Monday, January 11, 2021

「Eat, Drink, and Stand in Japan」featuring the tachinomiya Tenbun is the cover story for the print version of Anthropology News (November/December 2020)

Also available online: https://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2021/01/08/eat-drink-and-stand-in-japan/
My text was severely edited (for brevity and to appeal to a wider audience I suppose) but I think the photos look great! I like the layout in the print version better. Send me an e-mail if you want a pdf copy.

The original pitch:

In Japan, food is prominent in documentaries, cooking shows, travel shows, variety shows, dramas, manga, anime, books, magazines, blogs, Facebook and Instagram. This food, not eaten but consumed, provides entertainment, enjoyment and knowledge. Many of these presentations are set in izakaya (Japanese-style pub) and tachinomiya (Japanese standing bar) located in shitamachi (“lower city” associated with common people) neighborhoods that serve B-kyu gurume (B-rank food)—comfort food and/or local food. These are fascinating shops and sites to explore the production (cooking) and consumption (eating) of food. The portrayals themselves are another form of production, that of knowledge and enjoyment that is “good to think” (Levi-Strauss 1962), “communicated” (Barthes 1966; Dusselier 2009) and “shared among people” (Cheung 2002).

This photo essay is a multimodal visual ethnography of a 40-year-old tachinomiya in Osaka called Tenbun. Tenbun features many kinds of food and drink, a lively and relaxed atmosphere and plenty of colorful characters including the owner, employees and regular customers. Based upon over two years of participant-observation and photography, a photo exhibition and other post-fieldwork encounters, the text and images explore the intersection of food anthropology, recent research on drinking establishments in Japan and the plethora of “foodie” media productions.

The Tenbun/tachinomiya project: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.com/2020/12/behind-scenestenbun-closingpresentation.html

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Meet Kai - the new dog in the neighborhood (I'm not a dog person but must admit this one can be filed under kawaii...)

The cross roads of this busy pedistrian path has a new attraction - Kai.
Kai's self introduction messages have been growing over the last few weeks - this is what it has become.
Fast facts: Kai was born in Kyoto but now lives in Osaka with his new family. Please do not feed the dog. Please do not tease the dog. Please play with the dog nicely. Kai wishes everyone a Happy New Year! Kai is looking forward to becoming a good citizen in the neighborhood.
Kai has already become popular with children and adults alike. You can often see people gathering to pet and play with the dog.
A little bit of happiness we can all use right now...

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year 2021 from「VAoJ」

Let's throw out the old 2020 trash and have a happy, healthy and safe new year!

明けましておめでとうございます。今年もよろしくお願いします!

Ringing in the New Year 2021 at our neighborhood shrine - COVID 19 interferes with the liminality of the hatsumode ritual

The liminal phase in a rite of transition usually entails a certain ambiguity - a period where the usual norms of daily life are absent. However this year, COVID 19 seems to have affected the hatsumode ritual (the first shrine visit of the year) itself. On a scouting mission on December 31, 2020, my research assistant and I briefly visited two local shrines where preparations were underway or had finished for the usual shrine visit at midnight.

This is what we saw at the first site. It is not so easy to see the green tape lines on the pathway to the shrine to encourage social distancing. This got me to think what was being done at our own local shrine.

At the second site, there seemed to have been little preparation. No bon fire barrels, no tent for the sipping of the sacred sake. But there were banners promoting the use of masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing (no green tape maker lines however).

Shortly after the midnight hour I visited our neighborhood shrine once again (my research assistant had fallen asleep watching the New Year's Eve special programming on TV).

There were few people present to say their first New Year's prayers.

There were few people standing in line at the shrine in front of me.

And no one was behind me.

No bon fires, no tents, no containers to dispose of old relgious amulets, no sakered sake, and the water to purify oneself was closed off. And the bell at the top of the opening of the shrine was missing along with the rope attached to it that people shake to make the bell ring before they pray. I talked to a couple of shrine elders and they said these changes (decided by a regional shrine association) had to be made because of the corona virus. The shrine was open for quick prayers but not for the usual ritual festivities. It seemed as if most people were staying home anyway.

You can see the difference between this year and last year (click here).

While it was good that people stayed away to avoid crowds and possible virus spread, it was very sad to miss out on the camaraderie and communitas that the hasumode provides for the neighborhood. Here's hoping for normal ritual activities in 2021!

Friday, December 25, 2020