My good friend Mike, who’s lived on Okinawa for decades, has a theory! It goes that whenever the Okinawan’s plan a party, the weather will hold off for as long as the event is scheduled for. Now by party, I mean festivals. Okinawa could easily be described as the island of festivals cause no matter when, every weekend when you look in the paper you’re bound to find some kind of celebration going on somewhere.
Such was the case this last weekend when we went down to the Capital city of Naha to take in the Ryukyu Kingdom Festival. The weather reports for that weekend called for rain and thundershowers all through the weekend. It rained most of the day before and all through the night prior. A low pressure trough settled right over Okinawa and the forecast called for rain and scattered thundershowers all through the next couple of days. It didn’t look like a good time for taking pictures at all.
As I drove from my house on the East China Sea or west side of the island over to his house on the Pacific Ocean side, I could see tall billowing storm clouds and thunderheads straddling the mountain ridge that runs the 68 mile length of the island. There were clear blue skies to the west and ominous skies to the east. It didn’t help that the prevailing winds were coming from the east.
As I crossed over the island near Nago and through a mountain pass, clouds enveloped the hillsides and winding mountain road. Coming down the road on the other side it started to drizzle a little bit and from what I could see, looking out toward the ocean, it sure as heck didn’t look like it was going to be a good day for taking pictures.
I picked up Mike at his house in Kin Town and we headed south to the big city. The clouds broke open for a little bit along the way but as we got closer the skies again grew dark and ominous. We were thankful that we both use Pentax cameras and lenses which are made to withstand the elements. If there are any company representatives out there reading this, neither one of us would object one bit if you decided to sponsor us!
Anyway, we parked the car where we usually do when we go to Naha. It’s a lot on the backside of the main Naha market. The streets here are covered, mostly to provide shoppers protection from the brutal summer sun. We made our way to the parade route high and dry. But when we came out at the other end, the skies began to clear. In fact, the sun was starting to come out and it was getting a little on the warm side. I was glad I decided to wear shorts instead of jeans like my wife insisted.
We walked the length of Kokusai “international” street to where the parade was to form up and begin their march at noon. We arrived just as they were forming up, pulled out our cameras, checked our settings and began snapping away. After taking a few pictures of the King, Queen and the rest of the dignitaries, we moved to the other end of the parade route to find a place where we could set up and take our pictures relatively unobstructed by the crowd.
We stayed till 3:15 when the parade ended. Mike had estimated that he had around 70 pictures in his camera. I knew I had taken a lot more but wasn’t sure just how many. It wasn’t till I downloaded them in my computer the next day. Thats when I saw there were 290 of them to go through and develop with silkypix.
We made our way back to where we parked and prepared to head back north to our homes. As we left the downtown area, the skies again began to turn dark and ominous. By the time we had reached the restaurant where we decided to take lunch, at 4:30 PM, the skies opened up and it began to rain. We dashed into the restaurant just as the rain started coming down hard.
As we enjoyed our very late but none the less delicious lunch and talked about all of the shots we took, once again Mike brought up his theory about the Okinawan Rain God or “Ame Kami-sama.” He said, “I’ve lived here a long time and I don’t know how they do it, but it just seems that whenever they have a big celebration going on, somehow the rain gods seem to oblige them.” Having been here for a few years myself and after what I witnessed that day, I’m inclined to believe him.
Some stories and pictures we took at last year’s festival can be seen here.