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In the Picture: Ankle Deep in Okinawa, Japan

In every print issue, we fix our gaze on an everyday photograph and chase down facts about details in the frame.
  • After the Okinawa sabani ceremony, women pay their respects to nature at a nearby beach. Sabani are the region’s traditional cedar fishing canoes, similar to the vessels used in dragon-boat races.
  • In Japanese folklore, a giant subterranean catfish called Namazu was believed to cause earthquakes by thrashing about while pinned under a large rock whenever a deity named Kashima let down his guard.
  • SomeJapanese beachgoers play suikawari, in which blindfolded participants try to crack open watermelons. In 1991, the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, hoping to encourage watermelon consumption, established official rules on the proper dimensions of the whacking stick and how many watermelons an individual must have eaten to qualify as a judge.
  • As of October of 2015, Time reported, the United States had greater military presence in Japan — nearly 50,000 troops on active duty — than in any other foreign country, including in all the most strategically significant 20 countries of the Middle East combined.
  • This past June, the Navy instituted a temporary “liberty curtailment” in Okinawa — a ban on drinking among its personnel — prompted by incidents involving a petty officer who was accused of drunk driving after hitting two cars on the wrong side of the road; a sailor who was accused of rape; and a civilian contractor who was arrested in connection with the death of a young woman.
  • The word tycoon comes from the Japanese taikun. The Japanese ruling family borrowed the term from the Chinese word for “great prince,” takiun, to give themselves a title impressive to American visitors in the mid-19th century.
  • Swimming has played a role in depression research since the 1970s, when researchers started using the “forced swim test” to screen antidepressants: After a rodent is placed in water, the more time it fights drowning, the more effective the antidepressant is assumed to be.
  • The maximum human swimming speed is about two meters per second, Dutch researchers reported in 2005 in Animal Biology.
  • Just 12 months of regular swimming improved blood pressure and vascular function among adults over the age of 50, researchers found in a 2012 study.
  • A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 78.9 percent of all surveyed public aquatic arenas had at least one health violation; 12.3 percent of inspections resulted in immediate closure.