Jul 15, 2008

Announcment

Hi all.
Sorry for not posting lately, our computer is not working that great - I am working on fixing that (might need to format it ):
One other thing - I think that starting from next post I will write in Hebrew. I have lots of reasons to do that, exactly as I had good reasons to write in English.
So, starting from next post, this will be a Hebrew blog (unless I will get lots of requests to keep it in English...)
Say what you think.
Yiftach.

Jul 10, 2008

Shuri

And another piece of Okinawan culture and history.

I don't know how this didn't come up yet, but a very distinctive feature in Okinawa is the "Shisa" – guardian lion-dogs or something like that.

You can see them almost in every entrance to a shop, house, public building etc. Basically they come in pairs, a female Shisa and male Shisa, one with his mouth open, and the other one closed (I think the male is with the open mouth).

Here are a few examples:

This is me next to one, and Iris next to the other:


Obviously, when you have such an iconic figure, people start making it in various ways and shapes:



And our personal favorite, Mongo Shisa:




Now to our trip on last Saturday – Shuri Castle.

Up to the 19th centaury, Okinawa was an independent kingdom, called the Ryukyu Kingdom. It sent tribute to the Chinese emperor, but had its own culture and legacy.

On 1609, a leader of a southern clan in Japan – the Satsuma clan, conquered the Ryukyu Kingdom, but didn't officially annexed it to Japan. He used the kingdom as a trade route to the outer world, as Japan had a very strict "no international relations" policy. After the Meiji Restoration on 1868, Japan annexed Okinawa officially.

As you can see, Okinawa had a big influence from both China and Japan, always trying to survive between two much larger kingdoms. This affected its culture, creating a unique mixture of both, in addition to it's own legacy.

So… Shuri Castle was the place where the Ryukyu King set, where he ruled from, etc.

Sadly, it was destroyed in WWII, so every thing is reconstructed, but they did a really good job.

At the tour we found out that on every interesting site in the castle, they have a stamp with its picture, and they have a cool sheet, which they put the stamps on it. Very cute.

Also, we saw an old couple, that decided to wear THE SAME SHIRT!! Like two 5 years old brother and sister. It was ridiculous. But also KAWAII (cute in Japanese) I suppose.

So, here we are in front of the Shurei-mon - the castle gate. It is very famous - it is the picture on the 2000 Yen bill - it represents Okinawa. Also, for the Karatekas among the readers - this is the symbol on the Shureido Karate-gi.


By the way, as you can see, Iris started to do like the Japaese women, and hangs around with a sun umbrella...


Some pics from the castle grounds (Notice the Shisa):




A bell and I:



This is the palace itself:



And this is the man who took our picture - he, like all other employees of the place, wears traditional Ryukyu clothes:



The royal throne:



And crown:



And royal water taps.... kidding, it is in the bathroom... but it is cool:



That is it for today,

Yiftach.




Jul 1, 2008

War! What is it good for?

This post will start with a small piece of history. Eventually you will get to know this island quite well (:

Let us go back to World War II. The Americans are trying to conquer Japan from the south. The first place they invade that is part of Japan itself, and not just part of the Japanese Empire, is Okinawa. This is called the battle of Okinawa. The Japanese, who wanted to do hell to the Americans fought hard, and didn't hesitate to use the locals as human shields and such. They also accused locals who spoke the Okinawan dialect as spies and executed them. This is "The Battle of Okinawa", which happened between March 18-June 23 (1945, obviously) and took the lives of more than 200,000 people – American, Japanese and Okinawan. Most of the fighting took place in the southern part of the island, called Itoman. On June 23rd of each year (the day the battle ended), there is a memorial day for the dead (from all nations). This takes place only in Okinawa.

One week before, on Sunday, our Karate Dojo, along with lots of other Dojos, participated in a demonstration of Karate and other Okinawan arts to honor the dead.

It was real nice, although a bit too long… well, way too long. It took 5 hours or so. I guess it would have been a bit more interesting if we could understand more of what they said, but still… FIVE HOURS! Japanese people have lots of patience.

So now I will show you a proof that I don't bullshit you, and actually practice Karate here:

But before that - on the way to the meeting place, Iris and I saw some kind of exhibition of ecological vehicles or something like this...


And now, Karate.

In the beginning there was a short warm-up of all the Dojos together:


This is our dojo, first with the low gradings as well, and then just the black-belts.
The people are (in the picture on the stage) - from the left - back row: Brent, Tiffity, Vincent and I. Front: Miyagi, Kuramoto, Alesandro.





Traditional Ryukyu dancing - with a video (on the side again...) of a cool old guy that dances with them:

video

Traditional music - the picture is cool, the music a bit boring...



This is my Sensei - Higaonna Sensei. I think he was one of the organizers, and he spoke for a bit - very formal and rigid Japanese...


Some other dances:



And some videos:

video



video video

Lots of pics this time...
We are almost up to date... it is hard to keep up.