Sunday, October 31, 2010

Proper Positioning: An Insiders Infographic From Japan


I don't make this stuff up. I find it in my travels. You don't need a translator to understand the proper positioning of your body when they have these, relatively self explanatory infographics posted in the bathrooms in Japan. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

HAPPY HALLOWEEN !!!

HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE HALLOWEEN AND DON'T FORGET TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH!

Photo Details HERE.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Photography Tip: Reaction Time

People often wonder how an old geezer, like me can capture birds in flight, fish jumping out of water or a singer’s eye on a poorly lit stage. All the camera skills in the world won’t do you any good without this special ingredient. It’s called Reaction Time.

It takes practice and a little trick they don’t teach you in camera school.


Here’s my secret and I do it without a camera.

Every night before I go to sleep, I play Solitaire.

There are probably other games you could use to do this. I’m not really a gamer; this game works just fine for me. I just do this to improve and sharpen my reaction time.

When you first start playing a score of around 100 is probably average. Move yourself back from the monitor so you can have the whole screen in your field of view. Play as fast as you can. Make mistakes and correct them as fast as you can. Find out if you have a weakness, like always missing a possibility on the far right of the screen, my weak point.

Maybe you start paying attention to one side of the screen or another and start missing the moves at dead center; right in front of you.

Move back a bit further. Soon, you’ll notice your reaction time, peripheral vision, ability to correct mistakes quickly and your score improving.

This training will carry over to your camera shooting and you’ll start to notice you are catching action shots like never before.

Me, I don’t go to bed at night until I’ve won three games. Learning to correct your mistakes quickly and identify opportunities to take advantage of rapidly are the keys to getting a higher score. I swear by it.

If the politicians would play Solitaire for us on TV instead of having debates I could tell you who’d make the best President for your country. Just watch to see if they recognize mistakes, correct them quickly and take swift action when a great opportunity presents itself. Who has the best Reaction time?

BONUS: When you get caught playing Solitaire at work tell the boss you’re not goofing off. You’re just following a Photography Tip about Reaction Time you saw over on Mike’s Ryukyu Gallery!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Typhoon Chaba, Green Eggs & Ham

HERE'S WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE AT ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA











FIRST WE'LL GET THE PICTURES I BORROWED OUT OF THE WAY. I'LL GET TO THE GREEN EGGS AND HAM PART A LITTLE BIT LATER. FOR SOME STRANGE REASON THESE TYPHOONS ALWAYS LOOK LOTS BETTER FROM ABOVE THAN BELOW.
 
 

HERE'S EARTH OBSERVATORY NASA GOVT NATURAL HAZZARDS VIEW







It’s going on Midnight Thursday over here right now and I think the worst of it is over. I only went outside a few times to get coffee, smokes and food.


When I walked here this morning I used my big golf umbrella. The wind was turning it inside out so I decided to close it and just get wet.

Around 3PM when I went to grab some take-out lunch it was raining real hard and real windy so I borrowed a smaller umbrella. It held up pretty good until I turned the corner of the street and got a good blast of wind. That bent a few spokes.

Coming back with my Taco-Rice-Cheese in a plastic bag and the open umbrella was hilarious. I’m glad the wind and I were both heading in the same direction. The Flying Nun ain’t got nuthin on me.

Now, I owe somebody a new umbrella. I hope it wasn’t the wife’s. Her birthday isn’t until September.

This looks like it may have been the strongest typhoon we’ve had hit Okinawa in a few years. I remember awhile back one that was so strong it snapped concrete telephone poles. The winds were something like 120mph. One of the poles landed right on the hood of a police car.

Being cooped up on rainy days really drives me crazy. But, I took a long nap this afternoon and drank about a dozen cans of ice coffee and my electricity hasn’t been knocked out, yet. So, I guess I’m good to go.

I’m done complaining and might even be over the non-writing slump I was having all week. Maybe, the typhoon was just what I needed. Whenever a good butt-kickin’ typhoon hits I remember how lucky I am.

See, way back in the early 60’s I was riding around on this big Navy Boat. Maybe 1000 guys on this big grey, flat-bottomed boat and we got caught in one of these typhoons. They could’ve filmed the Poseidon Adventure there if they’d have had a cameraman with us.

Before I ever got on a Navy Boat, I always thought that Dr. Seuss just made up that story about Green Eggs and Ham. He didn’t dream that stuff up; it’s true. Maybe he was in the Navy once. It’s the only place, in my life, where I’ve seen Green Eggs. I don’t know where they come from, out of a can, maybe.

Anyway, picture about 1000 guys in a room inside a boat carrying Green Eggs and Ham on metal trays and walking around on a metal floor. Then start rocking the boat enough to make them slip, slide and fall down.

Tilt the boat 45 degrees to the left and watch them slide. They scramble to get back on their feet. Tilt the boat 45 degrees to the right. Then you have arms, legs, metal trays, cups of coffee and milk, Green Eggs and Ham, and people cussing and barfing, trying to get back on their feet, so they can eat their Green Eggs and Ham. It doesn’t get much better than that.


TYPHOON CHABA, I'M NOT IMPRESSED. YOU WERE WEAK!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bird Photo: Will Somebody, Please Title Me?

It's been one of those "I don't feel like writing" weeks for me.

So, today I'm gonna listen to my body.

There's a frickin' typhoon blowing outside.


I haven't gotten my sunshine quota.

The power could go off any minute now.

I'm posting something quick so I can go outside and watch people with their umbrellas turned inside out get blown down the street.


HINT: The Bird is a Blue Rock Thrush formerly known as Ahaaa...Choo !

So, if you could help me and come up with a title for this photo, I'll give it to you. I'm outa here!

2-For-1 Deluxe Website Super Sale

Mike's Ryukyu Gallery: Bird Photo: Will Somebody, Please Title Me?

Mike's Ryukyu Gallery: Bird Photo: Will Somebody, Please Title Me?

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pineapple Hats and Deep Kimchi

THIS IS NOT A RECIPE BUT COULD TURN OUT ALRIGHT IF YOU GIVE IT A TRY. MIX SOME FRESH PINEAPPLES WITH KIMCHI. LET ME KNOW IF YOU THINK IT’S MARKETABLE. WE COULD GET FILTHY RICH.

The Deep Kimchi part comes from what I got myself into when my better half looked at my blog last night. Those girls weren’t wearing Pineapple hats. The wifey-pal of mine even called for their testimony.


In my defense, I have another picture of them. It sure looks like Pineapple plants, to me.

 

Look at that silly hat the girl is offering to let me wear. Doesn’t it look like a pineapple plant to you?

If that’s not enough to convince a jury of my peers, I have more evidence to present on my behalf.


Here’s a picture of a real-live pineapple growing up in the northern hills of Okinawa. It’s even a red pineapple with green thingys sprouting out of the top of its head. It couldn’t make itself look more like those girls in red kimonos unless it sprouted feet and started dancing.

 

Well, I was wrong, according to nine women, anyway. I was wrong. I’m not gonna change my story, though. They still look like Pineapple hats, to me. But, to get myself outa deep kimchi I’m being assigned Community Service. I’ll be busy attending Okinawa Dance Classes for a few months.


Pineapple Plants In Their Hair: Pineapple Hats?

These Gals are doing a formal dance. They are all decked out in pretty red kimonos. They have silver and gold fans and wave them while dancing. Every movement they make is with precision.


So, why are they wearing Pineapple Hats on their heads while doing such a formal dance?

This is where the internet just kills me. I'm in a non-writing mode (in case you haven't already noticed) this week. So, I figure I'll throw a photo on the blog quick, Google and find out something about Pineapple hats, real quick and get outa here. I have a typhoon stirring things up and want to get home quick and tie a few things down. Well, there's just too much information on the internet.

I swear, I'm not making this up. Google Pineapple Hats, yourself, if you don't believe me!

There's Pineapple Truckers Hats, Pineapple Hat Crochet Pattern-Clear Urine Substitution Kits,
Exotic pineapple baby hats that will delight any mum, Natural Fibers Handmade Pineapple Hats, Pineapple Fruit Hats, Pineapple Army Hats, "White" Pink Pineapple Hat, a guy named Tommy Bahama with Stingy Brim Printed Pineapple Hats and even a gal named Juliet who knits Pineapple Hats so well they make you hungry. I gave up after 4 pages of Googlin and gigglin.

It'd probably be quicker for me to chase one of these gals down in the photo and just ask them, "Why were you wearing a Pineapple Hat or plant or tree on your head with a red kimono?" Huh?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Big Butterfly and Pole Dancing

OK, it wasn't a real, live Butterfly but, it's the biggest Butterfly I've ever seen, anywhere. The Pole Dancing, well, it's probably like no Pole Dancing you've ever seen anywhere, either !


This photo was taken October 10, 2010 on Kokusai Street, the International Avenue of Naha Okinawa, Japan. A Parade is held there prior to the start of the Guinness World Record Tug-O-War every year.

The Butterfly is attached to the end of a humongous pole called a Hatagashira that will be raised once the guys hauling it clear the telephone wires criss-crossing the street. The bamboo pole is around 20 feet tall, has a Village pennant streaming down it and each District of the Village has their own "Good Luck" symbol or contraption affixed to the top.

What these young men do is take turns dancing around in the middle of the street. One guy at a time gets to hold the pole straight up in the air and dance with it. The thing is pretty heavy and some guys have a hard time keeping their balance. So, their buddies have to help prevent the contraption from falling into electrical wires; they have smaller bamboo poles with forks on the ends to catch the Hatagashira if it falls.

When the guy with the big pole gets exhausted, someone else grabs it and shows off their pole dancing skills. It ain't like girly pole dancing (from what I've heard, anyway) because these guys keep all their clothes on. I'll see if I can dig up some of the dancing action photos for you later, my Missus wants to go for a ride. So, I'll grab my camera and see if I can spot a REAL BIG, LIVE BUTTERFLY and shoot it for you.  More later.....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Photography Tip: Get Rhythm

Sometimes it takes more than basic exposure and composition to capture the moment. Today’s Photography Tip explains why you need some Rhythm behind the viewfinder of your camera.


There may come at time in your travels where you wish to capture a lively performance of some cultural event taking place on a stage. Stage lighting can be tricky and in many instances the use of your camera flash is forbidden.


To catch this photo of a very active singer, performing on an outdoor stage at night, I had to use a few tricks other than a tripod and manual focus.

I used Selective Focus and moved the focus point to the level of her eyes.

While she moved around the stage, I panned the camera, concentrating on her left eye. At the same time, I listened to the music (foreign, to me) and observed her movements, watching for a pattern.

I had my camera set at f/6.3 1/200sec. ISO 800, not wanting to use a higher ISO setting to keep noise to a minimum. 200ths of a second is not a fast shutter speed, when you’re trying to freeze the action of a fast moving dancer.

By paying attention to the music and her motions, I was able to snap the shot when her eye was just where I wanted it and her left hand was at the peak of its movement.

So, when you travel afar with your camera, remember, besides sampling the local spirits and food, get some rhythm in your photography.



Do you think it’s odd for an old goat like me to be telling you to run up to a stage and get some rhythm? Well, wait'll you see my next Photography Tip where I’ll teach you how to sharpen your Reaction Time. It’s a trick you do without your camera!

STREET PORTRAIT


This photo was captured on the International Avenue in Naha Okinawa where a parade takes place every year prior to the Guinness World Record Tug-O-War (OCTOBER 10, 2010 12:34PM). More on the Tug-O-War HERE.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Search for Uncle Sam: Photo Essay

Not a Typical Uncle Sam Story 

  

It’s about someone’s Uncle Sam who came to Okinawa in 1945. That was 65 years ago.

 


About a year ago I posted this Butterfly photo on JPG Magazine’s website.
Another photographer noticed my collection of photos there and we became friends. Richard Knight, a guy who uses a Point and Shoot camera and claims he’s an amateur, became close enough to exchange personal emails with me. He emailed me some information about his Uncle Sam and I promised I’d take my camera and see what I could come up with for him.


This is the shore where the Marines landed during the battle of Okinawa. The location, where I am standing is often called Suicide Cliffs. Many Japanese killed themselves here rather than surrender to the advancing American forces.


Okinawa Peace Memorial Park is dedicated to all who died during the battle of Okinawa. Black granite walls, representing the waves of the world’s seven seas, are engraved with the names of over 230,000 souls who died on this island.


There were many sections of granite walls with the name Knight on them but, I couldn’t find Sam.  A friend came along with me and we spent about two hours looking at each section of the walls where the name Knight was engraved. I started taking wide angle and close up shots of all the walls with the name Knight on them.
It wasn’t looking good. The sun was scorching hot that day. I couldn’t find Sam I got a lump in my throat and my stomach knotted up.


Was it possible that somehow Uncle Sam got forgotten and his name just didn’t get engraved on the wall?

Damn, who’s going to be the one to tell his family? He has to be here.

 
 
Then I remembered. I had taken a cell-phone photo off the email Richard sent me. “Doc, loan me your eyes. I can’t see this thing in the bright sun”, I yelled.  Doc squinted and came up with the name Samuel Young Knight. So, we went back for one last search.


BINGO!  There it was in the sixth row down and centered on the last section of wall we had been looking at just before deciding to give up and head home. We found Richard Knight’s Uncle Sam.

The next two photos are Screenshots taken from my friend Richard Knight’s JPG Page. 

This story wouldn’t be complete without them.

 





Richard’s tribute to his Uncle Sam is much finer than any words I could ever write.






Visit Richard Knight's JPG GALLERY sometime and you'll find a true Southern Gentleman who knows his history and can show you what can be done with a simple Point and Shoot Camera.

Richard,
My apologies for taking so long. I salute you and your Uncle Sam.

Cheers,
Mike

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

50,000 Views as of Last Night

This blog has limped along for a few years, now mostly under its own power while I thought I was doing more important things.

While still developing some shots from a week ago Sunday, I looked over at my other laptop and noticed it dozing off so, I smacked the lazy mouse and hit the refresh button. And BINGO, the speedometer hit 50,000!


So, now I think is a good time to thank everyone who has been faithfully following me and spreading the word when you see a post that’s important enough to share with your friends. There is a crowd of you who communicate with me daily, inspire me, pump me up, and sometimes make me fall off my barstool laughing. I look forward to hearing from you every day of the week but know sometimes that’s not possible.

Tonight a big project has popped-up and rather than try and rush a half-baked blog post I’m going to show you what the Google Analytics say were the most popular over the past month:

Photography Tip:JPG vs RAW  4,140 Pageviews

Okinawa’s Guinness Tug-O-War: TheRope (Photos)  1,702 Pageviews

                                                                            
World Water Day 1,386 Pageviews

The Lady of the Year: Photos from an Okinawa Kajimaya  855 Pageviews

Photography Tips: Travelers Be Aware  678 Pageviews

Hopefully we'll all still be friends when this blog hits 99,999 and I have to upgrade or rewind my speedometer !

Cheers,
Mike

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wildlife Photo: Ryukyu Robin a Bird Found Only in Okinawa


This is an adult male Ryukyu Robin (Erithacus komadori), a bird found only in Okinawa. Locally, they are called Akahige (Red+beard). BirdLife International lists this species as endangered and this photo was published by BIRDFORUM and ORIENTAL BIRD CLUB IMAGES, not because of any technical excellence but, more for helping identify a rare breed of wildlife.




Monday, October 18, 2010

CRESCENT MOON PICTURE


Crescent Moon Photo taken in Okinawa, Japan JULY 25, 2009 8:38PM utilizing a Pentax K10D, Manfrotto 725B Tripod, a Pentax Cable Release and a Pentax 18-250mm lens focused at 250mm.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Lady of the Year: Photos from An Okinawa Kajimaya

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending an Okinawa Kajimaya. It's a celebration and this one was for a lady I had never met before. And she had one heck of a celebration!


A Wedding Hall was where it took place and there was live entertainment and plenty of food and drinks.  The lady being honored is barely visible in this photo. She's dressed in pink and sitting in the wheelchair in the lower right corner of the picture.


So, I maneuvered into a position where I could get a close up of Nakama Yasu, who to me, is the Lady of the Year. A Kajimaya is a celebration of longevity in Okinawa. If I live to be 97 years old I might have one, too. Then, have a big party where all my friends and family take a group photo.



The word "Kajimaya" means "Pinwheel". In Okinawa they believe, as we age, we become more like children. So, the Lady of the Year got a pinwheel to play with and so did all the children. Guess what?

I GOT A PINWHEEL, TOO.  I don't think any other middle-aged man there got one, but I did !

World Water Day


October 15th is World Water Day and I sure wish people would clean up their act. Don't you?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Photography Tip: Manual Focus for the Bird


Manual Focus made this bird’s cage disappear!


Everyone, including yours truly, uses Automatic Focus when taking pictures in their travels. It’s probably one the greatest inventions the camera makers came up with, until digital cameras came along and replaced film. But, there are times that Manual Focus Mode is the only way to go. One example is the Osprey I photographed at the Okinawa City Zoo, in Japan.

I’m a wildlife photographer and forever buying longer and longer lenses, climbing cliffs and trees trying to get a shot of an Osprey that fills the frame of my photo. I’d much rather capture a wild bird in its natural environment than go hunting for the poor things cooped-up in a cage.

Zoos, do serve a purpose. They help educate the public about wildlife and sometimes help save endangered species, so, I applaud their efforts and try to use the photos they allow me to take as educational tools, as well.

This bird is in a cage and if you look closely at the background you may notice the wire mesh behind him. There’s wire mesh in front of him as well, but my camera made it invisible!

How? Manual Focus Mode; if you’re not sure your camera has this capability, check your users manual and you may be able to perform this magic trick, too!

In Auto Focus Mode, your lens is going to focus on the nearest object in its line of sight. In this case, my lens focused sharply on the wire mesh in front of the bird and the Osprey was just a blur in the background. I was whistling and talking to him to get a great bird portrait and he was cooperating, just my lens wasn’t going along with the program.

So, I switched to Manual Focus, twisted the lens by hand and moved my body around while focusing, until the cage disappeared.

There are plenty other occasions where Manual Mode becomes a necessity, even though I use Auto Focus most of the time. Wherever in the world you go, when you are at any spectator event, whether its sports, concerts, or festivals, people moving around close to your camera will drive Auto Focus wild.

Just switch to Manual Focus, get your subject in the sharpest view you can and ignore the crowds. They’re ignoring you, aren’t they?

Some cameras which do not have Manual Focus capability do have something to compensate for the “moving-crowds” problem and it’s called different names depending on the manufacturer. If you have Auto Focus only, check to see if there is a selection of types you have available, if there’s more than one, you probably have a One Shot Auto Focus and a Continuous Auto Focus to choose from.

Select the One Shot Focus when there is movement around your subject, and once you press the shutter button halfway, the Auto Focus will stay locked until you take the picture.

Use the Continuous Focus when shooting a moving subject or using 3-5 shot Burst Mode and you can catch birds in flight or sports events by freezing the action, it’s the mode my camera stays in most of the time when I’m out in the wild looking for birds. But, if I get a bird to stay still and pose for me, Manual Focus is the only way to go.

In future Photography Tips, I’ll give more examples of shots where Manual Mode is best utilized.



Photographer’s Interview and an Excerpt on How I Nailed the Queen

It happens around this time of the year, a big Parade and Ceremonies to reenact the crowning of the Ryukyu Kingdom’s King and Queen and I bust my fanny trying to shoot the Queen.

PHOTO Taken Nov 1, 2009


Well, there you go. I nailed her but, not exactly like I wanted to. You know what I mean. It’s her eyes; they aren’t in the position I’d have preferred to catch them in. If she’d only have turned her head a bit more to the right. I would have nailed her perfectly. What did you think I meant; nails and a hammer?

Interview: Matador Travel’s Lola Akinmade interviewed me  for an article HERE via email with the following:

Questions:


1. How long have you been a professional photographer?

2. What – or who – got your initial interest going in terms of photography?

3. What were your first photographic experiments or experiences?

4. How would you describe the work you do now…wildlife/nature photography? Are you involved in the commercial world also? Any stock photography?

5. What 3 tips would you share for amateur photographers who are interested in pursuing your style of photography?

6. What got you interested in wildlife photography?

7. Which other photographers - old or contemporary - inspire you most?

8. When you are approaching subjects to shoot, how do you set about it? Do you chat and explain what you’re doing? Or shoot first, ask questions later?

9. What’s the craziest or most inspiring encounter you’ve had in general?

10. What kit do you use / carry with you / can’t do without (camera make, lenses, flashguns etc.)?

11. Finally, what else are you working on right now and what are your ambitions for the future in terms of your photography work?



Well, the queen’s photo from last year, gearing up for the Coronation Ceremony and trying to figure out a way to nail the Queen a little better this year, all reminded me of question #9 and I’m pasting my response to that part of the interview here:



Lola is one of my favorite photographers in the whole world.  If you get a chance visit her WEBSITE  and say “Hi”. One day, maybe we'll get her to come over here for a real Professional Photographer’s Interview !

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What in the Heck is a Ryukyu?

It has been brought to my attention enough times, now that I need to explain what a Ryukyu is and tonight with just the right combination of beer and coffee in me, I may be able to pull it off.


Okinawa, before it was annexed as part of Japan, used to be an independent Kingdom known as the Ryukyu Islands. Some folks still refer to the group of some 160 islands as the Ryukyu Island Chain.

If you go back to the days of Commodore Perry and his gang, they called the place Loo-Choo, Lu-Tchu, Lewchew and probably a few other names they heard while they were mapping the oceans, sailing their boats, drinking rum and learning how to mispronouce everyone's name they met.

On this map, I borrowed from Wikipedia, you can see the chain of islands stretching from Taiwan to the Japanese island of Kyushu; the big island that has Fukuoka written on it. And, right near the second "YU" of RYUKYU  on the map is the island of OKINAWA. That's the island I live on.

So, there you have it. I live in the Ryukyu Islands. Now I have to decide whether to have another beer or a coffee !

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wilflife Photo: Chinese Bulbul, A Bird Found in Okinawa

THE CHINESE BULBUL (Pycnonotus sinensis) IS AN EXTREMELY LOUD SONGBIRD !


Being about 80% hearing disabled, I have to love these characters. Some folks complain about how noisy they are but, I enjoy hearing flocks of them singing their little hearts out. They're found in many locations throughout Asia.

Also known as the Light-vented Bulbul, people in Hong Kong call them White-headed Old Men. Well, I think White-headed Old Women would be more appropriate if you want to nickname a noisy bird.

Like this morning, the wife is trying to remind me to take out the trash.  I thought she said "Don't forget the cash".  So, I ask her what I need cash for.  Well, then she yells, "NOT CASH-TRASH, IT'S TRASH COLLECTION DAY TODAY. I SAID, DON'T FORGET THE TRASH !"

It was so loud all the White-headed Old Men in my garden flew away. Last time I saw them, I think they were headed for KOREA where they can get some peace and quiet !

Okinawa's Guinness Tug-O-War: The Rope (Photos)

The rope used in Okinawa's Guinness World Record Tug-O-War weighs over forty tons.  It is placed on HWY 58 the morning of the event and the road is closed during the actual tug.  There are two halves to the rope with a loop on each end, one is considered male, the other, female.

The photos below will give you an idea of the size and how the monster is assembled.


























Okinawa, Japan has held the Guinness World Record for the largest Tug-O-War rope made from natural fibers since 1977.  More details coming as I process photos and continue the research.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Guinness World Record Tug-O-War


Here's where I spent the day. Every year, the City of Naha Okinawa, Japan holds this Festival and the highlight of it is the Guinness World Record Tug-O-War.

Well, I did my Spiderman act today and climbed way up to the top of a building so I could snag some good shots from an angle I never tried before.

It was a five story building and from the fifth floor I didn't like the angle of my shots and some of the distracting wires that kept getting in my frames.

So, I hopped a locked fence and climbed up to an uninhabited sixth floor.

Then, I still couldn't get the shots I wanted so, I figured a way to get up even higher. I climbed up on this water tower on top of the roof and wrapped myself and my tripod around some metal beams so the wind wouldn't blow us away.

Then, I shot some pictures with zoom, some wide angle, some horizontal and others vertical.
As soon as I can get the whole pile of 275 photos developed and verify that the Guinness World Record for Tug-O-Wars was won by Okinawa again, this year I'll give you the whole story.