In the Spotlight: Okinawa

Another look into the history of the Hash House Harriers.



In the Spotlight – Okinawa
By Ed “Hazukashii” Howell
4 July 2014

All of the IN THE SPOTLIGHT articles I have written have been based on my own experience in the particular area featured, often along with a healthy dose of research and correspondence with other hashers that I know of that can add to the story. This month’s excursion into Hash House Harriers history is one that I have thought and wondered about for decades. If you have been around even for a short while, you have certainly seen or heard about the Okinawa HHH, with those colorful orange and blue happi coats standing out in any crowd of brightly colored hasher frivolity. I started my hash life in 1984 with the Okinawa HHH, which has directly spawned nearly 30 new hash clubs all over the world.

Okinawa is the largest island in the Ryukyu island chain that encompasses hundreds of smaller islands spread out over more than 600 miles, and is the southernmost prefecture of Japan. The common understanding of how the hash arrived on Okinawa has been attributed to the legend of Dal “Jock” Trader who came to the island from Taiwan. Jock explained to me that after he arrived on Okinawa in 1979, “I just took what I had learned about hashing and haring from the Taipei HHH and transplanted it in Okinawa; with one exception - women were invited to run with the OHHH. Slobbo of the Taipei HHH excoriated me in a long diatribe for inviting women to run in the Hash. He insisted that the Hash was a Men's Only Group. It was probably the best move I ever made and helped insure the longevity of the hashes I helped start. Taipei was a live hare / whistle blowing hash and that's what I took to Okinawa and San Diego and Long Beach. I quickly learned that organizing a hash group requires some sort of advertising (flyers, etc.), planning several trails at first to keep the momentum until the Newbees catch on and volunteer to hare; funding the beer until the hash reaches approx. 20 hashers (which is the break-even point even if the charge for the run was $2 or $3 or nowadays more). I basically hared the first 6 or 7 runs and sometimes did them in reverse.”

Jock formed his first hash club Okinawa in 1979 and called it the Naha HHH, although it lasted only a few months due to the closure of the Naha Naval Air Station. But after a few months of deliberation, the Okinawa HHH that we know today started up with new vigor in February of 1980. Jock goes on to explain that “the Okinawa HHH was partly started to get the Okinawa Wild West Show rugby team into some sort of shape to play rugby. Plus they already knew the songs.” Additionally, the Okinawa HHH was made up of the remnants of the Naha HHH along with new support from parts of the medical staff at Kuwae Naval Hospital.”

“Even more important to the club, was the infusion of the Japanese Self Defense Force and Japanese Customs Officials. Since duty in Okinawa was ‘overseas’ duty for the Japanese Self Defense Force members, quite a few of them had the time and an interest in running and found hashing to be a nice diversion” according to Jock.

Jock also invited US Marine Corps Helo pilots from Futenma, and an Air Force Major by the name of Dennis Gill who was the Captain who played Rugby and was a KC-135 Tanker pilot. Jock told me that “Dennis was first named Ship Wreck, as he was an avid yachtsman, but after picking up an affinity for singing soon became better known as Mr. Mu-Sick.” Jock also mentioned that Mu-Sick “brought in a few Air Force people and helped found the Angeles City Hash.” One other notable member of the early Okinawa HHH was Middle School Principal Milt Halloran, originally named Icky Body, but became affectionately known as Uncle Milty, when he later founded the Samurai HHH in Camp Zama, Japan in May 1984.

Back in those early days of the Okinawa HHH, Jock mentioned “I remember most of my runs. Even though I like to set an 'A' to 'A' run, and somehow try to come back to the start on an 'In' route which returns in close proximity to the 'Out' trail, but I have been burned by smart short cutters. I have laid trails in Okinawa through the covered 'Thieves Alley' market in Naha, run by the Naha Prison, by Shuri Castle, ended in the Foreigners Cemetery, run out of flour and had to 'borrow' 1000 yen from a young Okinawan gas station attendant who didn't speak much English and wasn't sure what I was up to, so I could buy some small bags of flour to finish the trail; all the while hearing the whistles of the Pack coming down a flood control not too far behind me. I DID return the Yen to the young man soon after the run. One of the trails I set, of which I am most proud, started at the entrance to Camp Courtney East side of the island. I headed West on an 'A' to 'B' trail through an Okinawan tea farm, a golf course and down some Habu [an Okinawan snake] infested rocks, hills, tall grass and burial caves until I reached Green Beach on the other side of the island (approx.: 7 miles) and let the pack enjoy the hot bath located there.” Jock soon after retired from the Navy on 1 August 1980, and started hashes in the San Diego and Long Beach areas of southern California.

Now we come to one of those tiny bits of history lost to the sands of time. I have never met Jock, despite 30 years of hashing, but I have been a longtime friend of this next hash icon and miscreant. This is his story, as related to me over a few beers while sitting in a street side pub in Yangon, Myanmar.

After getting orders to depart Taiwan in conjunction with the US military’s departure from Taiwan, and participation with the ‘China Hash’ “I decided to wait out the summer when rotations were ongoing and teachers were back in the US, until the fall of 1979 to attempt to introduce Hashing to Okinawa.

Unfortunately since my job required a security clearance and since I and the family resided in quarters on Kadena AFB, I did not have an opportunity to develop too many ‘Close and continuous associations with foreign nationals’ Fraternizing as the military calls it. Consequently all members of the initial Okinawa Hash were coworkers, service members, member of their families or civilian employees who may have noticed the weekly start notifications in the military newspaper. I would guess the average packs to be not much more than 20-25 and most runs were done on or near Kadena Air Base, Torii Station, and their immediate surrounding areas. My record keeping indicates I did approximately 30 of these initial Okinawa hashes before dwindling participation caused the group to fold up, most likely in mid-1980. Almost 2 years later I heard of another Okinawa Hash going strong and primarily operating out of the large Marine Corps base south of Kadena and finally managed to attend a couple of those well attended hashes. One of which happened to be the 2nd Anniversary hash, dated 20 Feb 1982 and you have that T shirt on page 86 of your Hash T shirt collection.”

Who would this miscreant be, none other than Rich ‘Quick Drawers’ Coats who can be found hanging around with the Mount Vernon hash, where I met him back in the mid-1990s. Quick Drawers has also dug up an old flyer he produced for his Okinawa H3. While Jock’s rendition of the Okinawa HHH is the one that has endured, we owe a frothy down-down to both these fine hashmen.


Return to HHH History