Wednesday, November 30, 2011

BBC's "In pictures: Osaka seeks economic growth"

Photos borrowed from BBC News.

Toru Hashimoto won the position of mayor of Osaka in the election on Sunday. Here is how the BBC reported it (11/28/11):

Japan 'gangster son' Toru Hashimoto wins Osaka ballot


Previous story (11/24/11):

Gangster son takes on conservative Osaka mayor


Hashimoto is quoted here as saying, "There is no other city as vulgar and obscene as Osaka."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. I fear Hashimoto's eyesight...

And here is how the BBC represent Osaka in a 9-picture slide show with captions (11/24/11):

In pictures: Osaka seeks economic growth


Personally, I feel slighted by this representation and Hashimoto's "vision" of Osaka. My frustration and disappointment with Japanese politics continues.

Related links on the Osaka election from Japanese newspapers:

Maverick pair claim mandate to unify city, prefecture
Hashimoto, Matsui win twin Osaka polls


Editorial: Osaka elections mark beginning of full-fledged debate on 'double administration'


Hashimoto wins election / Vows to quickly press central govt on Osaka metropolis plan


Monday, November 28, 2011

"Health ministry warns of increasing rates of HIV, AIDS infection"

Image borrowed from

We were discussing this subject in "Deaf World Japan" class today (and a couple weeks ago in "Globalization" class) and it occurred to me that the increase of HIV/AIDS hasn't been in the news recently. But with World AIDS Day (December 1) it makes sense that we get a story.

From today's Japan Today:

Health Minister Yoko Komiyama made an appearance at an AIDS awareness event in Shibuya on Sunday to encourage Japanese people to take an HIV check ahead of the U.N.-designated World AIDS Day on Dec 1.

Komiyama said AIDS checks are available at public health centers across Japan and are free and anonymous, TV Asahi reported.

World AIDS Day aims to draw attention to the steadily increasing rates of AIDS infection around the world.

The ministry revealed that reported cases of HIV and AIDS infection in Japan last year surpassed 1,500 and that infection rates are increasing. The ministry also added that of those infected, around 70% were in their 20s and 30s, TV Asahi reported.

The ministry also said that it believes around 90% of those infected caught the disease through unprotected sex with an infected partner. A spokesperson urged people to use a condom for contraception and to visit a health center for a check.


Link to HIV/AIDS and Deaf People in Japan:

Link to other HIV/AIDS posts at VAOJ:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Motorcyclist flashes peace sign at cameras during series of speed violations"

There's just no getting away from that peace sign when taking photos in Japan...

Story from today's Japan Today:

Police have arrested a motorcyclist in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, who they claim made peace signs at speed cameras while repeatedly breaking road traffic laws.

According to police, Junichi Wakayama, 36, a freight truck driver, is alleged to have committed a series of speed violations on Route 357 near Narashino between Aug 1 and 10, NTV reported. Police say he passed the speed cameras three times, occasionally driving 60km/p over the speed limit.

Police said Wakayama drove at speeds of over 100 km/h, although he showed signs that he was aware of the existence of the speed cameras, NTV reported.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Atom @ Atelier

Recently Atom Sunada came to Hirakata-shi to give a lecture at Japanese Sign Language「Atelier.」 Atom, born in 1977 in Ehime Prefecture, is Deaf and comes from a Deaf family. He is an actor, artist and sign language teacher and extremely entertaining (and popular). I first encountered Atom several years ago when he was performing with Akihiro Yonaiyama's R-Group (R stands for rou, or deaf), an exclusively deaf theater group.

Atom's lecture was mainly about his background and growing up deaf in Japan. He discussed his "allergy to hearing people" and how he was able to overcome it through his realization of Deaf culture while visiting Gallaudet University in the United States.

Atom's facial expression are especially rich and very much appreciated by Deaf people. I wonder if hearing people find his facial expressions odd? See more photos of Atom at the following link:

See Atom's own web site:

Check out his column (the コラム link on the left) to see his sign language.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Honda unveils 'smarter' Asimo humanoid robot"

Story from today's Japan Today:

Honda’s human-shaped robot can now run faster, balance itself on uneven surfaces, hop on one foot and pour a drink. Some of its technology may even be used to help out with clean-up operations at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

Honda’s demonstration of the revamped Asimo on Tuesday at its Tokyo suburban research facility was not only to prove that the bubble-headed childlike machine was more limber and a bit smarter.


Asimo was also able to distinguish the voices of three people spoken at once, using face recognition and analyzing sound, to figure out that one woman wanted hot coffee, another orange juice, and still another milk tea.

The new Asimo got improved hands as well, allowing individual movement of each finger, so it could do sign language.

“My name is Asimo,” it said, making the signs of its words with stubby fingers.

It also opened a thermos bottle and gracefully poured juice into a paper cup.

Read the whole story:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"'Up-skirt' photos increasing / Advances in camera technology leading rise in voyeurism"

From today's Daily Yomiuri On-Line:

An increasing number of cases of camera and video voyeurism using cell phones and spy cameras have been identified recently. According to the National Police Agency, the number of cases nationwide last year increased about 60 percent over five years ago.

Police have stepped up crackdowns against such crimes, but methods of illicit filming have become increasingly sophisticated due to smaller cameras and improved cell phone video capabilities.

Another factor behind the increase is believed to be the existence of Web sites sharing these photos and videos. Experts say it is necessary to take action against such sites.

According to the NPA, the total number of identified cases of up-skirt photos and videos taken in stations and on trains and illicit filming at public baths and bathrooms was 1,087 in 2006. The number jumped to 1,741 cases in 2010. Of those, 1,702 were cases of up-skirt photos and videos, accounting for about 98 percent.

Among prefectures, 266 cases were detected in Kanagawa Prefecture, followed by 201 cases in Tokyo, 131 cases in Hyogo Prefecture, 111 cases in Chiba Prefecture and 103 cases in Saitama Prefecture. About 40 percent of the cases were detected in the Tokyo metropolitan area--Tokyo and its surrounding three prefectures.

In Chiba Prefecture, cases are also increasing this year. According to the Chiba prefectural police, the number of cases from January through September was 60 percent higher than the corresponding period last year.

Especially noteworthy were videos taken using cell phones. Fifty percent of arrests made by the prefectural police on suspicion of violating the public nuisance ordinance involved filming using cell phone video cameras.

A man arrested by the prefectural police on suspicion of illicit filming in Chiba was quoted by the police as saying: "I used the video function as I cannot take still photos well with my cell phone. The still photo shutter sound is too noticeable."

A police officer explained why illicit video is increasing: "It's easier to shoot videos [than take photos] and it's possible to edit videos when the data is transferred to a computer. The video can be stopped anywhere and photos can be made from it," he said.

According to NTT Docomo, Inc., cell phones began to be equipped with video in about 2003. At first, maximum shooting time was short and images were poor quality. However, they have improved remarkably over the past few years and some current models are equipped with high resolution video capability, producing images as clear as those taken by full-sized video cameras.

Filming methods have also become more surreptitious. Some people hide small cameras in a bag or in their shoe. In Akita Prefecture, a doctor was arrested in September on suspicion of having taken a video of a patient while he was examining her with a video camera watch. The doctor told the police he had bought the camera on the Internet.

The number of cases of illicit filming is also increasing in the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police Department over the past few years. A senior MPD officer said, "One of the reasons is cameras have become smaller and quality has improved."

Experts say women using cell phones or wearing earphones are more likely to be targeted. A Chiba prefectural police officer warns women to be cautious of their surroundings, saying, "Please check behind yourself on trains or escalators without being totally absorbed in your cell phone or a music player."


Control of Web sites needed

Rissho University Prof. Nobuo Komiya, an expert on criminal sociology, pointed out the necessity of proactive Web site identification by police. "In Japan, measures against indecent images on the Internet are weak and providers aren't detecting Web sites containing illicit images," he said.

Komiya said if such images spread on the Internet, they may cause other problems for victimized women such as stalking. "These images might induce new sexual crimes. I think it's necessary to review current ways of controlling images on the Internet," he said.

Musashino Gakuin University Associate Prof. Yuichi Kogure, an expert on cell phones, said: "Almost everyone carries a cell phone with a camera capabilities, but moral guidance for users is needed. I think the government and cell phone companies need to educate users."


Monday, November 7, 2011

3/11 as covered in Contemporary Japan and Globalization class

We had our 3/11 class last week and here I want to give a report of what we did. Four students offered presentations and had different topics within the very broad theme of the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear accident disasters. I began the class with a brief overview of the disaster – the usual facts and statistics. I then recalled my own surreal experience of feeling the quake, seeing the tsunami on live TV but not really being directly affected in Osaka. Other students who were here on 3/11 gave similar accounts. The disaster was far away and didn’t really impact our lives at the moment other than people recalling their experiences with the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and empathizing with the people of Tohoku.

MS gave his presentation on the media portrayal of the disasters in Japan and abroad. He had examples of perpetuations of Japanese stereotypes and reporting errors that made it difficult for viewers to have an understanding of the actual situation at the sites of the disasters and in other areas of Japan. The effect here at our university was exchange students being forced to leave Japan whether they wanted to or not.

We then turned to the Fukushima nuclear situation with a discussion of the Murakami speech questioning how Japan became so dependent on nuclear energy resulting in the current crisis, which he referred to as “our second massive nuclear disaster.”

We then watched the Nuclear Boy video clip from YouTube.

JM, a former member of the U.S. Navy who worked for 4 years on a nuclear powered submarine, was able to explain how the nuclear power plant works and questioned the extreme and scientifically unfounded concerns of the dangers of Fukushima. For him, the Nuclear Boy anime could not be more true.

JR gave an overview of the tsunami-affected area at the time of the disaster and how things have changed/improved in the last 7 months. DB discussed the disaster in terms of globalization – how a local area of 561 square kilometers resulted in the support and assistance of individuals, corporations and countries from all over the world.

I presented a sampling of the news from the previous 3 days: stories of nuclear decontamination, changing elections methods in Fukushima, donations for reconstruction, searching for missing victims, volunteer efforts in the affected areas, cesium detection on food, tsunami safety drills, protests of nuclear energy... The majority of Prime Minister Noda’s policy speech dealt with 3/11. So it seems as time goes on, the effect of 3/11 resonate all over Japan as well as abroad.

I was extremely happy with the presentations and the discussions they generated. What was missing, I feel, were personal and ethnographic accounts of victims and eye-witnesses. We were able to read about such experiences but to actually hear from people who were directly affected would have added so much more. We did what we could with our distanced experiences. 3/11 is a major influence in the changing Japanese society and culture. I congratulate my students for their desire to study this subject and their efforts to make sense of the disasters and the repercussions that follow.