Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Mr. Hashimoto Attacks Japan's Constitution"

Is this post relevant for a visual anthropology-themed blog? Perhaps this post might best be filed under outrage?

Visual anthropology as I see it certainly includes the visions and images of society and culture; those visions of influential politicians like Osaka Mayor Hashimoto fall into this category. Aside from his "One Osaka" platform, he has been promoting ideas and ordinances aimed at giving him greater power at the expense of the rights of individuals. One of these rights is privacy, an issue that VAOJ has been concerned about in terms of protecting the visual anthropologist and those s/he studies during ethnographic fieldwork (especially the issue of photographing individuals in public). The Japanese public might be considered paranoid in terms of protecting their privacy; when politicians abuse privacy the environment can only get worse, making anthropological fieldwork that much more challenging. Is this too much of a stretch for VAOJ to get political? That's up to you. But anyone concerned with Japanese politics, human rights, privacy and/or living in Osaka should read this new article by by Lawrence Repeta at Japan Focus. Here is his introduction:

On February 6, 2012 Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru issued an order to all Osaka City employees compelling them to disclose personal information concerning labor union activity, their support for political candidates, and other sensitive matters. The survey includes such questions as “In the last two years, have you participated in any activities in support of a particular politician?” and “In the last two years, has a co-worker ever requested that you vote for a particular politician?” It goes on to request the identities of such co-workers or others who invited the respondent to participate in political activities. Each respondent must provide name, employee number and work description. (An English translation of the Hashimoto Survey is found at the end of the article.)

Although most questions in the Survey require respondents to identify themselves, the Survey also provides directions to a designated “reporting window” that create the opportunity to snitch on one’s enemies anonymously. This episode is illustrative of ongoing threats to the already precarious status of individual rights in Japan.

Mr. Hashimoto’s cover note includes a stiff reminder that he’s the boss: “this questionnaire is not a voluntary matter. It requires factually correct responses from all employees by order of the Mayor. In cases where responses are not true, penalties may be applied.”

The audacity of this inquiry into workers’ political and union activities and relationships is breathtaking. This is an intellectual strip search designed to enable the Mayor to create detailed personal profiles of all Osaka City employees. If these survey results are compiled, Mr. Hashimoto will be able to identify his political supporters and opponents with a few key strokes and then be free to find ways to reward and punish at his leisure. Protections for fundamental rights have been embedded in democratic constitutions all over the world and in international human rights treaties precisely to protect against this kind of abuse of power.

Link to entire article: http://japanfocus.org/-Lawrence-Repeta/3728

Click here for more VAOJ coverage of Mr. Hashimoto.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Break is Over - Let the Hanshin Goods Begin!

Some might argue that the taste of spring in Japan is ume (plum) or sakura (cherry). VAOJ begs to differ with these stereotypes, at least for the year 2012. This year the taste of spring is a light cheese paste sucked out of a plastic tube emblazoned with the Hanshin Tigers logo. I found this at my local supermarket yesterday and took it as a good sign. Hanshin fans are concerned this year about our local team due to a new manager and aging/injured players. But the early release of the cheese (undoubtedly to be followed by a plethora of other Hanshin-ized products) combined with the Tigers' defeat of the visiting Seattle Mariners during an exhibition game yesterday bring warmth to our hearts despite the continuing cold temperatures outside. This warmth is especially welcome for me after spending spring break in Japan's 48th prefecture and tropical paradise, Hawaii (look for "Japanese" Hawaii pics on this blog in the next few days). Visual Anthropology students are well into their blogs (see links to the left below) and JSL Study Group members are signing better than Obama. Once midterm exams are done and the cherry blossoms are here, things will only get better. Enjoy Spring!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Osaka teacher who refused to stand for anthem loses job"

And the local Osaka saga continues... From The Mainichi Daily News, 3/25/12:

A 61-year-old male teacher who refused to stand up during the singing of the "Kimigayo" national anthem at a graduation ceremony at an Osaka prefectural high school in February has been notified that his services are no longer required, local education officials said Saturday.

The teacher, who had been rehired by the school after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60, was highly evaluated by the school principal, who gave him the second highest competence rating. Nonetheless, he became the first teacher to be effectively sacked among a group of teachers at public high schools in Osaka Prefecture who were reprimanded earlier this month for similar behavior, a civic group said.

Accusing the prefectural education board of using the dismissal as a warning to others, the group opposes the compulsory gesture of respect for the Hinomaru national flag and the Kimigayo, which critics say symbolizes Japan's past imperialism and militarism. It plans to hold a meeting next week to consider filing a lawsuit over a series of punishments for teachers over the matter.

The issue stems from an ordinance that obliges teachers and school staff to stand and sing the Kimigayo. It was approved last June by the Osaka prefectural assembly to develop a spirit of patriotism among students, when current Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto was governor.

The teacher concerned, who was rehired last April, had been informally told in February that he could keep his position for the coming academic year, but on Monday received a written notice from the education board that the arrangement was being terminated. He is considering filing a complaint with the prefectural personnel committee, he and others said.

Among those reprimanded, seven other teachers were expecting to be rehired next April, but the education board said it is now considering what to do with them.

Link: http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120325p2g00m0dm001000c.html

If you haven't been following this story at VAOJ, you can start here and work your way back.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Representation of Japan (from Animal Planet): "The Legend of Maneki Neko | Must Love Cats "

Of course this video is much too simplistic. There are countless stories, legends and interpretations of Maneki Neko. Check out this source for more information:


Monday, March 5, 2012

Picturing 梅 in Banpaku Koen

It's the season for ume, and so it was back to Banpaku Koen for their Ume Matsuri where cameras seemed to outnumber the plum blossoms (although most representations won't show this...). There's always lots to photograph here, from the Tower of the Sun to ume, bamboo and other examples of juxtaposed nature and sculptures.

Information about Banpaku Koen: http://www.expo70.or.jp/e/

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Collaborative Film Project: "Japan in a Day"

Check out (and contribute!) to this interesting collaborative film project. Here's the description quoted from the Japan in a Day YouTube Channel:

Japan in a Day. One Nation. 24 hours. Millions of perspectives.

Japan In A Day is an extraordinary project to create the definitive self-portrait of Japan today, filmed by you on 11 March 2012, inspired by Life in a Day. It is dedicated, with our deepest sympathy, to those who lost their lives and those who are suffering as a result of the earthquake and tsunami that struck east Japan last year.

At 00:00 on Sunday 11 March 2012, Ridley Scott and Fuji TV invite you to capture the reality and intimacy of your day and to upload it here at www.youtube.com/japaninaday.

The resulting film will be a powerful and moving snapshot of Japan today, which will premiere in cinemas, and be screened around the world.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/user/Japaninaday/

Be sure to check out the Basic Rules tab for advice on methodology. Of particular interest:

It's generally OK to film in public places without permission. But in privately owned locations, make sure the owner of the location is OK with you filming there. We may later have to ask you to get the owner to sign a Location Release.

Don't shoot posters of a famous person or artwork or shoot brands or trademarks, such as cans of Coke, or famous manga unless you have the rights or permission to do so. If you do, we probably won’t be able to use your video.

Don't do anything stupid like breaking the law or not taking care of yourself or people you’re filming! Pay attention to your surroundings and your safety.

The Filming Tips tab has good advice (for this project in particular and/or filmmaking in general) as well:

Picture this

Filmmaking is storytelling: think about how to hold the viewers’ attention. Whether you’re filming you or someone else, the more personal the better.

Hold your shots long enough to establish them in the viewers’ mind. Avoid lots of panning and zooming – it will look messy and it will leave your viewers dizzy.

Don’t film yourself or your contributors in front of windows or other sources of bright light, unless of course you want them to appear in silhouette.

Make sure you know how to make your subject appear the right size in the frame, by having a trial run and reviewing the results. (Remember if filming on a mobile, to turn your phone around to landscape)

Loud and Clear

It’s really important that we can hear you properly. Pay attention to noises where you’re shooting which will interfere with recording sound. Try not to stand next to an air-conditioning vent or someone mowing the lawn! Outside be aware that a light breeze can sound like a gale when recording.

If you’re planning to move more than 3ft away from the camera during the filming, work out how you’re going to be heard. You could experiment with plugging a basic microphone into your camera.

Check the sound levels by making a short test film and playing back the sound. If it sounds distorted, you’re either too near the microphone or the sound level is turned up too high on the microphone.

It will be very interesting to see the various perspectives captured in this project - something to look forward to. I wonder about what will and will not be included and other aspects of editing/post-production. Still, this idea of collaboration is a step in the right direction towards a user-driven, participatory form of visual anthropology.

See recent related story at Japan Today: http://www.japantoday.com/category/entertainment/view/fuji-tv-joins-forces-with-ridley-scott-for-japan-in-a-day-documentary-on-tsunami

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sushi Films

Here's some information about two recent films about sushi...

1. Sushi: The Global Catch

Announcement via EASIANTH:

In this meticulously researched documentary, filmmaker Mark Hall traces the origins of sushi in Japan to its status today as a cuisine that has spawned a lucrative worldwide industry. This explosion in demand for sushi over the past 30 years has brought with it problems of its own, as fish stocks have steadily depleted, threatening the balance of the ocean’s ecosystems.

Through extensive interviews with prominent industry representatives and environmental activists, Hall carefully presents the various solutions being proposed to the vexing issue of overfishing. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival, Sushi: The Global Catch raises some pressing questions that all sushi lovers should seek to address.

Link: http://kinolorberedu.com/film.php?id=1244

Link: http://www.sushitheglobalcatch.com/

Sushi: The Global Catch - Trailer from Sakana Films on Vimeo.

2. The Story Of Sushi

From "The Story Of Sushi, Short Film Made Entirely From Hand-Crafted Miniatures, Warns Of The Dangers Of The Fish Industry" at Huffington Post.

The Story Of Sushi, a short film created for Bamboo Sushi restaurant in Portland, Oregon, has a pretty depressing take on the state of the world's sushi. The four minute film dives into issues of sustainability and overfishing, and is worth watching if you need a primer on how fishing works (or if you want to get really sad).

Beyond the learning component, though, the real reason to watch this clip is because of the amazing hand-crafted miniatures. In fact, the film took seven months to complete. That's pretty painstaking work -- and definitely worth four minutes of your time.

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/29/story-of-sushi_n_1310433.html

The Story of Sushi from Bamboo Sushi on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"City of Osaka passes 'Kimigayo' ordinance"

From The Daily Yomiuri Online, 3/1/12:

The Osaka City Assembly has passed an ordinance to oblige teachers to stand up and sing the "Kimigayo" national anthem at school ceremonies.

A bill for the ordinance was submitted by Mayor Toru Hashimoto to the assembly on Tuesday, the opening day of its session. In addition to Osaka Ishin no Kai, which has a majority in the assembly and is led by Hashimoto, New Komeito and the Liberal Democratic Party supported the bill after seeking revisions to part of it.

The ordinance obliges all teachers and workers in the city's public schools to stand up and sing "Kimigayo" at school ceremonies. It also obliges the city's public facilities to fly the Hinomaru national flag at all times.

The Osaka Prefectural Assembly passed a similar ordinance last June, when Hashimoto was governor. At that time, there was no other such ordinance in the nation.

Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120229005537.htm

Last VAOJ coverage of this issue: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.com/2012/02/8-osaka-teachers-to-be-punished-for.html