Monday, September 19, 2011

Nakandakarihijya in HDR

A few months ago, I upgraded my camera from a Pentax K200D to the newer and much more capable K7D. It has a few extra features and knobs on it and since I don't get out as much with my camera as I did when I was making a living as a freelance writer/photographer to supplement my retirement income, I just haven't quite figured everything out just yet. Be patient, eventually I will.

One of the features this camera has that the old one didn't is the ability to shoot HDR in camera. To do that with my old one, I'd have to take a series of three to five individual shots at different settings and then try to merge them into one using developing software. Hell, I can barely navigate the features of this blog software, how in the hell do you expect me to merge three to five photos?
(The contrasts of shadow and light made this a difficult shot. The roofed section to the right is where the old public bath is located complete with functional traditional wood burning water heater)

So the other day when Ryukyu Mike and I stopped by an old village spring called Nakandakarihijya to do some shooting, I decided to give it a try. The weather conditions weren't that great as the sky was vivid blue and the shadows extremely dark. The high contrast was giving me fits so when Mike suggested taking some HDR shots, I said to myself what the heck!

This old spring is a really neat place located not far from the Sefa Utaki, one of Okinawa's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It had been destroyed in the Battle of Okinawa but, because it was designated a tangible Cultural Asset by the Okinawa Prefecture government, was restored to it's former glory.
(A similar composition using the camera's built in HDR feature)

The one thing that makes this place different from all of the other natural neighborhood springs that I've found here is that this place also had a traditional Japanese style communal bath or "sento" added to it. Most others around the island are just for drawing drinking water for the home, washing off the vegetables you picked from your garden that morning and even doing the laundry. The bath feature makes this one pretty unique.

As we were snapping away one elderly lady passed by and looked at us rather suspiciously. I greeted her with the traditional Okinawan Hogen "Haisai" or hello and asked how she was doing with the traditional "chaganju?" Immediately she smiled and chuckled to herself and in perfect English replied, "I'm fine thank you!"

It turns out that she was a retired U.S. military base worker and more than just functional in English. It made me jealous that after having lived here a few years my Japanese is still at the two year old child level. I asked her if they still used the bath, not that the site of some elderly Okinawan lady or gentleman coming out in a bath towel might thrill me but, more about is it still utilized in the traditional way. She said that it hadn't been used that way since before she was born.

We snapped a few more pictures here at this site and headed out on more adventures about the island. As you can see from the photos posted here, I still have a little more experimenting to do in HDR but I'll get there eventually. But, this little adventure told me that if you just take a little time and treat the locals with a at least a modicum of respect, there's no limit to what you can learn about life on Okinawa. It's a wonderful place if you take the time to get to know it!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sefa Utaki

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursdays for September 15, 2011

Here's a couple of photos from a recent trip to Okinawa's Sefa Utaki. For those unfamiliar, an Utaki is a holy site in the local religion known as So Sen Su Hai. That roughly translated comes out something like "Therefore because of them, therefore us" or more simply put, we exist because of them. It's a form of ancestors worship that incorporates a little Buddhism, a little Shinto, A little Taoism, Confucianism and a couple of other "ism's" I probably haven't even heard of yet.

One of the things that make this place special is, in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage site, the interesting rock formations and the super low entry fee of only 300 Yen is the history of the place. This is considered the most holy of all the utaki's in Okinawa and it served as the official site for several annual ceremonies during the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Lastly, the site overlooks Kudaka Jima a small island to the east of Okinawa where local legends have it that all life began.

To my knowledge, there are no longer any "official" ceremonies still held here but many locals will come here to pray and make offerings to the ancestors and the spirits when things aren't going too well on the home front. Given the hard economic times we all face, this place is likely to be a hot spot of spiritual activity for the foreseeable future. Word of advice, if you happen to visit and see some of the locals doing their thing, be respectful. It's their island and even if we have a different orientation to things spiritual, we should at least have the decency respect their ways.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Terrorists on Okinawa

There’s an awful lot of talk around the globe about the problem of terrorists in this country or that. Fortunately in Okinawa, we don’t have a lot of religious fanatics who strap bombs to women and children and tell them to go up to the nearest foreigner and blow themselves up.

Instead, the terrorist we have here clog up our highways with their rent-a-cars, pay outrageous sums of money to stay at an overpriced beach resort, throw away outlandish sums of money for local, made-in-China, trinkets, drink up our home brewed Orion Beer and Awamori Sake, eat all of our healthy cuisine and then leave.

That being the case, I think the rest of the world could learn a lesson or two from the Okinawans. To all terrorists, please come and visit, spend all of your money, have a good time and then leave.

We recently got a good look at some of the last batch of terrorists to visit our little jewel of the pacific in action and even got them on film, albeit digital film. It was during a recent trip to Manza Mo to get some photos of the Twin Jizo’s at the Elephant's Nose.
Manza Mo and the "Zoe no Hanna" or "Elephant's Nose"

I don’t know about you, but by the looks of these terrorists, I hope they come back and bring a few of their friends with them next time. It’ll be good for the local economy.
 If they ever need someone to frisk them for bombs, I'll volunteer my services!