After a four-year hiatus, the dragon boats are once again racing during the Golden Week holidays. Friday afternoon had the finals of the regular races with the boats crews made up of both locals and Americans. The sky was overcast, but luckily it was not raining on the day. After these races the special dragon boat race took place, which the crews in traditional costume, along with flag bearers and karateka. I’m not sure of the names of the sensei performing with the black-robed crew, or the blue-robed crew, but the white-robed crew was led by Onaga Sensei, a karate master I’ll be photographing in the coming weeks. Checking back through my archives I found a pic from 2011 when I actually managed to get in one of the boats for a race. Can’t believe I was shooting with a medium format digital camera, in the rain, on a boat that might sink! After going further back in the archvies, I found images shot with the Pentax 67ii medium format film camera around 20 years …
A great experience photographing Tomoko before she leaves the island next month. Bise Village in Motobu Town is famous for its fukugi trees Garcinia subelliptica which are used as windbreaks and provide shade. The idyllic tree-lined avenues are particularly photogenic and are recently the setting for a Japanese tv drama Chimudondon (ちむどんどん). Professional photography/video in Bise Village of clients in formal wear (bridal or kimono) now requires booking and a shooting fee, but it remains one of my favorite locations. Kimono styling by Yuki. Sony A7RIV with 50mm f1.2 lens. Profoto B1 strobe with softlight reflector to add a little fill.
National Geographic France opens their new feature about Okinawan longevity with one of my portraits of Shiroma-san a student of the Matsubayashi-ryu Arakaki Dojo training at the beach. Very pleasing. https://www.nationalgeographic.fr/voyage/sante-okinawa-le-pays-des-immortels?
A little video I created showing cherry blossoms across Japan. Images were taken between 2002 and 2023. Some were the Pentax 67II medium format film camera, some were the Pentax 645D, the Pentax, 645Z, and the most recent were the Sony A7RIV.
Yoichiro Kuniyoshi is 6th dan in Uechi-ryu karate, a student of the Uechi-ryu master Kiyohide Shinjo. Recently Yoichiro Kuniyoshi set up his own dojo in Yomitan so James and I stopped by to take some portraits of him and his younger brother Wataru Kuniyoshi (3rd dan). After shooting portraits in the dojo, we popped down to the beach where Kuniyoshi performed the kata Sanchin, as his younger brother punched, kicked, and smacked him with a piece of timber. Images shot with the Sony A7RIV with the 24-105mm lens. Strobe used was a Profoto B1 with a white softlight reflector.
On the east coast of Okinawa Main Island, two farmers are both busily harvesting their crops. Ishigaki-san is digging up ukon (Okinawan turmeric), while Teruya-san is cutting down and chopping up the sugar cane.
Nobuko Oshiro of the Okinawa Karate-do Shorinryu, Taishinkan Association was awarded the rank of 9th-dan in January 2023. She continues to be the highest ranked female karateka in Okinawa. In 2015, I photographed her in her dojo, and amongst the sugar cane fields that surrounded her home in Sashiki Town. We are hoping that we will have the opportunity to interview her for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate series.
In spring 2022 I spent several months traveling around Japan updating four chapters of the guidebook Essential Japan by Fodor’s Travel. It was great to be back in Hokkaido, and introduce some of the amazing places to ski and snowboard, plus fantastic opportunities for wildlife watching. In Kyushu I had great experiences exploring the volcanic scenery of the island, and meeting some amazing people. My time in Western Honshu was when the cherry blossom was in full bloom, so many of the sights were looking particularly stunning. I’ve been updating the Okinawa chapter for numerous editions of the guidebook, but my daughter has given me new insights into what makes attractions, hotels, or beaches family friendly. Updating the guidebook also revealed how tough the pandemic has been for many people and businesses. So many restaurants, bars, and even hotels had closed for good. As things return to (a new) normal I hope that everyone is able to get back on their feet once again.
Amanoiwato Jinja is a sacred shrine in Takachiho. I was lucky enough to get a guided tour by the head priest Sato-san.
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 …