Way – English Translation
Cover: Let’s go to the kingdom of peace and courtesy.
The story of a young American touring Okinawa.
Page2: blue and white letters-same as cover
Yellow-Okinawa was once known as the kingdom of Okinawa, a country prospering with strong beliefs in peace and courtesy. Despite the many problems facing it today, Okinawa still carries the heart of the people within the once old kingdom. This is the story of a 22 year old American living in mainland Japan and his tour of Okinawa.
American born and Atlanta raised, Reuben Langdon first came to Japan 2 years ago in the fall of 1994. Unable to speak Japanese and with almost no acquaintances in the country, he arrived at Narita airport on a rainy day, when he was 19.
In America he had been a fan of Japanese comics, for example, Area 88, Dragon Ball, Akira and Fist of the North Star. He also read titles such as Appleseed and Guyver which usually only fanatic Japanese collectors know. “American Comics have too many superheroes like Superman and Spiderman. They are unstoppable, never die if they do they always come back to life. I was also a big video game fan; I would stay up all night and play Street Fighter2. There were nights I wouldn’t sleep at all and play through the next morning. Even now I have a Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation.” In his free time Reuben enjoys shopping for games. Japan is the home of the things Reuben is interested in, games, comics, and martial arts.
“I’ll just go have a look.” So said Reuben before he arrived on that rain day at Narita Airport. He really didn’t know were to go or what he was going to do once he got there. He slept in the airport and was often asked by the police for his passport. However Reuben just “played it by ear, “ and began his stay in Japan.
He made contact with a fried of a friend’s acquaintance and ended up working in a warehouse moving boxes on Camp Zama Army Base in Kanagawa Prefecture. His $200 a week salary was just enough to cover the rent for his apartment off base. His savings on depleted, and he often fought with his supervisors about studying Japanese language and culture. He was told not to speak Japanese while on base, to only speak English. While working on the base, Reuben began working as a model on the side, soon became quite busy, and quit his warehouse position. Though everything seemed simple at first, he soon realized it was not going to be that easy. The modelling jobs were scarce, and his job on the base was gone. Then, with students introduced to him by a friend, Reuben began teaching English to support himself.
Meanwhile he pursued his modelling and acting career. Eager to work and capable of understanding ambiguous Japanese expressions, Reuben quickly found moderate success. He was able to garner several roles in a number of commercials as well as a TV drama. Now busy with his entertainment career, he no longer teaches English.
Interested in martial arts from childhood, Reuben studied Aikido and Tae Kwon Do in America. While working as a model in Japan he discovered he wanted to be an action movie star. “ Like Jackie Chan, I want to do it all—act, direct, do my own stunts and write my own stories. In fact, I’m working on a script now, writing it n Japanese. I don’t understand Japanese perfectly yet so it takes a while.”
To Reuben, Okinawa is not merely a vacation resort; it is the origin of Karate. For him, the purpose of this tour was to practice Karate in the place of its birth.
Reuben drove the Yamaha Bronco through Okinawa’s crowded city streets in search of Karate Dojos and Martial Art specialty shops. He bought many martial art books written in English not available elsewhere.
After joining with a Shotokan Karate class, Reuben was surprised at the movements of the teacher, a master of 25 years. His strength, precision, and speed were unbelievable. “The stuff I’m studying in action class and the stuff this guy does are not all that different. I first thought that Chinese Martial Arts with their large movements were more suited to screen action scenes than Korean and Japanese Martial Arts. However I realized that if you continue practicing an art, any art from Martial Arts to dancing, as long as the Artist continues with it, it would be pleasing to the eye. I to must continue practicing and perfect my moves,” Reuben says. “Martial Arts are not just for destroying your opponent, there are many aspects to the martial arts and all aspects must be examined. Some Martial Arts focus on strength and abuse the body in order make the body strong, however the inside becomes weak. The true Martial Artist works on both outside and inside, inside being the spirit. There should be a balance.” Reuben often speaks of balance not only in Martial Arts but also in everything. “Martial Arts are not just a bunch of fancy moves used to pound your enemy into the ground. Martial Arts are a physical and mental discipline that can be used to protect yourself. When you have understood the balance of offence and defence hard and soft, Ying and Yang, within yourself then you are on your way to a higher level.”
Within the Chinese Martial Arts you often see the Ying and Yang mark. A circle with a wavy line and 2 smaller circles inside the half’s. It represents the balance Reuben often talks about.
This was Reuben’s way of thinking even while living in America. Until his arrival in Japan, however, he was unable to sort out his ideas and express them. Since coming to Japan and studying Martial Arts, he has emphasized the importance of balance. To Reuben, Martial Arts are not just a form of exercise. It is a way of life.
Reuben’s belief in balance has influenced many aspects of his life. He has an interest in motorcycles and likes the fact that when making a motorcycle Yamaha considers its balance. “If the proper balance is taken the rider can get a better feel for the bike and the riding enjoyment is enhanced.”
“I like Okinawa,” says Reuben. The thing that fascinates Reuben most is that even though Okinawa is part of Japan it is very different. “The nature and the cities are quite different from mainland Japan. This is definitely a southern Island scene. The bus and bike congestion on the crowded streets comes together in a way that is much different than Tokyo. Even the way of eating is different. Seeing the difference is what makes it interesting. “Difference is good!” a line Reuben often used. “With many different cultures you can learn a lot of different things. When a variety of different cultures come together many things happen. Unfortunately wars are often the result. But the important thing is balance. Black and white must not be thought of as separates but as two half’s which make a whole. To have balance both black and white must coexist together.”
“Since coming to Japan I haven’t really had much of a since of incompatibility. Even though I often encounter many Japanese Taboos, I just say to myself, ‘so that’s what they do here.’”
“ I also have taken a liking to Okinawa cuisine, in the modelling and acting world, staying in shape is a priority. I must be alert to keep my diet balanced. In the morning lots of fruit, always a large quantity of vegetables. If possible I eat no red meat, only half a bowl of rice and only the best quality tofu.” When Reuben orders a chicken burger at the MosBurger, he says with a smile “Can you take of the skin?” not that there is a lot of things that you can’t eat, you just have to eat in a balanced manner. 4-3-3 is the formula used to balance you food. 4 parts carbon hydrate, 3 parts protein, 3 parts fat. By using this formula food is most easily turned into energy.
In Okinawa the dinner set usually includes Mozuku (seaweed in vinegar) “ tastes good” he says chopsticks, orders Goyachanble, pops it in his mouth and proclaims it delicious. It’s easy to maintain a good diet with Okinawa cuisine. Maybe Reuben knows more about Okinawa cuisine than the Okinawa people themse
Travelling north on interstate 28 from Naha, you can’t help but notice the old traditional houses with roofs covered in peculiar white tiles and the statues of Caesar at the front gate. The tourist passing by gets a taste of the exotic, but it’s hard to say that the locals fell the same. In order to revive himself while touring Reuben stopped by a local acupuncturist, there he heard from an old man that the exotic wooden houses in the north are slowly disappearing, being replaced by concrete houses. The old man lives in the all-concrete city of Naha and finds the loss of wooden houses a shame. “ Tourists like myself would also like to see the traditional Okinawa style houses. Those living in the old wooden houses, however, would no doubt prefer strong concrete ones.”
“There is nothing I can do to stop the construction of concrete houses, but I believe it’s important that the traditional culture must not be lost and forgotten among the new buildings. The old ways help keep things at present in a certain degree of balance.”
Slicing through Okinawa next to Interstate 58 is the very big, much detested fence surrounding the American military base. The base is the source of much controversy. There are noise complaints and claims that the U.S. military has stolen Okinawa soil on one side, assertions that Okinawa would not survive it weren’t for the base providing jobs and protection from nearby threatening countries on the other.
“Though I’m American I have to say there is not such a need for all of the American military in Okinawa, after working on Camp Zama I was able to see the American tax dollars wasted on military spending. Even though the Japanese-American war is not the answer, on the other hand I understand the hardships that the Okinawa people endure, that is why it is a difficult topic.”
Reuben plans to live in Japan for a while longer, and really doesn’t know what might happen in the future.
“I would like to check out China in the near future. Japan is my home for now, however like when I first came to Japan I could end up staying awhile. My plans are changing by the day so what lies in store for me next I don’t know…”
………So said Reuben with his green eyes reflecting the green blue horizon of the Okinawa ocean view.