Monday, August 29, 2011

"Portrait Professional - Fast, Easy Portrait Enhancing Software"

My colleague brought this software to my attention (thanks, JH!). Seems like there is a lot of this kind of stuff out there. I'm not sure if this software is appropriate for ethnographic photography (and so this post should not be seen as any sort of product endorsement from VAOJ or my colleague). How far should one go in manipulating photographic images?

Link to software info:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Watching the Hanshin Tigers while eating and drinking at the Asahi Panorama Dome Restaurant at the Kyocera Dome, Osaka - 2011 Version

It is a tradition with a group of regulars at my local izakaya to attend a Hanshin Tigers' baseball game at the fancy panoramic restaurant when the Tigers play at the Kyocera Dome. I have been lucky enough to be included these last two years. Click here to see photos from last year's outing. It takes connections to get the special (and expensive) seating right above left field and there are some challenges when sending off the jetto fusen in the lucky seventh inning. While I prefer to watch the Tigers play at Koshien, this outing with my friends is still a lot of fun and a very different setting to enjoy Japanese baseball.

Oh yeah, and the Tigers won!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Photos a worry for disaster volunteers / Exhibition space lacking, battle against time to reunite goods with owners, kin"

From today's Daily Yomiuri Online:

Dressed in funeral attire, a woman at a temple in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture, opened the photo albums on display one after another, studiously looking at the images of family gatherings and children's school sports festivals.

The temple was hosting a photo-display service for bereaved family members of victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, just one example of how volunteers are trying to reunite photos and other items with their owners or kin.


Volunteers and local governments in devastated areas have faced difficulties working out how to treat unclaimed photographs and other items.

The volunteers collect photos on behalf of local governments, which are too busy managing shelters and confirming residents' safety. They then clean the photos, removing sea water and mud, but in many cases, they cannot find the owners. It has also become increasingly difficult to secure space to display photos.

Some volunteers have begun attempts to display items in unusual areas--such as the temple in Rikuzen-Takata--and make image databases so that people do not need to be physically present to view the photos.


Before using the temple, the group had exhibited items in a hard-to-reach mountain area, which slowed the the return of photos to their owners. Thus the organization decided to exhibit photos and other items in more popular locations in attempts to reunite unclaimed items with their owners.

The municipal government of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, is attempting to convert unidentified photos into a database with the cooperation of Tokyo Gakugei University.

The government is looking into ways in which people can search for photos without being physically present, and is considering displaying photos on the Internet to combat an increasing lack of physical exhibition space.


A volunteer organization storing and displaying photos for identification from disaster-hit areas in Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, was distressed to receive a notice from its city government in early July.

The notice said it would no longer be possible for the organization to store and display such items at the public gymnasium after Aug. 21. and after this date, events to reunite owners with lost items would have to cease.

The government explained it needed to resume normal use of the gym despite more than 30,000 photos being unaccounted for. It would consider how to best dispose of the items, including incineration.

The volunteer organization lodged a protest with the government and has had its use of the gymnasium extended until the end of August.

While helpful, volunteers say the temporary reprieve is not enough. "Even now, about 20 persons a day come to the gym trying to find lost photos," said a 30-year-old male volunteers.

Although the city government has decided to store the remaining photos, officials admit to difficulties.

"Keeping the photos indefinitely is impossible, but out of consideration for the disaster victims, we can't dispose of them that casually," said one official.

The city government of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, has worked toward storing such photos in freezers to prevent their image quality from worsening.

Some photos were covered with fungus while others had deteriorated because of high temperatures and humidity.


In late March, the central government said in guidelines given to local governments that photos and spirit tablets are different than jewels and cash and have no intrinsic monetary value.

But the guidelines also said such items "may be of value to individuals." They also mentioned taking disaster victims' feelings into consideration: "It is desirable to store [such items] and create opportunities for them to be returned to their owners."

About some local governments' planning to dispose of such items, a senior Justice Ministry official said: "If local governments make concerted efforts to return goods to their owners by openly displaying them or other means, and notify people in advance of their potential disposal, they should not face any legal ramifications."

Read the whole story:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Impact of 'visualization' in criminal investigations"

Here's another update on the use of "visualization" in criminal investigations from today's Daily Yomiuri Online. Simply ridiculous...

The panel tasked with studying prosecution reform concluded that the visualization of interrogations through audio or video recording in all sorts of criminal investigations should be discussed.

As a result, a "subcommittee on the criminal justice system in a new era" was established in June under the Legislative Council to examine the state of the nation's criminal justice system.

The 26-member expert subcommittee is to discuss the range and types of cases subject to visualized interrogation, with the ultimate aim of preparing legislation on the visualization of interrogations of criminal cases.

The focal point of discussion is how to assess the impact of the visualization of interrogations on criminal investigations.

Police authorities and prosecutors are worried that in the investigation of cases involving organized crime, bribery or economic offenses, which may involve little concrete evidence, it will be more difficult to clarify what has actually happened.

For example, rank-and-file members of an organized crime group involved in a smuggling case, or secretaries of politicians and bribe-giving firms involved in a political corruption case, likely would not confess anything disadvantageous to their bosses in front of cameras.

Lawyer Masaru Wakasa, who once served as chief of the public security division at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, said, "As those involved in criminal cases won't tell investigators [anything disadvantageous to their seniors] for fear of retaliation or harsh treatment, there will be an increase in such cases whereby the involvement of those in the upper echelons cannot be proved."

In the experimental visualization of interrogations, which the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office started in April, a problem has arisen in that the prosecutors' interrogation of suspects became lax.

Makoto Miyazaki, a member of the subcommittee and a former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, downplayed this concern by saying, "In foreign countries where they adopted the visualization of interrogations, they are able to have suspects confess by improving their techniques of inquiry."

Police authorities and prosecutors have said that to supplement the interrogation functions that would be impaired by the visualization of interrogations, it would be necessary to adopt new methods, including plea bargaining or expanded use of wiretapping.

Hidehiko Sato, a member of the subcommittee and a former director general of the National Police Agency, said: "If criminal cases that cannot be prosecuted increase due to the visualization of interrogations, it would directly lead to deterioration of public security. It is therefore essential to adopt new investigation methods to punish suspects properly and to maintain law and order."

The subcommittee is expected to propose a new framework of criminal justice in two years' time. But it remains an open question whether the panel can reach a unified conclusion, because of wide differences in views among its members.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"More interrogations 'visualized' / Justice minister wants procedure used in all lay judge cases"

Here's an update about the recording of interrogations by the police in Japan from today's Daily Yomiuri Online. Note the interesting definition of "visualization" employed by the Justice Ministry...

The Justice Ministry has announced its policy that the "visualization" of interrogations in criminal investigations through audio or video recording is essential, and should be institutionalized under the responsibility of the ministry.

In addition to the ministry's announcement Monday, Justice Minister Satsuki Eda instructed the prosecutor general to expand the range of cases subject to the practice.

At present, visualized interrogations are only partly used, and only in cases subject to lay judge trials in which the accused admits the facts presented in the indictment.

In most cases, the term "visualization" does not refer to a recording of the interrogation itself. Instead, prosecutors write interrogation reports and then are recorded reading them aloud for 15 to 30 minutes on a DVD.

Eda instructed Prosecutor General Haruo Kasama to expand the use of visualization to cases subject to lay judge trials in which the accused denies the charges, creating such recordings for all cases subject to lay judge trials on an experimental basis.

It is very rare for a justice minister to give direct instructions to a prosecutor general, even though the Public Prosecutors Office Law gives the justice minister authority over the prosecutor general.

The ministry set up an internal study group to discuss institutionalizing visualization in October 2009 under then Justice Minister Keiko Chiba. The group has studied interrogation systems in other countries and the current situation in Japan.

The ministry's announcement Monday, a document titled "Toward Realizing Visualization of Interrogations," is considered its official conclusion on the issue, based on the study group's final report also released Monday.

In the document, the Justice Ministry mentioned that a special committee of the ministry's Legislative Council, an advisory panel to justice minister, had also started discussions about making visualization a standard practice.

It also said, "Considering the importance of the aim of visualization, the Justice Ministry expects to receive a report from the Legislative Council as soon as possible and will carry out visualization as an institution."

Interrogations in the early stages of investigations soon after arrests and the process of compiling interrogation reports will also be subject to visualization under Eda's new instructions.

The ministry is going to expand the scope of visualization even to cases in which the accused denied charges because it intends to carry out appropriate interrogations and avoid wrongful convictions. It also aims to support prosecutors' efforts to prove the voluntariness of confessions.

Expanding the scope of visualization will be started within a month. The ministry plans to compile a report after a year, reviewing results of visualization efforts.

According to the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, visualization efforts had been conducted for 3,572 cases subject to lay judge trials by May. Of them, in 39 hearings of lay judge trials, visualization DVDs were discussed. In each of those cases, the judges concluded that the accused had admitted the charges on a voluntary basis.

The final report of the study group expressed a negative view toward institutionalizing the recording of interrogation procedures in their entirety, saying, "It is not appropriate to establish a system which imposes videotaping and tape-recoding without exception."

Link to story:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Resource: CIViC - An Archive of Indian Visual Culture

Announcement from H-ASIA:

CIViC - An Archive of Indian Visual Culture

Brief description (from their web site): We preserve, archive, document and research populist imagery from the inception of print culture in the 19th century to contemporary times. Our growing digital image archive is one of the most significant in India and constitutes our focus of research.

Explore our site to browse our services, view select images from our digital archives, join discussions on our blog and read articles on current areas of research on our Forum.

While this isn't Japan-related, this is still a great resource for visual anthropology. Check it out!