The world’s largest tug-of-war took place today in Naha City, Okinawa. Two ropes weighing 20 tonnes were tied together to make the record-breaking 40-tonne behemoth. Around 270,000 people came to the city to watch or take part in the event. After karate demonstrations by several masters including Koyu Higa and Ippei Yagi (who are featured in the karate masters portrait project), the kings of East and West were carried along the length of the ropes. There were a lot of gongs, firecrackers, and whistles, then the contest began. Congratulations to the East for their victory. A great day, with a friendly international atmosphere. Thank you to the American Chamber of Commerce for having me as part of your team. Video coming soon.
A month back in the UK reconnecting with family and taking some pics. I am now a tourist in my homeland. We spent most of our time in Manchester, but managed to have a few days in the Lake District, a week in North Wales, and a weekend with my sister’s family in Chester. Manchester had changed dramatically over the last 20 years. The city center is much smarter, and skyscrapers now grace the skyline. A trip to Quarry Bank Mill was a reminder of how Manchester made its money from cotton (quite a bleak story in many ways). We walked past Old Trafford football stadium while on the way to The Imperial War Museum North. Maybe, one day I’ll get tickets and watch Manchester United play. The highlights for Yuki were the various National Trust gardens. She has returned to Okinawa with dreams of orchards, and flowering borders. Jasmine meanwhile spent the month learning to sit up, plank, crawl, and stand up while holding onto things. Life continues to be full of surprises.
The Sesoko Island tug-of-war took place on Sunday 23rd September. The occasional downpour didn’t stop the participants from enjoying themselves. Similar to Naha’s tug-of-war, “kings” representing the two sides of the rope are held aloft on platforms and battle before the tug-of-war begins.
After battling cancer, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto passed away today, September 18 2018, at age 41. I photographed him in December 2016 when he visited Okinawa, and then was invited to take portraits for the opening of his Krazy Bee gym in Okinawa. It was a real pleasure to meet him and his family. For several years I’ve been photographing the karate masters of Okinawa. It has been sad when I’ve heard one of the elderly sensei has passed away, but the death of Yamamoto at such a young age is painful. I wish his family so much love and peace at this time.
August 12th is Jasmine’s 6-month birthday. She’s got a lot bigger, her head isn’t cone shaped, and she loves to laugh. She’s used to meeting a lot of different people, and is quite happy being held by family, friends, and complete strangers. She travelled with us all around Kyushu and Okinawa while we updated the Fodor’s Japan guidebook, and has been at various workshops and photo shoots. I hadn’t really considered how much joy and vitality young children bring to a neighborhood. It makes you realize how tough it must be in rural communities where young families leave for the cities, the schools close, and the majority of the remaining population is elderly. As Japan deals with an aging population and a low birthrate it will be interesting to see what policies are enacted to nudge people to have babies, or to increase immigration.
Takeshi Uema, 7th-dan Shorin-ryu Karate, #81 Karate Masters Portrait Project Photographed at the Karate Kaikan, Okinawa, July 27th 2018 Takeshi Uema is the son of Yasuhiro Uema, 9th dan Shorin-ryu Karate and continues to the family line.
First dive of the year. Great to be back in the water again, and the long surface swim out from the beach with a big camera was a well needed workout. Plenty of interesting creatures. A pair of Risbecia tryoni, chromodorid nudibranchs. White-eyed Moray, Gymnothorax thyrsoideus Whitemouth moray, Gymnothoraz melegaris Plenty of clownfish hiding in their anemones. These included the false clown anemonefish (aka clown anemonefish) Amphiprion ocellaris, and the Pink anemonefish, Amphiprion perideraion. The dive spot also lived up to its name as we came across a turtle. It was a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) with several common remora (Remora remora) attached to its shell. It was resting in a bowl in the coral when we found it, then after a while headed up toward the surface. Overall a fantastic couple of dives. Really have to get out more often. Huge thank you to Hiroshi for getting me back in the water. All images shot with the Pentax K5IIs in an Ikelite housing with Ikelite 161 strobes.
Masahiro Teruya 8th-dan Shorin-ryu Karate, #79 Karate Masters Portrait Project Photographed at the Karate Kaikan, Okinawa, July 27th 2018 Thanks to Kenny Ueda of Ageshio Japan for helping to set up the shoot.
Yasuhiro Uema, 9th dan Shorin-ryu Karate. The 78th sensei to be photographed for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. Shot before his dojo’s seminar at the Karate Kaikan in Okinawa on July 27th 2018. Thanks to Kenny Ueda of Ageshio Japan who organized the seminar and help set up the portrait session with Uema sensei. Born in 1945, Uema sensei is another example of karate keeping Okinawans flexible and strong even as they age.