All posts filed under: Photography

Chieko Toma – Goju-ryu Karate & Ryukyu Dance

Chieko Toma is a master of Ryukyu dance. On Sunday I had the chance to photograph her performing in traditional dance costumes. The next black and white costume comes from Haebaru Town and I believe is worn for performance of the folk dances, rather than the court dances. The next outfit is the karate gi with a hakama-style piece over the lower half. This was worn to perform the go shin no mai dances of self defense. As well as a master of Ryukyu dance, Toma Sensei is a master of Goju-ryu karate, and a student under Tetsuhiro Hokama Sensei. If you look at the behind the scenes shot, and you’ve been following the Karate Masters Portrait Project since 2012, you’ll notice the change in the number of lights used to create the portrait. In all the above shots of Toma Sensei I used two lights. James is holding one Profoto B1 strobe with a white softlight reflector (AKA a beauty dish) while Toma Sensei’s granddaughter is holding a second Profoto B1 strobe with a …

Shuri Castle Reconstruction

On July 15 2020 I visited Shuri Castle to see the progress with reconstruction. As you approach the castle, nearly everything appears to be as it was before the fire. The Shureimon gate is intact, locals were praying at the Sonohyan-utaki, and the stone walls and archways of the Kankaimon gate all bore no evidence of the disaster. At the ticket booth in the Shichi-nu-una courtyard you can purchase a discounted entry ticket, but it only as you pass through the Houshimon ticket gate into the main courtyard you are hit with the vast change to the beloved castle. Where the main Seiden once stood there is now a beige prefab building. Dozen of bags of rescued materials sit on the red and white stripes of the courtyard. The two dairyuchu great dragon pillars that survived the fire now stand protected by scaffolding. Lying on the courtyard are small piles of charred rubble, and the remains of the dragon heads that once crowned the castle roof. You can now walk to the rear of the …

Yanbaru – Visit Okinawa

A month ago I spent a weekend up in the Yanbaru forests to write an article for the Visit Okinawa website. Okinawan photographer Nirai was there to take the photos and video of my adventures for the website, so it was a really interesting to be on the other side of the lens. I was also able to get a few snaps over the weekend, when I wasn’t mugging for his camera. I interviewed Kikuta-san many years ago for Okinawa Living magazine, you can read the article here. You can find out more about his birdwatching tours and his artwork here. I didn’t mention it in the article, but we came across this dead Japanese bush warbler, that looked to have been just hit by a vehicle. The beautiful winding roads of northern Okinawa may seem like the perfect place to stretch the legs of your car or motorbike, but the local people and wildlife would prefer it if you slow down and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.

Highlights of 2019

In 2019, photography and video has been completely dominated by Okinawan martial arts. The crowd-funded YouTube video series is proving to be popular, and we’ve released the first six of twelve interviews with Okinawan masters, and three bonus episodes with international masters. On occassions I’ve been able to photograph some of Okinawa’s less combative side, with smiles and flowers. The real highlight of the year has been watching this little one grow. Now nearly 2, she’s has adopted all the traits of our chocolate labrador (a bundle of crazed energy who loves to play in the dirt, scavenge for snacks, and then curl up in front of the TV). A huge thank you to all those who’ve helped this year. Thank you to the students who’ve taken my workshops, clients who’ve hired me for projects, the international karate community for supporting and sponsoring the video series, and to my family both in Okinawa and around the world during this challenging year. Looking forward to 2020, should be an exciting year. All the best from Okinawa, …

Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate – International Episode – Neil Stolsmark

A huge thank you to all the sponsors and supporters of the video series.  Main Sponsors:  Fusei Kise, Isao Kise and the OSMKKF-USA  Jerry Figgiani – Shorin Ryu Karate Do International  Beikoku Shidokan Karatedo Association Grant Campbell – USA Karate Federation Series Sponsors: Cezar Borkowski – Northern Karate Schools Marguerite “Peggy” Hess – Jensen Beach Uechi Ryu Karate Do Dojo Reece Cummings – Cummings Karate Dojo Michael Quinn – Okinawa Shogen-Ryu Karate-Do Europe Martin Pinto – Essex Goju Ryu Karate Mark Spear – Black Bear Dojo Series Supporters: Tim Herlihy Robin Ross Joshua Simmers  Jeff Perkins Paul Punshon   John J. Strangeway Gerry Campbell Shelley Cormier K V Manoharan  Phil Butler       Danny Smith    Justin Rathert Adam Carter  Mike Powers Miguel Da Luz  Robert Roberto Curtis Josh Ryer Belgi Serin Igor Vakos Lisken Dus Andrew Pearce Christopher Ford Cos Vona Steve Ouslis Sandro Simonetta Axel Heinrich Jiří Matouš Jose Planas Click this link to learn more and help: https://travel67.com/the-karate-masters-portrait-project/sensei-documentary/ We are getting closer to completion of Episodes 7 and 8 with Iha …

Kadena Gift Corner Print Sale

On Saturday 30th November I will be holding a special print sale at the Kadena Gift Corner. I’ll be selling a wide range of photographs from Okinawa and mainland Japan, all printed on archival cotton rag paper with archival pigment inks. Prints range in size from A4 (8″x11″) to A2 (16″x23″) and in price from $60 to $240. I’ll be at the Kadena Gift Corner from 10AM to 3PM only on the 30th November 2019, but a smaller selection of prints are available to purchase from the Kadena Gift Shop when I am not there. Stop by for a chat, and maybe grab something for your wall!

Shuri Castle Destroyed by Fire

 At approximately 2:30 a.m. on Thursday 31st October 2019 a fire started inside Okinawa’s Shuri Castle which destroyed the main hall and several adjoining buildings. Now, one week later, the Governor of Okinawa and the Prime Minister of Japan have both promised that it shall be rebuilt. The challenges of doing so, and the timeline are not yet clear, but I look forward to it rising once again from the ashes of destruction. Below are a few pics of Shuri Castle taken over the last 19 years. Most were taken at the New Year Festival or the Shuri Castle Festival which they were preparing for when the fire broke out.

Mr. Benn Redux

For those of you who are not British, and in their forties or fifties, Mr. Benn is a beloved cartoon about an ordinary man who goes on extraordinary adventures when he visits a fancy dress shop. This weekend Mr. Young came to my studio, and as if by magic a photographer appeared… With each costume change Mr. Young transformed into a new character. The question is, which is the real Mr. Young? Is he the tech entrepreneur who created an encryption protocol making him a millionaire before his 18th birthday? Is he the fisherman who works on the same boat as his grandfather, while dealing with rough seas and dwindling catches? Is he the doctor who pioneered the use of augmented reality for use in both general medicine and surgery? Is he the Marine who’s traveled the world as one of “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.”? Or is he the professional wrestler whose athleticism allows him to dominate when down on the mat or flying through the air? Send your answers on a postcard …

Meitatsu Yagi 10th-dan Goju-ryu Karate

I’d been hoping to photograph Meitatsu Yagi for the project for several years. In March 2014 I took portraits of his younger brother Meitetsu Yagi, and his nephew Ippei Yagi, but hadn’t been able to coordinate a time with Meitatsu Yagi. Luckily at the Tookachi seminars for Iha sensei’s students I had the opportunity to photograph Yagi sensei and some of the other masters of Okinawa karate. Amazingly Meitatsu Yagi was one of the first karate masters I ever photographed. I shot him with my Pentax 67 film camera in around 2004. I was visiting Murasaki Mura and asked the man in the white uniform with a black belt if I could take his photo. At that time I didn’t know his name, or that 15 years later, I’d still be on Okinawa, and spending most of my time photographing and interviewing karate masters.

Seikichi Iha 10th-dan Okinawa Shorin-ryu Karate

Seikichi Iha and hundreds of his Beikoku Shidokan Karatedo Association students from across the world came to Okinawa to celebrate his “Tokachi” 88th birthday celebrations. I was lucky to get to spend some time with the group as they visited Shuri Castle, an evening banquet, training at the Karate Kaikan, and an interview and training at the dojo of the late Miyahira sensei. The interview and footage from his trip will form episode seven of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawa Series. A huge thank you to the members of the Beikoku Shidokan Karatedo Association for inviting me into your celebrations, and also for becoming one of the main sponsors of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate series.