Thursday, July 31, 2014

Me and this Ryukyu Island Pine Tree: L'il Rant

Pinus luchuensis,Okinawa Pine

Hunting for Special Trees



It started one day, last week, when a friend asked if I could locate a tree.

He has a  black and white picture, taken somewhere around 1950.

A few prints, were made and along with Doc Graff, the search began.

Our first stop was on the northeastern side of Okinawa.

That's where we discovered this Ryukyu Pine.

Looking around at the background and taking photos from several angles, convinced us.

Although, it's big and impressive, it wasn't the tree we were searching for.

The tree, is special or, it wouldn't have this sign posted nearby.

So, I shot the sign and some other items in the area, for further investigation.

Without any help translating, I gained some information.

For example, the tree is 220-250 years old and, I have a Latin name.

Making Friends Searching for Trees



The folks in the neighborhood of that pine tree were helpful.

Once they saw what we were trying to accomplish, they showed an interest in helping.

They agreed, we had found the wrong tree and gave us some suggestions.

They even offered some sake, to drink. It wasn't lunchtime, yet !

Nice people but, we had work to do.  So, I'll visit again, sometime.


Off to the Other Side of the Island



Up and down the west coast, we went, showing the photo of the old, special tree.

Over there, people were helpful, too.

They did stuff, like pull history books off the shelf, searching for that picture.

And, passing the photo around, gave us directions to another huge, historical tree.

But, it didn't turn out to be the one we were hunting for, either.

More on than gem, at a later date.

The rest of the story about this Ryukyu Pine, is more important.

Going 'Round and 'Round



It would probably be a good idea to go get a translator for this sort of thing.

But, I decided to try and do it on my own.

They have these online services, you can use, for free.

Take a JPEG image and get it scanned at one of them, by uploading the photo.

And, the thing turns it into a downloadable document.

So, I tried a few, using the photo, of the sign above. But, some won't read Japanese.

Once, I figured that out, I thought I had it made and, sent the image in for processing.

Then, downloaded the document, copied and pasted it into Google Translate.

And, it told me this:

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So much more could have been learned, sitting with those guys and a bottle of sake !


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Staying High and Dry Waiting for Storms to Blow By


View from Hills of Ogimi



There are a few little tropical storms brewing out over the ocean.

Nothing to panic about but, there will be plenty of rainfall the rest of this week.

We headed north this morning, to get out and soak up a bit of sunshine and fresh air.

It sprinkled rain, on and off, a few times but, there was sunshine, too.

When the temperatures and humidity hit the 90's, I don't mind getting rained on a bit.
At higher elevations, the breeze felt good, as long as there was some shade available.

 Looking down at Shioya Bay, I decided to take advantage of the blue skies in this scene.

The Shioya bridge is in the lower third of the frame.

Out in the center, a little rain squall is passing through, dropping 100% humidity to earth.

This is a scene, I'd like to re-create, on a nice clear day.

For Those Concerned About the Storms



There's really no reason, to panic. It looks like Okinawa won't have a big typhoon.

Those, around the globe, interested in watching the weather, may follow these sites:

If you like Fahrenheit and miles per hour:  AccuWeather 

For anyone using the metric system:  Japan Meterological Agency 

Living in a tropical paradise, storms can be expected, sometimes.

It's a good idea to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

So, my plan consists of, going to get some candles, flashlight batteries and beer !

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Travel Photo: Onna-son Sunset

tree, cabana,beach,silhouette

This photo was taken, about a year ago, as the sun was setting.

Sometimes, after the sun dips below the horizon, I wait and watch for scenes like this.

When the clouds are right, you can get all sorts of colors in the sky.

Living on the east coast of the island, we don't get sunsets, just sunrises.

 Camera: Pentax K5

Lens: Pentax 18-250 at 18mm

Exposure: f/22   1/2sec   ISO 100

Monday, July 28, 2014

Yonabaru Tug-O-War 5 Motion GIFs

 A Centuries Old Tradition




This tsunahiki (tug-o-war) has been going on in Okinawa, Japan for over 400 years.

And, there were probably 10,000 or more participants on the field, yesterday.

Here's a peek, at what, I saw through the camera viewfinder, before the tug started.

tug-o-war parade, motion GIF

Just like anywhere else in the Ryukyu islands, the rope comes in two sections.

The ropes were carried in a procession, with royalty being carried on top.

parade,Yonabaru,tsunahiki 2014, GIF

The teams, challenging each other come from the east or, west sides of town.

The folks, riding the ropes, wear period costumes from the old Ryukyu Dynasty.

Once the parade entered the field, I followed them inside, to get a closer look.

lively crowd,tug-o-war

There was a pretty lively crowd crowd in there.

For a second or two, I wished the cameras would have stayed at home.

women dancing,kimonos

All these gals, wearing summer kimonos were dancing and chanting.

And, some of them were offering me cups of, whatever they were drinking.

Dang.  I like drinking but, I had work to do.

So, I politely turned down the drink and just did a little dance with them.

joining of the ropes,GIF
While they were laughing, they quit flapping their arms around and, quit wiggling.

That gave me a chance, to zoom-in and get this shot.

This shows the wooden pole, used to join the two ropes together.

Coverage of This Event Requires a Team



This year, I got in with the crowd. The tug, started rather quickly.

That was when, I decided, it was time to climb a building, in order to view the rope.

By the time, I found enough elevation, the tug was over.

Next year, I know exactly where, I want to be, to catch that part of the event.

The Ryukyu Shimpo posted this video from 2011 on YouTube.

It gives an excellent presentation of the sights and sounds, you would encounter.

Read the Ryukyu Shimpo article (English) for more information.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

10 Fireworks Photos from the Kin Town Matsuri

fireworks, blue

In no particular order, except the way they came out of the camera, here they are.

Fireworks, blue, gold

In Japan, fireworks are called Hanabi.

green, fireworks

The translation, roughly means, fire flower.

pink, yellow,green,fireworks

Some gal and her daughter were looking at my cameras last night.

The mother, wanted to see photos with the stem of the flower showing.

pink fireworks

Well, I always try to capture images like this, with no trailing fire.

The photos with stems, hanging off them, I throw away.

pink fireworks

What a knucklehead, huh ?

purple, gold, fireworks

Fireworks that look symmetrical, go places in contests.

Fireworks, Japan

But, they really don't look like flowers, to me.

gold, flower-shaped, fireworks

Maybe, I should practice, stretching the imagination.

And, start calling shots like this, flowers or, trees.

fireworks, looks like a flower
By golly, some of these things, look sort of like flowers, now.

Don't you think ?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kin Town Matsuri (Festival) 3 Sumo Motion GIFs

Okinawan Sumo Wrestling



It's a bit different than the sumo you see in the rest of Japan.

There's no need to overeat and grow a big pot belly.

motion GIF, children sume wrestlers

Young school children can do it as well as adults.

Many times Okinawan sumo may be seen at summer festivals.

boys, sumo wrestling,GIF

The action, is pretty fast-paced but, nobody really gets hurt.

It's sort of a speed, strength and agility challenge between two guys.

Except for going barefoot, they get to keep all their clothes on.

girls sume wrestle,GIF

That means, girls can do Okinawan sumo, too.

Watching these kids sumo wrestle is more fun than fireworks, I think.

But, I have to get back out there with the cameras recharged and lenses dusted off.

Maybe, tomorrow, I'll have some night festival stuff to show you.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Sailing Sabani Boat Dog Presented in Motion GIFs

dog, sanani boat, lifejacket,straw hat, GIF

When I first met this gal, she wasn't too fond of me.

Her owner, Takashi, calls her his daughter, Maruko and takes good care of her.

If you haven't already noticed, she's wearing a lifejacket.

The dog can probably swim OK but,  it's a good idea to keep her floating high in the water.

That way, if a sabani boat capsizes, at sea, maybe, the straw hat will stay dry.

motion GIF, dog, looking left and right

Maruchan and I spent a whole weekend, riding boats together, back in June.

Whenever the sabani boats were practicing or, racing, she rode along with me.

We were on a fishing vessel escorting the boats during the races.

While I was shooting the cameras, she would be at my feet.

The dog figured out, my sense of hearing, isn't that great, I guess.

We became friends.

And, when I try to take her picture now, look what she does.

She keeps looking around, to make sure nobody is sneaking up behind me !

Is that a cool dog or, what ?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Photo Tour of Chinen Castle Ruins in Okinawa

Castle exterior wall, photographer

Little Known Fortress Is an Attention Grabber



Today we breezed through a couple of the outer islands and decided to revisit Okinawa.

It's been a few years since Goya Republic Dude and, I explored Chinen (Castle) Gusuku.

The place was destroyed during the War of the Pacific and, is still under construction.

Chinen Castle sign, English, Japanese, parking

This is the only castle ruins, I know of, that requires a downhill walk from the parking area.

Signs, in English and Japanese, guide you along the way.

And, everything is free.

interior view, castle stone walls, gate

The photographer in photo #1 is shooting the external walls of the castle.

This is a view from the inside.

There are construction materials, warning signs and a fence behind me.

The Pacific Ocean is back there below the cliffs, too.

There was a hole in the fence so, I went through, to get closer.

At the end of the pavement, outside the castle, this sign appears, to your right.

Hearing that the first rice, planted on the island was below the castle, I wanted to see the sight.

Somehow, I figured it was a long way from the castle.

But, Goya Republic Dude, had been there on a tour, in the past.

And, he said it was just a few minutes walk from these signs.

It was hot, out in the sun and the trail leading towards the original rice fields, was in the shade.

So, we went flip-flopping down the hill.

Okinawa's first rice paddy

There we found the Chinen Spring and three little rice paddies, like this.

Most people probably, wouldn't be impressed.

But, I got the first place rice was ever planted in Okinawa off my checklist, now.

So, I'm happy, it's done.  And, we got the heck out of there.

inside view, Chinen Castle ruins, two gates

The gusuku (castles) in the Ryukyu islands have some common features.

There are,usually wells or springs and sacred sites within the walls or nearby, on the outside.

We found the Noro's (priestess) dwelling outside this one, but, I didn't take a photo.

It looks like it could use some help getting re-constructed.

But, I will return to his fortress again and again because, I want to learn more about it.

Facts About Chinen Castle



It is one of the oldest, out of 192 Gusuku Sites located by Okinawan archeologists.

The Ryukyu King and Supreme Priestess (Kikoe Ogimi) made pilgrimages here.

A sacred grove dedicated to the god of fire (Hinukan) was located at this site.

On May 15, 1972 this castle was designated a National Historic Site. 

Myths or Legends

The Goddess Amamikyo or, Amami-kyu, brought the first rice to this location.

She and a male deity, Shineri-kyu, lived in separate homes.

They never had sex. Somehow, the wind made her pregnant. Three times.

And, that's how Ryukyu Kings and Priestesses came along.


Someone in the travel and tourism industry, should recognize this fortress.

It could become a goldmine.

The place has historical, religious, cultural and architectural significance.

Put it all together and visitors will come.

Wouldn't you think ?


Okinawa The History of an Island People ISBN 978-0-8048-2087-5 (P36)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Travel Photo: Sesoko-jima Bridge (瀬底大橋‏)

Sesoko-jima Bridge

This photo was taken from the Sesoko Island side of the bridge, looking back towards Okinawa.

There is a nice, little park to the left, as you enter the island.

Shade trees, restrooms and parking are available there.

And, behind the park, you can find a road, leading to the beach below.

When the bridge was completed (FEB 1985) it was the longest one in the Prefecture.

It is only 762 meters long and, has since lost that distinction.

Kouri Island, has a bridge that's more than twice as long, these days.

This bridge has made travel to the Sesoko Island more convenient, though.

Before the bridge was built, you had to take a ferry, which made 10 round trips a day.

Loading a vehicle on a boat can get expensive.

Crossing the bridge, is free.

It makes you wonder.  What happened to the ferry boats, they put out of business ?

Tell your youngsters to learn bridge building not, ferry boat driving.

Photo Specs:

Camera: Pentax K3

Lens: Pentax 18-250 at a focal length of 250mm

Exposure: f/16   1/30   ISO 100

Related Link:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Here's Proof -- This Stuff Wasn't Just a Dream

Live House Dream, Kin Town, Okinawa

It all started with an invitation to see this live band from Tokyo.

Most people, don't go out on Monday night but, yesterday was special.

It was Umi no Hi, a national holiday, in Japan.

stage, Live House, Dream, Kin Town, Okinawa
The weekend, had me busy with photography, past midnight the last few days.

A gal named, Aki would be performing on stage.

If she wasn't such a darling, I would have stayed home last night.

She keeps flying to Tokyo, to sing and, we hardly get to see her anymore.

When she told me the door would be open at 7:30, I showed up at 7PM.

That gave me a chance to check the place out, before the crowds arrived.

band performing on stage

The bar only seats about 65 people.

crowded Live House, dancer

But, Aki is so popular 90-100 guests usually show up to see her.

And, when some fans, start dancing in front of the stage, she cracks up.

singer performing, Ridea

She is one heck of a talented young lady.

singer, keyboard, live band

Trying to catch her eyes, while peeking through a camera view finder is hard work.

singer and keyboard performer

So, plenty of extra shots are taken, to make sure, I get it right.

guy and gal, keyboards

Aki, gets hopping around on the keyboard, too.

live performance
It would probably be a good idea, to take 100 shots just to capture a dozen good ones.

singer, dancer, keyboard, Motion GIF

While she was up there wiggling around, I noticed something.

The poor girl is running around with holes in her jeans.

girl with diamond in nose

But, she has a diamond, stuck on her nose so, I guess she's doing alright !

Monday, July 21, 2014

Happy Ocean Day -- Sea Day -- Umi no Hi (海の日) in Japan

Kerama Islands view from the sea

This photo is the view, I saw, June 22, 2014 as I was leaving the Kerama Islands.

Today is sort of a national holiday in this part of the world.

Years ago, it was called Marine Day.

These days, Umi no Hi, Ocean Day or Sea Day are the proper titles.

Government institutions, schools and banks are all closed, for the holiday.

But, regular folks, like construction workers, are still out in the hot sun, doing what they do.

Japanese Holidays


With the busy summer schedule, I thought I might post some handy links.

It seems, these holidays sneak up on me and catch me off guard, regularly.

After talking with the wife, over breakfast, I realized why the beach was so busy last night.

People were camping overnight with their families, because they don't have work today.

Learn more about Marine Day at Office Holidays.

 To see all the holidays, celebrated in Japan, visit Japanese Holidays.

It's time for me to pack up the cameras and go celebrate Umi no Hi with some friends.

Ridea, is back in town, playing at a Live House !