Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"JR East to install surveillance cameras on trains from Dec 28"

Again, from Japan Today, 12/22/09...

I know some of these articles seem redundant, but I post them here with the whole text as a sort of repository, a place where we can go back and see important data. Japan Times and other news reporting agencies sometime delete the story after a certain amount of time. Thus I have come to copy the whole text - saves me a lot of photocopying and think of all the trees we save... Long chunks of italicized text mean direct quoting from the original story. Come back to VAOJ when you need to search for visual anthropology related topics. Anyway, back to the story...

East Japan Railway Co (JR East) said Monday it will start operating a security camera system aimed at preventing groping on trains on the Saikyo Line on the evening of Dec 28.

A set of high-definition security cameras will be installed in the No. 1 cars of some trains on the line linking Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, the first time for such equipment to be installed on commuter trains by a Japanese railway operator.

JR East announced earlier this month that it was planning to start conducting video surveillance on the Saikyo Line on a trial basis by the end of the year in the hope that security cameras would provide evidence of and serve as deterrent to molestation.

The decision to install the cameras came after police asked metropolitan railway operators to do so amid no sign of a decline in molestation cases on trains, although critics have questioned the effectiveness of the cameras and raised privacy concerns.

Metropolitan Police Department data show that the number of groping cases on trains handled by the police total around 1,500 a year. In the first half of 2009, the number of such cases came to 708, of which 75, or about 10%, occurred on the Saikyo Line. Most molestation cases on the line occurred in the No. 1 cars.

JR East will start the trial by installing cameras in the ceiling near the driver’s cabin. It will increase the number of trains equipped with cameras in late January and plans eventually to record footage from four points in each car.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 KGU JSL Group 忘年会

Another successful year of JSL study was celebrated recently through an all-you-can-eat yaki-niku bonenkai. 28 people participated (13 deaf, 15 hearing), a much larger group than I anticipated. Here are a couple of student's comments:

...until the bonenkai, I hadn't really had any exposure to the way that hearing people treat deaf people in public places and such. In the train station, there were many stares from the Japanese people around us as we stood in a group and signed, though in the resaurant, the waitress seemed to be nicer, though that could have been professionalism, but at least one of them was drawn into real conversation with the deaf people, which was fun to watch. (K-san)

I never thought I would find myself standing in a huge circle in the middle of a busy train station watching deaf people enthusiastically and quickly signing to each other, while I tried desperately to keep up with one of the conversations. Participating in a bonenkai for a Japanese Sign Language circle was definitely an exciting experience. it was interesting to see how varied people from the Deaf culture can be. There were deaf people of all kinds: there were young people, older people, some that spoke as they signed and some that did not, some that used their whole bodies more than others, girls and boys, etc. There was also of course the group of hearing exchange students that I was a part of that attended the school's sign language circle and our American teacher that is fluent in Japanese Sign Language.

A few other guests were a little out of the ordinary, even for a group of people from another culture. There was a participant there with cerebral palsy... His sign language was rather difficult, but after learning his style it will most likely become easier to understand. There was a guest who had a cochlear that was interesting to see after watching a documentary about the implant. He seemed able to hear quite well, while still being fluent in JSL. There was also another hearing person fluent in JSL... While fun, I understand that just going to a sign language club and participating in events like a bonenkai only scratches the surface of deaf culture.

One deaf man who came from Osaka had studied American Sign Language. I think he assumed that our group also studied ASL. He seemed to be confused when he was told over and over again by different students: "Sorry I don't understand ASL. Please use JSL."

While we were waiting at the train station the deaf began to outnumber the hearing students, which seemed to make some of them nervous. I heard a student say when another student came, "thank god you are here - they are outnumbering us!" Conversely there were a couple of deaf people who had never met foreigners who were nervous as well. But as the party went on, the nervousness disappeared and all became friends. At one point near the end of the party I looked down the long table to see all engaged in JSL - it was a nice and special moment for me.

Another special moment - a reenactment of a warm-up game we play. For more magic moments of the evening, click here. To this year's participants, お疲れ様でした! For those returning to your home countries, please continue to study sign language. And to those returning next year, we'll start up again in February. Please prepare yourselves for your new roles as sempai... よろしく!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Men yell 'children of spies' at Korean school in Kyoto"

Story from Japan Today, 12/19/09:

A group of around 10 men yelled "children of spies" through a bullhorn at the main gate of a Korean elementary school in the city of Kyoto earlier this month, sources with knowledge of the matter said Friday. Around 170 children were at the school at the time. Regarding the act as a hate crime, the school will file a criminal complaint against the men with the Kyoto prefectural police next week, the sources said.

As the school was keeping some of its equipment in a municipal government-controlled park in front of its building, the group went to protest against "the illegal occupation," according to its leader, Makoto Sakurai.

Since the school does not have a schoolyard, it uses the park for gym classes. While the municipal government has allowed the school to use the park, the school and neighboring residents were expected to discuss the matter early next year.

Video footage shot by the school showed some of the men carrying the equipment and asking school officials to open the gate. The officials told the men, "This is a school," but they yelled, "This is not a school," and, "Let’s push Korean schools out of Japan."

They yelled a whole lot of other bad things as well, which can be seen/heard on the YouTube clip above. Here is some supporting text that goes along with the video:

In Japan, discrimination against the Korean minority who live in Japan since the colonial period is rampant. One can easily find abusive comments on Internet and some go as far as to threaten school children.

Kyoto Korean Primary School 1 does not have a school field and is using a park next to it for sports and assemblies.

The right wing activists accuse the school claimingly on behalf of the neighborhood and make protests by removing the speaker/platform and giving strong verbal insults.

While I am happy and surprised to see this story in the news (this kind of thing goes on way too often in Japan, usually unreported) I am saddened that this sort of thing still happens. Demonstrations are supposed to be about peace, not racism and hatred. I first heard of this about a week ago from Korean-Japanese friends in Kyoto. Not only were there students from the school behind the gates but students from 3 other Korean schools were visiting on a fieldtrip. And the group of "demonstrators" seems to be made up of the same people who demonstrated against the deaf Korean-Japanese court case (a group of deaf Korean-Japanese sued the government because they were not receiving social welfare benefits the same as other Japanese deaf people; the case went all the way to the supreme court where they lost - read more here.)

Let's hope for more media exposure and an end to this kind of racism/discrimination.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Cop arrested for filming up high school girl’s skirt in Yokohama"

More of the same old from today's Japan Today:

A 32-year-old police officer was arrested under Kanagawa Prefectural nuisance laws on Tuesday, after he allegedly used a cell phone camera to take video of a 15-year-old girl’s underpants as she rode up an escalator at JR Yokohama station.

Kazuyuki Nagai, a detective based at Minami police station in Yokohama City, was apprehended by a station security staff member at about 4.30 p.m. after he was spotted putting a bag underneath the legs of the girl in front of him on the escalator. Nagai’s cell phone inside the bag was found to contain video of inside the first-year high school girl’s skirt, as well as two other similar up-skirt videos.

Nagai has admitted to the allegations and said that he thought taking the video would be simple. He was returning to his police station after attending an interview for a special training course.

Security staff at the station have been patrolling the escalator and the vicinity after several similar incidents this year. An officer from Asahi police station, also in Yokohama City, was caught in April taking up-skirt videos on the same escalator, police said.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Security cameras to be installed in commuter trains to prevent groping"

From today's Japan Today:

East Japan Railway Co plans to install security cameras in trains on the Saikyo Line linking Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture in a bid to prevent sexual molestation, becoming the first Japanese railway operator to take such a step for commuter trains, company officials said Saturday.

A set of high-definition security cameras will be installed at several locations of the No. 1 cars of Saikyo Line trains, such as the ceiling and the overhead rack, on a trial basis by the end of this year at the earliest, they said. Most groping cases have been on the No. 1 cars of the trains.

The company, known as JR East, and police say they hope the security cameras will provide ‘‘evidence’’ and serve as ‘‘deterrence’’ against molestation. But critics question the effectiveness of the cameras, voice concerns about privacy and say they may be used for other criminal investigations.

The decision to install the cameras was made after police in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures asked metropolitan railway operators for them in late October, as there are no signs of a fall in molestation cases on trains.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the number of groping cases on trains handled by the police total around 1,500 a year. In the first half of 2009, the number of such cases came to 708, of which 75, or about 10%, occurred on the Saikyo Line.

In particular, gropers target the No. 1 cars—at the end of the train despite the number—of Tokyo-bound Saikyo Line trains as they are packed full in rush-hour times because they are nearest to the stairs at many stations.

JR East will consider installing security cameras in other Saikyo Line train cars or in trains serving other lines after seeing how the trial goes, the officials said.

Other companies belonging to the JR group, which was created through the privatization of Japanese National Railways, as well as private-sector railway operators in metropolitan areas may follow suit.

Police hope security cameras will have deterrent effects although they may be able to shoot only heads of passengers on packed trains.

A police source said camera footage would provide important evidence, showing position relations between gropers and victims.

But Sophia University professor Yasuhiko Tajima, a member of a group against a surveillance society, said that with the installation of security cameras, somebody may be suspected of groping only for the reason that the person stood near the victim.

Tajima also voiced concerns about invasion of privacy. ‘‘For some people, trains are comfortable places to sleep or read books,’’ he said. ‘‘Wide discussions are necessary, based on opinions from passengers.’‘

A senior JR East official said, ‘‘While paying close attention to legal problems, including privacy, we’d like to seek various opinions.’‘

According to JR group companies and the Association of Japanese Private-Sector Railways, security cameras have been installed at decks or cargo spaces of some bullet trains on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen Lines and some other limited express trains. But no such cameras have been installed in commuter trains.

Railway operators have so far installed security cameras in stations and platforms mainly for the purpose of safety. As part of countermeasures against sexual molestation on trains, they have introduced train cars specifically for women.