July 26, 2005
Two years ago, when I first arrived on the island, there was a run of beautiful full moons — low in the sky on a clear night, the various rocks and uninhabited islands dotted around my island become black silhouettes on a white sea. The sky is deep blue, and the Okinawan mainland is also a black shape along the horizon. Often the light from the moon is bright enough that the foreground of sugar cane fields is visible too. However, even though I bought my new SLR camera partly with a view to trying to photograph the moon, in the last year or so it’s never been quite as good as when I first arrived. Either it’s too cloudy, or the moon is in the wrong part of the sky. But by a stroke of luck my last full moon on the island turned out to be as good as the good old moons back when I arrived. Unfortunately I smashed my tripod in a fight with a giant spider a couple of months ago, so I didn’t have too much choice about where to take the photo from — this picture is a long exposure taken from the second floor of the school, where there was a ledge I could perch my camera on.
With only about two weeks left on the island, I’ve been rushing around a lot lately. Some things I’ve done:
Jen came to visit from Fukuoka last week, and we drank in the bars and cafés of Naha, then came across to Izena for the first of the (five) summer festivals. We also went for what might be my last visit, for a while anyway, to a nearby uninhabited island on whose beaches I’ve spent several lazy afternoons in the last two years.
Last weekend a shakuhachi (Japanese flute) teacher came to visit the island, and I ended up strumming the chords to ‘Yesterday’ on the guitar while he played a haunting shakuhachi version of the melody against the sound of surf breaking on the beach. This sort of thing is why it’s very good to know a couple of standards…
Tomorrow my successor arrives, so I’m heading into the city to pick him up and bring him back to the island. We’ll overlap for the best part of two weeks, which I’m expecting to be strange but which might also hopefully be fun. We’ll see.
July 13, 2005
Hello. Look – everything’s changed. This is just temporary – this incarnation is like the white underlay paper and bare floorboards of a house that’s about to be redecorated. The redecoration, when it happens, will probably return things to roughly what they looked like before, but in the meantime, while the floorboards are visible, you might notice that this site is now made from WordPress. The main practical upshot of this is that you can now write comments!
Up until now, I’ve been making everything by hand, partly because that was a good way of learning web-programming, partly because when I started I had plenty of time on my hands, and partly because it was kind-of fun, in a perverse sort of way.
But anyway, things have changed. For one thing, without any opportunity for people to leave comments, it feels a bit like talking into space, which I don’t much like (after all, what LVA is really for is staying in touch with friends who are far from Okinawa, but without comments it’s not very social) … but hand-making the sort of site that allows people to post comments would take a lot of time – time which would be better spent making the most of being in Japan. And the end result would always be a bit held-together-with-sellotape compared to WordPress’s smooth, purring engines. Also, when I do finally leave Japan, I will be travelling around China (and from there, who knows where else…) without a computer of my own, and a nice, comfortingly smooth interface like WordPress, full of bells and whistles, and which I can log into wherever I can find an internet connection will be just the thing.
Anyway: for the time being, a few links might be broken, but I will be repairing them. In the mean time, you can start leaving comments! Please do!
July 12, 2005
Yesterday night I got home from my last ever evening class, to find my neighbour Mr. K and a couple of others having a mini-party in the cafe next door. They were celebrating some amazing news that Mr. K had just received that afternoon: the taiko-group — which Mr. K runs — has been accepted to participate in the 4th Tokyo International Taiko Contest, in October. They are one of only twelve taiko-drumming groups that will take part, which means that they will be competing against (and consequently, are one of) the best taiko groups in the world!
As well as being fantastic news, it has also made the decision for me that I won’t be leaving Japan before late October. Not that I’ll be playing or anything (there’s a one million yen prize at stake here!), but it would be crazy not to go along. Also, when they go to Tokyo, there’s a fair chance they’ll do another concert somewhere else, and then I probably would get to play. Either way, it should be an excellent end to my time on this island — to go to Tokyo with the band that I first saw by chance in a London street four years ago, before I’d ever heard of this island, and which made me want to learn taiko in the first place.
July 11, 2005
Last weekend I went snorkelling, partly to collect edible sazae shells (I got three!), and partly because with only a month left on my island, it’s about time I actually made some use of the underwater casing I bought for my camera the year before last. So for a couple of hours I swam around, happily collecting shells and taking pictures — of fish, reef, and sunken concrete tetrapods which unfortunately seem to be a feature of Japan’s coastline pretty much wherever you go, even places in Okinawa, like my island, which — if it weren’t for the horizon-obscuring concrete structures — would be places of great natural beauty. These things are nominally to protect the coastline from typhoons, but are so enormous and exist in such profusion compared to the coastline of any other country that I’ve ever been to, that I suspect there must be a political explanation — probably something along the lines of civil servants with vested interests siphoning public money into the concrete industry.
The reef still has plenty of brightly-coloured fish and interesting shells, but living coral is few and far between, and I can’t help wondering if the disturbance caused by years of sea-defence construction isn’t partly to blame.
Taking underwater pictures is pretty difficult, because everything (including you) is moving all the time. I have some ideas for how to take better pictures next time (using one hand to hold onto something while I take the picture, for one thing), but I don’t know when the next time will be, because in the couple of hours I was in the water (in a half-length wetsuit), I managed to burn my legs well beyond normal sunburn, and into the realms of radiation burn. For two days afterwards I couldn’t walk properly, and even now, nine days later, it’s still not entirely comfortable. And that was using SPF 50 sunscreen! It must have washed off, I suppose. I think next time I might play it safe and snorkel at night, with a torch. Mind you, that is when the sharks come out…