Louis Wai

Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

“I’m singing in the rain . . .” Here in Okinawa, Gene Kelly would have lots to sing about — and Braddah Iz not so much.

You would think that with all the rain and sunshine we get here that there would be lots of rainbows. Well, just the opposite is true. In fact, despite the

Who gives you maguro these days? My neighbor did! Mmmm . . . (Photos by Louis Wai)
Who gives you maguro these days? My neighbor did!
Mmmm . . . (Photos by Louis Wai)

amount of rain and sun we get here, I’ve seen maybe five only-partial rainbows in the five years I’ve lived here. Those rainbows were never the complete semicircle arch rainbows that we see so often in Hawai‘i.

And speaking of rain . . . Okinawa’s shower patterns are different from Hawai‘i’s. When we say “intermittent showers” in Hawai‘i, it rarely is stop-and-go. Here, stop-and-go is normal and “go” can last only a few seconds. Sometimes there is a steady and continuous rain. More often than not, though, if you’re patient and need to get out of the rain, it’ll stop in a few minutes, rain again and then stop again. And, unlike in Hawai‘i, where the skies will clear when the rain is pau, Okinawa’s rain stops even though the rain clouds remain. It’s taken me some time to adjust to this weather pattern.

Drinking test. Can you imagine a state-by-state survey being conducted at driver’s license testing centers in America to determine people’s alcohol drinking habits — and, furthermore, having people answer honestly?

More than 32,000 men and women, ages 20 to 69, took the survey in Okinawa. More than 14 percent of the men and 4.6 percent of the women admitted that they abused alcohol. Okinawa’s average was three times that of Japan.

Meet the “Birdman of Uenoya” and check out his unsupported sign poles.

The Birdman of — not Alcatraz — but Uenoya. There’s a man who manages a parking lot on Route 58, not far from my home. The lot is situated on a very expensive parcel of land — maybe equal to property on Kapi‘olani Boulevard. To say that this man is a little eccentric would be an understatement. Despite his disheveled appearance, his actions lead me to believe that either he — or his family — owns the property. He rearranged the parking lot and posted political signs on the property. He also seems to be occupying two containers in a corner of the lot. The man is quite visible riding around on his moped, that is, if he isn’t standing on it!

When he first leveled the ground to make the parking lot, he was competing for customers with a paved lot next to his own. He would charge 50 yen less per day to attract customers. He’s usually there before

Look at the spider I found in my bathroom!
Look at the spider I found in my bathroom!

the sun rises and can be seen as late at 10 p.m., which gives me the impression that he wants to make sure he collects from everyone who uses his lot. At 400 to 500 yen per day, his parking lot is always full on weekdays. He started acting strangely a few years ago, installing tall poles and posting signs. The problem with his poles is that they weren’t secured well, so when typhoons hit, his signs tore off.

Lately, he’s taken to feeding birds. He stands on his moped with his arms extended with bird feed in his hands. The pigeons land on his arms and pick food out of his clenched fist. He also multitasks, playing a violin while standing on his moped and feeding the birds out of his clenched left hand that is holding the neck of the violin. Mind you, he does this at the entrance to his parking lot, facing oncoming traffic, giving everyone traveling along Route 58 something to chuckle about.

Okinawan word of the week: Tanigaaimun, or kawaimun, meaning “eccentric.” In Japanese, it is kawarimono.

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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