Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Security cameras to be installed in 15 residential areas in Japan "

More interesting stuff from Japan Today:

Police will install a network of security cameras at 15 residential areas in 14 out of the country’s 47 prefectures as part of nationwide crime-prevention efforts, the National Police Agency said Thursday. The police will entrust volunteer groups of residents to operate and manage shooting equipment and image data, agency officials said. The police plan to launch the first such residential network in Japan around January next year, they said. Currently the police have 363 security cameras in operation at bustling shopping and entertainment urban districts across the country. It will also be the first time for the police to entrust such management duties to residents groups.

The National Police Agency, coordinator of the nation’s prefectural police forces, said the police will discuss the details of operating the network with volunteer groups. The police ‘‘will help residents to secure safety by themselves,’’ one agency official said. The police agency has already earmarked 597 million yen in the government’s supplementary budget for the installation of the security camera network and for the consultations with residents groups. According to the police agency’s plan, a set of 25 cameras each will be installed mainly on streets used by children going to school. The 15 locations include those in such prefectural capitals as Otsu, Okayama, Hiroshima, Tokushima and Fukuoka. The 10 other areas are in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture; Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture; Toda, Saitama Prefecture; Higashiyamato and Musashimurayama, both suburban Tokyo; Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture; Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture; Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture; Iwade, Wakayama Prefecture; and Amami, Kagoshima Prefecture. However, no residents groups have so far been picked to take charge of the security network in some of the 15 places. Some citizens groups are critical of the plan, saying that the government intends to strengthen surveillance on residents. The police have told residents groups that they will put up notices that indicate the locations of security cameras. They have also pledged to use data collected only for the investigation of crimes and that they will help protect citizens’ privacy. Under the plan, video monitors and recorders will be installed in non-police facilities, such as community centers, and residents groups will check screens when children are walking to and from school. Yasuhiko Tajima, professor of journalism at Sophia University who heads a citizens group against surveillance society, accuses the government of trying to have residents keep watch on each other through the planned installation of security cameras. The Musashimurayama municipal government in western Tokyo said a city official was called in to a nearby police station and was asked to join the security camera network plan on June 11. The city government said it has yet to decide on the location for the camera installation or on a residents group which will operate and manage the security camera network.

It seems problematic that the police/government to surveillance images, but now community groups? How will they be able to ensure privacy if such monitoring stations are located at community centers? Stay tuned to this one...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Unauthorized Komukai striptease photos highlight copyright dilemma in Japan"

Another interesting article in today's Japan Today dealing with photography, image rights and permission...

Many stood in the long queue and paid 8,000 yen to see the nude performance by Minako Komukai in Asakusa. Those who couldn’t go to the striptease were in glee to see the spy photo published in the June 26 edition of the weekly Friday, of Komukai exposing her breasts to the audience.

But the question is, what happens when someone takes a photo of such performances without permission? A sign at the entrance of Asakusa Rock-za clearly states that the theater will impose a penalty of 3 million yen for unauthorized taking of photos, and the same announcement is made in the theater prior to performances.

Obviously, taking such photos are a problem if the theater explicitly prohibits it, which, legally speaking, is about the theater’s right to maintain and manage the facility. Attorney Kensaku Fukui, who specializes in copyright laws, explains, “The theater has the right to prohibit activities it deems to be an obstruction of the performance.”

So what happens when someone in the audience secretly films or photographs the performance?

“There are several possibilities,” Fukui says. “If the theater staff witness someone taking photos, they have the right to stop the act or tell the particular individual to leave the theater.”

The penalty of 3 million yen may not have legal effect, since the prerequisite is the existence of an agreement between the party notifying the penalty and the party being notified. On the other hand, if the theater does incur damages due to such actions, it is entitled to make claims for the damage, even though the amount may be limited.

However, the case of Friday, which profited by publishing an image owned by one audience member, is a different matter altogether. From the perspective of Rock-za, the publication would be considered an obstruction of business. Indeed, it appears that the theater is considering the option of filing a lawsuit against the weekly magazine, which in turn may develop into further complications involving the violation of Komukai’s privacy and portrait rights.

Other businesses face the problem of similar infringement of copyrights, an example being pirated DVDs. In 2007, a special law went into effect to protect movies—with a penalty of 10 million yen or up to 10 years’ imprisonment for any violation. However, the law only applies to movies.

Theaters that offer a range of performances such as dramas, musicals and kabuki have no choice but to devise their own methods of “self-defense.” Kabuki-za, Shiki Theatre and Honda Theatre in Shimokitazawa say that if they catch someone in the act of taking photos or filming a performance, they confiscate the camera, delete the data and then hand it back to the individual. But they say they do not consider lawsuits as an option.

One organization known for its aggressive protection of copyrights is Tokyo Disneyland, which regards everything from taking photos with Mickey Mouse to the facility and attractions as copyrighted. Whether posting on one’s personal blog, the uploading of films and images is defined as “an unpermitted news-gathering act” and they request the individual to delete such data. In fact, a group in Chiba was arrested two years ago for selling DVDs showing parades at Disneyland.

In other words, unauthorized shooting applies to motion pictures only, and from this perspective, theaters do not have the legal means to protect their business from damages resulting from pirated copies. In effect, the publication of Komukai’s nude photo in Friday has unexpectedly called into question this copyright dilemma.

"Gov't panel finds Google Street View service consistent with law"

An update about Street View from today's Japan Today:

An advisory panel of the communications ministry on Monday determined that Google’s Street View service would be consistent with Japan’s personal information protection law if the search engine firm takes appropriate measures such as blurring identifiable images, such as faces, ministry officials said.

The pronouncement marks the first time that the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has expressed an opinion on the legality of the Google service, which provides close-up, 360-degree color views of city streets, as they were caught by Google’s Street View cameras installed on vehicles driving along the roads.

It amounted to turning down requests by dozens of city assemblies across the nation—including Tokyo’s Machida city assembly and Nara Prefecture’s Ikoma city assembly—which adopted resolutions calling on the government to place curbs on the service.

The ministry will release its final conclusion possibly in August after soliciting views from citizens, they said.

The advisory panel, whose members met the same day, said even if the exterior appearances of personal homes and license plates of automobiles are caught by the cameras, they alone "would not enable viewers to identify" the owners of the homes and vehicles.

Therefore, the imagery of such homes and number plates ‘‘does not constitute personal information,’’ it said.

"Most of the service would not be illegal as long as appropriate measures such as blurring (of identifiable images such as faces) are taken," it said, responding to allegations that the service would often give rise to breaches of privacy and portrait rights.

It would be desirable for Google to respond to citizens’ complaints on a case-by-case basis, rather than having the government prohibit the service wholesale, it said.

The ministry said it will continue to monitor how Google pays attention to the necessity of protecting citizens’ privacy and whether it will comply with requests to remove problematic imagery.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


There was a fire in my neighborhood early Monday morning. An old woman ran a small restaurant out of her house. Her hours were irregular probably depending on her health so I never had the opportunity to eat there. The woman escaped the fire unharmed. Scary...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fieldtrip to Tokyo! This Post: Why I Hate Tokyo...

Mugi-chan grasping my leg as I attempt to leave. "Don't go!"

The first of many stress-related messes left by Mugi-chan while I was away...

Yes, for only the third time in my almost eleven years of living in Japan I went to the big metropolis of Tokyo. My mission was anthropological in nature. First, I was to participate in a tour of Meisei Gakuen, the only deaf school in Japan that uses JSL as its first language. Next, I was to attend an early screening of the new film by Kazuhiro Soda, Mental. Both of these events were incredible experiences and will be the subject of the next two posts. But first I must deal with my dislike of Tokyo.

So as to further legitimize my trip, I visited the culturally important areas of Hibiya, Yurakucho, Kanda, Akibahara, Shinjuku, Harajuku and the Meiji Shrine. My students often know more about Tokyo than I do so I decided further exploration was necessary. After finding my lodgings in Yotsuya, I went to Yurakucho to check out the photo exhibition of Eikoh Hosoe at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan. Photos were on the walls of the club's bar on the 20th floor. I sat at the bar looking forward to a drink but was told since I wasn't a member of the club I couldn't order anything. The waitress was nice enough to give me a glass of water. This setting for Hosoe's photos was indeed unfortunate. It was something out of colonialization: the rich and beautiful people hobnobbing amongst the dirty pictures of a native cameraman. I inquired about becoming a member on my way out and was asked by a young girl half my age what I was (An anthropologist? That's not a journalist...) and who I knew (The internet doesn't count - one needs to know real people, preferably two full members, to apply...).

I was tired and hungry and thirsty and Yurakucho wasn't doing it for me. I decided to return to Yotsuya and find an izakaya there. Once in Yotsuya I wandered several streets but found nothing to my liking. Either nothing looked good or everything was too expensive. Finally I found a small intimate looking cafe that advetised "stress free" dining. Perfect I thought. I sat at the bar and was half way through my first drink when the cockroach appeared. An appetizer?

I ended up finding a Subway shop and had a roast beef and turkey breast sandwich. Was I really in Japan?

I retreated to my lodgings and met the owner of the ryokan. "Yes, Tokyo has quite a cockroach problem," he explained to me. "They like to enter the houses through the water drains... By the way, how about a drink?"

We sat at the bar that served as the front desk for his ryokan. His employees are Chinese. One woman was making homemade gyoza which we later ate along with beer served with ice. The owner, originally from Nagano, was quite a character and very generous. Now this is more like it, I thought. Have I found the real Tokyo?

A hearty breakfast of bread, salad, an egg, coffee and orange juice was included with the lodging. The Chinese staff members were curious about my activities in Tokyo. A deaf school and a film about mental illness?

I ate lunch at Burger King in Kanda (we don't have Burger King in Osaka) and then explored Ochanomizu and soon found myself in Akibahara. Electronics, tourists, otaku and maids all laid out in front of me. I even encountered a foreign (that is white) maid who spoke the squeaky-high cute maid talk as she tried to recruit men into the cafe where she worked. We both avoided looking at each other...

That night I found what I thought would be a regular izakaya where I could order the usual Japanese standards. The place was cheap enough, but the taste left a lot to desire - everything was too bland.

By the time I returned to the ryokan the owner was drunk and off to bed. I contemplated what I would do the following day before returning to Osaka.

Whenever I travel, the last day is cold, gray and rainy. Well, Tokyo wasn't so cold, but it was very gray. I decided to check out Shinjuku and Harajuku. At a radio station in Harajuku some famous person was being interviewed. The interview could be seen through a large window so I took out my camera. A young man told me I couldn't take photos. I motioned to the crowd of young girls taking pictures with their cell phone cameras. They are members of THE PRESS he told me. I was denied once again.

Meiji Shrine is close to Harajuku. There, too, I was told not to take photos in the inner shrine by an old man guard in a stiff gray uniform. Another old man guard told a visitor he couldn't lie down on a bench. This was a very strict place. While there I was also able to see a wedding. Many tourists ran to the wedding parade and took pictures of the couple. Seems like maybe the guards should have prevented this, but they didn't.

I asked the staff members at the ryokan what would be a good Tokyo omiyage to give my girlfriend. They hemmed and hawed and finally suggested I buy something at the Tokyo Station. There are a lot of shops to buy cookies and sweets there. But isn't there something famous I should buy in Tokyo as a souvenir? No, nothing really, they said...

Why is this crowd gathering here and at many other strategically located points? To smoke, of course...

So maybe not all is bad here...

Far be it from me to judge an entire metropolitan area based upon a third trip of less than three days. But I have to wonder, what is the attraction? Is anyone living in Tokyo really from Tokyo? Is the glocalization process of Tokyo a blanding down of taste to suit a general population who are concerned only with themselves? I know one must stand to the left on an escalator in Tokyo (it's the opposite in Osaka) but how do people walk, move around and interact with each other? Despite various signs regulating traffic movements, people darted here and there and wherever they could find the space to get around others.

And where are the elevators and escalators in Tokyo? It must be a nightmare to be a in wheelchair there. And the few escalators are too slow. And the one at Tokyo Station that takes you to the Chuo Line made me feel queasy - I realized that its angle is much steeper than other escalators so that people had to bend in unnatural poses to compensate.

And don't get me started about the Yomiuri Giants...

Don't worry, Mugi-chan, we are staying in Osaka! Go Tigers!

(And the next posts will be back to the usual VAOJ academic nature...)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Exhibition: Hafu/Half Japanese

(Image borrowed from Hafu/Half Japanese.)

Announcement from Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture Lecture Series 2009:

Being Half Japanese in the transnational age: an enquiry into culture and identity

Marcia Yumi Lise
Natalie Maya Willer

5 pm, June 25, 2009
Rm. 301, 3F, Bldg. 10
Sophia University

Photographer Natalie Maya Willer and researcher/writer Marcia Yumi Lise recently produced a highly successful exhibition at the Bodhi Gallery (Brick Lane) entitled 'Hafu'/Half Japanese. Showcasing a photographic series produced by Natalie and featuring interviews conducted by Marcia, 'Hafu' sought to create a cultural dialogue to a very current theme with complex issues relating to mixed ethnic identity. The stories provide a rich account of their lives and let us explore the ways in which they construct their identities and establish a sense of belonging whilst being in between two worlds.

Through Natalie's photographs and based on Marcia's interviews, this lecture asks how Hafus view themselves and are viewed by others with respect to their cultural heritage and identity. This ongoing exhibition project explores the complex nature of Hafu experiences, which is often a result of various factors ranging from upbringing, family relationships, education or even physical appearance and the racially designated society surrounding us. Ultimately, it seeks to highlight the individual diversity and located-ness of the experiences of this specific multiethnic group and to characterise the negotiation and self-definition of ethnic territory and identity.

About Marcia Yumi Lise

Marcia was born and raised in a suburban town in Kanagawa, to a Japanese mother and an Italian-American father. She moved to London in 2001 where she studied Sociology and recently completed an MA in Social Research at Goldsmiths College.

About Natalie Maya Willer

Natalie was born in Munich, Germany to a Japanese mother and German father. She moved to London in 1997 where she studied photography at the University of Westminster and completed an MA in Communication Arts & Design at the Royal College of Art in 2004.

For more information on the Hafu project, visit their web site at

Lecture in English
No prior registration necessary

As discussed in a prior VAOJ post, this is an interesting issue and a great subject for visual anthropology.

Spring 2009 KGU JSL Study Group: Shuwa, Peace and Muffins!

Thanks to Jutta for the homemade muffins, Kana for the photos and all members for their hard work and participation during the semester. Keep on signing!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

2nd International Student Ethnographic Film Tribute

The 2nd International Student Ethnographic Film Tribute will be hosted in the International Film Festival PLATFORMA VIDEO9 to be held at 6-9 November in Athens…

…the (sort of) ethnographic film festival is aiming in films made from anthropology students or related after 2005, either as dissertations or as assignments. This is done, for we aim to discuss the innovations and restrictions of student ethnographic filmmaking (i.e. time, production, department conventions, experimentation).

This ethnographic section of the festival doesn’t have a competitive character.

However, we are keen to invite some of the filmmakers during the festival, depending on available funds. Additionally, we are organizing again an open discussion - the subject of which will be announced very soon - where we hope to engage in a dialogue on / with the future of ethnographic film.

The deadline for films submission is the 20th of August.

Questions and prior notice for submissions should be directed to:

Konstantinos Aivaliotis:
Nicholas Sfakianakis:
Christos varvantakis:

The Platforma Video webpage is

Monday, June 8, 2009

Female Body Presentation?

(Photo borrowed from Japan Today, 6/8/09.)

Today's Picture of the Day at Japan Today is rather spicy... Caption reads:

Participants take sweets served on a naked woman, known as Nyotaimori or female body presentation, during a fetish fashion event titled “Night of The Body,” organized by Libido M&J, in Tokyo, on Sunday. Hundreds of people gathered at the event, targeted at fetish fashion enthusiasts, which is a mixture of live performances by pole dancers, a fetish fashion show and other events as a showcase, the organizer said.

Libido M&J have a web site to promote their activities. From their "About" section:

How erotic are you?
How elegant are you?

sexual drive;
creative force;

Concept: Humans need sex, we need love (including self-love) and we have appetites.
All three of these needs can become fetishes.
This party, “Libido M&J,” will showcase fetish people as they express these three human desires in interaction with others in luxurious surroundings.

Details: The party will occur in Sabaku no Bara, in Ginza.
We want to bring the fetish world to Ginza: to show what fetish people are, and how we can get along.
There is no dress code for the party space as a whole, but people in fetish costumes will be allowed entry to the VIP space.
Ten hostesses and hosts, in fetish costumes, will distribute sweets to the VIP room audience, and encourage communication between fetish and non-fetish customers as they circulate around the room.

Link to the Libido web site: