Sunday, February 26, 2012

Is Japan Cool? Representations of Japan from ANA's Cool Campaign!

All Nippon Airlines has a new ad campaign drawing upon the "coolness" of Japanese culture. Here are some screen shots borrowed from their web site. There is a contest involved for free air tickets to Japan. Please note the usual disclaimer here about VAOJ not endorsing any product - what is of interest is the cultural representation in the promotional video and the items selected as representative of (possibly) cool Japan.

In some of my anthropology courses we do a free listing exercise for Japanese culture. In this exercise we consider culture to be composed of sets of items: material objects, architecture, landmarks, food/drink, people, thoughts, beliefs, behavior, etc. The following items are those that can be voted on as either being cool or not in the ANA campaign and might serve as a similar list of the sets that makes up Japanese culture.

Itsukushima Shrine, Electrical Goods Store, Manga Cafe, Karaoke, Iced Coffee, Jinrikisha, High-Tech Toilet, Mt. Fuji, Kaminari-Mon, Decorative Anything, Capsule Hotel, Japanese Hospitality, Harajuku Girl, Sake, Sushi-Go-Round, Chopsticks, Public Bathhouse, Paper Fortune, Japanese Pub, Hot Spring Spa, Maid Cafe, Food Model, Character Bento, Idol, Sumo Wrestler, Tokyo Sky Tree, Ramen, Shrine Visit, Massage Chair, Gyoden, Ultramodern Vending Machine, Soba, Scramble Crossing

As of today, all of these things have overwhelming been voted as cool. You can follow the ranking as the days go by. The idea of cool Japan, especially along the lines of its soft power and pop culture, is certainly not anything new and you can find many web sites, campaigns, research projects and TV shows using this idea. The Japanese government has even been using this idea (link).

How do you feel about the ANA set of items as representative of Japanese culture? What would you add? (The list is certainly Tokyo-heavy and in need of some Kansai additions...) And how do you feel about the video? Is the campaign itself cool?

Link to ANA Cool Japan! Campaign web site:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"8 Osaka teachers to be punished for refusal to sing national anthem"

From Japan Today, 2/25/12:

The Osaka Prefectural Board of Education has revealed that eight teachers in the prefecture declined to stand and sing the Japanese national anthem at high school graduation ceremonies which took place on Friday.

The reports come days after the Supreme Court dismissed two suits from 375 teachers and educational professionals requesting a ban on the enforced singing of the “Kimigayo,” Japan’s national anthem, in schools. The court earlier this month ruled 4-1 that such orders are constitutional.

The issue of enforced singing of the Japanese national anthem has long been a contentious one, with many teachers refusing to stand and sing the song at school. In some cases, dissenting teachers received reprimands, pay cuts or were suspended.

The court ruled that ordering teachers to sing the “Kimigayo” did not violate their freedom of thought, which was the basis for the plaintiffs’ claim, NTV reported.

Speaking to reporters after the graduation ceremonies, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said, “Perhaps these people mistakenly think they have the right to continue as public servants no matter what they do. I’d like to see an end put to this behavior.”

According to NTV, the Osaka Prefectural Board of Education said that the eight employees in question would be dealt with according to the law.

Earlier this month, a proposal was put forward at the national assembly to introduce a law whereby an education professional refusing to sing the national anthem for the third time would be subject to dismissal. The board added that if the law is approved, the eight teachers involved in this month’s incident could eventually face dismissal.


Last VAOJ post on this subject (once again, oh Lord when will this end?):

Somewhat related:

Osaka gov't workers' emails screened for evidence of union, political involvement


Ishihara agrees with Nagoya mayor's Nanjing massacre denial


Friday, February 24, 2012

"NPA panel calls for more 'visualization'"

Can't get enough visualization... Here's the latest on this ridiculous situation (click here and here for background information) - story from The Daily Yomiuri Online, 2/24/12:

An expert panel of the National Police Agency proposed in its final report released Thursday that recording of the results of questioning in investigations--a practice called "visualization"--should be implemented in a wider range of cases.

Currently, parts of the investigation process in cases subject to lay judge trials in which defendants have admitted guilt are subject to visualization by audio or video recording, but the panel said this was not sufficient.

The report proposes implementing audio or video recording on a test basis in a wider range of cases in which defendants insist they are not guilty.

Based on the report, the NPA plans to instruct all prefectural police headquarters to test-implement visualization in a wider range of cases starting in April.

The recording of investigative questioning by police started in September 2008.

The measure was taken in cases chosen by police from among serious cases subject to the lay judge system, such as murder, robbery resulting in homicide and dangerous driving resulting in death, in which it might be questioned whether defendants' statements were truly voluntary.

By the end of last year, such visualization had been implemented in a total of 1,587 cases.

Defendants who insisted they were not guilty were excluded from the measure on the grounds that it is not necessary to prove their statements were voluntary.

From now on, visualization will be implemented even in cases of defendants insisting they are not guilty to prove questioning was properly conducted and avoid wrongful convictions.

The scenes that are currently recorded are those of police officers reading an account of what the defendant has already said in earlier questioning and then asking the defendant to confirm it.

Such scenes, about 15 minutes long, are recorded on DVD.
(my bolding...)

The panel says that from now on visualization should also be implemented to record suspects' statements just after their arrest and to record changes in the content of suspects' statements over time.

In addition, the report called for visualization to be done in some cases that are not subject to the lay judge system.

Such cases include, for example, ones in which suspects are mentally handicapped and have difficulty communicating with investigators, resulting in a tendency of the suspects to say what they think the investigators want to hear.

Concerning questioning by prosecutors, visualization has been done in cases prosecutors began directly investigating in April last year, whether or not the cases are subject to the lay judge system.

By the end of last year, visualizations were made at all steps of about 40 percent of such cases.

In a case related to the political funds management body Rikuzan-kai, in which former Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa, 69, has been accused of violating the Political Funds Control Law, an audio recording of questioning of his former secretary was replayed in a trial session.

The former secretary underwent voluntary questioning by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office and secretly recorded the conversation.

The Tokyo District Court judged from the recording that prosecutors pressured or tried to guide the former secretary toward making statements favorable to their case. And the judges decided not to accept many of the former secretary's statements as evidence.

The incident indicated that visualization can also be effective for ensuring investigations are conducted properly.

The NPA panel was established in February 2010 with lawyers and former investigators as members so that effective visualization could be implemented without obstructing the protection of public safety.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Bullet train service disrupted by train enthusiast taking photos"

From today's Japan Today:

A JR bullet train was delayed Wednesday after a train enthusiast was spotted leaning over a boundary fence next to the train line to take photos.

Central Japan Railway (JR Tokai) staff who noticed the man on an embankment near the shinkansen track judged the situation to be dangerous and ordered the driver to delay the arrival of the bullet train traveling between Nagoya and Gifuhashima stations until the man’s safety could be confirmed, NTV reported.

JR Tokai said 13 trains were suspended for 25 minutes from just before 9 a.m., affecting more than 10,000 passengers.
The man, who was seen leaning over the embankment fence in Shintomi, was questioned by JR staff and explained that he often takes photos of trains as his hobby, NTV reported. The man was cautioned and released without charge being filed, JR said.


A good visual anthropologist shouldn't get in the way...

Friday, February 10, 2012

"Supreme Court rules making teachers sing 'Kimigayo' is constitutional"

When will these "updates" end? From today's Japan Today:

The Supreme Court has dismissed two suits from 375 teachers and educational professionals requesting a ban on the enforced singing of the “Kimigayo,” Japan’s national anthem, in schools. The court ruled 4-1 that such orders are constitutional.

The issue has long been a contentious one with teachers who refused to stand and sing the “Kimigayo” at school. In many cases, dissenting teachers received reprimands, pay cuts or were suspended.

In announcing the decision Thursday, the court upheld last year’s Tokyo High Court decision that confirmed the constitutionality of enforced singing of the anthem in schools, and refused to ban the act of obliging children and staff to do so, TBS reported.

The court ruled that ordering teachers to sing the “Kimigayo” did not violate their freedom of thought, which was the basis for the plaintiffs’ claim.


Last VAOJ post on this subject:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Announcement: MA Film and History at SOAS (University of London)

From H-Japan:

This MA programme provides students with the opportunity to acquire expert knowledge of film in historical context as a means of mastering transferable analytical skills and so prepare students for a variety of professional or research careers. The program can be adapted to meet a wide range of interests. Its bi-directional focus on the disciplines of film and history also provides students with a flexible series of modular units from which to choose. The core course examines the representation of history in film, and film in history by placing filmic representations of the societies and diasporas of/from/between Asia and Africa into historical context. Students will critically evaluate a range of issues relating to the reliability of
film as the grounds for making inferences about the national and transnational histories of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East with particular attention to the critical evaluation of film as a source for, and product of, the historian's accounts of the past.

Students who enroll for this MA will engage in interdisciplinary analysis of film and history alongside SOAS academic who regularly consult for the film and television industries. Students will also be simultaneous members of the History Department and Film and Media Studies Centres which host regular events including roundtables and panel discussions with leading academics and film makers. Internship opportunities also available to students registered on the MA Programme. MA graduates will obtain a nuanced and specialised understanding of interconnectedness of media and history that will serve a variety of career options in business, media, culture and heritage, academia, and the arts.

For further information regarding admissions and degree structure visit:

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Tenri was one of the first places that made me fall in love with Japanese culture. In my early days in Japan I was able to explore Tenri often and deeply. Tenri is the home of Tenrikyo, an indigenous so-called "new religion" in Japan. For the most part Tenrikyo's belief system is independent although one can see cultural influences from Buddhism and Shinto. Tenrikyo believes in a monotheistic "God the Parent" and the practice of "the Joyous Life." Tenrikyo can be described as a pilgrimage religion (all humans were originally born in Tenri so when one visits they are always "coming home"), a faith healing religion (illnesses are a message from God and rituals are done to clear the dust that causes physical problems) and a missionary religion (Tenrikyo has spread out to the rest of the world - where there is a substantial Japanese population abroad you are bound to see Tenrikyo followers there as well).

Despite the "new religion" label, Tenrikyo seems incredibly Japanese culturally and historically. Foreign followers and young people often comment on the Meiji mentality and practices of the church headquarters. And the followers seem to be graying in the same way as Japanese society. I was initially drawn to Tenrikyo's seated service ritual which looks a lot like sign language. I don't get to visit Tenri as often these days, and when I do I always seem to be in a rush. Recently I was able to spend some leisurely time wandering around and taking photographs. Tenri with its amazing architecture, shopping arcade, friendly people and sense of spirituality is a place that must be experienced in person. Photographs cannot do it justice (although I still try...). For the full experience, visit Tenri in the morning of the 26th of each month for its monthly service.


Tenrikyo in Hawaii:

Tenrikyo Homepage (available in multiple languages):

Much has been written about Tenrikyo by both scholars outside and inside the faith. A Google Scholar search will give you many resources.

"Limber up for Osaka's full-on 'winter of love'"

From Japan Times, Kansai: Who & What, 2/5/12:

The "Love @ Osaka Project" at Osaka Station City has started, aiming to celebrate Valentine's Day this month and White Day on March 14, the final day of the event.

Part of the event is a "Love Photo" project, seeking photographs of your special ones and snaps of affectionate — though not overly intimate — moments with them. Photos can be submitted via the project's website until Feb. 29 and will be posted on the site. A drawing will be held and the winners will receive prizes such as digital single-lens reflex cameras and travel coupons.

For the event's "Love Message" project, photo sessions will be held at various places in Osaka Station City on Sunday, and then from Feb. 11 to 13 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Participants are invited to write tasteful love-related messages on a heart-shaped board and have their photo taken with it. The photos will be shown on digital signs throughout Osaka Station City, located at JR Osaka Station in Kita Ward, or a panel on the 16th floor of the South Gate Building.

Other events are planned during the "Love @ Osaka Project," including a free concert from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on March 10 at Atrium Hiroba plaza on the second floor.

For more information, visit (in Japanese).


Friday, February 3, 2012

"Court rules on using stars' images"

From The Daily Yomiuri Online, 2/3/12:

The Supreme Court on Thursday handed down the nation's first ruling on publicity rights, saying celebrities' names and photos are protected under publicity rights, but rejecting a compensation demand by the plaintiffs in the case, singing duo Pink Lady.

Presiding Justice Ryuko Sakurai said in the ruling: "Celebrities' names and images can help sales by attracting potential customers. They are protected under publicity rights."

By clarifying the status of publicity rights and providing a guideline on what constitutes a violation, the ruling will likely be seen as a wake-up call on using celebrities' names or images in publications and on the Internet without permission.

Pink Lady had demanded that Kobunsha Co. pay them compensation of 3.72 million yen, saying the use of their photos without their agreement in a magazine published by the company infringed on their publicity rights.

Though the top court admits the existence of publicity rights, the ruling upheld two lower court rulings that also turned down the singers' demand, saying the case did not constitute infringement of their publicity rights.

The two alleged that the Feb. 27, 2007, issue of "Josei Jishin" carried 14 photos of the duo, taken by the company in the past, in an article promoting a diet.

The plaintiffs insisted they were effectively commercial-use pictures, and the publisher aimed to profit by attracting fans of Pink Lady.

Although the court determined that photos are protected, in this case the ruling said, "In some cases, celebrities have to tolerate that their images may be used in certain situations such as news reports, news stories and others' creative products."

The ruling presented the guideline that an infringement of publicity rights occurs if photos themselves are sold or if they are mainly used for attracting customers.

The ruling said the case did not fulfill these conditions and thus the use of the photos did not infringe on the publicity rights of Pink Lady.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

"3 hearing-impaired men arrested over sign-language extortion"

From The Mainichi Daily News, 2/1/12:

Police have arrested three hearing-impaired men on suspicion of using sign language to extort money from another hearing-impaired person, law enforcers said.

The three suspects, identified as Kenta Yokoi, 33, Takao Tanaka, 30, and Hidetoku Takata, 34, are accused of duping a hearing-impaired woman into giving them 300,000 yen in Dec. 2009.

Yokoi and Tanaka, who have reportedly admitted to the allegations against them, were arrested and indicted on suspicion of fraud, among other charges. Takata was arrested on suspicion of blackmail.

According to investigative sources, the three used sign language to deceive a 25-year-old female company employee from the city of Nishio, Aichi Prefecture, telling her that Tanaka had a heart disease and needed money to cover his hospitalization expenses.

When the woman dismissed their story, police said the three became more aggressive, signing: "Do you want Tanaka to die from his disease?" and "You can't go home (without giving us money)."

Tanaka and Yokoi have also been arrested and indicted for impersonating police and using the cash card of a hearing-impaired woman from the Aichi prefectural city of Toyota to withdraw a total of 350,000 yen from her bank account between Nov. 2011 and Jan. 2012.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Hearing-impaired man picked as citizen judge"

From The Mainichi Daily News, 1/31/12:

A man with impaired hearing has been picked as a citizen judge in a trial of a robbery case that started at the Maebashi District Court on Monday.

It appears to be the first time someone with a hearing impairment has joined a lay judge trial since the system was launched in 2009.

The district court has sought the help of four sign language interpreters for the man, who was picked from 29 lay judge candidates.

The defendant is a man accused of attacking a businessman in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, stealing his wallet and injuring him in 2005. The defendant was a minor at the time of the crime.

The law disbars from citizen judge service only those with serious physical or mental handicaps that would make it impossible for them to perform their duties.

When a woman with impaired sight was picked as a citizen judge at the Utsunomiya District Court in 2010, prosecutors and defense lawyers submitted documents in Braille for her.