Monday, November 30, 2015

Travel Photo: A Ritual Called Shimakankaa

men,worship,rites,stone lion, sake,food


It Only Happens Once a Year



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

15 Photos from Another Kin Town Live Matsuri

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.

bar scene, Mami Sakiyama, food, tables, speech, alcohol

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.

Orion Beer, paper lanterns,night street scene

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.

traditional music, sanshin, drum, man and woman, Mineo band

 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 !

comedian, musician, singer

  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.

woman singer, Japanese Enka, traditional music

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.

Tomomi,drummer, musician, costume

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 !

Sari, singer, sanshin, peace sign, smiling

 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.

male vocalist, singing

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 ?

Tomomi, drummer, Sari, singer, onstage

 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. 

Sari, singing, playing sanshin

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.

dancing, hand movements, live band

It's not necessary to be intoxicated, to do this Okinawan dance.

But, for some people, I imagine, it helps !

close-up, Sari the singer, singing

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.

Tomomi, drummer, American Indian headwear

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.

Grand-finale, dancing, kachashi

 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 ! 

Related Posts:

Bar Crawl  or Pub Crawl -- Whatever You Call It Photos

Photos from Kin Town Live Matsuri Number Two

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Wagyu Burger in Kitanagusuku Okinawa

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 !

hamburger, restaurant, front view

 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 !

hamburger joint, counter, signs

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.

tables, chairs, dimly lit, restaurant

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.

Norman Rockwell, painting, framed, art

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


platter, fried potatoes

First the fries, which are grown way up in Hokkaido, showed up at the table.

These things were yummy and, came out piping hot.

cheese, hamburger,lettuce, fried onion,pumpkin bun

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

Grey Heron in Flight in Morning Sunlight

Grey Heron, Ardea cinera, bird

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

Related Post:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

10 Photos of an Eastern Yellow Wagtail in Water

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.

Motacilla tschutschensis, bird, water

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. 

yellow wagtail, bird, feeding

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.

reflection,water,bird, yellow wagtail

 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.

bird with beak in water

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 !

bird, shaking waterdrops

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.

bird, giving camera a stare

A couple of times the rascal, looked like it was, getting pissed-off, at me.

sideways glance, bird, water

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.

yellow wagtail, bird, freshwater,stream

 Getting a positive identification requires plenty of photos.

And, it probably would have been better to have some of the bird in flight.

yellow bird, black back

After awhile, the bird got tired of all the racket the camera was making.

And, it disappeared.

bird, rear end,wings
 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

Guest Photo and Words from a Long Time Friend

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 !

photographer on ladder,parade,Okinawa
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



Haisai Mike!

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!

Closing Comments


 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.

Related Post:

Photographer's Interview and an Excerpt on How I Nailed the Queen


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Aldabra Giant Tortoises and a Travel Tip

IUCN Red List, vulnerable, turtles, Geochelone gigantea

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

Goodbye to National Geographic Magazine

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.

National Geographic, magazines,traveler

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."

Traveler, subscription, renewal, notice, email

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 !

Okinawan Folktale: Legend of the Monk and Okukubi River

river, kayaks,birds,eco-tourists,mangrove forest

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.

Photographs and text by Michael Lynch 

Translated by Mami Sakiyama 

shipwreck, Buddhist monk, young man


A Shipwrecked Monk

Early 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!”

After a short time, the monk asked the young man for something to drink. The youngster took him to a spring on the outskirts of the village. When the monk drank a sip of the fresh water, he shivered and said "How delicious this is! You could make an excellent
green tea with this refreshing spring water." He taught the method of making tea, to his young savior.

Japanese sign, monk, youth, trees, vegetation,rocks,prayer

Monk and Young Man



The Buddhist regained composure and started talking about what had happened to him. The youth became tense, as he discovered the monk held the high position of Nisshu Shonin. The monk told the lad,”Please don't be nervous. You are my lifesaver. Feel free to let me do something for you in return.". But, the young man said, " I don't expect anything from you. I just did what I needed to do as a person. If I were to venture a favor, I would love to have a surname given by you."  

The monk asked him what kind of surname he wanted to have and the young man said, " There is the river called Hijaga at the foot of the other side of the mountain. It has nourished many people from generation to generation. I would be very honored to be given a name related to that river." The Buddhist monk started chanting and said, " Your surname is Higa from now on. This name will bring you a lot of happiness. Please use it proudly."

freshwater, spring,trees, greenery, Japanese, sign



Origins of Fukka and Saga




The story about the Buddhist monk and the young man was spread by the locals and, they began calling the beach (where the monk had been adrift ) Fukka (福花 = flowers of good fortune) and the spring Saga (茶川 = green tea river) named after the legend of the monk. 

Saga Spring became famous for its delicious water, utilized in making green tea. Word of this tasty tea spread throughout the island. When royal officials from Shuri Castle came to Kin, many of them would visit the spring.



agriculture, farming, vegetables,monk, young man





Village Inhabitants





The monk wanted to do something for the people who helped him and treated him so well. He had extensive knowledge about agriculture, so he taught the natives (who only knew farming learned from experience) how till the land using the most efficient methods and, showed them the most advanced technology for the cultivation of crops. 

Thanks to the Buddhist Monk's guidance, they had a bountiful harvest and the village prospered for a long time. Because of the surprising results of his guidance, some locals recited, "White sand turned into rice!" Many people considered the monk to be a "Kaminchu" which is a godly person.
Then, terrible things began to happen in the community...



night scene,full moon,young stranger, Japanese, sign




  Local Girl and Handsome Boy





One moonlit night, a good-looking stranger showed up. He awoke the most beautiful girl in the village with his fascinating voice. She was tempted by his handsome features and followed him as, if she were in a trance.

A boy, who had a crush on the charming girl, hid and followed in the darkness. He saw them walking arm in arm as if they had been dating for a long time. He wished to keep the beautiful girl away from the handsome boy. Suddenly, the air was filled with smoke and, the handsome boy turned into a huge serpent.

The snake coiled around her body, so she couldn't run away, and they disappeared into a cave.

snake, victim, riverside




Transforming Serpent



As legend goes, the snake was living in the cave and eating livers of human beings, especially, youthful charming virgins and, the villagers became frightened. At the river that leads to the cave, many young girls who went to draw water had been attacked by the snake. The serpent also wreaked havoc on the farm products of the village so, the locals tried not to get near the cave or river. After no one had been attacked for a long time, people began to believe maybe, it had died.

The villagers still kept away from the river and the cave and refused to grow farm products around that area because of the serpent. The devious vermin, once again, began transforming into a handsome boy and started sneaking in people's houses in the hamlet.


Monk Banishes Snake



beads, Buddhist monk,serpent,cave, Japanese, sign,sketch



Once villagers learned of beautiful young girls being kidnapped, they couldn't sleep well nights and stopped going outside. They feared being eaten by the snake or, worried their daughters might be kidnapped by it. The monk became concerned about the villagers and, when he visited them, noticed they were hiding their daughters and crying. He decided, some action would be required to stop the terror.

At the cavern entrance, the Buddhist chanted an incantation to seal snake inside forever. Since then, nobody got attacked by the snake. And, the village began to prosper again.

Mami Sakiyama is an aspiring photojournalist, teaching English in Onna-son, Okinawa, Japan