by Tsuneo Yamashita
The Yaeyama Islands are a chain of ten inhabited and many more uninhabited isles at the southwestern end of the Ryukyu archipelago (Okinawa prefecture). Of the Yaeyamas, Hateruma is the southernmost inhabited location in Japan, and Yonaguni the westernmost. The area preserves its own culture and religious practices to this day.
The islanders live in constant awareness of the movements of the wind and tides. The tides being subject to the cycles of the moon, traditional annual observances in Okinawa follow the old lunar calendar. Two strains of time, then, exist on the islands—the solar calendar time governing work and school and everyday life, and the old Ryukyuan time flowing down unbroken from the immemorial past—and every so often one can sense them overlap and cross.
The presence of the divine is to be felt in many places throughout the islands: in the sacred sites known as utaki, on a lonely beach, before a huge boulder, deep within a forest. When the presence is welcoming, one wields the camera, and when it is forbidding, one quietly takes one’s leave. Although by rights artworks are supposed to be shaped by the artist’s own sure intentions, here on these islands I cannot help but feel that my photographs are being guided by something unseen.
Tsuneo Yamashita is a photographer based in Tokyo, Japan.
To view more of Tsuneo Yamashita's work, please visit his website.