Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall 2009 Visual Anthropology Student "Two Frame Story" Photo Blogs

Sanjūsangendō (三十三間堂), Kyoto, Japan, on Autumnal Equinox Day (September 23) 2009; sign in the lower right hand corner prohibits photography/video of sacred Buddhist statues and interiors of buildings.

A new semester has begun and Visual Anthropology of Japan students from all over the world are already out there in Osaka, Kyoto and beyond shooting and blogging. Their first set of posts with the theme of "Early Impressions" can be found and accessed by scrolling down to the Fall 2009 Student "Two-Frame Story" Photo Blogs section on the left. I am especially impressed and pleased with my students' early impressions of Japan and how they challenge long-held stereotypes and frame them ethno-photographically with their cameras. They are already discovering aesthetics, cultural values and diversity in their new found research settings. Of special concern this semester is the ethics involved in taking photographs of Japanese people in public.

Visitors leave Toyokuni-jinja (豊国神社) where Toyotomi Hideyoshi, powerful warlord of the 16th century is enshrined; the view of Kyoto City can be seen in the background.

Please tune in every week to see how students grapple with complex issues of cultural representation while researching and presenting on such themes as Japanese neighborhoods, traditions, pop culture, religion, sports, gender and globalization among others. How will students represent these themes via photos and text within the "two-frame story" format? Please leave comments, feedback and advice for individual students' blogs. Our project here is a collaborative one and we appreciate all the cooperation we can get. よろしくお願いします!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Osaka Tattoos in London

(Photo borrowed from Japan Today; caption reads "Rie Gomita from Osaka shows off her tattoos at a tattoo convention in London.")

Several students have been asking me about tattoos this semester. Today's Japan Today has the above photo as its photo of the day. Check out reader comments for attitudes about tattoos in Japan these days.

Link to Tattoos:

Here's another shot of the woman that better shows off her art (borrowed from

Link to The International London Tattoo Convention (Sept. 25-26-27 2009):

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Japanese Film Workshop at Meiji Gakuin University

Another announcement from H-Japan:

Please join us for the first meeting of the Japanese Film Workshop on Thursday, October 1, 7PM, at Meiji Gakuin University, Shirokane campus. The venue is called the Kyozai junbi sitsu (教材準備室), a room next to the office of the Department of Art Studies (芸術学科) on 6F of the main building. The Japanese Film Workshop is open to all, and directions to Meiji Gakuin can be found at:

Unburdening Zainichi Films

Oliver Dew - PhD candidate at Birkbeck College, London and JSPS research fellow at Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo.

Critics have long recognised that films depicting traumatic historical events have a privileged access to public memory forming. All too often though the critic of the zainichi film is caught in a dilemma: how to engage with the film’s claim to represent diasporic Korean histories and identities, yet at the same time avoid sliding into the “historical scorecard” approach to criticism, which repeatedly asks, “is this depiction realistic?” This approach implies that historical verisimilitude rendered in the realist mode is the only appropriate way to tell these stories. This can only reproduce the burden of representation that zainichi films carry.

To move beyond this concern over whether the details of plot are factually verisimilar, yet still be able to interrogate the films’ politics, I argue for a closer attention to these films as rhetoric, as specifically cinematic interventions in a debate that is conducted across TV variety shows, weekly opinion magazines, long-form essays, celebrity memoirs, internet blogs, and other popular media. To this end I will focus in this presentation on the narrative figure of “coming out” as zainichi, first seen onscreen in the mid-1970s, most notably in the early film roles of Johnny Kura. Since the success of the Kaneshiro Kazuki’s novel Go in 2000, and its film adaptation a year later, this has become a recurring motif. The heightened, manichaean terms in which this narrative figure is so often staged are at odds with the main features of “post-zainichi” writing: calls to go beyond a fixed ethnic identity on the one hand, and the strategic deployment of prosaic, de-dramatised ordinariness on the other. But the critical preoccupation with whether, say, the Pacchigi films’ depiction of inter-ethnic relations is “representative” too often forecloses the question of mediation: in this case, the extent to which audiences are appreciative of dramatic license and the highly codified imperatives of melodrama that are operative in Pacchigi.

For more information, please contact

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CALL FOR PAPERS - Performing Space in Asian Film: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

(Announcement from H-Japan)

Date: 4 Feb 2010 - 5 Feb 2010
Venue: Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

The notion of ‘space’ has become a key subject in many disciplines ranging from its more physical and material relationship to architecture and geography, for example, to its discussion in fields as diverse as philosophy, film, theatre, literature, history, cultural studies and art history. In the latter disciplines, space is variously interpreted in its metaphorical, psychoanalytic, emotional, cultural and social registers.

Likewise, the notion of performance has also been widely re-appropriated by various disciplines. ‘Performance’, traditionally defined as a mode of entertainment or ritual, is also increasingly understood now as a critical methodology enabling an interpretation of cultural behavioural patterns. All performance is ultimately framed by space. Different spatial typologies – institutional, civic, domestic, liminal, ceremonial, or religious, for example – orchestrate sets of culturally recognized and appropriate forms of behaviour. As such, space is instrumental to the codification of socially acceptable patterns of actions, and conversely to the enactment of performances, which either reinforce or contest such patterns.

The application of performance and the performative as a methodological tool for understanding space is critical. This concept exposes the constructed nature of space, reinforcing the argument that space cannot be essentialized. This non-essentialized point of view is particularly relevant to recent studies focusing on Asian spaces, where there are tendencies to oversimplify Asian identity simply by suggesting a binary relationship to the West. Through this critical lens, the broad questions like ‘What is Asian space?’ can be refined as ‘How is Asian space constructed?‘Who are its producers/ protagonists?’

Developing the multivalent perspectives of space, this workshop is structured around the performative potential of space in Asian films. Of interest is how space serves as more than context or setting in a film’s mise-en-scène, but also how space is called upon to construct and reconstruct particular forms of identities, meanings and interactions. Here, space may be variously perceived as, but not limited to, physical, psychological, subjective, narrative and/or cinematic.

For our purposes, film is also adopted not as a strictly mimetic medium but one that can engage other epistemic modes of identity – bodily, emotional, experiential. We suggest that film in its various formats – feature, shorts, propaganda, documentary, experimental, and amateur – and through the application of cinematic styles and conventions, offers performances that reveal how spaces are reflected, constructed, and how they may be performative, that is, transformed or transgressed.

‘Performing Space in Asian Film’ attempts to address several questions: Is there a distinctive way in which Asian spaces are performed? Are these distinctions specific to particular modes of Asian cinematic practice or in the work of particular filmmakers? How are these spaces performatively re-negotiated through/in film? What is the role of space in Asian film? Responses to these questions may be routed through more precise topics of spatial representation related, for example, to notions of authorship, genre studies, popular culture, national cinema, nationalism, immigrant discourses, migrant culture, diaspora, transnationalism, gender, ethnicity, class, and globalization.

The aim is to bring together different readings of Asian spaces embedded in film, enriched by disciplinary concerns from within the fields of architecture, urban studies, film and theatre studies, performance studies, history, anthropology, geography, cultural studies, and literature. In such instances, film is also revitalized differently as a ‘text’, which adheres to the disciplinary limits of each field. Ultimately, the intention is to approximate an understanding not only of what makes Asian space, but also how it operates and how identities and meanings may be contested or embodied through its performances.

Accepted papers will be presented in an interdisciplinary workshop hosted and supported by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, in February 2010. The papers will be published as part of the conference proceedings’ Working Papers. A special journal issue or edited book featuring the developed papers is planned following the event.

For more information, check out the event web page:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Japan Then and Now

(Photo borrowed from

My colleague brought this photo gallery at Time magazine's internet site contrasting photos of Japan then (1989) and now (2009) to my attention. Twenty years seems to make a lot of difference. Most of the 1989 photos, like the one above, are happy, positive and celebrating the bubble economy. Now seems to be isolation, recession, doom and gloom. Perhaps a little simplistic, but some interesting photos anyway. Check it out.

Link to Japan Then and Now at Time's Photos:,29307,1905385_1898654,00.html

Thanks to P.S. for the heads up on this one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cool Sign Language CM

Another cool YouTube video to procrastinate with. It has American Sign Language and Billy Idol - how could one go wrong with that! It's not a real commercial, but if you go to the YouTube site you can read interesting comments about how the video was made and reactions to the video. I'd say the video was very educational for some not familiar with deaf people. This video reminds me of a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert I went to many years ago. There was a large group of deaf people dancing in front and a sign language interpreter who was amazing, combining dance and ASL.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009


For those VAOJ readers in LA this weekend, check this event out!

Selected films by acclaimed vanguard of new Philippine Independent Cinema sonically reworked by Los Angeles based DJ's and Musicians.

Featuring selected films by KHAVN, RAYA MARTIN, JOHN TORRES, DADA DOCOT (Philippines)



Ticket $3, doors at 8:30pm, screens at 9pm

251 S. Main Street
Los Angeles, California

For more information:

Blog writers beware!

From today's Japan Today:

Libel suit filed against doctor-writer over blog entry

An academic blogger critiquing a government funded study, albeit done by his rival it seems, is being sued! Beware of Japanese libel laws! Can academic critique be grounds for a libel case in Japan? Even if the defendant is found innocent, as he most likely will be, the idea that this case actually is going to court and the costs involved are ridiculous.

Story below:

A pathologist-writer, known for his bestselling novel "Team Batista no Eiko" (The Glory of Team Batista) that depicts the inside story of medical practice, has been sued for libel by a fellow pathologist over his blog entry, judicial sources said Wednesday. Takeru Kaido, who promotes autopsy imaging, or the use of postmortem imaging in an autopsy, criticized Masashi Fukayama in his blog for disrupting the spread of what would help identify the causes of patients’ deaths.

In his suit for 14.3 million yen in total damages, Fukayama, a professor at the University of Tokyo and a vice president of the Japanese Society of Pathology, also targets two publishers that carried Kaido’s blog on their websites, according to his written complaint.

At issue is Fukayama’s finding in a study subsidized by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in fiscal 2008 that autopsy imaging would not be a substitute for postmortem dissection, while providing useful information before such an autopsy.

In his blog, Kaido, a graduate of Chiba University’s School of Medicine and who works for a medical research institute in Chiba City, accused Fukayama of "seizing credit for others’ work," as well as "messing up studies on autopsy imaging" and helping the health ministry "wreck" autopsy imaging.

"I have had no contact from Mr Kaido and the content (of his blog) is false," Fukayama says in his complaint. "I have incurred great trouble since access (to the blog) has been very busy."

In his written reply, Kaido argues that "the study is nothing new and is disrupting the spread and development of the adoption of autopsy imaging by placing undue emphasis on dissection," adding that his blog entry is public in nature because Fukayama holds a public post.

Kaido has called for the widespread use of autopsy imaging as a step to determine whether dissection is needed, as it allows a quick examination of bodies without damaging them.

It is expected to help address the declining rate of autopsies after patients die, according to the Japan Society of Autopsy Imaging, which Kaido helped establish in 2004.

Read the story and reader comments:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Google showing rough photo-shooting locations for Street View service"

Update on the Google Street View situation. Article from today's Japan Today.

Google Inc on Friday began disclosing approximate photo-shooting locations for its Street View service that provides close-up views of city streets as caught by cameras installed in vehicles driving along the roads. The Japanese unit of the Mountain View, California-based Internet firm made the move following the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry’s call in August for taking steps to ensure that the service will not intrude into people’s privacy.

To respond to the request, Google divided each prefecture into a number of blocs and began providing information enabling users of the service to know photo-taking blocs, it said. While the ministry called for Google to inform local governments and residents beforehand of the time and place when it shoots street images, the company turned down the request and said it will send officials to the governments to make explanations before disclosing photos.

For individuals, Google will offer related information through public relations activities, it said.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Up-Skirts and Security Cameras: A Whole Lot of Picture-Taking Going On...

From Today's Japan Today:

Truck driver arrested for taking photos up skirts of school girls

Police on Thursday arrested a truck driver for violation of the prefectural nuisance prevention laws after he was caught taking photos up two high school girls’ skirts with his mobile phone camera. According to police, Ryuichiro Hayashi, 25, a resident of Shimane Prefecture, admitted to the charge. He was quoted as saying: “I got excited when I saw the girls and couldn’t resist taking photos.”

Hayashi is accused of taking photos up the skirts of two third-year high school students at a convenience store in the town of Omachi at around 8 a.m. on Thursday. A store clerk thought Hayashi’s behavior was suspicious, and after he left the store, the clerk and store owner checked the security cameras and saw Hayashi snapping photos. They then called the local police.

Hayashi was on his way to Nagasaki Prefecture. When police arrived, he was sitting in his truck in the parking lot of the convenience store.

See the story and reader comments:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cool "Hands" Video

Getting ready for the new semester always entails some form of procrastination. While doing so, I came across across this Japanese video on YouTube entitled "Hands." Very cool.