November 3 - The Honolulu Police Department continues to investigate the source of a stray bullet which landed in a Hawaii Kai home. HPD concedes it would be difficult to determine whether the bullet came from the nearby Koko Head Shooting Range. [KHON]
November 2 - Gridlock along Kalanianaole Highway is prompting calls to improve traffic light synchronization on the highway and brainstorm other efforts to accommodate more cars, especially given talk of potential new developments popping up in East Honolulu. [HNN]
November 1 - Firefighters rescued a hiker from Koko Crater trail at around 6:30pm. The visitor from Oregon was hiking alone and sustained injuries from an apparent fall. [Star Advertiser]
October 25 - The Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale, Downtown/Chinatown, Hawaii Kai and Koolauloa neighborhood boards have been among those that have unsuccessfully sought to get Hawaii police to report more comprehensive information. The Honolulu Police Department was the only department among more than 150 that the Star-Advertiser checked nationally to limit its mapping to nonviolent crimes. [Star-Advertiser - Library card required]
Well, it looks like another great day for the plant exchange. I just picked up a number of new specimens. Today we'll have lots of Pele's Hair (Spanish Moss), a few Pink Dragonfruit cuttings, Java chestnut, Pandan and more. Bring a plant, take a plant, or just leave a voluntary donation to Kaiser High School.
Biannual fruiting season, summer and winter. This cactus requires minimal care throughout the year. Edible fruit is easy to peel and attractive to serve.
October 27 - Island Brew Coffee at Hawaii Kai Shopping Center has opened a second location in Kaimuki. [PBN]
October 27 - The Schaefer family of Hawaii Kai appears on Family Feud [Star Advertiser]
October 26 - Hawaii's Board of Education (BOE) announces a Nationwide search for Kathryn Matayoshi's replacement. Matayoshi, the superintendent of Hawaii's public schools, has not announced that she is resigning. This surprise move takes place shortly after the resignation of Jim Williams and the subsequent appointment of Darrel Galera at BOE. [HNN] [Civil Beat (1) (2) (3)]
October 26 - The Hawaii Kai community recently formed a homeless task force with a two-fold mission: Offer help to the homeless and ensure encampments aren't allowed to stick around and grow. The 10-member task force formed last month under the guidance of state Rep. Gene Ward (Hawaii Kai, Kalama Valley). Ward notes that most of those approached are not interested in assistance. Meanwhile, those near the homeless encampments, such as those near the Lunalilo Home Road one, fear that vacant land owned by Bishop Estate will continue to occupied with homeless. [HNN]
October 24 - Ninteen year-old Josiah Ramos died while body surfing at Sandy Beach [Star Advertiser]
October 24 - A Civil Beat poll finds that nearly 70 percent of Hawaii residents want feral cats killed. Specifically the survey asks:
“One additional local issue that has received a lot of attention is the large number of feral house cats living in the state. There are about 300,000 free-roaming cats on Oahu and thousands more on the neighbor islands. The cats are an invasive mainland species, and many of them spread a disease called toxoplasmosis, which is deadly to an endangered local species called the Hawaiian Monk Seal. There are just over one-thousand Hawaiian Monk Seals left in existence.
A recent Civil Beat editorial suggested that the only way to maintain Hawaii’s ecosystem, and keep Hawaiian Monk Seals from edging closer to extinction, is to kill off the population of feral cats. But others have argued that the cats should not be killed, because these problems are not their fault. If you had to choose — what would you do?”
On Oahu, registered voters may vote at Honolulu Hale or Kapolei Hale from 8am to 4pm Monday through Saturday. Parking is available at both locations. Early voting locations are open until November 5.
October 20, 2016 - Oceanic Cable advises East Oahu residents of potential disrupted services on the following days:
Thursday, 27 October 2016 | 12:00 AM – 05:00 AM
On Oahu, in Kaneohe, Kailua, Waimanalo, Kalama, Hawaii Kai and surrounding areas, video services, including but not limited to Video On Demand, Look Back, Start Over services, may be intermittent or briefly unavailable due to network maintenance.
Thursday, 27 October 2016 | 12:00 AM – 05:00 AM
On Oahu, in Downtown Honolulu, Kakaako, Moiliili, Makiki, Manoa, Waikiki, Kaimuki, Diamond Head, Kahala, Kalani, Niu Valley and surrounding areas, video services, including but not limited to Video On Demand, Look Back, Start Over services, may be intermittent or briefly unavailable due to network maintenance.
Other Statewide upgrades are scheduled for: 10/24, 10/26, 10/27 and 10/28 [Oceanic Cable]
October 20, 2016 - On Hiki No, Episode #804, Students at Kalani High School in East O‘ahu demonstrate how to make a thaumatrope – a simple device made from paper and string that creates rudimentary forms of animation. [PBS]
October 19, 2016 - Koko Crater Stables to reopen October 28 [Midweek]
October 19, 2016 - The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed an additional case of hepatitis A in an Oahu food service worker. The infected case is an employee at McDonald’s of Kahala, located at 4618 Kilauea Avenue in Honolulu. Affected dates of service are Sept. 20–21, 23–24, 27–29, and Oct. 1, 4–5, 7, and 11, 2016. [Damon Tucker]
October 15, 2016 - Ground has broken on Kaikaina, a new Department of Hawaiian Homelands project in Waimanalo. Thirty-one new units are being built. [KHON]
US Smartphone Coverage in Japan
If you're currently on either T-mobile or Sprint's phone plan, you're in luck. For most plans, both companies offer free text and 2g basic data roaming in Japan.
Sprint also offers a 3g unlimited data + text + phone plan for $5 more a month. Our family is on Sprint, so the choice was a no-brainer. We tacked on the add-on (which, for the record, they tell me is not pro-rated but monthly) for the mere cost of a few dollars each. As far as I can tell from our first bill after use, it's exactly as advertised. Everything was covered. Before leaving, I thought I wouldn't need phone services, but after departing, found that the ability to call either Japan or the US without charge was a real plus. I probably made a half-dozen calls within the country in the span of one week, as well as a few more back to the US.
If you use Sprint's add-on, you'll receive instructions for changing from CDMA to GSM, the international standard. You'll then connect to Japan telecom powerhouse Softbank, which, in 2013, acquired a controlling stake in Sprint. Softbank's coverage of Japan is ubiquitous. Even in Kamikochi, a remote mountainous region of Japan, we received clear signal. The only real adjustment I needed to make was to conserve more battery than I normally would: roaming takes extra energy.
As far as other cellular carriers, our traveling companions checked with Verizon, whose $40 plan included a scant 100kb of data alongside an equally scant 200 texts received or sent. AT&T has a $40 passport plan that includes unlimited text, 200MB of data and access at hotspots in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka. As with all phone plans, terms are subject to change, so be sure to inquire directly.
A friend recently commented that it seemed everyone from Hawaii was going to Japan in the near future. As it so happens, in addition to our own traveling party, another group of friends was also in Japan. They used a hotspot rented in Hawaii. Hotspots are portable internet-connected units; you use wi-fi on your phone to connect to it. On their smartphones, they connected the app "line", for texting and voice. As it also so happens, a Tokyo-based friend mentioned the free app's popularity in Japan. I didn't personally research the cost of the hotspot, but Don Quijote and vicinity have stores specializing in them, which they advertise at a cost as low as $4 a day. A big benefit of hotspots is that more than one phone can connect to it at once.
You can also rent SIM chips while in Japan, but my own personal inclination would be to forego this option. You'd have to look around for a chip once you got there, complete the transaction in a foreign language (for most of us), and hope that it worked. I also did not think that the cost was less than that of using a service purchased ahead of time. If you are planning to stay for several months, perhaps the SIM option would make more sense for you.
Japan Travel Apps - Top 5
We're mostly an iOS family, with the exception of me, Ms. Android. Most of these apps, with the exception of the offline Japanese dictionary JED, are dual-platform.
1. Hyperdia - Transit Navigator
If you're planning to go anywhere by mass transit in Japan, you need this app. Type in the departure place and the arrival destination to get your choices. By default, it assumes you're leaving now, but you can always change the time by pressing the detail button. If you're limited to certain types of travel, say Japan Railway (JR), or Shinkansen, you can also select just the modes you want. Likewise, the results default to time as being the most important, but again, you can also choose between least transfers or money expended. This is a very flexible app with excellent functionality.
2. Pokémon GO - Game (& Navigator)
I don't play, but the kids do and they saw a number of landmarks they wouldn't have if they weren't playing the game. At least it made them look up and appreciate the natural wonder of (1) A Mario pipe, smack dab in the middle of Ikebukuro (2) A giant robot building, and (3) genuine natural wonders that showed up on the map as landmarks. Additionally, the app's GPS is pretty good, often kicking in where Google Maps didn't. We were occasionally able to navigate our way from lost to found via Pokémon GO. Sadly, however, no one caught the region-exclusive Farfetch'd.
3. Google Translate - Character Translator
I didn't use it as often as I thought I would, but for those difficult Kanji, it's a quick and easy way to research the character. The translation isn't always right, but the meaning of the character almost always is. Just point, shoot and translate. Given the level of noise in Tokyo, I have doubts that sound-based portions of the app would have worked. Still, for visual recognition, it's helpful.
4. ATM Navi by Seven Bank - ATM (Money) Locator
Money exchange is amazingly easy through 7-11 ATMs in Japan. The Hawaii State Federal Credit Union only charges 1% for VISA debit card use, and Seven Bank doesn't seem to have a surcharge. Additionally, 7-11 ATMs are ubiquitous. Seven Bank's highly functional app for finding ATMs works well even in the middle of Tokyo city, where GPS can often be spotty. As both a money finder and street finder, this is a five-star app.
5. JED for Android - Japanese/English Offline Dictionary
Apple lovers, you're out of luck. JED is strictly for Android. If you're on iOS, use Jisho.org through your browser for translation. If you're on Android, use JED for speed and simplicity. Offline apps are reliable, even where internet access is not available. Additionally, it's faster to load and uses fewer resources (i.e. battery). I used this app more than a few times. It's good to be able to look something up right away while it's still fresh in your mind.
Finally. a couple of notes
City-dwellers will tell you not to count on GPS in the midst of tall buildings. Tokyo is no exception to this rule. Different apps seem to have varying levels of accuracy, and sometimes more than one app is needed in order to figure out exactly where you are. Throughout the course of our trip, we used a number of GPS-enabled apps, including the ones above. We also used Google Maps from time to time, but found that because the text was usually in Japanese, inputting a desired location in English wasn't as effective as it is here.
Another point to make is that certain sites are region-restricted, meaning you may not be able to access all of the US sites while in Japan. Keep this in mind when you travel and don't expect that your bank, etc. . . will allow you to conduct business as usual. I'm a fan of VPN for both encryption and for masking originating location, but not all smartphone users will have access to a VPN service.
Lastly, don't forget to look up from your smartphone from time to time. Japan is a beautiful country, and a smartphone is just a tool.