All posts filed under: Okinawa

Okinawan Spirit – 沖縄の心 

The Chris Willson Photography YouTube channel is going to be rebranded as Okinawan Spirit – 沖縄の心 . The new title better represents the contents of the channel, and where I want to take it in the future, sharing the beauty of Okinawa and its unique culture. This channel is where you can find the Sensei:Masters of Okinawa Karate documentary series, the pilot episode Drive Okinawa a series about the owners of classic Japanese cars in Okinawa, and various other mini movies about life in these beautiful Ryukyu Islands.

Norihiko Masuda Okinawa Goju-ryu Karatedo Kyokai

In July, I photographed kata champion, and Goju-ryu master, Norihiko Masuda. We started the shoot at 7AM in Onoyama Park in Naha City. There were very few other people around, but we did have one extra person joining us. Uezato-san from the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper came along to take some behind the scenes pics of our shoot, and interview both us and Masuda Sensei about the Karate Masters Portrait Project. After taking some environmental portraits near the Onoyama Park shrine, and the torii gate, we took a few extra shots at the entrance to the Budokan (martial arts hall) where Masuda has won many competitions. This was the first shoot I’d done with the new Sony A7RIV camera, and I used the 24mm f1.4 lens and the 50mm f1.2 lens. (Thank you to Uetsuki-san at Kitamura Camera Chatan branch for helping me trade in several of my Pentax lenses for the new Sony 50mm.) Off camera flash was done with the Profoto B1 strobe. It was good to hear Masuda Sensei telling Uezato-san how valuable …

Pentax to Sony

For many years I shot exclusively with the Pentax 67ii medium format film camera system. When the Pentax 645D digital medium format camera arrived I switched to shooting digital, and I’ve shot stills with the 645D and 645Z until now. The 645Z remains one of the best cameras for portrait photography. 私は長年、中判フィルムカメラシステム「PENTAX 67ii」で撮影してきました。デジタル中判カメラのペンタックス645Dが登場してからは、デジタルでの撮影に切り替え、645Dと645Zでスチルを撮影してきました。645Zは今でもポートレート写真に最適なカメラの一つです。 As a backup system I also had the excellent Pentax K-1 camera system with a 28-70 f2.8 lens. Another fantastic system for photographers. バックアップシステムとして、優れたペンタックスK-1カメラと28-70 F2.8レンズも持っていました。これも写真家にとっては素晴らしいシステムです A few years ago I also began shooting video. I started with the Sony A7Sii and then as things progressed with the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate series I purchased a used Sony FS5 cinema camera. As the documentary series has continued I’ve had to purchase more Sony lenses, and in the near future will need to update both the Sony bodies to the latest models. 数年前、私はビデオ撮影も始めました。最初はソニーのA7Siiを使っていましたが、「SENSEI: MASTERS OF OKINAWAN KARATE」シリーズの制作が進むにつれ、中古のソニーFS5シネマカメラを購入しました。 ドキュメンタリーシリーズを続けていくうちに、ソニーのレンズをさらに購入しなければならなくなり、近い将来、ソニーのボディを両方とも最新モデルに更新する必要があります。 Having two completely separate systems for photography and video has created its own set of challenges in terms of storage, cost, and ultimately how much gear …

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 …

2000GT Documentary

Sean Connery drove the Toyota 2000GT in the 1967 Bond movie “You Only Live Twice.” In Japan, a 13-year-old boy called Michio saw the iconic Toyota on the cinema screen, and it became his dream car. The 2000GT was Japan’s first supercar, extremely expensive and very rare. This mini documentary is the story of how Michio spent the next 40 years striving to achieve his goal. We filmed the interview and driving sequences in winter 2019 and spring 2020 just before COVID-19, and I spent lockdown editing when possible. Murata-san, his wife (a jazz singer whose tracks are used in the documentary), and his 2000GT are doing well. He’s even started restoration on an early VW Beetle convertible. I’ve had the pleasure of photographing Murata-san’s various restored cars over the last decade. And although I haven’t driven any, there are a few pictures I’ve shot that make Yuki and I look like we’ve upgraded our vehicles recently! I hope others enjoy watching this documentary as much as we enjoyed making it. Murata-san has introduced us …

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 …

Zenshu Toyama, 10th-dan, Goju-ryu Karate

On December 19th, 2020, James and I visited the dojo of Zenshu Toyama, in Awase, Okinawa. Toyama Sensei is 10th-dan, Goju-ryu Karate, and one of the style’s most senior practitioners. We photographed Toyama Sensei in October 2013, but on this day we returned to interview him for Episode 12 of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate documentary series. As it had been 7 years since our previous visit, we also shot some new portraits. Our goal is that Episode 11 with Oshiro Sensei will be released in February 2020 and then Episode 12 with Toyama Sensei will be released in March or April 2020. Thank you to Toyama Sensei, his daughter Hideko Toyama, Scot Mertz and Andy Sloane for their assistance on the day of the shoot.

Toshihiro Oshiro, 9th dan Shima-Ha Shorin-Ryu karate, 8th dan Yamanni Chinen Ryu kobujutsu.

Last Saturday, I photographed Toshihiro Oshiro, 9th dan Shima-Ha Shorin-Ryu karate, 8th dan Yamanni Chinen Ryu kobujutsu, for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. We shot the studio style portraits at his dojo in Itoman, and then yesterday photographed him again on his local beach. We also interviewed Oshiro Sensei for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawa Karate series, and the episode will be available on YouTube and Bujin.tv early next year. It was a real pleasure to hang out with Oshiro Sensei and his students. I got to learn some more fascinating aspects of Okinawan culture (use a light grip on the weapon), and the stormy weather conditions worked in our favor for photographs.

Shawn Miller: Okinawa Nature Photography

Anderson’s Crocodile Newt by Shawn Miller of Okinawa Nature Photography in the November 2020 issue of National Geographic. This post is to highlight the amazing work that photographer Shawn Miller is doing to document endangered Okinawan wildlife. Shawn has lived most of his life in Okinawa, and has dedicated himself to capturing its beauty and protecting its creatures. It is a fantastic for Shawn to be able to get one of his images of Okinawan wildlife into this month’s National Geographic. The fact that the image is also selected by Canon to showcase what you can achieve with their equipment, is a great testament to Shawn’s skill. For most, this would be a lifetime achievement, but this isn’t a first for Shawn. His photographs of Okinawan wildlife were used in May 2016, October 2017, and August 2019. When you consider that Canon could pick any photo, of any species, by any photographer in the world, the fact that four shots in less than five years were taken by Shawn is a massive achievement. Please check …

Tetsunosuke Yasuda, 10th Dan, Okinawa Goju-ryu Karate – Jundokan. 1926-2020

Yesterday, October 12th 2020, Tetsunosuke Yasuda passed away. A karate master and a true gentleman. I photographed him in 2014 when he was a sprightly 88 years old and he showed off his incline sit-ups while holding a weight above his head. Our paths crossed several times, as for a decade I rented a house through his Yasuda Jutaku housing company. Each time we met he was such as kind, generous man full of praise and encouragement for our project to document Okinawan karate. When I decided to create a book of the first 58 karate masters I’d photographed, I placed Yasuda Sensei at the center on the front cover . A lovely lovely man, and the international karate community will miss him dearly.