Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fascinating...

I added some code to my site so that Google Analytics could tell me a bit about how many visits I get, where they come from, etc. Holy mackerel - there are a LOT of people reading and looking at my lil' old blog. And from countries like Egypt and Mongolia and Colombia! WHAT? In the last month, 1750 visits from 36 countries! I'm blown away.
HI THERE VISITORS!! It's flattering that you visit my site, and thank you so much for stopping by! *waving and grinning* Have a great day!

2008 Naha Dragon Boat Races

Don't know where to start - a bit overwhelmed. So let me go in backwards order because otherwise I might get a headache. I had to finish working on the dragon boat race photos, so here are some highlights. I was lucky enough to know a participant on the Army women's team, so I got my huge camera-gear-haulin' self on the bus thanks to her. Official photographer anyone? Press pass?

I didn't have a press pass... so I used my charms to excuse myself and ask (via holding up large camera with 100-400mm lens attached and pointing at the front & center part of the dock) to move up to the prime space. It worked! I can't believe I was right down front. It was cloudy (as you can see from the photos) but thankfully not pouring. Highlights:

This is a really cute dog. Not at the races, from a few days prior - I just happened to have my camera and I thought he was really cute.

Here's a young Marine (I am pretty sure) holding a couple of green chicks. One of the booths at the festival (of which there were many - carnival-style, like throw darts at balloons to win a giant inflatable Hello Kitty and stuff like that) was giving away live chicks as prizes; and they were painted red, green, and some other unnatural color. I really did a double-take - I have no clue how they colored the chicks, or what this guy (or anyone who won the things) was going to do with them. I just have to hold some hope that the coloring process was humane.

Once I got my way up front, this was what the view was for each race. 3 boats raced at a time. This was Army men (far yellow boat), Marine men (middle black boat) and a Japanese men's team (closest green boat). During the day, there were many races, the teams with the top 3 fastest times raced each other for the title.

I brought my 100-400mm, as mentioned. It got in pretty close, as you can see. This group was mid-race! Weren't they having fun? Some teams were much more intense, these folks were having a great time.

So this bunch was definitely intense. They ended up winning. Next to me on the dock there was a big bunch who were chanting at them. It was really exciting.

Here's the Army women's team backing up out of the dock and going toward their starting point. That's my buddy Anne - the blond right up front. She's hard core and kicks major booty.
This was right after the shotgun went off. They lost to the Navy women's team, but not by much (about 25 seconds). I thought it was great that the military had men's & women's teams participating. They all did great.

At the festival there were some stages besides the booths & jumpies & a big trampoline/bungee thing. This beautiful woman was doing a warrior dance of some sort. Her makeup was so incredible my friend thought it was a mask.

This coach was chanting - not in Japanese, but just in "HO" rhythms and then the team would repeat what he chanted while they all clapped and got psyched up for their race. They were fun to watch, and really into it. I asked some nearby Marines if they were learning some new cadences.

Well, this will surprise you. There was a TON of food. As you can see, these happy food vendors were proud to pose for me. I love this shot!

In front of the KFC booth was the Colonel himself. Dressed in a blue dragon boat kimono outfit & bandana!

What would any festival be with out BIRU! Kampai!
If you can't tell by the amazing smiles the locals are giving me, I learned how to ask if I could take their picture in Japanese. Unless it's an older woman (who usually giggles and covers her face) they get a kick out of my attempt at Japanese, like the big camera, and indulge me.

It was a GREAT time!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Kitone Festival At Murasaki Mura

Good afternoon! I've been out & about a lot this week - it was a holiday week here in Japan. I like how they do this here - they don't have many holidays, but when they do - they sure party.

This week is "Golden Week" in Japan. Probably only behind Eisa/Obon and New Year's here in Okinawa's holiday hugeness scale.

During Golden week, which is made up of several different celebrations, there is sort of an Earth Day type thing called "Nature Day" or "Greenery Day". I think this might be what this festival (Kitone Ichi) closely relates to because there were lots of handmade natural cotton things there, organic foods & drinks, and friendly "hippie" culture types all around. Those who know me realize I was REALLY at home here. Friendly vibe, awesome sangria, and a gorgeous day outside (of SHOPPING - hello) made for one heck of a lot of fun. Some of the sights of the day:
(anyone know what kind of flower this is?)
handmade truffles.
hi, peeing shiisa




happy lady selling handmade dolls
love these!


ICEE TIME! Sebastian, Eli & Henry (L to R) enjoyed some colorful icee drinks. Too fun to resist lots of pictures.More from my next trip to Murasaki Mura with Kassia in the next post. And some killer sunset shots and maybe some stuff from Children's Day on the Hija River.