It may not be of interest to many how Map It! Okinawa got its beginnings or why I embarked on this venture...but it may give you some insight on why it is, the way it is...and the driving force behind it.
When I came back to Okinawa in 2011, I never sought out to write about Okinawa's culture or its history. The truth was, I never cared. I came back to Okinawa for other reasons, to start a new life in a place that I always felt free. I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to survive. I just had an urging to come back.
So I packed up my belongings, said good-bye to my friends and family in California, took what savings I had left, and moved out here. Fortunately for me, I had a support network of relatives and friends already here, and as a son of a Japanese mother, I was allowed to stay legally, given that I filled out the proper paper work. Getting here was the easy part. What about the rest of my life?
So with this great uncertainty, followed a period of being in limbo – not a particular fond stage in life, but sometimes a necessary one to figure out where you have to go.
And with no car, I had spent a lot time wandering around on foot...in Okinawa....in the heat...and in limbo. This was the best thing that could have ever happen to me. I never felt rushed. Never felt irritated. Never felt frustrated because of traffic. I felt free.
But, I also learned two things during this time. I understood why older Okinawans held water springs in such high regard (50 years ago there were no Family Marts). Long ago fresh water was a priceless commodity. You quickly learn this when you spend day in and day out walking under the blistering Okinawan sun.
Second,...you see more when you walk around.
So, I just took pictures to kill time...a lot of pictures. But little by little, I would see things that had a beauty – a kind of intrinsic beauty that isn't always visible to the naked eye. I would take pictures and wonder about them. What did they all mean? A water well here, an utaki there, stuff that may not all seem that significant to a foreigner. But then I got thinking,... it's hard to respect what you don't understand, and then I realized that there was more to Okinawa than just the typical tourist attractions such as Hiji Falls, Shuri Castle, and the aquarium park. There was something deeper. Something very real here.
It only made sense to put pictures on the web, rather than have them 'collect dust' on my hard drive. That idea came from Michael Lynch, better known as Ryukyu Mike. He was actually a friend of my father's a long time ago. I met the much younger fella when I was just a kid, and it happen to be the last time as well. I was about 12 then. I never thought that 25 years later, we would be teaming up documenting everything and anything about Okinawa.
One day in his bar (his office) he showed me his Okinawan blog which has become quite popular both internationally and here on Okinawa. It was great stuff. He had shown me the power of the camera. My intention, however, was never to do a website or blog about Okinawa. I just wanted to organize my pictures so I can have easy access to them anytime without having to search through my computer. It was a way for me to document my travels. What better way to do it than to do it online.
So...I posted my first pictures on July 7th, 2011 – not an article...cause you see? I never had any intentions to write an article. Toguchi Beach and the Yomitan Red Bridge...that was it, my first pictures. That was easy and I was happy.
But not being too familiar with Yomitan at the time, I wasn't sure if I could remember how to find my way back, OR MAYBE OTHER PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW TO GET THERE AS WELL. Hmmmm...
So, I added a Google Map. Plotted Toguchi Beach and the Red Bridge. It was a little painful, but I was happy and done with it............but
I took so many pictures! Certainly one will not do. So I added a photo album. The pain just kept adding up.
Finally, I found myself asking the question...”WHAT AM I LOOKING AT?” and I knew other people might be asking the same. So I wrote a few sentences explaining what was there and what to expect. That wasn't too painful (months later I would realize that this is the most painful part of it all).
So you see? It all naturally came together; a picture, short explanation, photo album, and...a map .....all of places here on Okinawa. It all appeared magically...right there in front my eyes. It had just come to life, and like a baby just born after a painful labor....
The only thing left, was to give it a name...
The rest, I'm sure, you can figure out.