All posts filed under: Japan

Bull Wrestling

The Motobu Kanko Bunka Festa took place the evening after the Expo Fireworks festival. There were a few hundred rather than tens of thousands of spectators, and the entertainment was far more traditional . There was a karate demonstration by Kiyoshi Yogi, followed by some goat wrestling, folk singing, and then bull wrestling. There were five bouts of bull wrestling. The bulls locked horns, and then pushed until one of them gave up and turned away. Sometimes they can can get superficial cuts from the other bull’s horns, but they all came away uninjured and lived to see another day. Occasionally you see the giant bulls being taken for walks or even a dip in the ocean. They are pampered by their owners, living a life far better than most male cows. I wonder what happens when they get older. Can a gladiator ever earn their freedom.

In search of the frogfish!

Shawn, Hiroshi and I went out for a dive at Cape Maeda, and for the first time in a while I set up the underwater camera rig. Our main goal was to find a frogfish Shawn had previously spotted. We found him sitting on the second reef at about 25 meters deep, his pelvic and pectoral fins acting like little feet. Other creatures I snapped on our dives were nudibranchs (sea slugs), anemonefish (Nemo), and trumpetfish (both silver and yellow species). As it was a Saturday, summer, glorious weather, and a famous spot, Maeda was packed with people.  By mid-morning there was a line all the way up the steps of people waiting to get in.  (A quick P.S.A. to a couple of snorkelers we saw: if you must ignore the line and push past all the people waiting, you might want to cover up your USMC tattoos so you’re not such poor ambassadors to your corps.) Maeda’s popularity, particularly with new divers, does have a negative impact on the reef.   Ideally, divers should …

Expo Park Fireworks 2017

Another impressive Expo Park Fireworks Festival on Saturday. Very glad I live just a short walk from the event so I don’t get caught in Okinawa’s longest traffic jam of the year. Shooting fireworks against a black sky doesn’t really put the event in any context. Luckily the show started at 8pm and there was still a little color in the sky for the first 5 minutes. This was when I shot the picture above showing the fireworks, Emerald Beach, and the Orion Hotel. Then as darkness enveloped us, I got a few pics of the fireworks and reflections on the ocean.     However, my favorite firework photos are still the shots I took at the Miyajima fireworks festival where the floating torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine could be silhouette by explosions.     Saturday’s pics were shot with the Pentax K-1 with the 24-70mm f2.8 lens. The floating torii firework images were taken with the Pentax 67II medium format film camera and Fuji Provia 100F film.

Koichi Nakasone 9th Dan Ryukyu Kingdom Sui-di Bujutsu

Yesterday I made the short drive over to Nakijin Village to the home of Koichi Nakasone, 9th Dan Ryukyu Kingdom Sui-di Bujutsu. He is the 76th sensei to be photographed for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. James Pankiewicz, Becka Tedder, and I sat down for a chat in the traditional wooden house that Nakasone sensei had recently built by himself. He told us a few stories about his karate training, and the three months he spent in the USA traveling from dojo to dojo, challenging the members to fight. (Known in Japanese as dojo yaburi.) After our chat, we set up the black background on the side of the house and took the portraits. (Pentax 645Z with 90mm lens. Profoto B1 with white softlight reflector.) We then drove a couple of minutes to beautiful Nagahama Beach for some more location shots. I switched lenses to the 25mm wide-angle and removed the softlight reflector as we needed as much power as possible to try and fill in shadows. Becka held the light, while James put on his …

Coconut Crabs of Okinawa

Coconut crabs, Birgus latro, are the world’s largest land-living arthropods. Okinawa is the northernmost habitat for the species. They hibernate during the winter, and are nocturnal, so many Okinawans have never seen one. The crabs can grow up to 3 kilos, and have large powerful claws. They are scavengers and usually eat fallen fruit from trees such as the adan (Pandanus odoratissimus), but they will nibble on the occasional dead animal. Coconut crabs grow very slowly and can live for up to 60 years. As sexual maturity doesn’t occur until 5 years old, predation of larger crabs by animals or humans can lead to a population being unable to recover. Researchers such as marine biologist Shin-ichiro Oka monitor the coconut crabs in Okinawa. Crabs are measured, photographed, tagged, and have their position logged. Other interesting aspects of coconut crab biology have been studied including their grip strength. Oka explains that a large coconut crab has a grip strength similar to the jaws of a lion. Thank you to Shin-ichiro Oka for letting me tag along …

Dino Park in Nago, Okinawa

Visitors to the Nature Park Yanbaru Subtropical Forest could quietly stroll along a short paved trail among the trees looking at various types of vegetation including palms and orchids. Unfortunately, the tourists didn’t really come. In 2016, the addition of around 50 dinosaurs many of which have basic animatronics and sound, has transformed the nature park into “Dino Park” a far more popular sightseeing destination. The new additions do fit in well with the subtropical forest setting and several are quite impressive. The dinosaurs are reasonably realistic and vary in the level of animatronics from static models to automatons with jointed necks, jaws, tails and eyelids.  They do not surge forwards out of the undergrowth, and there are no fully mobile dinosaurs so they probably won’t terrify many children.  The outdoor speakers that give the dinosaurs voices are also a little small and lack any bass, so although you hear the roar of the T-Rex you don’t feel it in your body. The Nago Dino Park  is located on route 85, the winding mountain road …

Goat Wrestling on Sesoko Island

  Goat wrestling is an annual event on Sesoko Island in Motobu, Okinawa.  Two male goats are placed in a ring, and then do what comes naturally. If they are evenly matched they will butt heads until one turns in submission. If they are unevenly matched, or uninterested they ignore each other, or the weaker goat wanders straight back to the gate often sticking its head through the railings. The goats seem to be unaffected by the occasional headbutt. Sportingly, they never tried to headbutt their opponent anywhere except the head. The curved horns also seemed to avoid any puncture wounds or lacerations. The only goat that came off badly at the whole event was the young goat that was given away as 1st prize in the raffle. The winner was asked what he was going to do with the goat. He replied, “eat it.” The video was shot with the Sony A7SII camera with a 16-35mm lens on a CAME-TV Single gimbal.   The video was shot and uploaded to YouTube in 4K.

Camera Test – Fujifilm EPX-4440HD

Photographers looking for lightweight portable imaging devices often give rave reviews of  mirrorless Fuji cameras. So this week I decided to test out one of the latest cameras in the Fujifilm line, the EPX-4440HD. Positive points about this camera include “User-friendly menus” and “Advanced image technology” it also offers an “anti-blur function  that allows an optimal image to be extracted from multiple images.” A great option for those with less steady hands. Portability is a little restricted. Although the camera is small, it does require a cart for the processing system and monitor. Photographers accustomed to tethered systems in the studio will probably be the most familiar with this setup. Wedding photographers and fashion photographers may find the range of angles a little limiting. Those with an interest in macro photography will enjoy the camera’s ability to focus at short distances while the “300 watt xenon primary light source” brings illumination to the most restricted of shooting locations. For portrait photographers the camera offers new possibilities beyond your basic profile, full face, and three-quarter view. This may be a way for …

Serendipity

A final post from the Kyoto workshop. One evening we had a memorable few minutes that resulted from being in the right place at the right time, and a fair amount of luck.  The featured image at the top of the post may be my favorite of the trip. It is nice to get a shot that captures several  aspects of Kyoto life in a single frame. Why luck? Because a maiko or geisha will prebook a taxi then wait for it to arrive.  You usually get a brief glimpse of them as they dart from a doorway into the taxi. On this occasion, however,  a geiko and a maiko were stood waiting on the sidewalk for their taxi. Close by another geiko was talking into a mobile phone.  For three or four minutes they stood on the street, and unsurprisingly, drew stares from locals and tourists. Finally the taxi arrived and the two geikos, followed by the maiko, got in and were whisked away. Another memorable moment from a great Kyoto workshop. A big …

Gatekeepers

During the Kyoto 2017 Workshop we jumped on the bullet train to visit Himeji City and the finest example of a Japanese castle.   I didn’t get any new shots of the castle itself, but did get a few snaps of the guards. A short BTS video taken by Tech Ninja Patrick. And here are few shots of the castle from 2016 in case you were wondering which one is Himeji. For movie fans, it’s the castle used to train the elite fighting force in James Bond’s. “You Only Live Twice.”