Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Call for papers: Transcultural Visuality: Photography in East-Asia

From H-ASIA:

Location: New York, United States
Call for Papers Date: 2010-05-03
Date Submitted: 2010-03-26
Announcement ID: 175176

Transcultural Visuality: Photography in East-Asia

A session on CAA 99th Conference, New York, NY Feb. 9-12, 2011

Ayelet Zohar, Stanford University

The session will focus on photography, as an image making procedure, which reached East-Asia close to the time of the first experimentations and its commencement in Europe, mid 19th c.. This was a unique opportunity to take part in the shaping of the field by artists across East-Asia who took interest in the newly introduced medium. In doing so, many of these practitioners added to the developing language of photography, contributing from their respective aesthetic vocabulary, drawing from particular visual cultures, adding to technical and conceptual developments of the field. Photography, therefore, developed as a truly transcultural medium, with contributions from different cultures that conglomerated and shaped the field.

Papers may explore any issues regarding photography as a transcultural medium, created between East-Asia and the West, from its early days to the present; discussions of innovative projects in Japan, Korea and China referring to hybrid traditions of representation, narratives, localities, formats, monochrome/ colour aesthetics or compositional strategies, are of great interest.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words to:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Advertisement influenced by Murakami; the desire and fetish to acquire stuff...

Does this ad remind you of some of the works of Takashi Murakami? I am think about this and this (thanks to MH for showing me these images).

In Globalization class we discuss capitalism as the desire, indeed need, to acquire more and more stuff. What better than a Spring Bazaar at the Outlet Park to get one's juices flowing? Buy stuff, more wonderful stuff...

See related: "Our stuff has become our heavy baggage" at the Washington Post:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Practical Visual Anthropology for Married People

At first I saw this picture and thought it to be an interesting representation of what some visual anthropologist do: juggling observation, filming and writing text about real human events all at the same time.

But the accompanying story (or does the illustration accompany the story?) is fascinating itself and serves as a perhaps practical application of visual methods in the social sciences.

From "Can You Really Predict the Success of a Marriage in 15 Minutes? An excerpt from Laurie Abraham's The Husbands and Wives Club" By Laurie Abraham at

He (John Gottman) and his colleagues at the University of Washington had videotaped newlywed couples discussing a contentious topic for 15 minutes to measure precisely how they fought over it: Did they criticize? Were they defensive? Did either spouse curl his or her lip in contempt? Then, three to six years later, Gottman's team checked on the same couples' marital status and announced that based on the coding of the tapes, they could predict with 83 percent accuracy which ones were divorced.


When he and a handful of other research teams began videotaping couples in conflict in the 1970s, the approach was revolutionary. Instead of just asking people how they argued or resolved disputes, researchers could see and hear them in action. A math major at MIT before he switched to psychology, Gottman developed a coding system that not only tracked the content of speech but the emotional messages that spouses send with minute changes in expressions, vocal tone, and body language. Using facial recognition systems, Gottman's code accounts for the fact that, for instance, in "coy, playful, or flirtatious interactions," the lips are often turned down. "It looks like the person is working hard not to smile," he writes. Conversely, "many 'smiles' involve upturned corners of the mouth but are often indices of negative affect." Such meticulous parsing allowed Gottman to coin the phrase "negative affect reciprocity," because he saw, frame by frame, the vicious emotional circles that characterize clashing spouses.

Abraham goes on to critique Gottman's mathematical and statistical assumptions.

What Gottman did wasn't really a prediction of the future but a formula built after the couples' outcomes were already known. This isn't to say that developing such formulas isn't a valuable—indeed, a critical—first step in being able to make a prediction. The next step, however—one absolutely required by the scientific method—is to apply your equation to a fresh sample to see whether it actually works. That is especially necessary with small data slices (such as 57 couples), because patterns that appear important are more likely to be mere flukes. But Gottman never did that. Each paper he's published heralding so-called predictions is based on a new equation created after the fact by a computer model.

So it seems even with sound visual methods, how they are interpreted, used and reported on can be problematic. Still, I like the picture...

Read the whole story at

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Banpaku: The Tower of the Sun, Expo Commemoration Park and Anthropology Museum

Still looking for something to do during spring break? Head over to Banpaku on the monorail (The Osaka Monorail is the longest monorail in the world!) and get a nice taste of Osaka. Get off at Banpaku kinen koen station and this is what you will see.

Banpaku was the site of the 1970 World Expo. The symbol of the expo was the 太陽の塔 or Taiyou no Tou (the Tower of the Sun) created by Taro Okamoto. The Tower of the Sun has three faces which represent the future, present and past. There used to be a face representing the underworld as well but it has been removed and taken to an unspecified location.

More info:

More info:

More info:

More info (in Japanese):

Lots of spaces and places for sports. Gamba Osaka plays its soccer games here. We had a chance to see some baseball - a perfect spring day.

The climax of the day for visual anthropologists was the National Museum of Ethnology. Indeed, Minpaku is an incredible resource for visual anthropologists.

The museum is home to the Videotheque (description from museum website):

The Videotheque was developed by the Museum in 1977 as the world’s first on-demand video library of its kind. It contains video programs that introduce rituals, performing arts, and the living cultures of peoples around the world, as well as information on the artifacts on exhibit at the Museum. After several renovations to incorporate the latest technology, the fourth-generation Videotheque started service in April 2006.

The new system features a touch-panel screen and uses more graphics to increase user-friendliness. In the spacious booths in the Multifunctional Terminal Room, visitors can watch longer video programs of valuable footage from fieldwork conducted by researchers, sitting on a special-effects sofa that provides special effects corresponding to the selected program.

The museum has several impressive permanent and temporary very impressive exhibitions. There are artifacts that you can see and touch (very rare for a museum, I think - you can also take photos inside the museum as well). There are great photographs and videos dispersed among the artifacts. There is also a digital guide that you can borrow (description from museum website):

The Minpaku Digital Guide is a portable audio-visual device that explains exhibits. Visitors can walk through the exhibitions and freely choose from the recordings in Japanese, English, and Chinese. Using this device, you can clearly hear and see information on the exhibited artifact: what it is used for, where it is used and what kinds of people use it.

One can literally travel the world in this museum. I was especially happy to see exhibitions on Korea, Ainu, and Bali. This museum cannot be fully appreciated in single visit.

Don't let Rangda scare you away. The good lion is there to protect you...

For more info on the museum:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Resource: AGSL Digital Photo Archive - Asia and Middle East

Announcement via H-ASIA:

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Milwaukee, WI, US


"AGSL Digital Photo Archive presents a selection of images from the extensive photographic holdings of the American Geographical Society (AGS) Library. The images were selected from several collections including the American Geographical Society Library Print Collection, Harrison Forman Collection, Robert W. McColl Collection, and Edna Schaus Sorensen and Clarence W. Sorensen Collection. The American Geographical Society Library Print Collection represents many decades of research and acquisition. The scope of the collection is worldwide. Dating from the mid nineteenth century to the present, these photographs document a wealth of geographic themes. Many of the photographs were originally donated to the American Geographical Society to illustrate its publications, such as the Bulletin and Geographical Review. The images selected for this project include historical photos of Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Korea, Thailand, and Nepal. Clarence Woodrow Sorensen was an explorer, editor, and CBS staff foreign correspondent who traveled extensively capturing images of the life, work, and historical events of cultures worldwide. During Sorenson's extensive travels, Eugene V. Harris, a professional photographer, accompanied him and took many of 64,000 slides that make up the collection. The slides selected for this project include
photos of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey that Sorensen and Harris took in the 1950s and 1960s."


Resource: Collections of Japanese Art Online and in Print

Announcement via H-ASIA:

East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University, New York, NY, US.


"Collections of Japanese Art Online and in Print, By Rosina Buckland, January 2001 (with some updates for late 2005 by Henry Smith)."

Site contents:

* Information and Images On-line (Japanese sites with images and/or database, Sites outside Japan with images and/or database, Other sites);

* Published Information (Catalogues in Japan, Catalogues outside of Japan, Selections of masterpieces).


Film Announcement: "Witness to Hiroshima"

Announcement via H-ASIA:

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to bring your attention to an award-nominated short documentary film, Witness to Hiroshima, which I co-produced with Oakland-based professional photographer Kathy Sloane.

In this 16-minute film, Japanese citizen Keiji Tsuchiya uses his 12 powerful watercolors to tell the story of his experiences in Hiroshima as a 17-year old soldier immediately following the dropping of the atomic bomb and shares how he ultimately directed his life towards purpose and healing.

Witness to Hiroshima, recently released in a dual-language version, can easily be used in history, literature, art, or Japanese language classes. Here is what a few people have said about this short but powerful film.

"I can't take in Keiji Tsuchiya's personal, on-the-ground, turn-by-turn testament without feeling my stomach and throat constrict?. For a world that knows little or nothing about this monstrous 20th century event and its stained legacy, Kathy Sloane's 15-minute documentary is a must-see."

-Al Young, California Poet Laureate (2005-2008)

"Witness to Hiroshima is one of those small-story films that reveals a much bigger picture" The link the film draws between Tsuchiya's experiences following the bombing and his later horseshoe crab preservation work is a startling connection. Teachers will find lots of use for this fine, short film."

-Rethinking Schools Magazine, Volume 23 No. 3 - Spring 2009

For more information about Witness to Hiroshima, please visit our website:


Michele Mason

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Conference: Visualizing Global Asia at the Turn of the 20th Century

Announcement from H-ASIA:

Location: Connecticut, United States
Conference Date: 2010-04-30
Date Submitted: 2010-03-04
Announcement ID: 174587

Visualizing Global Asia at the Turn of the 20th Century, an academic conference hosted by MIT Visualizing Cultures and Yale CEAS will be held Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1 at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

This will be one of the first academic conferences devoted to "image-driven scholarship" and teaching about Asia in the modern world. We have selected scholars of history, art history, history of photography, and history of technology specializing in China, Korea, Japan, United States, Europe and the Philippines to discuss how to integrate visual and textual media in research and teaching, using to the fullest the opportunities presented by the new technologies and the use of the internet as a publishing platform.

All conference sessions are open to p
ublic, and we encourage you to spread the word among your friends and colleagues.

For more information visit the conference site at

Monday, March 15, 2010

花灯路 東山 京都 2010

Another recommendation for spring break... A light-up event in Kyoto... Went there - took a lot of pictures... My Aquos Shot cell phone outperformed my Sanyo Xacti camera... なんでやねん...

For event information:

Japanese Film Workshop at Meiji Gakuin University

Still looking for something to do during spring break? Here is a suggestion from H-Japan:

The next meeting of the Japanese Film Workshop is on Thursday, March 25, from 7 to 9PM, at Meiji Gakuin University, Shirokane Campus. PLEASE BE SURE that the venue has changed to *room 7418* on the 4th floor of the Hepburn hall (a tall building standing next to the main building). The Japanese Film Workshop is open to all, and directions from stations and the campus map can be found at:

An Impure Film: Chi to rei

Diane Wei Lewis
PhD Candidate, University of Chicago

My paper uses Mizoguchi Kenji's lost Expressionist film Chi to rei (Blood and Soul) as a departure point for discussing screen and spatial aesthetics in early 1920s Japan. Japanese reviews of German Expressionist films often complained about their lack of cohesion. The preexistence of Expressionist painting, literature, dance, architecture, sculpture, and drama magnified the demand for a specifically cinematic Expressionism that would be more than just the amalgamation of foregoing strains. Chi to rei was made at the height of the interest in Expressionist films, only a few months before the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. The film concerns a Chinese jeweler living in Nagasaki whose bizarre hereditary disease compels him to steal and kill. It too was panned as a poor study in Expressionist techniques, cited as additional proof that a fully-integrated, thoroughgoing Expressionist film style had yet to be found. Yet, surviving materials related to the film suggest that the filmmakers intentionally embraced the heterogeneity critics denounced. Read against the grain, criticism of Chi to rei (and Expressionist films in general) suggests various ways in which the prioritization of the cinematic image (and even more specifically, the notion of cinema as a screen-based medium) was defined in terms of exclusion.

For more information, please contact:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"'The Cove' puts Japanese fishermen everywhere on the defense"

More "Cove" stuff from Japan Today:

As soon as the fishermen saw my TV camera, one ran at me, yelling “No!” and pushing me out of the building. Another smeared his rubber fish gutting glove across my lens, while a third threw snow at me with a shovel.

Following the success of “The Cove,” a documentary about the dolphin-hunting village of Taiji that won an Oscar Sunday, Japanese fishermen are particularly sensitive to filming of whaling or dolphin-hunting—or the morning catch of Dall’s porpoise, as I was.

Past media coverage of Taiji, in southwestern Japan, and international opposition to Japan’s whaling have made fishermen involved in hunting dolphins and porpoises wary of the press.

So I knew I would not be welcome last Wednesday morning as I drew up to the snow-buried quayside in Otsuchi—in northern Iwate prefecture, some 840 kilometers northeast of Taiji—to try and capture evidence of the hunt on camera.

Sure enough, lying in an open warehouse on the wharf were rows of about 30-odd carcasses of Dall’s porpoise, with their distinctive black bodies and white bellies.

I had been tipped off about the porpoise hunt in Otsuchi by members of the conservation group Environmental Investigation Agency, and a freelance cameraman hired by the group was with me, showing me around.

Iwate catches the most porpoises of any prefecture in Japan, according to the latest available figures from the fisheries ministry. In 2007, 10,218 porpoises were caught in Iwate, almost a third of which were Dall’s porpoise, which are named after the American naturalist W.H. Dall.

Soon after I was pushed away by the fishermen, the police arrived.

First, two uniformed officers in a patrol car spent 20 minutes checking my ID. Before they had finished, two plainclothes detectives arrived in an unmarked jeep.

One of their first questions: “Are you filming something like ‘The Cove’?”

I explained that I’m a journalist and that I was disappointed that the fishermen shouted down my pleas for an interview: I wanted them to tell the world what they think.

It wasn’t always like this. Seven years ago when I was filming in Taiji, the villagers were generally more willing to talk. One diver who slits the dolphins’ throats offered to line up an interview with the fishermen’s cooperative chief—a request that was ultimately denied.

But ever since “The Cove,” Western TV crews, never popular at whaling villages, are greeted with hostility. Many fishermen believe that such movies feed the popular anti-whaling movement that threatens their culture, way of life and livelihoods.

The irony is most Japanese don’t eat dolphin or porpoise—sea mammals that are related to whales. The meat is not readily available in supermarkets and in fact most Japanese don’t know that some villages hunt these species.

On my second visit to Taiji, in October, “The Cove” effect was already in place. All I got were refusals and shouted insults.

Here in Otsuchi, the police were polite but insistent: “We don’t want you to film any porpoises.”

“Just don’t want you to do anything else that will cause trouble,” one of the detectives said in parting.

Returning to the hotel where I had spent the previous night, I asked to extend my stay. But I was told that the seemingly empty building was “fully booked,” so I checked out. Did they get a call from the police perhaps?

It seemed that more than ever towns like Taiji and Ostuchi were closing ranks to protect traditions they feel are under threat.

Link to the story and reader comments:

Friday, March 12, 2010

"2-second video causes headache for ABC News"

From the Associated Press via Google (3/11/10):

For the want of a better two-second picture of a tachometer, ABC News has called into question its reporting on acceleration problems with Toyota vehicles.

The network's handling of a Feb. 22 "World News" story about potential problems with computer systems in Toyotas has created ethical questions and intensified bitter feelings the besieged automaker already had toward ABC.

ABC has admitted to a misjudgment and swapped out the brief dashboard video in its report, which continues to be available online. Its story illustrated a report by David Gilbert, a Southern Illinois University professor who suggested that a design flaw in Toyotas might leave a short-circuit that could cause sudden acceleration undetected by the car's computer system.

Correspondent Brian Ross' "World News" report showed him driving a Toyota with Gilbert that was rigged to quickly accelerate. Even though he knew it was coming, Ross said the incident left him shaken, and he had a hard time getting the car to come to a stop.

Briefly during the drive, ABC cut to a picture of a tachometer with the needle zooming forward. The impression was that the tachometer was documenting the ride Ross was taking. Instead, that picture was taken from a separate instance where a short-circuit was induced in a parked car.

ABC said that editing was done because it was impossible to get a good picture of the tachometer while the car was moving because the camera was shaking. The camera shot was steady when it was taken in a parked car.

"The tachometer showed the same thing every time," said ABC News spokeswoman Emily Lenzner.

Toyota spokesman John Hanson disputes that, saying tachometers react much more dramatically when short-circuits happen in a parked car than a car that is moving. Tachometers measure engine speed.

It all points to problems that are created when visual journalists try to alter reality in order to get a better picture.

"Anytime you give the audience any reason to doubt the honesty of the piece, that's a serious problem," said Charlotte Grimes, a Syracuse University journalism professor who specializes in ethical issues.

"Do they honestly think that a company like Toyota, with all the resources that it has, would not be looking at these things?" Grimes asked.

Toyota recognized the differences right away: the shot showed the car's speedometer was at zero, the parking brake was on and no one was using the seat belts — while Ross wore one on the test drive, Hanson said. Online discussion of the differences began almost immediately, and the Web site wrote about it last week.

ABC edited the online version of its story shortly after that story appeared and wrote a note on its Web site explaining why.

"This was a misjudgment made in the editing room," Lenzner said. "They should have left the shaky shot in. But I want to make clear that the two-second shot that was used did not change the outcome of the report in any way."

The inserted tachometer shot still didn't specifically illustrate Ross' ride. It was from another ride made in order to create different camera angles. A camera person could not have captured the tachometer shot with Ross and Gilbert both in the car, Lenzner said.

Toyota's Hanson said it was next to impossible for the short circuit detailed by Gilbert to happen in real life. The automaker, which had to recall many of its cars because of problems associated with a depressed gas pedal, held a news conference on Monday to try and refute Gilbert's study. It depicted similar short circuits in other cars, none of which were detected by the vehicles' computer system.

Read the whole story:

Read the ABC NEWS updated story on-line:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"The Big Red Word vs. the Little Green Man: The international war over exit signs"


Julia Turner at Slate Magazine writes about the international controversy regarding exit signs, namely the red worded exit sign from the U.S. versus the green running man exit sign from Japan. Which is better, words or pictograms? Which color is better, red or green? Which works better in an international setting where multiple languages are spoken? Turner discusses these issues and more. Good stuff for visual anthropologists.

Check it out:

Thanks to G.H. for the heads up on this one.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

VAOJ is once again included in the top 100 Anthropology blogs

In 2008 VAOJ was included in the top 100 anthropology blogs in an impressive list compiled by On-Line This year VAOJ has been included in the list once again, moving from number 98 in the regional specific category to number 27 in the social anthropology and ethnography category. This is quite an honor considering all the excellent anthro blogs out there. So many thanks to all of my students and readers for making all of this possible.

Check out the list at Online Blog:

Monday, March 8, 2010

"'The Cove' wins Oscar for Best Documentary"

The story continues...

From today's Japan Today:

"The Cove," a U.S. film about a controversial annual dolphin hunt at a Japanese town, won the best documentary feature at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles.

Directed by Louie Psihoyos, one of the world’s most prominent still photographers, the film depicts, partly through the use of hidden cameras and microphones, the capture of dolphins by local fishermen in the whaling town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture.

After screenings in selected countries such as Japan, Australia and the United States, the documentary provoked criticism against the hunt, while local fishermen defended it as part of a Japanese tradition, saying the practice was not bloodthirsty as they built memorials for the dolphins.

Reacting to the Academy Award, fishermen in Taiji voiced anger, saying they were misleadingly described as "Japanese mafia." A senior official of the local fisheries cooperative association rejected an interview, saying, "Whatever we might say, it will just help advertise the movie."

Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen said, "Dolphin hunting is not an illegal activity. It is necessary to respect each culture’s diet, based on an understanding of regional traditions."

Negotiations are under way with a distributor in Japan, although no release date has been set yet.

Story and comments:

Be careful what you film...

Here are two interesting stories from The Daily Yomiuri dealing with filming in Japan.

"Speeding driver nabbed based on online video"

A man has been arrested on suspicion of speeding after posting a video clip online that showed him riding his motorcycle at speeds of up to 188 kph in a 50 kph zone, police said.

Hiroaki Iwahashi, 42, a company employee of Kinokawa, Wakayama Prefecture, was arrested Thursday after police analyzed footage that had been posted on YouTube and other video Web sites.

This is the first case in Japan of someone being arrested for speeding based on police analysis of a video posted online.

According to the police, Iwahashi rode his 1,300cc motorcycle at dangerous speeds on the Koya-Ryujin Skyline, or National Highway Route 371, for 10 kilometers between Katsuragicho and Aridagawacho in Wakayama Prefecture on Aug. 16. The speed limit on the route is 50 kph.

I have heard of people getting busted by security cameras for not paying at toll booths, but this appears to be a first for being busted for a traffic violation as posted on YouTube. Glad to see that the Japanese police are acquainted with internet technology...

"Care worker filmed elderly woman on toilet"

A 19-year-old nursing care worker has been suspended after allegedly filming a 94-year-old resident of a facility for the elderly while she sat on a toilet.

Two video clips showing the woman sitting on the toilet and having her nose pinched were posted on a Web site, prompting the police to start investigating the incident as a case of defamation.

The care worker reportedly told the police that she filmed the woman with her cell phone "as a sign of affection." However, she denied posting the videos online, and suggested that a storage device containing the videos in the phone could have been removed while she had left it on a desk.

The president of Shotokukai, the medical corporation that operates the Katoera home for the elderly in Matsusaka, Mie Prefecture, said Friday that the care worker took the footage during a night shift in January.

What happened to respect for the elderly? Defamation should be only the beginning of charges against the so-called care giver... Such actions make the work of photographers, filmmakers and visual anthropologists all the more difficult.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Widow makes film to pass down memories of 1995 sarin attack"

(Photo borrowed from bizzXceleration.)

From today's Japan Today:

Shizue Takahashi is painfully aware of what 15 years mean for many people. It is long enough for memories to fade and for a generation to grow up with little knowledge of the 1995 chemical attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult on the Tokyo subway system that claimed her husband’s life.

Though she accepts fading memories as part of life, the 63-year-old’s determination that the incident not be forgotten spurred her to make a leap from her prior role, as a public-speaking representative of a group of victims and bereaved families of the sarin gas attack, to interviewing people involved in the case herself.

Having met many victims and public officials through her work, she decided to ask them about their experiences and thoughts about the attack. The resulting hour-long film will be screened March 13 at a public gathering in Tokyo ahead of the 15th anniversary of the incident that left 12 people dead and more than 5,000 others injured.

"I think victims must work to remind people," said Takahashi in a recent interview. "You cannot stop time or stop people from forgetting…but (by showing the film) I want to feel that people are learning something from the great sacrifice we made."

Since September, she spent roughly 20 hours meeting and interviewing 11 people. Among them was former National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu, who was shot outside his condominium in Tokyo shortly after the subway attack. A police officer and several others with links to Aum were arrested in connection with his shooting, but none of them was indicted. The case faces a statute of limitation at the end of this month.

Takahashi also visited a woman paralyzed by sarin and the brother who cares for her at their home. In an effort to accurately portray their everyday lives, she focused not just on their hardships but also the things that made them happy. Others interviewed included a doctor, a journalist and a former prosecutor chief.

Read the whole story at Japan Today:

15 years have gone by but quite often we see Aum-related stories in the news. "So as not to forget" is a powerful theme and form of salvage ethnography. How memories are retained, remembered, reconstructed and represented by various victims also seems fascinating and will set this film apart from other attempts to capture and explore the Aum story.

For more on Aum Shinrikyo and the Tokyo subway gas bombing check out:

Murakami Haruki's Underground

Mori Tatsuya's films A and A2

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bari Bari Potato (in Tokyo)

Well, I was in Tokyo again over the weekend. VAOJ readers might recall my previous difficulties in Tokyo in the past. This I was in the big city for a one day workshop on low budget filmmaking conducted by Stephen Clearly. The workshop was excellent and I plan to post an article about it in relation to ethnographic filmmaking in the near future.

Anyway, after the workshop I found myself in Shinjuku with an hour and a half to kill before I had to make my way to Tokyo Station and the bullet train back home to Osaka. I found what looked like to be a cozy little izakaya, entered and ordered some simple food and drink. One of the things I ordered was something called bari bari potato. The picture on the menu made it look delicious - sliced potatoes with cheese and spices, all for a mere 390 yen. What a received was very different: half a bag of potato chips with some cheese, salad dressing and seaweed on top. Is this the Tokyo version of chips and salsa? The lemon chu-hai I ordered had no lemon flavor at all. The yaki-tori was passable. I did pass on another of the shop's specialties: natto karage (deep fried fermented beans). At least there weren't any cockroaches. But what does it take to get some decent food in Tokyo?

I couldn't get back to Osaka soon enough. But of course this involved the rat mazes of corridors, stairs and escalators all seemingly randomly placed to transfer between various train stations. How do people in wheel chairs, crutches, canes or walking difficulties get by? While I am sure there must be something good in Tokyo (aside from workshops, film screenings and progressive deaf schools), I wish someone would educate me about them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Award-winning director making next film on Hiroshima"

From today's Japan Today:

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima 65 years ago has been told from one generation to another in numerous ways, but Academy Award-winning film director and producer Malcolm Clarke is attempting a different approach.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which portrays the tragic scene, and its effect on visitors are key themes in a 90-minute documentary feature that Clarke, 55, is preparing to shoot for release around the summer of 2011.

In the film, tentatively titled "A World Without Peace," Clarke hopes to include interviews with people involved in conflict resolution, such as Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as prominent figures who have visited the museum.

The museum houses materials such as a burned tricycle and hair from a victim of the bombing on Aug 6, 1945, which is estimated to have killed 140,000 within that year.

"I think that many people who have visited the Hiroshima museum have been changed forever," Clarke said, comparing it to his own experience of visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, which he said was so horrific, it felt like being "banged around the head with a hammer."

"Just like dropping a pebble into water, you see the ripples going away and see what I call the ‘Hiroshima effects’ remain in the minds of some of the people who visited," he said, noting that the museum serves as a good gateway for people to enter the broad subject of peace.

Instead of focusing on the stories of people who suffered the atomic bombing, Clarke said the film will be about coming to Hiroshima, walking away and working for peace as a result, as he believes it is important to say "something new" when others have already explored the topic many times.

Clarke, a native of Britain now living in Montreal, has visited Japan about 20 times over the last 20 years. He believes Hiroshima could become an international home for conflict resolution and intends to propose the idea in the film.

"It would be very interesting if Hiroshima invited adversaries…and sponsored peace conferences. It’s the perfect place in the world," he said, as the city "has risen from the ashes and now has an international reputation as a city that promotes peace."

"It could be the one place in the world where people feel that they can come and can sort out their difference because there is no other place like that," he said.

Clarke has written and directed many films including the Academy Award-winning documentary feature "You Don’t Have to Die" in 1989.

More recently, "Prisoner of Paradise," a 2003 film about a man who was sent to a concentration camp where he was ordered to make a Nazi propaganda film, was also nominated for an Academy Award.

He has also worked on documenting the lives of Japanese people, including motorcycle gangs in Kobe, a blind female "goze" musician in Niigata Prefecture and a billionaire in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Clarke is hoping that people around the world, especially young people, will see the planned documentary.

"The people who matter for this film are the young people," he said, as it is "almost too late’’ to leave a lasting impact on people "when they are 60 or 70."

"The purpose of the film is so that it (Hiroshima) will never happen again," he said.

Clarke plans to prepare for filming by traveling to cities in Japan including Hiroshima and later visiting countries experiencing conflicts.