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Takumi Moriyama: Photographer of the Clouds Above the Southern Islands
post : 2020.11.13 07:00
Takumi Moriyama is a photographer who takes photos of the clouds of the southern islands.
He has taken approximately 100 thousand photos of the outer islands. It’s not that he only takes photos of clouds, but many of his landscape photos give you the impression, “He was probably inspired by the clouds”. That’s why he’s knowns as “the photographer of clouds in the southern island”.
[Hateruma Island] Photo Courtesy of Takumi Moriyama
Born in 1964, Moriyama-san says, “I like to look up at the clouds and daze”. He’s an Uchinanchu (Okinawan) born and raised in Naha.
He worked as the chief editor for JTA’s (Japan Transocean Air) Churashima Story, a forerunner in the area of Okinawa’s tourism information website. For 17 years, the website continued to deliver information and feel of Okinawan islands, and many were saddened when the site discontinued in 2018.
With a great sense of accomplishment gained through his role as editor-in-chief under his belt, Moriyama-san decided to set out on a differnt path. While continuing as a photographer, he opened his Bar Kaigandori in 2018, just across from the Naha Military Port.
A cozy and intimate bar with just six seats at the counter, Bar Kaigandori is Moriyama-san’s second bar that he’s operated in his life. Photos of the islands that he’s shot over the years, and also a guitar and Sanshin (Okinawa’s three-stringed instrument) hang on the walls. This bar is a hidden gem for his customers, and Moriyama-san says he receives many female customers who come by alone. It has a very welcoming Okinawa feel, and even his first-time customers feel right at home and it doesn’t take much time for them to be engaged in friendly Yuntaku (conversation).
On the day that I went, I asked a female customer who’s a regular at his bar, “What’s Moriyama-san like?” Immediately, the young woman responded, “He’s really easy to talk to. He’s an Ojisan (uncle, or older man) who’s like an Obasan (aunt, or an older woman)!” “Like an Obasan?!” I echoed in surprise. To that, Moriyama-san responded as he laughed mischievously, “I grew up with two elder sisters and a younger sister, in an all-girl environment. Maybe that’s why I have a feminine side in my character, or that I understand the feelings of women. Actually, I’m more comfortable around women, too.”
[Shimoji Island] Photo Courtesy of Takumi Moriyama
“I used to think that Awamori was more of a ‘communication’ drink, but I tried Kusu (aged Awamori) for the first time when I was 21, and it tasted amazing, I was really moved. That’s when I fell in love with Awamori,” says Moriyama-san. He’s been to all 47 Awamori distilleries around Okinawa Prefecture to interview them.
He recalled, “In the interview with Ikema Distillery, known for their Niko Niko Taro Awamori…” and also, “The predecessor of the Kikuno-Tsuyu Distillery’s operator was…” He had so many episodes of the distilleries to share, we could write a whole book.
His knowledge, experience, and the number of Awamori he owns is phenomenal, and the bottles aligned on the shelves at his bar are only a portion of what he has. Even for the most devoted Awamori-lovers, just looking and talking about Awamori with Moriyama-san at his bar would make them think excitedly, “I’m in for new discoveries.”
“Come to think of it, Moriyama-san, you always wear Genki-kun T-shirts, don’t you?” I asked, referring to the happy and energetic boy character depicted on his shirt. “Yeah, I have 12 different colors,” he responds. These Genki-kun T-shirts have become somewhat of a trademark for Moriyama-san, and some people even refer to him as “Genki-san” or even “Genki-kun”.
“Miyako Island’s Genki-kun and Ishigaki Island’s Genki-kun have different hairstyles,” says Moriyama-san, and adds, “During the period when Okinawa was under the American administration, there was a local company called Genki Dairy. Anticipating Okinawa’s reversion to Japan, Genki Dairy tied-up with Morinaga Milk Industry from mainland Japan. That’s how Okinawa Morinaga Milk Industry came to be…” Just like that, from a simple question about T-shirts, I got an interesting history lesson on an Okinawa’s corporation. This was just a glimpse into just how much Moriyama-san has to offer.
Moriyama-san’s hobby and special skill is playing the guitar, which he stared at the tender age of 12.
He enjoys Japanese folk music, and the name of his bar, Kaigandori (which means “sea-front avenue”) is not simply because it’s situated by the water, but also from the song “Kaigandori (lyrics and music by Shozo Ise)”, a song with a melody and lyrics that he really enjoys.
Upon request, Moriyama-san will pick up his acoustic guitar to play and sing you a tune.
His gentle singing voice and guitar strumming were a perfect match for this small bar, and created a cozy feeling that made the time pass by comfortably.
[Kuroshima Island] Photo Courtesy of Takumi Moriyama
In describing Moriyama-san, there are numerous key words, and among them is a more predominant word, “Island”.
Moriyama-san, who has visited all of the inhabited islands of Okinawa Prefecture for interviews, shares:
“People of mainland Japan think that the islands of Okinawa are all the same, but Okinawa, Miyako, Yaeyama, all of these islands are very different. The standpoints and circumstances all differ. These differences and feelings are reflected as different identities for the people of these various islands.”
Of course, it goes without saying that each island has its own unique history, traditional cultures, landscapes, features, and people.
Not as Miyako in Okinawa, nor as Yaeyama of Okinawa, but Moriyama-san does his best to understand each island; their standpoints, and the emotional complexities and even the psychological barriers carried by the people of these islands.
These thoughts can’t simply be categorized under the word “Island”, and Moriyama-san has mental drawers for each and every island that he’s visited, categorized in his mind as “Kuro Shima Island”, “Kumejima Island”, “Miyako Island”, etc.
[Hateno Hama, Kume Island] Photo Courtesy of Takumi Moriyama
With his deep understanding of the varying identities in each of the different islands, I was curious and asked him, “What does Okinawa mean to you?”
“With the loss of Shurijo Castle in the fire, I can’t express it well, but I think, within me, the weight of Okinawa has lessened a little.”
He took a breath as he spoke about Shurijo Castle.
“I was devastated when Shurijo Castle went up in flames. I was in a state of shock for about a week.
I haven’t been able to clarify and organize my thoughts about it, but after it was lost in the flames, I really began to feel, that yes, there was a castle here.
When I was in high school, the Ryukyu University campus was located there, and there were no remnants of Shurijo Castle back then.
Then later, Shurijo Castle was built. What wasn’t there before, was there. And now, what was built is again lost.
What we used to see was lost, and although it felt strange to me, I thought, there really was a castle there.
It’s a strange feeling to realize something “existed” after it was lost. Of course, I think we definitely should rebuild the castle. But even after its loss in the fire, it’s still there. The structures may be gone, but the castle exists in our hearts.
Perhaps it comes from my lineage as a descendant of the Second Sho Dynasty of Ryukyuan Kings, but I feel that Shurijo Castle is our backbone, our support, and what we believe in. I feel that we are more connected through our hearts than before. The physical presence of the castle isn’t everything. The heart is everything. That is how I feel.”
[Hateruma Island] Photo Courtesy of Takumi Moriyama
“When I say the weight of Okinawa lessened a little, I mean that, with the loss of Shurijo Castle in the fire, the sense of what and how things must be, lessened within me. We don’t need to be so caught up in Ryukyu. Okinawa is fine just as Okinawa. And, Uchinanchu, now that’s nice, I think.
I’ve always thought this since long ago, but there are places on earth that’s a little bit more special than others, where people feel very comfortable. I think Okinawa is one of those special places. And so, Okinawa doesn’t just belong to the Uchinanchu. It belongs to everybody; it belongs to all humanity. It was by chance that I was born and raised in this southern paradise known as Okinawa. I began to think, I just want to keep smiling, accept others, and live a free and easygoing life.”
[Miyako Island] Photo Courtesy of Takumi Moriyama
Moriyama-san, like I said, has countless thought-provoking ideas and episodes to share, like the experiences he describes, “I was embraced by God twice in my life.”
It’s impossible for me to describe Moriyama-san in this article with a limit in space and number of words, so I think I should stop here.
“I want to make this bar a place where people can come and leave with a smile,” says Takumi Moriyama.
For more of Moriyama-san, visit Bar Kaigandori.
Address: 1-25 Yamashita-cho, Naha City, Okinawa
Hours: 19:00 to 24:00 (Last Call at 23:00)
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Mika Asaka.