Friday, May 31, 2013

Flower Photos: Asian Melastome (のぼたん) Higashi Son Okinawa

Today This Flower Convinced Me


There's no way, I'll ever become a plant and flower expert.

Out in the woods, near a riverbed we spotted this single bloom, just after it rained.

So, I told Map It Okinawa "We better shoot this one.  It may be some rare Okinawa orchid."

There are some plants in the Ryukyu Island jungles that have become endangered species.

It's because they are so rare, people steal them to sell.

Some places, they patrol at night to catch the criminals, who probably come from the city.

Don't you wish we could tar and feather them ?

Anyway, after we got out of the woods it was time to see if someone could help ID the plant.

Higashi Village Museum was the place to go.  They have some awesome friendly staff.

When we showed the gal the flower photos, she knew the name, right away.

It isn't an orchid.  It's a Nobotan  (のぼたん) or, Melastome.

That Sort of Busted a Bubble

The plant isn't some exotic, endangered species, near threatened or, anything like that.

The Asian Melastome (Melastoma candidum) grows all over Southeast Asia.

It has many medicinal uses, too.

So, I snoop around the World Wide Web and see what I can find for everyone.

Along came reality.  It smacked me right on the head.

These flowers, I've seen hundreds of them, before and called them Forest Stars !

That does it.  I never wanted to be a flower expert, anyway.

If anyone reading this does, you should checkout FindTheData.  I promised them a link.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

5 Photos of the Heritiera littoralis Tree from Okinawa, Japan

One Heck of a Tree


In Higashi Village they call this beauty the Sakishima Sappanwood Tree.

The good folks at the local museum gave me a pamphlet, I used to track down a Latin name.

サキシマスウノキ, is what they called it.

So, I ran that through some internetty things, I use, sometimes in my research.

And, BINGO !  I came up with the scientific words Heritiera littoralis.

This tree has been designated a natural monument and, I can see why.

 It had me running around in circles to show everybody what a gem it really is.

There aren't any trees like this in my hometown.

They have a place where people make offerings and a small waterfall at the site.

This happens to be the biggest tree, of this type, on the whole island of Okinawa.

It wouldn't be nice of me to just show you one photo so, I took five.

If I get a chance, after rainy season is over, maybe, I'll go back and shoot 100 more !


Okinawan Plants

For Directions to see this natural wonder:  Map It Okinawa

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Then and Now (Photos) Sougen-ji (崇元寺) Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Here is what Sougen-ji looks like today.

Trying to duplicate the original photographer's shot, I had to stand in the middle of the street.

A black and white police car made me hurry and get out of there.

I wanted to show you the similarities and differences with this Then and Now.

Above photo courtesy of Okinawa Soba, a super Flickr contact of mine.

Most visitors to the island of Okinawa don't realize, they had real trains here before World War II.

Stop by and see Okinawa Soba's collection of fine photography.

There, you can learn a lot more about Sougen-ji and the history of the Ryukyu Islands.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Okinawan Folkltale: Legend of Hakugindo Shrine

Offerings on a Daily Basis


This shrine may not be on the top ten places to visit of any traveler's itinerary.

It is an important part of Okinawan culture, that shouldn't be missed.

The history of the shrine, attracts people, from all over Okinawa to visit, every day.

And, they make offerings for a good reason.

 Photos showing the exterior of Hakugindo Shrine were in a previous post.

Today, in this photo, you can look inside the cave over which the shrine was built.

The Story Began over 400 Years Ago



Prior to annexation by Japan, Okinawa was known as the Ryukyu Kingdom.

These events took place between a Ryukyu fisherman and a Japanese samurai.


A samurai loaned money to a poor fisherman, to buy a boat.

The samurai went back to Japan and expected the loan to be paid, upon his return.

Things didn't go well, for the Ryukyuan fisherman.

When the samurai warrior returned, there was no money waiting for him.

In anger, the samurai, drew his sword to end the fisherman's life.

The fisherman warned the warrior, "Never raise your sword in anger."

Stunned, the samurai, let the fisherman live and departed the Ryukyu Islands.

Upon Returning to Japan

The samurai discovered a pair of man's sandals outside his home.

Suspecting, someone was visiting his wife, while he was away, he became enraged.

He drew his sword and entered the house, ready to kill.

Then, he recalled the words of the Ryukyu fisherman and lowered the sword.

Taking a good look at the stranger in his house, he discovered, it was his mother.

She had worn a man's clothing to discourage any male visitors while her son was away.

A Year Later



On the warrior's next trip to the Ryukyu Islands he visited the fisherman.

Having had a very successful year, the fisherman was ready to repay the loan.

The samurai didn't want the money.

He gave the fisherman credit for saving the lives of his wife and mother.

The fisherman had taught him "Never raise your sword in anger."  

The fisherman insisted on repaying the loan but, the samurai refused to accept it.

As a compromise, they decided to bury the money, together.

They placed it in a cave and had Hakugindo Shrine constructed over it.

It would be a place to pray for the safety of the villagers and fisherman's lives.

The legend of Hakugindo Shrine teaches a valuable lesson, that money can't buy.

And, it is the reason you will see people visiting, making offerings and praying there, today.

Travel Photo: Itoman Port -- The Ghosts Are Coming Soon !

A Beautiful Sunny Day in Okinawa


It seems like forever since we last had a sunny day like today.

So, our travels brought us, way down south, to the city of Itoman.

Doing a bit of research for an upcoming event, I shot this photo.

Next month, is when the dragonboat races take place, below, in that pretty blue water.

In Itoman, they call the races "Hare."  Anywhere else, it's "Harii."

Lots of things are done differently, down that way.  That's why I love the place.

Looking around the internet, to find links (English) can be challenging.

It's nice when you can share the information in advance so, other people can make plans.

For example, I was planning on making my trip a two day event.

It's always a good idea to mix with the locals the night before and maybe, tip a few drinks.

That way, yer not a stranger the next day and, if ya ain't in jail, have a lot more fun.

The Research Goes On and On



The Hare, takes place, this year on June 12th.

Some of the history and culture about the event may be found HERE.

My most recent discovery was, nobody in Itoman goes fishing the day after the races.

It's not because they might be hungover, either.

It is because, of the spirits of anyone who died at sea.

The ghosts, of those poor souls, have their own boat races, the day after Itoman's Hare.

Now, I'm thinking, this may be a three day trip for me. I wouldn't want to miss the ghost races !

Read about it in The Japan Times

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What's Wrong With That Picture ? (Photo) Lame Duck and the Nun

Not Trying to be Overly Political or Religious


Here's a photo of a real-live lame duck taken in Okinawa, Japan.

Before I start shooting wildlife, I survey the background to make sure there are no distractions.

I make sure there are no dump trucks, washing machines or loose gorillas running around.

When the eyeball is peeking through the viewfinder, all I see is the bird's eye.

The camera is on spot-focus.

There is nothing else that matters to me.  Just keep focus, dead center on the bird's eye.

Focus, move with the bird and keep adjusting exposure settings.

For all I know, the bird could be showing hooves, claws or be wearing a wedding band.

All I am looking at is the eye; dead-center in the eye.

So, I never knew I was shooting a lame duck, until Doc Graff mentioned it.

A couple of dozen shots of this bird with a crippled foot got thrown away.

Nobody wants a photo of a lame duck.

That's what's wrong with this picture.

Checkout the Picture of this 83 Year Old Nun


She got convicted of busting into a government nuclear compound.

Depending upon who you listen to, she could be locked away for 20-30 years.

It's as if she was some sort of threat to national security.

Makes you wonder who guards those sorts of things. The gal doesn't look like a ninja, to me.

There's probably, not a terrorist bone in her body.

Instead of making her rot in jail they should just send her to Rome.

Maybe, the Pope could spank her or, something.

Take a look.  And let me know.  What's wrong with that picture ?

More in The Doozies 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Flower Photos: Cassia coluteoides in Okinawa, Japan

Called Climbing or Christmas Cassia


These plants were found at the Natural Stone Garden in Motobu.

The Cassia coluteoides are originally from Brazil.

If what I read about them is true, the flowers close, at night.

That might be my excuse to pack-up the sleeping bag and head back up that way.

Somebody has to verify these sorts of things.

Dontcha think ?

Source: Shu Suehiro

Friday, May 24, 2013

Travel Photo: Buddhist Temple Bell

This Bell is Located in Yabu, Okinawa, Japan


There are many locations around the island where you may see these bronze bells.

It is said that the bells are rung 108 times for the New Year.

Some sources will tell you, the purpose, is to rid yourself of the 108 worldly desires.

New Year's Eve and Day, I have never made it to a temple on time to witness the event.

So, I can't say for sure that the practice takes place in Okinawa.

There have been times, I witnessed people ringing the bell during the calendar year.

They just ring the thing once or, twice and it makes a fairly loud GONG.

They may have rung it just to do the tourist thing.

Or, maybe, they only had one or two worldly desires, to get rid of.  I'm not sure.

One of these days, I'll get a religious adviser and see if we can figure this one out for you.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Todoroki Waterfall (轟の滝) in the Rain (Images)

This waterfall, in Nago Okinawa looks plenty different during rainy season.

The roar, of the falls, can be heard from far away.

Ice cold water splashes over the rocks.

There's no sense trying to get close for photos. Your camera will get wet.

Moving around on the banks of the place was enough fun for me.

 Here's a shot showing where all that water goes.

 Plan a picnic and you could sit here to eat lunch, on a nice sunny day.

It's a good thing that bridge is there for crossing to the other side.

It doesn't look too deep but, I bet the raging river would knock a person down.

If you haven't seen Todoroki Waterfall in the rain, you have no idea what you're missing.

Recommendation: Bring an umbrella or, wear a wetsuit !

Related Post: Todoroki Waterfall Then and Now

Directions: See Map It Okinawa 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Flower Photo: Nadeshiko (Dianthus superbus) in Okinawa

Before the Feminists Started Calling Us Names


This flower was growing in the wild, all over Japan, the rest of Asia and, Europe, too.

I spotted this single bloom at the Hydrangea Festival in Izumi, Okinawa.

When I asked the women standing around, what it was, they all said, "Nadeshiko."

So, I wrote it down and figured I'd research it later.

With a flower name, from someone, in this part of the world, you may have some work to do.

There's no telling what language you're getting.

It could be Japanese, Okinawan dialect, Latin or, even some form of English.

A flower name written down in a notebook and a photo will get you started.

Putting everything together, is another story.

Sometimes, many times, I've spent hours getting nowhere online, with a name and photo.

This one was a lucky break.

Just Google: Flower, Nadeshiko, Japan and all sorts of goodies show-up.

Almost, always at the top of the page, Wikipedia gave me some great information.

That's where I found the Latin name Dianthus superbus and, got some Japanese for my

local readers やまとなでしこ, meaning (ahem-ahum) an ideal Japanese woman.

The male chauvinist pig, isn't me. OK ?

  Quoted from the source:

"The term "Yamato nadeshiko" is often used referring to a girl or shy young woman and, in a contemporary context, nostalgically of women with "good" traits which are perceived as being increasingly rare."

Dang, as if that wasn't interesting enough, I went and found some, even more juicy material:

What is Yamato Nadeshiko ?

"Yamato nadeshiko is the name of a flower known as a `fringed pink' in English, scientific name

 dianthus superbus. Also known as a nadeshiko, it is a small, common, but easily distingushable 

flower which grows wild. 

Yamatonadeshiko can also signify a kind of (ideal) woman. Some features of that kind of woman are: 

  • feminine
  • chaste and devoted to her husband
  • always respects and obeys her husband and never opposes him, even when she thinks he's wrong (she should wisely find an indirect way to prevent her husband from doing something wrong without letting him know, that is to say without humiliating him).
  • looks weak, delicate and gentle (like a flower) outside her family, but is able to cope with householding, raising kids etc.

During the second world war, the Japanese government promoted the idea of yamatonadeshiko as a kind of national propaganda. A yamatonadeshiko should be gentle and delicate but also be able to endure all the pain and poverty of life for her husband (a soldier) and the country, to win the war, and should always be ready to fight with halberds (or takeyari, a spear made of bamboo used when you don't have a halberd) and to die any time for her country, or to keep her chastity."

Gladly, I give credit to this informative source.

They were wise enough in acknowledgements, to say:

"Edited from a news post by an unknown author."

After Digesting All That Material



It looked like a good time to pay a visit to some serious plant people.

So, I got you a hook-up with the

There's nothing sexy over there, just stuff about flowers but, they do say, this one's

Tried and True and Recommended by 1 Professional.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Travel Photos: Sōgen-ji (崇元寺) Arched Stone Gates in Naha

Formerly a Buddhist Temple


Built sometime during the reign of King Sho Shin 1477-1526, only the walls remain.

The buildings and grounds were destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa.

The three arched stone gates are probably what most people photograph.

There isn't much to see, besides a public park, beyond them.

It only took a minute, to get some close-up shots of the stonework.

Soon, I'll be going back down that way, to take more photos of this historical monument.

There's a real gem of a Then and Now, waiting at  Sōgen-ji (崇元寺) for me.

As soon as the weather and Naha traffic cooperate, we'll getterdun.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

One of the 170 Species Called Jatropha Plants is on Okinawa (Photos)

This Flower Could Make the Doozies Page



It's always a pleasure to give readers some interesting facts about plants and flowers.

So, I go to great lengths researching any new ones I capture with the camera.

Here are a few photos of Jatropha hastata found in the 21 Century Forest Park.

That's in Nago City, Okinawa, Japan, and the plants were photographed on Mar 11, 2013.

 Shooting these bright red, star-shaped flowers on a cloudy day was a blast.

It's always a good idea, when you spot a new flower, to shoot plenty of photos for identification.

  Sometimes, the bark of the tree or, the shape of the leaves is more important than the flower.

Getting a positive ID can be a real time-consumer and drive the average guy absolutely nuts!

 This time, once I got my hands on the right book, it was a breeze.

Sub-tropical Flowers in Okinawa ISBN4-9901917-3-0 gave me the answer: Jatropha hastata.

Do not eat the seeds, they are very toxic!

 Other than that, the plants are great for adding color to your landscape and attract butterflies.

If that Wasn't Enough Information

Along came another interesting article from the University of Florida.

This time from IFAS Research the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station.

The oil that comes from the Jatropha seeds can run a diesel engine.

No wonder ya ain't supposed to eat them!

So, the research had to go on a bit further, to find out more about this mysterious plant.

A person could invest in Jatropha cultivation or make biodiesel and even, jet fuels. 

Here's an official Jatropha Tree Site



Congratulations 2013 University of Virginia Graduates !

They Got Their Diplomas

Brittany Rutherford, Cassie Sampson and Aneshia Stidham
Photo Credit: Brittany Rutherford

The University of Virginia at Wise held graduation ceremonies.

From friends and family in Okinawa, Japan, we all extend our congratulations, to everyone.

Especially, that girl in the middle with the cum laude honors.

A great big, special congratulations goes to her.  Why ?

That's my niece !

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flower Photo: Red Tower Ginger (Costus comosus)

Blooming at the Hydrangea Festival


Here's another plant the camera captured in the hills of Izena yesterday.

They were blossoming right at the entrance to a shed where you can get refreshments.

After grabbing a quick cup of coffee, I turned my back on all the hydrangea flowers and shot this.

Also known as Spiral Ginger, they are natives of Central and South America.

Still recovering from a wicked cold, I'll just give some links to more information on these beauties.

For medicinal purposes, if you know anyone suffering from gonorrhea, send them here:

In the USA plenty of people grow them as ornamental plants and talk about them at:

Down in Australia there's a guy who knows all about these gingers.  He says they are even edible:

Friends, who say "See Catherine of Alexandria for the man named Costus often held to be her father":

At Wikipedia, might like you to visit them, too.

It's always fun discovering plants and flowers found on Okinawa and getting them identified for you.

With the Red Tower Ginger, out of my way, I only have a few thousand more left to do !

Hydrangea Report #1 from Izumi, Okinawa, Japan (Images)

A Sneak Peek at the Flowers Today


Heading towards the Motobu Peninsula today things weren't looking so good.

Clouds and rain were in the forecast.

Since I promised a hydrangea report, I figured I'd shoot a few wide angle shots and be done.

Then, recommend, everybody wait a week or two before visiting.

Take a look at these photos and, you can decide, if the place is ready.

Three weeks ago there were just a few plants starting to bloom on this road.

Now, the hills are turning blue.

And, flower lovers from everywhere are starting to show-up.

A person would have to be crazy to leave this garden without any photos.

Looking back, downhill, I noticed some blue skies appearing.

They have an unbelievable assortment of colors in the hydrangea family.

Over 75 flower photos came out of my cameras today.

It wasn't all just pretty flowers up in those hills.

I had the honor of standing near the lady who owns all that land.

Those young girls kept me from getting too close.

It was a lucky day, for me.  But, the luck ran out on the way home.

As the weatherman predicted, the skies busted open and, it rained.

The hydrangea are blooming like crazy.  I think any time you get a chance, you should go !

These flowers, called Ajisai ( アジサイ) in Japan, blossom for about a month.

There are probably enough photos in my files, I don't need to do a Hydrangea Report #2.

However, I promised the Yohena family I'd be back, real soon.

Standby for more.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ten Good Reasons to Visit Izumi in Okinawa Japan (Photos)

Millions of Hydrangea Flowers


It just dawned on me today.  It's time to head up to the Village of Izumi.

Any time now, the hills turn a brilliant color of blue or maybe, it's purple; depending on your eyesight.

May is the month of the Ajisai (アジサイ) Matsuri (Festival) and you won't want to miss it.

This festival is brought to you buy a sweetheart named Uto Yohena.

The hills surrounding her home were tangerine groves.

Over thirty years ago, when she was in her late sixties, she fell in love with Hydrangea.

So, she started planting them everywhere, along with begonias and other flowers, too.

Every year when I visit, I get lost but, snag some awesome colored photos.

It's great exercise, climbing those hills.

Truthfully, I wouldn't know the difference between a hydrangea and a magnolia.

But, it feels great breathing mountain air and shooting a camera.

When people start gathering around and messing with my composition, I just say,

"Look at all those Ajisai, over there."

And it works.  They leave my scene.

That leads me to believe those blue or, purple flowers could be the hydrangea plants.

And, the people, who get the heck away from me, must think I know what I'm talking about.

Ten of these photos are the best ten reasons to visit the Ajisai Matsuri, to me.

But, I end up taking hundreds, anyway.

This year, I'll bring a framed print to present Yohena-san.

She's really the magic behind all the flowers up in those hills so, I kinda like her !

It is rainy season, in Okinawa, right now.  I'll make a trip to Izena, shortly.

Standby for Hydrangea Report #1, any-day now !