Louis Wai
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Ugly bugs. What’s the ugliest bug you’ve ever seen? It’s summertime here in Okinawa and I’m seeing some of the ugliest — and strangest-looking — bugs ever. They don’t seem to have many of those “747” flying cockroaches that take flight on warm and humid summer nights in the Islands. I’ve also noticed that Okinawa doesn’t have as many flies as we have in Hawai‘i.

But Okinawa’s bugs look like monsters straight out of a science fiction movie. I’m not talking

How would you like to come face-to-face with a monster bug like this? (Photos by Louis Wai)
How would you like to come face-to-face with a monster bug like this? (Photos by Louis Wai)

about the buzzing summer cicadas that I wrote about previously, but ugly ones, like the monster pictured here.

The strange thing is that in spite of all the bugs here, I have yet to see a home with a front screen door. With the heat and humidity here, you would think that those who don’t have, or don’t use their air conditioners, would open all their windows and doors and that screen doors would be a must-have. But people here just leave their front doors open — they don’t seem to worry about the bugs coming into their homes.

Firefly show. If you want to see fireflies, Sueyoshi Park in Naha is the place to be, but only in early summer for about 30 minutes after the sun sets and before the night turns completely dark. I learned that male fireflies light up to attract females.

Homegrown rice. One of my students is from Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyüshü, which is in southern Japan. He told me that his parents own several rice paddies, so he gets fresh rice from his parents. Curious to taste fresh “paddy to chawan (rice bowl)” rice, I asked him I could try some. When he gave me the rice, he told me I should wash it at least five times because of the amount of powder on the rice. He was right.

He also said that although his parents own several paddies, the paddies are not connected to each other, which, apparently, is common in Japan. Before the war, land in Japan was owned by a just a few, like kingdoms. After World War II, the United States did not want a few landowners to control the wealth through land ownership, so the land was divided, enabling tenant farmers to own land.

Mini lunchwagons. One of the things I miss about living in Hawai‘i is being able to eat lunchwagon plate lunches. I have seen “lunchwagons” that look more like mobile restaurants at some festivals here, but I don’t see them in regular parking stalls on weekdays. In addition to bentö stands on the streets, what I see a lot of at construction sites and in industrial areas are mini vans selling prepared bentö boxes from the back of their mini van.

Okinawan shima (sumö).
Okinawan shima (sumö).

Someone told me that per capita, more bentö are sold in Okinawa than in any other prefecture of Japan. One downside to these mini vans is that they park on sidewalks at intersections. Cars and trucks pull over and park at the curb to buy bentö, causing a traffic mess.

Okinawan sumö. Okinawan sumö, known here as shima, is a combination of judö and sumö. I went to a shima tournament in Naminoue. The contestants wear judö gi instead of the mawashi (loincloth) worn by traditional sumotori. The match starts in a locked position. Each participant places his right hand around the back of his opponent and twists his hand inside the belt, establishing a wrap inside-out on the belt. The objective is to throw the opponent onto his back. You must score two back pins to win.

Okinawan word of the week: Mushi is both Japanese and Uchinaguchi for insect; however, mushi-uturuu means “fear of insects” in Uchinaguchi.

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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