Nishihama Beach on Hateruma Island. Fine white star sand, few people, clear water. Fantastic. (If we’re being pedantic, it’s arguably better to call it Nishi Beach or West Beach as hama means beach. This is why you should probably say Shuri-jo or Shuri Castle, and not Shuri-jo Castle. )
Festivals in Okinawa’s southern islands (collectively know as the Yaeyama Islands) are similar but not identical to those on the main island of Okinawa. Shishi lions and ryukyu dancers are common to both, while it seems only the Yaeyama festivals include the god Miroku (white mask) and the rain god Fusamarah (red mask). The images of the man dressed as the rain god Fusamarah show how the presence of the American military has slowly made it’s way into the everyday lives of Okinawans even on the most remote islands. Local farmers are particularly fond of army surplus uniforms, they must be particularly rugged, cheap, and ubiquitous to have become almost standard equipment for Okinawans working out in their fields.
Hateruma is the most southerly inhabited island in Japan. It has its own police station, post office, school, awamori distillery and a summer festival called Mushama. I took a day off from scuba diving off Ishigaki and took the ferry down to Hateruma for the festival. The festival, as so many are, was a gold mine for a photographer. So many interesting faces, great costumes and a welcoming atmosphere. The majority of the spectators were island residents and their families that had returned for the event. Nobody minded that I was wandering around taking photos of everyone, and as usual I was up in people’s face shooting portraits.