Monday, January 18, 2016

"Photo of Helen Keller’s 1937 visit to Gifu school discovered"

Photo and text borrowed from The Japan News, 1/18/16.

A photo taken during a visit by Helen Keller, a noted humanitarian who overcame being deaf and blind, to Gifu Prefectural School for the Blind in 1937 has been discovered at a late student’s house and was donated to the school.

School officials were delighted at the discovery since many of the school’s photos and documents of the time had been destroyed in the July 1945 air raids.

“It is a precious photo and we would like to carry on the message of what Helen Keller tried to convey her entire life,” said Toru Hayashi, 58, the school principal.

The photo, which shows Keller wearing a hat and smiling while surrounded by students and teachers, was taken in a hall at the school, the fifth for the blind nationwide, during Keller’s visit on June 8, 1937.

Kanemitsu Takahashi, who graduated from the school and eventually became head of the Gifu welfare association for the blind, had kept the photo at his house. Takahashi passed away at the age of 80 in 2011 and his family donated the photo to the school last November.

During her first Japan visit, which lasted three months, Keller, who was 56 at the time, visited schools for the blind and deaf in cities including Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Shizuoka, where she strongly advocated the need for education for the disabled.

When she was in Gifu, she experienced cormorant fishing, a traditional fishing method in which trained cormorants are used to fish in rivers.

Keller returned to Japan after World War II in 1948 and 1955, and the speeches she gave during her visits were believed to have helped lead to the enactment of a law to promote the welfare of the physically disabled.

Her visit to Gifu Prefectural School for the Blind was reported in a newsletter for the graduates in braille, and in a written document stored at the school.

The article said Keller had received a warm applause from a large audience.

When one of the people who accompanied her asked if she could hear the sound of the applause, she replied that she could tell from their breathing and through the vibration of the floor.

Before taking the photo, Keller told the students they should study hard and noted they were blessed to have the opportunity to study in such a distinguished school.

The photo was reused in a newsletter published in 1994 to commemorate the school’s 100th anniversary. While its existence was not a secret, the whereabouts of the original had been unknown.

The school plans to put the photo on display for students during school events.

According to the Tokyo Helen Keller Association website, Helen Keller (1880-1968), who was born in the U.S. state of Alabama, fell ill with a high fever when she was 19 months old, leaving her blind and deaf.

Under the tutelage of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Keller eventually graduated from Radcliffe College, which was later merged with Harvard University. She traveled the world, advocating for the welfare and education of people with disabilities and delving into political and social issues.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Photo Exhibition and Visual Ethnography - "Tachinomiya: There Are Two Sides to Every Noren"


Thesis/Purpose: This photo exhibition is a visual ethnography of a traditional Japanese standing bar, or tachinomiya (literally “standing drinking shop”). Tachinomiya are numerous in Japan and are usually characterized as inexpensive and convenient spots for a quick drink and snack either alone or with friends. One charm of the tachinomiya, especially in the Osaka area, is socializing with the people next to you whether you know them or not. The specific tachinomiya presented in this exhibition, Tenbun, is a popular shop over 37 years old located near a busy train station on the boarder between Osaka and Kyoto prefectures. Tenbun features many kinds of food and drink and a plethora of interesting characters including the owner, employees and regular customers. Another characteristic of the tachinomiya is the use of a noren, a kind of fabric curtain that signals that the shop is open for business and provides partial seclusion for the shop and customers. The noren can be seen as a fluid wall; when calm it blocks much of the view from the outside, but when the wind blows its separated partitions offer more glimpses of the inside. The glimpses can be narrow or revealing. One cannot control the wind; this fluid wall illustrates the complexities of personal privacy in public spaces in Japan, especially in the context of taking photographs in public and image rights.

Key words: photo exhibition, visual ethnography, tachinomiya, noren, personal privacy

Wednesday, February 3 - Sunday, February 14, 2016
(closed on Monday and Tuesday)
12:00 - 18:00 (Closes at 17:00 on the final day)

Sewing Gallery
2-11-18 Hoshigaoka
Hirakata-shi, Osaka-fu, 573-0013
(inside Hoshigaoka Gakuen)
Tel: 072-840-2476  Fax: 072-840-2492
E-Mail :

Take the Keihan Train Line to Hirakata-shi station and transfer to the Katano Line (platforms 5 & 6). Get off at Hoshigaoka station (2 stops from Hirakata-shi) and then walk up the hill for about 3 minutes. The gallery (inside Hoshigaoka Gakuen) is on the left hand side of the road.

Click here for access

写真展とビジュアル民族誌「立ち呑み屋: のれんの表裏には異なる意味があります」

Click here for English

目的: この写真展は伝統的な日本の「立ち呑み屋」を網羅したビジュアル民族誌である。立ち呑み屋というものは日本に多数存在し、通常安価で、一人であるいは友人と気軽にお酒と軽食を楽しめる場所とみなされている。 立ち呑み屋 の魅力(特に大阪で)は、隣の見ず知らずの人と親交を結べることである。この写真展で紹介されている 立ち呑み屋 「天文」は、大阪と京都の境 にある鉄道の駅の近くで37年以上営業を続けている人気店である。「天文」は多様な食事と飲み物が人気で、店の経営者、従業員、常連客などユニークな人々が集まることが大きな特徴となっている。また「 立ち呑み屋 」の特徴の一つに「のれん」というものがある。のれんというのは、布製のカーテンであり、それが使用されていることで店が営業中である合図となり、又、カーテンの中にいることで外から隔離されるようになる。のれんは「揺れる壁」として見られることもある。無風の時は外からの目を遮り、風で店の中の仕切りとなるのれんが揺れる時は、店の中の様子を覗くことができる。のれんの開き具合によって中が僅かに見える時もあれば、全体がはっきり見えることもある。誰も風をコントロールをすることはできない。この動く壁は日本の公共の場における個人のプライバシーの複雑さを示している。特に公共の場で写真を撮ることにおいて 顕著である。

キーワード: 写真展、ビジュアル民族誌、立ち呑み屋、のれん、個人のプライバシー

2016年2月3日 (水) 〜2月14日 (日)
12時〜18時 (月火休み 展示最終日は17時まで)

〒573-0013 大阪府枚方市星丘2-11-18 星ヶ丘学園内
Tel: 072-840-2476  Fax: 072-840-2492



Monday, January 11, 2016

Shocked and Saddened by the Passing of David Bowie

No words can express the sense of loss that I and many others feel. Perhaps my old college roommate put it best when I expressed my loss to him. He wrote: "I totally get it. He was always there when you needed him."

Image borrowed from

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: the best record ever made! "TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME"

David Bowie's love affair with Japanese style:

Like some cat from Japan - A tribute to David Bowie:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2016 Hozanji Offerings

This year I made my hatsumode to Hozanji a little later than usual to avoid the big new year's crowds. I also went by car and was pleasantly surprised that it took a little over 30 minutes by the winding mountain road from Osaka to Nara rather than the almost 2 hours by trains (3 transfers) and cable car. I love going to this temple and taking photographs there. I can always find something different to shoot. So here are this year's offerings to add to the VAOJ collection (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).

Happy Year of the Monkey! I hope all of your efforts and endeavors are fruitful in 2016.

See also the official website for Hozanji (宝山寺) in Japanese:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"Japanese artist re-invents religious art from Renaissance Period"

Photo and text from Japan Today, 1/5/16:

Anime is the new religion, at least when it comes to these re-imagined religious works of art by Hiroshi Mori.

Mori combines Japanese anime and pop art with some of the most iconic religious portraits of the Renaissance era to create a fresh new take on classical Western and Japanese “rimpa”-style art.

Mori attended Tokai University before eventually gaining recognition for his humorous work featuring historical figures drawn as anime characters in 2009, and this religious series is his most recent.

Each of the paintings in the series employs a combination of acrylic, urethane, silver mirror plating, and UV-cured resin on aluminum and were featured in a number of solo exhibitions in Tokyo from 2013-2014.


Mori's website:

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year 2016 from VAOJ!