Monday, September 10, 2012

Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Does It Again... And Again. He's Cutting Funding to Human Rights Museum, Korean Schools, Bunraku, etc....

Those living in Osaka, Japan or anywhere else need to know what the current mayor of Osaka is doing based upon his own preferences and desired images of Japanese culture. This is especially true as his power grows and his local group becomes a national political party.

Hashimoto is cutting funding to Liberty Osaka, the only human rights museum in Japan. Why? Tessa Morris-Suzuki writes in her recent Japan Focus article (9/3/12):

The Osaka city government has until now provided a crucial part of the museum's funding, but the current city government, headed by mayor Hashimoto Tōru, has decided to halt this funding from next year, on the grounds that the museum displays are ‘limited to discrimination and human rights’ and fail to present children with an image of the future full of ‘hopes and dreams’ (Mainichi Shinbun 25 July 2012).

See the whole article: "Out With Human Rights, In With Government-Authored History: The Comfort Women and the Hashimoto Prescription for a ‘New Japan’"


Hashimoto has cut funding for Korean schools in Osaka. Why? Among other reasons, according to a recent Japan Times article (9/2/12), he doesn't like Korean schools displaying portraits of Kim Jong Il:

In March 2010, then-Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto announced the prefecture would stop paying subsidies to Korean schools that refuse to meet four criteria, including the removal of portraits of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The Osaka Prefectural Government stopped paying subsidies to one of the corporation's high schools in the 2010 academic year after determining it did not meet the provisions. It ended payments to most of the operator's elementary and junior high schools in the following school year because Kim's portrait adorned faculty rooms. For the current fiscal year, the prefecture didn't even allocate a budget for the subsidies. Meanwhile, the Osaka Municipal Government cut off subsidies to the schools when Hashimoto became mayor in 2011.

See the whole article: "Osaka faces Korean subsidy suits"


Hashimoto is cutting funding for Bunraku puppets (an art form originating in Osaka). Why? According to a recent Mainichi article (7/27/12), he didn't like the performance:

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who recently declared he would freeze subsidies to an association for Bunraku, a centuries-old form of puppet theater, expressed his dissatisfaction with a Bunraku show he saw on July 26, describing the performance as "unsatisfactory."

"I understood that this is an art that should be preserved as a classic (art form), but the last scene was plain, and lacked something," Hashimoto told reporters after watching "Sonezaki Shinju" (The love suicides at Sonezaki), a classic play based on the work of renowned 17th-18th century dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon, at the National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka's Chuo Ward on the evening of July 26.

"The staging was unsatisfactory," the mayor added in his comment on the play, which has not been changed since it was reintroduced to the public in 1955. "Does it really have to follow the old script that precisely?"

See the whole article: "Osaka mayor Hashimoto calls classic Japanese play 'unsatisfactory'"


Granted, Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City have terrible budget problems. But these cuts and others seem to be done by the whims and personal views of Hashimoto. These budget cuts, along with his witch-hunt for city employees with tattoos and his insistence of standing for the Japanese flag and national anthem provide insight into this man and the kind of changes he wants to do in the creation of his image/view of Japan.

Journalist Hiroshi Iwaisako provides more information about Hashimoto and perhaps his rationale for budget cuts and other actions in a recent article at (7/24/12); his report/perspective is more serious/formal than other descriptions of Hashimoto that have appeared in other sources.

See the article: "What to Make of Hashimoto Tōru?"


See also: "Hashimoto sets new national party, names it Nihon Ishin no Kai" by Eric Johnston (9/9/12)


As for tattoos, Hashimoto might benefit from reading this article: "Top Arizona court rules tattooing is protected speech" (9/7/12)


People need to know what Hashimoto is doing along with his so-called rationale. Is this what we want for the future of Japan?

Link to Liberty Osaka Human Rights Museum:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Filming curtailed in 'suicide forest'"

From The Daily Yomiuri Online, 9/6/12:

The Yamanashi prefectural government has decided to prohibit the shooting of movies and TV dramas in the Aokigahara forest at the base of Mt. Fuji if the scenes include suicides, as they believe such depictions could encourage suicides in real life.

Yamanashi Gov. Shomei Yokouchi said he wants to erase the image of the forest as a famous site for suicide.

The decision was incorporated into the prefecture's action guideline for suicide prevention, which was drawn up Tuesday.

According to National Police Agency statistics, the prefecture's suicide rate was 36.1 per 100,000 people in 2011, the highest nationwide for the fifth year in a row. Last year, 312 people committed suicide in the prefecture.

According to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry statistics, 212 residents of the prefecture killed themselves last year. The prefectural government said many people who committed suicide came from outside the prefecture.

A large number of them do so in the Aokigahara forest. Since most of the forest is owned by the prefecture, movie or drama producers need to obtain permission from the prefecture to film in the forest. In making its decision, the government takes into consideration what scenes will be filmed.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Announcement for Film Screening at University of Tokyo: "Ashes to Honey"

Announcement from H-Japan; if you are in the Tokyo area, check out this film:

"Ashes to Honey" [Mitsubachi no haoto to chikyū no kaiten]

Year: 2010

Film Length: 115 minutes

Subtitles: English
Director: Kamanaka Hitomi, Group Gendai

Discussant: David McNeill, Sophia University

While the weekly anti-nuclear demonstrations now taking place in Japan mark a new chapter in local citizens' action, they may also be understood as part of a longer history of popular protest, and an ongoing debate about political transparency, democracy, and grassroots action in Japan. In the spirit of understanding the current debates and some of the deeper questions they raise, UTCP has organized a screening and discussion of Kamanaka Hitomi's film Ashes to Honey (2010).

Filmed before the 3/11 disaster, Ashes to Honey takes both a local and global perspective on questions about energy policy, sustainable society, and non-violent protest. At the local level, it depicts the situation on Iwaishima, an island on the Seto Inland Sea, where the residents have been locked in struggle for almost three decades to protect their lives and livelihood from the construction of a nuclear plant by Chugoku Denryoku. To bring this into a global perspective, Kamanaka travels to Sweden, to assess the results of two decades of alternative energy policy, and whether parts of the North European model could be successfully implemented in Japan.

Taking the debate around energy policy as a point of departure, Ashes to Honey prompts us to reflect on how we imagine a future, sustainable society, and the efforts required to realize it.

We are pleased invite you to join us for this special screening, to be followed by a discussion and Q & A with the director.

Kamanaka Hitomi is a documentary filmmaker, working extensively on the issue of nuclear energy. Following ten years at NHK, Kamanaka-san today works as an independent filmmaker. Her previous films include Hibakusha — At the End of the World (2004), and Rokkashomura Rhapsody (2006).

Date: 17:00-20:30, Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Place: Media Lab 2, 1st Floor, Building 18, University of Tokyo, Komaba Access:

For more information:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Announcement: The Royal Anthropological Institute's Body Canvas Photography Competition‏

I recently received information about this interesting photo contest dealing with the body as canvas. The submissions they are looking for are Engaging photographs that explore biological, cross-cultural and social elements of body art and modification in relation to these categories:

1) Tattoos and Scarification
2) Piercings and Body Reshaping

Deadline for submissions 30th September 2012.

For further information and submission guidelines please visit:

Take a look at previous photo competitions on flickr:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

"School asks deaf preschooler to change his sign language name"

From The Lookout via Yahoo! News:

Three-and-a-half  year old Hunter Spanjer, who is deaf, signs his name by crossing his forefinger and index finger and moving his hand up and down.

To his family, friends and those who know the Signing Exact English (S.E.E.) language that the Grand Island, Neb., boy uses, that gesture uniquely means "Hunter Spanjer."

But to Hunter's school district, it might mean something else. The district claims that it violates a rule that forbids anything in the school that looks like a weapon, reports KOLN-TV.

And Hunter's parents claim that Grand Island Public Schools administrators have asked them to change their son's sign language name.

"Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous," Hunter's grandmother Janet Logue told the TV station. "This is not threatening in any way."

Hunter's father Brian Spanjer said, "It's a symbol. It's an actual sign, a registered sign, through S.E.E."

The family told KOLN that lawyers from the National Association of the Deaf may push for Hunter's right to sign his name at the school.

Jack Sheard, Grand Island Public Schools spokesperson told KOLN, "We are working with the parents to come to the best solution we can for the child."

One Grand Island resident said she disagrees with the school.

"I find it very difficult to believe that the sign language that shows his name resembles a gun in any way would even enter a child's mind," Fredda Bartenbach said in the news report.


Thanks to my colleague, JH, for bringing this to my attention. Here's my take on this situation.

This is a great example of the problems associated with signing systems as opposed to natural sign languages. Signing Exact English (S.E.E.) is not a language. It is a system, or more precisely a modality, to express English language through manual gestures. It is different from American Sign Language (ASL). S.E.E. was created to supposedly make it easier for deaf people to communicate with hearing people. While S.E.E. adapts some signs from ASL, it uses the same grammar and word order as spoken English. ASL has its own unique grammar and word order. Culturally Deaf people use ASL. Those deaf people who don't advocate Deaf culture and wish to mainstream into hearing society use S.E.E. or other similar manual systems.

So it would seem that if your intention is to sign/communicate English, and if a particular sign is problematic for English speakers, then that sign should probably not be used. If the young boy was using ASL, most likely he would not have been given such a name sign. Here is a cross-cultural example to support this claim. In Japanese Sign Language (JSL), an individual's name is usually expressed using the established signs for the kanji characters that make up her name. For example, the name Yamamoto consists of two kanji, 山 (yama) and 本 (moto). JSL would express the name by signing yama + moto. However some kanji signs are seen as odd, offesnsive or just plain creepy. In these instances, other signs are used, or in the extreme case, the name is fingerspelled. Nobody wants an odd, offensive or creepy name.

A signed name that resembles a gun or violence might fall into such a category.

It should also be noted that name signs are a part of Deaf culture. (Name signs in Japan are different than how their names are expressed through signing kanji). Name signs are unique to the individual. A Deaf person seeing a name sign for the first time would not automatically know the name of the individual. Usually name signs are based upon an individual's physical characteristic or personality trait. (ASL usually incorporates a fingerspelling handshape as well.) A person must be given a name sign by a Deaf person. One cannot make up their own name sign. Receiving a name sign can be seen as recognition and acceptance into the Deaf World. A hearing person cannot make a name sign. So the question here is who gave the young boy the problematic name sign in the first place? A culturally Deaf person would most likely not give another person such a name sign. Often times name signs change in a person's life as physical traits and behaviors change.

So changing the young boy's name sign might not be such a traumatic event after all.

My comments here are based upon the ideal social models of deafness - cultural vs. deficit. In the former ASL in the U.S (or JSL in Japan) would be favored; in the latter S.E.E. in the U.S. (or Signed Japanese in Japan) would be favored. In reality, there is no such clear cut separation as this particular case shows.  I work with Deaf people in Japan who hold clinics and workshops to promote JSL and eradicate Signed Japanese. I have grown to understand this mentality. But my research shows that such a goal is impossible in the realm of deaf communication. The bottom line: there is much diversity in the deaf world just as there is in the hearing world in terms of politics, attitudes and language use.