Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Day of the Year: Toshikoshi Soba


I learned my lesson in 2011 and went to the local soba shop early this year and there were plenty of noodles left to buy (I also brought my D-700 rather than my now 1 year old iPhone.). The shop is next to a train station and so there is a lot of foot traffic. It seemed that nobody could resist stopping and buying some soba to ring out 2012 and welcome the new year 2013.




Another end of the year tradition is oosouji (大掃除) - this is akin to spring cleaning in the west. People clean and tend to every dirty detail in their homes and shops. The picture below is a man cleaning the top of a small shrine next to the train station. The photo was taken through a window as I was riding an escalator up to the train platform. 


The last picture below is of a shop window in dire need of oosouji... A good reminder that not all Japanese people follow all traditions...


2012 was a great year. The fall semester ended on a good note; the last several days have been spent at Christmas parties and end-of-the-year parties. A neighbor gave us a big crab, a highly desirable winter delicacy. Thanks to all of my students, colleagues and VAOJ readers for all of their efforts this last year. 良いお年を!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"AIDS-Free World adds offensive Belize Immigration Law to the chopping block"

Press Release from AIDS-FREE WORLD (12/19/12):

Only two countries in the Western Hemisphere, Belize and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, arbitrarily ban the entry of homosexuals as a "prohibited class." AIDS-Free World is working to bring that to an end.

...

Repealing that law, and section 5 of the Belize Immigration Act, will also liberate other marginalized groups. Among the other classes of persons prohibited from entering Belize are the mentally challenged (described as "any idiot or any person who is insane or mentally deficient…") and the physically disabled (described as "deaf and dumb or deaf and blind, or dumb and blind,..."). It is noteworthy that in 2011, Belize signed and quickly ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (Bold emphasis added.)

Click here to read the entire release.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Facial Recognition Technology and Privacy Issues

Two articles from The Yomiuri Shimbun Online (November 29, 2012):

Face-recognition cameras pose privacy problem / High-tech 'peepers' operating at dozens of Tokyo locations silently glean age and gender of passersby

Twenty-nine cameras with face-recognition functions have been snapping photos of unwitting passersby at commercial facilities and high-rise condominiums in the Tokyo metropolitan area without notifying the public, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The small cameras, which are mounted on advertisement displays, automatically take pictures of potential customers and determine their age and sex.

Companies that set the cameras up say the technology poses no problem because individuals remain anonymous, but legal experts say rules are needed to clarify use of the technology.

The face-recognition function identifies the sex and age of individuals who enter a camera's line of sight. Computers connected to the cameras automatically perform the identification.

The technology is used for such purposes as recording the arrival of departure of company employees and identifying personal computer users.

According to NEC Corp., which began developing such cameras in the 1980s, they had an initial accurate rate of 20 percent, but today the rate is about 99.7 percent.

One such camera is in operation in Lalaport Toyosu, a large commercial complex in Koto Ward, Tokyo. The unassuming "eye" is mounted on a two-meter-high display showing information about stores in the facility.

Though the camera is barely noticeable from its external appearance, it quietly snapped pictures of customers, its data being fed into software that determines what demographics are looking at what types of ads.

According to the Mitsui Fudosan group, which manages LaLaport facilities, 10 such cameras were introduced to the shopping complex in November 2009, and eight have been in operation in LaLaport Shin Misato in Saitama Prefecture since March 2010.

However, none of these displays notified people that cameras were in operation or stated the purpose.

According to a company that developed the camera-rigged displays, the software determines people's ages and gender based on the images and categorizes them into 10 groups, such as "boy under 10" and "teenage girl."

Though the cameras do not store the images, the valuable marketing data gleaned from them is sent to operators of LaLaport facilities and advertisers every month.

The cameras at Lalaport Toyosu generate data for 10,000 to 20,000 people a week.

The system development company operates displays with the same type of cameras at 10 computer shops in Tokyo's Akihabara district, as well as a high-rise condominium in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, but said customers and residents are not informed that the cameras are in operation.

Supermarket chain operator Seiyu GK had used six such displays at two of its stores in Kita Ward, Tokyo, and Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, since June last year but stopped using them the following August.

A guideline under the Protection of Personal Information Law stipulates that camera images identifying individuals constitute personal information.

The law stipulates that operators who use such a camera to obtain such information without announcing the purpose, and disobey a correction order from the authorities, could face up to six months in prison or a maximum 300,000 yen fine.

The system development company concerned and Mitsui Fudosan said that as the cameras do not save the pictures themselves, but rather convert them into gender and age data, privacy is not being violated.

A Seiyu official said, "The data does not constitute personal information, so there's no problem."

Hisamichi Okamura, a lawyer who is familiar with the law agreed, saying, "If the data remained anonymous, they could not be considered personal information."

However, he added, "If [the cameras] are used for crime prevention that's one thing. But many people wouldn't agree with their commercial use. Customers and passersby should be clearly told their pictures are being taken."

Masao Horibe, professor emeritus of Hitotsubashi University and a privacy issues expert, said it isn't the first time privacy issues have been raised over face-recognition technology in the country, but that rules had yet to be compiled because no ministry or agency has taken charge of privacy matters.

"A third-party organization specializing in privacy issues should be established and rules should be made quickly," Horibe said.


Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T121128004400.htm


Functions useful for marketing, but laws lag behind

Though face-recognition functions have been used widely in various fields, rules on use of the technology have yet to be established.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) has been operating automatic vending machines with it since August 2010. Currently there are about 440 such machines, which determine the age and gender of people who stand in front of them and display recommended products.

For example, if a customer is recognized as a man in his 30s, the machine will recommend a nutritious drink. If a customer is recognized as a woman in her 20s, the machine will suggest jasmine tea.

Data generated by the machines are stored and analyzed for deciding product lineups.

Initially, a firm affiliated with JR East that operates the vending machines displayed a notice that the machines were using face-recognition technology. However, the notices were removed in November last year as the company judged the fact to be widely known.

In other countries, there have been moves toward establishing rules on the use of the technology.

In the United States, for instance, the Federal Trade Commission announced late last month a guideline that stipulated if cameras are used to collect age and gender data in shopping complexes and supermarkets, the purpose of collecting the information and details about the type of information should be clearly explained to customers.


Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T121128004567.htm

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Visual Anthropology at the AJJ


The 2012 Anthropology of Japan in Japan (AJJ) Fall Workshop@Kyoto
Doshisha University, Muromachi Campus (Imadegawa) 
December 1st & 2nd, 2012

“Belonging in Japan and Beyond”

This meeting will explore what it means to feel a sense of Japanese cultural and/or national heritage within Japan or beyond its territorial borders.

***

Lots of good visual anthropology going on this week. Many thanks to my students for their efforts in creating photographs and films - both the photo exhibition and film festival were extremely successful. Thanks to all who came to both events.

In case you need another dose of visual anthro, you are in luck. The AJJ Fall Workshop is in the Kansai this year and has a lot of interesting presentations scheduled. Of particular interest to visual anthropologists will be this session:

Sunday, December 2nd, 13:30~15:30
Session 6 (Law School at the “Kambaikan,” 2F, Room KMB208)

Sights of Community: Exploring Belonging in Visual Practice
Organizer and Chair: Steven C. FEDOROWICZ (Kansai Gaidai University)

Belonging in the Work of Japanese Contemporary Artist Fuyuko Matsui (Eva MISKELOVA, Masaryk University / Kansai Gaidai University)

Exploring Devotees of a Sexy Cyber Green-Haired Guru (John SHULTZ, Kansai Gaidai University)

Fujoshi Between Pleasure and Danger: Yaoi/BL Fandom and the Management of Spoiled Identities in Japan (Jeffry T. HESTER, Kansai Gaidai University)

How to Play Deaf in Japan (Steven C. FEDOROWICZ, Kansai Gaidai University)

For more information about the AJJ Fall Workshop, check out the AJJ Blog: http://www.ajj-online.net/www.ajj-online.net/Blog/Entries/2012/11/19_Annual_Meeting_Program.html 

For directions to Doshisha University: http://www.doshisha.ac.jp/english/access/ima-access.html

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

VAOJ Student Film Festival Under the Stars


Join us outside on a cool, brisk autumn evening for a screening of students films. Bring a blanket or someone to keep you warm.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Film Screening: "Nuclear Nation"


Announcement from H-Japan:

Date: Wednesday, November 28th, at 18:30
Place: University of Tokyo, Collaboration Room 3 (4F), Building 18, Komaba Campus.
Film Length: 96 minutes. Subtitles: English. Trailer
Language: English | No registration required

Director: Funahashi Atsushi, Documentary Japan
Discussant: Sato Yoshiaki


Description
While the Japanese government announced that the Tohoku nuclear crisis has been "stabilized" in November of 2011, the 20 km no-entry zone around the leaking plant in Fukushima remains in effect. Today, over a year after the disaster, there are as yet no plans for the thousands of evacuated residents to return home.


Director Funahashi Atsushi's film Nuclear Nation tells the story of Futaba, a small town inside the Fukushima no-entry zone. Located just 4 km from the nuclear plant, Futaba was evacuated in the early days of the crisis, as the plant operator struggled to bring the triple meltdown under control. Over 1,400 residents were relocated to an unused high school in Saitama, where they faced an unknown future.

Nuclear Nation patiently explores the lives of the town's refugees, in their search for both justice and a way forward. Through extensive interviews with former residents and local officials, the film gives a history of the invisible nuclear economy in Japan that is both lucid and highly revealing.

In the tradition of the best of Japanese documentary cinema, Funahashi has gone to extraordinary lengths to depict the situation of the Fukushima refugees, to communicate their voices, and to interrogate the promises and contradictions of the government's energy policy at the level of everyday life.

We are pleased invite you to join us for this special screening, to be followed by a discussion and Q & A with the director.

Funahashi Atsushi is an independent filmmaker working in both dramatic and documentary modes. His first films — Echoes (2001) and Big River (2006) — were produced while Funahashi lived in the United States. After returning to Japan in 2007, he has directed Deep in the Valley (2009), Nuclear Nation (2012), and Cold Bloom (2012). Funahashi's work has received wide critical attention and screenings at numerous international film festivals.

Prof. Sato Yoshiaki has taught American Literature and Popular Music in the Department of Culture and Representation at the University of Tokyo, Komaba. His publications include The Evolution of J-POP (1999) and What Was the Beatles? (2006). A distinguished translator, Prof. Sato has translated Gregory Bateson's Mind and Nature and Steps to an Ecology of Mind into Japanese. At present, he is translating the completed novels of Thomas Pynchon.

For more information: http://utcp.c.u-tokyo.ac.jp/events/2012/11/film_screening_nuclear_nation/index_en.php

Monday, November 19, 2012

CALL FOR FILMS - AAS FILM EXPO 2013

Announcement from H-ASIA:

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) annually hosts the premier North American conference of Asia scholars.  The AAS conference is devoted to scheduled programs of scholarly papers, roundtable discussions, workshops, and panel sessions on a wide range of issues in research and teaching on Asia, and on Asian affairs in general. Their upcoming conference is scheduled for March 21-24, 2013 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, CA.

Since 2011, the Asian Educational Media Service (AEMS), a program of the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Illinois, has organized the AAS Film Expo presented at the conference. Films are projected in a dedicated screening room with a schedule running from Thursday afternoon through Saturday evening. For 2013, we are also planning for an additional "on demand" screening area, allowing greater viewing opportunities for attendees who miss scheduled screening times.

For the conference screenings, AEMS is seeking films related to Asia produced by scholars and independent filmmakers. Criteria utilized in the selection process include timeliness, broad appeal to the scholarly community, and examples of new field work. All films presented in the conference will be listed in both the AAS Annual Meeting Program Addendum and in an AAS Film Expo booklet brochure to be distributed at the conference that lists distributors and contact information for each film.

Follow the following address for more information and an application form.
 

http://www.aems.illinois.edu/aas/2013/submission_form_aas2013.pdf

*** DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS IS NOVEMBER 30, 2012 ***

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Visual Anthropology Programs Along the Pacific Rim



The American Anthropological Association begins its annual meetings on Tuesday, November 13 in San Francisco. There are hundreds and hundreds of scheduled papers, presentations, workshops, etc. VAOJ will be participating in a round table discussion about visual anthropology programs along the Pacific Rim. Discussions will address topics such as various university program's core ethos (MA or BA, theoretical vs. applied, etc.), student demographics served, any trends in student interests, any notable projects, current challenges, and future directions. Essentially, it will be a 'snapshot' of programs in the region. The round table will be on Friday, November 16, 1:45 - 5:30 PM. Check it out.

Link to AAA 2012 Conference Program: http://aaa.confex.com/aaa/2012/webprogrampreliminary/start.html

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Deaf World Japan and Deaf Support Osaka Cultural Exchange


This last weekend students from my Deaf World Japan class took a fieldtrip to NPO Deaf Support Osaka for a cultural exchange and Japanese Sign Language (JSL) practice. Deaf Support Osaka has many programs to teach and promulgate JSL, offers a place for older deaf people to work and of course has the famous Deaf Cafe and art gallary. Students from Canada, Iceland, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States were able to meet deaf people and ask them questions about deaf culture. The deaf people also had questions for the foreign students about their own countries, reasons for coming to Japan and their thoughts on Japanese culture. The discussion was held in JSL (with only occasional English interpretation as needed). The event was a huge success - my students could practice their JSL skills with native signers and the deaf people could interact with foreigners (something many of them had not had much experience with). I hope this is only the beginning of this kind of exchange. Many deaf people told me afterwards that they hope to meet the students again. So, my students (and anyone else who is interested), please go back and practice your JSL at the Deaf Cafe!

Link to NPO Deaf Support Osaka webpage (in Japanese): http://www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~deafnet/

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Visual Anthropology of Japan Photo Exhibition: NPO Deaf Support Osaka GALAXY


 
Visual Anthropology of Japan
Photo Exhibition

NPO Deaf Support Osaka
GALAXY

Definition of GALAXY (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/galaxy)

1. any of the very large groups of stars and associated matter that are found throughout the universe

2. an assemblage of brilliant or notable persons or things

NPO Deaf Support Osaka has many programs and activities designed to advance deaf people and propagate the use of Japanese Sign Language (JSL). This photo exhibition is a part of a long-term anthropological research project; it aims to showcase the myriad of people who participate is Deaf Support Osaka events. The galaxy is a large place, and Deaf Support Osaka has many more activities that cannot all be showcased in a single exhibition. This photo exhibition serves as an introduction to the galaxy of NPO Deaf Support Osaka with the hope of further exploration to come.

Place: NPO Deaf Support Osaka Gallery Cafe

Dates: November 1 - December 27, 2012
For more information: http://www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~deafnet/


Saturday, October 27, 2012

2012 秋祭り(Fall Festival)


Autumn has finally arrived with lower temperatures, the smell of burning leaves and the sounds of local fall festivals. Two years ago I had the opportunity to follow the danjiri/cart around in my neighborhood fall festival and take photos. Since then I have participated in more community events and met some of my neighbors. This year I followed the danjiri around for most of the two days as it went around to bestow blessings on the neighborhood. It was definitely an event to bring the community together. I feel since I am getting to know these people and the nature of the event better, my photos this time around are more personal. What do you think? These are some of my favorite shots. You can click on the links below to see more photos from both days.


 

Click here for Day 1 photos.

Click here for Day 2 photos.

Click here for 2010 photos.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Visual Fun: Young Rival's "Two Reasons"



I came across this wonderfully visual and fun video by the band Young Rival - perfect timing as we deal with midterm exams, projects, grant proposals, upcoming conferences, etc. There's a little Japan influence in the video as well...  Enjoy!

Story behind the video (info from the YouTube video site):

The band discovered the blog of Michigan artist James Kuhn via reddit in the Fall of 2011. They e-mailed him to ask if he'd be willing to collaborate on a music video, and he said yes.

The band was physically mailed CDs over the few months that contained 25 videos of lip-synched performances by Kuhn, which they edited into the final video.

"Two Reasons" is a track from Young Rival's new album, due out October 23 2012. Big thanks to James for his time, talent, and energy.


Young Rival Homepage: http://www.youngrival.com/

James Kuhn's Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawhawjames

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another feel good story about hearing aids (with apologies for having to deal with the commercial before getting to feature)...



Making a difference...
Special... Legally deaf since birth...
Hearing impaired...
Ba-ba-ba-ba...
Kinda like a new shoe...
Louder... Annoying... Overwhelming...
800,000 people...
Out of the darkness... Come alive...

Sarcasm aside, this story shows the diversity of deafness. We can be happy for the people who want to be helped in this fashion. But we need to be weary of this representation that smacks of the deficit model of deafness.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Documentary profiles children in post-March 11 Japan"


Photo and text borrowed from Japan Today, 10/10/12.

Communities in northeastern Japan are still struggling to come to terms with last year’s compound disasters. But what about the children of the region? Are they able to move on and look ahead to the future? That is the question behind the upcoming short documentary “Kore Kara” (meaning “from now on” in Japanese). 

The 30-minute film brings together profiles of children and teens living in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the many areas that were hit hard by the March 11 tsunami. 

“Originally, the purpose of the film was to point out the necessity for more attention to children’s needs and counseling following a natural disaster,” says Tokyo-based journalist Kevin Mcgue, who is producing the film. “But after meeting some kids in the affected areas, we discovered they have a powerful message to share not only with other children in Japan, but with the world.”

The focus of the documentary changed to a more positive stance. Rather than having the children recount their traumatic experiences of March 11, 2011, the filmmakers asked them to talk about their hopes and dreams for the future. 

“Meeting these brave kids was an eye opener,” says director Ivy Oldford. “Most of the responses we got from them were different from what I expected—in a good way.” Having survived the disaster, many of the children express wishes to become nurses or rescue workers in order to help others.

Despite living in an area that is still rebuilding more than a year after the devastating tsunami, the children featured in the film urge a positive attitude. “I want people to treasure each day,” says a high school student in the film. “People want to put things off until tomorrow, but for some people ‘tomorrow’ didn’t come because of the natural disaster. So you have to value today.”

The filmmakers plan to make the documentary available with multilingual subtitles to schools both in Japan and around the world. They hope teachers can share with their students the powerful message that even the youngest members of society can overcome a natural disaster and see beyond to the bright future they create for themselves.

The filmmakers also plan to hold screenings in affected areas in Tohoku and in Tokyo. They are raising funds to cover costs relating to holding screenings and making DVDs and teacher guides at http://www.indiegogo.com/korekaraproject.

Screenings are planned for Tokyo in December and January. Screening dates will be posted on the Facebook page as they are set. For more information on the documentary, visit http://www.facebook.com/korekaraproject.

Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/entertainment/view/documentary-profiles-children-in-post-march-11-japan

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

CLOSE-UP

Announcement from H-Japan:

Since 2005, Close-Up has established itself as a unique film resource. Our guiding principle is to provide access for everyone to film culture and history through our library, film screenings and publication of Vertigo magazine.

Our catalogue of over 17,000 films and books is unrivalled and our regular screenings are renowned for supporting and developing the exhibition of independent and experimental cinema in London. Close-Up wholly incorporates the prestigious film journal Vertigo, the archive of which has been fully revised and made completely available for free online.

Our new project is the creation of an independent cinema in the East End of London. The programme will consist of repertory cinema and the presentation of radical new artists' films and videos. We have recently secured a venue and the cinema is planned to open in Autumn 2013.

Run on a non-profit basis the company reinvests all its revenue to maintain the continuing growth of this invaluable film resource. In the current economic climate your contribution is essential in enabling us to continue this work. It will help us to continue to build the catalogue of our extensive library, further publication of Vertigo Magazine and with the future development of our new cinema.


Close-Up web site: http://www.closeupfilmcentre.com/

Monday, October 8, 2012

"Film shows family torn by N Korea-Japan relocation program "

From Japan Today, 10/7/12:

Korean-Japanese filmmaker Yang Yonghi says she leaned on her own personal history and similar stories from her pro-North Korean community in Japan for her latest movie, the feature film “Our Homeland,” which made its South Korean debut Saturday at the Busan International Film Festival.

“Our Homeland” tells the story of Sung Ho, a Japanese-born Korean who was among the estimated 90,000 people sent by their families to North Korea during a wave of repatriations from the late 1950s to the 1970s. He returns to Tokyo after 25 years away for a brief reunion with the rest of the family still living in Japan and medical treatment for his brain tumor.

The movie, which premiered at the Berlin film festival, was selected as Japan’s Academy Awards entry this year for best foreign-language film - a notable accomplishment for an ethnic Korean director from Japan, a country long accused of treating its ethnic Korean residents like second-class citizens.

“Our Homeland” is among three films screening in Busan with connections to North Korea. Feature film “Comrade Kim Goes Flying” is a joint North Korean-European production about a coal miner with aspirations to become a trapeze artist, and “Choongshim, Soso” is a short South Korean-made film about a North Korean defector hiding in China.

Yang belongs to the ethnic Korean “zainichi” minority in Japan, many of them descendants of Koreans brought there during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of Korea. The community is divided between those pledging allegiance to Pyongyang and those to Seoul; all are assigned Korean passports at birth, even if their families have lived in Japan for generations.

“Our Homeland,” her first feature film, is based on her own reunion with a brother sent to North Korea at age 16 by their pro-North Korean father at a time when North Korea had a stronger economy than South Korea. Like many fathers of his generation, he believed life would be better for his son in North Korea than in Japan, where Koreans faced widespread discrimination.

Yang explored the same issue in two documentaries, “Dear Pyongyang” of 2005 and “Sona, the Other Myself” of 2009, both based on interaction with her family in North Korea.

Read the whole text: http://www.japantoday.com/category/entertainment/view/film-shows-family-torn-by-n-korea-japan-relocation-program

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Between Art and Information: Collecting Photographs - CALL FOR PAPERS

Announcement from H-ASIA:

One Day Meeting, Leicester, Saturday March 2nd 2013

Museums and Galleries History Group/Photographic History Research Centre,
De Montfort University


The status of photographs in the history of museum collections is a complex one. From the inception of the medium its double capacity as an aesthetic form and as a recording medium created tensions about its place in the hierarchy of museum objects.  While museums had been amassing photographs since about 1850, it was, for instance, only in the 1970s that the first senior curators of photographs were appointed in UK museums. On the one hand major collections of ‘art’ photography have grown in status and visibility, while photographs not designated  ‘art’ are often invisible in museums. On the other hand almost every museum has photographs as part of its ecosystem, gathered as information, corroboration or documentation, shaping the understanding of other classes of objects. Many of these collections remain uncatalogued and their significance unrecognised. However recent years have seen an increasing interest in the histories of these humble objects, both their role in collections histories and their histories in their own right.  

This one-day meeting, a collaboration between MGHG and the Photographic History Research Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester, will explore the substantive and historiographical questions around museum collections of photographs. How do categories of the aesthetic and evidential shape the history of collecting photographs? What are the implications of shifts in these categories? What has been the work of photographs in museums? What does an understanding of photograph collections add to our understanding of collections history more broadly? What are the methodological demands of research on photograph collections? 

For more information: http://www.dmu.ac.uk/research/research-faculties-and-institutes/art-design-humanities/phrc/news/2012/between-art-and-information-collecting-photographs-call-for-papers.aspx

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Power shot / Examining the works of Kishin Shinoyama"

Images borrowed from SHINOYAMAKISHIN.JP.

Story from The Daily Yomiuri Online, 10/5/12:

A photography exhibition featuring works by Kishin Shinoyama, who has spent his career on the cutting edge of photography, recently opened at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

THE PEOPLE by KISHIN, which focuses on "the power of photography," has about 120 portraits taken over the last 50 years covering a variety of themes.

The exhibit features huge photos, including a 3.4-meter by 3.4-meter portrait of the late actress Reiko Ohara and a 7-meter-wide picture of kabuki female role-player Bando Tamasaburo.

"Everyone will be surprised [at the power of the oversized photos]. Even I'm surprised," Shinoyama said before the opening.

Shinoyama, 71, has captured shining moments of showbiz personalities who added color to their times and witnessed the scenes that engaged people's imagination. His photos distill the essence of his subjects, conveying their refined beauty or their literally naked power.

The photos on display are definitive images spanning half a century, with Shinoyama capturing "the moment the god of photography descended."

Some of them, such as those of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, pop singer Momoe Yamaguchi, novelist Yukio Mishima, actresses Sayuri Yoshinaga and Rie Miyazawa and all-girl idol group AKB48 are dramatically enlarged.

Blowing up the photos takes advantage of the generous exhibition space to best show the impact of the photos.

The exhibition was first held at the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, from the end of June through mid-September and attracted more than 30,000 people.

As the Tokyo venue is more spacious and has higher ceilings than the Kumamoto museum, the Tokyo exhibition will give audiences a better opportunity to experience the powerful energy inherent in the photos. After Tokyo, it will move to Hiroshima Prefecture and Niigata and run through March 2014.

The pictures are separated into five categories--GOD (The deceased), STAR (Celebrities), SPECTACLE (Dream worlds that take us to another dimension), BODY (The body undressed--beauty, eroticism, struggle) and ACCIDENTS (March 11, 2011--Portraits of victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake).

===

The power of photography

Asked about what makes a powerful photograph, Shinoyama said, "It's a photo with the potential of having a strong impact on the subject, the photographer and the viewers in a way that transcends space-time, truth or falsehoods, and so on."

As to how to take a powerful photo, he said: "A photographer should respect the subject and not have a condescending or flattering attitude. The photographer must correctly read the atmosphere and create a relaxing environment. Their senses should be heightened to the maximum before pressing the shutter button."

Shinoyama, when asked how to nurture such power, replied: "Listen to good music, watch plays, travel when you feel like it, associate with good friends, eat tasty foods...Anything will do. Nurture a sensibility that makes you want to react strongly when you meet good subjects and shoot them."

Meanwhile, THE PEOPLE by KISHIN is a new challenge.

"This series of shows is the first large-scale exhibition for me in public museums in Japan. I feel that photographs are alive, so they are not suitable for display in a museum. I thought of such a display as 'a grave for my work,'" he said.

"But when trying to prepare the exhibition in a way that the photos would engage viewers, I felt the exhibition breathed a new life into my work. I was moved to discover that. My photos have always been for publications, so it was the first time for me to see such huge prints," he added.

In the exhibit, photos of celebrities occupy a large amount of space.

"I pay attention to the atmosphere of the times and follow the demand for stars of the era. For example, Momoe Yamaguchi in the 1970s, Seiko Matsuda in the 1980s and currently AKB48. So viewers become emotionally involved in the photo subjects and think back nostalgically about that time," he said.

Shinoyama does not like his exhibition referred to as a "retrospective."

"I always move in a positive direction and remain curious. Through this exhibition I want to keep an open mind to taking on new challenges," he said.

"THE PEOPLE by KISHIN" through Dec. 24 at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). Last entry 30 minutes before closing. Closed on Mondays. If Monday is a public holiday, the museum will be open that day and be closed the following Tuesday. (Open Oct. 8 and Dec. 24, closed Oct. 9). The nearest station is Hatsudai Station on Keioshinsen line. Admission: 1,000 yen for adults; 800 yen for university and high school students; 600 yen for middle and primary school students; 500 yen for those aged 65 and older. For more information, call the gallery at (03) 5353-0756.

Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/arts/T121002001892.htm

Kishin's website (in Japanese): http://www.shinoyamakishin.jp/

Monday, September 10, 2012

Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Does It Again... And Again. He's Cutting Funding to Human Rights Museum, Korean Schools, Bunraku, etc....

Those living in Osaka, Japan or anywhere else need to know what the current mayor of Osaka is doing based upon his own preferences and desired images of Japanese culture. This is especially true as his power grows and his local group becomes a national political party.

Hashimoto is cutting funding to Liberty Osaka, the only human rights museum in Japan. Why? Tessa Morris-Suzuki writes in her recent Japan Focus article (9/3/12):

The Osaka city government has until now provided a crucial part of the museum's funding, but the current city government, headed by mayor Hashimoto Tōru, has decided to halt this funding from next year, on the grounds that the museum displays are ‘limited to discrimination and human rights’ and fail to present children with an image of the future full of ‘hopes and dreams’ (Mainichi Shinbun 25 July 2012).

See the whole article: "Out With Human Rights, In With Government-Authored History: The Comfort Women and the Hashimoto Prescription for a ‘New Japan’"

Link: http://japanfocus.org/-Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3818

Hashimoto has cut funding for Korean schools in Osaka. Why? Among other reasons, according to a recent Japan Times article (9/2/12), he doesn't like Korean schools displaying portraits of Kim Jong Il:

In March 2010, then-Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto announced the prefecture would stop paying subsidies to Korean schools that refuse to meet four criteria, including the removal of portraits of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The Osaka Prefectural Government stopped paying subsidies to one of the corporation's high schools in the 2010 academic year after determining it did not meet the provisions. It ended payments to most of the operator's elementary and junior high schools in the following school year because Kim's portrait adorned faculty rooms. For the current fiscal year, the prefecture didn't even allocate a budget for the subsidies. Meanwhile, the Osaka Municipal Government cut off subsidies to the schools when Hashimoto became mayor in 2011.


See the whole article: "Osaka faces Korean subsidy suits"

Link: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120902a7.html

Hashimoto is cutting funding for Bunraku puppets (an art form originating in Osaka). Why? According to a recent Mainichi article (7/27/12), he didn't like the performance:

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who recently declared he would freeze subsidies to an association for Bunraku, a centuries-old form of puppet theater, expressed his dissatisfaction with a Bunraku show he saw on July 26, describing the performance as "unsatisfactory."

"I understood that this is an art that should be preserved as a classic (art form), but the last scene was plain, and lacked something," Hashimoto told reporters after watching "Sonezaki Shinju" (The love suicides at Sonezaki), a classic play based on the work of renowned 17th-18th century dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon, at the National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka's Chuo Ward on the evening of July 26.

"The staging was unsatisfactory," the mayor added in his comment on the play, which has not been changed since it was reintroduced to the public in 1955. "Does it really have to follow the old script that precisely?"


See the whole article: "Osaka mayor Hashimoto calls classic Japanese play 'unsatisfactory'"

Link: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20120727p2a00m0na006000c.html

Granted, Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City have terrible budget problems. But these cuts and others seem to be done by the whims and personal views of Hashimoto. These budget cuts, along with his witch-hunt for city employees with tattoos and his insistence of standing for the Japanese flag and national anthem provide insight into this man and the kind of changes he wants to do in the creation of his image/view of Japan.

Journalist Hiroshi Iwaisako provides more information about Hashimoto and perhaps his rationale for budget cuts and other actions in a recent article at Nippon.com (7/24/12); his report/perspective is more serious/formal than other descriptions of Hashimoto that have appeared in other sources.

See the article: "What to Make of Hashimoto Tōru?"

Link: http://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a01103/

See also: "Hashimoto sets new national party, names it Nihon Ishin no Kai" by Eric Johnston (9/9/12)

Link: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120909a1.html

As for tattoos, Hashimoto might benefit from reading this article: "Top Arizona court rules tattooing is protected speech" (9/7/12)

Link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48948732/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/#.UE1RGxhhNFQ

People need to know what Hashimoto is doing along with his so-called rationale. Is this what we want for the future of Japan?

Link to Liberty Osaka Human Rights Museum: http://www.liberty.or.jp/topfile/human-top.htm

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Filming curtailed in 'suicide forest'"

From The Daily Yomiuri Online, 9/6/12:

The Yamanashi prefectural government has decided to prohibit the shooting of movies and TV dramas in the Aokigahara forest at the base of Mt. Fuji if the scenes include suicides, as they believe such depictions could encourage suicides in real life.

Yamanashi Gov. Shomei Yokouchi said he wants to erase the image of the forest as a famous site for suicide.

The decision was incorporated into the prefecture's action guideline for suicide prevention, which was drawn up Tuesday.

According to National Police Agency statistics, the prefecture's suicide rate was 36.1 per 100,000 people in 2011, the highest nationwide for the fifth year in a row. Last year, 312 people committed suicide in the prefecture.

According to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry statistics, 212 residents of the prefecture killed themselves last year. The prefectural government said many people who committed suicide came from outside the prefecture.

A large number of them do so in the Aokigahara forest. Since most of the forest is owned by the prefecture, movie or drama producers need to obtain permission from the prefecture to film in the forest. In making its decision, the government takes into consideration what scenes will be filmed.


Source: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120905004579.htm

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Announcement for Film Screening at University of Tokyo: "Ashes to Honey"

Announcement from H-Japan; if you are in the Tokyo area, check out this film:

"Ashes to Honey" [Mitsubachi no haoto to chikyū no kaiten]

Year: 2010

Film Length: 115 minutes

Subtitles: English
Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHG6TKKeO-A
Director: Kamanaka Hitomi, Group Gendai

Discussant: David McNeill, Sophia University



Description
:
While the weekly anti-nuclear demonstrations now taking place in Japan mark a new chapter in local citizens' action, they may also be understood as part of a longer history of popular protest, and an ongoing debate about political transparency, democracy, and grassroots action in Japan. In the spirit of understanding the current debates and some of the deeper questions they raise, UTCP has organized a screening and discussion of Kamanaka Hitomi's film Ashes to Honey (2010).

Filmed before the 3/11 disaster, Ashes to Honey takes both a local and global perspective on questions about energy policy, sustainable society, and non-violent protest. At the local level, it depicts the situation on Iwaishima, an island on the Seto Inland Sea, where the residents have been locked in struggle for almost three decades to protect their lives and livelihood from the construction of a nuclear plant by Chugoku Denryoku. To bring this into a global perspective, Kamanaka travels to Sweden, to assess the results of two decades of alternative energy policy, and whether parts of the North European model could be successfully implemented in Japan.

Taking the debate around energy policy as a point of departure, Ashes to Honey prompts us to reflect on how we imagine a future, sustainable society, and the efforts required to realize it.


We are pleased invite you to join us for this special screening, to be followed by a discussion and Q & A with the director.

Kamanaka Hitomi is a documentary filmmaker, working extensively on the issue of nuclear energy. Following ten years at NHK, Kamanaka-san today works as an independent filmmaker. Her previous films include Hibakusha — At the End of the World (2004), and Rokkashomura Rhapsody (2006).

Date: 17:00-20:30, Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Place: Media Lab 2, 1st Floor, Building 18, University of Tokyo, Komaba Access: http://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en/access.html


For more information: http://utcp.c.u-tokyo.ac.jp/events/2012/09/film_screening_ashes_to_honey/index_en.php

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Announcement: The Royal Anthropological Institute's Body Canvas Photography Competition‏



I recently received information about this interesting photo contest dealing with the body as canvas. The submissions they are looking for are Engaging photographs that explore biological, cross-cultural and social elements of body art and modification in relation to these categories:

1) Tattoos and Scarification
2) Piercings and Body Reshaping


Deadline for submissions 30th September 2012.

For further information and submission guidelines please visit: www.discoveranthropology.org.uk

Take a look at previous photo competitions on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raieducation

Saturday, September 1, 2012

"School asks deaf preschooler to change his sign language name"

From The Lookout via Yahoo! News:

Three-and-a-half  year old Hunter Spanjer, who is deaf, signs his name by crossing his forefinger and index finger and moving his hand up and down.

To his family, friends and those who know the Signing Exact English (S.E.E.) language that the Grand Island, Neb., boy uses, that gesture uniquely means "Hunter Spanjer."

But to Hunter's school district, it might mean something else. The district claims that it violates a rule that forbids anything in the school that looks like a weapon, reports KOLN-TV.

And Hunter's parents claim that Grand Island Public Schools administrators have asked them to change their son's sign language name.

"Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous," Hunter's grandmother Janet Logue told the TV station. "This is not threatening in any way."

Hunter's father Brian Spanjer said, "It's a symbol. It's an actual sign, a registered sign, through S.E.E."

The family told KOLN that lawyers from the National Association of the Deaf may push for Hunter's right to sign his name at the school.

Jack Sheard, Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson told KOLN, "We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child."

One Grand Island resident said she disagrees with the school.

"I find it very difficult to believe that the sign language that shows his name resembles a gun in any way would even enter a child's mind," Fredda Bartenbach said in the news report.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/school-asks-deaf-preschooler-change-sign-language-name-191629255.html

Thanks to my colleague, JH, for bringing this to my attention. Here's my take on this situation.

This is a great example of the problems associated with signing systems as opposed to natural sign languages. Signing Exact English (S.E.E.) is not a language. It is a system, or more precisely a modality, to express English language through manual gestures. It is different from American Sign Language (ASL). S.E.E. was created to supposedly make it easier for deaf people to communicate with hearing people. While S.E.E. adapts some signs from ASL, it uses the same grammar and word order as spoken English. ASL has its own unique grammar and word order. Culturally Deaf people use ASL. Those deaf people who don't advocate Deaf culture and wish to mainstream into hearing society use S.E.E. or other similar manual systems.

So it would seem that if your intention is to sign/communicate English, and if a particular sign is problematic for English speakers, then that sign should probably not be used. If the young boy was using ASL, most likely he would not have been given such a name sign. Here is a cross-cultural example to support this claim. In Japanese Sign Language (JSL), an individual's name is usually expressed using the established signs for the kanji characters that make up her name. For example, the name Yamamoto consists of two kanji, 山 (yama) and 本 (moto). JSL would express the name by signing yama + moto. However some kanji signs are seen as odd, offesnsive or just plain creepy. In these instances, other signs are used, or in the extreme case, the name is fingerspelled. Nobody wants an odd, offensive or creepy name.

A signed name that resembles a gun or violence might fall into such a category.

It should also be noted that name signs are a part of Deaf culture. (Name signs in Japan are different than how their names are expressed through signing kanji). Name signs are unique to the individual. A Deaf person seeing a name sign for the first time would not automatically know the name of the individual. Usually name signs are based upon an individual's physical characteristic or personality trait. (ASL usually incorporates a fingerspelling handshape as well.) A person must be given a name sign by a Deaf person. One cannot make up their own name sign. Receiving a name sign can be seen as recognition and acceptance into the Deaf World. A hearing person cannot make a name sign. So the question here is who gave the young boy the problematic name sign in the first place? A culturally Deaf person would most likely not give another person such a name sign. Often times name signs change in a person's life as physical traits and behaviors change.

So changing the young boy's name sign might not be such a traumatic event after all.

My comments here are based upon the ideal social models of deafness - cultural vs. deficit. In the former ASL in the U.S (or JSL in Japan) would be favored; in the latter S.E.E. in the U.S. (or Signed Japanese in Japan) would be favored. In reality, there is no such clear cut separation as this particular case shows.  I work with Deaf people in Japan who hold clinics and workshops to promote JSL and eradicate Signed Japanese. I have grown to understand this mentality. But my research shows that such a goal is impossible in the realm of deaf communication. The bottom line: there is much diversity in the deaf world just as there is in the hearing world in terms of politics, attitudes and language use.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Great Ethnographic Film: Cuba Sentimental

Image borrowed from Cuba Sentimental web page.

Recently I had the pleasure of participating in the Anthro-Film Laboratory (vol. 4) organized by Itsushi Kawase in Osaka. The main event was the showing of the film, Cuba Sentimental by Sachiko Tanuma. A work in progress film on the journey and reception of Cuba Sentimental was also showed. Here is the film synopsis (from the Cuba Sentimental web page):  

Sachi, who lived in Havana for her anthropological study between 2002-2004, sees all her Cuban friends leaving the country to anywhere they can -- Spain, England, Chile, the United States. Visiting them in their new homes, and visiting their relatives and friends still in Cuba, the film explores how Cubans feel about leaving their country, a place that has been known for its utopian dream.

The second film was mostly a reflexive exercise blending comments from viewers, filmmakers and subjects of Cuba Sentimental. It also exposes more of the personal ties the filmmaker has with her subjects. I really like Cuba Sentimental a lot, and I will focus on that film although I might also react to some comments from the second film as well.

The film's main theme seems to be immigration as is follows people's immigration and integration into their new societies after leaving Cuba. I would argue that the film wonderfully illustrates globalization. We are treated to more than a glimpse of the local setting of Cuba - in fact, we see much that western media sources have failed to show. And then we see people moving to different parts of the world and how they go about living their new lives. It was interesting to note - and very telling as well - that the person who had the most difficulty integrating in terms of career, language and personal life was the subject who immigrated into the United States. Other subjects who went to countries in Europe and South America were able to find employment in their professional and academic fields and even enter jobs at prestigious institutions - some were even employed in government positions.

One commenter in the second film questioned whether the film was really about immigration at all - he was more impressed with the subject themselves, suggesting that the theme was really friendship, a theme that most people could identify with. I agree that the film does a great job of showing us Cuban individuals who make up a close circle of friends. But this quality should not take away from the globalization/immigration issues. Anthropology looks at globalization in terms of the lives of real people - how are real people affected by local and global forces. That we get to know and care about the subjects of the film is really a result of the long and quality fieldwork of Tanuma.

Tanuma's fieldwork and filmmaking are muli-layered. We see the group of Cubans through Tanuma's eyes/camera; we see her showing her film to the subjects themselves in their new locations and getting their reactions; we see her sharing the filmed reactions of subjects in one location to subjects in other locations. In fact, Tanuma never seems to turn her camera off. This creates a truly participatory methodology that generates multiple perspectives and reactions.

This work is Tanuma's first attempt at filmmaking. Admittedly some of the shots and editing are not so professional. But we can easily forgive these technical aspects because of her quality of presentation style. Still these aspects bring to light the challenges that visual anthropologists have in the field. How can the visual anthropologist observe, participate and film all at the same time? How can the visual anthropologist capture real life in demanding settings and make a good composition at the same time? These are valid questions for discussion. A partial answer might be that the visual anthropologist learns to deal with these challenges and improves with experience. Tanuma will certainly improve in technical areas but not at the expenses of her quality presentation style (I hope). Whatever the future holds for Tanuma, a common reaction to her film is that viewers want to her to make more films.

Many thanks to Sachiko Tanuma for sharing her work. And thanks to all the participants of the Anthro-Film Lab - it was a great venue to see the films and have fruitful discussions. I look forward to more...

For more information about Tanuma and her work, check out her web site.

Link: http://global.hus.osaka-u.ac.jp/cubasentimental/home_en.html

Monday, August 27, 2012

"The World in Two Minutes: Japan"



Here's another attempt to to represent Japan in a short video. It comes from a group (?) called WOKI TOKI. Here is their own explanation of their project (text accompanying their YouTube video):

We took the greatest videos from all over the world and made a mash-up from every country. The World In 2 Minutes describes different cultures, and how eccentric they are. 

Sigh... more tired stereotypes perpetuated once again, I'm afraid. But to be fair (?), they made videos for other countries (and their stereotypes), including Mexico, Russia, Chile, Brazil, India and the United States. (click on the country name to see the corresponding video).

I found this information on a web page called Rocket News 24, which promises "Bringing you yesterday's news from Japan and Asia, today." More "weird Japan" focused material, similar to Tokyo Mango. Not so academic but (sometimes) entertaining...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Ric O’Barry and his group to return to Taiji to oppose dolphin hunt"

From Japan Today, 8/26/12:

 Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project will return to Taiji, the town made infamous by the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove,” for the beginning of the six month-long dolphin slaughter season on Sept 1. 

 “Our Dolphin Project Team and I are returning to Taiji once again to oppose the killing of dolphins and to warn the people of Japan about the dangers of eating mercury-contaminated dolphin meat,” O’Barry, director of Earth Island Institute’s Dolphin Project, said in a statement to media. “The hunts must end, and the people of Japan will be the ones to end the hunts.” 

“We have made some progress; the number of dolphins being killed in Taiji has gone down for the past four years of our Save Japan Dolphins Campaign,” noted O’Barry. “The Japanese people, being warned about mercury and other contaminants in dolphin and whale meat, are buying less and less of it.” 

 Beginning at 11 a.m. on Sept 1, representatives from five continents will arrive at the Cove in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, to conduct a series of events to mark the new dolphin slaughter season. Participants will form a circle for a moment of silence for the souls of the dolphins that have been killed in the past and will be killed in the coming season. 

The prayer will also honor the victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as well as those who lost their lives in Wakayama Prefecture during typhoons. 

Participants will line the street in front of the Cove with signs in Japanese warning the Japanese people that dolphin meat is poisoned by mercury.

Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/ric-obarry-and-his-group-to-return-to-taiji-to-oppose-dolphin-hunt

 Click here for previous VAOJ coverage about The Cove.

 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leaked iPhone 5 Promo (OK, it's a parody...)



"What do people use their iPhone for?" asks the video above? "Taking pictures (of their food)." Funny, but close to reality, especially in Japan. My back-up camera is my iPhone 4s - my previous (non-smart phone) cell phone had a much better quality camera. So I am happy at the prospect of improvements in future iPhone models...

More info: "iPhone 5 Parody Promo Takes Photo Obsession to its Logical Conclusion" by Josh Wolford.

Link: http://www.webpronews.com/iphone-5-parody-promo-takes-photo-obsession-to-its-logical-conclusion-2012-08