All posts tagged: japanese

100 Kata for Karate Day 2016

100 Kata for Karate Day is an endurance event created by James Pankiewicz of the Dojo Bar in Naha. Participants complete 100 kata (set forms) over a period of around 2 hours. This year the event took place at Churasun Beach, and was opened by the Mayor of Tomigusku. Arakaki Toshimitsu , 10th dan master of Matsubayashiryu karate (and James’ sensei)  gave a welcome speech and watched over the event. Participants performed 80 kata on the grass before moving down to the sand. Although it’s October, Okinawa is still hot and humid. A cool breeze provided a little relief, but it was still a real test of grit and determination. Congratulations to all who took part.

Naked in the Rain

Ohara Hadaka Matsuri a.k.a. the Ohara Naked Festival took place in heavy rain on the 23rd of September. To clarify “naked” is clearly not an accurate description with the participants wearing far more than the fundoshi loincloths seen at the Okayama Hadaka Matsuri. As this is a traditional Shinto festival a priest gave blessings, and somewhat unusually two arrows were launched into the ocean. Teams carried mikoshi (portable shrines) down to the ocean. It was clear that the mikoshi were heavy and the teams looked exhausted as they shouldered the wooden beams. After dunking themselves and the shrine in the ocean waves they returned to the beach, and managed to raise it above their heads. All images shot with the Pentax 645Z and the 25mm lens. Glad both the camera and lens are weather sealed because they were subjected to rain for half an hour.

Onbashira – the bold and the brave

Riding a tree trunk as it slides down the side of a mountain is as safe as it sounds. There are injuries, and numerous participants have died. The Onbashira festival, however, has taken place for over 12 centuries. Every 6 years, tradition takes priority over health and safety, and with a heady mixture of religious fervor and adrenaline, the men go for the ride of their lives. The kiotoshi (tree falling)  part of the Shimosha Onbashira takes place over three days. Friday 8th of April 2016, was the first day, with three different teams riding in the afternoon. Having shot the first team with a 300mm telephoto lens, I switched to the 90mm so that I could put the action in a little more context. When the tree trunks finally comes to a stop, all the members of the team scramble together to celebrate and then start to drag the trunk onwards. The men with white helmets and riot shields at the base of the hill are to stop dislodged stones from hitting the crowds. As …

Cherry Blossom at Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is Japan’s greatest castle. It’s the largest and most visited. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and several parts of the complex are National Treasures. The city of Himeji is one of the stops on the shinkansen bullet train running between Osaka and Hiroshima so it’s easy to reach. The castle is visible from the train station at the opposite end of the main street. Himeji is also known as Shirasagi-j0 or White Egret Castle, this is in contrast to the Crow Castles at Matsumoto and Okayama. Years of wear and tear had left the castle somewhat rundown, so a major renovation project took place recently. The castle reopened to the public on March 27, 2015 and now has bright white walls and pale grey roof tiles. The cleaning meant that my older images of Himeji needed updating and there’s no better time to do it than while the cherry blossom is blooming. Luckily we got the blue skies I wanted for “postcard” shots of the castle. Finished off with a few pics in the last …

Onbashira – Suwa Taisha Kamisha

Onbashira is a traditional log riding festival held in held in Suwa Town, Nagano Prefecture every six years. Tree trunks are dragged from the mountains to the Suwa Taisha Shrine to be raised as sacred pillars. Kiotoshi “tree falling” is where men risk their lives riding the tree trunks down a steep slope. This takes place in two locations, first there is  “Kamisha” near Chino, then a few days later there is “Shimosha” near Shimosuwa. On the three days of the Suwa Taisha Kamisha the “tree falling” is followed by  kawagoshi “river crossing.” A small rope is towed across the river (in one case by an ugly duckling with swans) which connects to the larger ropes that drag the tree trunk. Dignitaries are carried across the river. Then the brass band wades across! The tree trunk, bedecked with a couple of dozen men, is dragged from the riverbank. Rescue services stand by to try and prevent any of the participants from drowning. An amazing spectacle to witness.

Reforming a house in Japan

On April 3rd 2015, I moved into the new house. I was well aware that it would need some renovation work. Inside was mainly cosmetic and could wait, but the outside needed immediate work. Some of the drains at the house had been detached by previous typhoons. Leaks had occurred where water pooled up on the balcony and flowed in through air vents. Other water leaks had been caused by air vents missing hoods. In Okinawa rainy season is May to early June. It’s wet but the rain is falling vertically. However in  July, August and September there are typhoons. If you have an ocean view,  you are going to get hit by the full force of the wind and horizontal rain. The first job was to buy a power washer and clean the dirt off everything within reach. This enabled me to reveal any cracks in the concrete and assess the problems. Most homes in Okinawa are built out of reinforced concrete with a core of steel rebar. They are strong and able to withstand …

The Nago Bypass and Beyond

A couple of weeks ago I dropped in at the Yanbaru Sangyo Festival in Nago which showcases business in northern Okinawa. I made contact with a few local farmers and other small businesses that produce unique Okinawan products. Hopefully I will meet them again when writing or shooting magazine articles. Another aspect of the festival was showing current and future development plans in the region. Of biggest interest to me were plans for the expansion of the Nago bypass In the image above we see the Nago bypass. Currently, after leaving the expressway at Kyoda you drive north along the coast on the 58, then take a right at the Blue Seal / Mcdonalds junction as you enter Nago. At the next traffic light you turn left onto the new bypass. The image however also shows that the south end of the bypass will eventually join back to the 58. The yellow section of road is a further possible overwater extension connecting the bypass with the expressway. (This could also be done overland) In this …