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Taco Rice TV Stars May 27, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Food and Drink, Photos.
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I saved probably the weirdest thing we took part in until now: Jojo, Sigrunn and I appeared on Japanese national television.

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Urasoe Bells May 4, 2010

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I just found another citywide PA recording from Urasoe. I think it was marking the noon or 1 o’clock hour. You’ll get an idea of how serene the city could feel from our tatami mat apartment bedrooms, until the traffic light turned green (“blue”) on the major highway right below.

“Manhole”?! Oh. May 2, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Other Arts, Photos.
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When my mom first returned to Okinawa five years ago, she took photos of a bunch of manhole covers. They have really unique designs, often denoting a particular neighborhood or district. I thought I better continue the project:

Tonaki Island

Sashiki

Uruma

Nakagusuku

And my mom’s finished product

Okinawa Party People April 30, 2010

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There is some sort of election happening in Okinawa right now. Jojo has the impression that most Okinawans dislike politicians of any party, so we did our part to clear the streets of propaganda posters.

I swear, that PQO video should be debuting any minute!

Oki City’s Haunted Graffiti April 23, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Other Arts, Photos.
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The graffiti at the Kogen Hotel deserves a post all its own. Enjoy!


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Tour of the Haunted Brothel April 23, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in History, Photos.
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So that you don’t have to risk being haunted by Okinawan ghosts, we at oki yo! have put our spiritual well-being at stake to give you a virtual tour of the infamous, possibly former mega-brothel, Kogen Hotel.

It starts at Nakagusuku Castle, the ruins left of a 600-year-old fortress in Okinawa City. It’s a peaceful spot with a panoramic view of the island.

But the real ruins are just across a field, over there. (This photo is a little sneak peak of the upcoming Please Quiet Ourselves music video.)

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Rhymes & Revelations April 18, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Photos.
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I have been trying so hard to focus on strictly native culture here, what is truly Okinawan — to ignore and refuse American or Western influence, especially within music. But last night at a hip-hop/punk concert in Naha, I realized: It’s pretty comforting that some music is so universal.

These originally American, or at least Western, genres of music have traveled halfway around the world to foster the same kind of fraternal atmosphere we get back home. It was one of those kinds of shows where, by the end of it, you feel like you’re homies with everyone there.

There’s nothing inherently Japanese about the music besides the language, but I have trouble understanding lyrics even in English. The DJ played mostly Japanese tracks, but he also bumped NOFX, Op Ivy and House of Pain.

It was a refreshing show, to see rappers and punk rockers on the same stage, live painters and live tattoo artists, hip-hop-heads and punks, fixie kids and skater kids, all together. Those identities were so blurred that my perceptions of people (i.e. judgmental judgments) were totally shot, and then gone.

Basically, the night reminded me that these tags of “American” or “Western” influence are not evil, and really don’t even apply. Hip-hop is still hip-hop, anywhere in the world. Punks are still punks, anywhere in the world.

Rising above any negative history or current affairs, music is meant to be spread, appropriated, reshaped and shared — crossing boundaries in identity, nationality and geography. And if it brings a bit of my idea of home to Japan, then it’s all good, it’s all good!

More photos…

Exploring Okinawa City April 13, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Photos.
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Now we’re staying in Okinawa City, the second biggest and most diverse city. The first thing we did was climb up this big hill to get the lay of the land.

And then we slid down it.

It’s a pretty dense area, but it’s also flecked with these beautiful green parks and little community and private garden plots.

Several busy highways run through here, so we like to stick to the side streets.

In other news, that infamous island humidity thing is starting to kick in.

Music By the People, For the People April 12, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Photos.
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In addition to last night’s slow jams, there were a few uptempo percussion-based pieces. It’s the music of the farmers — joyous, lively and catchy. They were the only songs when the players and dancers looked like they were having fun.

These taiko players did a medley, but here’s a clip of “Soi Soi” — my favorite!

And here’s a video of the eisa folk dancers and drummers. Eisa ensembles, usually made of young men and women, combine taiko, sanshin, costumed dances, skits and singing. This group was all women, and they are my heros!

Comparing the classical court music with this music, they are both beautiful and intriguing forms. But to me, this folk style feels so much more real. It’s participatory music made to be enjoyed by players and audience alike — music for music’s sake, not religion or prestige or solemn ritual. Music by and for folks is always the best.

Jungle Shrine April 12, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in History, Music, Photos.
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Last week we went to Seifa-utaki, the holiest of holy sites for one of the oldest civilizations on Okinawa. Hidden away in Nanjo City, none of its buildings still stand, but the cathedralesque foliage and rock formations are beauty enough.

If I understand correctly, this sacred area was used as the religious counterpart to Shuri Castle, home of the Ryukyu Kingdom royalty. This area was the shrine’s entrance, which only royalty could pass through.

During the Battle of Okinawa, a bomb fell at this murky pond. We saw a lady singing a hippie American song as a prayer for peace.

In another area, two pots collect holy water drops from giant stalactites, which were used to foretell the fortunes of the highest priestess and the prince.

It was pretty baffling to walk as a tourist around this centuries-old religious hub in the jungle, to see what Okinawa was like before Chinese invasion, mainland invasion, U.S. invasion. And to think, what could it be like now?

On our way out, a man at the entrance was presenting an offering of tangerines and saying a prayer at lightning speed. Please excuse the twig-broom maintenance noises: