All posts filed under: Japan

Tea with a maiko

One of the highlights of the Kyoto Photography Workshop was tea with a maiko in Gion. The maiko we met was Kanohiro-san who is just 18 years old.  After her years of training she will become a geiko (Kyoto geisha).  We took photos and asked her many questions with Yuki interpreting for the group. Kanohiro san was very happy that we were so excited to met her. She gave us tea, performed a traditional dance, then posed for individual and group photographs. A really memorable experience with a lovely young lady.

Geisha, Geiko and Maiko

What’s the difference between a geisha and a maiko? How do you tell them apart? A geisha, 芸者, is a professional entertainer, the direct translation of the kanji would be art person.  Geiko 芸子 is sometimes used when referring specifically to geisha from Kyoto. A maiko 舞妓  is a geiko in training. This process takes many years as she masters the various instruments, dances and social graces required to become a geiko. Along with their age, there are other ways to distinguish maiko from geiko. The hairstyle of a maiko is created with natural hair, while a geiko wears a wig. A maiko usually has many more ornate accessories that adorn her hair. For footwear, maiko usually wear okobo (platform sandals) while the geiko wear zori (low sandals). The inner collar of the kimono is usually red with patterns for maiko and plain white for geiko. And when looking from the back, the obi of the geiko is folded to form a box knot (taiko) while the maiko have the obi folded in a longer elaborate display  known as …

Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Toei Company produces anime, movies, and Japanese historical dramas. The Toei Kyoto Studio Park is a theme park where you can stroll through movie sets of Edo Japan, encounter ninjas and samurai, and buy souvenirs from various TV shows. The park is worth a visit if you are traveling with children, but if you’re only in Kyoto for a short amount of time it’s better to check out Kyoto’s real historical buildings rather than a movie facade. Images shot with the Pentax K-1 with the 24-70 f2.8 lens.

Ryoan-ji Rock Garden, Kyoto

The rock garden at Ryoan-ji is one of the finest examples of a hire-niwa. 15 rocks are positioned in a large flat area of small stones without hills or ponds. I wanted an image that tried to show it as a place of quiet reflection, which is a little tricky at most times of day. However, if you’re the first person to arrive you may get a few moments of tranquility. Pentax 645Z with 25mm (top image) and 55mm (bottom image).

The Golden Pavilion – Kinkaku-ji

I’ve visited Kyoto’s famous Golden Pavilion several times over the last 15 years. Usually it’s been overcast, but on my latest visit there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. This was the perfect opportunity to get a wide establishing shot with plenty of room for text (thinking about the needs of clients). Shot with the Pentax 645Z and the 25mm lens held high above my head to get the correct angle. A shutter speed of 1/800 second and several bursts allowed me a sharp image without a tripod.

Fushimi Inari Shrine – Location Scouting

It’s been a while since I updated the blog. Many busy weeks, the last couple of which were spent in Kyoto prepping for, then teaching the 2017 Kyoto Workshop. Before the students arrived I spent about a week revisiting various locations thinking about possible images we could shoot, but also general planning including access, the amount of walking involved, the time required, bathrooms, and restaurants. Fushimi Inari Shrine with its tunnels of orange torii gates is one of Kyoto’s most famous locations. In 2004, I shot this post’s featured image  with the Pentax 67 medium format film camera. At Inari shrines, foxes are revered as messengers. Fox statues and symbols can be found at the shrine and beside the various mountain trails. The orange torii gates are donated by individuals or business to the shrines. There are signs at various points on the route giving pricing for different sizes of gates. While scouting the trail, I came across Takeda-san who was finishing the painting of a new torii gate. I spent a few minutes chatting …

100 Kobudo Kata Challenge at the Karate Kaikan, Okinawa

A few pics from today’s 100 Kobudo Kata Challenge at the new Karate Kaikan in Tomigusku, Okinawa. The event was organized by James Pankiewicz of the Dojo Bar in Naha. The welcoming message was given by Toshimitsu Arakaki, 10th dan Matsubayashi-ryu karate. Participants spent 2 to 3 hours performing a hundred kata with various weapons including bo staff and sai. Congratulations to all that took part, it was great to see people actively helping keep Okinawan traditions alive. I also got to take a few new “Beyond the Dojo” pics of Arakaki sensei outside of the new Karate Kaikan building. Arakaki-sensei demonstrates a technique with two sai, while also reminding me that “Iron Fist” isn’t just something from comic books.   Gear: Pentax 645Z with 25mm lens. Profoto B1 with softlight reflector white.

Practice, practice, practice.

Last weekend I met up for a collaborative test shoot with photographer Jennifer Buchanan of Sunshine Soul Photography. Jennifer specialises in couture portraits of high school seniors, and is great at producing timeless images of the young ladies before they venture out into the big world. Jennifer arranged for two high school students Sierra and Savannah (and their parents) to meet up with us in Motobu. In exchange for their time, we’d give them a few photos they’ll hopefully love. Jennifer and I took turns photographing the girls. We offered each other tips, watched how we posed the “clients,” compared the gear we use, but above all we could just practice. Practice, practice, practice. Practice, and a lot of it, is required to become proficient at any skill. One theory states that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” is required to master something. Concert musicians are well known for playing hour after hour after hour. (Two thumbs up for the movie Whiplash). Sometimes it’s not the gear that is holding us back, but the limited amount of time that we spend practicing …

Hatsuko Machida 6th dan Uechi-ryu Karate

Hatsuko Machida  町田 初子 is ranked 6th dan in  Uechi-ryu karate 上地流 空手. She teaches at the  Ageda Women’s Dojo which is unique in Okinawa for offering women only karate classes. She explained that many of her students had not been allowed to study karate when they were young so now embrace the opportunity to do so. Many of the ladies are over 50 with the oldest still training at 78. Machida-san was a student of Takamiyagi Shigeru (1935-2014) who encouraged her to set up her own dojo and help spread karate to more women. Machida sensei’s class also uses the nigiri gamae (握りえ構え)  ceramic jars that strengthen their grip and forearms. After shooting in the dojo we took a short walk to the local park to get a shot of Machida sensei training outside. All images shot with the Pentax 645Z with the 90mm lens (indoors) and the 25mm lens (outdoors). Lighting with the Profoto D2 (indoors) and Profoto B1 (outdoors) with a Softlight Reflector.

2016 Highlights

2016 has been an great year with a mix of photography and putting in the groundwork for future projects. Cherry Blossom The year began with cherry blossom in Okinawa, and a few months later I was whizzing around mainland Japan shooting cherry blossom in Himeji, Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo. 2017 should be another epic year for cherry blossom pics as I run a Kyoto Workshop  in April while the trees are in full bloom. Karate The Karate Masters Portrait Project continues although at a slower pace. In 2016, I shot images for James’ new clothing brand Okinawa Dojo of Life. The Guinness World Record for the most people performing a kata was broken, and Sensei Higa took on the minotaur of Zakimi. Marine Life Didn’t spend much time shooting underwater this year, but have made new contacts with the Churaumi Research Center so it’s been great to document some of their work monitoring the migration of humpback whales. In 2017 I hope to get pictures of other monitoring programs including coconut crabs and turtles. Life on …