Sunday, October 31, 2010


Happy Halloween Everyone!

Real pumpkins are quite expensive in Japan, around $35 USD for your average sized carving pumpkin, so this year I made due with some plastic and a little light painting. Still managed to make some pumpkin soup with カボチャ (kabocha), a Japanese pumpkin that was quite tasty, however, I still could not find a whole pumpkin as they are sold in quarters or halves. Hope everyone has a great Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gyokusendo Cave Path

Although the Gyokusendo Cave at Okinawa World totals an underground maze of over 5km the accessible walkway only runs for about 890 meters. Walking this 890 meter pathway will still take more than one hour, especially if you stop and take time to observe all of the amazing features along the way. Another special feature of the Gyokusendo Cave at Okinawa World is the Awamori (Okianwan Liquor) that is distilled there. But this is no normal Awamori it is made from Habu Snake and fermented for 5 years. Because the limestone caves stay at a constant temperature of 25 degrees all year long as well as a consistent humidity it makes for an ideal environment for Awamori’s fermentation process.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Gyokusendo Cave Lake

Within the labyrinth of Ryukyu limestone visitors can see over 1,000,000 massive stalagmites and stalactite, which are made more impressive when you consider that it takes most of these structures 3 years to grow just 1mm; and some of them are many meters long. On my journey through the cave I was also lucky enough to encounter some of the native animals that live there like fish, reptiles, and bats. The caves were a real highlight of this trip for me, and would say they are worth a visit to anyone visiting the main Okinawan island. The cave is modestly light with color LED lights and florescent lights set along a raised corrugated steel pathway. The way is sometimes dark, but no need for a flashlight, and the path is often very wet and a little slippery so wear shoes with good grip.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gyokusendo Cave Waterfall

The 5Km (just over 3miles) Gyokusendo Cave located at Okinawa World was discovered in 1967 by a Ehime University Research group. Beyond being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Okinawa it has also been used as a film location for various movies including 1974's Godzilla vs Mecha Godzilla. Okinawa World is a touristy theme park about Okinawan culture that contains the caves within its grounds.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Former Navy Underground Headquarters #2

After the war, the headquarters was left pretty much as it stands today. In March of 1970, the tourism development board removed the remains of soldiers and restored 275 of the original 450 meters of the headquarters. There are tunnels 30 meters underground that run in all directions to the various rooms and offices. Pictured is the celling of the expanded entry to the tunnel that is part of the museum that was added to the underground section.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Former Navy Underground Headquarters #1

The Okinawa District Headquarters of the Japanese Navy were built under a hill near Naha in 1944 and marks made by the construction party's pickaxes can still be seen on the walls and ceilings.The Imperial Navy Vice Admiral Minoru Ota (commander of the Japanese Navy on Okinawa) and 4,000 of his men lived and ultimately committed suicide here toward the end of WWII. There are still traces of the mass suicide, including a farwell message written on the wall by Ota and grenade shrapnel. This farewell message was for his commanding officer and told about the devotion of the Okinawan citizens who served in the Imperial Army during the fierce battle.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shuri Castle Kankaimon

Kankaimon, welcome gate, is the main gate of Shuri castle; first built around 1477-1500 during the reign of King Shō Shin. The gate was burned down during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945 and restored in 1974.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shuri Castle 首里城

The Kingdom of the Ryukyus reigned over Japan's southwestern islands for approximately 450 years from 1429 to 1879. In 1879, the Japanese government, as part of the Meiji Restoration, established Okinawa as a Prefecture of Japan; thus the Kingdom of the Ryukyus ended. Shuri Castle is a gusuku, or Ryūkyūan castle and palace, in Shuri Okinawa. In 1945, during the Battle of Okinawa, Shuri was almost completely destroyed, with only a few walls standing. In 1992, it was reconstructed on the original site.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Okinawa 沖縄

I just returned from Okinawa, took a little trip to Naha which is the capital city of this prefecture. Naha is a coastal city located on the East China Sea coast of the southern part of Okinawa Island, the largest of the Ryukyu Islands. Photograph is of Kokusai Street, called, “The Miracle Mile” because of its rapid recovery during the post-war era, and is often crowded with shoppers and is packed with souvenir shops and restaurants.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sunflower ひまわり

Sunflower, Himawari ひまわり, on the side of the street near my home. The days have become noticeably shorter and winter is close at hand, the last of these bright yellow flowers are fading and bow heavy with seed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Buddhist Institute

I am not totally sure what purpose this building serves, located in Motomachi near the JR train station. I only know that it is Buddhist, large, and rather grand - especially at night with the seal; including the wheel of dharma alight in a golden halo.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I have found myself sketching slightly more often, and thought I might share some. I have to say that Japan has some of the best art supplies and art supply retailers, a real treat if that is your sort-of-thing (for me it is like being a kid in the candy store). I recently picked up a travel kit of watercolors, a clipboard, and blank postcards that are made of watercolor paper. They are the perfect size for me, keeps the time per drawing down and they are cheep and portable. Best part is I just put a stamp on the back and send them on their way. I took a picture first, because you never know with the mail system, even if it seems rather efficient here in Japan. Obviously some of the characters are not my creation, they are just sketches after-all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Suma Rikyu Park: Flight

Poised for flight at the Suma Rikyu Park.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Suma Rikyu Park: Dragonfly

Caught this fellow near the rose garden at Suma Rikyu Park drying its wings during a short break in the rain.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Suma Rikyu Park: Drop

One downside of my free visit to the Suma Rikyu Park was the weather, quite rainy. However it made for a fun photograph of this tree bark and the rain drop upon it, making its final stop on the way to the ground below.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Suma Rikyu Park: Bamboo

Suma Rikyu Park also has a greenhouse, collections of hydrangea, peony, and cherry trees, a Japanese garden, tea ceremony rooms, a drive lined with maple trees, fountains, a picnic area and restaurant, playground, and an athletic pathway with 28 stations. Well you get the idea, the park is rather large. The gardens were diverse and well kept, a nice surprise to find them set quietly and unassumingly near the city nestled in the Suma mountains. Photograph is of a bamboo grove, I spun the camera as I took this long exposure.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Suma Rikyu Park 須磨離宮公園

Last weekend was the end of the Kōbe tourist week, where many local sites offered discounted or free admission. One of the last places I got to check out was the Suma Rikyu Park, a botanical garden and park created in 1967 on the general model of the Palace of Versailles park. It includes about 230 types of trees, substantial gardens of iris, rose, and camellia. Photograph is from the goose and lotus pond across from the iris garden.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


These sake barrels or Kazaridaru, decoration barrels, are a common site near Shinto shrines. While the barrels are physically empty, they are full of ritual significance; in part because sake is an important symbol for bridging the distances between gods and people. In ancient texts "sake" is written as miki, composed of the characters for "god" and "wine". Nowadays, the word miki (or o-miki when given its honorific prefix) is reserved for rice wine used in Shinto rites and festivals and drinking it is still a symbolic act of unification with the gods. Consequently, Shinto shrines and sake manufacturers maintain a symbiotic relationship, in which the shrines conduct rites to ask the gods for the prosperity of the brewers, and the brewers donate the wine (and the symbolic barrels) that shrines need for ceremonies and festivals.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ever-present Cables

One site you can count on in Japan, almost anywhere you travel, are the power lines spread web-like across allies, streets, buildings, and almost every urban landscape.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mitsuteru Yokoyama 横山 光輝

The local shōtengai has hosted a number of festivals lately, one featured Okinawa foods and culture and another (pictured) featured lion dancing, floats, and folks dressed as characters from "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" (Sangokushi). Mitsuteru Yokoyama was a famous Japanese manga artist (1934-2004) originally born in Suma, but his works are being honored in nearby Shin-Nagata, including this annual festival. Perhaps better known for his manga Tetsujin 28-go, Giant Robo, and Sally the Witch, Mitsuteru Yokoyama also penned this retelling of the Chinese classic story Sangokushi. The characters from this story are featured throughout the shōtengai year-round, and the permanent Tetsujin 28-go monument is also located here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ultraman ウルトラマン

Ultraman is a character featured in tokusatsu (special effects) television programs in Japan. Ultraman's creator was Eiji Tsuburaya, a pioneer in special effects who was responsible for bringing Godzilla to life in 1954. The first Ultraman series, that aired in 1967, begins when Shin Hayata is struck by a red sphere of light. The sphere turns out to be the transport for a red-and-silver giant being called Ultraman. Feeling remorse for killing the human, the being merges with Hayata to revive him. In return, Hayata serves as the human form for this being, and when danger threatens, he activates the "beta capsule" and transforms to Ultraman to save the day. The storyline begins in the near future, as referenced from the mid-1960's, 1993 to be exact. If only the future could be so dramatically different, the way science fiction shows envision. Photograph is of an arcade ride.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back At The Beach

Beachside furniture, photographed using the toy camera setting on the LX3.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Local Landscape

Continuing to play with the toy camera setting. This is an image taken on my way home from a class in Sannomiya, a small restaurant situated under the raised train tracks of the JR line with central Shin-Nagata in the background.

Friday, October 8, 2010


One last image from Suma Aqualife Park, these fellows seem to prefer living huddled together in a small tube; kinda like a capsule hotel for fish. Hope this gives you a smile, to me they look like little muppets. Today is the beginning of a three day weekend in Japan, hope wherever this finds you, your weekend is close at hand and promises to be a good one.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Suma Aqualife Park

Yesterday was a free admission day to the Aqualife Park in Suma, so I decided to check it out with the large numbers of locals and children who had the same idea. "Suma Aquarium" was built in 1957, and was considered to be the biggest aquarium in East Asia. After its renovation in 1987, the aquarium was renamed Suma Aqualife Park and the "Wave Tank" is in front of the entrance hall of the main building was added. The first of its size in the world, the tank spans 25m and contains 1200t of water. Inside the tank are ocean sharks, rays, turtles and other large fish. While not as modern or impressive as its cousin in Ōsaka, the history, beachside location, and many exotic pacific ocean animals made this an enjoyable afternoon.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Saru 猿 Monkey

Caged monkey at the Kōbe Oji Zoo. Kinda a creepy atmosphere to the photo that is not truly representative of the zoo, but fun all the same.

The Saru goes: キ (ki-i ki-i)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oji Zoo 王子動物園

Sunday was a free admission day at the Oji Zoo in Kōbe, braving the heavy rain I went to check it out. I often have mixed feelings about visiting the zoo and after a few minutes of seeing the caged animals pacing in their small enclosures, I become vaguely depressed. Yet I still go every once in a while, especially if it is in a new city. Oji is a small zoo but does offer some interesting animals in picturesque surroundings. In late March or April I have been told that Oji Zoo is one of the best places for sakura in Kōbe, especially at night. Still playing with the toy camera setting, guess I will make it the theme this week.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Creepy Shinto 神道 Shrine

Continuing to play with the toy camera setting, this time at a local shrine. I liked the creepy feeling of this one, like a giant face. I was inspired by the Halloween decorations that are going up in retail stores and restaurants. Even though the holiday is not really celebrated in Japan, I am very happy to see the jack-o-lanters and skeletons; I am a huge fan of Halloween.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Buyō 舞踊

Yesterday had the honor of watching the Hyōgo prefectural performances of Buyō, which is a traditional Japanese performing art that mixes dance and pantomime. The performances started at 10am and did not end until 7pm. I didn't stay the whole day but the Stark and melodramatic performances I witnessed had incredible sets, performances, and costumes; a real treat.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day At The Beach

School is back in session and the young masses have retreated from the sandy coasts of Suma beach, leaving in their wake plenty of rubbish. However, as the beaches are slowly cleaned and returned to the small numbers of beach combers, romantic couples, and fishermen that frequent them in the off-season, calm and quiet has again settled. For me personally, my photography has been feeling a bit stale of late. In an attempt to rediscover my local landscapes I have employed the "toy camera" setting of my LX3 and turned off the LCD, so the colors are all wonky, light leaks are simulated, and I am shooting without really seeing exactly what the camera is seeing. I miss my Holga, but this is the next best thing and loads cheaper, having no processing and film costs. Here are some results, I wait until I get back home to my computer before I see any shots and they are often a surprise. This method allows me to "let go" and just shoot whatever catches my fancy in a stream-of-consciousness like manner. If you want to have some playful and unexpected snapshots, this is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Try using an expired disposable camera, lomography camera such as the Holga, or a digital toy camera such as the super cute but expensive digital Harinezumi.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Moon Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, Lantern Festival, Mooncake Festival, or Zhongqiu Festival is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and other Asian peoples, dating back over 3,000 years to China's Shang Dynasty. It was first called Zhongqiu-Jie (lit. “Mid-Autumn Festival”) in the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE). The traditional food of this festival is the mooncake, of which there are many different varieties. Photograph is from the Nankin Machi (南京町) celebration in Kōbe.