Friday, July 31, 2015
This only happens once every 19 years, according to EarthSkyOrg.
It's the second full moon, we've seen, in the month of July.
Camera: Pentax K3
Lens: Sigma 50-500 with a 1.4 extender for a focal length of 700mm
Exposure: f/16 1/20 ISO 100
Location: Kin Town, Okinawa, Japan
Date and Time: JUL 31 2015 7:19PM
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Yanbaru North Country
During the Ryukyu Kingdom days the mountainous regions played an important role.
Firewood was required for cooking, in the villages and ports to the south of the island.
One industrious man, stacked several piles of wood daily.
A ship would transport the wood from Yanbaru (up north) to Yonabaru, a southern port.
Exhausted after accumulating ten piles of stacked wood, he went home early one day.
The plan was to cart the stacks of wood to the ship, early in the morning.
The next day, he went to the mountains and discovered, he had been robbed.
All the day's work, except for one woodpile, had disappeared.
He shrugged and, started collecting timber, all over again.
Nightfall arrived and, he finished piling wood and went home once more.
When he returned, the next day, the scene had repeated itself. Not good for business.
Someone was stealing his work and, he wanted to catch the thief.
He got his wife to assist and bury him in the last pile of wood, stacked for the day.
Away to Heaven
After sundown a hook came out of the sky and took the woodpiles away.
When it took the stack, the man was hiding in, he feared for his life but, hung on to the hook.
He was hauled away and lowered onto a cloud.
He jumped out of the woodpile and saw acres of clouds stretching across the skies.
A god came along and roared, "What are you doing here, human."
The man explained, he harvested firewood for a living and, someone was stealing it.
That was how he discovered, his wood was being hauled off to heaven.
The god explained. The man had been taking more than his fair share of wood each day.
God, left him one pile and had the rest taken away.
He showed the man thousands of neatly arranged containers of liquids.
There were clay pots, vats, bottles, crocks and cauldrons, holding different quantities of water.
He pointed out one small sake cup and told the man, that was him; the poor woodsman.
Next to the small sake cup, was a huge jug containing 100 times more water.
When he asked god, he was told, that person hadn't been born, yet.
The god said, the container was Tetsu no mon (iron gate) and represented abundance.
The human wanted to know if god, would let him borrow that jug of good fortune.
God figured, he seemed like a nice enough guy so, what the heck.
He could use the jug, until the person it was intended for, was born.
Down to Earth
The man took the jug and rode the hook back to the mountain.
From that day forward, his fortune changed.
Gold was discovered on his land and he became the wealthiest person in Yanbaru.
He built a large house, protected by an iron gate.
New Year's Eve
Many years later a poor woman approached the rich man's home.
It was a cold, rainy night and, she needed a place to stay.
She was about to have a child.
She asked the sentry, guarding the gate if she could spend the night in the gatehouse.
A Baby Born
New Year's day the sun came out and the weather turned warm.
The gate guard informed the master, the woman had given birth to a baby boy.
The peasant woman, named the child Tetsu no mon because he was born at the iron gate.
The wealthy man and his wife had no children of their own.
They invited the woman and her son, to be part of their family. She gladly accepted.
They became one wealthy family and lived....
...Ah, you know the rest of the story !
Folktales of Okinawa ISBN4-947654-05-8 P.113
Condensed from: The Boy Named Iron Gate
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
The full moon happens again on the 31st of this month.
So, I went out tonight and started plotting my shots for the night of the big event.
One position that would be nice is, where the Okukubi River meets the ocean.
Figuring out the right time to be in position is one thing.
Getting to spot the moon rising at this point, is another thing, altogether.
Here's another shot from the same location, with a Nature Mirai sign in the frame.
From this position, I walked back up river and, headed back into Kin Town.
Shooting images, all the way, it was dark before I got to the office.
The cameras are downloaded and, batteries charging so, we'll be ready tomorrow.
That will give me one more night to decide where the night of the full moon will be spent.
This is what the moon looks like with a zoom lens tonight. Not quite round.
The Blue Moon (2d full moon of this month) will occur Friday July 31 at 7:42PM, in Japan.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Beyond the Stone Walls
A younger brother of the Ryukyu King lived in this enclosure near Shuri Castle.
Prince Chatan and, his pregnant wife were residents of this place, called Ufumura Udun.
Kurogane, a hairy, dark skinned Buddhist Monk, was accused of witchcraft.
The king, ordered Prince Chatan, to eliminate him.
The Prince invited Kurogane to his home for a game of Go (chess) and, they placed bets.
If the Prince lost, he would cut off his topknot and, give it to the Monk.
The Priest, pulled his ears, grinning, "You can have these if, I lose."
Quiet Night of the Full Moon
The game started and, Kurogane decided it would be best, to cheat.
He began whispering some magic words.
The Prince's eyes started to close and his head bobbed, as he slumped in his seat.
The crooked, holy man reached to move a stone, to gain the advantage in the game.
The Prince jumped up with his sword and, quickly cut off both of the Monk's ears.
Dropping to the floor, bleeding, he fell right next to his detached ears.
The dying Monk cursed, "You will never have a son live long enough to see another birthday."
The Prince's wife had a baby born, shortly later.
The baby turned a dark color and died from an unknown cause.
Seeking the advise of a Yuta (fortuneteller) the Prince was told, it was the curse of Kurogane.
Neighbors had reported, seeing the ghost of Kurogane in the area of Ufumura Udun.
When the Prince's wife became pregnant again, a Yuta's suggestions were sought.
Another boy child, would surely die. She whispered some guidance and, went home.
When the child was born, everyone exclaimed, "It's a girl."
The ghost of Kurogane faded away and, no harm came to the child.
In reality, a baby boy was born. And, lived to become a healthy, wealthy prince.
In Okinawa, many people announce, "It's a girl" to avoid Kurogane's curse.
Lullaby for Crying Baby
Just in case this bit of folklore wasn't morbid enough, here's an added twist.
To silence a crying baby, you comfort them by rocking to this tune:
The song says something like, be quiet or, someone will whack your ears off with a knife !
Okinawan Folk Stories ISBN978-4-99009-146-0 P.141
Condensed from Kurogane Zasyu
MORE OKINAWA FOLKLORE
Monday, July 27, 2015
There were 9 contestants in this yukata (summer kimono) contest.
Some folks go to the festival, just to see this event and, cheer on their favorite gal.
It isn't supposed to be a beauty contest so, I won't tell you which beauty won.
At festivals, I try to capture a little bit of all the activities.
These inflated thingamajigs seemed to be the most popular activities for kids.
It reminded me of Disneyland, seeing the long lines of children, waiting to get in to them.
The young taiko drummers put on the most excellent show.
They got the crowd rocking and, earth shaking with their energetic drumbeats.
The weather was beautiful, too, considering a typhoon just passed the island the day before.
Fashion shows, festival foods, fun and games for kids; they're all great.
The fireworks (hanabi) is what, I go to festivals to see.
Maybe it's true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder !
Sunday, July 26, 2015
An hour after the festival fireworks were supposed to happen, I was walking home.
All of a sudden, things started taking off so, I set the tripods up along the side of the street.
And, managed to catch enough shots for this animation.
That way, the rest of the people who left when it started to rain can watch the display, now.
The hanabi display ended the 36th Kin Town Matsuri.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
It Started in a Cave
A stranger arrived in the fishing village of Itoman a long time ago.
No one was sure where he came from but, they knew he lived in Dondon Gama.
It was a cave, on the hill, overlooking the town and fishing port.
A very successful fisherman, he became known as, Umiyakara (うみやから).
Roughly translated, his name meant: hard-working man of the ocean.
The prettiest girl in town, moved into the cave to live with him.
The beauty's name was Chiru.
Plot to Kill
The rest of the young fishermen envied Umiyakara.
If he was eliminated, Chiru would stop ignoring them and, move back into town.
They invited Umiyakara to go on a boat trip with them.
They brought along plenty of sake and, got him drunk, planning to drown him.
They threw him overboard and whacked him on the head with boat oars.
When he tried to get back in the boat, they smacked him on the head, again and again.
Finally he went under and, never came back up.
Believe in Magic ?
The next day, Umiyakara showed up at the port with his usual, record catch of fish.
It was as if the events of the prior evening never took place.
Umiyakara, didn't mention anything about it and, went about his business, selling fish.
Evil Buddies Devise a New Plan
The rest of the young fishermen figured Umiyakara was impossible to kill.
They decided to write a song about him, Chiru and, their relationship.
Thinking the song would make the villagers ridicule them, it would break them up.
This plan backfired, too. People were delighted singing about the two lovers.
The song, "Umiyakara" became popular and is still sung, to this day:
Okinawan Folk Stories ISBN978-4-99009-146-0 P.90
Condensed from: Umiyakara Dondon
Friday, July 24, 2015
Today's travels had us making the southern tour of Okinawa island.
The mission was to get some photos of sites in Shuri and Itoman for the Ryukyu folk tales.
It was a busy morning and very productive but, just a tad too hot in the sun.
The first site we looked for in Shuri, was spotted within twenty minutes of our arrival.
Then, it was off to Itoman City and up a hill that went into the boonies.
The cave, I wanted to find, is called Dondon Gama.
This is located in some rough country and it will require another visit with the cameras.
We left the area with plenty of photos, cuts, sprains, bruises and, a little bloodshed.
Late morning on a bright sunny day is probably not the best time for cave and jungle shots.
Now, that I know the exact location, I'll do things a little differently, next time.
Hiking shoes, will replace the flip-flops,
Somebody with a brush knife might have to lead the way and cut a trail.
Bug spray and blue jeans, might come in handy for the trek, as well.
Air Conditioned Lunch Break
Once the real work was accomplished, it was time to cool off and do lunch.
The second floor restaurant, overlooking Kudaka Island was perfect.
Located in Nanjo City, it was on our route, heading back north along the east coast.
Below the restaurant, the gift shop had some items, I was hoping to buy.
This wasn't on the shopping list but, I splurged and, bought it anyway.
It's a plastic folder with English, Japanese and Okinawan language on it.
Getting things done around here, sometimes requires a little bit of the local language.
Uchinaguchi, is the original Ryukyu language and, I learned enough to get by.
The poor guy, who served our meal, didn't speak Okinawan; only Japanese.
So, when Doc and, I spoke to him, he looked at us, like we were speaking some foreign tongue.
He may have been a college student from Japan, working a part time job.
Learning just a few phrases of the local dialect, makes travel more enjoyable.
And, folks in the travel industry, should be able to speak a bit of it, too.
We explained, to the young man, what we were saying, in Japanese and, he thanked us.
For a bit more of Uchinaguchi, here's an online encyclopedia of useful phrases.
It looks as if the typhoon will be visiting us tomorrow with some rain.
Strong, damaging winds probably, won't be hitting us directly.
So, after a few beers en route to my home, I may just sleep all day tomorrow !
Thursday, July 23, 2015
This one has me stumped. There are over 500 species of Passiflora.
And, before we got a chance to see if this one bears fruit, a typhoon, blew everything away.
Camera: Pentax K3
Lens: Pentax 300mm
Exposure: f/6.3 1/200 ISO 400
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Fisherman Makes a Large Haul
On an island to the north of Okinawa a fisherman danced with joy.
He had made an unusually large catch and decided to celebrate into the evening.
After the sun went down, he built a fire and cooked a huge pile of shells and fish.
Ghosts Arrived for Dinner
Several of them, showed up and began eating the fisherman's dinner.
Frightened, he kept his distance and watched them eat.
No matter how much they consumed, the pile of food remained the same size.
The fisherman, would approach the meal, only after the spirits were gone.
The routine continued for several days and nights.
Great amounts of fish were caught every day and, every night, after dark, ghosts came.
One day, before sundown and cooking the meal, the fisherman cut some pampas grass.
After the meal was prepared, he placed a san on the plate of food.
The san, is made by tying pampas grass in a loop.
The san, is made by tying pampas grass in a loop.
Then, he invited the ghosts, to come and try some of this special meal.
They showed up promptly after dark and gathered around, looking at the feast.
The san, frightened them and, they all flew away.
Since then, an Okinawan serving a meal after dark, will place a san on the dinner.
And, a san is placed at the corners of property, to ward off evil spirits.
From an article on the flowers of Hanafuda, concerning pampas grass:
"In Okinawa, the leaves are knotted as talismans against evil."
"In Okinawa, the leaves are knotted as talismans against evil."
Okinawan Folk Stories ISBN978-4-99009-146-0 P.46
Condensed from: The Story of the San
Okinawan-English Workbook ISBN 978-0-8248-3102-8
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Mother worried about her single daughter Chiru-gwa and, who she would marry.
All the well to do young men wanted her hand in marriage.
She would seek the advice of God, by praying outside Sonohyan Utaki.
Sketch by Marin Oshiro
A deadbeat of a man called Tara, learned of the mother's praying at the utaki.
He devised a plan, to insure, Chiru-gwa, would become his wife.
Early one morning, he hid in the bushes, behind the stone gate, of the sacred site.
The mother was bowed with folded hands, praying in front of the gates.
From within, came a deep voice, telling her, "God speaking, listen to me, carefully.
On your journey home today, you will meet the best man for your daughter, to marry."
The mother, thanked God, bowed and started on her trip towards home.
Rounding a bend in the road, she met a smiling Tara.
Everybody knew he was a no good slouch but, the word from the heavens must be followed.
Chiru-gwa, would soon become Tara's wife.
A Wedding Was Arranged
One moonlight night, Tara dispatched a palanquin to bring home his bride.
The two men carrying her got tired and stopped alongside the road to take a rest.
Having had way too much to drink, they soon fell asleep.
Along came the King and his entourage, returning to Shuri Castle from a day on a hunt.
The King wanted to know, who was inside the palanquin.
He was told, there was a bride, crying in there and, two drunk men snoring in the grass.
He asked Chiru-gwa, why she was crying, felt sorry for her and, invited her to the castle.
He told the servants to place a calf in the palanquin and, they departed.
The palanquin bearers woke up with the sun and, hurried along with their load.
A large gathering was waiting to meet the bride, at Tara's House.
When he opened the palanquin, a frightened calf, jumped out.
The crowd laughed. They figured this was God's way of rewarding the idiot, Tara.
He became angry and took the calf to Chiru-gwa's mother and, said he didn't want it.
The mother was saddened and, worried, God may have done this to her daughter.
A Message from the King
A servant from Shuri instructed Chiru-gwa's mother to bring the calf to the castle.
She bathed and brushed the calf, to present it to the King.
At the castle, she was greeted by the Queen.
The Queen exclaimed, "Mother" and hurried over to kiss her.
Chiru-gwa had become the King's bride.
Okinawan Folk Stories ISBN978-4-99009-146-0 P.160
Condensed from: The Bride Who Became a Calf
Okinawan Folk Stories ISBN978-4-99009-146-0 P.160
Condensed from: The Bride Who Became a Calf
Monday, July 20, 2015
He Cries When It Rains
A long time age, a mother and son lived, where the mountains meet the coastline.
The old woman made tofu, from sunrise to sunset, to earn a living.
In the evenings she would carry a basket on her head, selling her product around the island.
The son named, Tara, couldn't be trusted, to help the aging mother.
With his devious mind, he was always causing her trouble.
If she asked him to draw a bucket of seawater, for her tofu, he would bring fresh water, instead.
When she needed fresh water, from the river, Tara would fetch seawater.
The mother became sickly and bedridden, she was near death.
She wondered what her son would do with her remains.
She really would like to be buried high on a hill, above the sea.
If she told Tara, the location overlooking the ocean, would be best, he might not do it.
So, she told him, she wanted to be buried in the riverbed.
This Time He Didn't Do the Opposite
A few days later, the mother passed away.
Tara, cried and thought about all the times he had mistreated his mother.
He decided, this last time, he would carry out the wishes of his mother.
He buried her on the bank of the river.
Her spirit was disturbed because, she really would have prefered a place overlooking the ocean.
In a way, the son had failed his mother, again.
A bolt of lightening, came down from the sky and, struck Tara's belly button.
It turned him into a tree frog.
Whenever it rains, croaking of the frogs along the river can be heard.
It is Tara, crying because, he is worried, the rising water may take his mother away.
Okinawan Folk Stories ISBN978-4-99009-146-0 P.74
Perverseness and the Tree Frog
This story takes place during a period of never ending rain.
Dark skies and a continuous downpour made travel by land or, sea impossible.
The King was confined to Shuri Castle and, worried about the island's crops.
To End Depression
The king had the servants brought together to tell stories.
He asked, if anyone might have an idea, what types of stories, could cheer him up.
One servant, suggested, talking about tasty foods, might help end the gloom and doom.
They took turns, describing the most delicious foods, they could imagine.
Some, considered rice to be the best food.
Others, preferred fish, goat or wild boar as their favorite choices.
Finally, the king asked the original servant, to describe his favorite meal.
Standing proudly before the king and all his court, he said, "Salt is the best thing in the world."
This made the king angry and, he thought the servant was poking fun at him.
The king quickly, banished the servant to Yaeyama Island.
Rain Ruined the Crops
Torrential downpours left the crops rotting away in the fields.
With nothing fresh, to flavor meals, the king complained about his tasteless dinners.
Servants dreaded bringing him meals and, hearing him grumble.
Mysterious Tasty Dish
One afternoon, the king tasted his soup and, smiled. It was delicious.
He wanted to know what had been added, to make this meal so mouthwatering.
The servants told him, nothing special had been added to the meal.
The king insisted, something different had been put in the food and wanted to know what it was.
A cook, checking the pot of fish, lifted the lid. And, something dropped into the soup.
It had come from the rafters, overhead.
When the servant looked to see what it was, he found a bag of salt, soaked from the rain.
Sea salt was the magic ingredient, that made his food taste so good.
The king remembered the man he sent into exile for his comment about salt.
Now, he felt badly and, wished for that servant to return.
A messenger was dispatched to Yaeyama, to find the exiled man.
The servant refused to return to Shuri Castle, as the king had banished him for lifetime.
The king sent a second mission to do whatever it would take for the servant to return.
The servant agreed to return to Shuri only under a certain condition.
Three Harii (dragon boats) would have to come to get him and race home to Naha.
The king odrered the Harii boats, to be built and, they sailed to Yaeyama.
The boats raced back to Naha, carrying the servant in the center harii.
The rainy season, stopped, as the harii and exiled servant returned to Shuri.
On the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar calendar, each year, the Naha Harii takes place.
It helps, stop the rain and, the God of the Sea is thanked for the delicious ingredient; sea salt.
Okinawan Folk Stories ISBN978-4-99009-146-0 P.119
Condensed from Salt Is the Number One Treat
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Wonderful and Whacky
Fireworks and festivals take place somewhere on the island, every weekend these days.
Instead of traveling miles and miles to see them, I stayed close to home.
The parking lot for this preschool is directly behind my house.
So, there wasn't going to be too much wear and tear on the yellow flip-flops.
It didn't take over two minutes to get to this event.
The little boys and girls get to dance in their summer pajamas.
Music being cranked out of loudspeakers gets the kids dancing.
It sounded like some Japanese version of Pop Goes the Weasel.
The more mature young ladies, got to wear yukatta or, summer kimonos.
Some of the songs sounded like Mickey Mouse and Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Parents and teachers got involved in some sort of relay race.
It was hilarious watching some of the stuff they had to do in the competition.
They raced around the stage on toy scooters and with tennis rackets.
There was one part where they ran with a volleyball stuck in their crotch.
nd, an event where they blew up a balloon while running around the stage.
Then, they had to bust it with their fanny, at the end !
From the north district of Kin, came the Nakagawa Eisa Group.
And, I'd rather watch them perform than, see fireworks, anywhere.
That's because, one of them happens to be an 18 year old sweetheart, of mine !
Saturday, July 18, 2015
A child was singled out from among his friends and, patted on the head.
The Yuta (shaman) who had approached him said, something bad was going to happen.
Without explaining, he walked away, leaving the boy frightened.
The child ran home and told his father, what had happened.
Papa, got directions and went to see the Yuta.
The Yuta explained, the boy would soon die, even though he was only 8 years old.
The father, begged the shaman, to help him change the boy's fate.
There was no one, on earth, who could change the child's future. Maybe, the gods could.
The Gods of the Southern Cross and North Star visited once a year.
They would get together at a secret location in the central mountains.
On the first day of the New Year, they would play a game of Japanese Chess, called Go.
If a human were to prepare them a feast, they may listen to a person's requests.
The Yuta explained what to prepare and gave directions to the secret grove.
New Year's Day
The father cooked plenty of grains, vegetables, meats, fish and, made a large pot of tea.
When he reached the location in the mountains, the gods were already playing.
Staring intently at the board game, they didn't notice the human approach.
He placed the food and drink near them and, remained silent.
Before long, they started consuming the feast but, never took their eyes off the game.
A game of Go would last for hours and hours.
When the game ended, the father decided to speak on behalf of his child.
He asked the gods, if his child would be able to live a full lifetime.
Southern Cross God was sympathetic towards the father.
But, the North Star God became angry and grumbled aloud.
"Lifespan is determined by me, on the day of birth. Nobody can change it."
Then, the gods started another game of Go.
While they played, the father continued filling their plates and pouring green tea.
Patience and Persistance
For hours, they steadily eyed the game board while, ignoring the man.
Eventually, the Southern Cross God spoke to the North Star God.
"This human prepared a feast and traveled a long way to serve us.
It is the beginning of a new year. Let's see what we can do for him in return for his kindness."
Southern Star God said a decision would come later and, gave the father two balls.
He was instructed to give the blue ball to his son and, the red one to the Yuta.
Time Goes By
The boy kept his gift from the gods for the rest of his life.
He grew up to be handsome, healthy, wealthy, popular and, lived to be 88 years old.
The red ball, given to the Yuta, was placed in a special, wooden box.
It contained all of his shamanistic materials.
It turns out, the ball was an agent for spontaneous combustion.
All the tools of the Yuta's trade became a heap of black ashes and, he was ruined.
The meeting place of the Southern Star God and North Star God has never been found again.
The age of 88 is called Tokachi, in Okinawa.
This is considered the beginning of old age and, is an occasion celebrated by friends and family.
Folktales of Okinawa ISBN4-947654-05-8 P.97
Condensed from: The Red and Blue Balls
Friday, July 17, 2015
Research still goes on for this specimen and more information will be posted at a later date.
For sure, it is a praying mantis.
The exact scientific nomenclature and sex of the bug, haven't been determined, yet.
A YouTube video gave me some information, that sent me all over the internet.
From a channel called, Real Japan Monsters, I learned this:
" Mantises are fascinating insects closely related to termites and cockroaches. All mantises are predatory and will eat anything they can catch...including one another. Cannibalism is common among mantises, especially during the mating season. Females may even begin consuming their suitor before the act of copulation is complete. This is because control of the male's reproductive movement is controlled not by the brain but instead by a small nerve bundle in the abdomen. Males who are cannibalized may actually have a better chance of reproductive success, as headless males copulate longer and with heightened libido. Most mantises can fly and the males of many species are adept at flying after dark in pursuit of hungry females."
Wild Tales Require Some Verification
Out on the World Wide Web, we went, looking for more about this creature's habits.
Sure enough, over at National Geographic, they tell you; it's true.
They even say the females are notorious for eating their mates.
Some, do it after mating and, others do it while mating. Yuk !