Episode #11 of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawa Karate Series has just been uploaded to YouTube and will be also available on Bujin.tv in the near future.
Toshihiro Oshiro is 9th-dan in Shima-Ha Shorin Ryu karate, and 8th dan Yamanni Chinen Ryu Kobujutsu. He learned karate and kobudo in Okinawa, then for several decades taught in the USA. In 2018 he returned to Okinawa. In this interview he talks about his life of martial arts, and his analytical interest of body movement. A huge thank you to Oshiro Sensei and his students, both in Okinawa and overseas, especially Kenji Hirai for setting up the interviews and translating.
A huge thank you to all those who have sponsored and supported this series. Without so much help from the international karate community, we would have struggled to film the interviews, and we definitely wouldn’t have been able to archive the bulk of the raw data. A few months ago one of the 24TB (yes TB not GB) drives failed and luckily I’d been able to purchase enough backup drives to have some redundancy in the system, and no karate data was lost.
Making the series has taught me so much about filmmaking, but also about the realities of film production, and distribution.
Episode #12 is going to be with Zenshu Toyama 10th-dan, Goju-ryu Karate 當山 全秋 範士十段 剛柔流空手. We are also working on a special reunion episode between Seikichi Iha Sensei and Koichi Nakasone Sensei, and an interview with iaido master Hamamoto Sensei. So if you haven’t done already, please subscribe to the YouTube channel, and don’t forget to like the videos, comment, and share them.
Sean Connery drove the Toyota 2000GT in the 1967 Bond movie “You Only Live Twice.” In Japan, a 13-year-old boy called Michio saw the iconic Toyota on the cinema screen, and it became his dream car. The 2000GT was Japan’s first supercar, extremely expensive and very rare. This mini documentary is the story of how Michio spent the next 40 years striving to achieve his goal.
We filmed the interview and driving sequences in winter 2019 and spring 2020 just before COVID-19, and I spent lockdown editing when possible. Murata-san, his wife (a jazz singer whose tracks are used in the documentary), and his 2000GT are doing well. He’s even started restoration on an early VW Beetle convertible.
I’ve had the pleasure of photographing Murata-san’s various restored cars over the last decade. And although I haven’t driven any, there are a few pictures I’ve shot that make Yuki and I look like we’ve upgraded our vehicles recently!
I hope others enjoy watching this documentary as much as we enjoyed making it. Murata-san has introduced us to the local Okinawa car community, so there may be another video later in the year, it may even include an orange and black Nissan with the numbers 432 on its side.
Daniel Craig has stated that the Toyota 2000GT is his favorite Bond car of all time. As for me, I actually own my favorite Bond car, it even has a working ejector seat!
Our team have worked with the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology for several years. We’ve photographed and videoed several events including graduations and TEDx events.
Recently we were one of the teams asked by OIST to produce some new commercial photography. The photographs will be used in a variety of media, and as they appear in public, we’ll be able to share them. This week a new banner promoting research appeared with two of the four images created by our team. I shot the first pic and underwater specialist Shawn Miller shot the third pic.
A couple of weeks ago I spent the day exploring the northern part of Okinawa known as Yanbaru. Here are a few snaps from a fun day out.
I joined a guided walk that meets up at the Yanbaru Visitors Center and “Road Station” that opened in February 2020. There’s a mini supermarket packed with local produce if you need to stock up with snacks before your hike, or to buy ingredients for dinner after your adventure.
A guided walk teaches you far more about the local flora and fauna than if you just treated the hike as a way to burn off calories.
The guide was able to spot numerous critters, and explain the names and special features of the many plants along the trail.
There was a good viewpoint from the summit on the trail looking out towards the Okuma Peninsular, and then we descended back down through the forest.
We stopped for lunch at Maruhira restaurant while heading north on the west coast. If you contact the restaurant in advance they can prepare a vegan lunch menu which is delicious and cheap. (Call Taira-san on 070 5536 2802)
In the afternoon we took another short hike around Daisekirinzan the rocky trails in the national park just south of Cape Hedo.
At Cape Hedo there is a fantastic new visitors center with an ocean-view cafe on the second floor. The cafe was closed on the day I went, presumably due to COVID-19 precautions at the moment, but looking forward to getting a coffee there on my next trip up north.
On December 19th, 2020, James and I visited the dojo of Zenshu Toyama, in Awase, Okinawa. Toyama Sensei is 10th-dan, Goju-ryu Karate, and one of the style’s most senior practitioners. We photographed Toyama Sensei in October 2013, but on this day we returned to interview him for Episode 12 of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate documentary series. As it had been 7 years since our previous visit, we also shot some new portraits.
Our goal is that Episode 11 with Oshiro Sensei will be released in February 2020 and then Episode 12 with Toyama Sensei will be released in March or April 2020.
Thank you to Toyama Sensei, his daughter Hideko Toyama, Scot Mertz and Andy Sloane for their assistance on the day of the shoot.
Last Saturday, I photographed Toshihiro Oshiro, 9th dan Shima-Ha Shorin-Ryu karate, 8th dan Yamanni Chinen Ryu kobujutsu, for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. We shot the studio style portraits at his dojo in Itoman, and then yesterday photographed him again on his local beach. We also interviewed Oshiro Sensei for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawa Karate series, and the episode will be available on YouTube and Bujin.tv early next year.
It was a real pleasure to hang out with Oshiro Sensei and his students. I got to learn some more fascinating aspects of Okinawan culture (use a light grip on the weapon), and the stormy weather conditions worked in our favor for photographs.
Episode 10 in the series Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate is now online on YouTube and on Bujin.tv
Thank you to all those who helped film, edit, transcribe, translate, and check this episode. Thank you also to the sponsors and supporters of the series. If you’d like to learn more about the series, please click here.
Fusei Kise, Isao Kise and the OSMKKF-USA
Jerry Figgiani – Shorin Ryu Karate Do International
Anderson’s Crocodile Newt by Shawn Miller of Okinawa Nature Photography in the November 2020 issue of National Geographic.
This post is to highlight the amazing work that photographer Shawn Miller is doing to document endangered Okinawan wildlife. Shawn has lived most of his life in Okinawa, and has dedicated himself to capturing its beauty and protecting its creatures.
It is a fantastic for Shawn to be able to get one of his images of Okinawan wildlife into this month’s National Geographic. The fact that the image is also selected by Canon to showcase what you can achieve with their equipment, is a great testament to Shawn’s skill.
For most, this would be a lifetime achievement, but this isn’t a first for Shawn. His photographs of Okinawan wildlife were used in May 2016, October 2017, and August 2019. When you consider that Canon could pick any photo, of any species, by any photographer in the world, the fact that four shots in less than five years were taken by Shawn is a massive achievement.
Yesterday, October 12th 2020, Tetsunosuke Yasuda passed away. A karate master and a true gentleman. I photographed him in 2014 when he was a sprightly 88 years old and he showed off his incline sit-ups while holding a weight above his head. Our paths crossed several times, as for a decade I rented a house through his Yasuda Jutaku housing company. Each time we met he was such as kind, generous man full of praise and encouragement for our project to document Okinawan karate.
When I decided to create a book of the first 58 karate masters I’d photographed, I placed Yasuda Sensei at the center on the front cover . A lovely lovely man, and the international karate community will miss him dearly.
Chieko Toma is a master of Ryukyu dance. On Sunday I had the chance to photograph her performing in traditional dance costumes.
The next black and white costume comes from Haebaru Town and I believe is worn for performance of the folk dances, rather than the court dances.
The next outfit is the karate gi with a hakama-style piece over the lower half. This was worn to perform the go shin no mai dances of self defense.
As well as a master of Ryukyu dance, Toma Sensei is a master of Goju-ryu karate, and a student under Tetsuhiro Hokama Sensei.
If you look at the behind the scenes shot, and you’ve been following the Karate Masters Portrait Project since 2012, you’ll notice the change in the number of lights used to create the portrait.
In all the above shots of Toma Sensei I used two lights. James is holding one Profoto B1 strobe with a white softlight reflector (AKA a beauty dish) while Toma Sensei’s granddaughter is holding a second Profoto B1 strobe with a 1×4′ strip softbox which provides a rim light. In all the shots for the Karate Masters Portrait Project I only use the single strobe James is holding. In the Ryukyu dance portraits, the extra light provides separation from the black background, which is particularly useful if the person has dark hair.
Before the very first shoot with Taira Sensei and Arakaki Sensei in 2012, I had decided to use just a black background and a single strobe to keep things simple and easily repeatable. Since then, all portraits for the project have been shot this way. This meant that although I had two lights available, for the final few karate shots with Toma sensei I turned off the second light and shot them solely with the beauty dish.
A huge thank you to Hokama Sensei for the introduction, to Toma Sensei and Seki Sensei for letting me take their portraits (Seki Sensei’s photos in the next blog post!) to Rumiko Sunagawa for kimono fitting, and Toma’s granddaughter Harune for assisting with the lighting, and Hirokazu Narumi for the BTS shots (and the translations of Hokama Sensei’s upcoming interview).
Another great experience for James Pankiewicz and me. Even after 20 years living in Okinawa, there are so many aspects of its culture to discover.