Thursday, March 23, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Laugh and Dance

Silly cutout in a shopping center located in Koza, Okinawa, Japan

They Don't Make Them Like This Anymore

The weather guru, stretched the truth a bit today and, it caught me off guard.

It was supposed to be cloudy and overcast all day long. So, I stayed at the office.

Miserable weather, doesn't mean people have to be miserable, too.

When they predict a lousy day I try and shake it off, by doing something nice.

On the way to work, I plan on making at least three people smile.

Some, I just say "Good morning" to and, others "Merry Christmas."

Smile, when you greet someone and, most times, they'll smile back at you.

Half a dozen smiles, makes even the worst of days, a little brighter. I got five today.

About 4:30 this afternoon, the sun shined for a good while but, I didn't get out much.

While out back, getting some fresh air, I noticed some birds and ran for the camera.

A total of two images were taken. One bird and one flower, I'll save for another day.

This is the first time, I've posted a (TBT) Throwback Thursday image.

We were in an old, dying shopping mall, which is probably a ghost town nowadays.

Humongous shopping centers, have sort of killed, all the little marketplaces, these days.

They may have outlawed, cutouts such as this one, for tourists to pose behind. Who knows ?

I thought that outfit was fabulous. And, look at my fingernails. Gorgeous, eh ?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Over at the Body Shop

Poledancer signs


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Photo: A Ritual - GIF and a Question

Rituals and prayer in a cave, Ayako Toguchi, priestess

Churchgoers Know the Answer

Pictured above is sort of a sacred ritual that takes place on Kouri-jima this time of year.

Ayako Toguchi is the woman, leading prayers in a cave lit by candles.

Usually, after photographing events like this, I like to return with some printed images.

Someone's cell-phone in the background, seems like a bit of distraction, to me.

Ayako Toguchi praying, GIF, rituals, cave

Some earth was moved around in the images used to create this animation.

When I present Ayako, her printed photo, the cell-phone will have been removed.

Those gadgets, weren't invented, back in the days, I attended church regularly.

Do People Take Telephones to Church ?

Down in that cave, I know for sure, a cellular phone wouldn't operate. It's underground.

Heathen that I am, I probably won't go peeking in some church, to see what goes on.

It just seems odd. I guess, people have to be continuously wired, these days.

For all I know, they may be taking their dogs, cats, chickens or pigs to church.

Come to think of it, when my parents dragged me to church, I bet I was a distraction, too !

Monday, March 20, 2017

Flower Photos: 2017 Azalea Festival Higashi Village Okinawa

Azalea Bridge During Flower Matsuri

First Day of Spring

There were heavy clouds and some sprinkles of rain in the hills of Okinawa today.

But, that doesn't keep nature loving people of the island, from getting out for a matsuri.

Bright ping azalea flowers

Rather than, shoot photos of people with umbrellas, I did some zooming with the lens.

Climbing the walkways through this hillside, was some exercise my body needed.

Pink and white flowers in thick bunches, azaleas

Some of those blossoms, give off a strong scent, I can't really describe. Let's see.

Well, they smelled lots better than, some of the perfume, on the gals walking around. Hah !

Pink, red, white flowers in a rock garden

If, the sky would have cleared, photos with blue sky, would have been taken.

That wasn't going to happen until, long after I, headed back to my office.

White and red azalea blossoms

Before long, I noticed something. There were only three colors of flowers.

Red, pink and white. Don't they have orange, purple or yellow ones, they could plant ?

Red azaleas

It was nice, to be out in the fresh air and, climbing hills but, sort of a wet day.

Suddenly, I got an idea. "Maybe, people want to see the skyline."

Lots of folks might be thinking. "This is boring, show us the sky."

For Those Not So Crazy About Flowers


A decision was made, to go out of my way and, present something different, today.

I told my friend Doc Graff, sometimes folks like to see crappy weather. Not me.

Sky, ocean and rocks on an overcast day in Okinawa

Here's the view, from the azalea festival, I got while facing Okinawa's east coast.

It doesn't exactly lure visitors to the island for beach parties or swimming.

Barbecued pork ribs in yakisoba

We got down off the hill and, stopped at a tent for some festival food, just in time.

It was a first, for me, eating this variation of Yakisoba. First time, in a lifetime.

Barbecued pork ribs (soki) on a pile of yakisoba. Mouthwateringly delicious, it was.

It was a tad more expensive than, normal matsuri food. About 10 bucks or, 1000 yen.

Would I go back there and, eat a meal like that again?  YUP !

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Culture Photo: Prayer and Blessings in a Cave

An Okinawan Priestess, Kouri-jima, prayer, cave, rituals

Camera: Pentax K1

Lens: Pentax 50MM

Exposure:  f/1.8   1/25   ISO 3200

Location: Sururu Gama, Kouri Island, Okinawa, Japan

Date and Time:  MAR 19 2017  1:58PM

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Okinawan Spirits and Spirituality

prayer and rituals with a priestess in a candle-lit cave

Praying in a Candle Lit Cave

It's that time of the year again, where these rituals occur on Kouri-jima. 

The photo of the old guy, next to the Yuta (priestess) happens to be me.

Not particularly religious, I go through the motions, just like everybody else in the cave.

That photo was taken a few years ago by the Map It Okinawa dude, with my camera.

I don't recall, what kind of prayer, I may have been making. Let's see.

How about, "Don't let the tide come in, until I get me and the cameras, out of here."

Back Up to Last Night's Celebrations


This "Guy Walks Into the Bar Story" must be told because, it inspired me.

It was St. Patrick's Day and I was just about to finish my first beer.

The Irish Pub was extremely busy. Maybe 120 people in a bar built to hold 30.

Standing room only but, the crowd made sure, I got a barstool close to the door.

A very intoxicated youngster stumbled in and stood next to me.

He said something like, "Okinawa is a state of mind."  That impressed me and, I agreed."

It was something, I would have wrote down if, I had a pen, I told the guy.

As the bar tender came down our way the youngster ordered a round for himself and me.

When he dropped to the floor, everybody assumed, I decked him, for some reason.

A bunch of folks came running over and asked if, the kid had bothered me.

I laughed and said, "I didn't knock him down. He reached for his money and fell over."

The kid was so plastered, when he reached for the wallet, in his pocket, he fell.

I told everyone, he was trying to buy me a drink. They got someone, to cart him home.

All of a sudden, everyone wanted to buy me drinks. I told them to save their money.

When I finished my 1st beer, it was time to move on to another watering hole.

As I stood up, a pretty gal, walked in so, I told her the barstool was reserved for her.

Next stop was a Brazilian bar and, plenty of celebrating Irish were in there, too. 

When I ordered a beer and it came, they said it had already been paid for.

I drank it quickly and ordered another one. All my drinks got paid for in advance, somehow.

Some of the crowd from bar #1 were there and, paid for my drinks. Rough night.

After the second beer, I decided it was time to move along and spend, my own money.

And, I didn't want to forget, what that youngster had told me. State of mind.

It would be nice, to come up with one word to describe Okinawa.


Okinawa is part of Japan but, closer to Taiwan than Tokyo. It's different than Japan.

We're so far south, some people call Okinawa, The Other Japan.

If, I had to put my finger on one word, it would be spirituality. You could Tweet it.

Procession going to a cave for Okinawan rituals

The people above, are trekking through the brush, to crawl into a cave by the sea.

Several times, I've been down there and, really dread the climb. People go every year.

Locals and people from all over Japan, go to attend this ritual.

They will pray and be blessed by a Yuta (Okinawan priestess) while in the cave.

This cavern, isn't visible, when the tide comes in and, fills it with water.

people crawling into a seaside cave

This is what the mouth of the cavern looks like at low tide.

The congregation, literally, has to dig in the sand, opening the front door to enter.

Spring Equinox, I've learned, is when some of the lowest tides of the year, take place.

Other Okinawa rituals, involving the ocean, happen during this season.

This one, comes to mind because, I've invited another foreign friend to attend.

Not many Americans have gone to witness this sort of ceremony.

Woman in prayer at back entrance to cave facing water

This younger shaman (yuta or priestess) is facing the rear entrance to the cave.

Prayers are uttered by the priestesses in some unintelligible language.

Blessings are given to each attendee, individually and, I keep worrying about the tide.

There are alcoholic spirits in that cave, along with any other spirits summoned for the event.

To me, Okinawa is not a state of mind. It's something about the people. They are different.

Let's just say, spirituality is what separates them from the rest of Japan.

Previous Posts:


Friday, March 17, 2017

15 Images from an Okinawa Island Hop

Three dolls on a museum stage

Not for the Faint Hearted

Some people call me Mick because, my real name is too long and, another Mick was with me.

He's visiting Okinawa, from Montana USA and, I won't use his real name, either.

Friends, call him Mick.  Two Micks, went out with cameras yesterday. Me and the other Mick.

Timeline map from Google showing travels

This neat map was provided by Google Maps. It shows everywhere we went.

If, you're wondering why, we backtracked a few times, I can explain.

The other Mick was driving. We were both born, last century so, we get lost sometimes.

When old guys get talking, the car, doesn't always pay attention, to where we planned on going.

Don't laugh. If you're lucky enough, someday, you'll get old too.

Waitui, Japanese marker post, travel site in Uruma, Okinawa

The three dolls, in the top photo, was the only indoors photo, I'll be showing.

Outdoors, was where we wanted to be and, there would be some hiking involved.

Our first stop, was near this road marker. It's pointing out Waitui, a historical site.

Waitui Farmers Road

Way back, early in the 20th century, this passageway was created by farmers.

They didn't like climbing over the top of the hill, to get to the other side after, harvesting crops.

Historical sign in Japanese and English

This sign, gives some of the history, in Japanese and English, for travelers to read.

The road was dug through the rocks, with hand tools and, it's 150 meters long.

Cave-like holes in walls

We walked back and forth, through the passage, examining the structural wonder.

And, got wondering, what these little cave-like digs, in the walls, could have been used for.

Maybe, it was places for the workers, to stash their drinks or lunch.

Er, maybe whenever somebody dropped dead from exhaustion, they got stuffed in there !

Trail and wooded area above Waitui passage

To complete our visit, to the site, we climbed over the old trail and saw what was up there.

Lots of gravesites were alongside the path, going over the top of the hill.

aerial view of Waitui Farmers Road

It would have been much easier if, we had hired a drone, to go up there.

Just because, I wanted to look down at the road, I figured, "Might as well take a picture."

If you had to pull a wagon or, drive an old car, you'd never make it on that trail.

tool known as a kama lying on some rocks

Working my way back down to street level, I noticed this red kama, resting on some rocks.

It's a farmer's hand tool that, could be used by karate dudes, as well.

They usually have wooden handles. I've never seen one like this before.

Off to Outer Islands

Thanks to modern engineering, some of the other Ryukyu islands can be reached by car.

We decided to visit Miyagi and Ikei islands and, hopped into Mick's rental car.

As we were driving along, talking about kids and dogs, something occurred to us.

Don't let those rental machines do the driving. They don't pay attention.

Next thing you know, we were going in the wrong direction. That's alright; we turned it around.

Nakabaru Ruins Archaeological Site

One of the things I love about island life is, you never get lost for long.

Sooner or later, ocean appears. Then, you just decide whether to turn left or right.

Before long, we arrived at this archaeological site, Nakabaru Ruins.

Taking photos of ancient dwelling, Nakabaru Ruins

Sneaking shots of the other Mick was easy because, he got involved, taking pictures.

Those straw-roofed shacks were where families lived, years ago before electricity came along.

Can you imagine, how kids would whine, these days if, they had to live like that ?

However, you couldn't yell, "Go to your room" like people do nowadays, either.

Well, I thought about it for a minute. Now, I know why men, were the hunters and fishermen !

Woman driving farm tractor, GIF

My friend, Mick only gets to visit Okinawa for a few weeks, every few years.

So, I thought it would be nice, to give him a few photos of his travels, for when he gets home.

I really hope his wife, doesn't think he's, chasing after that young farm gal on the tractor.

I bet if we held our fingers up, we're all about the same age. Hah !

Time to Do Some Hill Climbing Again

It was an iffy sort of day; overcast with a few sprinkles of rain but, I had to show Mick.

There are places in the Ryukyu islands, that many people, never heard of or, have seen.

Directly across the road from Ikei Beach, is the island's Gusuku (castle) Ruins.

Fortunately, the wife presented me, with some brand new flip-flops, that morning.

Without that handrail, the muddy trail, could send you down to the ocean.

The other Mick, had shoes for traction. My shima zori (flip-flops) were a bit slippery.

We went huffing and puffing, all the way to the top. But, I didn't take any photos from there.

The skyline, wasn't right and, I don't bother photographing stuff, I don't want to keep.

Utaki, a sacred site for worship

There's an interesting utaki (sacred site) near the top of the castle ruins.

It's a place where, the high priestess would have prayed, back in the Ryukyu Kingdom days.

If, you see see signs of burnt incense and coins, somebody has been there, praying.

At the Top of This Gusuku

Looking around, the sky wasn't favorable for photography, at this time.  Oh well.

Japanese sign mentions sperm and egg

There must be, something interesting to take a photo of, after all that climbing.

Using the iPhone, I got the Google Translate camera turned on, for this sign.

A little trick, I use: Email the translation to yourself, for further reference.

After a bit of tweaking and verification, it says, something like this:

"It is a holy place. Here is the god and goddess where the owner was made a saint.

 Gods will receive sperm and eggs from the Lord and will be given a gift that

matches the spirit of that man and woman."

CORRECTION: Above image was taken at another location. My apologies.

On the northern end of Ikei Island there is a lighthouse. This site is in the same area.

As you near the lighthouse, checkout the small trail, going right.

A bronzed statue and this Japanese sign are along the cliffs there.

Whoa.  Today is St. Patrick's Day !

The little bit of Mick, in me, says it's time to get out of this office and, put on the tux.

Maybe, I'll be back again Sunday.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 2017 Full Moon Over Okinawa

Full Moon above Okinawa Japan

Camera: Pentax K1

Lens: Pentax 300 with 1.4 Converter Focal Length 420MM

Exposure:  f/11   1/8   ISO 100

Location: Kin Town Okinawa Japan

Date and Time:  MAR 12  2017  6:44PM

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pass this Trick on to Friends with Noses

Unopened Pink and blue tissue boxes

Getting One Tissue Out of a New Box

Don't you just hate, trying to get the first tissue out of a new box ?

The perforated lid seems easy enough to get off, using a fingernail, for most of us.

Hand taking tissues out of a brand new box

It's the part, where your fingers go into the box, that drives most of us loony.

The pink tissue box, I'll use to demonstrate how, not to grab that first tissue.

Hand pulling several tissues from new box

Depending on how stubby your fingers are, you might get a dozen, on the first tug.

Maybe, folks with long fingernails, only snag a few.  But, one or two, was all they needed.

Here's How to Do It the Right Way

Poking a finger into center of tissue box

Use one finger, to poke down into the center of the tissue box, as hard as you want to.

It will compress all the tissues in the box and, sort of create a vacuum.

When, you pull your finger back out, air rushes in and, gets under the first few tissues.

Fingers pulling one tissue from box

Now, when you reach in there, it's possible to yank, only one tissue out of the box.

Hopefully, the Yu-Ru-Animal-PIKO people, won't mind my teaching you this trick.

One tissue comes out of the box

Try it the next time, you open a brand new tissue box and, let me know if, it works for you.

Only share this tip with good friends and family. I don't want the tissue people coming after me.

And, I'm pretty sure, nobody wants them to start pumping more air into the tissue boxes !

Friday, March 10, 2017

7 Things to Know About Cosmos (コスモス) Flowers

Field of cosmos in Kin Town, Okinawa

The Field Was an Eye-catcher

It was of those days, on a long hike, when  birds weren't cooperating with me and the camera.

 I noticed, women stopping by, jumping out of their cars, to take selfies.

So, when nobody was around, I went over and composed this shot and, figured I'd use it.

My research led to some information, I had never heard of, concerning these flowers.

1. They originated in Mexico and South America

2. There are 20-30 or more varieties. So, I won't give any botanical names

3. Cosmos, are members of the same family as sunflowers

4. They thrive in sunshine, can go without water and bloom in the spring and fall

5. There are some breeds called Chocolate Cosmos

6. Some places, they use these flowers for clothing dyes. Other folks eat them in salads

7. They haven't been approved for usage by the (FDA) Food and Drug Administration

Eat Them at Your Own Risk


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sashiba (サシバ) The Raptor in Flight

Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle flying in Okinawa, Japan

Grey-faced Buzzard Eagle

This bird is known locally as a Sashiba. Scientific name: Butastur indicus.

They migrate from northern territories and winter in Okinawa.

Normally the birds reside here from November to March and, they are nice to have around.

Raptors, are birds of prey with sharp, hooked beaks that shred meat and, sharp talons.

They swoop down and grab snakes, rats, mice, bugs, and other pests.

This is a fairly large one, that hangs around a field, about 15 minutes walk, from my office.

Now, that I know where he hunts, I may be spending the rest of the month, watching.

It would be my pleasure, to capture a photo of this guy, grabbing and eating a mongoose!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Travel Agent Academy Kept Me Busy Today

American Airlines Vacations Specialist, certificate

American Airlines Vacations Specialist

Motivation to complete this course, I owe to a friend of mine, who got upset while traveling.

The Travel Agent Academy had been offering this course but, I wasn't interested.

The main reason being, I don't see any of their planes flying over Okinawa.

But, once I heard complaints from a buddy, I figured these folks needed some looking into.

Now, I can sneak around, places where most people can't go, over there. Hah !

Travel Insurance -  Another Thing Worth Checking

Some of the wicked stories, I've heard about travelers getting stuck, made me wonder.

Wouldn't it be neat if, somebody had to pay for inconveniences that happen while traveling ?

Allianz Global Assistance Specialist, certificate

Suppose you fell off a camel, over in Egypt or, broke your foot in Okinawa.

A vacation could be ruined just because, something cut your trip short. Groan.

In the Global Assistance Program, I learned all kinds of things I never heard of before.

Less than 30% of travelers, buy insurance for their trips 'cuz, they figure they don't need it. 

Along Comes the What If's

Stuff like, what if, you have a medical emergency, while in a foreign country.

Getting medical evacuation or, emergency services could cost thousands of dollars.

Or, what if, somebody back home croaks and, you need to cut vacation short ?

How about, you paid for a cruise and, the company goes bankrupt ?

Allianz Global Assistance Advanced, course, certificate

There's so many things covered by this insurance, I had to learn more.

These folks get you assistance and cash money when you need it so, you don't have to worry.

They have a global network and translators on standby 24/7, to handle your needs.

So, I plan on keeping in contact with them for a couple of reasons.

Once, when I was in Mexico, I got drunk and fell off a donkey. Other stuff, too.

And, should I ever visit the USA again, I want top-notch coverage, just in case.

Supposing they build a wall. I'll visit Mexico and, may have some trouble getting back.

It would be terrible. Maybe, I could ask these folks if, they'd help me buy a ladder !

Saturday, March 4, 2017

It's Easy to Animate a Little Pecker

Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, GIF

First You Have to Find One

Little peckers are common in Japan, anywhere from Okinawa to Hokkaido.

They are also found throughout parts of Asia, such as China and Korea.

When you spot one like this, don't make any noises and sneak as close as you can to it.

A tripod is recommended but, you could steady the camera on a rock or, tree limb.

The bird was busy, pulling wood out of a dead tree probably, to nest in. Sawdust was flying.

Take Plenty of Photos

There are seven images, I used to create this GIF but, I probably shot fifty of this bird today.

If, you don't have a Google Photo account, get one; it's free.

To make one of these animated GIF's in less than five minutes, here's all you have to do:

1. Upload to your Photo account

2. When the upload is complete, refresh your browser

3. Next, hit CREATE, it's just to the left of the UPLOAD button

4. A window drops down and gives you choices Create new Animation, is what you want

5. Select the images you want to use in the animation

6. Checkmarks will appear on the selected photos. Hit CREATE and, you're done


Most of the animations I create will have from 5-9 images, sized at 800 pixels wide.

Before downloading animations, I check the info feature on Google Photos.

To keep GIF's from being over 3 million bytes, don't add excess photos to the animation.

If you use Twitter or, just post them on a website, you don't want humongous files.

Brenna the Google Photos expert is the one to ask if, you want to learn more.