Wide angle portraits – Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai

Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai

Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai

Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai photographed for my Beyond the Dojo project on the beach in Heshikiya, Katsuren, Okinawa.

Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai Training on Heshikiya Beach, Katsuren, Okinawa. 德村 賢昌  範士九段   琉球伝統古武術保存武道協会

Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai

These images were all shot with the Pentax 645Z paired with the 25mm wide-angle lens. A Profoto B1 strobe with a white softlight reflector was used for off camera flash.

Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai Training on Heshikiya Beach, Katsuren, Okinawa. 德村 賢昌  範士九段   琉球伝統古武術保存武道協会

Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai

I’m really enjoying shooting these wide-angle portraits. The kobudo weapons when held towards the lens give a wonderful depth to the images.

Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai Training on Heshikiya Beach, Katsuren, Okinawa. 德村 賢昌  範士九段   琉球伝統古武術保存武道協会

Kensho Tokumura, Hanshi 9th-dan Ryukyu Dento Kobujutsu Hozon Budo Kyokai

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Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa – Preparations

Obon (or bon) is a traditional festival to honor the spirits of ancestors. In Okinawa families often have picnics at the tombs where the remains of previous generations were laid to rest.

Eisa are traditional Okinawan folk dances usually performed during Obon. There are huge commercial gatherings of dancers such as the All-Okinawa Eisa Festival in Koza, but small local events take place all over the prefecture.

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa – Drink!

Last weekend I drove down to Heshikiya on the Katsuren peninsular to photograph their local eisa event. The dances begin around dusk, but I like to arrive early to get some portraits and preparation shots before the event begins.

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa – It burns!

At the Heshikiya Eisa all dancers are 25 years old or younger. As with many parts of Japanese life there is a clear hierarchy of members, and as with many of these hierachies
it is based on age. In this group, the oldest  take on the senior chondara roles (black jacket). Next are the chondara with the traditional brown and white costume, and then the younger drummers. Women can also take part, here they were accompanying dancers. (At other events there are also female drummers.)

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa – Sad Chondara

Once ready they guys passed around some drinks which judging by the reactions of those who downed their cup was probably neat awamori (Okinawan Thai-rice sake / rocket fuel)

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa – Happy Chondara

The Heshikiya Eisa has an unusually large number of chondara. In some Eisa groups there is a single chondara whose role is a mixture of conductor, cheerleader, and clown.

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa – Drummer Boys

At the Heshikiya Eisa the chondara were the stars of the show performing their own dances.

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa – Dance by the senior chondara

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa – Dance by the senior chondara

As the sun set, the locals gathered around one of the shrines and all the drummers began to dance. Once finished they would move on and perform again in another part of the village.

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

As I walked away from the shrine, another group of dancers were preparing to perform with their own colorful chondara to lead them.

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

Heshikiya Eisa, Katsuren, Okinawa

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Karate Masters Portrait Project – Giri Award

With Cezar Borkowski Sensei at the Dojo Bar, Naha

With Cezar Borkowski Sensei at the Dojo Bar, Naha

Honored to get an award from Cezar Borkowski and the World Ryukyu no Kaze Society for documenting the karate masters of Okinawa with James Pankiewicz. A big thank you to those who nominated me for this, and of course to the inspirational karate masters who let me take their portrait.

Although we produced a book in December , we are nowhere near completing the project. James and I will hopefully continue to photograph the karate masters on Okinawa for many more years.

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Maternity Sessions in Okinawa

Maternity Sessions in Okinawa

Maternity Sessions in Okinawa

Last week I had a maternity session with fellow photographer Wendy Sparks. It was a pleasure to photograph her family at this special time.

Maternity Sessions in Okinawa

Maternity Sessions in Okinawa

Motobu has great locations for sessions including secluded beaches and Bise’s fukugi trees. Studio sessions are also possible at the new house.

Maternity Sessions in Okinawa

Maternity Sessions in Okinawa

Thank you Wendy & Brian for choosing me as your photographer and allowing me to share a few of your pics on the blog. All the best with your growing family, and your move back to the States.

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Universal Studios Okinawa or Tropical Refresh Resort? Why Okinawa needs Velociraptors.

Can Shisa and Velociraptors Co-exisit?

Can Shisa and Velociraptors Coexisit?

At the start of the year there were whispers in the air that Universal Studios might build a theme park in Okinawa. Not long after there were rumors that officials were considering both Nago’s  Neo Park, and Motobu’s Expo Park as possible locations.

In March, Glenn Gumpel (CEO of USJ) stated that they were considering a park in Okinawa. In the last few days it has been announced that the park will be a tropical resort with the theme of relaxation without the Universal name.

It’s wonderful that giant corporations are looking to invest in Okinawa. They can help it grow as a tourist destination, but I think a somewhat generic tropical resort may be a missed opportunity if USJ and the Okinawan Government are hoping for it to bring about a new surge in tourism.

There are already several excellent resorts that cater to those looking for a tropical paradise. Busena Terrace and Hotel Orion Motobu are both superb with luxurious facilities set on pristine beaches. If visitors want to sample traditional culture they can head to Okinawa World on the south coast or Ryukyu Mura in Yomitan.  What they are suggesting sounds too similar to what we already have.  Would it really draw in new tourists or simply move them around with existing businesses actually seeing a decrease in visitors.

Universal Studios could create a new park that large numbers of tourists especially international visitors will want to see. Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan can draw in people who otherwise wouldn’t have made the trip to Chiba or Osaka. They do this by having major attractions such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that can’t be seen elsewhere in Asia. 

Harry Potter however isn’t the solution for Okinawa. Blue skies and tropical heat just wouldn’t match Hogwarts or Diagon Alley. What Okinawa needs is another iconic movie series that is produced by Universal Pictures, ideally set on a tropical island, with characters that are liked by multiple generations. Bring on the velociraptors.

Jurassic Park at USJ

Jurassic Park at USJ

There’s already a Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios Japan, but it’s a single ride amongst many. Meanwhile, the Jurassic Park movie series has been brought back to life and is more popular than ever. Jurassic World is now the third biggest movie of all time. It has taken over $1.5 billion worldwide and it hasn’t even opened in Japan. They just announced a sequel in 2018 so dinomania isn’t ending anytime soon.

Jurassic Park at USJ

Jurassic Park at USJ

Jurassic World and Okinawa is too good a match to not at least consider the possibility of a movie themed park. You can still have your relaxing tropical paradise, but with the occasional triceratops.

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Expo Park Fireworks Festival, Motobu

Expo Park fireworks festival, Okinawa

Expo Park fireworks festival, Okinawa

Last Saturday was the Expo Park fireworks festival in Motobu. The event is famous for the spectacular display of 10,000 fireworks, followed shortly after by the island’s longest traffic jam.

A few quick tips for shooting fireworks:

Capture multiple bursts of fireworks in one image using a long exposure.

Don’t open the aperture too wide or have the ISO too high or the fireworks will show up as white. In the above shot I used ISO 100, F14 and 30 seconds.

Use a nice stable tripod.

Shooting only the fireworks in the sky is one option, but including some other visual elements that are unique to that particular event may make for a stronger image. The ocean and the tiny palm trees beneath the fireworks are included in the first shot to show scale and place. However the torii gate at Itsukushima is perhaps the best background I’ve had for a fireworks image.

Itsukushima Fireworks Festival near Hiroshima

Itsukushima Fireworks Festival near Hiroshima

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Typhoon Chan-hom

Coast roads in Nakijin Town, Okinawa, flood due to heavy rains from Typhoon Chan-hom. 10 July 2015

Coast roads in Nakijin Town, Okinawa, flood due to heavy rains from Typhoon Chan-hom. 10 July 2015

Wind and rain for almost 48 hours, but typhoon Chan-hom has now passed Okinawa. Miyako took the brunt of the hit, while on Okinawa Honto some roads were flooded and a few downed trees. Okinawa Times reports, “42 200 households blackout, serious or slight injury 27.” I’m guessing most of those are fingers slammed in doors.

At the new home/office the power stayed on, and the water stayed outside. Excellent.

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