Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Deaf X-mas in Japan II: The Bad News

Subtitle: Top court rejects appeal by Koreans seeking disability benefits

I have been following this court case since the beginning of my research on deafness in Japan. It has gone all the way to the Japanese Supreme Court, and on x-mas day the court gave this present to my Korean-Japanese Deaf friends in Kyoto: NO BENEFITS!

News of this judgment has been almost non-existent in the Japanese press. It did appear in Japan Today but was quickly removed as it was not a popular discussion article. You can read a short article at the following web site:

Link to Kyodo article on Breitbart

"...[N]ot taking compensation measures is evidently not unconstitutional." What a wonderful quote! These people were born in Japan and use Japanese Sign Language. They pay taxes but are doubly burdened because of their status as Korean-Japanese (click here for more background information on this issue) and an extremely puzzling law that sets up arbitrary age limits to receive social welfare assistance.

Not much is known about this issue. I certainly didn't know about it when I first came to Japan ten years ago. I remember being at a Deaf dinner party and getting frustrated with everyone asking me if I was American. I decided to confront the next person who asked me the question with "Are you Japanese?" The person I ended up confronting was Mr. Kim, who politely signed to me that, no, he was not Japanese but rather a Korean-Japanese. Mr. Kim has been an active fighter of this issue for several years. I interviewed him and the following passage appears in my dissertation:

I have a double burden, one is being a Korean person living in Japanese society and the other is being a disabled person, and because of that I have experienced really upsetting moments. Now Japan's economy is bad and it has been very difficult for me to have a job. Because of that, my younger brother and deaf friends have found me jobs and I have been working doing public works. I told people from the beginning that I can't hear. My boss said he understood but when I made mistakes at work, he said with his voice that it was incorrect and he told me many things. I told him I didn't understand but he scolded me many times saying "it's wrong" so I got angry, too... I got fired. Even when I was working, I was forced to work for a lower wage. One time my salary was unexpectedly small, and when i asked for the reason, I was told, "disabled people get pension [social welfare assistance] so it should be enough." Most people don't know that foreign "disabled people" living in Japan don't get a pension and even when I explain to them why we don't get a pension, people have difficulty understanding. It was such a chagrin and very upsetting, too. People have thought that I have been getting a pension like Japanese people. (Kim quoted in Fedorowicz 2002:102)

Somehow, Kim's boss, thinking Kim was receiving social welfare payments, deducted the same amount from Kim's paycheck. The double burden is a double penalty here. Deaf people because of their so-called "disabled" status earn much less than their hearing counter-parts in Japan. This is bad enough (and so the social welfare payments in theory try to make up for this difference) but what about the plight of the Korean-Japanese Deaf? The Japanese government doesn't seem to understand their plight, or even care about it.

Mr. Kim's fight continues. Why? Merry Christmas indeed...

Deaf X-mas in Japan I: The Good News

Subtitle: A Global Deaf X-mas

I had the pleasure of attending a party for a visiting Deaf couple from Norway in Namba, Osaka on Christmas evening. Another participant was a Deaf man born in Argentina and living in Italy. I was the only American and the only hearing person as well. The Norwegians and Italian attended Gallaudet University and are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). There was one Deaf Japanese man (who had also attended Gallaudet) who acted as interpreter as most of us had little experience or knowledge of ASL. I studied ASL for a year or so in grad school, but since coming to Japan I have forgot most of it. I was able to introduce myself in ASL, but needed my Japanese friend to interpret my Japanese Sign Language (JSL) into ASL for the Europeans to understand. Are you following me? This was truly a globalization moment in Japan. It seems as though Deaf people from all over the world attend Gallaudet and learn ASL. ASL seems to be becoming the lingua franca for Deaf people in international settings. However I was told by one of the Norwegians that International Sign Language is more widely used in Europe. Anyway, the evening was fun and cross-culturally educational for all. This is how Christmas should be - peace on earth...

Sorry I couldn't come up with better pictures for the event - I only had my cell phone camera with me. And most of my photos ended up looking like this:

What do you expect with Deaf people moving their hands, arms and entire bodies all of the time? Yet another challenge for visual anthropologists...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

KGU Japanese Sign Language Group 2007 忘年会

We had another successful semester of JSL study so of course it was more than fitting to celebrate with an end-of-the-year-party. Fall semester 2007 saw a core group of 7 students who attended every week and picked up a lot of sign language in a relatively short time. I am always wavering over which would be better: a large group of students (to "prove" the popularity of sign language to the dean and other school officials to pave the way for a real university level JSL class) or a small group (because smaller groups are better for more effective language learning). I was especially happy with the group this semester. We did serious study but had plenty of fun along the way. We had opportunity to interact with and learn from many Deaf people in the community.

Our party had 10 hearing people and 11 Deaf people. A happy coincidence was that at the same izakaya, another group of 20 or so Deaf people from a local sign language circle. Downtown Hirakata-shi was buzzing with JSL that night.

To all the Deaf people and friends who have helped us during the semester, 本当にありがとうございました! To the students who are returning to their own countries, please continue to study sign language! To the students who will return next semester and become shuwa senpai, よろしく! And to all group members a hearty お疲れ様でした! Happy Holidays and best of luck to all in your future.

Thanks to Kana (her camera) and the izakaya master (the photographer) for the photo at the top.

JSL Study Group will start up again in February 2008. For more info send a comment to this post.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Should stock photos be used in visual anthropology?

Visual anthropology focuses on the visual, that is some image either still or moving, that serves to illustrate some ethnographic thesis as a complement or substitute for written text. I must admit that sometimes I find many of my posts here on this blog to be problematic because they are only text. Albeit many such posts are of the announcement variety, but still I wonder if I should offer up some photo as eye candy.

I have thousands of my own original images stored in my iPhoto files, but sometimes I don't have an image that "works." What to do? One temptation is the internet and its oh-so-many-photos-at-my-disposal. But what about copyright issues? one might ask. Can a blog, even one that is academic in nature, freely take images from the internet and use them as the blogger/author wishes. Perhaps, but of course with proper citations and source information and the willingness to remove such images if the original author/photographer/illustrator/filmmaker objects to its use. But this seems like a lot of hassle.

Enter stock photos - images on the internet available for free or for a price that can be used anyway the blogger sees fit. I was excited to see a recent posting on Presentation Zen with a list of sources for free stock photos (also, check out the comments for even more suggestions from PZ readers).

Link to Presentation Zen post "10 links to cool, high-rez images"

So now that we have millions and millions of images at our disposal, the questions are, what do we do with them and how do we use them? (Unfortunately the PZ post doesn't take up these questions.) For presentations it might not be so problematic to include a somewhat related visual as a background or to cleverly illustrate a (power) point. Can we do this in visual anthropology? Or how about academia in general?

Recently there was an interesting article in Slate about a medical journal using a photo to illustrate its story about HIV-positive foster children in Harlem. The problem (for which they have apologized) is that the photo that appeared in the story was that of an orphanage in Ethiopia, an image that can be purchased at iStockphoto. This was not explained in the original story. Why was this photo used? Do authors have such a creative license to illustrate a scientific, academic and/or ethnographic text?

Check out the article:

Taking Stock: Every picture tells a story, sometimes the wrong one.
By Jack Shafer

Link to Slate article, Taking Stock

The bottom line here, I feel, is to be weary of stock photos. They are convenient, too convenient. As a visual anthropologist, why not take and use your own photographs? It seems like everyone has a digital camera at their disposal, even if it is on their cell phone. Taking your own photos brings you closer to the research (which is what anthropology is all about anyway). Taking your own photos and understanding what they are allows you to include important context. The use of images in visual anthropology is not about making something look good or attractive (although these things should not be completely ignored). It's not about throwing in an image at some point to break up ugly text. How creative, original or artistic is the use of stock photos anyway? Presentation is important, but first and foremost we can never forget the purpose of visual anthropology, that is the visual representation of culture. With representation comes responsibility and ethics. Convenience is a poor substitute.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Got tattoos? Want to be a visual anthropologist in front of the camera?

Here is an interesting opportunity (posted on EASIANTH) if you want to get out from behind the camera and show the world how cool visual anthropologists really are! The deadline is a little tight but surely a Hunter S. Thompson like guy (sorry gals, they seem to want a man for this job...) still has plenty of time to get a couple tattoos, shoot some video and shove it down the mojo... 頑張って下さい!

New York Documentary Television Production Company is seeking anthropologists or journalists or travel writers to host a new documentary TV series for a major cable network about tattoo culture around the world.

We are looking for someone who is attractive, smart, a guy's guy, adventurous, engaging, inquisitive. Someone who's up for anything, not afraid to get dirty, be in dangerous situations. Having a tattoo is a plus! This is someone who is driven by curiosity and can share the experience -- be it in Russian prison tattoo parlors or Puerto Rican gangs -- with an audience. He's not in it to get tattooed but is a
seeker with real world experience.

This is an opportunity to host a primetime cable tv series. Must be willing to travel. This could turn into a full-time job.

If you fit this description, please film yourself answering the following questions. Personality is key so have fun with this, while imparting intellect and curiosity. 5-10 minutes max. Shoot outdoors if possible. Waist up so I can see your face. Going for an outdoorsy look, not clean-cut, not too edgy.

Please email your clips (to or overnight them to:
NorthSouth Productions
1140 Broadway, Ste 1201
New York, NY 10001

1. Your name, where you live
2. Your bio in brief - professional, education, hobbies
3. Travel experience -- where have you been overseas? Most memorable experience.
4. Show us your tattoos [if you have any]. Give a brief explanation of 2 of them. Why are you interested in tattoos? Or why are you interested in investigating cultures around the world?
5. What are you most passionate about? Give us a one-minute tutorial on the subject.
6. Have the camera follow you to go "interview" someone (could be someone a few feet away). Ask that person a few questions about a topic they know about.
7. Eat something spicy, sour, gross and react - tell us what it tastes like, feels like. Make us feel like we're experiencing it too.

Tape can be submitted via email, or hard copies on DVD, VHS, or Mini-DV formats. Materials will not be returned.

Must be received by Dec 10, 2007.

Thank you.

Amy Rapp | Head of Development
NorthSouth Productions

Here is their internet site if you want to know more about them...

Link to NorthSouth Productions

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

More Contemporary Ainu Resourses

The information in this post comes from an announcement from Japan Focus.

Chisato ("Kitty") O. Dubreuil, The Ainu and Their Culture: A Critical Twenty-First Century Assessment

Chisato ("Kitty") Dubreuil, an Ainu-Japanese art history comparativist, has charted connections between the arts of the Ainu and those of diverse indigenous peoples of the north Pacific Rim. Currently finishing her PhD dissertation, Dubreuil co-curated, with William Fitzhugh, the director of the Smithsonian Artic Studies Center, the groundbreaking 1999 Smithsonian exhibition on Ainu culture.

This wide-ranging and lavishly illustrated interview explores historic and contemporary Ainu arts and Ainu social movements.

This is a very interesting article, and as promised, it includes lots of helpful images and illustrations. There are also some useful links, including one to "Ainu: Spirit of a Northern People," a multimedia presentation that should be of interest to visual anthropologists.

Link to The Ainu and Their Culture: A Critical Twenty-First Century Assessment

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Share your stuff! Some good advice on how to do it...

"share your images - audio - video - collections
of artifacts, documents, or special interests"

Another announcement from EASIANTH.

Check out the site by Guven Witteveen, anthropologist and Outreach Educator at Michigan State University, that gives some good and practical advice on how to share images, video, etc. on-line. A simple and good resource for students of visual anthropology...


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Free Documentaries?

Not necessarily Japan-related, but an interesting source for some interesting documentaries... for free!


At we believe strongly that in order to have a true democracy, there has to be a free flow of easily available information. Unfortunately, many important perspectives, opinions and facts do not make it to our televisions or cinemas (you can watch movies in our media category if you want to know why).

For this reason we decided to start, a site where anyone with an internet connection can watch a movie and educate themselves or simply explore another perspective whenever they want.

Providing films free not only allows anyone to watch a film but it also allows curious people who think they may disagree with a filmmaker to watch a film without worrying that they are giving money to someone who's views they don't agree with.

Everyone that watches a film at should learn something, whether it be a new perspective on a topic or simply understanding how others think. We can say that the vast majority of people that watch our films are glad they do so. also allows independent filmmakers to have their message heard to markets which they wouldn't reach easily.

Check it out!

Link to Free

Monday, November 26, 2007



TO: Organizers of the XVII International AIDS Conference--Information Coordinator,; Global Village Coordinator,; Cultural Programme Coordinator,; Karen Bennett, Communication Manager,; Pierre Peyrot, Media Centre Manager,; Accessibility Coordinator,

FROM: The Global Committee on HIV/AIDS and Disability ( et al)

RE: The Participation of Deaf People and People with Disabilities at the Mexico City AIDS 2008 Conference

DATE: November 23, 2007

We, the undersigned members of the newly formed Global Committee on HIV/AIDS and Disability call upon the organizers of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City to include people with disabilities at all levels of the conference and to provide far better services than were available at the XVI AIDS conference in Toronto. While we appreciate the efforts you are making to serve individual community members with disabilities, we feel that people with disabilities should also be seen as a group at high risk for HIV/AIDS.

Deaf people and people with disabilities around the world are as or more likely to be HIV+ as their hearing counterparts.1 People with disabilities are often at high risk of sexual abuse.2 Deaf people are particularly vulnerable because of lack of accessible information. Few nations or municipalities document the issue of HIV/AIDS among Deaf people, Blind people, people with physical or mental disabilities or other disabling conditions. This means that it is difficult to track the impact of HIV/AIDS on the community and difficult to get resources to improve conditions. For example, the 2005 UNAIDS report makes no mention of these problems despite Deaf people and people with disabilities being unusually vulnerable populations.

We request that the organizers of AIDS 2008:

- Invite prominent people with disabilities to be Keynote Speakers at AIDS 2008 to highlight some of the important issues related HIV/AIDS in the Deaf community and among people with disabilities.
- Make a good faith effort to solicit and accept scientific papers on issues of deafness and disability.
- Provide a space in the Global Village where Deaf people and people with disabilities can network and access services.
- This space could also serve as an information center where people newly disabled because of HIV/AIDS can get information from people experienced with disabilities.
- Provide time and space in the Media Office for an official press conference of the Global Committee on HIV/AIDS, Deafness and Disability.
- Provide far more sign language interpreting and access services including guides for blind people and physical accessibility coordinators than were available at the AIDS 2006 conference. Ideally, these services should be run out of a central location such as one associated with an area in the Global Village.
- Provide a significant number of focused scholarships for Deaf people and people with disabilities around the world.
- Commit to help advocate on issues concerning Deaf people and people with disabilities around the world including access to prevention information, demographic information about the spread of HIV/AIDS in communities, and appropriate counseling, treatment and support for community members living with HIV/AIDS.

Thank you for your attention to this matter,

Leila Monaghan, University of Wyoming, United States,
Farida Asindua, Handicap International, Kenya,
Andy Bartley, AID Atlanta, United States,
Claudia Bisol, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul and Universidade de Caxias do Sul, Brazil,
Steven C. Fedorowicz, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan,
Anne Finger, Writer and Disability Rights Activist, United States,
Lakshmi Fjord, University of California San Francisco, United States,
Kevin Henderson, HIV/AIDS and Deaf Activist, United States and Kenya,
Tesfaye Gedlu Mebrate, Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf, Ethiopia,
Roberta Goldberg, Interpreter, United States,
Deborah Karp, Deaf AIDS Project Maryland, United States,
Kristin Lindgren, Haverford College, United States,
John Meletse, Gay and Lesbian Archives, South Africa,
Ruth Morgan, The University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa,
Karen Nakamura, Yale University, United States,
Olabisi Olawuyi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria,
Washington Opoyo, Liverpool VCT, Kenya,
Peter Oracha, Maseno University, Kenya,
Constanze Schmaling, HIV/AIDS Researcher and Sign Language Scholar, Germany,
Michel Turgeon, Coalition SIDA des Sourds du Québec, Canada,

1. Schmaling, C., & Monaghan, L. (Eds.). (2006) HIV/AIDS and Deaf Communities. Coleford: Douglas McLean. [Deaf Worlds Focused Edition, Vol. 22 (1).] Available at:; Taegtmeyer, M, Henderson. K, Angala. P, Ngare, C (2006) Responding to the signs: A voluntary counselling and testing programme for the Deaf in Kenya. AIDS 2006 Poster MOPE0876.
2. Groce, N.E. and Trasi, R. (2004) Rape of Individuals with Disability: AIDS and the Folk Belief of Virgin Cleansing. Lancet, 363(9422), 1663-4.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More Fall 2007 Globalization in Kobe Pics

Kobe skyline panorama

Stephanie from Globalization class recently sent some pictures from the fieldtrip we took in October. I think she took some good and interesting shots so I am presenting them below along with her own captions. Nice examples of globalization and visual anthropology. Thanks, Stephanie!

One end of China town

Japanese Denmark? hehe

Creepy Mona Lisa made out of buttons

Street Entertainer

This is what the Japanese think Americans look like. Lol.

1995 Earthquake memorial park

Fishermen in Kobe port

Happy Halloween :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ainu Pride and Ainu Rebels

Several Japan-related listservs have been announcing and advertising these contemporary Ainu performance/activist websites. Lots if interesting and valuable information can be found there - check them out. Below is a video of the AINU REBELS posted on YouTube. I showed this clip in my Japan and Globalization class when we were studying Japanese rap music. Many students found the glocalized J-Rap to be problematic - a fake, almost forced genre without the politics that forged original. One student noted that the Ainu Rebels incorporation of rap in their performance made much more sense than J-Rap in that the former perform as political activists.

Ainu Pride website and blog written by Mina.

This is her own self description quoted from her website:

"Father is Ainu, from Chirot Kotan in Makubetsu Village. Mother is Japanese, from Tokyo. Learned traditional Ainu dancing from a young age, she has been active in spreading awareness on the Ainu people and culture through traditional dancing as well as sharing her life story throughout Japan.

In summer of 2006, she founded the 'AINU REBELS,' a group of young Ainu living in the Tokyo area, and currently serves as the group's leader. Mina is also a Cultural Advisor registered with The Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture."

Ainu Rebels web site.

This is their own self description quoted from their website:

"AINU REBELS is a group of young Ainu in the Tokyo area, formed in Summer of 2006. While learning traditional dancing and singing, we also work on producing new ways of expressing our identities and culture. We are doing our best to 'have fun' and 'be cool' while spreading Ainu culture throughout the world!!

We chose the name 'REBELS' with the hope of creating change - to transform our society into one where Ainu people can be proud to be Ainu."

Both websites can be accessed from the link below. I think it is important and fortunate that we can access contemporary Ainu information from contemporary Ainu people themselves.

Link to Ainu Pride and Ainu Rebels

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New Link: "Here, there, and somewhere else"

I'd like to introduce a blog I am adding to the "Visual Anthropology Related Links" section. When the author contacted me inquiring about visual anthropology graduate programs I came across her interesting blog. Here is the author's own description:

Here, there, and somewhere else

Fly. Walk. Converse. Discover. A Filipina in her mid-20s records whatever.

The cities are crowded. The trains are a mess. My life in school gets more complicated everyday. Maybe I have more to say? Maybe I have more things to complain about or perhaps my life just got more interesting? I am not so sure, really. Maa iiya, toiu kanji.

Blog of a Pinay student living in Tokyo.

There are lots of interesting pictures, observations, ideas and cultural representations here - certainly worth a look for students of visual anthropology.

Link to Here, there, and somewhere else:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Visual Cultures and Colonialism: Indigeneity in Local and Transnational Imagery

Another announcement from H-ASIA... This conference sounds interesting, and it is related to our recent class discussion on "what to do with the person" in visual representations and our recent viewing of The Couple in the Cage.

Visual Cultures and Colonialism: Indigeneity in Local and Transnational Imagery

Location: Australia
Call for Papers Date: 2007-12-15
Date Submitted: 2007-10-23
Announcement ID: 159088

A growing body of postcolonial research has established the importance of visual imagery in creating and popularizing ideas about race and cultural difference. Visual representations of Indigenous peoples circulated from local to transnational contexts, participating in colonial networks of global exchange and defining relations of power. One strand of analysis has revealed the complicity of Western scopic regimes with imperialism, tracing the ways that visual cultures express the colonizers’ expansionist gaze. Another seeks to emphasise the role of Indigenous peoples within this relationship, identifying culturally distinct visual traditions and the reformulation of new media such as photography and museum exhibitions. Descendant re-valuation of the colonial archive is inverting colonial exhibitory practices and spectacle, producing new meanings through re-contextualisation of these images. This conference aims to bring together research and thinking on visual cultures and indigeneity that attends to local specificity as well as the global circuits of visual discourse, illuminating both colonial process and attempts at decolonisation.

For more information contact:
Dr. Liz Conor and Dr. Jane Lydon
Centre for Australian Indigenous Studies
Monash University
Clayton VIC 3800

"The Street" A Graduate Student Conference in Visual Studies

(An announcement from H-ASIA...)

Call for papers: "The Street" A Graduate Student Conference in Visual Studies
University of California Irvine, February 29-March 1, 2008

The 2008 UC Irvine Visual Studies Graduate Student Association Conference
February 29 - March 1 2008

In the most literal sense, "the street" denotes a passageway that connects various points in space. However, a quick catalog of the phrase in everyday language reveals that "the street" is a dynamic social and symbolic space, an intersection of public and private interests that are often difficult to isolate. For example, "the street" does not only refer to a thoroughfare but also denotes the place where one lives. This relationship prompts the phrase "my street," which connotes a community affected through ownership, and links its author to a greater metropolis at the same time that it embeds him or her in place as owner and agent. In this sense the street also represents the confrontation of a sense of place and the codes of public policy, thereby pointing to a larger interpenetration of the public and the private that lies at the core of this elusive space. In other instances the phrase transcends space altogether, referring instead to a mode of existence that is independent of site specificity. In this capacity "the street" is used to convey authenticity as in "receiving one's education from the street" or in being "from the street," a usage that usually implies an opposition to artificial or abstract representations of reality. While these examples make clear that "the street" often functions in opposition to a privileged class, it is, in practice, precisely that space which refuses class distinction by forcing interactions among diverse social groups. This interaction is itself as diverse as the space in which it takes place as one may address the street with the apathy of the flâneur or with the fervor of political

We seek papers, projects, or organized panels from a variety of disciplines and approaches all of which address and expand upon the many layers of meaning that constitute this rich object of study. Please submit abstract (250 words) and c.v. to by Dec. 1, 2007 for consideration.

Fields of interest may include:

The 40th anniversary of May '68
Limits of 'the public' in a surveillance society
Public infrastructure and urban planning
Protest on the global street
Globalization and Wall Street
Benjamin's Arcades Project
Advertising and public displays of consumption
Homelessness and nomadism
Situationism and the practice of the Derive
Public performance and the choreography of the street
GPS, G-Maps and virtual negotiations
The simulated street of the Sims and Second Life
Car crashes, accidents and public fatality

For more information contact:
Visual Studies Graduate Student Association
University of California, Irvine

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This one just started out as fun...

Do you like the bubble wrap? Does this picture make you want to pop every bubble? Then check out the New York Times "Laugh Lines" from October 26, 2007 below.

Bubble wrap

When I was looking for the Japanese connection to this posting, I found some interesting web sites.

This picture and the accompanying story on bubble wrap in Japan comes from a site called 3 Yen - News on Japan.

News on Japan - 'Pachi-Pachi'

The site refers to a Japanese game called Pachi-Pachi (the Japanese sound made when popping the bubbles) and provides a link to it. It is the same game as posted on the NY Times web page on 10/26! And the NY Times gives no credit or explanation for it. Is this a problem? Seems プチプチ (Pachi-Pachi) has been on-line since December 20, 2003.

Link to プチプチ

Is this a case of once it's on the web it's fair game? (seems that the NY Times should have provided a source...) On another level, is this another example of weird Japan? Anyway, no matter which site you use, have fun popping...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Globalization in Kobe Fieldtrip Fall 2007

Once again, the "Japan and Globalization: A Cultural Approach" class took a fieldtrip to Kobe in search of the G-word. What did they find? See the pictures and video below and find out...

(Note: This is the first time I am using the Blogger video feature. What do you think?)

Only one student this time entered the globalization photo contest, so our winner is... Nic. His photos appear below. Congratulations and thank you.

See what other students photographed last semester.
Spring 2007 Kobe Fieldtrip

Friday, October 26, 2007

Queer Southeast Asian Short Films

(Courtesy of H-ASIA)

This announcement isn't Japan related nor does it take place in Japan. But it does seem very interesting and an especially challenging arena for visual anthropology. Personally, I would be very interested to see these films.

The event:

Queer Southeast Asian Short Films Program

Thursday, November 8, 2007, 7:00 pm

University of California Irvine Film and Video Center

Reception at 6:30 pm

Curator John Badalu to appear in person for Q&A session

The University of California Irvine Film and Video Center is honored to welcome guest curator John Badalu to present a series of queer Southeast Asian short films. Badalu is both an independent producer working with some of East Asia's most interesting filmmakers as well as the director of the Q! Festival. The Jakarta-based Q! Festival weathered attacks early in its history from fundamentalist religious groups to emerge as the only film festival of its kind in Indonesia with venues in Jakarta, Jogjakarta, and Bali. Today, it is the largest queer festival in Asia. Badalu has served as a juror for the Berlin and Bangkok Film Festivals and as a producer for five independent films. For this FVC program, Badalu has selected short narrative films from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Directed by Victric Thng
2003, Singapore • 4 minutes • Digital Projection

Unseen Bangkok
Directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul
2004, Thailand • 6 minutes • Digital Projection

Life Show
Directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul
2005, Thailand • 10 minutes • Digital Projection

The Matchmaker
Directed by Cinzia Puspita Rini
2006, Indonesia • 10 minutes • Digital Projection

Directed by Amir Mohammad
2002, Malaysia • 15 minutes • Digital Projection

Directed by Patrick Lim
2003, Malaysia • 23 minutes • Digital Projection

Last Full Show
Directed by Mark V. Reyes
2004, Philippines • 18 minutes • Digital Projection

Directed by Royston Tan
2004, Singapore • 12 minutes • Digital Projection

This program is co-presented by the Humanities Center and is organized by Jonathan M. Hall, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies and Comparative Literature at UC Irvine.

Lecture in Kyoto: Bouvier's Writings and Photographs on Japan

(Courtesy of H-Japan...)


Thursday, November 1, 2007, 6:00 PM

Giorgio Amitrano will speak on:

Instants voles: Nicolas Bouvier's Writings and Photographs on Japan

Nicolas Bouvier (1929-1998), Swiss writer and photographer, traveled extensively throughout Japan, taking portraits of people, observing and writing. Chroniques japonaises is one of his most celebrated books, and works like L'usage du monde and Le poisson-scorpion turned him into an icon of free, adventurous, risky, small-budget travel. In Bouvier's literary production, images and texts are intimately connected and yet they are independent. There was no theory behind his work: he rather seemed to follow his instinct and sense of adventure. But looking at it from a distance, and with the aid of some important posthumous writings, including a collection of Carnets du Japon, one can detect a greater degree of awareness than expected, as if beyond Bouvier's seemingly spontaneous approach he were developing a method of observation that was both deep and meditative. This lecture will address (or, will attempt an explanation of) why Japan was important for the development of such a method and in what way this country became significant for the building of Bouvier's unique, idiosyncratic humanism.

Giorgio Amitrano is Professor of Japanese Language and Literature at the Universite degli Studi di Napoli L'Orientale. He is the author of The New Japanese Novel: Popular Culture and Literary Tradition in the Works of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana (Kyoto: ISEAS, 1996), Yama no oto: kowareyuku kazoku (Tokyo: Misuzu shobo, 2007), and Il mondo di Banana Yoshimoto (Milano: Feltrinelli, 2007). Amitrano has also edited the Italian edition of Kawabata's collected works, and has translated into Italian works by Kawabata Yasunari, Nakajima Atsushi, Kajii Motojiro, Miyazawa Kenji, Inoue Yasushi, Murakami Haruki, and Yoshimoto Banana.

For more information, contact:

Italian School of East Asian Studies (ISEAS)
Phone: 075-751-8132
Fax: 075-751-8221

Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient (EFEO)
Phone: 075-761-3946

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Why [do] Japanese [people] look subdued?"

Shigekatsu Yamauchi, president of the International Communication Institute and a Cornell University trained Japanese language teacher, writes a column that appears in the Daily Yomiuri. His column usually focuses on the differences between the Japanese and English languages and often concludes that Japanese is easier and more logical and by extension superior and unique. I usually get a kick out of reading his blatant nihinjinron tainted text. In today's column he explains why the Japanese are more restrained and refined in their use of gesture, especially in comparison to English speakers. Please check out his column and then return for my comments.

Link to Japanese in depth / Why Japanese look subdued?
By Shigekatsu Yamauchi, Special to The Daily Yomiuri (Oct. 23, 2007)

Yamauchi's opinions and use of "linguistics" seems flawed on many levels. He justifies his opinion that English speakers use gestures and facial expressions more than the Japanese (this in itself is a huge and questionable generalization) by comparing the speeches of Japanese prime ministers (except for Koizumi - why the exception?) and American presidents. This is a poor source of evidence in that such political speeches are not examples of natural language use. Political speeches are highly choreographed, most especially the use of gestures. I would also question using the current American president as a typical English speaker... Observations of natural language use would be much more revealing than scripted rhetorical devices.

Just this morning on my 15 minute train ride to work I was able to observe the rich use of gesture and facial expressions by a wide variety of Japanese people. I found them to be anything but subdued. Young school children were chatting, laughing and gesturing away. The old woman sitting next to them indicated her discomfort and disgust of the antics of the students with her tense, upright posture and foul facial expressions. Two middle aged women sat speaking, covering their mouths when laughing, waving their hand in negation and made a variety of illustrative, emblematic and cohesive gestures. A salaryman standing by the door was talking on his cell phone, speaking in female register, bowing and making polite facial expressions (obviously he was speaking with a customer or superior). Two college youths who seemed to be studying sometimes drew kanji characters in the air or on their hands. I could go on and on with these real life examples of gesture use in Japan.

Yamauchi resorts to his often used and tired example of the Japanese being able to translate "I am a cat" in 2,000 different ways. He writes, "Even with changes in intonation, the English speaker cannot, by use of language alone, convey with these three words what the various Japanese equivalents can convey." Three words? It is four words, right? And why does it matter the number of words or morphemes needed to express the same phrase? Why the emphasis on one-to-one correspondences? This is indeed an odd comparison for a linguist to make. And to claim that because the same phrase cannot be uttered in English that conveys the same emotional meaning as it does in the Japanese version, more gestures and facial expressions are needed, again odd and extremely questionable.

Gesture and speech are parts of the same communication system. While the meanings of gestures are culture specific and not universal, the fact that humans use gesture is a universal. Not all cultures use gesture in the same way. Yamauchi's subdued facial expression is indeed a gesture itself rather than an example of a lack of gesture. There are occasions when the subdued face is appropriate and expected in Japanese communication. Gesture and facial expression are hardly missing or secondary in Japan. And, at least where I work, I see more subdued expressions on the faces of foreign teachers than on our Japanese students.

Borrowed photo credits:

Junichiro Koizumi photo comes from Time magazine on-line,9171,1187224,00.html?ref=Erotik19...?ref=SevSevil.Com

George W. Bush photo comes from Out in Hollywood

Yasuo Fukuda photo comes from The Age

Monday, October 22, 2007

Weird Japan (?) in the News

"Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place"

Photo by Torin Boyd/Polaris, for The New York Times

Photo caption: Though street crime is relatively low in Japan, quirky camouflage designs like this vending-machine dress are being offered to an increasingly anxious public to hide from would-be assailants.

My Body/Comm student brought this article to my attention as an example of "outlandish Japanese nonverbal communication." We have been studying clothing and fashion in Japan with the question, "What messages do people send through their clothing?" According to my student: "I'm a Coke machine!"

Is this story another example of "the weird things they do in Japan?" How does this story contribute to the image of contemporary Japanese culture?

Read more in the New York Times website. Story by Martin Fackler (October 20, 2007)

Be sure to check out the slide show that accompanies the story for more pictures.

Special thanks to Jonah and his mother for this story.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Documentary: "Yasukuni"

A new documentary film by Li Ying about Yasukuni Shrine has been shown at the Pusan International Film Festival. Japan's war dead from 1868 to the present are enshrined at Yasukuni. This includes so-called war criminals from World War II. Yasukuni is seen as a hotbed for right-wing nationalist politics. Japanese politicians and government officials (including former prime ministers) sometimes visit the shrine which angers and offends many people in Japan and abroad.

These pictures were taken at Yasukuni in the autumn of 2005. Right-wing "black trucks" meet and gather before being dispatched to various areas of Tokyo to blast propaganda and nationalistic music at incredibly loud volumes.

Click on the link below for some background information on Yasukuni Shrine, Enshrinement Politics: War Dead and War Criminals at Yasukuni Shrine by Akiko Takenaka which recently appeared in Japan Focus.

Link to Enshrinement Politics

There is most certainly a military feel to Yasukuni. Welcoming guests from the main entrance is a statue of Omura Masujiro, who was the Vice Minister for Military Affairs after the Meiji Restoration and widely seen as the creator of the Imperial Japanese Army.

There is a museum, Yushukan, attached to the shrine that has an interesting and biased view of history that seems to justify Japanese colonization and imperialism. I certainly recommend a visit to Yasukuni and the museum as an exercise in visual anthropology to see the power of photography in terms of imposing a certain interpretation of reality.

The new film promises to be interesting and controversial. It is scheduled to begin limited showings in Japan early next year. For more information on the film, check out the link below.

Link to review on the Hollywood Reporter website

The film has generated some discussion on Japan Today.

Link to discussion on Japan Today

"Shichi-go-san" is also celebrated at Yasukuni Shrine. This is an important Shinto life cycle ritual for Japanese children where thanks and prayers are offered for children's health and happiness.

After the ritual, a little girl dressed in kimono plays with a canon. I really wonder why parents would choose Yasukuni for shichi-go-san... Anyway, I am looking forward to the film.