Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thanks to JNTO Australia -- This Bird Gave Me an Idea

nibird, Mejiro in cherry blossoms

Bird in Blossoms

The Mejiro is a Japanese White Eye on a blog, I did awhile ago.

Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) Australia, let me post, down there.

The idea, was to get folks from Australia, to visit Okinawa during Cherry Blossom season.

Somehow a Link Got Broken

Things like that happen, all the time to websites, with no notice at all, I know.

Someone, in Australia, shared my old blog post on Facebook.

When, I tested the link, it was broken and, I heard about it from others, too.

Reporting the error, to JNTO Australia, got some quick action and, they thanked me.

Everything is working fine, right now.  Check it out if, you don't believe me.

bird in cherry blossoms

People Love That Bird Photo

A few times, I've printed it and given it away, to friends and neighbors but, never sold one.

Some people ask, "When's your shop open, I want to buy that bird photo."

And, I just tell them, "That's my office, not a store."  They want to know more.

"When's your office open?"  "It's open, when I'm in there and closed, when I'm gone."

See, I'm not a very good salesperson. Catch me if you can.  And, we can talk about it.

Two Million Views is Coming Soon

So, I flipped the bird and, am thinking about having another giveaway celebration.

Back in 2012, we had the One Million Views Giveaway.

How it was accomplished, was discussed afterwards and, it went smoothly.

This time, I want to allow more people, around the globe, to be eligible.

So, I'll have to make up some new rules.  Communists, can play, too.

Friends, family, employees, shouldn't be exempt, from a giveaway.

Entry rules will have to be written differently than, in the past; it will all be legal, maybe.

High resolution files of the Bird in Blossoms photo, will be created.

Not sure if, the bird flipped left or, right is the way to go.  What do you think?

Anyhow, there isn't much time left.  We have to do something soon.

Any input, from the audience would be appreciated.

One More Quick Note

If you or anyone you know, is running a website, there's a tool, you may want to look at.

It' free and, does a most excellent job, finding broken links, on a website.

At least, once a month, I'll find a dozen new broken links, to fix, on my site.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Animation: Green Grass Lizard

Takydromus smadagdinus, lizard, gif

Hanging Out in a Shrub



This character used up about 20GB on one SD card from my Pentax, today.

While the card was downloading, I went back outside for some fresh air.

The light was right so, I grabbed another SD card and the camera, for round two.

Some people have been getting this lizard mixed up with a house gecko.

This is a Takydromus smaragdinus and, it doesn't live indoors.

Hours, were spent, hoping to catch some photos of the critter on some rocks.

But, it spent the entire day, scurrying around in this small tree.

It has some extremely long toes for climbing but, I don't believe, they have suction cups.

So, I doubt, this individual, could walk on a ceiling, as house geckos do.

The images in the GIF were taken with the Pentax K1.

A 300MM lens was used along with a tripod.

Exposure:  f/4   1/320   ISO 400 

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Suicide Boat Squadron Monument in Kin Town

monument, flowers, stone markers, Japanese

Help from Google Translate



Here's a site I've passed by hundreds of times and, never gave it much thought.

Someone keeps the marble stones swept, cleaned and, places fresh flowers there.

One day, I used the photo option and translation feature on the smartphone.

That's when I discovered the significance of this monument.

 The building, off to the right was a Japanese Army headquarters during WWII.

There were suicide motorboats, stationed in Kin.

Little, wooden boats, loaded with explosives and, manned by teenagers.

If you weren't qualified to fly kamikaze airplanes, you could still serve the emperor.

Learn how to crash, wooden boats into US ships and, you could be a dead hero.

Japanese text, suicide boat monument, black stone

Going back, with the big camera, I shot this plaque for folks, to read.

If, you can't read Japanese, don't worry. I'm not too good at it, either.

Use the translate option and photo feature on your phone and, you'll see what, I saw.

Standing in the middle of the street, to take this photo was tricky.

Cars, would come along and, I'd have to move, to wave them by.

People, walking down that side of the road, were stopping, to avoid ruining my photo.

They're so friendly. I would greet them and, tell them, to go on and pass by.

This is a special place and, might be sacred, to some people.

After the photography was done, I had to do something to, not appear sacrilegious.

Walk over close to the stones, bow my head and, act sort of reverent.

Then, made like, I was saying a prayer for them, from me and my family.

"It was nice, to have never met you," was all I said.

More About Suicide Boats

Sunday, August 28, 2016

End of the Weekend Animation

gif,dancing, kimonos, ritual, Shinigu, Shinigu, women

Great Cloud Cover Came By



This might not be the GIF of the week but, it will be hard to beat.

Yesterday, in the northern hills, the sun was glaring down and it was blazing hot.

That makes for some mighty difficult photography.

When the sun got blocked for a few seconds, I fired away and, captured this scene.

Most of the dances and songs at this event are solemn and seem religious.

This number was lively and different from the rest.

The occasion, called a Shiungu or Shinigu  is an annual event held throughout the Ryukyus.

One of these days, I'll have to catch up with those dancing women, to ask a question.

Was that, some sort of funny tune, they were dancing to?

Were they smiling, because the cloud cover made them happy?

Or, did they see me, dancing in matching yellow flip-flops, singing "Ei, ei, oh?"

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Animation (GIF) Unwired in the Hills of Okinawa

women dancing, headbands, kimonos, trees

Centuries Old Ritual



Late yesterday afternoon, found me up there, shooting a dance in the mountains.

It's been about four years, since the last time I'd been at this ceremony.

Back then, I ended up, going to the celebrations at the conclusion of the events.

After sipping a few of the local spirits, a bunch of us, piled into taxi cabs.

Off, we went, for a night of drinking and singing.

Once all the sacred things are done, those gals like to unwind a bit.  Me too.

Older But Wiser


Knowing, I be shooting a thousand photos or more, I did things differently, this year.

The cameras got packed away and, I sneaked down off the hill.

Then, went to a secret location, to drink, without any of those angels.

Looking back at images taken in 2012, I see several familiar faces from yesterday's shoot.

In the next few weeks, I'll probably be delivering photos to those gals.

If, anybody asks, why I skipped out, last night, I'll have to tell them something.

They're a great group of people, to hangout with and, I don't want to hurt any feelings.

What should I say?

My guardian angel reminded me, I had other stuff to do?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Animated (GIF) of Takydromus Lizard

Takydromus smaragdinus lizard in a shrub, gif

Appears to Be a Youngster



Today was the first time, I ever noticed one of these, high in a shrub.

Just back from a camera walk with the 50MM lens, I was lucky to catch these shots.

Knowing, it would be gone, before I could run, to change lenses, I fired away.

The images would have turned out much sharper, using a big lens. 

Sometimes, you have to make-do-with-what-you've-got or, come home with no photos at all.

While I was outback shooting, the landlord came by, to get something out of his car.

He looked at me funny and, I could tell, he was wondering, what I was doing.

At the time, I couldn't remember, how to say "lizard" in Japanese.

So, I just said, "Konnichiwa" and waited until he was gone.

Then, took the camera and hopped up into the rock garden, to get a bit closer.

It scared the lizard and, it scampered away, real fast.

That gave me plenty of ass shots, which I won't post  here.

They are important items, for the scientific community, showing necessary details.

Anybody, other than scientists, who wants detailed ass shots of lizards, can contact me.

Payment can be arranged through PayPal or, via the postal system.

Large denominations of unmarked bills, in US currency, are preferred.

This lizard appears to be a Takydromus smaragdinus.

Lizard, in Japanese is トカゲ (tokage) for those learning the language.

Related Post:

GIF of the Week: Takydromus smaragdinus

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Okinawa Folktale: Unimuchi

Call It a Devil Cake

Mochi (muchi) is rice cake, served to young and old during the New Year.

An uni or, oni roughly translated, would mean, devil.

On the 8th day of December (Chinese calendar) unimuchi is served in Okinawan homes.

It is believed, that this date precedes the coldest day of the year.

Cakes, wrapped in gettoo leaves, are opened and families ask the spirits for protection.

Consuming the unimuchi is believed to ward off bad health and bring good luck.

If you don't care for gruesome stories, there's no need, to read any further.

ocean, cliffs, mountain, sky

The Demon Lived in a Cave

High on cliffs, overlooking the ocean, the monster stayed concealed during daylight hours.

In his youth, he was a perfectly normal child and, cared for his younger sister.

The parents, had moved on to the world of the spirits, at an early age.

A hard working teen, he earned what he could, while sister, kept a garden and cooked.

Survival was the name of the game and, he did well, as the man of the house.

Reaching Manhood He Changed Drastically

The lad, sprouted small horns on his head and, developed a hairy body.

He became violent and mean, as if he were a madman.

The villagers, ganged up and, ran him out of town so, he headed for the hills.

Not long afterwards, bad things began to happen, in the once peaceful hamlet.

It began slowly. Overnight, a small animal (chicken, cat, piglet) would disappear.

Little things like this happen, naturally, sometimes so, no one panicked.

As the months went by bigger things, fell victim, to the darkness.

When livestock, such as cattle, hogs, horses and goats, were taken in the night, people noticed.

Eventually, humans were being dragged away. It was the demon.

sketch, woman, basket, rice cakes
Sketch by Atsushi Maezato


Something Had to be Done


Little sister suspected, the culprit might have been her big brother, turned ogre.

As a family member, she felt responsible, for the villager's grief.

Knowing the approximate location of the monster's dwelling, she devised a plan.

Her Nini (big brother) used to love the rice cakes, she prepared for him.

She fixed up a basket, loaded with steamed rice cakes, wrapped in gettoo leaves.

Inside the rice cakes, nicely concealed, were shards of broken roof tiles.

She hiked up the hill and, placed the basket of food on a rock, near the cliff edge.

Sweating from her journey, she approached the cave, thinking it might cool her.

As she approached the entrance, it turned her stomach.

The cave was dark, reeking of rotting flesh and death.

She called out “Nini, are you here?”

The demon appeared. He growled and grabbed his sister, to take into the cavern.

Tell me why, you came here and, it better be for a good reason or, I'll eat you, too.”

She told him about the rice cakes, sitting on the rock, outside. “Over there.”

woman, cliff, man falling, demon
Sketch by Atsushi Maezato


She led the way, to the spot where the basket had been stashed and watched him eat.

He began devouring them whole, not paying attention, to what he was eating.

Soon, he began bleeding from the mouth, screaming in pain.

When he was writhing in pain and faced towards the sea, she shoved him off the cliff.

The devil, was gone forever and, ice cold wind blew in the girl's face.

By the Lunar calendar, it was the eighth day of December.

The tradition, of eating unimochi, continues in Okinawa, today.

Try some, without the tiles.


Okinawan Folk Stories ISBN978-4-99009-0

Adapted from: Onimochi P. 189

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Typhoon Lionrock Gave Me an Idea

Like a Drunk Monkey



The unpredictable storm, won't hold a steady course and, I have work to do.

It's hard to plan the week's schedule when, you don't know what the weather's doing.

 Today, I made sure plenty of storm candles are available to use.

gif, burning candle, black background

These things come in handy, when the electrical power goes out.

There hasn't been a power outage, due to a storm, in a long time, around here.

Two boxes of these things, are stored on a shelf in my office and, two more at home.

They've been laying around for a few years so, I made sure they still work.

It's a good idea, to test one out and, make sure, it didn't get waterlogged.

Worse than that, some critters could have eaten the wicks and, the candles wouldn't light.

Everything's Good to Go


First, I melted the wax, on the bottom and, stuck the candle to a can of tuna fish.

A black background was propped-up behind it and, I grabbed a camera.

Once the candle was lit, I played mini typhoon with the flame.

All that took, was opening and closing windows and moving fans around a bit.

An animated GIF was created  and, I'll practice some more if, a real typhoon ever hits.

There must be two dozen candles in my office but, only one can of tuna.

So, I best buy a few more and some potato chips, just in case.

If, the storm goes away and, my emergency supplies, don't get used, that will be OK.

Candles will get put back in their boxes and tuna cans, fit in my backpack.

Sometime, I'll show you, how to do a canned tuna fish and, potato chip dinner. 

It's a classic meal, I invented and, you can substitute things in the recipe.

Sometimes, I use Ritz Crackers with cheese, instead of chips.

And, I'm tempted, to try adding pizza sauce, to the mix for, a little variety.

Keep an eye on the weather satellites and, watch the typhoons.

Don't worry about me. I'm safe and, never run out of things to keep me occupied !

Monday, August 22, 2016

Girls Dancing with Kama (かま) -- Weapons or Tools ?

men with hoes, women with grass cutting tools, dance

An Impressive Dance



Sunday night, I knew there would be plenty more Eisa dancing, to shoot.

At the start of this festival there was all sorts of modern dance.

Students of the art, were doing some sort of hip hop, pop kinds of things.

Not wild about rap and hip hop, I took photos anyway, just to be polite, I guess.

This Act was Different 


It's hard work, peeking through a camera viewfinder.

After shooting a few dozen frames, put the camera down and, enjoyed this.

An old classic Okinawan song and dance, were modernized here and, I liked it.

Their instructor was nearby, watching all the dances and, coaching the youngsters.

There wasn't time, for me to go over and talk to him. I have a few questions.

What's the name of the dance school and where is it located?

How can I get some of my grandchildren signed-up, to go there?

And, "Do you teach those kids, to use those implements as tools or, weapons?"

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Quick Trip to a Festival in Ogimi Okinawa

sabani boats, Japanese flags, oars, reflecting in water

Not Quite 1,000 Photos Were Taken



Last night's festival in Kin Town had me going home with over 1,500 images.

Too tired, to walk back to the office and download the camera, I got an idea.

Strap the camera to my body and celebrate, with the rest of the festival-goers.

The Pentax and I were safely home by 2:30AM.

A body needs lots of liquids during the hot days of August.  My choice was beer.

Somehow, I woke up and saw, Doc had text messaged me, to make sure, I'd  be ready.

If you sleep hard and fast, 4 hours is enough.  So, that's what I did.

Cold shower, iced coffee , let the dog out, grab the camera and, off I went.

The batteries were charged, images downloaded and, I was developing when, Doc arrived.

To the Northern Village We Went

It wasn't quite, half past noon when I shot the photos of boats reflecting on the bay.

The sun was blazing hot and, there wasn't much wind or shade.

We had a few hours, to kill, before any activity (we wanted to see) would happen.

 On one of the back-roads, we went and watched some gals, practice their dancing.

It's always fun, to meet them and, see if you can make friends.

That way, when the real deal, takes place, they won't be shy around the cameras.

women dancing, costumes, straw headwear

Close to two, in the afternoon, all the women started dancing, along the shoreline.

It's been about five years, since the last time we attended this event.

Surprisingly, some folks still remembered us.

women and young girls dancing,chanting, sand, drums

It seems like, more and more, young children, participate these days.

The last time, in this crowd,  women were intoxicated and, trying to get me to drink.

The only booze, I smelled today, was on me and, other dudes.

females in ocean, costumes, drums, cheering

At two, in the afternoon the gals go into the water but, not very far.

Just enough, to get their underparts wet, I guess.

They start beating drums, chanting and cheering the sabani boat teams, from their districts.

boats, paddles, racing, women cheering, gif

There are other activities, such as praying and sumo wrestling at ths festival.

We decided enough vitamin D was pumped into out bodies and decided, to head for home.

The event is called Unjami or, Ungami and, you can learn more about it HERE.

My cameras are recharged and, I'm about to leave this office, to do likewise.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Okinawa Obon Eisa at Night

drummers, street, evening, beating handheld drums

5 Animated GIFs of Evening Dancing



The streets were alive with music and chants this week and, there's more to come.

It would be impossible to photograph them all but, I gave it about 5000 attempts.

young women dancing in the street

 The girls dance to the rhythm in kimonos and flip-flops.

male dancer jumps in air, gif

Energetic drummers, dance and, jump into the air. 

guys and gals doing Eisa in the street, Kin Town

In the early hours, you may see children, costumed and, dancing with their parents.

Eisa group, large red drum

Some folks, might say, the music is loud enough to wake the dead.

Well, it's a festival, held yearly, to welcome the ancestral spirits back home !

Wednesday night was Ukui (last day of Obon) and, the spirits departed for the heavens.

Catching up on photo processing, I'll be taking the night off and, relaxing.

Tomorrow night, there's a festival, going on in Kin Town.

And, I'll be out shooting Eisa groups, all over again !

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Full Moon AUG 18 2016

astronomy, full moon over Okinawa, Japan

Camera:  Pentax K1

Lens:  Sigma 50-500/1.4 converter  Focal Length 700MM

Exposure:  f/11   1/25   ISO 100

Location:  Kin Town, Okinawa, Japan

Date and Time: AUG 18 2016  7:32PM

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Full Moon AUG 17 2016

full moon, Okinawa, Japan, August 2016

Camera: Pentax K1

Lens: Sigma 50-500MM + 1.4 converter  Focal Length 700MM

 Exposure: f/16  1/15   ISO 100

Location: Kin Town, Okinawa, Japan

Date and Time: AUG 17 2016  7:19PM

Animation: Sanshin Player

sanshin, musician, gif

Eisa Wouldn't Be the Same Without Them



When you're out chasing Eisa teams with a camera, catch some shots of these folks.

The drummers, dancers and costumes, make some good high contrast images.

Tucked away on the back of tiny pickup trucks is where you find these musicians.

They add lively, stringed instrument music to the activities and, are real friendly people.

Camera:  Pentax K1

Lens:  Pentax 18-250 at 48MM

Exposure:  f/11   1/13   ISO 1600

Location:  Kin Town, Okinawa, Japan

Date and Time:  AUG 16  2016  9:51PM 

More About Okinawa's Sanshin

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Shades of Eisa at Night

Namizato, Kin Town, Eisa Team, evening

Call It a Cat's Eye View



Late last night, in Kin Town, they made a thunderous sound with the drums.

The animation above is, Namizato's Eisa group and, I hope I shot them all.

Staying out past midnight, I caught a few more Eisa teams performing.

This morning, I had to be up early, for travel to the south of the island so, went home at 1AM.

Keep an eye on the Facebook page for images, to be posted, as the developing continues.

Monday, August 15, 2016

It Started at a Gas Station

Eisa at an ESSO Station, dancers, chondara, kimonos

My Night's Work



Drums could be heard all day but, I didn't head out with the camera until 4:30PM.

The Nakagawa Eisa group was supposed to dance here, around 5PM and, I got there early.

It's a good thing. They would be done dancing and chanting before five o'clock.

Quickly, I put this animated GIF together and, will be heading downtown again, shortly.

The ancestral spirits are welcomed home to a feast and festivities.

The young Eisa groups will probably be out dancing throughout the night.

So, I'm going to out and see how many, I can capture with the camera and lens.

Sometimes, I wish, someone with a video camera would come along with me.

The video function, on my cameras, never gets turned on because, that's not my style.

Thet gal in the striped, chondara uniform can whistle like, you wouldn't believe.

She sounds like a whippoorwill on steroids !

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Looking Forward to AUG 2016 Full Moon

moon in blue sky with passing white clouds

Hope for Clear Skies



Tomorrow Obon Season starts and, lasts for the next three days.

Like many activities on island, this event is scheduled according to the Lunar calendar.

Tonight, after 5:30 I went out and shot the moon, to create this animated GIF.

The moon isn't quite full yet but, it will be soon. 

If, you're in the Ryukyu Island Chain, I can give you 3 good reasons to get out at night. 

1:  It's lots cooler outdoors, after the blazing sun goes down.

2:  Eisa groups will be out, dancing, chanting, whistling and beating drums.

3:  If you're lucky and, in the right position, you might be able to catch them under the full moon.

Here's some links, giving the August 2016 full moon schedule:

Farmer's Almanac says it will be at 5:26AM on AUG 18.

Moongiant gives us, AUG 18 at 09:27 UTC.

Has the full moon listed on AUG 18th and, says this:

"It will peak at 5:27 a.m. EDT (0927 GMT), but will appear full to the casual stargazer a day prior and after the peak day."

Time and Date says, the full moon will be on AUG 18th at 18:26.

Check all the resources for the best time, to view the moon at your location.

A Little Tip

The wife has a Chinese/Lunar calendar, hanging on the fridge and, I always mark it.

It says the full moon, this month, is on the 17th of August.

Wednesday night is the last day of Obon in Okinawa and, the ancestors, return to the heavens.

The spirits, depart under the light of the full moon.

Can you guess what I'll be doing the night of the 17th ?

Maybe, doing stuff like, pretending to be a casual stargazer, the night prior to the moon's peak !


Saturday, August 13, 2016

End of the Trail for Minamoto Tametomo

Terabu Gama, cave,Makiminato, Urasoe, signboard, cultural property

Cave is a Cultural Property



Last week's discovery in Motobu, led to a search for this cavern.

The site, where Minamoto Tametomo arrived in Okinawa was the first half of the story.

The good Doc, who drives me around, agreed, we'd go hunting for his point of departure.

map, blue trail, Urasoe, Makiminato

 All we had to go on, was a tiny image of a cave, somewhere in the Makiminato area of Urasoe.

Neither one of us was drunk but, that smartphone of mine tracked, where we went.

The part, going into the ocean, must be a satellite hiccup; we stayed high and dry.

But, the rest of the map, looks pretty accurate. We zigged and zagged plenty in our hunt.

As the Story Goes

Minamoto Tametomo, sailed out of a port in Urasoe and, never returned.

His wife and son, lived in a cave, near the sea and, waited for him to come home.

Machinato or, Makiminato means, "waiting harbor" so, that's what the area was named.

cave, altar,text, English
Image credit: Urasoe City Cultural Property Guidebook 

After covering almost every centimeter of the coast along Makiminato, we became enlightened.

Weaving in and out of alleys, hitting dead ends and, sweating, wasn't getting us anywhere.

If, we were going to find that cavern, we had to get some help so, up the hill we went.

image, mother and child, boat at sea, text, cave
Image credit: Urasoe City Cultural Property Guidebook 

We got everything we needed at the Urasoe City office, in English and, it was free !

It helps, to communicate in Japanese or, the local dialect, even if it's just a smidgen.

A woman at the counter, gave us guidebooks and, maps of Urasoe, in a language, we can read.

stone stairway, looking back from cave entrance

It was still a little tricky, locating this cave but, we gotterdun.

Knowing this is sort of a sacred site, I wouldn't enter the cave, just take a peek inside.

Then, I turned around and, took this photo, to show the stairway, leading to the entrance.

Hopefully, the geocache enthusiasts, respect this cultural asset, as well.

The only way, I'd enter a site, like this, is if, I was invited to attend a ritual in there.

signboard, cultural asset, Japanese and English text

 This sign, off to the right of the site, gives the story in Japanese and English.

There are different versions of the story, concerning the fate of Tametomo. 

One thing, for sure is, the son he left behind, did become King of the Ryukyu Islands.