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 …
A wonderful family session booked by Michelle Gramkow Cronbaugh who wanted to capture memories with her husband, two lovely children and three dogs. Good luck with all your future adventures. I’m sure Okinawa will always hold a special place in your hearts. More information about family sessions in Motobu, Okinawa can be found here.
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.
I invite my friends over for coffee and then force them to dress up for photos. As my little garden faces west I can get down low and place my subject against the colorful evening skies. In these shots I hid the setting sun directly behind Dan which avoids blowing out the highlights and gives both the Dan and the clouds some cool rim lighting. Pentax 645Z with 90mm and 55mm lenses. Profoto B1 with OCF beauty dish white triggered with the Profoto Air Remote.
Just before the New Year we took some pics of all the dogs at the Cherubims no-kill animal shelter in Ishikawa, Uruma City. There are a wide range of dogs from big to small, young to old, healthy to infirm. They all need homes, but for the very old dogs that are not normally adopted, it would be lovely if they could spend their last few months on a blanket with people to dote on them. Please help if you can. Cherubims Japanese Website Cherubims Japanese Facebook Page
I’m now making a daily posting of a photo to Instagram. So if you’d like to see a pretty pic from my travels everyday then please follow me @chrisinokinawa !
On October 23rd 2016 the Okinawan karate community attempted to break the record for the most people performing a kata. The record had been set in India in 2013 with 809 people. The Okinawan attempt on the record was a resounding success with 3793 confirmed participants. There was also a one of the biggest congregations of karate masters. I have photographed most of them for the Karate Masters Portrait Project so it was great to be able to say hello to so many of them. 2017 will have the opening of the Okinawa Karate Kaikan (training center), and with karate a demonstration sport at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, I expect that a mass kata performance may even become an annual event. If so, hopefully next year will be even bigger!
This week, Japan Post released a set of postage stamps to commemorate Karate Day in Okinawa. The series of eight stamps is made up of Okinawan karate masters of different styles. The bottom right image is of Yoshitaka Taira, 10th dan World Matsubayashi-ryu (Shorin-ryu) and is one of the photographs I shot for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. Pleasingly, this is the second time one of my images has been used on a Japanese stamp. The first was around 12 years ago when they chose my photograph of Kabira Bay to represent one of Okinawa’s beautiful landmarks. In all that time the price of a postage stamp has only gone up two yen!
Bashofu is a textile made out of banana fibre. The only place still producing bashofu is a small workshop in Ogimi Village, Okinawa. It’s survival as a craft and art form is due to Toshiko Taira who is recognized as a Japanese Living National Treasure. A real honor to photograph one of Okinawa’s icons.
Chondara are clowns that encourage the performers, and entertain the crowds during Okinawa’s summer eisa dance performances. They can be young or old, but you see very few women chondara. Usually they wear a straw conical hat and a short striped basa kimono. The makeup is nearly always white with designs drawn on to the face. The designs on the face vary between the chondara, but more surprisingly, unlike western “whiteface” clowns, a chondara doesn’t always stick with the same face. Below we can see the same chondara at Ryukyu Mura with four different faces. Send in the clowns!