Thursday, December 25, 2008

Electric Christmas in Japan...

(Image borrowed from MSN Travel)

MSN Travel has a nice slideshow of Christmas trees around the world. The photo above shows Japan's contribution. Accompanying caption reads: A Christmas tree befitting Tokyo's nighttime neon display is projected onto the exterior of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka.

See other trees (and some very nice photos) at the slideshow.

Link to Christmas Trees 'Round the World

Japan is famous for its Christmas light-up display shows, perhaps the most famous is the Kobe Luminarie which serves as a memorial for the Great Hanshin Earthquake of January 17, 1995. I have been to Luminarie a few times and it is quite spectacular. And crowded.

This year I went to check out the Osaka Hikari-Renaissance in the Nakanoshima area. This display is much smaller and more low key than Luminarie but I was still excited to see it, especially after the new extension of the Keihan Train Line and its ushering in of a "Brand-New Osaka."

I am sure there is a lot of potential for futher development in the Nakanoshima area, but I wasn't greatly impressed with the new Keihan train stations. The two things that struck me about the Nakanoshima station was its abundance of stairs (Was it three stories worth straight up via exit 6? Where were the escalators and elevators? So much for the needs of the aging society and handicapped population...) and the wavy hand rails.

Trees adorned with changing multicolored lights across from West Light Park.

Inside West Light Park. There was an aroma life display (lights and smells), a live stage, various international food booths (I enjoyed the kebab sandwich, tandori chicken and hot wine), and light displays. Perhaps the most spectacular display was the laser show (images shot on to a building which acted as the display screen).

Light-up snowmen and Santas were popular attractions, especially for people with cameras (and kids and/or significant others).

Needless to say, Christmas is a big event in Japan, although its celebration and meanings are somewhat different from western interpretations making it a great example of globalization... If you are in Japan, good luck getting your Kentucky Fried Chicken, Christmas cake and love hotel rooms...

OK, so if that's not enough to get you in the mood for an eclectic, electric Christmas, check out these links (sent to me by my good friend Myra): Click here and here (click on the X to get the match). Happy Holidays from VAOJ.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

End of the Semester Funnies...

For all who are busy finishing up their final papers, grading, etc, here are some comics to help reduce your end of the semester stress. Enjoy... and 頑張って下さい.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fall 2008 JSL Study Group 忘年会

The end of the semester and the end of the year can only mean one thing for signers on campus:

The K.G.U. Japanese Sign Language Study Group 忘年会 ("end of year party").

This semester the study group grew in numbers and activities as evident by the number of participants in the 忘年会 (10 deaf, 19 hearing; 29 in total which served to take over half of the izakaya...). Every week this semester we had between 15 and 20 international and Japanese student participants. As always, T-san came every week; U-san and Y-san also came for most meetings giving the students more chances to interact with and learn from deaf people. This was also nice for the Coordinator as he was able to hand off review and teaching responsibilities to deaf people and student sempai. One week we had a deaf guest from France. He signed in French Sign Language while a Japanese deaf woman interpreted into JSL; I in turn attmepted to interpret into English. Another memorable activity for the group this semester was a fieldtrip to the Ikuno Deaf School Culture Festival in Osaka. I am hoping to make a short film about the study group and its activities this year. Stay tuned to VAOJ for more information about its release date.

I was especially happy to see such a diverse group of people getting along, having fun and communicating in JSL at the 忘年会. I hope the study group will continue to grow and evolve with the basic mission of spreading JSL and the understanding of deaf culture. To all participants this last semester, ありがとうございました and お疲れ様でした! To continuing participants, let's continue to grow and have fun with JSL. よろしくお願いします!

Click here for posts about previous 忘年会.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Stunningly Brief and Quick Look at the Visual Anthropology of Japan - Fall 2008

How do you compress 80 minutes of class time into less than a minute? Add toe, of course. Visual Anthropology of Japan, Fall 2008. Time flies when you are having fun... Thanks for a great semester, and stay tuned to VAOJ!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Resource: AsiaPortal

AsiaPortal an interesting and useful resource dealing with Asia in the spirit of open access. Here is a brief description from its own web site:

The AsiaPortal is a Nordic information portal for researchers, students, government officers and journalists with an interest in Asia. Its content is primarily based in the Social Sciences and Humanities. It is a collaborative endeavor between the 23 universities and research institutions in the Nordic NIAS Council and NIAS/NIAS LINC. Financed by DEFF - Denmark's Electronic Research Library.

Link to AsiaPortal:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Change... or Strange? 2008 Kanji of the Year Announced

(Image borrowed from The Daily Yomiuri Online, 12/13/08)

"Hen," which means "change" in English, has been chosen as the single best kanji to characterize the year 2008, a Kyoto-based kanji promotion organization said Friday. The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation said it received a total of 111,208 entries for its poll to select the single best kanji reflecting society in 2008.

Of the total, 6,031, or 5.4%, picked "hen," followed by "kin" (gold) and "raku" (fall). "Kin" was apparently chosen because of gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, while "raku" was chosen to reflect falling stock prices. "Hen" was chosen to symbolize successive changes of power in Japan from 2007 to 2008, the victory of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who called for change during his presidential campaign, and the deterioration in the global financial and economic landscape, the association said.
(Text from Japan Today, 12/13/08)

Of course "hen" also means strange, which could be fitting. The kanji "hen" is also used in "taihen" meaning "difficult." Perhaps things have been strange and difficult this year and we are all in need of change...

You can read more about the choice (in Japanese language only) at the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society web page.

You can see what the kanji of the year since 1995 has been at this encyclopedia site.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Mugi-chan Photos Available...

As requested, I have posted new pictures of Mugi-chan at my Photobucket account. I will continue to add photos so visit often to see her grow... I also added a Mugi link under the "Labels" menu on the right side of the blog layout.

Link to the latest Mugi-chan photos:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tastes and Smells of Japan...

Can't afford to make it to Japan but still want to experience its culture in a bodily sort of way? Check out these products for a virtual reality sensual tour of Japan... (Usual disclaimer: this is not a product endorsement. In fact, please DO NOT tell my mom about these websites...)


Pleasure And Pain

Wasabi sneaks up on you. One moment youre innocently enjoying some nigiri, the next moment you're squinting, wincing and reaching for the sake.

With these Wasabi Gumballs you dont have to go out for sushi to experience that intense explosion of pleasure/pain.

See more details at perpetual


Our sushi scent smells of sticky white rice and seaweed, with a hint of ginger and lemon. Delectable! After all, if it smelled like fish, would you wear it?

Everyone has a personal library of meaningful smells. The memories they trigger are somehow more intense than those we dredge up by conscious effort. It's as if smell provides a shortcut to our deepest memories and brings them back complete with the emotions and sensations we felt at the time.

See more details at perpetual

Of course the issue here again is the representation of Japanese culture. These products move beyond the visual to the sensual worlds of taste (and perhaps pain) and smell (perhaps discomfort here as well). Do these products bring back memories or create new ones? Japanese people do not eat wasabi gumballs (and they seem to be shocked at the foreigner who eats chunks of wasabi by itself), but there are wasabi flavored chips and other snacks that are commonly found at stores and super markets; nor do they use sushi scented perfume. So do these products serve as representations of Japanese culture? How would Japanese people respond to these products? Lots of interesting possibilities for discourse here - comments are strongly encouraged.

Monday, December 8, 2008

"Visual Anthropology of Japan" Included in Top 100 Anthropology Blogs

Christina Laun at Online has complied a list of the the top 100 anthropology blogs. The list is quite comprehensive and has blogs from all four fields of anthropology. Visual Anthropology of Japan was included in the list in the "region specific" category. Check out the list to find other fine anthro-related blogs.

Link to Top 100 Anthropology Blogs at Online

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Train Manners Poster

Here's an update from an earlier post on Japanese manners...

Image borrowed from Japan Today, 12/2/08. Caption reads: Just in time for the party season—Tokyo Metro’s manner poster for December.

How effective do you think such visual posters are? How do you feel about the use of Japanese and English text? Who is the intended audience for this poster?

Monday, December 1, 2008

"Land of the Rising Fastball" at Happy Trailers HD

(Image borrowed from Happy Trailers HD Posters)

New Japanese Baseball Film

I came upon this item while reading one of my favorite web sites, In one of the discussion boards, one of the film makers was looking for information about a baseball player and Japanese baseball fans. The film is still a work in progress; a film clip and trailer can be found at a site called Happy Trailers HD:

Link to film clip and trailer at Happy Trailers HD:

So far, the film seems to be a good introduction to Japanese baseball to those unfamiliar with the game and phenomenon. It has interviews with all the right people and lots of scenes of Koshien and Hanshin Tigers' fans. I will try to keep abreast of this film and update this post when the film is completed and released.

When searching for more information on the film, I came across this dated (1985) but interesting Sports Illustrated article on Japanese baseball (with the same title as the film...).

Link to 1985 Sports Illustrated article, Land of the Rising Fastball:

There have been many recent academic articles on Japanese baseball by Robert Whiting and William Kelly among others. Such articles can be found by doing a keyword search for "Japanese baseball" at Japan Focus.

Resource for Filmmakers

Happy Trailers seems to be an interesting resource for filmmakers. From their "Pitch:"

Our Unique Philosophy

We operate under the realization that the conventional Hollywood system is nothing short of backwards when it comes to both pitching and producing films. Why produce an expensive film and then its comparatively inexpensive promotional trailer when you can simply produce the trailer, test the market for interest, and make a significantly more educated investment of your time and wallet? In terms of the pitch, why present your story in ninety pages of prose rather than five attention-grabbing minutes of film?

Our Mission Statement

Keeping Hollywood’s two flaws of pragmatism in mind, Happy Trailers HD has revolutionized the process of film production: the company takes your screenplays and films a trailer during one-to-two day shoots whose brevity make the A-list crew’s services affordable. Next, Happy Trailers HD edits and scores the footage, creating handsome three-to-five minute promotional trailers on high-definition video. The trailers are marketed by Happy Trailer HD’s team of publicity and advertising professionals, who create a tagline, poster art, and website, as well as demographics monitoring. Finally, when it comes time for Happy Trailer HD’s producers to pitch your project to our established niche of production and distribution companies, the trailer is used not as a substitute for your screenplay, but as an attention-grabbing complement.

There are a lot of resources available at Happy Trailers, including information on film festivals, image galleries, stock footage and links to other resources. Definately worth a look for anyone interested in film.