Monday, November 30, 2015
One of the things, I love doing, is taking the cameras to an event like this.
There are little cultural events held on the sideroads of Okinawa that nobody knows about.
It took about a year of preparation and, some good luck, to get invited to attend, this year.
The rock, sitting on the pedestal, is an ancient stone lion or, shisa.
But, in the Sokei district of Ginoza Village, it is called an Ishigantu or, Ishiganto.
A brochure from the Ginoza Museum says, they sacrifice cows during rites performed here.
There are three of these Ishigantu in the village. A fourth one was destroyed during WWII.
Thinking, I would get to see, three cattle sacrificed, last year, I asked about the event.
It takes place during the ninth month of the year, by the Chinese calendar.
Believe it or not, last year, the Chinese calendar, had a leap month and, I missed the event.
The lucky part, for me, was, Shinzato-san, the district official, remembered me.
He knew, I missed last year's rituals and, invited me to document it, this time around.
He's the man in the yellow shirt, eating from a bowl with chopsticks.
At each of the three stone statues, prayers and offerings are made and alcohol is consumed.
Plus, everybody gets to eat some of the piping hot meat from the soup bowl.
This scene, took place at statue number three and, was the conclusion of the ceremonies.
Little did I know, women aren't allowed to participate and, got the boot.
My translator, Mami Sakiyama, and a news gal, had to watch from a distance but, that was alright.
At the second statue, I got called over to sample some of the meat offered.
It didn't taste like chicken or beef. Maybe it was some other worldly food, I don't know.
After the ritual stuff, women were invited, to join the men in the community center.
And, everybody got to eat some of the special treat that was offered earlier.
They had a great big pot of the meal and lots of awamori (Okinawan sake) too.
Well, I don't drink when out shooting cameras and, had to leave before too long.
There was another mission, to be performed, down the road apiece in Kin Town.
The bowl of meat, soup and vegetables, they gave me, got sipped on slowly.
There was no way, I wanted anyone to think, I needed a second helping !
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Bar Hopping with the Cameras
Last night this event took place, over in the Ushina part of Kin Town.
It's sort of a seedy bar district, where the best thing to do, is bring along someone to translate.
My accomplice, who's also learning to shoot a camera, came along for the fun.
Mami Sakiyama, the gal standing to the left of the tables, would be my assistant.
She's toting the Canon G12, in AUTO mode, listening to the opening speeches.
Our program said, the event would go from 6PM - 10:40PM.
At 6:29PM, I took this photo, from the entrance to the bar, which had standing room only.
It had been a long day, before we even arrived at this evening festival and, I was tired.
Live bands and entertainment, was what I needed, to keep me going, not speeches.
So, I decided to get out in the streets, to see if anything had started, yet.
We walked the side streets and could smell food cooking on charcoal grills.
Mami tried to take photos of the Orion lanterns, blowing in the wind.
All the camera would do, in AUTO mode, was give her blurry, overexposed images.
Well, she got a quick class on, ISO, aperture, shutter speed and, the use of a tripod.
Now, she's doing everything in Manual mode. She's going to start shooting like a professional.
It was around 7:30PM when, we heard the first band, playing Okinawan Mineo.
There are plenty of people, drinking, dancing and, hopping around, in this bar.
Awamori and the lively beat of the drum and sanshin, gets the crowd going.
I stayed at the entrance, to take this shot, knowing a tripod would be worthless, inside.
I got the to Mama, running the bar, to let us shoot from behind the counter, too late.
Just as consent was given, for Mami to get back there, the band finished playing !
Shortly after 8PM we caught this talented individual, wearing his wig.
A comedian, singer and musician, he's a one man band.
He was mimicking, Louis Armstrong, singing, What a Wonderful World.
This woman is a Japanese Enka singer who's very popular in Okinawa.
By now, you'd think, I would know her name but, I'm terrible at stuff like that.
Let's just call her a sweetheart, for now and, we'll get her name later.
It was so crowded, at this location, I tried shooting from outside, through an open window.
When that, didn't work, I squeezed up against a wall at the front door.
It was going on 8:30PM, cold outside and, I'm getting hungry, at this point.
Inside these bars, people were jumping around and, sweating; it was so hot.
So, off we went to another fine establishment and met Tomomi, this hip dude.
It would have been nice if, we had time to chat with him but, that never happened.
Believe it or not, I first met this character, in a cave, on another island.
And, I was going to have Mami ask, whether he 's got religion or, is just crazy, like me !
Nobody picks a sanshin and sings traditional Okinawan songs better than Sari.
We've met a few times before and, I always give her a photo.
Waiting to go on stage, she's messing with me and, flipping that peace sign.
This singer croons tunes has CD's of his music out and, posters of him, hanging all over town.
He's known me for years and, we run into each other in bars, sometimes.
He also, owns one of those security companies that, check on your property at night.
He knows my name, too. I should probably, ask him what handle, he goes by. Huh ?
Shortly before ten o'clock, I finally get to hear Tomomi and Sari on the stage.
It isn't easy, to take photos, under these conditions; you have to be quick.
Wait for a moment, when no one else, gets into the scene and, shoot fast and steadily.
All the while, I'm watching the subject's movements and, their eyes.
More photos will be deleted than, are processed. That's the way it is and, always will be.
By 10PM, Mami, told me the battery in her camera, went dead.
So, I let her take the tripod and, my Pentax K3, to see how she'd do, shooting on her own.
Remember, she just began shooting manually, earlier tonight.
Across the room, I would signal, Sari, to turn towards the camera, occasionally.
It's not necessary to be intoxicated, to do this Okinawan dance.
But, for some people, I imagine, it helps !
The only way, for Mami, to get this shot was alongside the front of the stage.
She had the camera at ISO 400 and lens at 170MM and, got a good one.
Next, she nabbed this image of the drummer wearing his chief's bonnet.
He had called me and, said, "My son's bringing my American Indian hat," minutes earlier.
The Kachashi dance, is done as as grand finale at any Okinawan event.
It doesn't matter, who you are, they are going to grab you and, have you dance.
So, as soon as, Mami got done taking this photo, I took my camera away from her.
So, she could go, enjoy the fun while, I sneaked outside for a smoke !
Bar Crawl or Pub Crawl -- Whatever You Call It Photos
Photos from Kin Town Live Matsuri Number Two
Bar Crawl or Pub Crawl -- Whatever You Call It Photos
Photos from Kin Town Live Matsuri Number Two
Friday, November 27, 2015
Sign Said Freshness Burger
That sounded kind of silly, to me but, I looked at a menu in the window.
The promise, I made to the gal in the Orion Beer restaurant, got broken, right then.
She was nice enough to let me take some photos so, I told her, I'd be back for lunch. Liar !
Welcome to Freshness Burger
Once, I saw the advertisement for a Wagyu Burger, the Orion Beer girl was history.
Wagyu beef is supposed to be some of most expensive and delicious cow meat in the world.
When I saw the price, advertised on a poster, I knew I had to give it a try.
Heck, if you didn't order anything but the hamburger, it cost less than 10 bucks !
Quiet Uncrowded Atmosphere
When Doc Graff and I, walked in to the place, the population doubled.
We placed our orders and, asked if photography was allowed.
The hamburgers are hand made and, it's not a fast food joint so, we had to wait awhile.
It's fun, to go poking around with the camera, when the place is almost empty.
The was no need to worry about anybody, moving and ruining my shots, in the low light.
Somebody decorated the place with Norman Rockwell paintings.
He painted scenes of American life, to show the world, as he saw it, through his eyes.
The only art, on the walls of this establishment, were all works of Norman Rockwell.
It was sort of like being in some American history museum. But, I only snitched this photo.
Food Began to Arrive
First the fries, which are grown way up in Hokkaido, showed up at the table.
These things were yummy and, came out piping hot.
Don't ask me, why Japanese people eat their hamburgers, wrapped in wax paper.
They say "In Rome, do what the Romans do." So I pretended to be Japanese.
In ten or fifteen minutes, I woofed everything down and, used about a dozen napkins.
Somehow, when I eat stuff like this, food, grease and cheese, runs down my beard.
Next time, I'll remember, to bring my own fork and knife.
It was a decent meal. All the vegetables were fresh and tasty. I'd rather eat it off a plate.
There was so much food, I didn't even think of asking for second helpings or, desert.
Will I Ever Go to Eat in Kitanakagusuku Again ?
Now that I'm back in the office and, my research is done, I've been thinking.
A food dude from the UK, named Harry Wallop, did a review on Wagyu hamburgers.
He says, they stick breadcrumbs in the beef, to bring down the cost. Hah !
So, next thing, I did was checkout the Freshness website and, learned something.
All the vegetables are grown on Freshness farms sites.
They get the safe and fresh beef patties, from Australia !
Here's a Freshness Burger Menu in Japanese and English if, you want to try some.
Feeling a little bit guilty, about that pretty Orion Beer gal, I left behind, I'll go back.
And, just tell her, "I said I'd be back for lunch. But, I didn't say, what day."
"So, here I am. Please, show me the menu!"
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Camera: Pentax K3
Lens: Pentax 300mm with 1.4 converter Focal Length 420mm
Exposure: f/5.6 1/1600 ISO 200
Location: Namisato, Kin Town, Okinawa, Japan
Date and Time: NOV 24 2015 8:06AM
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
A Tough Bird to Identify
It's yellow in color but, may be confused with the Grey Wagtail, which is also, yellow.
The Wagtails, all come from the family Motacilla (Latin) something or, other.
If some "bird expert" tells me, I'm wrong, I'll gladly make corrections.
For now, this critter is an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, (Motacilla tschutschensis) to me.
The bright feathered critter, was wagging its tail and hunting for food in freshwater.
Thinking, reflection photos would be neat to take, I shot plenty of them.
A Grey Wagtail, wouldn't have hung around so long; they are afraid of my camera.
When you shoot ten frames, at a time, it sounds like a machine gun, blasting away.
Maybe, this guy was starving and, just found a good spot to catch supper.
The water, would have given, a much nicer reflection if, it wasn't flowing. Dang it !
Normally, I delete all photos, where the light just, doesn't catch the eyes right.
But, a few were kept, to help with the bird's identification.
A couple of times the rascal, looked like it was, getting pissed-off, at me.
It doesn't bother me. I get sideways glances like that, at home sometimes, as well.
Do you ever forget to take the trash out on garbage collection day ? Me, too.
Getting a positive identification requires plenty of photos.
And, it probably would have been better to have some of the bird in flight.
After awhile, the bird got tired of all the racket the camera was making.
And, it disappeared.
One shot of the rear end was saved, for those, interested in such things.
An earlier photo, showed the markings on the bird's wings, in flight but, was deleted.
Now, I wish it had been saved to show, why I'm so sure of the ID.
Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla tschutschansis) have 2 white wing bars they show in flight.
It looks like, I'll be looking for this one, again on the next sunny day.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Hilarious Email Arrived
Just before quitting time last night, my email went "PING."
It was from Myron Akana, a dude from Hawaii, who spends lots of weeks in Okinawa.
Subject: This One's for You !
Right away, I emailed him back, asking for permission, to use this photo and his text.
He replied, almost instantly and, saved me a buncha writing tonight.
Text of the Email
I shot a photo yesterday that reminded me so much of you. Rob "Okinawa Soba" Oeschle told me he learned a lot from you. And I did too. You taught me that good professional photographers shop for their equipment at...Home Depot.
Caption for the Photo
Ahhh, one of my sisters in the craft of photography! You can always tell the pros by (1) their multiple expensive and sophisticated cameras, (2) their multiple, sophisticated and BIG lenses, (3) their fancy flash attachments, even in bright sunlight, (4) their casual yet functional attire, complete with floppy hat and folding brim, (5) their huge gadget bags full of essential gear, and (6) their reckless courage to take whatever chances are necessary to get the perfect shot, such as standing on the top of a flimsy aluminum ladder...without any other signs of support. She makes me proud to be a professional photographer! LOL. Photographers...we stand out above the crowd!
The ladder would be more comfortable, is she wore flip-flops.
The story of how Myron and, I met in person is here.
Flicker has more of Myron's and Okinawa Soba's photography.
Photographer's Interview and an Excerpt on How I Nailed the Queen
Sunday, November 22, 2015
On the IUCN Red List
These huge critters, Aldabra Giant Tortises (Geochelone gigantea) are in captivity.
Usually, I don't like to see wildlife, confined like this.
But, if it's to save a species from going extinct, I guess it's for a worthy cause.
Here Comes the Travel Advice
Don't bring the children along during mating season; these critters are noisy.
It's just during the part where they're reproducing, though.
Once, I was going through a little zoo and, heard all this grunting and groaning.
Some poor lady was standing nearby with her toddler, holding her hand.
The racket was loud enough for me to hear and, I'm practically deaf.
It seemed like most of the noise was coming from the turtle on the top of the pile.
It was guaranteed, that kid was going to ask mommy, "What are they doing?"
So, I got embarrassed and, got the heck out of there.
Someday, I'll go back and make a recording of the noises for my audience.
But, not if there's any kids with mommies going through the place.
Learn more about these animals at ARKive
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Fact Checkers Got Booted
This will be just, a short little rant and, I'll try not to cuss, too much.
To me, National Geographic Magazine, always set the gold standard for, truth in writing.
For decades, I have been a subscriber, in one form or another.
It was guaranteed, anything published by the magazine, had the facts verified.
Well, in some cost cutting maneuver, the fact checkers, got laid off work.
The publication, happens to be a nonprofit organization, headed by Gary Knell.
The poor guy, only makes, about a million and a half dollars per year.
At the bottom of the company, the fact checkers, didn't make half a million dollars.
Shortly before Christmas, human beings with families to support, got fired.
Along Came This Email
It says: "As part of Preferred Subscriber Service, your subscription will be renewed automatically for one year at $32.95 when your current subscription expires in February 2016."
Now, I hate to tell you this, Editor and Chief Maggie Zackowitz, you have a problem.
If the fact checkers, don't come back to work, I ain't renewing my subscription.
If Gary Knell, doesn't, bring the fact checkers back, to work, tell him something, for me.
I hope the filthy rich busturd, chokes on a holiday turkey bone !
Note: Similar versions of this story, first appeared in Stars and Stripes November 2015.
Editorial and layout requirements, made the signs, unreadable for Japanese followers.
It is my hope, that educators may be able, to print and distribute this version to students.
Feel free, to use the article as a travel guide or handout for language classes.
The text and images, may not be sold or, reused online, without authorized licensing.
A Shipwrecked MonkEarly in 1500, a Buddhist monk was on his way to China, when he was shipwrecked. The wreckage
of his ship was adrift at beach in Kin Village of Okinawa. A local, saw the wooden craft and rescued
the priest, who barely survived the ordeal.
The young man, using his own lunch made some rice gruel . The monk, recovered quickly after he
ate the meal. He stood up and took a looking towards the ocean shouted, "Hokorashayamina!”
Origins of Fukka and Saga
Local Girl and Handsome Boy
Monk Banishes Snake
Mami Sakiyama is an aspiring photojournalist, teaching English in Onna-son, Okinawa, Japan