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 …
May 5th was the final day of the 2019 Naha Dragon Boat Races. Weather was a bit hazy, but it was great to get some new pics for the blog, and some video footage of the event for future projects. Pics shot with the Pentax 645Z and the 300 mm lens. Congratulations to all the teams who took part.
On Saturday the 100 Kobudo Kata Challenge 2019 took place at Sakiyama Park, Shuri, Okinawa. Organized by James Pankiewicz the event was opened by Toshimitsu Arakaki 10th-dan Matsubayashi-ryu Karate. It was great to see so many young people taking part from the Asato Dojo and Okinawa Kenpo Kenyukai Dojo. The recently completely rear gate of Shuri Castle, seen in the background of the group photo, is also looking impressive.
Hisao Hamamoto is a master of Japanese swords. At 83 he continues to teach how to use katana and wakizashi. I first photographed Hamamoto sensei on October 1st 2011, before the Karate Masters Portrait Project began. The single-light beauty dish portrait I took of Hamamoto would become the lighting setup I’d then use for the entire series. I met up with Hamamoto sensei today at the Budokan in Naha City, to get some video of him teaching his class. Afterwards I asked to take a few location portraits at the shrine next to the Budokan. We then grabbed some lunch before heading over the Dojo Bar with James Pankiewicz to film a short interview with Hamamoto sensei. It won’t be part of the Sensei: Masters of Okinawan Karate series, but a bonus interview about his life and art. A real delight to meet him once again. Thank you to Hamamoto sensei for giving up his time, to James for helping set up the shoot and letting us conduct the interview in the Dojo Bar, and …
100 Kata for Karate Day 2018 took place on October 25th beside the Naminoue Shrine in Naha City, Okinawa. Matsuda sensei and Arakaki sensei were the masters that welcomed the attendees to the event. The event was organized by my good friend James Pankiewicz of the Dojo Bar and Asato Dojo. Great to see so many people taking part at the Okinawa event, and also across the world. The 100 Kata for Karate Day has become a rigorous annual challenge for many karateka. Arakaki sensei and Matsuda sensei, are both in fine health at 75 and 80 years old. Matsuda sensei told me he’d just been to the Namie Amuro farewell concert as he’d been her karate teacher many years ago. (For those who are unaware, Namie Amuro is Japan’s Beyonce.) Congratulations again to all those who took part.
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.
This afternoon the world’s biggest tug of war will take place on Route 58 in Naha City, Okinawa. I’ll be missing it this year as I’m selling prints at the Holiday Bazaar on Camp Foster, but it’s a great thing to see if you’re in Okinawa today. (You can also drop by the bazaar!) There are parades on Kokusai Street before the main event, which starts at around 2.45pm with the ceremony, then bringing the ropes together at 3.30 and the actual tug of war happens around 4pm (Please confirm times for 2017 yourself!). Here are a few pictures from previous years.