Jesse Whitehead of New Zealand publishes photography book featuring Okinawan proverbs

Jesse Whitehead of New Zealand publishes photography book featuring Okinawan proverbs

Jesse Whitehead, holding his photography book “Ichariba Chode,” expresses gratitude for his three-year experience in Okinawa (photograph taken in Nago City)

January 7, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Yoshiki Nagahama

New Zealander Jesse Whitehead, 25, recently published a photography book depicting the people, nature, and culture of Okinawa as he experienced them during his three-year stay in Tomigusuku City, which ended in December. Captions for the photographs in his book include lines from the Okinawan song Tinsagu nu Hana, and Okinawan “kugani” (proverbs).

Whitehead says he was moved by the beauty of the lyrics and sayings, which endeavor to convey Okinawa’s traditional wisdom and culture across generations. Whitehead believes that the lines send an important message that is common to cultures all over the world. Attached to a photograph of a child’s brilliant smile is the lyric, “Uya nu yushigutu ya chimu ni sumiri (let the words of your parents color your heart),” from Tinsagu nu Hana. A photograph of Okinawa soba is captioned with the proverb, “Kamuru ussa mi nayun (the more you eat, the healthier you will be).”

Whitehead came to Okinawa in August 2012 as an Assistant Language Teacher at a high school. During his stay, he traveled far and wide around all the islands of Okinawa. He participated in local events and met many people during his travels.

The photographs in Whitehead’s book were taken between March 2014 and April 2015. He says that after living in Okinawa for three years, he has come to think of it as his second home. In addition to Okinawa’s beautiful oceans and diverse culture, Whitehead says one thing that made an impression on him was that everywhere he went, people greeted him with warmth and kindness. The memories of each and every person he met in Okinawa, he says, are the reason he titled his book “Ichariba Chode,” which means, “once we meet, we are like brothers and sisters.” He says he wants to say thank you to every single person he met in Okinawa.

Whitehead says that more than anything, he wants to tell Okinawan high school students that if they have the chance, they should travel abroad and try many new and different things.

In addition to bringing his book home to New Zealand to teach people about Okinawa, Whitehead also plans to exhibit his photography. His book is ¥500, not including shipping. For more information, please contact

(English Translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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