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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ryukyu portraits

A decided lack of sun in our week in Okinawa meant that there wasn't a lot of time spent on the beach! In fact our days were mostly filled visiting the various attractions on the island - such as the Churaumi Aquarium and this place. Ryukyu Village is like a theme park, for want of a better word, that shows ancient Ryukyuan culture. There are examples of traditional arts and crafts, dancing performances, even a water buffalo crushing sugar cane! The highlight of our visit though was the people working there. Without a doubt some of the friendliest, most helpful people I've ever met. Many of the workers are elderly Japanese men and women who really seem to enjoy talking with tourists and explaining their culture. This fellow above was one of the wandering minstrels who would sit down and play his 'shamisen' - a traditional Japanese stringed instrument - and sing for the crowd.

This lady was selling traditional cookies at one of the recreated traditional houses. What a fantastic smile.

Another fantastic smile - this lady had remembered my kids' names and brought them out to dance with her on stage at a large dance performance at the end of the day.

The Ryukyu Mura is a great place to watch traditonal Okinawan dance, performed by women in costumes worn by their ancestors. You can really see the Chinese influence from an island which traditionally had very close links with that part of the world.

Here's our wondering minstrel friend again, this time with his mate the Lion God - or Shisa as it's known locally. And here are some more portraits of the fantastic people we met that day:

A really wonderful day with some incredibly hospitable people. Again it's one of those experiences that I would highly recommend but the recommendation comes with a caveat. It was so wonderful for me and my family mainly because we speak Japanese. I didn't see much evidence that the people there spoke much English at all. Of course I wouldn't expect them to, as I don't expect anybody to anywhere I go. But without a doubt being able to communicate was a huge part of what made the day so much fun for us. I did see a lot of American families there (Okinawa is home to a huge US Military base) and they seemed to be having a great time as well - just in different ways. Anyway I hope you like the portraits. For the technical amongst you they were mostly taken at ISO 400 or 800 with a 24-70 f2.8 lens. Except for the first shot of the minstrel - that one was the 10-22mm, and the one of the minstrel performing with the Lion God was the venerable 70-200 f2.8. Enjoy!

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