Friday, May 29, 2009

Royal Privacy? Or Privacy Standards For All?

(Photo borrowed from

Story from the Mainichi Daily News, 5/28/09:

Suspected photo of Princess Kako leaked onto Internet

A photograph believed to be of Princess Kako, the second daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, was posted on a member-based community site and leaked over the Internet, it has been learned.

Gakushuin, the educational institution that Princess Kako attends, said that a student at Gakushuin Boys' Junior High School apparently posted the photograph without permission. The school has reportedly spoken to the boy about the issue. The photograph has already been deleted.

Leaked was one photograph apparently showing Princess Kako wearing a Gakushuin Girls' Junior High School uniform. It was posted on sites including the 2-channel bulletin board, where it received attention.

The leak was uncovered after a Gakushuin office worker noticed the photo posted in a diary on the member-based social networking site Mixi on Tuesday.

The student reportedly introduced the photograph saying that he had been a classmate of Princess Kako at Gakushuin Primary School, and said that the boys' and girls' junior high schools often got together at school festivals and other events.

"It has not been confirmed whether the photo actually is of Princess Kako," said a Gakushuin public relations official commenting on the leak. "We cannot provide any information on how the boy obtained the photograph."

Noriyuki Kazaoka, Vice-Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency, said he hoped there would be no recurrences.

"We cannot confirm that it is (Princess Kako), but from the perspective of protecting private information, we think that generally, going ahead and posting photographs on the Internet without consent cannot be called appropriate behavior. We hope that this sort of thing does not happen again in the future."

So is it appropriate behavior to post photos of your friends and family on Mixi and Facebook without their consent? And exactly what kind of consent is needed?

I've been participating in an interesting discussion about the privacy and image rights of geisha over at tokyo photojournalist - check it out.

Link to Geisha "image rights"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Japanese punk documentary awarded Japan Foundation Grant"

(Image borrowed from Live House Movie.)

From Japan Today, 18 May 2009.

“Live House,” an upcoming feature-length music documentary on punk rock clubs in Japan directed by Kevin Mcgue, has been awarded a grant by the Japan Foundation, a non-profit organization that carries out arts and cultural exchange programs to enhance mutual understanding among countries throughout the world.

The title of the documentary, “Live House,” is a term used in Japan to describe small live music venues featuring underground rock and punk acts. “They are different than bars in other countries that feature music,” says director Mcgue, an American-born journalist based in Tokyo for eight years. “In other countries, most people will be drinking at the bar while a band plays in the corner. In Japan, the focus is firmly on the music, and the fans really get into it. It is a unique kind of venue, and a unique way to enjoy music. It is a culture that has developed in Japan.”

The documentary focuses on the fans and music who fill the nearly 1,000 live houses across Japan every night, as well as delving into the lives of the musicians behind the music. As the underground music scene is not lucrative, many musicians must struggle to balance their music activities with their lives in the Japanese workforce, where conformity is valued.

Read the whole story at Japan Today:

The movie opens in Japan in the fall. See the movie's web page for more info:

Link to Live House Movie:

Click here for a previous post about an anthropologist's experience at a live house in Osaka.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Google to reshoot street views of Japanese cities"

Here's an update about the Google Street View situation in Japan from Japan Today, 5/14/09:

Google said Wednesday it will reshoot all photos in Japan for its Street View service after residents complained the 360-degree panoramic images provided a view over the fences around their homes.

The Internet giant’s service has triggered privacy complaints around the world, including most recently in Greece, where it was banned Tuesday.

The photos currently on the website were taken by cameras mounted on a stick attached to a car roof. Google Japan said it would lower the cameras after many residents said they were high enough to look over fences around their homes, company product manager Keiichi Kawai said in a statement.

Others have previously complained that images on the service recorded vehicle license plates and laundry hanging in backyards. Rights groups have also demanded Google suspend the service.

Kawai said Google’s decision to lower the cameras is designed to address concerns in Japan, where many neighborhoods are crowded and privacy is tightly guarded.

Google also has blurred vehicle license plates in the images.

Google, which has covered 12 major Japanese cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, will continue filming in the country.

“We admit that there were concerns about the service. ... People said we might have neglected the privacy issue,” he wrote. “We took their opinions seriously and made careful considerations.”

But Kawai stressed the service has many benefits, including saving many from getting lost.

Since it was launched in 2007, Street View has expanded to more than 100 cities worldwide. But it has drawn complaints from individuals and institutions that have been photographed, including the Pentagon, which barred Google last year from photographing U.S. military bases for Street View.

On Tuesday, a privacy watchdog in Greece banned Google from gathering images in the country for its Street View service until it provides more privacy guarantees than the current proposal to blur faces and vehicle license plates.

Link to story and reader comments:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"ATSUSHI launches photo exhibition in Harajuku to help unwanted pets"

(Image borrowed from Power of Life.)

ATSUSHI, one of the dancers for alternative rock group Dragon Ash, showed off his photo collection “POWER of LIFE” this week – a series of photographs featuring athletes and musicians among others, held to raise awareness of the plight of unwanted pets.

ATSUSHI, 30, said that he wanted to do something to help dogs and cats that had been thrown away, after he visited an animal shelter last year. About 50 photos taken by ATSUSHI are on display at the exhibition, including ones of track-and-field athlete Dai Tamesue, 30, and judo wrestler Tadahiro Nomura, 34.

Read the whole story at Japan Today:

Link to Power of Life web page:

"Old Japanese maps on Google Earth unveil secrets"

Image borrowed from Associated Press. Caption reads: In this computer screen image taken from the Google Earth software, a feudal map of a village in central Japan from hundreds of years ago, superimposed on a modern street map, is shown. The village is clearly labeled "eta," an old word for Japan's outclass of untouchables known as "burakumin." The word literally means "filthy mass" and is now considered to be a racial slur. The burakumin still face prejudice based on where they live or their ancestors lived, and fear that Google's software can be used to easily pinpoint the old villages and match them up with modern neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Google Earth)

When Google Earth added historical maps of Japan to its online collection last year, the search giant didn't expect a backlash. The finely detailed woodblock prints have been around for centuries, they were already posted on another Web site, and a historical map of Tokyo put up in 2006 hadn't caused any problems.

But Google failed to judge how its offering would be received, as it has often done in Japan. The company is now facing inquiries from the Justice Ministry and angry accusations of prejudice because its maps detailed the locations of former low-caste communities.

The maps date back to the country's feudal era, when shoguns ruled and a strict caste system was in place. At the bottom of the hierarchy were a class called the "burakumin," ethnically identical to other Japanese but forced to live in isolation because they did jobs associated with death, such as working with leather, butchering animals and digging graves.

Castes have long since been abolished, and the old buraku villages have largely faded away or been swallowed by Japan's sprawling metropolises. Today, rights groups say the descendants of burakumin make up about 3 million of the country's 127 million people.

But they still face prejudice, based almost entirely on where they live or their ancestors lived. Moving is little help, because employers or parents of potential spouses can hire agencies to check for buraku ancestry through Japan's elaborate family records, which can span back over a hundred years.

Read the whole story at Associated Press:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Bones of Grover Krantz on Display

"Professor's dying wish granted at Natural History Museum exhibit"

Image borrowed from Washington State Magazine.

... He was standing under spotlights in a huge display case — all 6 feet 3 inches of him except for a few bones missing here and there. His head was thrown back and his mouth was open, as if in a big laugh, and his arms were around one of his favorite dogs.

Here was professor Gordon S. "Grover" Krantz, and all, or almost all, of the phalanges, tarsals, metatarsals and the other 200 or so bones that made up his skeleton. Reassembled with wire, glue and metal.


The skeletons of Krantz and his beloved Irish wolfhound, Clyde, make up the striking display that comes at the end of the museum's current forensic anthropology exhibit, "Written in Bone."

The two are depicted mimicking an old photograph, with the skeleton of Clyde up on his hind legs and Krantz cradling the dog's forelegs in his arms.

They make a startling sight — cleansed of flesh and fur, revealed down to the bones in the dog's tail and the dental implants in Krantz's mouth.

Which is exactly what Krantz wanted.

Read the whole story at

Image borrowed from Caption reads: The skeleton model at the Museum of Natural History was based on a photo of Gordon Krantz, a teacher of the study of bones at Washington State University. "It was an outlandish wish," his wife said recently. But "he wanted his bones someplace. ... He thought he would be a good teaching specimen." Illustrates BONES (category l), by Michael E. Ruane (c) 2009, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, April 14, 2009. (MUST CREDIT: Grover Krantz Papers -- National Anthropological Archives.)

Image borrowed from Caption reads: Fifth-graders from Charlotte, N.C., take in the display at "Written in Bone," a forensic anthropology study, at the Museum of Natural History. The skeletons of professor Gordon Krantz and his beloved Irish wolfhound, Clyde, are the realization of Krantz's ultimate wish. Illustrates BONES (category l), by Michael E. Ruane (c) 2009, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, April 14, 2009. (MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Linda Davidson.)

OK, so this post is not about Japan. It is about my former professor. One of the most interesting and challenging classes I took in grad school was Dr. Grover Krantz's course on Physical Anthropology. Cultural anthropologists might sometimes forget that we are doing science. Dr. Krantz lectured on the hard science of evolution, primates, bones, language origins, etc. and showed how these things are all related to modern humans and culture. One of the lessons I remember from Dr. Krantz was his explanation of lumpers and splitters. The former tend to lump things together in broad categories while the latter split things off into detailed categories and subcategories. Dr. Krantz was a lumper but he knew all about the details of the splitters as well.

Dr. Krantz was infamous for his belief in Bigfoot and his desire to shoot one down (to prove its existence perhaps as a modern day surviving giant ape known as Gigantopithecus). Before he retired, he made some of his skulls, bones and footprint casts available. I am proud to have a skull from a northeast Asian Homo erectus and a cast of a supposed Bigfoot footprint found in the Blue Mountains of Oregon in 1988. Here is the top view of the footprint.

That's Dr. Krantz's autograph on the bottom of the cast.

An obituary, with more information about the career of Dr. Krantz, can be found here. And here is an interview with Dr. Krantz that mentions Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson. Apparently Larson, too, was a student of Krantz and many of his cartoons had anthropological themes. Some of the characters seemed to resemble Dr. Krantz as well.

Image borrowed from runningafterantelope's photostream at Flickr.

Special thanks to E.S. in Oregon for the heads up on the bones.