Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Toshikoshi Soba 2013


It is a tradition here at VAOJ to document the purchase of toshikoshi soba ("end of the year soba noodles") on New Year's Eve (2011, 2012). This year is no exception. I got to the local shop even earlier this year and was able to get my noodles and all the fixings (soup, shrimp tempura, beef, dried tofu) with no trouble. The shop is popular and has a steady stream of customers from morning to evening. As I bought the soba the shop clerk recognized me: "You're the one who takes pictures every year..." Another customer asked if the shop would still be selling soba later in the evening. The clerk said that most likely they would be sold out by then. So the customer got on his cell phone to consult with his wife about what to buy. Research pays off.

Thanks to all of my students, colleagues and VAOJ readers for all of their efforts in 2013. And thanks everyone at the soba shop for letting me take their photos every year - and for the great soba! 良いお年を!



Thursday, December 26, 2013

It's never too late for good news: Ishikari City in Hokkaido has passed an ordinance recognizing Japanese Sign Language

VAOJ apologizes for the late reporting...

Earlier this month Ishikari City in Hokkaido passed the second ordinance in Japan that recognizes and supports the use of Japanese Sign Language. The ordinance is similar to the one passed recently in Tottori prefecture. Part of Ishikari's ordinance also mandates written Japanese be used in social welfare matters for those deaf people who don't use sign language. It is encouraging that information about the nature of sign language and deaf people is spreading. Let's hope for more similar ordinances soon.

Source (Mainichi Shimbun in Japanese): http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20131216k0000m040065000c.html

Friday, December 13, 2013

"Fake" Sign Language Interpreter Update: 'We made error over Nelson Mandela sign language interpreter – government'

The "fake" sign language interpreter at the Mandela memorial has been all over the news. This morning on Fuji Television's Tokudane show there was extensive coverage, including an interview with Deaf linguist Soya Mori.

Here's the latest on the South African government response to complaints about the "fake" (from The Guardian, 12/12/13):

The South African government has admitted that the sign language interpreter accused of gesticulating nonsense during the Nelson Mandela memorial service lacked qualifications and that the company who supplied him had a history of substandard services and in this instance, "cheating".

Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the deputy minister for women, children and people with disabilities, conceded a mistake had been made, but denied that Thamsanqa Jantjie was a fraud and refused to rule out employing him again.

"It was bad. Was he a fake? No. Does he have the training? He has only the introduction to the training. That's like a lot of South Africans," Bogopane-Zulu said.

"It is the first time I've seen complaints come to my office from the deaf community about him. It was the first time yesterday that the deaf community had brought it to my attention."

Millions of TV viewers saw Jantjie, 34, interpreting speeches by Barack Obama and other global leaders at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg. His gestures baffled and angered deaf people around the world, with experts saying he did not know even basic signs such as "thank you" or "Mandela".

The African National Congress, having previously pleaded ignorance, said on Thursday that it had used Jantjie's services over the years, but was not involved in the organisation of the memorial service, and was therefore "not in a position to offer a view on how his services were secured by the government".

Jantjie claimed on Thursday that he is qualified but was hallucinating and hearing voices during the service, and that he is receiving treatment for schizophrenia.

"There was nothing I could do," Jantjie told South Africa's Star newspaper on Thursday. "I was alone in a very dangerous situation. I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry. It's the situation I found myself in."

Jantjie said his episode meant he was seeing things and hearing loud voices in his head, impairing his ability to hear and interpret the speeches. But he could not leave so he persevered. "Life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn't understand this illness will think that I'm just making this up."

He did not know what triggered the attack, he added, saying he took medication for his schizophrenia.

Bogopane-Zulu argued that South African sign language had more than 100 dialects, making it impossible to be understood by everyone. "Unless there's something I'm missing, I don't think we as a country should say we're embarrassed. The issue of sign language has always been about where you live, what school you go to and what language you speak."

Pressed on whether South Africa should be embarrassed, she insisted: "I don't think it's the right choice of word. I don't think he was just picked up from the street. He went to a school for the deaf; I went to a school for the deaf."

Jantjie's first language is Xhosa, one of 11 official languages in South Africa, the minister continued. She said: "He was not able to translate from English to Xhosa to sign language. He started well and then in the middle he got tired and lost concentration. That did not mean he is a bad sign language interpreter."

Asked if anyone understood Jantjie's gestures at the memorial, she said only: "We will find someone who understands him, who requested his services, but we're not going to do it now."

Another interpreter at the event was similarly unable to participate when host Cyril Ramaphosa spoke in the Zulu language, Bogopane-Zulu said. She also said South Africa was well ahead of many other countries in providing sign language services for presidential speeches.

She admitted, however, that SA Interpreters, the company that provided Jantjie, had a poor record and had now "vanished into thin air. Over the years they have been getting away with this. They have been providing substandard services to clients. The company has been in existence for a while but it looks like they have been cheating."

Whereas the standard fee for an interpreter is 1,300 to 1,700 rand (£76-£100) a day, she noted, Jantjie was being paid just 800 rand a day.

She denied Jantjie had been a security risk and declined to comment on his state of mind. "I don't think it will get us anywhere to get into his health, his violence, his schizophrenia. I don't think other service providers or journalists there on the day had their health profiles discussed."

An investigation was ongoing, Bogopane-Zulu added. "Will we invite him to big national events in future? It's not for me to stand here and say yes or no."

One journalist asked if Jantjie would be "brought to justice". Bogopane-Zulu replied: "Why? What crime has he committed? Why should he be brought to justice? Yes, he did not sign as well as expected, but what crime has he committed?"

Bogopane-Zulu reiterated that sign language in South Africa lacked a universal standard and was the subject of disagreement among academics. "There is a battle between black and white sign language people. Urban and rural. Whose slang takes priority? What unit should be used to measure it?"

On Wednesday South Africa's leading deaf association denounced Jantjie as a fake, saying he was inventing signs, and described the episode as an insult to deaf people and Mandela himself.

Asked in a radio interview how he felt about being the centre of such scrutiny, Jantjie said: "It is very sad at this present moment because I believe that it was an issue that had to be dealt with earlier. If the Deaf Federation of South Africa have an issue with my interpreting it was supposed to be in clarity a long time ago, not during this crucial time for our country."

He added: "If I interpreted wrong, why is it an issue now? Why wasn't it an issue when I was doing interpretation at MaSisulu's funeral and many big events in South Africa?"

Jantjie claimed he worked for a company called "SA Interpreters" and when asked if he has a formal qualification, he replied: "Yes, absolutely."

The controversy has marred South Africa's 10-day farewell to Mandela, whose remains were lying in state for a second day on Thursday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he was sworn in as the nation's first black president in 1994.


Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/12/nelson-mandela-sign-language-interpreter-error-south-africa-government

Check out the other Guardian links at the end of the story, especially "The Mandela sign interpreter has done deaf people a favour"

Poor quality sign language interpreting is a common problem. I hope the media focus on Thamsanqa Jantjie goes some way to solve it.

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/12/nelson-mandela-sign-language-interpreter-deaf-people-antjie

Thursday, December 12, 2013

OUTRAGE: Interpreter at Mandela memorial a fake

I watched part of the Nelson Mandela memorial on CNN and was pleased to see a sign language interpreter right next to the speakers. Since I am not familiar with South African Sign Language I did not really examine the interpreter in any detail. Then the news broke out from several sources that the interpreter was a fake. WTF? Who would do such a thing? Why would someone do such a thing? And how could this happen at the Mandela memorial?

I am assuming that most readers have already read this story or have seen it on the TV news (if not check out the source links below). It's final exam week here at my university and I am in the middle of grading student essays from my Deaf World Japan course. I want to post a few quotes from various sources that seem especially relevant and important as the course draws to a close:

The sign language interpreter at Tuesday's memorial service in Johannesburg for Nelson Mandela may have appeared to have been translating spoken words into gestures during the four hours he appeared on television screens around the world, but he was a fake, observers said Wednesday. (CNN)

Four hours? Interpreters usually need to switch off every 15-20 minutes.

UK deaf news blog The Limping Chicken said the sign language interpreter had a "strange repetitive rhythm to his movements", and "the structure of his hand and body movements didn't seem to change no matter what the speaker was saying"... Blog editor Charlie Swinbourne said the man "made a mockery of our language". (BBC)

The man showed no facial expressions, which are key in South African sign language, and his hand signals were meaningless... (CNN)

I constantly preach about the importance of facial expression in sign language. Here's more proof.

Though each country has its own sign language, all of them entail facial expressions, she [a sign language expert] said. She called his lack of facial expression "a giveaway." (CNN)

...[I]n a statement, the government said it "wishes to assure South Africans that we are clear in defending the rights and dignity of people with disabilities". (BBC)

How is this a disability issue? Isn't this a language interpretation issue? Imagine if a English interpreter was voicing some gobbledygook rather than the real interpretation.

"I knew exactly... that he wasn't authentic at all, and it was offensive; it was offensive to me." (CNN)

If the accusations that the man was a "fake" turn out to be true, "on a day when the world saluted a man who fought oppression, a guy stood on stage and effectively oppressed another minority - deaf people", Mr Swinbourne wrote. (BBC)

This is yet another example of how deaf people are denied the right to information.

Japan Today covered the story as well with readers leaving comments. Here are some examples that illustrate a lack of knowledge and/or sensitivity about deaf people:

Sign language seems to be a secret language which no one can understand.

That was enough for me. I knew what he tried to say.

If a complaint is made and no one is around to hear it, is there an issue?

I couldn't help but laugh at this, I might go to hell for this, but admit it, it is quite funny.

I think that is the problem- rather than even try to get an interpreter the countries are faking it and expecting people not to care - i guess they feel being hearing impaired means there is a learning impairment as well - right?

That's HYSTERICAL ( sorry deaf people ).

Saw this on TV. As I can't read sign language, I can only say that this dude seemed to know what he was doing. Now that I know he's fake ... it is funny to watch him in action.


Let's hope we find out more about this fake interpreter and that this will be an opportunity for people to learn more about deaf people and sign languages.

Sources:

CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/11/world/africa/mandela-memorial-fake-intepreter/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25330672

Japan Today: http://www.japantoday.com/category/world/view/sign-language-interpreter-at-mandela-memorial-a-fake

UPDATE: 'Fake' sign language interpreter at Mandela memorial claims it was 'schizophrenic episode'

Story from The Telegraph, 12/12/13:

The "fake" sign language interpreter at the Nelson Mandela memorial service has claimed he suffered a schizophrenic episode on stage that left him unable to do his job properly

The man, named as local media as Thamsanqa Jantjie, said he is unsure whether it was the magnitude of what he was doing or the happiness he felt throughout the day that might have triggered the attack.

“There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation. I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry, it’s the situation I found myself in," he told the Johannesburg Star.

Mr Jantjie said that during his episode, he continued seeing things and hearing loud voices in his head that impaired his ability to hear well and interpret what was being said.

He told the newspaper that he could not leave, so stayed on and continued to sign things that did not make sense.


Read the whole story: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/nelson-mandela/10512672/Fake-sign-language-interpreter-at-Mandela-memorial-claims-it-was-schizophrenic-episode.html

Here's another interesting source (ABC) that shows video of the "fake" alongside video of the sign language interpreter used on TV by the South African Broadcasting Corporation:

Nelson Mandela memorial 'fake' sign language controversy: who's the man in the suit?

Link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-12/nelson-mandela-memorial-fake-impersonator-in-gifs/5152014

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Visual Anthropology of Japan Fall Photo Exhibition


The VAOJ Fall Photo Exhibition at Kansai Gaidai University features both print and digital formats in two locations. Check out the prints in the CIE first floor lounge and the the digital show in CIE Room 3208 (along with the Asian Studies Program Student Ceramics and Manga Exhibitions). There are a wide range of subjects and lots of interesting photographs.

Project titles and artists:

Purikura by Emma Fukuyama
Bringing Art to Life by Cody Alexander Golden
Makeup by Rina Hamada
Why Do We Pierce? by Sayaka Higshine
A Flood of Katakana by Haruka Ichihashi
Nekohoudai by Zoë Madonna
“Yūjo” by Chelsea Pinneke
Hello Kitty Everything and Anything? by Jake Reynolds
日本のカスタムカー by Jesse Sherriff
灯籠 Lanterns of Japan by Kyle Sine
What is Kawaii for Japanese Girls? by Saori Tsuge

Free and open to all!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Japan in Depth / HIV check system needs improvement"

From The Japan News, 12/2/13:

It has become imperative to improve checks for human immunodeficiency virus, including those on blood donations, following the discovery of the virus in donated blood that was used in transfusions.

About 1,500 people a year develop AIDS or are newly infected with HIV in Japan. As it is possible to prevent the development of HIV into AIDS if the virus is detected early, HIV checks are crucial.

In the latest case, one of two people who received transfusions of the blood in question contracted HIV.

The Red Cross Society told a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry panel on activities involving blood products that it does not conduct blood donations to check for HIV and does not notify donors of infection, in principle, if found.

The Red Cross Society emphasized this at a meeting of the panel of the ministry’s Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council held on Tuesday. “There are people who donate blood in the belief that they will be notified if the result is positive,” an official of the society said.

Among about 5 million blood donations per year, 60 to 100 are found to be HIV positive, and are consequently disposed of.

The government recommends people take the tests at public health centers and local governments anonymously and at no charge. However, many checks can only be taken during the day on weekdays.

Ichiro Itoda, director of Shirakaba Clinic in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, which provides such tests, as well as treatment for people infected with HIV, said, “Unless people can receive the checks in the evening and on weekends and holidays, and do so at local clinics, the number of blood donations checked for HIV will not decrease.”

The number of HIV checks conducted by public health centers and other conventional sites since 2010 has fallen by about 50,000 to 130,000 a year.

However, the number of people who take HIV tests offered by private institutions by mail has been rapidly increasing.

According to research by a team of Keio University researchers led by Shingo Kato, a junior associate professor of the university, there were 65,000 private-sector HIV checks last year.

For the test, which costs several thousand yen, users take blood samples at home and send them to companies that then conduct the checks. The results can be accessed, for instance, through a password-protected Web portal.

Gunma Medical Examination (GME), a medical institution in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, tests more than 10,000 samples a year. An official of the organization said applications for the tests have tripled since Tuesday, when it was revealed that HIV-tainted blood had passed through the checks.

According to GME, three or four samples a year are found to be HIV positive through its tests. Officials said they recommended people found to be HIV positive take a test to confirm the result at a medical institution. GME does not conduct follow-up research analyses.

Prof. Aikichi Iwamoto of the Institute of Medical Science of the University of Tokyo, also chairman of the health ministry’s AIDS Trend Committee, said, “While it’s desirable to increase the options for receiving the checks, infected people need to be linked with medical institutions more smoothly.”

HIV infection through blood transfusions would undermine the very foundation of the blood donation system in this country.

To prevent this, the Japanese Red Cross Society is planning to raise the precision of their HIV tests on donated blood from next summer. However, it is difficult to detect the HIV virus in the blood for about 40 days after infection, as the amount is still small. Strictly speaking, there is no foolproof way to prevent infected blood from slipping in through the test.

Blood donors’ identification is verified through their driver’s license or other such documents. They are also interviewed by a doctor using a questionnaire with 23 questions, such as whether they have been abroad, whether they have donated blood before, and whether they have had sexual relations with multiple partners or other men.

Regarding the case in question, the Japanese Red Cross said the infected donor had lied on the questionnaire. In Australia, donors who make false statements on such questionnaires are penalized. However, the ministry is reluctant to introduce such penalties.

Twenty-five years ago, there were about 8 million blood donations per year in Japan. However, today the number has dwindled to about two-thirds of this figure.

An official of the Japanese Red Cross lamented the situation. “We can’t simply doubt people who come into donate their blood out of good will,” the official said.


Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000838089

Normal life with 1 pill a day (The Japan News, 12/2/13)

AIDS was first recognized in 1981 in the United States and the virus causing the disease was identified in 1983. After that, research on a treatment to prevent the virus from developing into the disease began around the world.

The past decade has seen major advances in therapies, and today’s patients can live longer without developing AIDS if the virus is strictly controlled with multiple medications. A groundbreaking pill combining various effects appeared this year, making it possible for some patients to lead normal lives by just taking one pill a day.

In a follow-up survey of 3,683 Japanese infected with the virus and AIDS patients who began receiving treatment in 2001 or later, the survival rate after eight years of treatment is higher than 95 percent.

A follow-up survey in Europe said there is almost no difference in life expectancy between HIV-infected patients who properly take their drugs and those who are not infected.

While fears of AIDS as a terminal illness may have faded, there are now fewer opportunities to educate the public in AIDS prevention compared to the 1980s and ’90s when scandals over HIV-tainted blood were a major social issue.

Aya Yamamoto, assistant chief of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s Specific Disease Control Division, said, “Education at schools may overemphasize that AIDS is no longer a fearful disease, which could result in carelessness among students.”

The ministry’s AIDS-related countermeasures, including educational activities and development of treatment systems, cost ¥5.4 billion this fiscal year.

As the figure is dropping by a few hundred million yen each year, the ministry aims to develop new ways to promote AIDS prevention, such as training courses for local government officials and strengthening cooperation with nongovernmental organizations.


Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000838457

The above article is problematic in that people might think they can simply take a pill if they develop HIV and continue to live a healthy life. This is dangerous thinking in that people might get careless and not worry so much about safe sex. Do you really want to have to take a pill for the rest of your life? Do you really want to pay for such a pill for the rest of your life?

Here's a good source of information about the realities of the global situation of HIV/AIDS - "World AIDS Day: AIDS Isn't Over"

Link: http://www.aidsfreeworld.org/Publications-Multimedia/Articles/World-AIDS-Day.aspx?utm_source=Newsletter+Peer+List&utm_campaign=77fe32d2ef-TEMPLATE_PEER_LIST12_01_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_349f52eb1e-77fe32d2ef-65518773

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"NHK ordered to pay damages to indigenous Taiwanese woman for defaming her"

From Japan Today, 11/30/13:

A Japanese court has ordered public broadcaster NHK to pay damages to an indigenous Taiwanese woman for defaming her by using the term “human zoo” in a program, officials said Friday.

Overturning a lower court ruling, the Tokyo High Court ordered NHK to pay 1 million yen to the woman, with presiding judge Noriaki Sudo reportedly saying the broadcaster used a term that had a “serious discriminatory meaning”.

The program looked at the “Japan-Britain Exhibition” held in London in 1910 to which Japan took several members of Taiwan’s aboriginal population, including the father of the woman, as exotic exhibits, Jiji Press and Kyodo News reported.

Taiwan was a Japanese colony at the time, and the practice of exhibiting the little-known peoples of far-flung territories was a common one among Western imperial powers.

Historians say Japan, which had emerged from self-imposed isolation just half a century earlier, joined in partly as an attempt to establish itself as an imperial power and mitigate the perceived risk of being colonised itself.

In the ruling, Sudo said NHK “repeatedly used the term without giving consideration to its discriminatory meaning,” which implied the people of the Paiwan—Taiwan’s indigenous population—were uncivilized, the Tokyo Shimbun reported.

Some of those who took part did so earnestly, and not as mere curiosities, the judge said, according to the paper.

In a statement sent to AFP on Friday, NHK said: “We are sorry that our argument was not taken up. We will decide how to deal with the issue after studying closely the court’s verdict.”


Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/nhk-ordered-to-pay-damages-to-indigenous-taiwanese-woman-for-defaming-her

Monday, December 2, 2013

"AIDS fatigue: a dangerous diagnosis"

To truly address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the global community must refocus its efforts on finding a cure and a vaccine.

December 01, 2013
By Warner C. Greene

Warner C. Greene is a physician and the director of virology and immunology research at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco.

From Los Angeles Times

I saw my first AIDS case in 1981, the year the disease was identified. And for most of the time since then, I've conducted laboratory research to better understand the precise mechanisms by which the virus HIV causes AIDS.

Lately, however, I've been equally worried about a related condition that is prevalent, persistent and threatens to bankrupt us. People in my world call it AIDS fatigue.

AIDS fatigue has several telltale symptoms. One is thinking that the AIDS crisis is under control. Another is believing that AIDS is someone else's problem, while still another is assuming that antiretroviral medications cure HIV/AIDS. All three notions, unfortunately, are false.

World AIDS Day on Sunday is a great opportunity to begin treating these malignant misconceptions, which we must do to address one of the most lethal pandemics ever to strike mankind. As a global community, we are not supplying — and may not even be able to afford to supply — enough of the lifesaving drugs required to prevent an HIV infection from progressing to AIDS for all the people who need them.

Our best option is to cure this disease — thereby eliminating the need to fund a lifetime of expensive medications for tens of millions of people — while also developing a vaccine to prevent new infections. And to do this, we must first treat AIDS fatigue with the only medicine known to address it: facts.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, AIDS-related illnesses have killed 36 million people, a number equal to the entire population of Canada. UNAIDS estimated recently that the rate of new infections is finally slowing. This is an excellent trend, but it's important to remember that the epidemic will continue to expand in the absence of a cure. HIV infected an additional 2.3 million people in 2012 alone.

Around the world, no one is spared. Today, nearly 1% of the adult population carries the HIV virus. It infects slightly more women than men, and more than 9% of those with the virus are children. But because more than 70% of new infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa, many Americans think of it as a distant problem. They don't seem to realize that the epidemic continues to strike close to home too.

In 2011, Los Angeles County reported 1,880 new HIV diagnoses, accounting for 38% of California's 4,950 HIV diagnoses reported in that year. And a full 43% of the 80,000 Angelenos who have contracted the virus since its discovery are now dead. Nationwide, meanwhile, the number of people living with HIV could increase as much as 38% between 2010 and 2020, costing an additional $128 billion to $237 billion in healthcare costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Indeed, those unmoved by the human suffering this disease causes might be interested to learn of the effect HIV/AIDS has on their pocketbooks. In 2010, the average U.S. lifetime HIV-treatment bill was calculated at $380,000 per person. That cost is borne by all of us through higher insurance rates and tax dollars.

Medications have saved millions of lives, but these drugs do not cure HIV/AIDS. And many who need them are not getting them. More than 20% of what the federal government spends on AIDS supports critical international programs such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The program has been highly effective in battling the epidemic in Africa. But we still live in a world in which not all those who need treatment can get it, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the pandemic is most widespread and money for treatment is scarce. For example, only 18% of HIV-positive pregnant women are being treated with crucially important antiretroviral drugs in Nigeria, home to the world's second-largest population of people with HIV.

All this points to the need for a cure. In addition to being a global cause for celebration, a cure for HIV/AIDS would eliminate the need to spend billions of dollars on lifelong, lifesaving treatments for the 35 million who are already infected.

Research to produce a vaccine or a cure isn't cheap, however. And with sequestration, government shutdowns and renewed fiscal constraints, research funds are increasingly difficult to come by. We have to remember that spending now — whether through increased government grants, insightful philanthropy or bold investments from pharmaceutical firms — will more than pay for itself down the road.

The scientific community has made tremendous strides against this disease. And a recent flurry of news reports — including stories about the so-called Berlin Patient, the Mississippi Baby, France's Visconti cohort and two Boston men whose viral load became undetectable after stem cell transplants — has given us renewed hope for a cure. But it will take a renewed commitment of research funds if we are deliver on that hope. We are unlikely to put an end to the disease if we allow AIDS fatigue to take hold.


Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/01/opinion/la-oe-greene-aids-research-20131201

Friday, November 29, 2013

Visual Anthropology of Japan Fall Student Film Festival


Join us under the stars in an intimate setting for the VAOJ Fall Student Film Festival. The event is located at Kansai Gaidai University in front of the CIE building. Bring a (warm) drink, blanket and someone to keep you warm. There is a wide variety of subjects featured in seven short films.

Film titles and filmmakers:

Japanese Game Centers by Ashley Glazebrook
31st by Thomas Klecka
Agrim: From Nepal to Japan by Lee Lester
Wishes and Good Fortunes: Ema and Omikuji by Gabriella Munoz
Love Languages by Caitlin Skvorc
The Stroke of a Word: Japanese Calligraphy by Allison Stalberg
I am a Hafu: In Two Worlds (Japan/Korea) by Julie Xiong

Free and open to all!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Red Cross to step up checks on donated blood"

An update from yesterday's HIV/AIDS news. From The Japan News, 11/28/13:

The Japanese Red Cross Society has said it will improve the precision of HIV tests on donated blood following the revelation that blood infected with the HIV virus was transfused to two people and infected one of them with the virus after slipping through checks by the society this year.

The infection is the first since the society strengthened its checking system in 2004 after another case of HIV infection through blood transfusion in 2003.

The society currently tests samples of donated blood from groups of 20 people, but the society said it will improve the accuracy of the checks by next summer and test the sample of each donor’s blood individually.

According to the society, transfusion of the infected blood occurred in February and October, to one person each time. A man in his 60s who received the blood in October during surgery for a chronic disease of the digestive system became infected with HIV. Whether the other person has been infected with the virus will be examined later, the society said.

The donor, a Japanese man in his 40s, donated blood five times until his HIV infection became apparent in November. His donation in November was not used for transfusion because the society’s test detected antibodies to the HIV virus in his blood. However, his February donation slipped through the test and was transfused to two people because the amount of the virus in that donation was very small.

In the early stages of an HIV infection, there is a period when it is difficult to detect the virus in the blood because the amount is very small. This is likely what happened in this case.

In 1999, the society introduced the nucleic acid amplification test (NAT) that detects the genes of the HIV virus with a high level of accuracy by amplifying the genes. In 2003, however, infected blood slipped through these tests and caused an HIV infection. To increase the level of precision, the society in 2004 started checking samples of donated blood from groups of 20 people, compared with groups of 50 as it had done previously. Now the society has decided to check the sample of each donor’s blood individually.

After the revelation of the infection, the donor told the society that he had sexual contact with another man about two weeks before donating the blood. But he did not disclose this on the checklist he had to complete before the donation.

The society believes he likely made the blood donation because he wanted to have an HIV check.

Perfect defense difficult

Although the Japanese Red Cross Society says it will review the checking system of donated blood in the wake of an HIV infection caused by blood donated by an infected person, it is technically difficult to perfectly prevent tainted blood from slipping through tests.

This is because of the period during the early stages of an HIV infection when the virus is undetectable. This is called the window period.

When someone is infected with HIV through sexual contact, the virus multiplies and emerges in the blood within a month. The NAT can detect the virus if there is a certain amount of it in the blood. But the current NAT can only detect the virus 13 days after the virus has started emerging in the blood.

Therefore, even after the current testing system started in 2004, it has been pointed out that infected blood donated during the 40 days or so of the window period after potentially risky sexual contact could slip through the test undetected.

From next summer, the society will conduct the NAT on each donor’s blood individually. This will make the test 20 times more precise, but even with this step the window period will become only two days shorter so it cannot be called a sweeping solution.

Last year, 68 cases of HIV infection were detected from about 5.27 million samples of donated blood. The rate is about twice as high as the rate of new patients with HIV infection found in the country. The society makes it a rule in principle not to tell the result of the HIV test to donors who tested positive, but it seems there is no end to people donating blood to test for HIV infection.


Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000829064

Happy Thanksgiving!

UPDATE:

55 blood donations discarded as HIV-tainted
(The Japan News, 11/29/13)

Fifty-five of the about 3.9 million blood donations made from January through September this year were found to be HIV positive, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s AIDS Surveillance Committee announced Wednesday.

All 55 donations of HIV-tainted blood were discarded and not used in transfusions. However, the Japanese Red Cross Society confirmed by Monday that one donation of infected blood slipped through the HIV screening in February and was transfused to two people, consequently infecting one of them with the disease.

“Some people still seem to make blood donations to check if they are HIV positive,” a ministry official said.

The ministry urges people to take free and anonymous HIV tests at public heath centers instead.

According to the committee, there were 3.91 million blood donations by September this year. There has been a rate of 1.41 cases of HIV per every 100,000 donations, which is about twice as high as the rate of people with HIV infection newly found nationwide. There were 68 cases of HIV detected last year, representing an HIV-infection rate of 1.29 per 100,000 donations.


Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000831988

UPDATE 2:

Tainted blood recipient HIV-free
(The Japan News, 12/1/13)

A woman in her 80s who received blood from an HIV-infected male donor has tested negative for the virus, the health ministry has said.

The blood from the donor in his 40s was transfused to two people. The other recipient, a man in his 60s, was found earlier this week to have been infected with the virus, which causes AIDS.

According to the ministry, the woman received a transfusion of a red blood cell product made from the donor’s blood in February after a bone fracture.

The woman escaped infection because 90 percent of blood plasma, where the HIV virus exists, was removed from the red blood cell product, according to officials of the Japanese Red Cross Society.


Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000835301

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

HIV/AIDS in Japan: More Tainted Blood Given to Patients

The two related stories below as reported by The Japan News happen to coincide with both my Deaf World Japan and Japan and Globalization classes' recent study and discussions of the HIV/AIDS situation for both hearing and deaf people in Japan. In addition, World AIDS Day is coming up soon (December 1) and so the media will probably have more coverage about the positive steps taken in the fight against AIDS. But apparently not in Japan...

HIV-tainted blood given to 2 patients

Blood from a donor infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was transfused into two patients as the donated blood slipped through checks by the Japanese Red Cross Society, it was learned Tuesday.

The Japanese Red Cross Society and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry have identified the recipients of the blood transfusions and are checking whether they were infected with the virus.

The ministry’s Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council will discuss steps to be taken at a panel on blood product operations.

It is the first time that blood from a donor infected with HIV was found to have been transfused to patients since the Japanese Red Cross Society reinforced its checking systems in 2004, after a case of HIV infection through blood transfusion was found the previous year.

According to the ministry and the Japanese Red Cross Society, HIV antibodies were detected in blood that was donated earlier this month. Though that blood was not used for transfusion, it was found that the same donor had also given blood in February this year.

The society checked a stored sample from the earlier donation, and HIV genes were detected. The society also confirmed that the blood, given by an unnamed man, was transfused to two patients at two different medical institutions.

The Japanese Red Cross Society said the man wrote untrue answers on a 23-point checklist at the time of his recent donation, including a question about whether he was making the donation to receive an HIV test because he was worried about AIDS.

The ministry's position is that the man possibly donated blood aiming to check whether he was infected with AIDS.

The checks are conducted in two stages. First, each blood sample undergoes tests to detect antibodies of viruses. Since 1999, this has been followed by higher-accuracy tests conducted on groups of 20 samples.

If any group is found to contain a sample that is HIV-positive, all the samples are checked in more detail to pinpoint the donor in question. The blood that was transfused to the two patients this year was not found to be HIV-positive when it was checked in February.

However, this may be due to the fact that HIV infection has an initial stage called a window period, during which the viruses cannot be detected because there is such a small amount of them in the blood.

The test the Japanese Red Cross Society introduced in 1999 is called the nucleic acid amplification test (NAT), which multiplies the number of virus genes in a sample to more accurately detect their existence.

But in 2003, a quantity of donated blood passed through the NAT check and was transfused to a patient, who was later found to be infected with HIV.

To further improve the accuracy of the checks, the Japanese Red Cross Society tightened procedures in 2004. The NAT tests, which had been conducted on samples from groups of 50 donors, are now conducted on samples from groups of 20.

The society is considering further reducing the number in the group checks. “We want to shorten the period during which viruses cannot be detected as far as possible,” an official of the society said.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura said at a press conference Tuesday morning after a Cabinet meeting, “I want to consider an option that [samples] of each donor will be checked [individually rather than in groups].”

Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000826524


Man diagnosed as HIV positive

A man in his 60s who received blood from an HIV-infected donor has been diagnosed as HIV positive, the Japanese Red Cross Society said Tuesday.

The man is one of two people who received blood transfusions from the donor. Whether the other person has been infected with the virus remains unknown, the Red Cross told a health ministry committee.

According to the Red Cross, the donor is a Japanese man in his 40s. Although he had homosexual affairs in the six-month period prior to donating blood, he did not report the fact when he gave blood in February.

After identifying the two recipients, the Red Cross conducted infection screenings and found that a man in his 60s suffering from a chronic digestive disorder tested positive for the HIV virus in a checkup carried out this month after a blood transfusion in October.

The Red Cross did not give any details on others who received blood transfusions in February.

Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000827054

Click here for previous coverage of HIV/AIDS in Japan on VAOJ.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Iwate tries to crack down on upskirt photos taken with cell phones"

From today's Japan Today:

The northern prefecture of Iwate has Japanese Internet commentators furious over a recent proposal by police there to criminalize pointing a cell phone toward someone if it is suspected the would be photographer is trying to get an upskirt picture.

Police say that they want to “expand” their approach to catching perverts sneaking naughty photos, but critics say this proposed legislation will turn any man with a cell phone into a potential criminal, regardless of whether their finger goes anywhere near the shutter button.

Currently under Iwate law, taking photos of someone’s underwear without their knowledge is only illegal if law enforcement have proof that a picture is taken. In the day and age of easily deletable digital pictures, police say that it is too easy for these panty paparazzi to erase the evidence. Moreover, with smartphone apps that can silence the shutter sound (a big no-no in Japan), they complain too many people are getting away with upskirt photography. So police want to be able to prosecute someone for proof that they intended to take a picture, even if there is no physical evidence.

Netizens were quick to criticize the proposed law, which will come up for vote in the prefectural assembly next March. Otherwise innocent people would be unfairly arrested for just having a smartphone and perhaps staring too long in someone’s direction, they said. Worried about their freedom to brandish a camera phone freely without judgement, netizens said they would think twice about any upcoming travel plans to the northern prefecture if the law is passed.

—I don’t want to get arrested, so I’ll be avoiding Iwate from now on.

—Well, I didn’t really want to go there anyway.

According to a story by the Yomiuri Shimbun, the police will be taking public opinion until Dec 6 and then they will draft the final legislation based on what they hear from the people. Netizens have plenty to tell the Iwate authorities and hoped they would think twice before the prefecture becomes infamous for having the most upskirt pic convictions nationwide.

—I totally understand why, but all this will do is arrest innocent people.

—How will they prove it? Will it just be the word of the accuser against the accused? Sounds dubious.

—From far enough away, doesn’t any picture taken have the possibility of being pointed toward someone’s underwear. Where will the line be drawn?

Are the police justified in their call to crackdown on covert photography? Or are the netizens right and will this law create “criminals” whose only crime is pointing a smartphone in the wrong direction?


Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/iwate-tries-to-crack-down-on-upskirt-photos-taken-with-cell-phones

UPDATE: See also "Cop busted for filming up skirt of student on escalator" (Japan Today 11/25/13) http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/cop-busted-for-filming-up-skirt-of-student-on-escalator

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2013 門真市地域伝統文化まつり (Kadoma-shi Neighborhood Traditional Culture Festival)
















People, performers, characters, danjiri and mikoshi gathered in Kadoma-shi to celebrate Culture Day and the 50th anniversary of the city with a parade and festival. There was a great diversity in performances and danjiri styles by the different neighborhoods despite being in the same city.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

2013 秋祭り (Fall Festival)


Autumn has finally come and we are all relieved that the hot summer heat appears to be gone. Autumn also means that it is time for the fall danjiri festival in my neighborhood. There is a real sense of belonging and community among those who participate. It takes much effort to wear the clothes and pull and push the heavy danjiri through the narrow streets in the neighborhood. There is some danger of the danjiri tipping over or causing damage to houses and structures it passes by. This year a man lost his balance and fell backwards into a grove of trees. My participation in the event (I helped the man out and aside from a few scratches he was OK) increases every year, which means I have less opportunities to photograph the festival. I took an hour off from pushing to get these shots - I felt as though I was slacking off and not pulling my weight. Further challenges for the visual anthropologist...


At the end of the day three neighborhoods came together to share the festivity and a greater sense of community. These last two shots are of the danjiri and umbrella dancers from the neighborhood next to ours.


The fall festival brings neighbors and neighborhoods together in solidarity. It is fun and it is hard work. We were all sore that evening and for the next few days. But it is very much worth the effort.

Click below to see more fall festival photos:

2013 Fall Festival thumbnails

2012 秋祭り(Fall Festival)

2010 Local Matsuri in Classic Black & White

2010 Local Matsuri In Living Color

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Announcement: "How to Play Deaf in Japan"

A recently published article that might be of interest to visual anthropologists...

Abstract: This paper investigates issues of identity, belonging and visual communication among deaf people in Japan. It is influenced by two texts that explore Judith Butler’s work on the relationship between identity and performance. Performativity and Belonging, edited by Vikki Bell (1999), examines how identities are produced, embodied and performed especially through the politics of visuality. Deaf people seem to be an appropriate group to explore the claim that visual performances can be read the same as written texts. Critical Divides: Judith Butler’s Body Theory and the Question of Disability by Ellen Samuels (2002) examines disability as a category of critical analysis and ponders whether the performance of disability can determine identity in ways similar to the performance of gender, sexuality and race elaborated Butler’s work. So-­called clinics designed to teach and propagate “correct” ways of communication and expression in the Deaf World are common in contemporary Japan; deaf students/participants are often chided for signing in a “hearing” manner and encouraged to act “more deaf.” Ethnographic examples of deaf people illustrating both deficit (disability/social welfare) and cultural (bilingual and bicultural minority) models will be utilized to explore these theoretical ideas. In particular, the performance of the visual communication of sign language in everyday life, lectures, workshops and entertainment venues will provide context for the exploration of deaf identities and belonging.

Key words: Deaf, Japanese Sign Language, performance, visual communication, identity, disability

Fedorowicz, Steven C. (2013) How to Play Deaf in Japan, Journal of Intercultural Studies No. 38, Intercultural Research Institute, Kansai Gaidai University, Hirakata, Japan.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Announcement: "Towards Gonzo Anthropology: Ethnography as Cultural Performance"

A recently published article that might be of interest to visual anthropologists...

Abstract: This article provides an “ethnography of ethnography” through exploring the balance between scientific methods and humanistic insights in the process of cultural description. The major argument presented is that anthropological fieldwork (especially participant observation) and discourse (i.e. forms of cultural representation) combine to become a cultural performance where the ethnographer serves as an actor, director, recorder of events, writer, artist and audience all in one. The application of performance theory in all phases of fieldwork along with certain qualities of discourse style are introduced and referred to by the author as “Gonzo Anthropology.” An analysis of the work of Hunter S. Thompson, founder of gonzo methods, will be included along with examples of the author’s cultural descriptions of Hare Krishnas in San Francisco and deaf people in Japan. This essay is a product of twenty years of study, application, consideration and reconsiderations of the ethnographic process and aims to contribute important, relevant and interesting dialogue for multiple and multivocal actors and audiences engaged in anthropological research.

Key Words: ethnography, cultural performance, Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo Anthropology

Fedorowicz, Steven C. (2013) Towards Gonzo Anthropology: Ethnography as Cultural performance, Journal of Inquiry and Research No. 98, Kansai Gaidai University, Hirakata, Japan.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ethnographies of Hope in Contemporary Japan



Date: October 19, 2013
Venue: University of Osaka, Graduate School of Human Sciences
Convenors: Iza Kavedžija and Scott North

In recent years, amidst a faltering economy, the Japanese have witnessed a proliferation of narratives of diminishing hope and decline. Social consequences range from withdrawal from the public domain into the private sphere (Zielenziger 2006), to political apathy among the young (McVeigh 1998, 2004), to the strengthening of right wing rhetoric (Japan Times, 23/5/2013; Nakano n.d.). Yet a vague sense of disillusionment or hopelessness would seem to be the most widespread public reaction.

While the situation, both politically and economically undoubtedly warrants concern, such an attitude is far from the only one possible. The cross-cultural perspective afforded by anthropology indicates that people living in much more dire circumstances, in places struck by war or hunger for example, nevertheless hope and strive for better lives (e.g. Vigh 2009), and actively attempt to transform their communities. Other research indicates that positive emotions are contagious within certain limits (Fowler and Christakis 2008), suggesting that hope can be purposely increased.

This workshop seeks to examine ethnographically the feelings, perceptions and narratives of hopelessness in contemporary Japanese society. Furthermore, it seeks to outline some of the cases in which new approaches, organizations, or grassroots efforts have fostered renewed feelings of hope.

One sample paper that might be of interest:

The Hope for Medical Interpretation for Deaf People (and Foreigners)
Steven C. Fedorowicz
Kansai Gaidai University

Abstract: A new city hospital in Hirakata-shi, Osaka is scheduled to open in 2014. In 2011, a small group of deaf citizens decided that the timing was right to request a service to be implemented at the new hospital they lacked and desperately needed – medical interpretation in Japanese Sign Language (JSL). The group figured it could strengthen their position by aligning themselves with foreign residents in the city. By including foreigners, the group’s goals broadened “to change the city to be friendly to every citizen with a secured and comfortable life… [and] to ensure easy access for the hearing impaired and foreign residents to medical care” (The First Forum poster). One of the first strategies to recruit foreigners was to elicit the assistance of an American anthropologist fluent in JSL. Public forums were scheduled featuring doctors, professors, interpreters and other specialists to discuss the need and future prospects of medical interpretation. Initially there were feelings of optimism and great hope that policies and services crafted locally would ultimately serve as a template for medical interpretation in other areas in Japan as well. However, the planning and implementation of the forums proved to be extremely challenging. Personal and political rifts between deaf people, interpreters and others added to the difficulties of increasingly unfocused goals and strategies. This presentation will be an auto-ethnographic account of the highs and lows of the group’s efforts from the perspective of the American anthropologist struggling to balance research and activism.

For previous VAOJ coverage of the Hirakata-shi medical interpretation forums: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/search?q=medical+interpretation

For more conference information (schedule, abstracts, etc.): http://ethnographiesofhope.wix.com/workshop#!workshop/cjg9

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Kyoto court bans 'hate speech' around school for ethnic Koreans"

VAOJ has been covering this story since 2009. This court case decision is important and a step in the right direction in fighting against any form of discrimination in Japan. But there is still much to be done. This can be illustrated by the press coverage of the major Japanese newspapers. I am providing the story as covered by the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun not because of their ideology (and perhaps greater sympathy) but because they had the greatest amount of information in their story. This is opposed to the more right-leaning The Japan News (English version of The Yomiuri Shimbun) story consisting of 5 short paragraphs buried deep in its website. Click the link below to see the first VAOJ coverage. More commentary appears after the Asahi story.

Previous coverage from VAOJ (including a YouTube video of one of the hate speech incidents): http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2009/12/men-yell-children-of-spies-at-korean.html

From The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 8, 2013:

A court here on Oct. 7 banned an anti-Korea organization from demonstrating near a pro-Pyongyang elementary school, ruling that the group’s words blared through sound trucks were “extremely insulting and discriminatory.”

The Kyoto District Court also ordered Zainichi Tokken wo Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (Group of citizens who do not tolerate privileges for ethnic Korean residents in Japan) to pay about 12.26 million yen ($126,400) in damages.

“It is defamation of character and amounts to racial discrimination,” Presiding Judge Hitoshi Hashizume said about the use of sound trucks by the group, known more commonly as Zaitokukai.

The lawsuit was filed by Kyoto Chosen Gakuen, an operator of pro-Pyongyang Korean schools, including Kyoto Chosen Elementary School in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward.

The operator sought a ban on Zaitokukai activities using sound trucks within a radius of 200 meters from the main and east gates of the school building. They also sought 30 million yen in damages from the group and nine members for past protests, saying their activities made it difficult to carry out ethnic education in a quiet environment.

“The ruling recognized the wrongfulness of the hate speech that was directed at the children, guardians and teachers, and it also took into consideration the psychological damage that we suffered,” Son Ji Jong, head of Kyoto Chosen Gakuen, said at a news conference.

Kyoto Chosen Elementary School was created through a merger of two schools, including Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School, in April 2012. It moved to Fushimi Ward in April 2013.

The Zaitokukai has not sent sound trucks to the new school site, but the district court referred to previous acts near the site of Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School in Minami Ward.

According to the plaintiffs, Zaitokukai members on three separate occasions between December 2009 and March 2010 gave speeches near Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School. Their words included: “Children are being educated by criminals” and “Go back to the Korean Peninsula.”

Zaitokukai argued that it had performed a legitimate protest based on the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

But the court ruled that “acts to defame the character of the school through demonstrations could not be considered as having a public objective since they involved the use of sound trucks and microphones near the school while classes were being held.”

The ruling also said the Zaitokukai speeches were racially discriminatory in light of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, of which Japan is a signatory.

Article 4 calls on signatory states to legally ban “incitement to racial discrimination.” However, Japan has not passed legislation against hate speech.

A lawyer for the plaintiff said it is extremely rare for a court to order compensation in cases involving hate speech.

The district court said it accepted the injunction because of the danger that the group and its members could demonstrate in front of the new school building.

Yasuhiro Yagi, deputy chairman of Zaitokukai, told reporters that the ruling was unfair.

“It is regrettable that our actions were not recognized,” he said. “While there may have been some inappropriate comments made (during the protest), most were legitimate. We cannot be convinced by the argument that the comments were discriminatory through the focus on less than 10 percent of the comments.”

He added that his group’s activities were gaining the sympathy of society.

Amid strained relations between Japan and South Korea, as well as lingering problems concerning North Korea, incidents of hate speech against ethnic Koreans have become more prevalent this year, especially in the Shin-Okubo district of Tokyo.

The U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has called on Japan to prevent hate speech.

Groups are taking action to counter anti-Korea protesters who have shouted such words as “Kill all Koreans” in the Koreatowns of Tokyo and Osaka.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also expressed disdain toward the actions and words in the anti-Korea rallies.

During the court proceedings, Zaitokukai also argued that the plaintiff had been the one acting illegally.

“The comments were a fair commentary based on facts,” a Zaitokukai official said. “The activities by the sound trucks were in protest of the illegal occupation of a children’s park, and the activities have stopped since the problem was resolved. There is no reason for the court to approve an injunction protecting the vicinity of the new school building.”

In 2010, the Kyoto District Court made a provisional decision banning sound truck activities around Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School.

Subsequently, four Zaitokukai members were indicted on charges of using force to interfere with school operations and insulting the school.

In April 2011, the Kyoto District Court convicted the four on grounds that their actions went beyond the limits of political expression.

In September 2010, the former principal of Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School was fined for violating the law controlling urban parks. The elementary school used a nearby park for some school activities because it did not have its own playground
.

By GAKUSHI FUJIWARA
Source: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201310070090

Coverage from The Japan News: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000705914

Coverage from Japan Today: http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/kyoto-court-rules-anti-korean-hate-speech-illegal

Commentary:

It is important to note that Japan has no laws of its own that bans discrimination. This case was decided upon the fact that Japan signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Why doesn't Japan has its own anti-discrimination laws?

The Japan News (The Yomiuri Shimbun) despite its brief coverage of the court decision ran a longer editorial two days later. It begins:

The Kyoto District Court’s recent ruling on an ethnic discrimination case stated that a derogatory street campaign aimed at inciting ethnic discrimination constituted an unlawful act. The court decision can be seen as compatible with socially accepted moral norms.

Later it states:

...caution must be exercised in restricting hate speech.

Huh? But wait, there's more:

...it should be noted that when it comes to thinking about discrimination, Japan’s historical background greatly differs from that of Europe, where there still is a clear memory of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis.

The Japanese government has been cautious about laying down legal restraints on potentially discriminatory speech and behavior, wary that such legislation might infringe on freedom of expression, a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.

If such legal restrictions are in place, it would be difficult to draw a line between what is lawful and what is not. That could prompt public authorities to impose legal restrictions in a manner that would serve their own interests. There also is no denying that such legislation would discourage people from exercising their legitimate right to express their opinions. Given this, the government should adhere to its cautious stance on such legal restrictions.


Link to the whole editorial, "Hate speech ruling laudable, but restrictions must be limited," October 10, 2013: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000710714

It seems that there is no clear memory of Japanese imperialism and its colonization of Korea, which can be seen as the cause of this particular court case. How did Koreans get to Japan in the first place?

The Asahi Shimbun in its editorial acknowledged the difficulty in Japan drafting its own anti-discrimination laws:

Imposing any restriction on people’s expression of thought and opinion is tricky because of the difficulty in drawing the line of acceptability.

There are also concerns about the possibility that such legal restrictions can be used arbitrarily. The issue requires careful and cautious debate.

But it concludes:

It is vital for Japanese society as a whole to share the view that discrimination is absolutely unacceptable and take a harsh stance against any words and actions that incite discrimination. By accumulating such efforts, we need to prevent our own society from falling into a vicious cycle of hate begetting hate.

Link to the whole editorial, "Kyoto court ruling a strong warning against hatemongers," October 8, 2013: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/AJ201310080028

In 2006 Chiba was the first prefecture to draft and pass an ordinance to prohibit discrimination against disabled people. The ordinance included examples of what constitutes discrimination, mediation, coordination and corrective orders to remedy the situation. But in the end there were no penalty clauses if the discrimination continued. The Daily Yomiuri ("Chiba finds helping disabled no easy task," 2006) covered this story and quoted one Chiba official:

"No one opposes the elimination of discrimination against handicapped people, but there was no precedent of a public system for procedures to eliminate discriminatory actions, partly because of the difficulty in clearly defining what constitutes discrimination."

Unfortunately I can't find the original story on the internet anymore, but here is a link to general information about the Chiba ordinance: http://www.hurights.or.jp/archives/newsinbrief-en/section2/2006/10/chiba-became-the-first-prefecture-in-japan-that-prohibits-discrimination-against-people-with-disabil.html

It seems as if the Japanese  really don't understand what discrimination is, they should study this ordinance, the international treaty they signed and this recent court decision.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

"Dolphin-killing town to open marine park"

VAOJ has been reporting on The Cove for a while. Here's the latest. From Japan Today, Oct. 8, 2013:

The Japanese town made infamous by the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove”, will open a marine mammal park where visitors can swim with dolphins, but will not end its annual slaughter, an official said Monday.

The town of Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture has begun researching a plan to section off part of a cove and turn it into a place where people can swim and kayak alongside small whales and dolphins, Masaki Wada told AFP.

But, Wada insisted, far from having caved in to pressure from conservationists who want an end to an annual hunt that turns waters red with blood, the project was aimed at helping to sustain the practice.

“We already use dolphins and small whales as a source of tourism in the cove where dolphin-hunting takes place,” he said.

“In summer, swimmers can enjoy watching the mammals that are released from a partitioned-off space,” he said.

“But we plan to do it on a larger scale. This is part of Taiji’s long-term plan of making the whole town a park, where you can enjoy watching marine mammals while tasting various marine products, including whale and dolphin meat,” he said.

The park will be separate from Hatakejiri Bay, the place into which the fishermen of Taiji corral dolphins, select a few dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks, and stab the rest to death for meat.

The plan calls for the creation of a whale amusement park stretching roughly 28 hectares by putting up a net at the entrance to Moriura Bay in northwestern Taiji, the official said.

The 2009 film “The Cove” brought Taiji to worldwide attention, winning an Oscar the following year, after graphically showing the killing, including by using underwater cameras. Activists continue to visit the town to protest the hunt.

Taiji is looking to open part of the park within five years, the Wada said.

Black whales and bottlenose dolphins caught in waters near the town would be released into the pool, which would be developed as a nature park that also includes beaches and mudflats, he said.

Wakayama Prefecture said the town caught 1,277 dolphins in 2012 and has license to capture 2,026 this season, which began in September and runs until August next year.

Tokyo-based conservationist group Iruka & Kujira (Dolphin & Whale) Action Network (IKAN) said the plan was “unfortunate” for the town.

“The whole plan is based on the concept that they can exploit dolphins and whales freely as their resource, but the mammals don’t belong to Taiji,” said Nanami Kurasawa, the IKAN secretary general.

“Marine mammals migrate across oceans, and internationally public opinion is that wildlife should be allowed to live as they are. The plan will only ignite more protests over dolphin-hunting,” she said.

People in Taiji argue that dolphin-hunting is part of a 400-year-old whaling and culinary tradition.

But Kurasawa said demand for dolphin meat is dwindling and only 100 people of the 3,400 population are engaged in dolphin hunting-related businesses.

“If they want to get more tourists, they can for example exhibit the beautiful whale-hunting ships used in ancient days, that would show their tradition without stirring more controversy,” she said.

Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/dolphin-killing-town-to-open-marine-park

Previous VAOJ coverage of The Cove: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/search?q=the+cove

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Tottori Prefecture to promote use of sign language"

From The Japan News, October 6, 2013:

The Tottori prefectural assembly will likely pass an ordinance to promote sign language by, for example, teaching it in schools, with the hope of making the prefecture a place where people who regularly use sign language can communicate with more people.

On Friday, the assembly’s standing committee passed a bill to create the ordinance, and the assembly is expected to pass it at a plenary session Tuesday.

It will be the first time in Japan that a local ordinance seeking efforts by residents and municipal governments to popularize sign language will be made, the prefectural government said.

In the draft of the ordinance, sign language is defined as “a cultural artifact [in the form of] a unique language system,” and requires the prefectural government facilitate the use of sign language.

The prefectural government also earmarked ¥22 million for teaching sign language in schools and will teach sign language to municipal government officials who work at service counters for residents.

Tottori Gov. Shinji Hirai was a sign language interpreter when he was a university student.

In his vision for the future of the prefecture presented in 2008, he stipulated that sign language is also “a language.”


Source: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000702169

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

VAOJ Special Screening: ManDove


Visual Anthropology of Japan presents a screening of ManDove, an experimental documentary film by Jim de Sève and Kian Tjong. The event is free and open to all. It will take place at the International Communication Center at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata City, Osaka.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013
6:30 PM
Kansai Gaidai University
ICC Building, 4th Floor Grand Hall
Discussion and reception after the film.


ManDove (2012, 65 min.) follows the magical perkutut birds casting spells on men, taking them away from their wives, and pitting them against each other to prove their masculinity.

SYNOPSIS

In a peculiar travelogue, two filmmakers dive into an ancient rite of manhood in Islamic Java – the tender and raucous sport of the singing doves, the Indonesian NASCAR.

When General Zainuri announces the National Perkutut Championship, thousands of Muslim men arrive at the grounds. Seven hundred poles stand in the center. Men hoist their doves – perkutut – seven meters up and dangle them in a sea of colorful cages. A team of judges passes through the forest of tall posts straining to discern the birds’ magical coos. If the judges are impressed they score a bird’s song by tacking a small flag to the pole. After three hours a winner is declared. Winning perkutut sell for tens of millions rupiahs – tens of thousands of dollars.

METHOD & STYLE

ManDove, in its subtle and oblique approach, pays homage to Indonesian cinema of social critique. During Suharto’s dictatorship, filmmakers avoided harsh censorship by utilizing subtle and indirect associations. In other words, they “spoke in codes” to their audience. A creative dialog took place beyond what a film was allowed to say explicitly.

ManDove’s top layer is a story of men who play with male birds. Underneath is the story of the “contact zone,” the zone where the filmmakers and the subjects collide in comic struggle to control the camera.

The film plays out as a treasure hunt, leading the audience from clue to clue and issue to issue, from orientalism, masculinity to the power of representation. Underscoring all of this and cleverly hidden is the filmmakers’ role as a gay couple and their wariness of being discovered. This level, when recognized by the audience, reframes the entire film.

ManDove breaks free from the current trends in documentary filmmaking: the prevalence of tell-all documentaries; the hegemony of central-character/central-conflict theory; and the preference of narrative film language achieved by eliminating the camera from audience’s conscience. It’s an experiment to expand documentary as an art form.


Mandove website: http://singingdove.com/

Map of Kansai Gaidai: http://www.kansaigaidai.ac.jp/asp/admission/_userdata/CMP.pdf