All posts filed under: Island Icons

Island Icon: Edo Heinrich-Sanchez

Voice for the Oceans Edo Heinrich-Sanchez is devoted to protecting Okinawa’s environment and promoting its culture. Edo Heinrich-Sanchez was born in the Caribbean, but  grew up in the Canary Islands and the United States. He first came to Okinawa in 1981 as a F4 Phantom mechanic on Kadena Air Base. After his career in the military, Edo returned to the United States to study photography at the Colorado Institute of Art, and then broadcasting at the Metropolitan State College of Denver. In 1990, he moved back to Okinawa, and since then, he has been teaching, producing TV shows, and feeding his greatest passion-protecting Okinawa’s environment for future generations. Has your background in broadcasting helped you while on Okinawa? “The most recent project I have been involved in was working as a producer for a TV series titled Fantastic Festivals of the World. Episode number 11 was based on the kyu-bon and eisa festivals in Okinawa. The series was shown on the Discovery Channel and is still aired regularly. In December 2005, the Okinawa episode won the …

Island Icon: DJ Keith Gordon

Feeling the Beat Keith Gordon is a DJ and musician, who combined dance beats with traditional Okinawan music to create Ryukyu Underground. After graduating from college in the United Kingdom, Keith Gordon backpacked around the world working as a club DJ. In 1997, he settled in Okinawa, and had his record collection shipped from home. Keith developed a passion for Okinawan music, and with American Jon Taylor, he formed Ryukyu Underground, producing a fusion of Okinawan, western and world music. After 3 successful albums, which have met with critical acclaim, he continues to find inspiration from the world’s music. What are your musical influences? “Coming from the UK, I grew up hearing bands like The Smiths and The Cure. At around 16, I got into hip-hop artists such as KRS-One, Jungle Brothers, Eric B, and Public Enemy. My tastes widened and I started to listen to older stuff that a lot of these hip hop artists sampled – such as James Brown, Roy Ayers and Donald Byrd. I guess it’s this stage of funk, soul …

Island Icon – Kyoko Nakamoto

Dreams of Paradise Kyoko Nakamoto is an Okinawan artist whose paintings of “Paradise” show a world of beauty and vibrant colors where childlike inhabitants live simple, happy, and equal lives. When did you start painting? As a small child, I scribbled and painted all over the walls of our house. My mother never got angry, perhaps because we were living in a rented house. During high school, I knew I wanted to be a painter. However, when I went to university, I set aside my ambitions and chose to study business rather than art. After graduation, I got a job at an insurance company, but three days a week, I kept my dream alive by going to night classes at art school and slowly improving my skills. After ten years, I quit my job selling insurance and began working as an illustrator for magazines and packaging. Two years after that, I achieved my dream and became a full-time painter. Was it hard to suddenly start a new career? Of course, it was a tough decision. …

Island Icon: Mike Davison

Wind Rider Kiteboarding instructor Mike Davison can usually be found speeding across the ocean surface, using the waves to launch himself into the air. Mike grew up in Chicago, but moved to Okinawa in 1990. In 2001, a friend introduced him to kiteboarding, and he was immediately hooked. He bought his own kite and board, and then quickly realized he wanted to share his new found passion for the sport with others. He earned his first instructor’s certification 18 months later and began teaching his friends how to ride the waves. In 2003, he set up his own shop Patriot Kites, and today he continues to share his love for the sport with more and more people. What is kiteboarding? “Kiteboarding is a new sport that came into the limelight about 15 years ago. Kiteboarding uses the power of the wind to pull you along. It can be done on the sand, snow, lakes or the sea – anywhere the wind blows.” How does a kiteboarding kite differ from a regular toy kite? “The kites …

Island Icons: Hip-Hop Heroes

Teppan and Popo are two freestyle dancers who are bringing American funk and hip-hop to Okinawa’s streets. “Teppan” (Tetsuya Yamauchi), “Popo” (Masato Ishikawa) and “Taiga” (Taiga Ishioka) have been friends since elementary school. They grew up in the small, laid-back seaside city Ishikawa, and while most of their classmates were more interested in baseball or basketball their passion was street dance. They formed their own dance team “Sound Terror” and their slick moves have taken them to competitions and events across Japan, and recently to the United States and the United Kingdom. In 2005, they set up their own SKF Dance Studio in Ishikawa, teaching freestyle dance classes to a new generation of kids with big dreams. Teppan and Popo talk about their inspiration, their dreams and their love of dance. Where did you learn to dance? “We went to various classes while we were at high school. Teppan studied hip-hop, Popo was into locking, and Taiga did breaking. After six months, we quit the school classes and started dancing together as a team. Our …

Island Icon: Wildlife Illustrator (and birdwatching guru) Ichiro Kikuta

Having talked about Ichiro Kikuta in my last post I realized I hadn’t put up an Island Icon interview I did with Ichiro three years ago. Here it is. Wildlife Illustrator Ichiro Kikuta Wildlife Illustrator   Ichiro Kikuta is an artist trying to capture the spirit of Okinawa’s wildlife. When he was only an elementary school student, Ichiro Kikuta loved to sketch and paint the birds that nested near his home. During high school, he was inspired by the work of British wildlife artist Charles Tunnicliffe. At that point,he knew what he wanted to do with his life. After graduation, he spent 6 months traveling around Britain exploring the landscapes and animals that had inspired Tunnicliffe. Upon his return to Japan, Ichiro began to explore his own country with sketchbook in hand. For the past 25 years, he has journeyed from Hokkaido to the Ryukyu Islands capturing the beauty of animals ranging from snow-covered crested cranes to the Okinawan rail. He now lives in the northern part of Okinawa known as Yanbaru. There, he continues …

Island Icons – Karate Master Kiyohide Shinjo

Okinawan Superman Kiyohide Shinjo is an 8th dan master of Uechi-ryu karate. Kiyohide Shinjo was born on Ie Island in 1951. His family moved to Naha when he was five, and Kiyohide began studying karate at the age of ten from his father, Seiyu Shinjo, one of Okinawa’s karate masters. He earned his shodan (first degree black belt) at age 16, and in 1960, Kiyohide and his father opened a new dojo at Kadena Rotary. Kiyohide Shinjo is the nine-time Okinawa Karate Champion in both kumite and kata - gaining him the nickname “the Okinawan Superman.” When his father died in 1979, Kiyohide retired from competition, undefeated, and took over the Kadena dojo. In 2004, the dojo moved to Toguchi in Yomitan. There Kiyohide continues to inspire others with his passion for karate. What’s your favorite technique? “I use the toe kick. It’s one of Uechi-ryu’s iconic techniques; it’s devastatingly effective. It doesn’t matter where the blow lands, it will incapacitate the opponent leaving you in control of the encounter.” (At this point Kiyohide took …

Island Icons – Shisa Artist Mitsuo Miyagi

Lion King Mitsuo Miyagi creates plaster shîsâ. He operates his own store and gallery beside Kokusai-Street, and his designs have met with both critical acclaim and commercial success. Mitsuo studied art at Kaiho High School on Okinawa before attending college in Kyoto. Rather than specialize in just one discipline, Mitsuo trained under several teachers to learn pottery, sculpture, papermaking, ink, and painting. At age 21, he returned to Okinawa and started creating shîsâ in his apartment. His unique designs became popular almost immediately, and soon he was overrun with too many orders and too little space. In 2001, he moved to a new studio in Onna Village from which he could create larger sculptures and paintings. On April 3, 2005, he opened his own gallery and store in Naha City, where visitors can browse his work or even create their own shîsâ. What is a shîsâ? Is it a lion, a dog or some kind of dragon? “Shîsâ are sometimes called lion-dogs, but I think this is only half-right. Shîsâ are based on lions, which …

Island Icons – Veterinarian Takashi Nagamine

Bird Man of Okinawa Takashi Nagamine is a veterinarian trying to save the Okinawa Rail from extinction. Takashi Nagamine was born in Gushikawa City, Okinawa. He studied veterinary science at Nihon University, worked as a vet in Saitama prefecture for 11 years, and then returned to his hometown. In 2001, he set up Nagamine Animal Hospital where he treats the everyday ailments of local pets, and also injured wild animals from all over Okinawa. What types of wild animals does your hospital receive? “We get 150 to 200 cases a year, and these cover a wide range of species from the Crested Serpent-Eagle to the Okinawa Rail. Some animals have been injured by power lines or cars; others have been poisoned by pesticides.” What kind of bird is the Okinawa Rail? “The local name is the Yanbaru-kuina. It’s a small bird, about the size of a man’s hand, or a little larger than a pigeon. It was only discovered in 1981, because it is naturally a very shy bird. It is also the only flightless …

Island Icons – Toy Maker Morito Toyonaga

The Toy Maker Morito Toyonaga creates toys that are miniature works of art. His designs have been exhibited in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Sendai and Okinawa. He has a love of traditional techniques that would otherwise disappear. Morito Toyonaga studied sculpture at Okinawa Prefectural Art University and the School of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Massachusetts. His interest in sculpture blossomed into a passion for preserving the skills once used to create Okinawan children’s toys. In 2002, he set up his own toy store called Road Works beside Shuri Castle. What materials do you use to create the toys? “Some of the figurines are sculpted from wood, while the stuffed toys are fabric filled with cotton balls. The majority of my toys, however, are made from papier-mâché. To create these paper toys, I start by carving a wooden mold. I then layer a mixture of newspaper, brown paper and glue onto the outside of the mold. The wooden core can then be removed, leaving a thin paper skin. To strengthen the toy, I mix powdered …