Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Tokyo exhibition focuses on plight of sexually exploited girls"

Photo and text from The Japan Times, 8/17/16.

In Japan, teenage girls who turn to prostitution do so because they want to make easy money or fulfill their own pleasures.

Or not really.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, “few girls I’ve seen began prostituting themselves light-heartedly or to earn easy money,” said Yumeno Nito, a 26-year-old activist who heads Colabo, a Tokyo-based organization supporting marginalized teenage girls.

“In many cases, they are in poverty, abused at home or bullied in school. . . . Feeling lonely, they wander the streets or explore the internet before being approached by adults who trick them into prostitution,” she said.

An exhibition titled “Watashi-tachi wa Kawareta” (“We Were Bought”) kicked off in Tokyo’s Kagurazaka Session House on Aug. 11 in an effort to dispel misguided assumptions. The event, co-organized by Colabo and Tsubomi, a self-help group of young girls victimized by sexual abuse and exploitation, runs through Sunday.

“It’s not like we got involved in prostitution because we wanted to. We had to. Some of us felt so isolated at home we had nowhere else to go,” a 16-year-old girl who went by the pseudonym Nao told a news conference at the Kagurazaka gallery prior to the opening of the exhibition.

“At first I thought what happened was my fault because I was too cowardly to say no. . . . Looking back, I do think I shared some blame, but eventually, I’ve realized I wasn’t entirely at fault,” she said, without elaborating on her past.

Sex trafficking and child prostitution remain long-standing problems in Japan.

In the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. Department of State slammed the entrenched practice of enjo kosai, or “compensated dating,” where older men pay young women for sexual favors via gifts. It also pointed out that variants of the notorious “JK” business, which sexually exploits joshi kosei (high school girls), “continue to facilitate the sex trafficking of Japanese children.”

“Sophisticated and organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls — often in poverty or with mental disabilities — in public areas such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online; some of these women and girls become trafficking victims,” the report said.

Traffickers and offenders in Japan, Nito said, rarely browbeat the girls into commercial sex.

Instead, she said, they approach isolated teens on the street with an avuncular air and offer them what they need — a quick meal, a place to stay and most importantly, a gesture of affection the girls are sorely denied at home and at school. By taking advantage of their loneliness, those adults slyly put the girls under their psychological control, wearing down their resistance, she said.

The exhibition showcases an array of photos, drawings, letters and diaries revisiting the trauma of the girls. A total of 24 girls, aged 14 to 26, were involved in organizing the event, Nito said.

About 10 of them allowed themselves to be photographed, albeit incognito, posing in various settings to re-enact particularly traumatizing scenes or situations that remain etched in their memory.

In these pictures, some are seen wandering downtown streets, while others writhe in shame on a bed. One striking photo, meanwhile, shows a kimono-clad girl posing during her actual coming-of-age ceremony, with her wrist marked by numerous traces of cuts and cigarette burns.

In another highlight, participating girls violently scribbled down on a massive piece of paper examples of verbal abuse adults heaped on them that particularly tore them apart. Phrases such as “you shouldn’t have been born,” “drop dead” and “we won’t bother to have a funeral for you even if you die” are among them.

Meanwhile, on one tell-all letter that was hung on the wall, an 18-year-old girl recalled an experience that she said had destroyed her life.

“I can trust nobody,” she wrote. The girl, whose mother was rarely at home due to work, said she had barely hit puberty when she got involved with a man who falsely charged her over a porn website she had browsed and roped her into sex under the pretext of helping her to pay the bill.

“I wanted people to know the poverty situation of girls like me and the fact that I’ve lost my dream, friends and family because of that one guy,” the letter read.

Despite the gut-wrenching nature of the displays, Nito expressed hope that visitors to the exhibition won’t focus too much on their past.

“Instead of just feeling sorry for what the girls went through, I hope visitors will realize they have stood up against their own challenges and are now moving forward, alive.”


Exhibition time and place:
Date: 8/10-21, 2016
Place: Gallery in Tokyo, Kgurazaka session house

For more information on the exhibition:

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Complaint filed against police in Oita over hidden cameras"

From Japan Today, 8/13/16.

The administrator of a building used by opposition party supporters and a labor union chapter filed a complaint against the Oita prefectural police on Friday for trespassing and secretly installing cameras on the premises in June.

The police vowed to “thoroughly investigate” the incident, which took place around the time official campaigning for the House of Councillors election got under way.

Last week, they admitted that on June 18 two of their officers had installed two cameras in the grounds of the building in Beppu city in Oita Prefecture, southwestern Japan, without the permission, for the purpose of monitoring the actions of certain individuals.

The police have yet to reveal why they felt it necessary to install the cameras, which were in place through June 24, and who they were monitoring.

The building is home to a support group for the Social Democratic Party, a small opposition party, and a regional body linked to the Oita chapter of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, known as Rengo.

The cameras were set up at two different locations—one covering the building’s entrance and another monitoring the parking lot, local labor union members said. The cameras were discovered after official campaigning for the upper house election began on June 22.

“We want the prefectural police to explain the purpose of their probe,” said Kenji Ishimoto, secretary general of the Oita labor union branch.

According to the union members, the cameras captured “images of an unspecified number of people entering and leaving the building,” a move they said constitutes a “violation of privacy.”

So far, police have said two male officers from their criminal affairs section installed the cameras on the night of June 18, but said the pair did not think the outdoor areas where they installed the cameras were privately owned.

The police acknowledged it was inappropriate to enter the premises without permission and install the cameras. They have apologized to those affected, but declined to say whether their surveillance activities were linked to the election.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

"Embarrassing Photos of Me, Thanks to My Right-Wing Stalkers"

Photo (that accompanied the quoted text below)

Following up on the last post about a severe breach of privacy and photo ethics I offer some passages from an op-ed by Bill McKibben in the International New York Times, 8/5/16 to further illustrate the power and abuse of power of photography.

There are shameful photos of me on the internet.

In one series, my groceries are being packed into plastic bags, as I’d forgotten to bring cloth ones. In other shots, I am getting in and out of … cars. There are video snippets of me giving talks, or standing on the street. Sometimes I see the cameraman, sometimes I don’t. The images are often posted to Twitter, reminders that I’m being watched.

In April, Politico and The Hill reported that America Rising Squared, an arm of the Republican opposition research group America Rising, had decided to go after me and Tom Steyer, another prominent environmentalist, with a campaign on a scale previously reserved for presidential candidates. Using what The Hill called “an unprecedented amount of effort and money,” the group, its executive director said, was seeking to demonstrate our “epic hypocrisy and extreme positions.”

Since then, my days in public have often involved cameramen walking backward and videotaping my every move. It’s mostly when I travel (I’ve encountered them in at least five states so far, as well as in Australia), and generally when I’m in a public or semipublic space. They aren’t interested in my arguments; instead, these videos, usually wordless, are simply posted on Twitter, almost always with music. One showed me sitting in a church pew, accompanied by the song “Show Me That Smile.” The tweet read, “Ready for his close-up.”

This effort has resulted in all kinds of odd things appearing on right-wing corners of the web: out-of-context quotations from old books and articles apparently put on display to prove I’m a zealot, and photos from God knows who intended to make me out as a hypocrite (the plastic bags, for instance, and my travel by car, which, you know, burns gas). Mostly, they’ve just published those creepy videos, to remind me that I’m under surveillance.

Merely having someone with a camera follow you somehow makes you feel as if you’re doing something wrong.


And yet, for all that logic, I still find myself on edge. To be watched so much is a kind of never-ending nightmare. And sometimes it’s just infuriating. I skipped the funeral this summer of Patrick Sorrento, an important mentor to me at my college newspaper, because I didn’t want my minder to follow me and cause a distracting spectacle. When my daughter reports someone taking pictures of her at the airport, it drives me nuts. I have no idea if it’s actually this outfit; common decency would suggest otherwise, but that seems an increasingly rare commodity.


A good thing about movements is that you really do have brothers and sisters, and they do have your back. The fossil-fuel industry may threaten us as a planet, as a nation, and as individuals, but when we rise up together we’ve got a fighting chance against the powers that be.

And perhaps that realization is just a little bit scary for them.

Read the entire op-ed:

Friday, August 5, 2016

"Singer Akina Nakamori wins damages suit over secret photograph"

From Japan Today, 7/28/16.

A secret photograph of singer Akina Nakamori taken during a break from show business aggravated her illness and may have delayed the resumption of her career, a court ruled Wednesday, ordering a publisher and a photographer to pay compensation to the veteran singer.

The Tokyo District Court awarded the 51-year-old Nakamori 5.5 million yen in compensation from Shogakukan Inc and the photographer for mental distress. The singer had sought 22 million yen.

In November 2013, the photographer captured an image of Nakamori inside her Tokyo apartment, using a telephoto lens from an apartment about 45 meters away. Shogakukan printed the image in the Josei Seven weekly magazine for women.

Nakamori, who was taking a break from her career due to illness, “suffered tremendous pain due to the illegal photograph,” Presiding Judge Yuko Mizuno said. As a result, the singer was obliged to move to a different location.

Nakamori, who debuted in 1982 with the single “Slow Motion,” resumed television appearances more than a year later at the end of 2014 when she sang in NHK’s “Kohaku” (red and white) annual song festival.

The male photographer had been convicted of violating the Minor Offenses Law by the Tokyo Summary Court, which found his act was a form of voyeurism.


This is a case where someone's personal privacy was violated, a photo published without consent and a lawsuit being won by the victim under a Japanese law that is quite different than in other countries. Here's the gist of this Japanese defamation law.

In Japanese, then, defemation/meiyo kison is not about damage to mere reputation (hyoban)... it's about damage to honor (meiyo)... Reputation/hyoban is the view from the outside, how others see you... Honor/meiyo has several definitions... [I]t also includes... internal feelings that can be variously described as pride, personal integrity, dignity, or awareness of the worth of one's character. It's this concept of honor as both internal feelings and external reputation that illuminates the Japanese defamation law regime. (From Mark D. West. 2006 Secrets, Sex and Spectacle: The Rules of Scandal in Japan and the United States. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Chapter 3 "Privacy and Honor" p. 79)

For more on these issues in Japan, please review the Shooting Culture in Japan Project on VAOJ.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"New documentary on Tsukiji fish market captures essence of nation’s ‘lively kitchen’"

Text from The Japan Times, 7/23/16.

Ever since he visited Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market for the first time in 2012, movie director Naotaro Endo has been intrigued by the place often called “the world’s largest fish market.”

“I was amazed by the spectacular taste of the fish that was recommended by an intermediate wholesaler, and that experience made me interested in Japan’s fish-eating culture as I became a frequent visitor,” Endo says.

Endo has turned his passion for the market into “Tsukiji Wonderland,” a documentary film that he has made with foreign audiences in mind.

“I hope this film will trigger people’s interest in Tsukiji and the essence of Japanese food culture,” he says, while also trusting it will serve as an opportunity for Japanese viewers “to think about passing on our food culture to future generations in the best possible way.”

“Tsukiji Wonderland” will be shown at a Tsukiji cinema on Oct. 1 and released nationwide on Oct. 15. It is also scheduled to be screened elsewhere in Asia, including Hong Kong in August and September, Thailand in September and Singapore in October.

Filming of the 110-minute documentary began in March 2014. For about 16 months, it goes behind the scenes at the market, records the distinct tenor of the four seasons and follows the daily routine of industrious professionals as they go about their work.

The Tsukiji fish market opened in its current location in 1935 after the market moved from the Nihonbashi area in the wake of the devastating 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.

Since then, the market dubbed “Japan’s lively kitchen” has been feeding people both at home and — in recent years — abroad, contributing to sustaining the quality of washoku Japanese cuisine, which has been designated by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.

According to the website of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, nearly 1,700 tons of fishery products were handled in the Tsukiji wholesale market per day in 2014, and some 480 kinds of fish are traded throughout the year. The wholesale market also sells other fresh goods such as vegetables, fruit, meat and flowers.

In November, the Tsukiji market will shift to Toyosu, about 2.3 kilometers to the southeast, and the documentary aims to capture the last images of Tsukiji before its relocation.

Earlier this year, a version of the film with English subtitles was screened at packed cinemas in the state of Washington during the Seattle International Film Festival and Endo sensed the strength of the film through the audience’s strong reaction.

“Images of food can be understood non-verbally across cultural boundaries and beyond language barriers,” Endo says. “Since food is related to principles of culture and forms part of our basic needs — food, clothing and shelter — I think washoku can be a very effective representation of Japanese culture overseas.”

The filming of the documentary was the first occasion in which cameras were allowed to follow people working at the fish market for such an extended period and in areas normally out of bounds to the general public.

Endo was particularly interested in featuring the professional lives of the intermediate wholesalers as opposed to focusing on chefs or restaurateurs. There was something appealing to him about their lively behavior, their ability to select quality fish, and the pride they put into their work.

Intermediate wholesalers buy tuna and other produce at auction and sell them to retailers, restaurants and other shops. They must be licensed professionals approved by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to conduct business at Tsukiji.

“They are not just getting paid for moving goods in the middle of the distribution system,” Endo says.

“Today’s food professionals have very demanding needs and produce from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south is delivered to Tsukiji thanks to the advanced distribution system,” Endo says. “But it is almost impossible to control the harvest of fish because this largely depends on conditions in the natural environment.”

The role of the intermediate wholesalers is to find a way to satisfy the needs of food professionals come what may by sourcing and recommending produce, he says.

“They have sustained Japan’s fish-eating culture since the Edo period, making Tsukiji the capital of fish-eating culture,” he says.

Shrines and monuments dedicated to fish and seafood at Tsukiji are another distinctive trait associated with Japanese food culture, Endo says.

Next to the market stands Namiyoke Shrine, where many pay their respects on arriving for work in the early hours.

“It’s a very beautiful, picturesque scene especially on cold winter mornings when people, whose breath is visible, bow in front of the shrine in the light of Japanese lanterns before they go to work. So I put a scene of that in the film,” he says.

There are various monuments dedicated to eggs, fish, sushi and other products at the shrine as a mark of respect and appreciation for the lives taken to become food. Elsewhere in the market, there is even an annual memorial service for blowfish, presided over by a Buddhist monk.

As he prepared for shooting the documentary and conducted research on Tsukiji, Endo came to know Theodore Bestor, a professor of anthropology and director of the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University, after reading his book “Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World.” He asked him to appear in the documentary.

Bestor received the Commissioner’s Award for the Promotion of Japanese Culture, from Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs in 2013.

“In many cases, people cannot objectively see their own culture so seeing it through the eyes of foreigners is an effective way to do it,” Endo says. “(Bestor) is a leading expert on Tsukiji.”

“I think the film is really remarkable in the way you have a gentle approach to people of interest,” Bestor tells an audience during a lecture and dialogue session with the filmmakers at the International House of Japan.

While Bestor expects a number of things will change or be lost with the relocation, he believes core elements of Tsukiji culture, such as various kinds of kinship among professionals including a genealogical one and senpai-kohai (senior-junior) relationships, will remain as a microcosm of Japanese society at large.

“It’s not a sentimental goodbye to Tsukiji. It’s looking at people and their working lives. Their working lives continue whether, as you say, they are in this box or another box,” Bestor says.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

"Tadaima Nippon (I’m Home, Japan) - A Study Abroad Video"

Tadaima Nippon (I'm Home, Japan) - A Study Abroad Video from Kyle Kien on Vimeo.

My student from last year put together this film after he returned to the United States. I was happy to hear from him and very happy to see his film.

Kyle's description of his film (from his Vimeo page):

"Tadaima Nippon/ただいま日本" or "I'm Home, Japan" is a narrative about peace-building. Just over a year ago, I visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and listened to an atomic bomb survivor ghastly describing her experience that paralyzed the whole lecture room. It was a field trip provided by my school and I returned home wanting to release a video that I had captured during my study abroad in Spring of 2015: a video concerning the importance of how studying abroad enhances our understanding of one another on a global scale--and I hope for the future, we could prevent such disastrous events like that of the atomic bomb simply due to misunderstandings oceans away. Now in this new globalized world, these oceans are slowly becoming ponds but its still not enough to break the walls of ignorance. Japan was my home for those 5 months and I tried my best to capture it, as well as condensing months of footage down to this mere 20 minutes, along with interviews of fellow students recalling how the experience has affected them.

Environments brings about different mindsets in people, different languages have speakers of those languages view concepts differently (like the difference of Green and Blue or Pink and Red as a small example). I think many societies around the world are stuck in their own bias where there is no vital feedback to clear the walls of ignorance when viewing other cultures/societies but if one could go abroad with an open mind for just a few months, a simple transaction of laughs, hugs, and joy, can move us forward in the right direction.

Check it out!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

“Natural History on Film – Constituting Universal Knowledge Through Images”

Announcement via Visual Anthropology Forum:

Discussion & Screening “Natural History on Film – Constituting Universal Knowledge Through Images”

To record all the events occurring in the world, and to possess it: such a thought is no more a scientific fantasy. With the spread of video sharing on the internet, a participative constitution of knowledge has become possible on an international scale.

As early as 1951, such a venture was already undertaken in Germany. Under the name of Encylopedia Cinematographica, the Research Institute on Scientific Film in Göttingen started a project consisting of the recording on 16-mm film of every possible movement in the world, ranging from nature to human society, with the aim of widely sharing the collected data.

The archive comprising more than 2000 volumes is divided into three categories (Biology, Ethnology and Science & Technology), and reflects the state of the world half a century ago. By resorting to specific film techniques, it makes visible phenomena such as microbes’ reactions that are invisible to the naked eye; by recording social habits and techniques on the verge of disappearance, it plays a significant role in visual anthropology. The reproducibility of film allowed for its wide distribution throughout the world. In Japan, the whole archive is held by the Shimonaka Memorial Foundation, established to honor the contributions of Yasaburo Shimonaka, father of the Encyclopedia in Japan.

The IMT College will welcome Natural History scholar Hiroshi Aramata for a discussion accompanying the screening of this precious collection of scientific film. While enjoying the projection of original 16-mm film, we will debate on the possibility of construing the world through images.

[Date]Saturday July 23, 2016, 16:00-18:00 (Opens at 15:30)
[Venue]The University Museum, The University of Tokyo, ACADEMIA, Intermediatheque 2nd floor
[Discussants]Hiroshi Aramata (Natural History Scholar) × Yoshiaki Nishino (Director, UMUT)
[Language]Japanese (No interpretation provided)
[Admission] Free. The number of seats is limited to 48. Your understanding is appreciated.
[Organizer] The University Museum, the University of Tokyo (UMUT) + Shimonaka Memorial Foundation
[Cooperation] Centre for the Conservation of Documentary Film