri (what we call musubi in Hawai‘i) and bentö.

When I travel with a group, I usually collect a set amount from everyone in the group and pay for meals from this fund rather than have people fight to pay each bill. So, I had more than $2,500 in my wallet when we entered Ryubo. After Leila and I had shopped, we went to pay at the cashier. I remember taking out my wallet at the bentö booth to pay. But I must have left it there on a counter, below the line of sight of the cashier.

As blessings would have it, my wallet was still there when Leila and I returned to look for it, just where I had forgotten it. Ah Okinawa!

I remember placing my wallet on this ledge under the cash register. (Photos by Louis Wai)
I remember placing my wallet on this ledge under the cash register. (Photos by Louis Wai)

Security drama. While waiting for my Japan Airlines flight at Honolulu International Airport, a dog with its trainer was sniffing around for contraband. Two armed security personnel were watching the search. The dog suddenly jumped up onto the ledge in front of window and began scratching up against the wall. The two armed guards brought over a ladder and removed a bag from the top of the TV set that hung from the ceiling. A Japanese woman standing next to me stared at the scene incredulously with her mouth wide open. The guards smiled about the success of their drill.

Naha police on duty. The Naha Police Department headquarters is located close to the western-side entrance of Kokusai Dori, one of Okinawa’s main streets. There is usually a police sentry standing in front of the station with his arm locked behind his back in a “parade rest” position. Can you imagine Honolulu having the budget to station a police officer outside the police department for “show?”

This car is parked partly in the street — this is as far back as this little car can go.
This car is parked partly in the street — this is as far back as this little car can go.

Okinawan word of the week: chikusaji, meaning police. In Japanese, it is keisatsukan. HH

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.


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