All posts filed under: Japan

Takachiho Shrine, Miyazaki

In spring, while on assignment in Kyushu, I spent a couple of days in Takachiho which is famous for its gorge, and the kagura performances. Another notable site is the Takachiho Shrine which is hidden in amongst many giant cedars. As a Shinto shrine, the entrance is marked by a giant torii gate. There are komainu guardians, flanking the steps to the main shrine buidling, and another sacred komainu housed inside. Ema, prayer tablets, that are unique to the shrine, can be purchased to write your hope and dreams. Omikuji, fortune papers, tell what your future holds. These are sold in the little shrine shop manned by the miko (巫女), shrine maidens, who are dressed in red and white. As I was visiting officially, I was able to ask the staff if I could take a photograph of one of the miko in front of the shrine. This is not something I’d usually be able to do, so a huge thank you to the staff of the shrine for being so friendly and accommodating. All …

Takachiho Gorge, Miyazaki, Kyushu

Takachiho Gorge ( 高千穂峡, Takachiho-kyō ) is a small but very pretty gorge in Miyazaki Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu. The sides of the gorge are made of basalt columns, one reminder of the areas volcanic history. Another indicator of vulcanism is the giant boulder Kihachi-no-chikarashi which could be have been ejected by a volcano, or if you ask the locals, was thrown by the demon Kihachi. Tourists can rent rowing boats and explore the gorge from the river.

Kagura – Takachiho

Fujisaki-san is a master of Kagura, the Shinto ritual performance that tells the stories of their gods. While in Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture, I had the chance to meet up with him, and photograph several of his performances. Local legend is that Amaterasu Omikami, the goddess of the sun, once hid in a cave, plunging the world into darkness. The other gods worked together to bring her out of the cave, and bring back the light. First Fujisaki-san performed the Uzume Dance in which he portrays the goddess Ame no Uzume who danced outside the cave to entice Amaterasu Omikami out.  Dressed as the god Tajikarao, and wearing a white scowling mask, Fujisaki-san then performed The Dance of Tajikarao. In the myth this is when the god Tajikarao searches for the cave.  The third performance was the Totori Dance. Fujisaki-san is still the god Tajikaro, but wearing a red mask. In the first pic, the straining red-faced Tajikarao removes the giant stone that closed the cave.  After shooting inside Fujisaki-san’s home, I wanted to get a few …

The Beauty of Bise

Last week, Yuki and I photographed a lovely young lady in an elegant kimono amongst the fukugi trees of Bise Village. For a few hours I had to stop checking the news on my phone, and just focus on sharing the beauty and culture of Okinawa. My heart goes out to all those suffering around the world, the horrors of the pandemic and war have claimed the lives of so many. It is hard not to feel overwhelmed by the bleakness of the last few years, but I try to remember all the good and positive things in the world. The Okinawan people went through almost unimaginable suffering during the Second World War. When I talk to those that survived, I am always struck by their love of life, and the joy they have for their family, friends and culture. I’ll continue to stay up to date with the news, but I’ll also do my best to be grateful for all that I have, and optimistic about the future for everyone in this global community. …

2021 Highlights

Another challenging year, but we were able to focus on the positives, and look to the future. Here are a few highlights. In March, I released the documentary I made about Murata-san and his amazing Toyota 2000GT, a unicorn in the automotive world. The Karate Masters Portrait Project continued, and we completed Season 1 of the documentary series Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate. 2021 was also the first time local media contacted James Pankiewicz and I about our goals to document Okinawa’s martial arts heritage. The Ryukyu Shimpo interviewed us for their website and discussed the project on their podcast. https://ryukyushimpo.jp/news/entry-1439603.html… In October, I was part of a BeOkinawa campaign to help promote tourism to Okinawa. It was interesting to be on the other side of the camera, and to work with a team of people who are also passionate about the Ryukyu Islands. In November, I had the amazing opportunity to record Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology. Meanwhile we’ve …

Morinobu Maeshiro, 真栄城 守信 10th dan Shorin-Ryu Karate

Morinobu Maeshiro, 真栄城 守信 is 10th dan in Shorin-ryu Karate, and an Intangible Cultural Asset Holder in the Field of Okinawan Karate and Martial Arts with Weaponry. I photographed him for the first time at the Budokan in 2014, but I was pleased to be able to photograph him again in 2021, this time at his dojo in Naha City. After taking some new portraits, we set up the cameras and recorded a 45-minute interview with him discussing his life spent studying karate, his teachers, and his own philosophies. This will become Episode 1 of Series Two of Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate. After the interview, we then streamed an online seminar which was watched live by his students around the world. The seminar was also recorded and will be available on Bujin.TV from mid-December. You can learn more about the portrait project and the documentary series by clicking on the “Karate” tab on this blog, or by following this link. Thank you so much to Maeshiro Sensei for his time, and to Nicolás Pérez …

KARATE NEWS!

We have a couple of big announcements regarding karate in Okinawa. Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate SERIES TWO coming in 2022 After the extremely positive feedback we got about the first series of our documentary about Okinawan karate, we are going to make a second series that will be released in 2022. You can read all the details about series one, our future plans, and fundraising here: Sensei Documentary The next big news is that we are going to be offering a streaming service for karate seminars in Okinawa. This will be organized, hosted, and interpreted by James Pankiewicz of Bujin.tv with the filming and streaming provided by Chris Willson and Yuki Willson of TRAVEL67.com. We’ve created a great way to help reconnect Okinawan karate masters with their students around the world. Our experience with videography allows us to provide audio and visual quality far superior than a simple webcam. You can read all the details about this service here: Karate Streaming Of course we’re still continuing to document Okinawa’s martial arts sensei for the …

Toshihiro Oshiro – Sensei: Masters of Okinawa Karate #11

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 …

Exploring the Yanbaru

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 …