All posts tagged: japan

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.

Success and Sponsorship

Now that the first three episodes of Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate have been published to YouTube I can happily say that the feedback I’m getting has been really positive, and its popularity on YouTube is growing with each video! The first video had 5000 views in its first month, the second video had 62,000 views in its first month, and the third video has had 86,000 views in its first two weeks! I’m in the final stages of the edit of the fourth video with Sensei Takeshi Tamaki, and hope it will be released on May 22nd. This endeavour is possible because of sponsorship and support by the international karate community. If you see the value of undertaking this project, please consider become a main series sponsor, series sponsor, or supporter. More details here. Sponsors and supporters are listed in all subsequent episodes of the series. If you’d like to help, and get in touch before May 21st, I can add you to the credits for Episode 4 before the final file creation and …

Kenichi Yamashiro 9th dan Matayoshi Kobudo

On Friday evening we travelled down to the very south of the main island of Okinawa to the dojo of Kenichi Yamashiro. He is the 83rd sensei to be photographed for the project, and it was fascinating to meet him. Kobudo is the weapons system of Okinawan martial arts and is often studied alongside karate. Arguably kobudo is an intrinsic part of traditional karate, or perhaps traditional karate is an intrinsic part of kobudo. Yamashiro sensei trains with a wide range of weapons, including some which I’d never seen before such as the spinning bo staff. Hopefully in the future we’ll be back again to interview him for the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate documentary series. All images captured using the Pentax 645Z and 90mm lens. Lighting using the Profoto B1 and softlight reflector. A big thank you to Gary Hughes for assisting with lighting, Yuki Willson and James East for interpreting, and Mike Clayton for help setting up the shoot. A huge thank you to Kenichi Yamashiro for inviting us into his dojo and …

Sensei – Masters of Okinawan Karate #1 Arakaki Toshimitsu

This video is the first in a possible series of interviews with Okinawan karate masters. The sensei discuss their lives and share advice on training. The first master is Toshimitsu Arakaki, Hanshi 10th-dan, Matsubayashi-ryu Karate (Shorin-ryu). 新垣 敏光 範士十段 松林流空手 (小林流)He is the teacher of my good friend James Pankiewicz who arranged for the interview to take place. (James runs the famous Dojo Bar in Naha City, and the Asato Dojo across the street. Check them out when in Okinawa!) This pilot video is an opportunity to see if there is much interest in making this a series of videos rather than just a one off. Potentially interviews could take place with several karate masters and include more footage of them training or their everyday lives. Will all the videos be on YouTube? Yes! The idea is for the videos to be available for free on YouTube to anyone who wants to watch. Hopefully individuals, dojos, or karate organizations would be willing to help sponsor the project to make it viable, but this would only …

Yoshitsune Senaga 10th dan Uechi Ryu Karate Do Kenseikai

On November 30th, I had the honor to photograph and shoot some video of Yoshitsune Senaga, 10th dan Uechi ryu karate at his dojo in Tomigusku, Okinawa. He is the 82nd sensei to be photographed for the Karate Masters Portrait Project. 81 year old Senaga sensei also studies kobudo, and was willing to show us his techniques with the sai.   Interestingly he showed how the pair of sai that he used would ring like tuning forks when hit.  He explained that this was because these sai were made from metal that was once used in a temple bell in Nara. After taking portraits for the project, I recorded a quick interview with Senaga sensei, then finally we got some selfies of the group, and little Jasmine once again stole the show.  The video, the second in the series we are working on, will be translated and hopefully appear online in the coming weeks.  This is an exciting new addition to the project, and we are currently thinking about how we can take this video …

World’s Largest Tug of War 2018

The world’s largest tug-of-war took place today in Naha City, Okinawa.  Two ropes weighing 20 tonnes were tied together to make the record-breaking 40-tonne behemoth. Around 270,000 people came to the city to watch or take part in the event. After karate demonstrations by several masters including Koyu Higa and Ippei Yagi (who are featured in the karate masters portrait project), the kings of East and West were carried along the length of the ropes. There were a lot of gongs, firecrackers, and whistles, then the contest began. Congratulations to the East for their victory. A great day, with a friendly international atmosphere. Thank you to the American Chamber of Commerce for having me as part of your team. Video coming soon.

Jasmine at 6 months.

August 12th is Jasmine’s 6-month birthday. She’s got a lot bigger, her head isn’t cone shaped, and she loves to laugh. She’s used to meeting a lot of different people, and is quite happy being held by family, friends, and complete strangers. She travelled with us all around Kyushu and Okinawa while we updated the Fodor’s Japan guidebook, and has been at various workshops and photo shoots. I hadn’t really considered how much joy and vitality young children bring to a neighborhood.  It makes you realize how tough it must be in rural communities where  young families leave for the cities, the schools close, and the majority of the remaining population is elderly.  As Japan deals with an aging population and a low birthrate it will be interesting to see what policies are enacted to nudge people to have babies, or to increase immigration.