Saturday, May 25, 2013

Springtime in Okinawa

Since it's been so rainy here in Okinawa these past couple of weeks, I thought I'd post some springtime photos that I took around the island right before we entered the rainy season.  To go right along with the  dreary weather, I haven't been feeling so well these past couple of weeks, so I'm hoping these will lift my spirits:)  Enjoy!

Field upon field of flowers

Some beautiful dishes found in Yomitan Pottery Village

Me working on some photos for my website

Shisa guarding someone's house

Hope your spring is looking bright!  Thank you for following!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dragon Boat Races

Another part of Golden Week involves the Dragon Boat Races, an Okinawan tradition that occurs all over the island.  This event began back in the 14th century to honor the god of the sea.  Crowds gather to watch teams as they furiously row their brightly colored boats, painted to resemble fierce dragons.  The teams are made up of groups of people from all over Okinawa - Japanese and American alike.  In fact, the US Navy women's team is always one of the top teams each year!  It's a special event that brings together so many different people, cheering for the end of one race as another one begins.  

The races, called Haarii (a Chinese word meaning "dragon"), are generally accompanied by food, games, music and festivities, the biggest celebration being held at the port in downtown Naha.  Although I've missed the past couple years of races, I made up for it this year by getting to go to the White Beach races as well as the big Naha races.  Matt and I parked near downtown and rode our bikes over to the big festival, which was a fun and unique way to experience it.  It was exciting to be a part of the rich Okinawan culture at both events - so glad I got to see them! 


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Golden Week

To us as Americans living in Japan, Golden Week is simply one week a year where there is a ton of traffic and all of our favorite stores are closed.  This year, however, we decided to really take some time to celebrate right along with the locals.  Golden Week is actually a collection of four national Japanese holidays that all fall within the same week.  One of the most well-known is called Kodomo no hi (Children's Day).  The boy's festival is celebrated by colorful carp streamers being hung up all over Okinawa.  The carp symbolizes strength, power, and success in life, which is what the Japanese pray for their sons' futures.  


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sword Show Comes to Oki

One thing I haven't learned much about since living in Japan is their craft of making exquisite samurai swords - ever heard of a Katana?  These aren't just weapons, but also incredible pieces of art.  A true Japanese sword is made from two different types of Japanese steel: a harder outer jacket of steel wrapped around a softer inner core of steel.  This method creates a blade which has a uniquely hard and highly razor sharp edge to it.  During the process of creating these samurai swords the raw steel is heated and hammered, split and folded back on itself many times and re-welded to create thousands of tiny layers.  The particular way that the steel is folded, hammered, and re-welded determines the distinctive grain pattern of the blade, and this feature indicates the period, place, and actual maker of each blade.   

I learned all of this just last weekend when we had a samurai sword show come to Okinawa.  I would have loved for us to buy one, but what I didn't realize about these swords (more like pieces of artwork) is that they weren't made recently - they were actually super old antiques - which apparently drives the price quite high.  Most of the swords we saw were made back in the 1300's or 1400's - some were older than the USA!  I was shocked at how old they were.  Because of this, the prices started at $5,000 and went up and up from there.  Even though we didn't end up buying anything, it was still really fun to look and learn.   

This little ball on a stick was used to apply powder to the swords to clean them

I know the actual blades are cool, but I really appreciated the detail & craftsmanship put into these beautiful handles as well. 

More posts soon to come!

- C