All posts filed under: Japan

Hisao Hamamoto, Koden HachimanRyu Jissen BattoJutsu Hamamotoden BattoKai

Hisao Hamamoto is a master of Japanese swords. At 83 he continues to teach how to use katana and wakizashi. I first photographed Hamamoto sensei on October 1st 2011, before the Karate Masters Portrait Project began. The single-light beauty dish portrait I took of Hamamoto would become the lighting setup I’d then use for the entire series. I met up with Hamamoto sensei today at the Budokan in Naha City, to get some video of him teaching his class. Afterwards I asked to take a few location portraits at the shrine next to the Budokan. We then grabbed some lunch before heading over the Dojo Bar with James Pankiewicz to film a short interview with Hamamoto sensei. It won’t be part of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate series, but a bonus interview about his life and art. A real delight to meet him once again. Thank you to Hamamoto sensei for giving up his time, to James for helping set up the shoot and letting us conduct the interview in the Dojo Bar, and …

Kenichi Yamashiro 9th dan Matayoshi Kobudo

On Friday evening we travelled down to the very south of the main island of Okinawa to the dojo of Kenichi Yamashiro. He is the 83rd sensei to be photographed for the project, and it was fascinating to meet him. Kobudo is the weapons system of Okinawan martial arts and is often studied alongside karate. Arguably kobudo is an intrinsic part of traditional karate, or perhaps traditional karate is an intrinsic part of kobudo. Yamashiro sensei trains with a wide range of weapons, including some which I’d never seen before such as the spinning bo staff. Hopefully in the future we’ll be back again to interview him for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate documentary series. All images captured using the Pentax 645Z and 90mm lens. Lighting using the Profoto B1 and softlight reflector. A big thank you to Gary Hughes for assisting with lighting, Yuki Willson and James East for interpreting, and Mike Clayton for help setting up the shoot. A huge thank you to Kenichi Yamashiro for inviting us into his dojo and …

Traditional Okinawan Hairstyle

 The traditional hairstyle for Okinawan women is called kanpuu. The hair is twisted on top of the head, and then held in place with a jiifaa hairpin. Photographed with the Pentax 645Z and 90mm lens. Natural light. This was shot during this months Photography Fundamentals workshop. The next one will be March 30th / 31st 2019. https://www.facebook.com/events/547482259063977/

2018 Highlights

The biggest event of 2018 was on February 12th when Jasmine Victoria Willson was born. Over the last 10 months she’s grown to be a delightful little toddler who is excited by all her adventures. Life now revolves around bananas, Igglepiggle, and bath time. I’ve been shooting a wide range of imagery, along with producing some videos for SKYLUM software. The Karate Masters Portrait Project continued, and expanded to start a new video documentary series about the amazing martial arts sensei on Okinawa. 2019 will begin with some exciting news about the series. At the start of the year I was out photographing the humpback whales while creating a video for SKYLUM, then at the end of the year I was recording the TEDxOIST lecture series with a team of videographers. One of the speakers was my good friend Nozomi Kobayashi who talked about her job monitoring the migrating whales. In the spring I updated the Okinawa and Kyushu chapters for the next edition of Fodor’s Japan. Jasmine had her first trip down to Miyako …

Yoshitsune Senaga 10th dan Uechi Ryu Karate Do Kenseikai

On November 30th, I had the honor to photograph and shoot some video of Yoshitsune Senaga, 10th dan Uechi ryu karate at his dojo in Tomigusku, Okinawa. He is the 82nd sensei to be photographed for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. 81 year old Senaga sensei also studies kobudo, and was willing to show us his techniques with the sai.   Interestingly he showed how the pair of sai that he used would ring like tuning forks when hit.  He explained that this was because these sai were made from metal that was once used in a temple bell in Nara. After taking portraits for the project, I recorded a quick interview with Senaga sensei, then finally we got some selfies of the group, and little Jasmine once again stole the show.  The video, the second in the series we are working on, will be translated and hopefully appear online in the coming weeks.  This is an exciting new addition to the project, and we are currently thinking about how we can take this video …

100 Kata for Karate Day 2018

100 Kata for Karate Day 2018 took place on October 25th beside the Naminoue Shrine in Naha City, Okinawa. Matsuda sensei and Arakaki sensei were the masters that welcomed the attendees to the event. The event was organized by my good friend James Pankiewicz of the Dojo Bar and Asato Dojo. Great to see so many people taking part at the Okinawa event, and also across the world. The 100 Kata for Karate Day has become a rigorous annual challenge for many karateka. Arakaki sensei and Matsuda sensei, are both in fine health at 75 and 80 years old.  Matsuda sensei told me he’d just been to the Namie Amuro farewell concert as he’d been her karate teacher many years ago.   (For those who are unaware, Namie Amuro is Japan’s Beyonce.) Congratulations again to all those who took part.

World’s Largest Tug of War 2018

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.

Jasmine at 6 months.

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.

Turtle Beach

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.