Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year 2010 from VAOJ!


2010 is the Year of the Tiger and let's hope it's the Year for the Hanshin Tigers as well. To celebrate the new year I want to share some visual anthro experiences and photos from the end of 2009 that I haven't had a chance to post until the new year's holidays. The three events described below were all extremely positive and I hope the positive energy from the events and their participants carry over into 2010.

Kyoto Higashikujo Madan

Madan took place on Culture Day, November 3, in Higashikujo, Kyoto. Kyoto is home to many so-called zainichi Koreans. VAOJ has reported about the prejudice and discrimination these people face in Japan before, but Madan was a day to forget the bad and celebrate Korean culture. And a grand celebration it was. People of North Korean descent, South Korean descent, hearing people and deaf people all came together to enjoy food, music and other activities. The photo above shows one of the many drumming groups at the event. It also shows photographers getting into the mix to get their shots. For the most part I stayed in the background shooting and was annoyed when many of my photos had other photographers in them. I was told that one of the photographers was affiliated with the event organizing committee so I imagine he had permission for "getting in the way" and hopefully had knowledge about how to properly get in the way. I must admit he got some excellent shots.

Above is one of my better shots - this drumming group was incredible. Often they would break down into pairs or small groups to have "battles." Wonderful drumming and acrobatics.

How can one resist the wonderful and spicy Korean food? This food stall was run by the group fighting for elderly deaf zainichi Koreans to receive social welfare benefits in Japan. While the group has lost all of its lawsuits in Japan, it continues to get support for the people, both in Japan and Korea. These women were visitors from South Korea that came to help out with the cooking. Korean Sign Language is about 60% the same as Japanese Sign Language (because of the past colonial relationship between the countries) so I was able to communicate effectively with these women to ask them which food was the best.

See more Mandan photos in my Photobucket album:

See more photos and and read more information about the event (in Japanese) at their website:

Kyoto Fuku Fuku Festsa

Fuku Fuku Festa was held in Kyoto on December 12 as an event to bring together so-called disabled people for fun, entertainment, shopping and food. So of course there were a large number of deaf people present. This first picture illustrates the interpretation services available for the deaf people. A sign language interpretor interpreted announcements and speeches. There were also people writing the spoken messages on an overhead projector.

One of the groups that entertained was a taiko drum ensemble.

Even the taiko drum performance was interpreted via the overhead projector. Literally the wrote the sound of the drum, the vocal exclamations of the drummers and what instrument was being players ("the sound of a flute").

There was a bazar and several food stalls. The older fellow pictured here is very well known in the Kyoto deaf scene, so much in fact that someone made a very lifelike bust of him. I saw the bust before I met the man and was a little weirded out...

See more Fuku Fuku Festa photos in my Photobucket album:

Atolier Sign Language Circle 2009 Christmas Party

Atolier is an independent sign language circle in Hirakata city established by deaf people about 11 years ago. It has and remains an important research site and more for me. Every year Atolier has a large Christmas Party with snacks, games, sign language choruses and plays. The above photo is from one of the plays. The theme of the play was "hearing world" vs. "deaf world." For example, one scene of the play features deaf customers having to interact in a "normal" hearing restaurant. The waitress can't do sign language and has no knowledge of deaf culture so the deaf customers have many difficulties. The tables are turned in the next scene when hearing customers have to navigate in a "deaf only" restaurant. One of my favorite scenes was a deaf couple meeting a doctor. The doctor informs them that their baby was born hearing. The deaf couple is sad and upset. But they soon became happy when the doctor informs them that their is a special operation that could make the baby deaf. This scene was an interesting reaction to cochlear implants for deaf babies.

While Atolier was formed by deaf people that doesn't mean they shun the hearing. Hearing people as long as they try to communicate in JSL are more than welcome. During Atolier's meetings, the first rule is "JSL only - no speaking."

This photo has a lot going on: Members of Atolier are performing a sing language chorus; the man in the middle is dressed as a grand father clock but will later ditch the clock mask and become Rudolf the red nosed reindeer. To the right is a deaf-blind woman feeling interpretation of the performance.

View more X-mas party pics at my Photobucket album:

All three of these events were successful examples of unity, cooperation, understanding and fun. These are qualities that VAOJ hopes can be applied in the new year. Here's to a Happy 2010 and more good Visual Anthropology of Japan!


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I'm intrigued by that drum. It's shape is so natural. Can you tell us anything more about it?

visual gonthros said...

It is called 大杉太鼓 or large cedar taiko drum. The name of the group that performed is 京北大杉太鼓保存会 or the Keihoku Large Cedar Taiko Drum Preservation Society.

The big drum is associated with the plague in Gion in Kyoto in the Edo Period. Apparently the beating of the big drums in Yasaka Shrine had something to do with the plague retreating.

This particular taiko group formed as a club about 20 years ago. I am not sure how old the drum is. But the groups seems to perform often in Kyoto, including at the Gion Matsuri in July.