Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Japan Through Diplomats' Eyes"

("Hanko-tachi: Interacting Figures and Colors" by Israel Strolov. Image borrowed from Maru Building Event News.)

An exhibition of photographs taken by foreign diplomats and spouses linked to Japan will open Monday in Tokyo, showcasing a variety of work imbued with humor, wit and curiosity about the country.

About 70 works by 54 diplomats and spouses, representing 37 countries and the European Commission, were selected from about 500 submissions that freely interpreted the theme "Interacting Japan" for the annual show, known as "Japan through Diplomats’ Eyes."

The show will run from Monday through Oct 29 in the corridor gallery on the third floor of the Marunouchi Building in Tokyo. It will run in Nagoya from Nov 21 to 27 at the Central Park shopping mall, and in Osaka from Jan 8 to 12 at the International House, Osaka.

Read more at Japan Today:

See also the event web page:

"WWII Documentary Offers First Japanese Perspective"

Sadashige Imanishi’s voice falters as he recalls the piles of weapons left behind by dead Japanese soldiers in the jungles of New Guinea. ‘‘That was the first time I thought of them and realized how cruel the war was,’’ Imanishi, a member of the 144th regiment of the Imperial Japanese Army, says before asking the camera to stop filming.

Imanishi, who died last year aged 91, plays a central role in a new documentary which, for the first time, tells of the savage fighting between Japanese and Australian forces during World War II from both perspectives.

‘‘Beyond Kokoda’’ features a collection of personal experiences, candidly shared by the men who battled each other and the adverse conditions of the Kokoda Track and northern beaches of New Guinea.

Using national archive footage and battle reenactments, the documentary offers a balanced depiction of the bloody seven-month campaign, which saw 6,500 Japanese soldiers killed on the Kokoda Track and 7,200 killed on the country’s northern beaches.

Read the whole story by Kede Lawson at Japan Today:

Check out this YouTube clip and others. The film premiered on the History Channel in Australia and New Zealand on September 25, 2008.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Summer Program on Japanese Visual Culture in Tokyo

An announcement from Temple University Japan via EASIANTH:

For the sixth consecutive year, an exciting six-week Summer Program on Japanese Visual Culture will take place at the Tokyo Campus of Temple University Japan (TUJ), May 18 – June 29, 2009 (tentative dates). This program consists of two coordinated courses: the first focuses on approaches to studying the richness and complexity of visual culture in Japan; the second allows students to develop modest visual projects (digital still, video or web) on selective topics immediately relevant to visual culture. Instruction is in English. All course work will be supplemented with an active program of cultural events, trips and lectures in and around Tokyo. Students live in Temple dormitories alongside Japanese students studying English at TUJ. This program grants course credits to both undergraduate and graduate students.

For additional information, details, and application forms see:

Application deadline: February 16, 2009.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Election '08 and the Challenge of China"

An announcement from H-Asia... This isn't necessarily Japan-related but the following documentary might be of interest to visual anthropologists and/or political junkies...

"Election '08 and the Challenge of China"

The U.S.-China relationship is complex and evolving and many argue it's the 21st century's most important bilateral tie. Policy toward China came up in the U.S. primaries, but has been largely absent from recent candidate speeches, the first McCain-Obama debate or last week's Biden-Palin debate. On the eve of the second McCain-Obama debate, the USC U.S.-China Institute is releasing a forty-minute documentary examining key issues and the stances taken by the candidates and the historical role of China in U.S. campaign politics.

"Election '08 and the Challenge of China" is reported by former CNN Beijing bureau chief Mike Chinoy (now a member of the USC faculty and a fellow at the Pacific Council). The documentary features historical and contemporary news footage, interviews with former officials and scholars, as well as candidate speeches and interviews with the candidates' key China advisors.

The documentary has eight segments and has been produced for a general audience, though we hope educators will find it a useful tool to launch classroom discussions. The segments are:

Part 1: The Big Picture
Part 2: Tensions over Trade
Part 3: Human Rights
Part 4: Taiwan and China' Military Buildup
Part 5: China's Growing International Clout
Part 6: China in U.S. Campaign Politics
Part 7: McCain and China
Part 8: Obama and China

The documentary is available at the USC U.S.-China Institute (USCI) website:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

(How many Japanese cops does it take to detain a) Naked Foreigner Swimming in Imperial Palace Moat

(Photo borrowed from Boing Boing)

Is this visual anthropology? I'm not sure... but it is hilarious. And it does relate to what we haven been talking about in class lately, how to photograph people, how to display people in ethnographic visual projects and the responsibilities and ethics involved. In previous posts I have pondered these issues and promised to post some guidelines about the ethical responsibilities of anthropologists photographing in the Japanese public (thanks to the anonymous commenter who reminded me of this promise...). I haven't given up on this project/endeavor; in fact in remains on the top of my in-box. Maybe with the upcoming three-day weekend I can sort through the ever-growing articles and resources and fulfill my promise. Please be patient... In the meantime, blame the naked man for taking attention away from more important matters.

The following news story comes from Japan Today (10/8/08):

A 40-year-old British tourist was taken into police custody Tuesday after swimming naked in a moat around the Imperial Palace, police officials said.

The man, a resident of Spain, was on a sightseeing trip along with seven Spanish tourists, according to the police.

According to police, the man dived into the moat around 11:30 a.m. after he visited a local police box near the Imperial Palace together with five friends who were all foreigners in their 40s or 50s. Some of the group spoke to a police officer in English, telling him they had accidentally dropped a bag into the moat and needed something to fish it out with. Then one of the men suddenly stripped off and dived into the moat, police said.

Fifty police officers and firefighters were mobilized to catch the man who threw rocks and splashed water at two policemen in a rowing boat. Local TV footage showed the man swimming around the moat as the police chased him with a long stick, attracting a crowd of onlookers. He was in the water for about an hour.

He eventually got out of the water and climbed a stone wall only to fall into the hands of police officers who were waiting for him.

Broadcasters were careful to meet Japan’s obscenity laws once he had climbed out of the water, masking images of his private parts with a blurry dot.

A police official said he had never heard of a skinny dipper causing a stir in the palace moat before. The moat is separated from the emperor’s residence by high stone walls and woods.

A palace official said the emperor was in the palace, but it was unlikely he saw the nude swimmer.

See the video of the police trying to capture the man. Yes, it took over an hour for Japanese police to capture a naked man armed with rocks and a pole.

And now we visual anthropologists know that we must cover up peoples' private parts with small blurry dots...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Japanese People - Shibuya 1000

Caption: Commuters walk by the art project “shibuya 1000” at Shibuya Station in Tokyo. The project, which displays “1,000 faces of people in Shibuya,” is being held to mark the redevelopment of the station and changing face of Shibuya. The exhibit will run through Oct 13. (from Japan Today - Picture of the Day, 10/7/08)

For more information, see the exhibition web site (in Japanese):

Can portraits of 1,000 different faces by 20 photographers in the trendy and central area of Shibuya in Tokyo capture "the face of the nation?" What do you think? Could you do a similar project in Osaka?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tokyo Nonsense

Scion Space Presents: Tokyo Nonsense

October 4 - October 25, 2008

Curated by: Gabriel Ritter

The title, TOKYO NONSENSE, not only refers to the city itself but also references the word "nonsense" in the context of Japanese popular culture, connoting so-called "modern decadence" and the rebellious, anti-establishment spirit of the 1960s student protest movement. The work of these 11 young artists reflects both Tokyo's frenetic energy and the banal realities of everyday city life. The exhibition will consist of more radical forms of expression such as performance, video, and installation art in addition to more traditional mediums such as drawing, painting, and woodblock printing.

Original work by: Ichiro Endo, Taro Izumi, Ai Kato (aka ai*madonna), Sachiko Kazama, Iichiro Tanaka, and the six-member artist group, Chim↑Pom

From Scion Space:

Here's a short video of some of the included artwork.

Scion Presents: Tokyo Nonsense from elemental on Vimeo.

This announcement for "Tokyo Nonsenses" seemed especially timely after viewing the film "Tokyology" in class on Wednesday. I announced this film on VAOJ when it first came out in May. Recall some of the claims about the film from its website:

TOKYOLOGY is a documentary exploring contemporary Japanese pop-culture.

[T]here's more to Tokyo than crazy nightlife and entertainment: from anime to architecture, political art to gaming, from shopping and style to the Cherry Blossom festival, the city has something for everyone, and its share of surprises, too!

My concern in the earlier post was that this film would fall into the Weird Japan and/or Cool Japan trap - perhaps an updated version of orientalism that perpetuates stereotypes of what we think we know about contemporary Japan. I gave the film too much credit. It is simply not a documentary at all. We follow the banal Carrie Ann Inaba on her ten day trip to Tokyo and listen to her reactions and interactions at seemingly uniquely weird Japanese settings. Most of what we get in the film is surface: here's the place, look at it, wow isn't it strange and/or cool. For example, the film visits a restaurant that has a Christian theme. We see the setting that many might consider sacrilegious and hear Inaba's reactions. Finally she ponders how customers act while at the restaurant. Why didn't they simply film when the restaurant was open? At times Inaba tries to interview people (she is supposed to be fluent in Japanese having attended Sophia University and having a two year singing career in Japan but the film reveals that she is definitely not...) to get deeper analysis and it is oh so painful. During the film students both groaned and laughed. One student commented, "well, we need to see bad films too, right?" In this sense, the film shows how not to do a documentary. It also illustrates the danger of the alluring visual overtaking real research. Other students, recalling Neighborhood Tokyo, suggested that Inaba and Professor Bestor switch places. I suppose that this means that both films fall into the reflexive category. Or perhaps students wanted an anthropologist to guide them around the scenes of Tokyo pop culture. And Inaba would have made Miyamoto-cho a more interesting place...

VAOJ students will discuss Japanese pop culture in their blogs next week. It is hoped and assumed that they will avoid the nonsense of "Tokyology."