Thursday, July 27, 2006

360 degree tour

In case anyone is interested, here's the link to the 360 degree tour of my condo. It's kinda funky how it turned out. It actually looks a bit better than I expected. If you look closely, you may notice the few remaining pieces of my dojo scattered throughout the livingroom - my bo rack is still there, along with the dojo kun, some scrolls done by Master Toma, and the dragons heads I mentioned previously.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Okinawan Dragons

Outside of many buildings and often the rooftops of buildings in Okinawa, you will see creatures that look like a cross between a lion and dog. They are called shisa. They are usually found in pairs, one with its mouth open and one with its mouth closed. I've been told that the one with the open mouth keeps away evil spirits and the close mouth one keeps the good spirits around - or maybe it's the other way around. Anyhow, you can find a bit more information about shisa here. Also, this site has some very interesting information about them including pictures of some more contemporary shisa.

After seeing shisa all over the place, I would occasionally notice buildings that had dragon heads outside their entrances. Similar to the shisa, one would have its mouth open and the other would have it closed. All the gift shops and pottery shops in Okinawa had lots of shisa of all different shapes and sizes, but I never saw any place selling dragon heads. One day I commented to Angie how it would be cool to find a place that sold dragon heads. A few days later, we were wandering about the pottery center in Naha and in one of the shops they had a viewing window that let you see into the work area where they were doing the ceramic work hand-making the shisa. While watching the craftsman Angie noticed there were some dragon heads on one of the work-tables. Oddly, there weren't any of the dragon heads for sale in the shop area. So, we asked the shop-keeper if the dragons in the workshop area were for sale. Fortunately they were! So, I bought two. They look like this:

Based on this site and this site, I'm thinking the dragon heads are inspired from the dragon pillars at Shuri Castle. Unfortunately, I never did make it to Shuri Castle, so I did not see the dragon pillars first-hand. The three weeks I was in Okinawa went by way too fast and there were many places I would have liked to have visited that I never got to. Hopefully I'll have the chance to go to Okinawa again.

It should be noted that the dragon heads I bought aren't as large as the several foot high ones found outside of buildings. These are only 9 inches tall.

It was an interesting experience buying items in Okinawa. If you make a large purchase in any of the small shops, it is not uncommon for the shop-keeper to go into the back room and come out with a tray with tea and some sort of treats - either cookies or sweets for you to enjoy while waiting for your item to be wrapped. All the shop keepers in Okinawa take great care in how they wrap items that are sold. Even if you buy the smallest of trinkets, the shop-keeper will wrap it up like it was a treasured possession and then carefully put it in a bag and tape the bag shut. Even at the grocery store the normal plastic shopping bags have extra plastic tabs on the middle edge that allows the bag to be tied shut while still allowing the plastic carrying handles to be used. And all the cashiers make sure to tie each bag of groceries shut before handing them to you.

Bye-Bye Home Dojo

I got a message from my realtor today saying that she wants to come by tomorrow afternoon to take pictures of my condo for the advertising. Part of it involves taking a 360 degree "virtual tour" of a room for people to view on the Internet. I asked if it's a problem that I have the main room of the condo basically empty of any furniture since it's my home dojo (which also has a ripple effect of making my dining room a living room and the second bedroom a dining room). She said while it would be ok to keep things as is, it would be best to make the rooms look more normal. It would be possible to explain to potential buyers that the room was empty because I use it for practicing karate, but then that gets the people thinking about karate rather than thinking about buying my condo. And while I would be all for more people thinking about karate, in this case I ought to concentrate on the task at hand, which is getting the condo sold.

So... it is with a heavy heart I spent a couple hours moving furniture into my dojo space and then moving the dining room furniture back into the dining room. Now my dojo looks like this.

Nope, it's not very dojo-like anymore. Hopefully it doesn 't take too long to sell this place. In the meantime I'll need to find some more empty space for karate practice. I've been spoiled by having the available space at home. It sure was convenient to be able to practice various kata right before going to sleep. Maybe I can just go out in the parking lot...

Monday, July 24, 2006


Well, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. I've officially put my waterfront condo up for sale. I don't yet have a new place to move to, but since the housing market is starting to soften, I figure I may as well get the ball rolling with the sale of my current residence. No telling how long it'll take to sell.

Why move? The big thing is time. I currently spend most of my free time up in northern RI at the Kodokai Karate Dojo, which is about 45 minutes away. When I'm home I really enjoy the nice views from my condo and the convenient water access, but I honestly am seldom home these days. I haven't had the chance to go kayaking at home in a couple months. And if can eliminate a 45 minute commute each way, that gives me a lot more free time each day.

So, if you are interested in living on the water and want to be in South County RI, check out my place!

Here's a recent view from the bedroom window. The sky was a crazy color with an incoming thunderstorm at sunset. (The view is looking east.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Former Navy Underground Headquarters

We went to visit the former Navy Underground Headquarters. It's a series of underground tunnels and caves that the Japanese Navy used as their final headquarters during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. It's a pretty depressing place, but definitely worth visiting to get a better sense of what the soldiers went through during the war.

When it became apparant to the Japanese soldiers that they were not going to win the battle, many of them resorted to mass suicide rather than face capture. Some of the cave walls still bear the marks from the hand-grenade explosions.

Until I started karate and heard my sensei talk about the Battle of Okinawa and its affect on the Okinawan people, I had never even heard of it. Most historians agree it was the bloodiest of all the battles of WWII, yet most Americans arren't even familiar with it. The most shocking thing about this battle for me was to learn that more Okinawan civilians were killed than Japanese or Allied forces (over 150,000 civilians were killed!). The Okinawan people were caught in the middle of an awful conflict. Below is the text of the final telegram sent by the Japanese Naval officer expressing his concern for the affect the war had on the Okinawan people.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


We've been spending a lot of timing taking Motobu-Ryu Udun-Ti classes. I wish I had more time to add some detailed descriptions to these pictures, but for now this will have to do...

While all the techniques we have been learning are variations of throws and joint manipulations, Motobu-Ryu also includes weapons techniques and we got the chance to watch a little bit of that.

(Don't worry, he's not really being stabbed...)

I can't imagine learning to roll while holding a sword...

Rolling with a bo seems much more reasonable.

This is where we are

I meant to put these pictures up a while ago, but have been having trouble getting the free time to write. Here's the view from the house we are staying at. You can see the ocean off in the distance.

There's a typhoon scheduled to reach Okinawa this Saturday or Sunday, so it looks like we might get a nice view of that. That's pretty exciting! Growing up on the east coast of the US, I've been through many hurricanes, but I have no idea what to expect with a typhoon. Fortunately, the house has special shutters for covering the windows in the event of a typhoon.

I went for a long walk by myself exploring the area nearby the house and came across a large market area close to the airforce base. I was surprised by just how large it is. There are all sorts of side connected corridors and streets that make up the market area. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday morning when I was there, so most shops were closed.

On my way back from the walk, I saw this sign. I'm not really sure what it's advertising, but it looked neat.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Crazy Photo Booth

While visiting "Main Place", a shopping mall in Naha, we came across some crazy Japanese photo booths. Picture the typical photo booth you have in the US, the box with a curtain where you go in and have your picture taken, but then take it to an extreme. You take a bunch of pictures, and then you run around to the other side of the photo booth where there is a digital display with light-pen touch screens. You then get to "enhance" your photos - but it's all done with a timer ticking away, and two people can edit the photos at once, so you end up racing to make as many silly changes to the photos as you can before the time runs out.

Since we are looking for the complete Japanese experience, we couldn't just walk past the photo booth without using it. It was a bit interesting to try to figure out what all the buttons on the touch screen did since it was all in Japanese. Here's a sample of my favorite photos from the batch.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Interesting Karate Article

I ran across an interesting article that contains some information from an interview with Choto Kyan, one of the great karate masters of the early 20th century. It's defnitely worth the read if you are interested in the philosophy of karate. The article can be found here.

I liked how he stressed the importantance of having the correct spirit in additional to physical technique for practicing correct karate.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Meet or Meat?

I was reading an article and it used the phrase "meet market". I always thought it was "meat market". Which is it?