Thursday, August 31, 2017

Don't Let the Sign Fool You - The Food's Great

wooden sign, breakfarst and coffee

They Meant Breakfast

The problem with having handmade signs painted is they don't have spellcheck.

So, when ya spend big bucks and get a misspelling, Don't sweat it.

This one was discovered, when three hungry travelers were looking for a place to eat.

It was kind of a ramshackle, little joint, just off the highway, open early in the morning.

After placing my order, I went outside, for fresh air and a smoke.

They had tables with umbrellas over them and, food can be delivered by the staff.

It wouldn't take long for the meals to show up. That's when I noticed the misspelled sign.

tuna melt sandwich, soup, salad and dressing

My meal, was a tuna melt sandwich with soup and salad. Lots of salad.

It was delicious and, I was too hungry to bother taking photos of other folks meals.

The gals, ordered some sort of french toast, with ice cream and fresh berries. Yuck.

The location was near Uehara Ferry Terminal in northwest Iriomote Island.

In a few months, I'll be heading back that way and, plan on eating here again.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Stunned with Sign Language at an Okinawan Festival

festival, island, girl, sign language,performance,Iriomote,Okinawa

Star Performer

Last night, I returned from four days on the southern island of Iriomote, Okinawa.

Traveling with a sailing sabani team, I was plenty busy, getting tanned in the hot sun.

It can be exhausting work but, it's always interesting.

Besides the sailing boats, there were other things I had on my checklist of things to do.

It was my first visit to this island and, there's wildlife, we don't see on this island.

A good friend, Miss Miyagi, got me to the Wildlife Center, an hour's drive away.

There, I made contact and, took some photos but, they can wait.

This photo, I liked better than, any taken on this excursion and, wanted to post it tonight.

The girl is 8 year old Hiyuri Yamashita and, she's signing the Japanese word, for star.

Hiyuri is accompanying a band, performing an Okinawan song, at a rehearsal.

The festival, would be held the following evening and, she would be on stage.

It's always best, for me, to attend the practice and take photos before the main event occurs.

That way, people get to know me and, aren't nervous when I take their photos.

Curious, as to why such a young girl, knows how to use sign language, I asked her grandma.

"Does, Hiyuri have bad hearing, like me?"

Granny, laughed and said, "No. We teach all the children, how to sign!"

Camera: Pentax K1

Lens: Pentax 15-30 at 29 MM

Exposure: f/4  1/40   ISO 1600

Location: Iriomote, Okinawa

Date and Time: AUG 26 2017  8:05 PM

NOTE: More images at Iriomote Island AUG 2017 on Facebook

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stumbled Into チキンパラダイス or Chicken Paradise

Restaurant called Chicken Paradise, wooden sign, Kin Town, Okinawa

Unusually Fantastic

The wooden door creaks when you open it, to enter and, slams shut behind you.

It's a dimly lit, tiny little place, that smells like fried chicken.

No cameras were with me. It was, visit the hospital day and, I was heading back to my office.

In case anyone's wondering, I'm in great shape, just had to pick up some medicines for travel.

Blood pressure's fine and, ticker does 68 BPM (beats per minute) after walking a mile.

But, they like to give old folks, monthly doses of drugs, to help the economy, I guess.

Got my meds and was walking on the shady side of the street, when my stomach growled.

All the menu signs outside are in Japanese but, I could read the simple stuff.

Using the iPhone, I snapped some photos so, I could put it on Google Maps.

Big Guy at Counter

He was the only customer in there, I noticed as I squinted to adjust my eyes to the darkness.

Just one dude, wearing a plaid shirt, was at the left end of the counter.

His face wasn't visible. I just figured he was some big sumo dude, eating his lunch.

No sense bothering anyone so, I went over to the far right end of the L-shaped counter.

An Okinawan gal with a round, smiling face greeted me, from the tiny kitchen.

Ordering a Jumbo Chicken Katsu, I asked if, taking photos would be allowed.

She gave me the OK and, I went around the place snapping pictures.

When she didn't look busy, cooking I asked if, the place was on Google Maps.

She wasn't sure so, I told her, I'd get it done today and, shoot more photos later.

It's best for me, to go back there with a real camera and wide angle lens.

Big dude, continued eating his meal, facing the wall so, I guessed he was hungry.

Maybe, he was watching the TV, they had on turned on, near where he was sitting.

Jumbo Chicken Katsu, huge meal

Before 5 minutes had expired, this meal came across the counter and, the girl smiled.

Forgetting to take a photo, my growling tummy, made me start eating. Rats.

It wouldn't be right, to put a restaurant on the map, without a food image !

OK. A some of the chicken is missing. Gives an idea what the cooked chicken looks like.

There's salad, a  bowl of rice, soup, pickled veges, and tofu with some greens.

Hidden from view (under the chicken) some thick, fried potatoes. All scrumptious.

There was no way, I could consume all that food so, I had to ask the gal something.

"Do you do takeouts here, too?"  She said, "Yes."  And, I said, "Good."

Big Dude Speaks

This sort of surprised me. He said, "Can I get some more sauce?"

He spoke English. Still, I didn't want to bother the guy. The gal brought him some sauce.

Then, I quietly asked her (in Japanese) "Do you speak English, too?"  She, didn't.

Next thing ya know, the big plaid shirt, saunters, the 4 or 5 steps, over towards me.

This could be fun or, not.  I try to stay flexible. Ready to jump, defend myself or, run.

He was a peaceable individual and introduced himself. "I'm Alfredo from El Salvador." 

We became friends, swapped emails and, tried to connect on Facebook.

He's visiting his daughter and, goes home this weekend. We must do some beers.

He ran back to his room, while I was finishing (what I could of) my meal.

And, he came back with his cell-phone, to make sure, we got connected.

The restaurant gal, packed half my lunch in a takeout box for me.

Then, Alfredo and I walked across the street and, I showed him, where my office is at.

He was heading out, to buy an Okinawan Kariushi shirt, down in Naha.

That's crazy. I gave him directions, to someplace a lot closer and, prices would be lower.

He thanked me and, promised before he leaves this island, we're doing some drinking together.

Maps Got Done Quickly

Back at work, I tweaked the images and uploaded them to Google Maps.

A quick review was done. I had to input the address, hours and phone number.

Normally, it takes a few days, to get a new location loaded and approved, but not this time.

Chicken Paradise is on the map and, I showed the restaurant owner.

Looking closer at the image of the menus, posted outdoors, gave me an idea.

All that chicken (above) cost me only 700 yen.

For just 100 yen more, I could have gotten a Psycho Roast Steak. I will, next time !

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Travel Photo: Deep in Prayer

A spiritual person praying in front of fire in a cave, Kouri-jima, Okinawa

Spiritual Woman of Kouri Island

This photo and probably 200 more, are dated March 19, 2017.

A fairly busy time of year for me, I just developed this today because, a friend reminded me.

Mick McClary, a guy from Montana was visiting Okinawa on one of his annual excursions.

And, about two days before his departure, we went down in this cave for some rituals.

Several times, I've attended this event and, thought Mick might enjoy seeing it.

Little did I know, he'd take a tumble and, get bloodied, going down the mountain trail.

Knowing how slippery and dangerous it can be, I got a head start and, went slow descending.

When Mick showed up, he looked like he got caught in a meat grinder. 

He says a tree snapped and he fell, coming down the trail. He was sort of escorting the women.

The woman in the photo, I've known for a few years, now. She wouldn't push him.

But, the rest of the gals, I'm not so sure about. OK, let's just blame it on a tree.

The rituals take place in Sururu Gama, a cave at sea level on Kouri-jima, Okinawa.

Mick, took plenty of video footage and, at Tripod, they're available for viewing.

If, you have the time and patience, you can see everything except, the part where he fell.

Old geezer me, even showed-up in a few scenes and, I looked really old.

So, I have to get back to weight lifting and kickboxing, to get ready for the next cave tour.

Next time, I want to hop down that trail like a youngster. I'd better get in shape.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Crazy Stuff Happens on Thursday Night in Kin Town

Ryukyu Mike and granddaughter in front of wall art

 Sweetheart of a Girl

It had been a terrible week, actually horrible, two weeks if, you really want to know.

It all started when a few banks notified me, my credit card was being used.

Suspicious activity, 5 dollars, 15 dollars then, 60 dollar purchases were being made.

One of my email accounts, got overtaken by someone else, too.

The crooks are smart. They just use a little bit of money at a time. Then, wait.

If, they're not stopped soon, then mega-bucks start getting stolen.

Fortunately, I got to the bank and, got everything stopped.

Had them chop-up my credit card and order me a new one. That, was the easy part.

Recovering a compromised email account, takes a bit more sweat out of you.

Once, I finally got access to my 30 year old, email account, I felt relieved.

The internet, is still a scary place, to me. If, WWIII breaks out tomorrow, I won't care.

Nobody will have access to the internet, credit cards or, emails.

Fine with me. I almost got used to it. I'm ready to go back to living in caves.

It Was Time to Celebrate

With my stolen identity recovered, it was time to celebrate and get UN-Stressed.

A message was sent to the wife, "All is well, I have to go do beers tonight."

The wife is very understanding. She didn't reply so, that meant, OK.

In a favorite, air-conditioned establishment, I slammed several ice-cold beers.

After 5 or 6 Orion Draft Beers in frozen mugs, I got thinking. "Time to move along."

It was around 9 PM and, I planned on grabbing some smokes, on the way home.

Thanking the barmaid, I said, "Goodnight" and started to walk towards the door.

She said something but, I couldn't hear so, she hollered a bit louder.

"Mike, there's Eisa drums playing down the street." 

Sure enough, as I walked out the door, I could hear them.

They were dancing and beating drums, right in front of the store I was headed to.

Sonavagun if, my granddaughter, Marin, wasn't out there, dancing in a pink kimono.

There is never a camera with me, when I'm on a drinking excursion.

But, I had the iPhone and, one of my friends happened to be there, to take this photo.

Pretty good composition and, it made me happy, to get this photo with my eldest grandchild.

Only, I wish someone, would have told me to fix that button, under my belly and belt.

The background images are painted on the front of an Irish Pub named, Bingo's.

So, after saying "Goodnight" to Marin, you can probably guess, where I went next.

The plan then, was to buy the photographer a beer and, have one myself.

After a few more beers, I discovered, why Eisa was being performed, that night.

A bar across the street was celebrating their one year anniversary.

They had hired the Eisa Dancers and drums, as part of their celebration.

The Irishman in the pub, told me I should visit the bar across the street, on my way home.

It's on top of a steep flight of stairs and, I was kind of wobbly but, made it.

Someday, I'll have to go back, with a real camera and, get the place on Google Maps.

Some of my friends were drinking in there and, I sat with them for awhile.

Then, asked the staff if, photography was permitted. Good to go.

None of those iPhone photos will be posted today. There are some unique ones, though.

Once, I wandered into a side room, I hadn't known existed. Pretty big establishment.

A bunch of young men and ladies, were in there, having a grand old time.

One of the gals asked me, "You're Marin's grandpa, aren't you?"

When, I told her she was correct, they all got excited and, wanted to pet my fur.

So, after awhile, I excused myself, finished my last beer and, was home shortly after midnight.

Last night, the wife was surprised. It was Friday and, I didn't feel like going out, drinking.

Too much partying, isn't a good idea so, I took a little break and, went to bed early.

Saturday nights, things can become a little lively, too.

Hey Marin, "Remember how grandpa used to drive you all over Okinawa and babysit you?"

You're old enough now, to return the favor !

Friday, August 18, 2017

Potty Training Tourists

Illustration showing how to use the toilet in Japan

How to Use the Toilet

Travel and tourism is a huge industry in this part of the world and, that's a good thing.

People from different countries, don't always have the same bathroom etiquette.

So, signs like this are posted in airports, hotels and convenience stores.

It's kind of nice, the way they make these instructional signs, in Japan.

Just in case, you aren't fluent at reading, they make simple symbols for you to look at.

1. Please sit on the toilet seat, with your face pointing away from the lid.

A. Don't sit facing the lid.

B. Don't squat on top of the toilet seat, facing the lid.

C. Don't squat on the seat, facing away from the lid.

2. Flush used toilet paper in the toilet bowl.

A.  Don't throw used toilet paper in the trash can.

B.  Don't throw used toilet paper on the floor, either. ( I made that one up).

For Those Kids Who Can't Read

1.  Pull your  pants up, zipper or button them and, make sure nothing's hanging out.

2.  Then, go wash your hands with soap and water.

Those are some things, I wish they had symbols for, on these informative signs.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Okinawan Folktale: Origins of Okinawa Shisa

Two Original Stone Shisa Statues

There are hundreds of thousands of them if, you counted every Shisa on the island.

The Shisa (Lion-dog) seen today are kiln fired clay or, plastic figures used as good luck charms.

Throughout Okinawa they, guard gates, homes, bridges and offices, to ward off evil spirits.

Often, they are sold to tourists on key chains and as jewelry. Often, they are brightly colored.

To discover the origins of the Ryukyu Shisa, you'd have to go back a few centuries in history.

On the main island of Okinawa a few dozen of the original Shisa may be seen.

Remnants of the Ryukyu Dynasty, from the days Okinawa was an independent kingdom.

A traveler would have to leave pavement in order to find them. Here are two, unique ones.

Tomori Lion, Yaese, Okinawa, stone statue

Tomori Lion

Sculptured at some point during the 17th Century this statue sits on a hill in Yaese Town.

The district of Tomori, experienced fires burning homes and crops, frequently.

A master of the Chinese art, feng shui was consulted and a tour of the village was conducted.

What advice, to give the villagers, had to be determined by surveying the terrain.

Feng shui practitioners are sort of spiritual persons, with divine connections.

Normal humans, can't sense, which direction evil spirits may be coming from.

When the village elders and the guru reached this knoll, something happened.

They were all sweating from, climbing the hill under a blazing hot sun.

But, the master felt a chill, stopped perspiring and, got goosebumps on his body.

Facing Mt. Yaese, the feng shui expert declared, “That's where the fires are coming from.”

Showing them an amulet, resembling a lion, he gave them instructions.

A life-sized stone sculpture would have to be placed on this hill, facing the mountain.

The evil fires, coming towards the hamlet, would cease and, the villagers would be safe.

In the exact spot and facing in the correct direction, the Tomori stone Shisa was placed.

It was the first Shisa, ever made on Okinawa island and, many more would follow.

Kogusuku Nise Ishi, Nise Stone of Kogusuku, stone statue

Kogusuku Nise Ishi

The fires in Tomori Village never happened again. Stone Shisa became legendary.

They were used to ward off fires, plague, misfortunes and all sorts of evil, throughout Yaese.

Before long Shisa statues were being placed in villages throughout the Ryukyu Islands.

There are at least a dozen of these antique stones, to be seen in Yaese Town, alone.

Most of them are off the beaten path, hidden from the average traveler's eyesight.

Some are in habu (poisonous snake) and mosquito territory and, located where there are no

 parking areas for vehicles.

Many local residents, don't know these treasures exist, in the neighborhoods where they live.

The Nise Stone of Kogusuku is on the travel map and, has some unusual folklore.

It has been designated a Tangible Cultural Property of Yaese Town. It is different.

Shisa or, Chinese guardian lion dogs, usually protect hamlets from fires or evil spirits.

This Shisa was placed in its location, to ensure good fortune for young men.

After being erected at this location, it brought prosperity to the young men of the village.

To this date, on certain occasions, village officials and youth, come to worship here.

It is also said if, a woman desires a boy child, she should touch this stone Shisa.

NOTE: To find other original Shisa a local guide may be required.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Special T-shirt Arrived Overnight

T-shirt, memorial, sailing sabani, race, Sir Peter Blake

Late Night Message

Saturday night, sometimes finds me in a local watering hole and, it was one of those nights.

DING: A message came through on the iPhone, saying my T-shirt was delivered.

It was placed in the mailbox at the office. It would wait until morning.

It's a good thing the crime rate is low in this part of the world. Nobody, swiped my shirt.

Last month, I traveled to Zamami-jima for my fifth consecutive year to photograph this event.

The Maririn Cup, is a local race in the Kerama Islands.

The big event, is the Sir Peter Blake Memorial Cup Race, from Zamami to Okinawa Island.

A passing typhoon made this the longest of the sailing sabani races, I've ever witnessed.

Only three boats finished, within the six hour time limit. The rest struggled to get home.

Normally, there's a big celebration at the finish, with bands and free beer.

We dragged our exhausted, sunburned bodies to the closing ceremony and got a beer.

Suddenly, rain busted out and closed out the closing ceremonies. After, only one free beer !

Everybody ran for shelter and the bands, dancers and beer kegs, went home.

We were told, the T-shirts would get to us at a later date. It's a pretty busy shirt.

Sir Peter Blake

If, you were a Kiwi (New Zealander) and, didn't know this man, they'd lock you up.

He's the most famous yachting sailor, who ever went out to sea.

Broke every ocean sailing record in the world including sailing around the world.

Peter Blake was the only one, to take the America's Cup from the Americas. Twice !

After 2000 America's Cup win, he retired from yacht racing and, became an environmentalist.

On an expedition to the Amazon in Brazil, he was killed by pirates.

Going after the robbers with a gun, Blake was shot twice and died instantly.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Almost Full Moon Over Okinawa AUG 8 2017

Moon the 8th of August, Okinawa, Japan

Waning Gibbous 99.6 Percent

This is about as round as I've seen it get during the month of August this year.

The local moon phases calendar, says the moon was full at 03:10 this morning.

As I was walking the dog home, from buying my coffee, I saw the moon setting.

About 5 AM and the skies were hazy but, it looked like the moon was going to hit the highway.

Tonight, I climbed up on the roof and was waiting for moonrise at 7:30 PM.

It appeared shortly after I set the camera up, surrounded by fast moving black clouds.

There were 60 photos in the camera, when I stopped shooting and downloaded.

Tonight, I'll just post this one and, another on my Facebook Page, Ryukyu Life.

The remaining images, I may use to create a slideshow, showing the moving clouds.

All photos were taken, using a tripod and the camera timer at 2 or, 12 seconds.

Various exposure settings were used, depending on the brightness of the moon.

For this image, here's the camera specs:

Camera: Pentax K1

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

Exposure:  f/22   1/5 sec   ISO 100

Location: Kin Town Okinawa Japan

Date and Time: AUG 8 2017  8:06 PM

NOTE: AUG 22 2017 there will be a Black Moon over Okinawa at 03:30.

Do you think, I should climb up on the roof, to shoot it while it's in a black sky ?

Monday, August 7, 2017

Full Moon AUG 2017 Over Okinawa Japan

Some Tricky Weather

Depending on which source you use the full moon this month could be anywhere from the 6-8th.

It's best to get out and shoot it, any time it peeks through the clouds.

A passing typhoon has left the skies cloudy and hazy and, no moon was visible last night.

Earlier, I shot a few images around 8PM but, they were cloudy.

When the moon got higher in the sky, much sharper images were possible.

Camera: Pentax K1

Lens: Sigma 50-500 with 1.4 converter Focal length 700MM

Exposure: f/16  1/60   ISO 100

Location: Kin Town Okinawa Japan

Date and Time: AUG 7 1017  8:37PM

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Seeing Hacksaw Ridge

Not the Movie - The Terrain

War movies aren't something you'll catch me watching very often. War kinda sucks.

We've heard about the film "Hacksaw Ridge" and, seen a few promotional clips.

Doc Graff and I, decided to take a hike, with cameras and, check the place out.

Japanese film poster advertising Hacksaw Ridge

It was a blazing hot August day and, we were sweating like a few hogs in a roaster.

There's a little museum-looking building we came across and, saw this poster.

The building is called Urasoe Youdore and, it's well worth paying 100 yen to visit.

The staff are friendly and gave us permission to take photos. Little English is spoken.

But, we get by with our pidgin Japanese and Okinawan Hogen.

Desmond Doss photo from 1995 visit to Okinawa

There are all sorts of treasures in this climate controlled building.

They have archaeological, historical and war-related artifacts on display and, I found this photo.

It shows Medal of Honor recipient, Desmond Doss, visiting Okinawa in 1995. 

Explanation of Hacksaw Ridge and Desmond Doss in English and Japanese

For those who never heard of Desmond Doss or Hacksaw Ridge, I shot this photo.

The stone marker, dedicated to him, has been moved over the years.

We had trekked the lower levels of the hill but, wanted to walk Hacksaw Ridge entirely.

That's because there's a spot named Desmond Doss Point, up there somewhere.

All along the walkways, going up and down those hills, there are caves.

The vegetation is too thick, to see many of them and, it's fairly rough terrain.

Not far from the Urasoe Castle walls, we located Desmond Doss Point and, this photo was taken.

The Original Stone Marker

The day wouldn't be complete, without locating the stone dedicated to Pfc. Doss.

A gentleman, working at the museum, gave us directions to the Adventist Church.

It's located far from Hacksaw Ridge, in Kitanakagusuku.

The International Seventh-day Adventist Church, maintains the marker.

Stone marker dedicated to Pfc. Desmond Doss

The church was located and, a middle aged woman came out to show us the location of the stone.

We thanked her and, asked if photography would be allowed. She gave the OK.

Reverse side of Desmond Doss marker inscribed in Japanese

The back side of the stone is etched in Japanese. I can read Desmond T Doss.

When we were done, the lady at the church, invited us to go inside the buildings.

We're sweating like a couple of goats in heat by now and, I ain't crazy about churches.

So, we thanked her and, said it was time for us to get back on the highway.

Church people are alright and, I try to be respectful around them but, don't get too close.

They're religious and I'm sacrilegious so, don't want none of my stuff getting rubbed into them.

 If, you decide to visit Hacksaw Ridge, there's parking at the bottom of the trail. 

For a shorter hike, I recommend parking at Urasoe Youdore ; don't forget to visit the toilets.

There are no Men's or Women's facilities once you leave that parking lot !

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Plant Photo: Goya or Bitter Melon

Goya, Bitter Melon, Bitter Gourd, Bitter Squash

It's Actually a Fruit

This monster is hanging just outside my kitchen door, along with half a dozen others.

They look something like bumpy cucumbers but, these babies got some powerful kick.

This happens to be my first year, attempting to grow my own. Well, the wife's growing them.

I'm just the guy responsible for constructing the net, they hang from.

The Goya is plentiful on Okinawa and, I probably eat them 5 times a week.

Also known as Bitter Melon, Bitter Squash and Bitter Gourd, in Okinawa it's just Goya.

The scientific community, would call it, Momordica charantia. That's a sweet name.

Folks in China and Okinawa cook this in stir fry dishes and, it's healthy food.

Tofu, pork and even good old USA Spam or bacon are some of the ingredients in the recipe.

Not really a cook, I am a big fan of the meal called Goya Champuru.

The wife, knows the recipe and, all the secret ingredients added to the dish.

Lately, I've been getting Facebook messages, asking for the recipe. My wife's is the best.

For now, try some of Just Hungry's recipes and, see if you like the meal.

Someday if, you email me, I might show you another secret ingredient the woman adds.