All posts tagged: samurai

Hisao Hamamoto, Koden HachimanRyu Jissen BattoJutsu Hamamotoden BattoKai

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 …

Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Toei Company produces anime, movies, and Japanese historical dramas. The Toei Kyoto Studio Park is a theme park where you can stroll through movie sets of Edo Japan, encounter ninjas and samurai, and buy souvenirs from various TV shows. The park is worth a visit if you are traveling with children, but if you’re only in Kyoto for a short amount of time it’s better to check out Kyoto’s real historical buildings rather than a movie facade. Images shot with the Pentax K-1 with the 24-70 f2.8 lens.

Soma Nomaoi, Shinki-Sodatsusen

If the kacchu-keiba (horse race) is analogous to the race into battle, then the shinki-sodatsusen is the battle itself. Here the riders test the skill, bravery and luck. The battle is made up of several skirmishes.  Each skirmish begins with a couple of fireworks blasted up into the sky. Each fireworks carry a banner which, after the explosion at altitude, come wafting back to earth. Any samurai who catches a banner, receives fame, glory and probably a few bit of yen. On a technical note these images were shot with the 645Z and the smc FA 645 300mm F4 ED (IF) which is equivalent of a 240mm on a FF35mm camera. I used a monopod to give some extra stability and it gave excellent results. The speed of the autofocus was slow, but it the overall sharpness was great.

Soma Nomaoi – The Riders Assemble

On day two of the Soma Nomaoi festival, the riders parade back to the Higarigahara-Saijochi horse racing ground from their respective hometowns. Once at the ground everyone starts to get organized. Samurai on giant horses shouted instructions. Others put the final touches to their armor. There were plenty of aging samurai preparing for battle. Some took a quick break from the heat for refreshments. This shot sums up how I, or probably any foot soldier, feels when standing next to cavalry. You’re small, vulnerable, and fully aware why a horse is far more useful than any kingdom. Following the samurai are those offering spiritual protection. Ladies performed a traditional sacred dance, and mikoshi (portable shrines) were carried into the arena. Armor on, flags unfurled, prayers offered, time to ride. And yes in the above epic samurai shot, the horse is sticking its tongue out to the camera 🙂

Soma Nomaoi Festival – Shutsujin Ceremony at Nakamura Shrine

The Soma Nomaoi samurai horsemen festival takes place each July in Fukushima Prefecture. Following the devastation of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami it was cancelled, but it restarted once again in 2013. I attended this year to document one of Japan’s great festivals, and the resilience of Fukushima’s people. Preparations for the lead samurai and his horse at the castle beside Nakamura Shrine. Breakfast of champions. Sake and cucumbers at Nakamura Shrine. Gearing up. A priest from the shrine places the helmet on a samurai rider. Time for a quick portrait. New camera, same technique of getting up in people’s faces. Priestess helps one of the youngest riders get ready. The little girl was actually the daughter of the Shinto priest. Statues at the shrine show the importance of horses to the area. The priestess like all of the other participants on horseback was an excellent rider. The mounted samurai were followed by pikemen and priests carrying a mikoshi (portable shrine). The samurai and priests then parade south from Soma to Mina Soma and the …