Friday, June 29, 2012

"Comfort women photographer pleased by Japan court"

From Japan Today, 6/29/12:

A South Korean photographer whose Tokyo exhibition on Japanese wartime sex slaves only went ahead after a court injunction said Thursday it was important to display the work to inform the public.
Japan-based Ahn Sehong said he had been disappointed when camera maker Nikon abruptly cancelled his exhibition, which features 37 pictures of some of the now-elderly Korean women forced into sex slavery during World War II.

In January a company selection committee had approved Ahn’s proposal for the show at Nikon Salon in the Shinjuku business district of Tokyo, to be held from June 26-July 9, he told reporters.

But on May 22 the company unexpectedly told him it was shelving the show, three days after a newspaper article about it appeared.

It was only the intervention last week of Tokyo District Court, which ordered Nikon to provide a display space, that ensured the show would go ahead.

“I felt I needed to inform (the public) about these elderly women, former comfort women,” he told a press conference.

Ahn said he believed nationalists had pressured Nikon after the article appeared, making the company reluctant to be associated with the exhibition.

Personal threats from rightwingers increased when the show started Wednesday, said Ahn, who moved his family outside the central city of Nagoya after receiving a number of abusive emails and phone calls.

The issue is a sensitive and divisive one in Japan, whose military exercised a brutal rule over Korea, parts of China and other areas of Asia during World War II.

Many Japanese agree that young Asian women were forced into sex slavery for Japanese soldiers during the war.

But some argue that local pimps and businesses tricked the women into prostitution rings, with Japanese soldiers buying their services as customers and having no direct role in the running of brothels.

The issue continues to cause friction between Seoul and Tokyo, with South Korea repeatedly asking for talks on compensation, overtures Japan has turned down, citing the 1965 compensation deal that led to the normalisation of relations.

Nikon has been tight-lipped about the on-off-on show.

“We told Mr. Ahn that we would like to cancel the show after comprehensively reviewing various factors,” a Nikon spokesman said Thursday, refusing to elaborate.

The company has objected to the court injunction, he added.



Makiko Segawa provides more details in her Japan Focus article:

Nikon, Neo-Nationalists and a Censored Comfort Women Photo Exhibition


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Osaka mayor's survey finds 10 education professionals with tattoos"

From Japan Today, 6/27/12:

The controversial local government survey in Osaka, in which all employees of the city government were pressured to provide information about visible and concealed tattoos, has found a further 10 people with tattoos working in schools in the prefecture, Fuji TV reported. 

The survey, requested in May by right-wing Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, was criticized by lawmakers and teachers throughout the prefecture, where about 800 teachers and other school workers refused to respond, saying it infringed on their right to privacy.

Hashimoto launched the crusade to eradicate tattoos from the public sector, saying that the local government would block the promotion and advancement of any city employee who declined to respond to the survey asking them if they have tattoos. 

A local lawyers’ group asked Hashimoto to cancel the investigation, calling it a violation of human rights. However, the survey was pushed through by the mayor.

Initially, the survey found that 110 workers reported having tattoos, including sea turtles, moons and dolphins. Many of the respondents work in public transport and the city waste disposal departments.

This week, the survey turned up 10 school workers with tattoos. One is believed to be an elementary school teacher and the other nine are thought to work as janitors or in school cafeterias, Fuji TV reported. Eight of the respondents said their tattoos were not visible. Two said that they were visible, but that they covered them up during staff meetings to avoid disciplinary action.

There has been speculation in the press that Hashimoto’s crusade may have been influenced in part by his father and uncle, who are rumored to have been gangsters, Fuji reported. However, the it is not known whether the two men had tattoos.


A similar story in the Daily Yomiuri Online, 6/27/12, included this quote:

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto told reporters, "I've heard the teacher [with the tattoo] wants to have it erased, and I hope the teacher has it done in a way that doesn't shame the teaching profession."


Click here for previous VAOJ coverage of the Hashimoto tattoo issue.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Towards Medical Interpretation Service in Hirakata (for Deaf and Foreign People) - The Third Forum Report, Photos and More.

The Third Forum for Medical Interpretation for Deaf People and Foreigners took place last Sunday with Dr. Kiyomi Takizawa from the Gunma University School of Medicine as the key note speaker. Despite a hot, humid day and a somewhat inconvenient location, there was a good turnout, almost 100 people. The main topic was the use of internet technology to provide interpretation for non-Japanese speakers at hospitals and other locations. Below is a YouTube clip from NHK World News that reports on the use of this technology, especially after the 3.11 disasters.


The news report gives a good overview of the advantages and disadvantages of this system for foreigners needing medical interpretation. The Third Forum featured a similar simulation that showed competent translation but somewhat awkward communication. But what about interpretation for Deaf people? A simulation was attempted with a Deaf patient, hearing doctor and a sign language interpreter at a separate location. Unfortunately, Skype and the internet were not so cooperative and we couldn't get it to work. However Deaf and hearing alike with Skype experience know how convenient it is and how clunky it is as well. Natural sign language (in terms of speed and rhythm) are difficult over Skype and this of course would be a major burden in a medical situation.

Despite these difficulties there is still a lot of potential for this technology. I am sure Dr. Takizawa and his colleagues will continue working the bugs out. It would also seem to be a good idea for more qualitative research to be done among doctors, nurses, interpreters and potential patients to see what sort of things are needed in terms of improving technology. And that is where these Forums become even more important.

More Forums will take place (stay tuned to VAOJ for details) and further issues of medical interpretation will be explored. If you are a foreigner in Japan, or Deaf, you might want to get involved. Please do.

Link to previous VAOJ coverage:

Link to 3rd Forum Photos:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ota's Surfin' Lecture

Filmmaker Ayako Imamura recently gave a lecture in Hirakata-shi about her new film, Coffee and Pencil. So it seemed like a good idea to invite the star of the film, Tatsuro Ota, for a guest lecture as well. He generously accepted and came all the way from Shizuoka to tell his surfing tales to a full house.

Upbeat, very genki and extremely popular, Ota is never at a loss for an interesting story about surfing, his surf shop, his deaf family, his early days at deaf schools, experiences in Hawaii, etc., etc. He also showed a film clip with footage not included in Coffee and Pencil.

Ota is a fun and generous person and another example of a great communicator. Be sure to check out the film if you haven't seen it yet. And visit his surf shop as well for some good Hawaiian coffee and conversation. But if the waves are up, you might have to catch him at the beach...

Link to more photos of the event:

Link to Ota's web page (in Japanese):

Coffee and Pencil will be  playing at the KAVC Cinema in Kobe from 6/23 - 6/29.
For more information:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Towards Medical Interpretation Service in Hirakata (for Deaf and Foreign People) - The Third Forum

The dialogue about providing medical interpretation for deaf people and foreigners in Hirakata-shi (and beyond) continues on Sunday, June 17 at Tokai University Gyosei High School in Hirakata-shi. Dr. Kiyomi Takizawa from the Gunma University School of Medicine will discuss the use of the internet in medical interpretation. In this method, the interpreter does not need to be in the same physical location as the patient and/or doctor; Skype and other internet programs are used instead. Click on the above poster for more details in Japanese. For details in English see below:

Day, Date, Time: Sunday, June 17, 2012, 1:00 PM
Place: Tokai University Gyosei High School Media Center IT Corner (click here for map). The high school is a ten minute walk from the Murano Station on the Keihan Katano Line (three stops away from Hirakata-shi eki).
Admission: FREE.

This is the Third Forum dealing with this very important issue. How can foreigners and deaf people receive proper medical care without interpreters? The immediate goal of the organizing group is to have interpreters available at the new Hirakata City Hospital when it opens next year. The long term goal is to create a template for medical interpretation services throughout Japan. Please come and support the cause. The lecture will be in Japanese with Japanese Sign Language and English interpretation.

Click here for information about the First Forum.

Click here for information about the Second Forum.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Here's some more of what Hashimoto has to offer...

Today I received my monthly newsletter from Deaf Support Osaka. In it was a recap of a major news story, at least for so-called disabled people, in Osaka. Here is the English version which was reported in The Mainichi, May 7, 2012 (can't seem to find any other English reporting in other sources...):

 Draft ordinance criticized for blaming developmental disorders on lack of parental love 

A draft ordinance mulled by a group of city councilors here has come under fire for attributing developmental disorders to a lack of parental love. 

 The group -- members of the Osaka Municipal Assembly who belong to the Osaka Restoration Association (Osaka Ishin no Kai) headed by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto -- is planning to propose the draft called the "home education support ordinance." 

The proposed ordinance links juvenile delinquency and child abuse by parents to development disorders, and blames a lack of parental love for such disorders. However, doctors and parents have voiced strong opposition to the proposed ordinance, saying it is groundless and would increase prejudice. 

On May 7, 13 groups of parents and guardians who raise children with development disorders visited the Osaka Municipal Assembly and demanded the draft not be proposed. In response, the municipal assembly members' group has decided not to submit the draft to this month's municipal assembly meeting. 

The planned ordinance was unveiled by the city councilors' group on May 1, with the aim of raising parents' awareness as guardians and enhancing support for home education amid a series of child abuse cases. 

The draft ordinance has five chapters and 23 articles, including "support for parenthood education" and "prevention of development disorders and abuse." 

The draft ordinance, however, attributes development disorders to a lack of attachment formation during infancy and maintains that such disorders can be prevented by traditional child-rearing. 

Satoshi Takada, professor at Kobe University graduate school, criticized the proposed ordinance, saying, "The assertions that development disorders can be prevented by traditional child-rearing and the expressions that attribute such disorders to the parents' way of child-raising are groundless from a medical point of view and could lead to prejudice against children and their families." 

A 45-year-old mother in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, whose 16-year-old son has pervasive development disorder, was critical of the proposed ordinance. 

"I was hurt because the ordinance appeared to be blaming me for my son's development disorder. While I'd appreciated recent legal improvements and deepened public understanding of development disorders, I'm too angry for words," she said. 

The 13 groups of parents that visited the Osaka Municipal Assembly -- including "Osaka Jiheisho Kyokai" (Association of autism in Osaka) and "Osaka LD Oya no kai Otafuku-kai (Association of parents of children with learning disabilities in Osaka) -- criticized the planned ordinance as "based on logic that is academically groundless," demanding its withdrawal and the holding of study meetings inviting concerned groups and experts. 

Protests against the proposed ordinance have also prevailed on Twitter since May 1, with comments saying, "Is my child a failure?" and "It's bogus science." 

Mayor Hashimoto revealed on May 7 that he demanded the city councilors' group review the controversial ordinance plan. "The proposed ordinance is tantamount to declaring to mothers of children with development disorders that they are lacking in affection for their children," he told assembled media representatives. 


Link (in Japanese):

Oh there is so much going wrong with this guy...