Monday, June 29, 2015

Cool Japan Fashion?

Images borrowed from s0ciety6.

VAOJ Disclaimer: This is not a product endorsement or fashion advice of any kind - only a sampling of what is out there...

More info:

And of course you need the shoes to match...

Image borrowed from Japan Today, 5/13/15.

More info:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"Bag-snatching suspect arrested after pursuer takes photo of his bike license plate"

From Japan Today, 6/23/15:

Police in Osaka said Monday they have arrested a 45-year-old office worker on suspicion of snatching a woman’s handbag as she walked along a street.

According to police, the suspect, identified as Taro Muramoto, approached the 64-year-old-woman on his minibike as she was walking with her husband in Chuo Ward at around 1:55 p.m. Sunday, Fuji TV reported.

After the suspect grabbed the woman’s handbag, the couple yelled out at him. A man on a bicycle chased after the minibike, but before it could speed away, he used his smartphone to take a photo of the minibike’s license plate.

Police said they identified Muramoto from the license plate. Muramoto has denied the charge, police said.


Monday, June 22, 2015

View from my Hotel Window in Hanzomon, Tokyo at 11:42 PM on a Friday Night

In sharp contrast to rural Kabuto-cho in Aichi, it never seems to get dark in Tokyo. Light-blocking curtains are a premium amenity...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Universities asked to raise flag, sing national anthem at ceremonies"

Text from Japan Today, 6/17/15:

State-run universities were urged on Tuesday to raise the national flag and sing the national anthem at entrance and graduation ceremonies, as well as other events.

Education minister Hakubun Shimomura made the suggestion at a meeting of the presidents of national universities in Tokyo.

Shimomura said hoisting the Hinomaru flag and singing the “Kimigayo” have long been customary at public schools and are widely expected by the public. However, universities have been divided on the issue.

Shimomura added that his request does not impinge on a university’s freedom and that it is up to each institution to make an appropriate decision.

Some critics say Japan’s anthem amounts to a call to sacrifice oneself for the emperor and celebrates militarism. Numerous battles over the years have seen teachers clash with school administrators over the issue.

In April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in the Diet that public schools and universities are funded by tax money and that raising the national flag and standing to sing the anthem at ceremonies should be done.

Last month, the Tokyo District Court awarded 537 million yen in compensation to 22 former high school teachers who were punished for refusing to sing the “Kimigayo.”

The group said the city refused to rehire them under a scheme that extends employment past the retirement age, because they disobeyed orders to stand and sing the anthem at graduation ceremonies.

In 2012, the supreme court ruled that penalising teachers for not standing to sing the anthem was constitutional, but it warned administrators to exercise care in going beyond a reprimand.


Read the extensive comments by readers of this article.

And please see the film, Against Coercion, and this VAOJ post, for context that goes greatly under-reported in the media.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"70 years after WWII / Unretouched photos show A-bomb devastation"

Image borrowed from Pressing Issues. The Japan News (print version) caption for this image reads: This photo titled "Onigiri o motsu oyako" was taken by photographer Yosuke Yamahata on Aug. 10, 1945, a day after the atomic bombing of Nakasaki.

Story from The Japan News, 6/10/15.

A photo exhibition to be held this summer in Tokyo will display 60 photographs taken shortly after the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, showing the catastrophic effects of the bombings.

The August exhibition, titled “Shitte imasuka Hiroshima Nagasaki no Genshi Bakudan” (Do you know about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?), will display 60 photographs taken within three months after the bombings. The photos — with spots, shadows and air bubbles left unretouched — vividly show how devastating the bombing damage was, while at the same time illustrating the poor state of photo processing amid desperate material shortages.

One of photos to be exhibited is titled “Miyukibashi Nishizume” and shows Hiroshima people, including a schoolgirl, being rescued in an area close to Ground Zero on Aug. 6, 1945. The photo was taken by Yoshito Matsushige, a photographer of The Chugoku Shimbun, a local newspaper. Matsushige died in 2005.

The unretouched photo has black beltlike shadows on both sides, reflecting the fact that the catastrophic damage caused by the bomb also eliminated photo laboratories. Matsushige was said to have developed the negative in a small river in the darkness of night several days after the bombing, and the poor conditions he worked under apparently caused the shadows on the negative.

Another photo, titled “Onigiri o motsu oyako” (A mother and her child holding rice balls in their hands) was taken on Aug. 10, 1945, in Nagasaki — a day after the atomic bombing there — by Yosuke Yamahata, a photographer who belonged to the Imperial Japanese Army. Yamahata died in 1966. The negative for this photo has a large dark spot, scratches and air bubbles.

Yamahata, who arrived in Nagasaki early in the morning of that day, later recalled that many people were asking for help, but he could do nothing but photograph the bombed areas while being frustrated over his inability to help.

When the photos were displayed in past exhibitions, they were retouched and trimmed. However, for the exhibition this year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the organizer decided not to modify the photos as it believes their poor condition provides important information about the conditions of the cities shortly after the bombings. The organizer of the exhibition is the Japan Professional Photographers Society.

The admission-free exhibition will be held from Aug. 4 to 30 at the JCII Photo Salon in the Ichibancho district of Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Closed on Mondays)


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

VAOJ Catch-up: More "Cove" Related News

This news isn't really so new, but VAOJ fell behind during the end of the academic semester and final's week. VAOJ has long been following events surrounding the film "The Cove." Below are a couple of articles describing recent developments.

"Japanese aquariums vote to stop getting dolphins from Taiji hunt"

From Japan Today, 5/21/15:

Japan’s zoos and aquariums voted Wednesday to stop using dolphins caught by the controversial “drive hunt” method in Taiji, allowing them to remain part of a global body that had suspended the country’s chapter over the issue.

The vote was prompted by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (WAZA) suspension of the Japanese chapter (JAZA) last month, saying it had refused to stop taking dolphins caught in the southern Japanese whaling town.

Taiji came to worldwide attention after the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove” showed pods of the animals forced into a bay and butchered with knives, in a mass killing that turned the water red with blood.

“JAZA will prohibit its members to acquire wild dolphins caught by drive fishing in Taiji and to take part in their export and sale,” JAZA chairman Kazutoshi Arai said in a letter to WAZA following the vote, which saw an overwhelming majority (99) of the 152 members opt to remain part of the global body.

JAZA does not regard drive hunt as “cruel”, Arai told during a press briefing, adding that a dolphin from Taiji costs about a million yen.

“Various facilities (zoos and aquariums) will have to cooperate to promote breeding,” Arai said.

Earlier, JAZA executive director Kensho Nagai said: “We annually take about 20 dolphins from Taiji, but we have improved how we hunt, separating our hunt from everything else at Taiji that is for dolphin meat.

“But we don’t have control over the rest of the dolphin catch, part of which is said to be sold by local brokers to aquariums in China and the Middle East,” he added.

Taiji residents have long defended the drive hunt saying its purpose is to obtain dolphin meat, which they say is a traditional part of their diet.

But some live dolphins are also sold on after the drive hunt—which typically involves pushing the animals together with boats and closing off their escape, forcing them into a coastal bay.

Critics of the practice say there is insufficient demand for dolphin meat and drive hunting is only profitable because of the high prices live dolphins can fetch when sold to aquariums and dolphin shows.

“WAZA requires all members to adhere to policies that prohibit participating in cruel and non-selective methods of taking animals from the wild,” the global body said when it suspended JAZA.

A weekend Japanese report said nearly half the dolphins in the country’s aquariums are caught using the controversial fishing method, but it did not specify whether the dolphins came from Taiji.

Chief Cabinet Secretary and top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday the government “is aware” of the controversy between WAZA and its Japanese chapter, and “the government will take measures to avoid any ramifications on exhibitions in aquariums.”

The drive hunt “is a sustainable fishing (method) under appropriate control by… the government with scientific foundations, and is being carried out carefully so that dolphins are not hurt,” Suga said.


Taiji fishermen vow to continue dolphin slaughter

From Japan Today, 5/28/15:

Japanese fishermen vowed Wednesday to continue their dolphin hunt, despite a pledge by zoos and aquariums not to buy animals caught with the controversial method.

“We will never stop it,” Yoshifumi Kai of the fisherman’s cooperative in the western Japanese town of Taiji, where the hunt takes place, told reporters.

The press conference came a week after Japan’s zoos and aquariums voted to stop using dolphins caught by the so-called “drive hunt” method, as demanded by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA).

Some dolphins are captured alive and sold to aquariums, fetching about 1 million yen each.

The vote was prompted by WAZA’s suspension of the Japanese chapter (JAZA) last month over the issue.

WAZA regards drive hunt fishing—where pods of cetaceans are herded into a bay by a wall of sound before being butchered—as “cruel”, a charge local fishermen reject.

“It’s unclear which part of the drive hunt WAZA considers cruel,” Kai said.

“We used to harpoon dolphins but that’s several decades ago. Now we sever the spinal cord in a moment and there is not much blood.”

Shuichi Matsumoto, head of another local fisherman’s group, said they “have not broken any rules,” adding the group wants to continue the tradition and pass it on to future generations.

Taiji came to worldwide attention after the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary “The Cove” showed pods of the animals forced into a bay and slaughtered with knives, in a mass killing that turned the water red with blood.

Animal rights activists continue to protest in the town, despite hostility from locals who say they are victims of anti-Japanese bias.

Many of the dolphins are butchered for food, but campaigners claim there is insufficient demand for their relatively unpopular meat to make the hunt economically worthwhile.

They charge that the high prices live animals fetch when sold to aquariums and dolphin shows is the only thing that sustains the hunt.

Despite the overwhelming vote last week by JAZA to abandon the Taiji hunt, five aquariums are reportedly considering leaving the organisation so they can continue to source dolphins from the town.

However, the vote has left aquariums with the problem of how to continue to stock their facilities—only 12 to 13% of dolphins at Japanese aquariums are captive-bred, compared with 70% in the United States, according to JAZA.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Workshop: Redefining Access--Issues of Access, Archives and Copyright in Japan

Announcement from H-Net:

Recent decades have seen an extraordinary increase in channels of access to materials in print, sound and image. Intense struggles about the conditions and forms that access should take are ongoing.

Momentous changes in how we produce, circulate and store materials new and old directly affect everyday life, the public sphere, and legal frameworks and practices. The meaning of access is changing to include editing, remixing and re-circulation. While a new kind of economy forms around access, struggles ensue that involve states, corporations, activists and public institutions.

The context of Japan presents a unique set of challenges. The situation in Japan is particularly restrictive and difficult to navigate for anyone with the goal of gaining access to media materials, or of providing wider access to them.

The attempts to speed up the passing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its possible consequences renew the sense of urgency about these issues. Japan is at the center of the TPP negotiations, and will exert considerable influence on its outcomes. TPP is only one factor in what is an ongoing, fundamental transformation, but it is an influential one.

This workshop aims to bring together different groups directly involved with dealing with the challenges of these struggles and their considerable consequences. It assembles researchers, librarians, legal experts and industry representatives. Each of these groups speak about the issue of access with a slightly different language. This workshop provides a platform for finding common concerns and locating spaces for interventions.

The workshop looks at three aspects of this complex situation:

First, the concrete problems and issues concerning archiving and access of materials in Japan.

Second, the ways we can understand and theoretically frame this situation and the possibilities it harbors.

And third, what kind of concrete visions and expectations we might have for the further development of the situation concerning media materials in Japan.

*No pre-registration is necessary, anyone is free to attend the event.*

*Location: Meiji Gakuin University, Shirokanedai Campus, Building #2, B1 Floor, Room 2102*
*Date: June 13, 2015, 10:00 - 17:10*
*Organizers: Alexander Zahlten (Harvard University), Roland Domenig (Meiji Gakuin University)*

*Campus Map*:*