Sunday, September 23, 2018
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Published Again at Stripes Okinawa
This has been seen before online and in the print version of Okinawa Stripes.
The article showed up yesterday in the internet version, minus a few photos.
In order to fill in the blanks, for those interested, I'll include the whole story here:
Sacrificial Cows and Stone Lions
A guidebook for the Village of Ginoza led to the discovery of three ancient stone carvings, located within the district of Sokei and the legend behind annual rituals performed there.
The statues were placed in the north, south and west boundaries of the settlement to ward off evil.
Known as “Shisa” throughout most of Okinawa, they are referred to as “Ishigantou” in Ginoza.
The printed manual mentioned that cattle were sacrificed at each site on the 5th day of the 9th month, by the Lunar calendar. Off the main road, unheard of events like this, are a cultural explorer's goldmine.
The stone lions were all located within a couple of days but, the rituals wouldn't be witnessed until another Gregorian calendar year passed by. As fate would have it, the statues positions were discovered late in October of 2014. The village had held the event a month prior. Believe it or not, the Chinese calendar had a Leap Month that year. And, the rituals were performed during the ninth month of the first one, which had been in September 2014.
That gave a whole year of time, to make liaison with village officials, do research on the history and traditions, and obtain a translator for the event.
In this area of Okinawa, cattle are no longer slaughtered, in front of the statues, during the ceremonies.
Each of the three Ishigantou are visited by a procession of men. Women are not permitted to witness the events, except at a distance. A news reporter and Japanese/English translator, along for this story, were asked to keep themselves at a back far from the scene. Rituals are conducted, by men only.
The first stone lion visited, rests on a pedestal at a “Y” intersection. A box, known as a binshii is placed on the ground and men squat to pray. Prayers are led by a village elder, who has learned the words from one of his predecessors and, is probably the only person in town, who has them committed to memory. Offerings are made, utilizing local sake (awamori), rice and incense, after prayers are uttered. Sake being poured over each statue's head adds a distinct scent to the fragrance of burning incense drifting through the country air.
The men travel to each of the Ishigantou, the second one, being along a side street, to perform the rituals.
At each of the three statues, a bit of the awamori is sipped by the attendees and, chunks of beef (not easy to chew) are consumed. Those desiring a juicy Filet Mignon should abstain from sampling. The meat has a texture similar to rawhide, only it is boiling hot.
The third stone statue is the smallest and, is located on the outskirts of the district, at the edge of a field.
From this location the Pacific Ocean is visible and, a refreshing breeze from the sea gives some relief from the blistering hot sun.
Here the rituals are repeated and, as in previous stops, the district mayor first, samples the beef before passing the bowl around. Spirits are sipped by all in attendance and the entourage walks back into town, to visit the community center.
Females Now Welcome
Everyone assembles inside the Kouminkan (community center) for a meal and some alcoholic spirits.
The district mayor sits at the head of the table and some of the village elders explain the importance of the events which just took place outdoors.
Fortunately, women are invited and questions may be asked, to learn more about the rituals associated with this event called a Shimakanka. A handout was given to everyone in the room and, it thoroughly explained the legend behind the ceremonies we had just witnessed.
A Grisly Folk Tale
Long before this island became Okinawa, it was Ryukyu and, way before the Ryukyu Kingdom existed as an independent country, the land was ruled by Lords, known as Aji. They built castles in their territories, to defend the populations and lands, under their control, from other Aji, seeking to increase their power.
One of these Lords had an only daughter. An epidemic, raging through the islands, took the life of his beautiful young girl. Heartbroken and grieving, he buried her in a cave along the east coast of the island.
That same day, a young man who had bought a cow was heading home with his animal tied to a rope.
Dark clouds suddenly appeared and, he decided to take shelter from an approaching thunderstorm. As the rain began to fall, he tied the cow to a nearby tree and took shelter at the entrance to the cave.
From the overhang of the cavern, he watched water splash as small streams flowed, carrying leaves and earth away from just outside his shelter. He shivered and thought how lucky bovines must be. Their thick hide protects them from the ice-cold rain. The weather didn't seem to phase cattle. And, he started thinking, how nice some of his grandmother's hot tea, would be, to have right now.
Extremely Chilling Experience
Shaking and coughing from getting wet, he thought he may be catching a cold and wanted to get home.
As the rain slacked off, he decided to get out of the cave, grab the cow and hurry on towards home.
He knew, for sure, grandmother would insist, he changes clothes and drinks a steaming kettle of hot ocha.
Then something happened to really make him want to hurry out of that shelter. A voice shouted. It was a woman's scream from under a pile of stones in the cave. “Help me. Please get me out of here!”
Thinking, it was a ghost the boy began to run. On his first step to leave the cave, a hand grabbed him by the hair on the back of his head. When he tried to run, the grasp just became tighter. The voice cried out, “Help me, please. I'm a young girl who fainted with illness. My parents thought I died and buried me here. I am alive; help me!”
Assured that it was a human in need, the young man removed the rocks burying her body and rescued her. The rain stopped and he carried her outside. He scooped fresh water from a flowing spring and nourished her. Leaving the cow behind, he carried the young woman, on his back, to her father's castle.
Exuberance at the Castle
The sentries at the castle announced the miracle of the princesses return. Everyone was ecstatic, the Lord's only daughter had survived. This was an occasion for a feast and a big celebration.
The Aji announced to the lad, “As a reward, I will give you anything you desire.” Without blinking an eye the boy said, “OK. I'd like to have your daughter as my wife.”
The Lord roared, “Peasant, you can't have this woman of royal blood as a bride!” That, got everybody shaking. “Father, I have already been considered dead, once. Please, let me be this man's wife.”
The daughter's plea touched the Lord and, he gave the blessing for their marriage.
Slaughter of the Cow
The young man escorted an entourage, from the castle to the cavern, where the girl had been buried.
The gravesite in the mountain was cleaned up and the cow was sacrificed near the cavern entrance.
Pampas grass, tied in loops was soaked in the animal's blood and used to shoo away evil spirits.
Today, the loops of grass, known as, “San” may be seen placed as amulets to ward off evil.
The San may be seen at entrances to villages and, at the corners of homeowners properties.
In some locations, they may be soaked in animal's blood but, no blood was seen in Sokei, Ginoza.
Photography and text by Michael Lynch
Verbal translation by Mami Sakiyama
Text translation by Alina Rădulescu (Folklorist)
Sketch by Atsushi Maezato
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Sunday, September 9, 2018
An Undokai is a Big Family Event
The annual Sports Day at a middle school is sort of a family picnic.
Normally, tents are pitched to shelter everyone from the blazing hot Okinawa sun.
This year things were a little different. The tents served as umbrellas. It rained.
Once it stopped pouring buckets of water from the sky, children hit the athletic field.
It looked almost as if they were standing on a mirror.
This character is a Chondara, sort of a clown in the Eisa group.
Normally, dust would be flying as the Eisa dancing takes place on the dirt field.
Today, I didn't mind slipping and sliding around in my flip-flops. No dust on my lens!
This Chondara, you might say, was outstanding in his field.
Several photos were taken, trying to get compositions, where he was separated from the group.
Once a Chodara gets in with the rest of the dancers, they're difficult to catch with a camera.
For a few minutes, a bit of blue sky poked through the clouds but, it wouldn't last.
A couple of hundred students romping around would drain some of the mud off the field.
Here's a GIF to show some of the unusual relay races the students execute.
It seemed as if the rain might hold off for the rest of the day but, it didn't.
Shortly after the relays were finished and, before lunchtime, the event was canceled.
More stormy weather was on the way so, I left quickly.
On the way home, I grabbed a takeout steak dinner.
Not a bad days work!
Saturday, September 8, 2018
Things to Do on Rainy Days
With unpredictable humid, rainy/sunny weather this is a great spot to visit.
Nearby, we found a parking garage where the car wouldn't be exposed to any sun.
Many times, after we make plans for indoor activity, the weather takes a sudden turn.
It's worth some pocket change, to keep our ride in the shade.
Looking up at the sky before going in, was a good idea.
After about an hour visit inside the museum, the sky got completely whited out with clouds.
That blue-winged guitar is a good landmark for those in search of Koza Music Town.
Take the next left and, you find the parking garage attached to the building.
This little Eisa drummer caught my eye when I walked in the door.
It wasn't until photo processing time, I noticed the drum is a postbox!
In the lobby, there is a gift shop with musical instruments and assorted trinkets.
They probably have postcards you can stuff in the little guy's drum.
It's always a good idea, to take photos when you come across things like this.
We got English and Japanese history of Eisa, right off the museum walls.
Politicians and professors lie sometimes but, walls shouldn't.
So, I shot the writing on the walls.
This museum gives you plenty of information about this traditional dance.
You can learn the names of instruments used and different villages Eisa styles.
Just in case you forgot to pay the 300 Yen, let me tell you. Don't go up those stairs.
There's somebody up there who will want to see your ticket.
Here you get a view of costumes and some of the instruments.
Doc Graff and I were the only customers so, it was fairly quiet in the place.
There's plenty of room for you to stretch and practice Eisa if, you want to.
Someone on the staff can show you how to play the instruments.
They will come over and help you get dressed in an Eisa uniform.
They even have small costumes for children.
Imagine a school field trip visiting that place and the racket they could make.
This bilingual sign gives us a "maybe" history of the origins of Eisa.
A little history of the Chondara is given here.
If all history books were this short, I could be a historian.
They have programs for viewing in several languages for guests.
Whether you're studying Eisa or, want to learn how to perform, this is the place to go.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Places to Have Your Skin Etched
Within about a quarter mile of my home, I could get my skin engraved.
Little sisters and elder ones, don't fret. It ain't gonna happen.
Something reminded me today, to go out and count tattoo parlors in the neighborhood.
It was a thunderstorms-guaranteed-sort of an afternoon so, I hurried through town.
Names of establishments and open hours, you have to figure out yourself.
For some of the photos, I had to stand in the middle of the highway.
Years ago, there were only two tattoo parlors in this town.
If you didn't like what they had to offer, you'd have to go to a big city for tattoos.
Or, get a sewing needle and some ink, to have a Do-It-Yourself tattoo.
It's hard for me to imagine why anyone would want a permanent tattoo.
Once, I got one of those kids tattoos and stuck it on my forehead.
The darn thing took three days to wash off my skin.
I couldn't go to work with Minnie Mouse painted on my face!
The tattoo shop owners are always offering to give me some free inking.
But, I'm not interested. I'd take free beers if, they offered.
The people doing tattoos are some talented artists. I've seen their designs.
Many of my friends have tattoos. Some places in Japan don't appreciate body art.
They may have you cover tattoos up so, the public can't see them.
In the USA it's been reported, women are more likely to get tattooed than men.
That's the exact opposite of the statistics in Japan.
In less than half an hour, I shot photos of the 7 tattoo parlors.
One of these days, I'll go back with a wide angle lens and get some indoor images.
If we can catch a lady being tattooed, you may get a special treat.
The rains came. I went home...
Tattooed Women Outnumber Men
Tattooed Women Outnumber Men
Monday, September 3, 2018
Monday Morning Camera Stroll
More than eight photos were downloaded today but they weren't power plant photos.
The original plan was to shoot some bird photos with 70 -700 MM of glass.
That smokestack at the power station is sort of a landmark in town so, I shot it.
For wildlife, the lens would be stretched all the way out to 700 MM.
But, scenes like the power plant smokestack, required more of a wide angle.
It's been a long time since I've taken a long walk with a heavy lens and tripod.
So, I left the office well before sunup, to take advantage of the cool air.
My first shot of the power plant was taken at 5:59 AM.
Not far past the Kin Town Library was the location used in this composition.
At that hour, lighting wasn't terrific so, ISO had to be bumped up to 1600.
Just when you think the weather couldn't be better, it gets worse!
But, we have a saying in Okinawa. If, you don't like the weather, wait for 5 minutes.
It always changes. Another thing you could do is drive over to the other side of the island.
It was 6:34 AM when this scene was captured.
At 6:36 AM I had to zoom in to catch this Cattle Egret flying towards the smokestack.
More images of these birds (close up) will be posted at a later date.
By 7:22 the sun was higher in the sky and, I got the urge to do this.
Put some banana trees in the foreground, to show the smokestack isn't in the city.
At 8:03 this composition was made showing some pine trees in the foreground.
We don't get Autumn coloring in the landscape around here.
Just some of the pines turn reddish from Pine Beetles. A year-round event.
A bypass, under construction, posed in this photo for me. It was 8:29 AM.
Hopefully, the construction will be completed this year and, I can walk across the top of it.
That would give a great view of the bird locations and the sea at Blue Beach below.
This photo was taken at 8:39 while hiking uphill alongside the bypass being fabricated.
Knowing the sun would be blazing hot after 9 AM, I was headed back into town.
The image at the top of this page turned out to be one of my favorite.
That was composed at 8:50 and, half an hour later, I would reach the office.
Which photo would you select if, you had to select one as a landmark for Kin Town?
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Monday, August 27, 2018
Feathered Friends Don't Go Hungry
Not out in the wilderness chasing wildlife, I've spent plenty of time at home this summer.
It's so hot and humid no one wanders far from air conditioning for more than a few minutes.
A place called Gate 1 (ゲートワン) nearby, serves various types of pizza.
When I get the urge to eat some pizza, it's worth a few minutes walking in the hot sun.
A pizza takes them about 20 minutes, to bake and box up for customers.
I don't mind sitting in their air-conditioned waiting area waiting for my order.
A large pizza is enough for two meals, around this house and nothing goes to waste.
At Gate #2, to my residence, a flock of these Tree Sparrows congregates.
Leftover pizza crust and bread crumbs are provided for the birds, daily.
When I have 700 MM of a lens, the camera, and tripod handy, I shoot them.
Soon things should start cooling off on this island and, I'll get back to hiking in nature.
What do you do with pizza crust in your neck of the woods?
RELATED POST - Animation: Eurasian Tree Sparrow
This Hot Summer Will End Soon
All my furry friends should stop complaining about the hottest summer on record.
Next month, it could get even warmer for all we know.
For sure, about the third week, it won't be summer anymore.
In the wee hours of the morning, I went out to check on the moon.
Surprisingly no rain came pouring down so, I decided to attempt moonset photography.
Here's what I saw at 4:46 AM.
As long as the weather kept cooperating I would keep walking and shooting.
The plan was to get closer to the ocean for moonset and catch the light over water.
It's 5:01 AM and the ocean isn't visible yet. I walk slowly in the dark.
At 5:20 AM the sea is visible below me but, I wait for the moon to get lower.
The first three images were taken at a focal length of 700 MM.
Get Ready Furry Ones
We're standing on level ground, several meters above sea level, using a tripod.
Below lies Red Beach Pier with Ishikawa (Uruma) in the background.
Here's my final full moon photo for the summer of 2018.
It's 5:36 n the morning and I've been awake for 3 hours. Go home and get breakfast.
My furry friends should quit complaining or, do like I did once. Shave!