AF News

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Jakkepoes Pancake House // ヤッケブース // 얏케 부스

Soooo….I had a hankering for some pancakes this past weekend and I wanted to treat my wife to a nice “café” experience.   She is really into the “café” life here on Okinawa now, basically, loves to yap the afternoon away with all her Korean friends over expensive lattes.  Anyhow, I put her to task to find something like that AND somewhere that had something decent to eat while the kiddo was at daycare.  Kinda like a date I guess….jeez how long has that been for us?!?!? So yea….back to the pancakes….so the wife got on the interwebs and found Jakkepoes Pancake House out in Yomitan, out in the area by Torii Station.  We both have not been there before, so we decided to give it a try.  Well to keep the story short, since I am not a true “café” critic like my wife is; it was delicious!  The wife was a little disappointed on the coffee section, but I went there for pancakes and was content.  It is really small operation ran out of a house, in the middle of a neighborhood, with limited parking like usual in Okinawa.  So if you have a small car you will be ok, else you are going to have to park elsewhere for the most part.  The menu is not huge either, but that is ok, since they have great pancakes and the familiar breakfast sides that will make us Americans happy.  You can just add stuff to your order if you want too…want more pancakes? Add as many to your heart’s desire! See my huge spread below…

Jakkepoes Pancake House // ヤッケブース // 얏케 부스
Here is the sign and front of the place for reference, as well as a Google map link too.  If you zoom in on the sign, you can find the hours on there too and where you can park.

Jakkepoes Pancake House // ヤッケブース // 얏케 부스

Jakkepoes Pancake House // ヤッケブース // 얏케 부스

Address:  near 431-4 Toya, Yomitan-son, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa-ken 904-0305

I would be remiss not to mention that they have an English website, a Facebook page, and a write-up over on Okinawa Hai! too…

Friday, August 21, 2015

VPN Service and Smart DNS Service Providers for Streaming US Only Content most people know that live out here in Okinawa, and specifically in the Kadena housing areas, is that your Netflix/Hulu/DramaFever/etc. will not work out here.  There are a couple of ways around this, and they are usually low cost as well. I will detail what we have ended up going with so far during our time here on Okinawa. Oh and I will be using some technical terms, with no explanation, just so I can keep this post small. However, if anyone needs more info on this technical stuff, I will have links to help you educate yourself. Just know at a high level view, these services allow you to do something you want. You don't need to know HOW they work for them to work for you. =) Anyways...
Well first, why care about all this? Well if you don't want to use Netflix/Hulu/etc. out here, then yea, who cares! BUT if you do, you have two primary methods to bypass the region restrictions most US based streaming services use. And that is use a VPN or a SmartDNS service, both are usually pretty cheap. But before I get into those services, I wanted to clarify something on using these services out here though...
1.  I would try using Netflix/Hulu/HBO/etc. first, before getting these services. Why get them, when you don't need them, right? However, I live on Kadena and use Mediatti, and while it looks like a have a US based IP address, it still gets blocked by those streaming services. This may be the case for many living on-base, but that is why I say try first, before jumping the gun.
2.  For those that live off-base, will I heard they get it a little better, in internet speed and services. Basically, most off-base internet providers give you a router that has a special port on it that gives anything plugged into it a real US based IP address. So super cool and convenient, but yea, I live on-base...
Ok,  so VPN and SmartDNS services, what are they?
1.  VPN is basically a encrypted connection between your computer/devices to another computer/server located else where. What that means for us and our streaming services is that you can use this services to make it SEEM like you are located somewhere else; like the US! It also has the added bonus of hiding all your internet traffic from your pesky ISP and shady government orgs =). It may not be the best method for non-technical type of people, but if you know how to read, you can set it up in 30 mins or so. The service I am using is linked below, but there are a lot of them out there you can use. However, I went with these guys because they are cheap, accept Bitcoin for payment, it works on iphones/ipads directly, and they allow you to use torrents on their service; oh and of course you can stream through them too. Your best bet is to find a VPN service within your budget and provides what you are looking for. 
Get smart on VPN's!
2.  SmartDNS service is a rather complex thing to explain, so basically just understand it will "spoof" your IP and make it seem like your computer/devices are in the US. This service does not encrypt your internet traffic, however it will be "faster" than using a VPN service, so that feature alone may be best for people that just want to stream movies/shows. I service I am using is linked below and I am using it directly on my Samsung smart TV, so now my wife can stream all the DramaFever she wants! Oh and I am using these guys just because they are cheap and accept Bitcoin too!
Get smart on SmartDNS!
So there you have it, the keys to your streaming nirvana await you! lol Enjoy!
P.S. For those that care and are technically inclined, here is my setup currently with all these services.
1. VPN service: I use OpenVPN with this service and have it loaded on my iPhone/iPad. I used this VPN service at first to get around that damn pesky "censorship" of the country I was deployed too before. Worked like a charm! I also use the VPN when I am on open public wifi hotspots, better safe than sorry! Additionally, I have dd-wrt loaded on my home router and it can set up as OpenVPN client as well. Super cool and I have it set up to only route traffic through the VPN by a list of local IPs I have set; bonus points for that!
2.  SmartDNS service: I got this for my Samsung smart TV and it is set directly on the TV, no need to fuss with your router. It works great and all the TV apps think they are in the US! haha. I guess I could use it for other things, but that is all I need this service for.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Getting JCI done on Okinawa!

So….I guess I need to do the JCI on my Honda Fit now. I can’t believe it has been two years already, but yea, I guess I need to do the “dreaded” JCI haha.  Well let me tell you it is not actually hard to do, but it is going to cost you some coin to get it done, that is for sure.  I will lay out what I had to do and any pitfalls that can come up during this whole process. All this is current as of August 2015 and with a 500 series Y plate car.

Basically, you get this done at the JSVRO on Foster. It is right across the street from the Commissary on that base, so it is easy to find.  Basically, you go through the Foster gate right off the Hwy 58. See below on the hours and a map.

JSVRO Map - Foster

Here is also some info on what to expect and the process on getting JCI done Foster…


JSVRO - JCI Process - Foster

Additionally, you can find more official info here and some more unofficial info at Okinawa Hai (it is dated though, but still correct)…

Ok, here is what I did...

 1.   I started on a Tuesday morning and basically followed the handout procedure up above. I started early in the morning and I am glad I did, as you will read why later on.

2. Ok, my first stop was at my insurance office in the Kadena USO building by gate 2.  I renewed my insurance early since I was doing this and you can buy the JCI policy there as well.  It sucks that we, SOFA members, has to have both insurance types, but it is what is out here.  I will itemize my costs at the end of this write-up.  Oh, you have to pay YEN cash for the JCI policy, however I can pay dollar/yen/CC for the insurance policy.

3.  My next stop was the JSVRO on Foster and there was no lines/waiting at the time I went in the morning, which is great, since I hate waiting! Inside you will have to pay weight tax in YEN only and make sure you bring all your car paperwork in there with you. They will be stamping papers, paper clipping, and stapling a bunch of stuff together too, so you end up with a packet of paperwork. Once you take care of all that, you will have to go to the Inspection office on the back side of the JSVRO building to pay the inspection fee. I paid in cash, but they may or may not take credit card/YEN. See image below on where it is…

JSVRO - Office #6

 4.  Now once you have that take care of, it is time to get your car inspected. You pull into this lane…

JSVRO Lane #5
HOWEVER, this is where things can go awry.  As in, this is the part that can get expensive! Let me break it down for you…I have a “newer” Honda Fit, low miles, great condition, well maintained.  It is not a beater basically or a lemon lot special. So I figured I will throw the dice and just get it JCI’d, well guess what, it didn’t work out for me! Arrghhh!!! Actually, I need to back up a little bit. Remember that weight tax and what not you just paid? Take a look at the little note they attach to the receipt…

GOJ Weight Tax - 2015

So what that means is, if you fail your inspection and cannot get whatever fixed by the time they close that day, you are out that money. Yup, you will have to pay that tax AGAIN to JCI your car if you can’t get it to pass that DAY! A little crazy if you ask me, since it isn’t chump change, but now you should start seeing where things can get expensive if you try to wing it, like I did. So back to my story…So yea, I winged it and they failed me on two items! Sorry for being all dramatic about it, but they were really small things, but I was annoyed never the less. I guess if you fail, they will ask you to pull up in lane 3, the lane of shame, and that is where they will break down what failed. I will detail that stuff in a minute, but here is some pictures of the process of them inspecting your car and I will go over what they check…

JSVRO Inspection Bay Signs

JSVRO Inspection Bay - Brake Test

JSVRO Inspection - Headlight Test

JSVRO Inspection Bay - Lift

So what did they ding me on? See below…

JCI Inspection Form
It was basically a cracked rubber boot and a headlight adjustment.  However, use this form as a guide to make sure you car is good to go, before you get there. A lot of stuff on there is simple and easy to fix on your own.  I would be pretty pissed at myself if I failed because of a burned out bulb or something.

Well luckily, or more like “conveniently”, there is a AAFES service station just behind the inspection area, and they do first come, first served service. I am sure that is out of necessity of being so close to the JSVRO and then having frantic soccer moms freaking out that they failed their inspection, and they will be damned if they can’t get their mini-van JCI’d…TODAY! How are they going to get their 7 kids to plays/practice/ the BX?!?! Haha Anyways, I was lucky it was simple stuff and cheap to fix, and they even got it done within an hour actually. But here are my thoughts on this part so far…

I know there are plenty of local car shops that offer JCI pre-inspections and what not.  I think those services prey on people’s fear of the JCI, but that is just me. So do you need to use those services? If you have a beater, you might want too. Shop around of course, but if you have decent ride and well maintained, I imagine you will be alright; basically don’t waste your money. Put it this way, if you wing your JCI inspection and they find stuff, well just fix that stuff, and you should be good. You will be out that same money (or more) doing a pre-inspection as well, since they “should” identify that same stuff, and of course they will offer to fix it; How convenient…But you open yourself to being sold stuff you don’t need, just to be “sure” you will pass the JCI. It think that is a racket, but that is just me again. So all this being said, I believe this part is what puts the “DREAD” in the dreaded JCI. We all heard the stories, “It cost me $1000+ just to JCI my car, what a nightmare!” I put money on that they did the JCI pre-inspection somewhere, and got oversold on service/parts. Yea they passed their JCI, but did it need to cost them $1000+ when it was all said and done!? Nope if you ask me! I can only hope they didn’t waste that money on a shitty car to boot, because if it was going to cost me that much to JCI any car I had, I will be looking for a different car and junk the old one.  Ok rant done, moving on…

5. OK round two…I went back to the inspection lane after they fixed my car at the AAFES service station, however it was their lunch time! Yes, they have lunch time, see the handout up above for the hours. Well, I just waited in the lane by the inspection bay, so I would be first in line when they got back.  When they did get back, they basically just checked what was failed from before and moved me through. After the inspection, I was told to pull into the lane of glory, actually lane 4, and they give you your JCI sticker then. You are not done though! Once you pass you have to go back in the JSVRO to update your paperwork/records. Bring everything in there and you drivers license and IDs. I mean they check everything, so like if you have an expired license, they will get you there. Just saying…my wife’s license expired the very week I did this, and they were giving me crap about it. But that is another write up for next time….

6. In summary, I winged it, and made it through relatively painlessly. The key to all this is good planning and giving yourself time to get this done. Fix the stuff you can first on your car before going of course, but be prepared to fork out cash if you car is “suspect”. Oh, don’t do this last minute! I am sure you can see why now…Well here is my detail cost for all this, however you mileage may vary…

a.  Insurance Renewal = ¥23,730 or about $192

b. JCI Policy = ¥13,230 or about $107

c. Weight Tax, etc. = ¥11,600 or about $94

d. Inspection Fee = $20

e. AAFES Service Station Cost (not everyone of course) = $51

GRAND TOTAL = $464 for a 500 series Y plate / Honda Fit

Not cheap in my opinion just to “drive” this car on the island, but it is Japan, it is what it is. Hopefully you enjoyed this write-up and good luck on your JCI adventures!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Unlock your AU iPhone 6 / Plus has been awhile since I did an update....well that is because I am in Qatar now! But that is a different story for another time....but yes, since I was going to be in Qatar for a bit, I thought how nice it would be to use my brand new-ish iPhone 6 from AU here. Ok i thought, let me get some prepaid service out here! I ended up going with Ooredoo prepaid service and got a SIM card that would fit in my phone. I loaded up the SIM card and then shortly the phone asked me to activate the biggy I thought...I put in my password...waiting...waiting...ERROR!!!! You get a message looking like the image above. For those that have been living in Japan for some time, know that just about every Japanese phone, from locked to the cell provider you bought it from. It dosen't matter if your contract is up or you straight bought the phone with cash from AU like I did, it will most likely be locked. This is crazy I thought! I paid freaking hard cash upfront for this phone (not cheap) and I CANT USE IT WITH A DIFFERENT COMPANY!? WTF!? SOoooo...rant what happened? I had an unlocked iPhone 5 (T-mobile) with me anyways, because I knew these facts way before I left for Qatar, and I always prepare for this type of stuff anyways. So my iPhone 6 stayed pampered in my room on the wifi only, not ideal, but whatever, I couldn't do anything about it. So eventually I started getting hand cramps using the small iphone 5 screen (I have big hands, jeez!) and I started looking at trying to get my iPhone 6 unlocked somehow. No dice at first, since I have asked AU to do it before, and they told me it is not their company's "policy" to do such things. meh! I then start looking into the shady online "unlocking" web sites that promise they can unlock any iPhone...ANY mind you....except Japanese carriers....aaaragggghh! An guess what, they won't know for sure, until they try, and that is after you pay them first of course...hence shady. Well to be serious for a minute, there are A LOT of scam unlocking sites out there, so you have to be careful who you give your money to. I wiill help you with this though, save you the hassle, and tell you what I did to get my AU iPhone 6 unlocked...

1.  After searching numerous fourms on this topic, I found a very short post about someone using a particular site to successfully to unlock their Japanese iPhone, and it seemed legit. It didn't read like some fake post hyping a scam company, so with great thought on the matter, I gave them a try. The site is here...

The best part is that they accept Bitcoin for payment! You have to ask them first to do it (via Skype) and that I why I went with them too. Since I mine all my BTC, I didn't feel like I would be too pissed if they scammed me, it is free bitcoin for me anyways! =)

2.  You can navigate the site to find AU/Softbank unlocking services for about $135 at the time of this writing. I actually paid 0.63 BTC for my serivice at the time I ordered.

3.  Ok now here comes the hard part...I ordered the service around April 16, 2015...and I didn't get my phone unlocked until June 4, 2015! There was a apparently a reason for this and I will try to explain shortly, but I want to mention this timeline for one reason really. The best way to communicate with this biz is via Skype, and they are decent at getting back to you on there. However, their english isn't the best, which started throwing warning flags up all over the place with me when the unlock didn't work after weeks of back and forth with them. I thought I got scammed and they were just stringing me along until they shut shop, and counted their bounty from other idiots like me. But rest assured that was not the case, whew! But it was a rather tedious wait, to say the least.

4. At this point though, I am happy to say that my phone is indeed unlocked, I can use my Ooredoo SIM card in my phone after I activated it with no issues....I even get 4G service out here on my iPhone 6, unlike my iPhone 5, which only works with the 3G signal out here. They were even nice enough to chat with me on Skype as I did all the SIM swapping, just to make sure everything worked for me.

5. Some final notes on all far as the crazy long wait I experienced, I was told that the Apple GSX server was down for weeks (perfect timing, right?) and that keep their "supplier" from getting in there to unlock my iPhone 6. Speaking of "supplier", all these unlocking services seem to have inside men working at all these cell companies, or at least have access to the Apple GSX server to make your IMEI "unlocked". The whole process obivous sounds suspect, but the process used is just the same as unlocking done by the cell carrier, no hacking needed =).

In can be done! =) And if you didn't know, your AU iPhones 6 / Plus is a beast for world travel. The iPhone 6 model AU uses is MG482J/A, which happens to have just about every frequency you can possible need to connect to what ever cell provider you end up using. Score! 

P.S. For those that are really in the know....yes starting May 1st, 2015, most (all?) Japanese cell providers, like AU, will unlock their customers phones under certain conditions. The key thing to know, is the date, and that any phones sold after that time fall under these new policies. Trust me, I emailed AU from Qatar (very quick on the response mind you, in english too!) on May 1st, and they basically told me they will not unlock my iPhone 6 since I bought it before May 1st. Oh well, my iPhone is unlocked now anyways. But I would still try asking them, you might save yourself some money doing it through them, as opposed of doing it through the biz I used. Here is a link to news article talking about this new policy by the Japanese government.

***UPDATE***  3-FEB-16

The kind people at have said to mention this blog and that "Djbert" sent you when you sign up, and they will throw some Bitcoin my way! Score for me! So thanks in advance to those that don't mind hooking me up =) 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cafe Curcuma / Asian Herb Restaurant / 카페 강황

If you are looking to kill an afternoon eating some great Thai food, while enjoying a killer view of the ocean, and want plenty of things to see within walking distance, then Café Curcuma is your place! It is about a 40 minute drive from Kadena, which is a little off the beaten path, but I like these kind of places because of that(the wife loves the food!). But even though it is still out in the southern farming area of Okinawa, it is still kind of touristy, as there will be waves of Chinese/Korean tourists that show up through out the day to take pictures/eat/explore. I am sure doing the week that may not be the issue, but during the weekends (only time I have been), it might get busy in the restaurant, and you will have to wait a bit to get a seat. I would say it is great for couples/adults, kids may be bored though, but you can get strollers in there if you have babies. However, you will have to stow those big American strollers somewhere before you could enjoy the restaurant, has there isn't much room between the tables, which is common in Okinawa of course.

Also, Okinawa Hai has a great review on this place as well and you can find it here...

I also have the google maps coordinates for your smartphones and the English flier for the place below, so you can plan out what you want to do in that area.

Google Maps Coordinates: 26.1622348, 127.8122955

Cafe Curcuma

Cafe Curcuma

Cafe Curcuma

Cafe Curcuma