Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tree Photo: Sakishima Sappanwood -- Heritiera littoralis

Heritiera littoralis,Sakishima Sappanwood, trees

The Site Has Improved



It's been over a year, since my first visit to this location, in Higashi Village.

Heading up north to the Higashi Museum, we got detoured by a construction crew.

That's how we wound up, stopping here.

The place has been spruced up nicely and, clouds passed overhead so, I snagged this photo.

At the edge of these woods bright light and dark shadows make photography difficult.

In the past, you had to walk through some soggy ground, to reach this tree.

And, there were some yellow and black ropes surrounding the area.

Now, the safety ropes are gone and they have wooden boardwalks leading to the attraction.

Something tells me, a ritual or some sort of shindig may be taking place in the near future.

So, I'll be going back to see if I can weasel my way into getting invited.

They won't say "No" if I don't ask so, I might as well try !

More About the Sundari Trees at Wildscreen ARKive

Monday, September 29, 2014

3 More Motion GIFs from an Okinawan Undokai

People from Kin Town Live Around the Globe



It was nice to hear from so many people, responding to yesterday's  blog post.

The elementary school undokai is one of the most popular events of the year.

So, for those who couldn't attend, here are a few more photos of the action.

children,relay race,crowds watching,undokai,sports

This was some sort of relay race the youngsters were involved in.

Just before noon, I got the bright idea to climb above the crowds and shoot this scene.

It was nice to go wide angle with the lens and use auto focus.

From the position, I had, nobody could accidentally, walk in front of my lens.

With the tripod and I, secured so we wouldn't fall, it was easy to shoot about 1,000 frames.

They held mothers and daughters relays and fathers and sons, as well.

Some of those parents should join the Olympics.

They run faster than jackrabbits.

Back on ground level, after eating a picnic lunch, I shot the Eisa Dancers.

It was real important to capture these scenes for a GIF.

That's because the Chondara, in there, is one of my grandsons.

Did You Know They Have Chondara in Hawaii ?




Doing my research, I came across this video on YouTube.

It comes from the Young Okinawans of Hawaii.

Have a look and listen. I bet you'll enjoy it, too.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

5 GIFs from a Shougakkou Sports Day in Okinawa

A Great Way to Spend a Sunday



A sports day at a Japanese school is called an Undokai.

This one took place at an elementary school (shougakkou) in Kin Town.

children doing gymnastics

Entire families, line the athletic field and picnic under tents.

Every time, I attend one of these events, they seem to come up with something new.

elementary school, relay race

Relay races are always part of an undokai.

Sometimes parents or, grandparents get involved in them, too.

children dancing with pom poms

The younger children danced with pom poms and put on quite a show.


Taking a sneak peek, I saw how a Chondara gets his face made-up.

That could come in handy if, I ever want to become a clown.

It was hot out there today but, we had a few sprinkles of rain to cool things off.

The best part of any Undokai, in Okinawa, is always the Eisa Dance.

As soon as my camera, let me know 64GBs of SD cards were full, I left the Undokai.

And, got back to the air-conditioned office.

While the batteries are recharging, I think I might go recharge myself, too !

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day Trip: Grab a Rope in the Guinness Record Tug of War Okinawa

Naha Okinawa Tsunahiki



This article originally appeared at (now extinct) Yahoo Voices.

The assignment, was to write a one day trip, for someone flying, to visit Okinawa from Japan.

With the Guinness World Record Tug, just a few weeks away, you may want to read this.

If you dislike large crowds, just look at the photos and, avoid the event !

Japanese policeman,half of tug-o-war rope,street

A Centuries Old Tradition

Hop on a plane for an early morning flight out of Tokyo in early October and you can witness the excitement surrounding the World Guinness Record Naha Tug of War. It’s a once a year event where you can participate, or just watch, a crowd of over 15,000 people pull a tug of war rope weighing over 40 tons. The scene in the street, numbering well over a quarter million people, is a sight in itself.

Tug of wars have been held on the islands of Okinawa since the 1600’s in the belief they would insure good harvests of rice in the fields, as well as, a bountiful catch and safe journey for fishermen at sea.
The Naha tug of war has evolved to become a cultural event believed to bring prosperity, good health and fortune to the residents of all the Okinawa islands. The rope was first recognized as the world’s largest, consisting of natural fibers, by Guinness World Records in 1995.

traffic, HWY 58,policeman,end of rope looped

There’s More to See than Just a Tug of War

The event takes place on HWY 58 just a few minutes drive north of Naha International Airport and that is a great place to view, or photograph the massive rope. The monster is placed in the center of the highway, the night before, and crowds of observers won’t start swarming the place until mid afternoon.

A few minutes walk from the highway, on Kokusai Street (International Avenue) is where the festivities begin, at noon.  There are sights and sounds you won’t want to miss.  A parade is held which will give you a taste of Ryukyu (Okinawa) history and culture, in three hours that would take ages to absorb by reading books watching videos, or traveling throughout the Ryukyu Islands Chain.
The parade showcases some brilliantly colored kimonos, traditional classic dances and a dance, seen only in Okinawa, known, as Eisa.  The sounds of drums, horns, gongs, firecrackers, stringed instruments and music piped over loudspeaker systems fills the avenue and like many other observers, you’re welcome to chant along with the performers. Just memorize the words “Ya sa sa” and “Hi e ya” and learn to whistle like a whippoorwill, only a lot louder, and you’ll fit right in.
Some of the other activities you see include martial arts performances by youth, dancing lion-dogs (known as Shishimai) and a Chinese Dragon Dance. One event, you may want to climb higher to witness and capture on camera, is the Parade of Flags.  Young men demonstrate their strength and skill at balancing a huge bamboo pole displaying a banner representing their district in the city of Naha.  Climbing some stairs or watching from a balcony gives a better view and assures your safety, should a flag come crashing down in your direction.

golden ball, suspended above HWY 58

The World Record Tug


 The Tug of War normally takes place on the Sunday prior to Japan’s Sports Day, which is the second Monday in October. It’s always best to check with a travel agent or visit the official site, in the event inclement weather causes sudden changes to plans.
Opening ceremonies and a large gathering of people begin on HWY 58 around 3PM so it’s a good idea to start jockeying for your position about that time.  There are speeches given, karate demonstrations, music played and more activities with village banners but, the World Record Tug is what you want to see.

crowd,tug-o-war challenge

Shortly before 4 o’clock is when activity with the rope begins. The rope is in two sections which must be joined and they face east and west, lying in the street.  The loops on the ends of the ropes are designated male and female. They are joined and a large wooden peg is inserted through one of them to tie the two ropes into a single length of rope for the tug.
Men, representing the royalty of the Ryukyu Kingdom and dressed in period costumes, climb atop the east and west sections of the rope and issue challenges. This is another good time to climb to a higher level for photography, as the crowd begins to surge closer in anticipation. If you’re there to pull, the masses will help snuggle you closer.

gold ball,streamers,crane,crowd,street

After the shouting and dueling match between the kings takes place, a gold ball above the crowd opens, depositing balloons, streamers and confetti.  A gong sounds, the crowd surges even tighter, and the tug begins.

A sea of humans converges on the rope tugging, shouting, straining and trying to get the five meters movement in their direction it takes to become the winner. The only part of the rope that remains visible to photographer, during the tugging, is the ends of the rice straw rope with the loops on them.
This is where I’ve learned to climb to higher elevations in the pursuit of a memorable photo. 

crowd scene,tug-o-war rope invisible

 Anywhere above the crowds, a stairway, balcony or a rooftop will do. At street level, the rope disappears among the crowd.
The tug of war ends when a team from either the east or west side of town manages to pull the rope five meters in their direction. If neither side manages that within half an hour, the competition ends in a draw. That has happened 14 times over the years.

Excitement When the Tug-O-War Ends 



good luck charms,strands of rope

A winner or draw is declared. That’s when the fun begins. Pieces of the rope are supposed to bring good luck to your family. So, everyone wants some to take home. Hundreds of thousands of people, some who weren’t even there to watch the event, show up and converge on the monster to grab a few strands of it. 

knife cutting rope

 Couldn’t take a knife on the plane, could you?
  Not to worry. Uniformed members of the Naha Tug of War Committee are the only persons allowed to have knives at the event. They cut strands and toss them to the crowds. 

Travel Light Like a Pro

Some things I recommend for this once a year, one day event, after having done it a few times:
Wear comfortable walking shoes.
Bring a light jacket in the event it gets chilly or rains.
A backpack is the only luggage you will need.
Grab meals at any of the several Family Marts located conveniently along the routes you’ll be taking.
Yen is the currency to bring. Taxi cabs and vending machines generally, don’t accept any other currency.
Returning to Naha Airport for a meal before flying, you’ll get excellent food at reasonable prices.

gold ball opening,crowd,street

Friday, September 26, 2014

Motion GIF: Just Another Butterfly

But It's a Dandy !



Another day was spent in the northern mountains of Okinawa.

The mission was to find a special tree for the Then and Now photo series.

Things didn't turn out as expected but, this butterfly came along and made my day.

blue,black and brown butterfly,gif,Okinawa,mountains

The weekend has started and my camera batteries are charging.

Have a great one.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Travel Photo: Where We Were a Year Ago Today

Take a Look Back and See Where You Were



Shooting digital cameras, every day, is a great way to record your personal history. 

There's no need to write the day's events down.

The camera, does all that stuff for you.

windsurfers, cityscape,ocean

This photo of windsurfers was taken on today's date in 2013.

My shooting buddy Doc and I stopped by Senaga Island, just south of Naha Airport.

We had been farther south, checking on birds in Tomigusuku.

And, discovered that some Black-faced Spoonbills had migrated to Okinawa.

Who knows? 

 With all the global warming and chilling, going on, they could already be here again.

The year went by, incredibly fast and, reminded me of this song.

Now, I'm not sure it's funny. But time sure does, slip away ! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Green Grass Lizard with the Pentax DA50mmF1.8 and K3 Camera

Takydromus smaragdinus,lizard,rain,heavy vegetation

 Image Before Cropping



It's pretty hard to see the lizard but, I spot-focused on the eye.

It was raining and the critter hid under some plants for shelter. They blend in well. Don't they ?

cropped image,lizard, close-up

Cropped Image

Plenty of shots were taken, using a tripod and continuous shooting mode.

That way, I could crop one, for you to get a closer look.

GIF, lizard,speaking

And, there were a lot more images available to create this GIF to show you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Today I Shot the Contractors Outside My Office

They've Been Making a Racket for Weeks



It's gotten to the point where a man can't sleep in a place where he pays rent.

Jackhammers and equipment that shake the whole building were at it again today.

It's possible to catch a little nap, when they break for lunch.

But, not the two hours of sleep, my body likes to take.

contractors,crane,huge cement block, hole in sidewalk

When they finally quit digging this big hole, I grabbed a tripod and camera.

Two humongous blocks were being lowered into the ground.

It seemed like a great opportunity to shoot some images for GIFs.

contractors, lowering huge cement block,truck,crane,hard hats

 They're really not a bad bunch of dudes. They are out there working in all kinds of weather.

By the end of the year, there won't be any more telephone poles or, wires on my street.

All the wires, you see in the sky, will be going underground.

construction,crane,workers,fence,hole in ground

At the end of each day, they place a safety fence around any holes they didn't refill.

This one, is right outside the gate, I use to go home.

After they made the place safe, I thanked them for letting me shoot.

The crane operator, wound up his cables and went home.

Then the rest of the gang, packed up their tools, hosed down the street and went home, too.

They'll probably be back, digging new holes, tomorrow.

It's going to be nice, when all the work is done.

No wires in the sky, is a cameraman's dream come true.

Maybe, I should buy some beers for those contractors, when they finally getterdun !

Monday, September 22, 2014

Travel Photo: From the Dalai Lama Visit to Okinawa NOV 2012

Words of Wisdom



engraved stone plaque, Dalai Lama, peace

There are a few signs commemorating visits by the Dalai Lama in Okinawa.

This one was discovered in a park where some special trees have been planted.

On the Dalai Lama website, you can see him planting one.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Aloe Plant Could Be Good for Your Health

Aloe Vera,plant,herb

Aloe Grows Year Round in Okinawa



It doesn't take much of a green thumb to succeed in keeping this vegetation alive.

The photo was taken out behind my office and, we also grow the stuff at home.

It's great for treating cuts, bug bites or rashes and, I use it all the time.

Just hack off one of those stalks and, take as much gel from it as you need.

Then, wrap up the leftovers and keep them in the fridge for future use.

Some Folks Around Here Eat Aloe

It would probably be a good idea to wait and watch somebody else, eat it first.

Depending on the variety of plant, it may have you running to the toilet.

There are probably 500 different types of Aloe plant.

And, not all of them are safe to eat.

Occasionally, somebody comes around, offering aloe sashimi, to me when I'm at the bar.

Not feeling like taking any laxatives, I decline and keep drinking beer.

Aloe and White Grape Juice, Japan, Minute Maid, can

They have an Aloe and White Grape juice in the Coke machines and, I've tried some.

It's sort of sweet and pulpy but, safe to drink. 

For those who have access to Walmart, they have some Aloe products, you can buy.

How Stuff Works



In all my research, this must be the most comprehensive article on Aloe, I've ever seen.

For some strange reason, number 29, got written twice.

The editor should have caught that but, it gave me two good chuckles. 

So, I won't complain.

It was something about minor female problems.

That got me thinking. Maybe, I should rub some of the stuff on my wife.

And, she'd quit spending my money. Hah !

The New Healing Herbs ISBN 0-553-58514-2 is my favorite reference for these plants.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Surprise: Green Grass Lizards Aint Always All Green !

Dancing With Lizards



It would be easier to dance with a rare one than, try to get a good identification.

If you're tired of looking at lizard photos, don't feel bad.

I am, too.

GIF,lizard,nature,Takydromus smaragdinus

For those, interested in doing further research on these critters:

Japanese only: ISBN978-4-408-32351-0 page 58

Friday, September 19, 2014

Green Grass Lizard Is What We'll Call It (GIF)

Outback Again Today



Aokanahebi(アオカナヘビ) is the Japanese name for this lizard.

Two sources helped me with the identification.

One, works at the Kin Town Office and, the other is a Park Ranger.

Takydromus smaragdinus, GIF

The weather was looking, sort of iffy so, I stayed close to the office today.

And, went out with the Pentax K3 and an 18-250mm lens.

When I called it a day, there were over 900 images of lizards in the camera.

Before, I officially,  declare this a Takydromus smaragdinus, I better check the books.

It's not wise, to put scientific names on critters and, be wrong.

So, whenever the little tropical storm were having, departs, I plan on going to the library.

Once, I confirm the name there, I may have another lizard to post here.

It's a different color but, could be a Green Grass Lizard, too.

Holy leapin' lizards, Batman. 

There may be an endangered species, living out there behind my office !

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Then and Now (Photos) Oku Village in Northern Okinawa, Japan

1953 black and white photo of Oku Village,river,mountains

Credit for the use of this photo goes to the Oku Yanbaru no Sato Staff.

It was discovered in, what they call, the Exhibition Hall.

Most English speaking folks would consider the place to be a museum.

That's because it's full of artifacts, related to the history and culture of the village.

The framed, black and white image, shows how things looked in 1953.

Oku Village,river, JUN 2014,mountains

The color photo was taken June 26, 2014.

Things have changed a lot, over the years but, the mountain peaks, remain the same.

We owe thanks to several folks, in the neighborhood, for the assistance they gave us.

Finding the spot, the original photo was taken from, can be a real challenge.

Sometimes, only people, way senior to me can point you in the right directions.

It's a blast, doing these Then and Now photos and, I always have a pile of them pending.

Standby for more, in the future.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Some of the Activity at a 97th Birthday Party in Okinawa

4 Motion GIFs of Events at a Kajimaya



In the Ryukyu Archipeligo a Kajimaya is a big deal.

Today, I got to attend one because one of my neighbors, attained the age of ninety-seven.

We had a little parade in the streets but, I haven't looked at those photos, yet.

For now, we'll just look at what took place at the party indoors.

young dancers,GIF,Okinawan celebration, Kajimaya
The younger generation entertains the crowd with some sort of hilarious dance.

kimonos, classical dance, young ladies

A bit more formal, were these gals, dancing with silver and gold fans.

Hula dancers

Everybody likes watching Hula dancers so, we had some of them, too.

kimono-clad woman,dancing with an umbrella
 Now, I'm not sure if you should call that blue thing a parasol or, umbrella.

But, the gal in the blue kimono sure knows how to dance with it.

After a few hours of celebrating, the birthday girl got tired.

And, she had somebody take her home so, she could go to sleep in her own bed.

And, that's what they did.

Man, I can hardly wait to turn ninety-seven !

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lizard Photos: Takydromus Something or Other Found in Okinawa

Takydromus,lizard, green

This One Has Me Stumped



It could be a Takydromus smaragdinus, dorsalis or, sauteri. I really don't know.

Using what information, I could gather, I checked about a dozen websites.

This character was in the weeds behind my office and posed momentarily for me.

green lizard,GIF, vegetation

Most of the day was spent researching to find the correct scientific name.

And, I must have looked at a few hundred thumbnail sized photos of lizards.

American, European, Chinese and Japanese websites were checked.

When, I came across a professor at Harvard's website, he convinced me to quit.

He said something like, he's been studying these critters all his life.

And, the more he learns, he realizes, the less he knows about them.

So, I slammed my laptop shut and took a break.

When I came back, I found a Takydromus Facebook Page and, signed myself up.

Then, bookmarked Lizards of Japan.

This case won't be closed until we find the correct ID for the rascal.

But, for right now, I don't want to get any dumber than, I already am.

UPDATED RESOURCES: We may ahve a Anolis carolinensis, here.

Animal Diversity Web

The Reptile Database

Monday, September 15, 2014

GIFs from a Secondary School Athletic Meet in Kin Town Okinawa

Fun in the Sun



If you ever get an invitation to an Undokai (Sports Day Event) in Japan, don't turn it down.

This was my first, of many, I'll be going to this year.

With a few photos, I can show you highlights from yesterday's entertainment.

uniformed Eisa dancers,drums,purple headbands

The best part of any Undokai, has to be the Eisa performance.

A few of my grand-kids, are in there somewhere.

Dressed in those uniforms, everybody looks the same, to me.

So, I shot over 1,000 photos, to make sure, I didn't miss anyone.

parents,students,teachers, relay races

Students, aren't the only ones being athletic.

Parents and teachers get to participate in things like relay races, too.

folk dancing, boys and girls, school uniforms, athletic field

The crowd really enjoyed, watching these students folk dance.

At that age, I bet the boys were wishing they were somewhere else like, home.

But, they put on a good presentation, being the gentleman that they were.

tug-o-war, men against women, Undokai,sports day

 Here we had a tug-o-war.  It was guys against gals.

Parents, teachers, students, grandparents, cousins, nephews and nieces, were involved.

And, the girls won !

tug-o-war, women beat men,GIF

 When, they held a re-match, I switched cameras and used a wide angle lens.

That way, you could see everybody, when the guys handed those gals a defeat.

But, the women, dragged the boys over the line, again.

You don't suppose, they were just being gentlemen and, letting the ladies win.

Do you ?