Monday, May 31, 2010

Google Street View Problems in Germany

VAOJ has reported on the problems with Google Street View and privacy issues in Japan. There are also problems in Germany as well as other European countries. From The Local - Germany's On-line News in English:

German consumer protection minister Ilse Aigner says that internet giant Google could face "more than 50,000" lawsuits in Germany because of its controversial virtual photo service Street View.

Seems as though Google was not only taking unwanted photos, but gathering people's private internet information as well. From CNN

The company is facing criminal charges from Germany related to its Google map feature, Street View. Street View shows 360 degree images of locations all over the globe. To get these images, Google deploys vans, cars and kooky tricycles equipped with cameras and GPS receivers, to collect photos of as many places as possible. Turns out, besides taking snapshots of the local biergarden in Germany, Google's vehicles were also mapping and enumerating the locations of open Wi-Fi networks.

Read the entire articles:

Minister: Google faces 50,000 lawsuits

Google, feeling lucky, tells German privacy czar to wait

I am looking forward to investigating privacy issues and public photography in Germany. What kinds of challenges will my new students have in shooting their ethnographic films here? Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Looking for Japan in Germany... and Re-Thinking Orientalism

There certainly seems to be a lot of Japanese influence in Frankfurt. Here is some live sushi all you can eat... I found a sushi shop in the Frankfurt train station yesterday run by a Korean woman (who at least seemed to understand Japanese...). Actually I have been hard-pressed to find "German" food. Lots of kebab, halal and African cuisine, at least in the area close to my flat. Last night the anthro grad students gathered at an Ethiopian restaurant. My flatmate commented for "real German food" I would have to go to Bavaria...

The kinds of pictures I am taking here in Germany are very different from those I take in Japan. Despite living in Japan for almost 13 years now, I am beginning to think that I am (still) an orientalist... I am also appreciating the plight of my exchange students when they first come to Japan. All the seemingly easy advice I give them is actually not so easy. I tell my students to "get lost" and "just jump on a train and see where it takes you." I did just that today... in the rain. I was able to find my way back to my flat and gain some insight into the difficulties of adapting to a new culture. And perhaps a little insight into Frankfurt as well. Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My New Neighborhood in Frankfurt...

I'm still getting settled, so please be patient for more photos...

But it is good to know that Japan and America stand side by side if I need to purchase their respective products.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Where Osaka People Shop and Play

I am trying to get in every last Japan/Kansai/Osaka experience I can before leaving for Germany on Friday. These photos come from a recent excursion to the Minami and Higashi Umeda areas of Osaka.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Update: Kishin Shinoyama Charged over Nude Photos

VAOJ has been following this story for a while. Here's the latest (from AP):

A renowned Japanese photographer was indicted Thursday after he allegedly shot photos of a naked woman posing on a tombstone at a public cemetery.

Kishin Shinoyama, 69, was charged with public indecency and disrespect for a religious site for allegedly snapping the nude photographs in October 2008 at Tokyo's Aoyama cemetery, the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office said in a statement.

If convicted, Shinoyama faces up to six months in prison or a fine of up to 300,000 yen ($3,300).

The cemetery was one of a dozen public locations in Tokyo where two models posed nude for a photo collection titled, "No Nude by Kishin 20XX," which was released in January 2009.

Shinoyama said in a statement Thursday the models took off their clothes only briefly, "seconds or up to two minutes at the longest." He was concerned about the definition of public indecency, which could discourage artistic expression, he said.

But Shinoyama added, "I humbly accept the case as a lesson, and I will pursue my challenges to new forms of expression."

Shinoyama, a prolific photographer who for decades photographed a variety of genres, shot the "Sante Fe" book that sparked Japan's so-called "hair nude" phenomena in the 1990s. His collection of actress Rie Miyazawa exposing her pubic hair became a best seller, and eased the country's strict mores on nudity.

Here's how The Mainichi Daily News reported it:

Photographer Kishin Shinoyama has been summarily indicted by Tokyo public prosecutors for disrespect to a place of worship and public indecency for a 2008 nude photo shoot in a cemetery.

Shinoyama, 69, had originally fought the charges on the basis of freedom of expression, but has since submitted a letter of apology.

"My (artistic) expression is in danger of withering under the constant stream of reports about the investigation," the photographer commented. "I will take the incident as a lesson learned, and wish to move on and express myself in new ways."

According to the indictment, Shinoyama photographed an actress in the nude as she posed atop grave markers in the Aoyama Reien cemetery in Tokyo's Minato Ward on the night of Oct. 15, 2008. The actress was not indicted as she was following Shinoyama's directions.

Papers were originally filed with prosecutors accusing the photographer of shooting nude models in 12 public places, including a department store. The Tokyo Sub-District Public Prosecutors Office settled on the summary indictment of Shinoyama for submitting a report claiming the models would be in their underwear and going ahead with the shoot even after being warned by the police in September 2008, and to respond to the owners of the graves' desire for punishment.

The crime of disrespect to a place of worship -- defined in the Penal Code as overt disrespect against religious sites such as temples or cemeteries -- carries a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment or a 100,000-yen fine for acts such as pulling down gravestones. It is very unusual to apply the law to obscene acts.

Friday, May 21, 2010

VAOJ is going to Germany!

Screen grab from the Institute for Ethnology student blog.
Caption reads: Yea! Fedorowicz is coming to Frankfurt.

In another weird twist of globalization, an American professor is going to Germany to teach German students Japanese Sign Language in English...

I have been invited to teach visual anthropology and Japanese studies at the Institut für Ethnologie at Goethe-Universität (otherwise know as "the Frankfurt school") during the summer. Apparently there is a demand for learning about Japanese culture in Germany; Goethe students promise me they will show me the German take on Japan. The German students also want to learn how to make ethnographic films about Japanese culture and I am expecting some fascinating projects. It should be noted that graduate students at Goethe found me through this blog and petitioned their university to invite me. Many thanks to them, my students in Japan and regular readers of VAOJ for making all of this possible.

So look for some interesting tangents, twists and turns in VAOJ this summer.

For more information about Goethe's Institute for Ethnology's program, check out the student blog (in German):

Click here for all of the Germany posts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The End of Spring 2010 - Another Successful Semester of JSL!

Another semester is ending (I am up to my neck in grading) and it's time to reflect about Japanese Sign Language. We had another successful semester of JSL study. I wish to especially thank J-sensei and our sempai, B-san and J-san, for taking on extra teaching responsibilities. Even though I couldn't be there all the time, it was great to see how much you learned. To all members of the group, please continue to study sign language no matter where you are. Remember (how could you forget?), we are all brothers and sisters... お疲れ様でした!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Koshien Characters

VAOJ has reported much about the Hanshin Tigers. What is particularly interesting about this baseball team is the fan involvement. Loyalty to the team is an understatement. The fans are seen as a part of the team; if the team is losing, the fans cheer that much harder. Hanshin fans are special in the way in which they support their team as a group and as individuals. They are truly characters in both senses of the word: protagonists in the story (whether it be the actual baseball game or this blog post) and as eccentric persons (I mean this as a compliment). Recently I had a chance to visit Koshein for a game against the Hiroshima Carp. It was a perfect opportunity to capture Koshein characters. The Tigers won, 4-3, by the way, extending my own winning streak. Every Hanshin game I have been to in the last 4 years they have won. Or should I say, we have won...

Grow your own...

Picture and caption from Japan Today's Picture of the Day, 12 May 2010.

"A model wears Triumph International’s “Grow-Your-Own-Rice bra” in Tokyo on Wednesday. The bra, which transforms into a rice growing kit, allows the wearer to cultivate rice anytime, anywhere. It was created in hopes that more people will become familiar with farming and develop awareness of the importance of agriculture, the lingerie maker said."