Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"JR East to install surveillance cameras on trains from Dec 28"

Again, from Japan Today, 12/22/09...

I know some of these articles seem redundant, but I post them here with the whole text as a sort of repository, a place where we can go back and see important data. Japan Times and other news reporting agencies sometime delete the story after a certain amount of time. Thus I have come to copy the whole text - saves me a lot of photocopying and think of all the trees we save... Long chunks of italicized text mean direct quoting from the original story. Come back to VAOJ when you need to search for visual anthropology related topics. Anyway, back to the story...

East Japan Railway Co (JR East) said Monday it will start operating a security camera system aimed at preventing groping on trains on the Saikyo Line on the evening of Dec 28.

A set of high-definition security cameras will be installed in the No. 1 cars of some trains on the line linking Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, the first time for such equipment to be installed on commuter trains by a Japanese railway operator.

JR East announced earlier this month that it was planning to start conducting video surveillance on the Saikyo Line on a trial basis by the end of the year in the hope that security cameras would provide evidence of and serve as deterrent to molestation.

The decision to install the cameras came after police asked metropolitan railway operators to do so amid no sign of a decline in molestation cases on trains, although critics have questioned the effectiveness of the cameras and raised privacy concerns.

Metropolitan Police Department data show that the number of groping cases on trains handled by the police total around 1,500 a year. In the first half of 2009, the number of such cases came to 708, of which 75, or about 10%, occurred on the Saikyo Line. Most molestation cases on the line occurred in the No. 1 cars.

JR East will start the trial by installing cameras in the ceiling near the driver’s cabin. It will increase the number of trains equipped with cameras in late January and plans eventually to record footage from four points in each car.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 KGU JSL Group 忘年会

Another successful year of JSL study was celebrated recently through an all-you-can-eat yaki-niku bonenkai. 28 people participated (13 deaf, 15 hearing), a much larger group than I anticipated. Here are a couple of student's comments:

...until the bonenkai, I hadn't really had any exposure to the way that hearing people treat deaf people in public places and such. In the train station, there were many stares from the Japanese people around us as we stood in a group and signed, though in the resaurant, the waitress seemed to be nicer, though that could have been professionalism, but at least one of them was drawn into real conversation with the deaf people, which was fun to watch. (K-san)

I never thought I would find myself standing in a huge circle in the middle of a busy train station watching deaf people enthusiastically and quickly signing to each other, while I tried desperately to keep up with one of the conversations. Participating in a bonenkai for a Japanese Sign Language circle was definitely an exciting experience. it was interesting to see how varied people from the Deaf culture can be. There were deaf people of all kinds: there were young people, older people, some that spoke as they signed and some that did not, some that used their whole bodies more than others, girls and boys, etc. There was also of course the group of hearing exchange students that I was a part of that attended the school's sign language circle and our American teacher that is fluent in Japanese Sign Language.

A few other guests were a little out of the ordinary, even for a group of people from another culture. There was a participant there with cerebral palsy... His sign language was rather difficult, but after learning his style it will most likely become easier to understand. There was a guest who had a cochlear that was interesting to see after watching a documentary about the implant. He seemed able to hear quite well, while still being fluent in JSL. There was also another hearing person fluent in JSL... While fun, I understand that just going to a sign language club and participating in events like a bonenkai only scratches the surface of deaf culture.

One deaf man who came from Osaka had studied American Sign Language. I think he assumed that our group also studied ASL. He seemed to be confused when he was told over and over again by different students: "Sorry I don't understand ASL. Please use JSL."

While we were waiting at the train station the deaf began to outnumber the hearing students, which seemed to make some of them nervous. I heard a student say when another student came, "thank god you are here - they are outnumbering us!" Conversely there were a couple of deaf people who had never met foreigners who were nervous as well. But as the party went on, the nervousness disappeared and all became friends. At one point near the end of the party I looked down the long table to see all engaged in JSL - it was a nice and special moment for me.

Another special moment - a reenactment of a warm-up game we play. For more magic moments of the evening, click here. To this year's participants, お疲れ様でした! For those returning to your home countries, please continue to study sign language. And to those returning next year, we'll start up again in February. Please prepare yourselves for your new roles as sempai... よろしく!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Men yell 'children of spies' at Korean school in Kyoto"

Story from Japan Today, 12/19/09:

A group of around 10 men yelled "children of spies" through a bullhorn at the main gate of a Korean elementary school in the city of Kyoto earlier this month, sources with knowledge of the matter said Friday. Around 170 children were at the school at the time. Regarding the act as a hate crime, the school will file a criminal complaint against the men with the Kyoto prefectural police next week, the sources said.

As the school was keeping some of its equipment in a municipal government-controlled park in front of its building, the group went to protest against "the illegal occupation," according to its leader, Makoto Sakurai.

Since the school does not have a schoolyard, it uses the park for gym classes. While the municipal government has allowed the school to use the park, the school and neighboring residents were expected to discuss the matter early next year.

Video footage shot by the school showed some of the men carrying the equipment and asking school officials to open the gate. The officials told the men, "This is a school," but they yelled, "This is not a school," and, "Let’s push Korean schools out of Japan."

They yelled a whole lot of other bad things as well, which can be seen/heard on the YouTube clip above. Here is some supporting text that goes along with the video:

In Japan, discrimination against the Korean minority who live in Japan since the colonial period is rampant. One can easily find abusive comments on Internet and some go as far as to threaten school children.

Kyoto Korean Primary School 1 does not have a school field and is using a park next to it for sports and assemblies.

The right wing activists accuse the school claimingly on behalf of the neighborhood and make protests by removing the speaker/platform and giving strong verbal insults.

While I am happy and surprised to see this story in the news (this kind of thing goes on way too often in Japan, usually unreported) I am saddened that this sort of thing still happens. Demonstrations are supposed to be about peace, not racism and hatred. I first heard of this about a week ago from Korean-Japanese friends in Kyoto. Not only were there students from the school behind the gates but students from 3 other Korean schools were visiting on a fieldtrip. And the group of "demonstrators" seems to be made up of the same people who demonstrated against the deaf Korean-Japanese court case (a group of deaf Korean-Japanese sued the government because they were not receiving social welfare benefits the same as other Japanese deaf people; the case went all the way to the supreme court where they lost - read more here.)

Let's hope for more media exposure and an end to this kind of racism/discrimination.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Cop arrested for filming up high school girl’s skirt in Yokohama"

More of the same old from today's Japan Today:

A 32-year-old police officer was arrested under Kanagawa Prefectural nuisance laws on Tuesday, after he allegedly used a cell phone camera to take video of a 15-year-old girl’s underpants as she rode up an escalator at JR Yokohama station.

Kazuyuki Nagai, a detective based at Minami police station in Yokohama City, was apprehended by a station security staff member at about 4.30 p.m. after he was spotted putting a bag underneath the legs of the girl in front of him on the escalator. Nagai’s cell phone inside the bag was found to contain video of inside the first-year high school girl’s skirt, as well as two other similar up-skirt videos.

Nagai has admitted to the allegations and said that he thought taking the video would be simple. He was returning to his police station after attending an interview for a special training course.

Security staff at the station have been patrolling the escalator and the vicinity after several similar incidents this year. An officer from Asahi police station, also in Yokohama City, was caught in April taking up-skirt videos on the same escalator, police said.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Security cameras to be installed in commuter trains to prevent groping"

From today's Japan Today:

East Japan Railway Co plans to install security cameras in trains on the Saikyo Line linking Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture in a bid to prevent sexual molestation, becoming the first Japanese railway operator to take such a step for commuter trains, company officials said Saturday.

A set of high-definition security cameras will be installed at several locations of the No. 1 cars of Saikyo Line trains, such as the ceiling and the overhead rack, on a trial basis by the end of this year at the earliest, they said. Most groping cases have been on the No. 1 cars of the trains.

The company, known as JR East, and police say they hope the security cameras will provide ‘‘evidence’’ and serve as ‘‘deterrence’’ against molestation. But critics question the effectiveness of the cameras, voice concerns about privacy and say they may be used for other criminal investigations.

The decision to install the cameras was made after police in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures asked metropolitan railway operators for them in late October, as there are no signs of a fall in molestation cases on trains.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the number of groping cases on trains handled by the police total around 1,500 a year. In the first half of 2009, the number of such cases came to 708, of which 75, or about 10%, occurred on the Saikyo Line.

In particular, gropers target the No. 1 cars—at the end of the train despite the number—of Tokyo-bound Saikyo Line trains as they are packed full in rush-hour times because they are nearest to the stairs at many stations.

JR East will consider installing security cameras in other Saikyo Line train cars or in trains serving other lines after seeing how the trial goes, the officials said.

Other companies belonging to the JR group, which was created through the privatization of Japanese National Railways, as well as private-sector railway operators in metropolitan areas may follow suit.

Police hope security cameras will have deterrent effects although they may be able to shoot only heads of passengers on packed trains.

A police source said camera footage would provide important evidence, showing position relations between gropers and victims.

But Sophia University professor Yasuhiko Tajima, a member of a group against a surveillance society, said that with the installation of security cameras, somebody may be suspected of groping only for the reason that the person stood near the victim.

Tajima also voiced concerns about invasion of privacy. ‘‘For some people, trains are comfortable places to sleep or read books,’’ he said. ‘‘Wide discussions are necessary, based on opinions from passengers.’‘

A senior JR East official said, ‘‘While paying close attention to legal problems, including privacy, we’d like to seek various opinions.’‘

According to JR group companies and the Association of Japanese Private-Sector Railways, security cameras have been installed at decks or cargo spaces of some bullet trains on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen Lines and some other limited express trains. But no such cameras have been installed in commuter trains.

Railway operators have so far installed security cameras in stations and platforms mainly for the purpose of safety. As part of countermeasures against sexual molestation on trains, they have introduced train cars specifically for women.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Personal information law hindering right to know"

A recent article from the Yomiuri On-Line discusses the so-called personal information law and several of its problems. As I discussed in earlier posts dealing with the ethics of photographing in public in Japan, the law seems to have been over-interpreted by many to the point of making them paranoid about providing even the most basic information. This is not an easy or healthy environment for anthropological fieldwork. Full text article appears below:

The Personal Information Protection Law was meant to do exactly what its name suggests--protect people's personal information--but it has also led to excessive restrictions on the flow of information, something Cabinet minister Mizuho Fukushima is aiming to fix as she spearheads efforts to review the law.

The state minister in charge of consumer affairs and the declining birthrate, Fukushima recently instructed the Consumer Affairs Agency to thoroughly review the law, including the question of whether it should be revised so this country does not move further toward becoming an "anonymous society" stifled by the law's rigidity.

All parties concerned should conduct serious discussions about government organizations and businesses' refusal to release information due to their overreaction to the law's stipulations on guarding people's privacy. The proposed review should lead to truly effective measures that ensure the public's right to know, the very foundation of a democratic society.

The task of reviewing the Personal Information Protection Law, which took effect in April 2005, will be undertaken jointly by the Consumer Affairs Agency and the Consumer Commission, a Cabinet Office watchdog organization charged with consumer protection.

"I've instructed [relevant officials ] to carefully scrutinize cases of overreaction to the law's requirements," Fukushima told a press conference on Oct. 27.

At a session of the House of Councillors Budget Committee in 2006, Fukushima called for the release of information concerning amakudari, the practice by which retired bureaucrats secure high-paying jobs at companies or organizations in sectors they formerly oversaw. Specifically, she demanded that information be made public about the retirement allowances received by former high-ranking officials of the defunct Defense Facility Administration Agency from agency-linked entities where the officials acquired postretirement jobs.


Excessive self-restraint

However, Fukushima's demand was turned down by the government, which said the facts she sought represented "personal information," and the law prevented their disclosure without the consent of the individuals involved.

That bitter experience led Fukushima to resolve to change what she called the "structure of concealing information" at ministries and agencies.

The biggest problem involving the personal information law is this country's continuing march toward becoming an anonymous society, with people finding it more and more difficult to obtain information they need in their everyday lives.

Immediately after the enforcement of the law in 2005, many people lodged complaints with offices of the National Consumer Affairs Center, an independent administrative institution with branches across the country.

One typical complaint came from a woman with a daughter in middle school. She said a list from her daughter's school of students' names for use in times of emergency did not contain either the addresses or phone numbers of the students' homes.

"I worry about what could happen in an emergency," the woman said.

There actually is no problem with distributing such information--students and their parents only have to agree to it--but school authorities were nervous and went to excessive lengths not to violate the law, center officials said.


Scandals repeatedly covered up

In 2008, the administration of then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda carried out a review of the law. It ultimately did not make revisions, saying that overreactions would end when the public came to be well informed about the law. However, coverups of scandals involving government organizations have continued endlessly.

There also have been more than a few cases in which the press have been hindered in their coverage of the news.

Any measures to improve the application of the law--without getting to the heart of the problem by revising the legislation--likely will fail to stem this country's progress toward becoming an anonymous society.

"The current law does not strike a balance between the need to protect personal information and the value of personal information to the public," the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association said in a statement issued in March.

In the statement, the association demanded the law be revised to include provisions giving "special consideration to the value of personal information related to news organizations' activities in support of the public good and common public interests."

Masao Horibe, a professor emeritus of Hitotsubashi University who specializes in the freedom of information, said: "The law should be revised to change the current state of affairs in which disproportionately high importance has been given to the protection of personal information."

The forthcoming discussions on reviewing the personal information law under the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama should focus on how to devise measures that safeguard the people's right to know.

(Nov. 12, 2009)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Photographer Shinoyama's office, home raided over nude photo shoot"

From Japan Today, 11/11/09:

Police investigators searched the office and home in Tokyo of photographer Kishin Shinoyama on Tuesday on suspicion of public indecency over the shooting of nude photos for his book of photos "20XX TOKYO." The investigators also raided the office in Tokyo of a talent agency to which one of the two models, a 21-year-old actress, belongs.

Shinoyama, 68, allegedly took outdoor shots of the nude models in Tokyo from mid- to late August 2008 in situations where anyone could see them, police said.

The Metropolitan Police Department plans to question Shinoyama later, police sources said.

The investigators have found nothing illegal in the photo album itself, but question the manner in which the photographs were taken, police said.

Shinoyama allegedly took the photos at a dozen locations in Tokyo, mainly at night. Some of the photos were taken on railway tracks and in cemeteries.

A number of nude photos of the two actresses appear in the photo book, which was published in late January this year and is about 60 pages long. The collection has sold out, its publisher Asahi Press says on its website.

Shinoyama’s office and the Asahi Press declined comment.

Tokyo-based Asahi Press said it has heard nothing about the police raids from either Shinoyama or the police. The Asahi Press has no links with the Asahi Shimbun newspaper or TV Asahi.

Shinoyama became a freelance photographer in 1968 after working for an advertising agency.

He has released a number of photo collections of celebrities, including novelist Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), singer Momoe Yamaguchi and actress Rie Miyazawa.

In 1991, he released "Water Fruit," a collection of uncensored nude photos of actress Kanako Higuchi in which her pubic hair is visible.

Japan’s Penal Code sets penalties of imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of up to 300,000 yen, detention for up to 29 days, or a petty fine of less than 10,000 yen, for persons who commit indecent acts in public.

The story:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fall 2009 Globalization Kobe Fieldtrip

A couple of weeks ago the Globalization class and some guests went on a fieldtrip to Kobe in search of... globalization. We hit the usual spots of Kitano, Nankin-machi and the Harbor area.

Good times were had by all. Click here to read more about the fieldtrip from a visual anthropology student.

After the trip proper all went their separate ways for further exploration. While many students went to MOSAIC in search of Kobe beef and Halloween parades, I cruised around looking to capture some night scenes.

For pictures of previous Globalization class fieldtrips, click here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Horizons of Academic Visual-Media Practices: 13th Kyoto University International Symposium

New Horizons of Academic Visual-Media Practices: 13th Kyoto University International Symposium

December 11[Fri] 10:00-18:30, 12[Sat] 10:00-18:30, 13[Sun] 10:00-18:00, 2009

Kyoto University Clock Tower Centennial Hall

With visual media and discussions from such diverse fields as medical science and astrophysics, to biology, Anthropology, sociology, psychology and Informatics, we present a revolutionary interdisciplinary endeavor unique in the world! Pioneering new fields of academia through the visual practices, Kyoto University opens the door to a century of academic films with this International Symposium!

Applications [limited to 400 people] and Inquiries:

WEBSITE: http://gaia.net.cias.kyoto-u.ac.jp/visual-media.practices/

Sunday, November 8, 2009

耳がきゅっとなる ("Ears Are Dazzled, Touched by Sound")

Filmmaker and Sound & Vision Specialist Amanda Belantara has been kind enough to contact me and inform me about her latest project, 耳がきゅっとなる ("Ears Are Dazzled, Touched by Sound"). She describes the project in her web page as follows:

A collective exploration of the sounds that surround us, this film features sounds and images inspired by sound diaries kept by local people in Yamaguchi, Japan. An intriguing portrait of the invisible, the film’s unconventional style attempts to reveal the magical quality of sounds that lies hidden in the everyday.

See more at her web page, including a trailer:

The film will be shown at the Kyoto University Museum as part of a workshop on resonant sound and image.

For more information:

Sound is on one of the most important aspects of a good film and I don't spend nearly enough time exploring it in my class or research (Can I excuse myself by claiming my interests in sign language?). Often times the first thing my students will critique in a film is the soundtrack and/or background sounds. So Belantara's attention to sound seems to be an important contribution. Her film trailer is very cool and I am looking forward to seeing/hearing the film/sound.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Body/Comm Fall 2009 Poster Workshop: Beauty in Contemporary Japan

It's that time of year again when Body/Comm students ponder the meaning of beauty in contemporary Japan. What are the criteria for beauty in Japan and how does one get and retain beauty (if not already naturally endowed)? We read Spievogel and Miller for an anthropological context of beauty. We explored cosmetic surgery and watched Beauty Coliseum. We discussed fashion and accessories. Putting all of our research and discussion into application, we made posters to illustrate beauty in Japan. What I found to be most interesting this semester was that more attention was paid to men than in the past. This is not to say that there have never been any beautiful/handsome men before. Perhaps the interest in men is a result of the latest trendy term, herbivore men. These are, apparently, men who aren't as interested in sex and female conquest as they are in their own fashion and looks. While there might be some truth to these claims, one needs to be careful not to jump to conclusions about sexual orientation and a lack of masculinity. Also, these herbivore men seem to be the latest to blame the ills of Japanese society on following the likes of parasite singles, freeters, NEETs and hikikomori. But I digress. Let's get back to beauty and see what the students came up with this semester. Click on the photos to see more details on the posters. Enjoy.

Click here to see photos from previous semesters' workshops.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Junko's Birthday

This semester's members of the KGU Japanese Sign Language Study Group wished Junko a Happy Birthday with a surprise party. Junko was so happy she was moved to tears. The group is large this semester with 20-30 students attending every week. We continue to have deaf guests to help us learn JSL, but of course it is Junko who comes every week. Students admire her super-genki nature. Many thanks to the sempai and all members who helped organize the party. Click here for video clips.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jazz Guitar Duo

On October 29, Hidekazu Sakai (pictured above, right) debuted as a professional jazz guitarist with his teacher Miko Kanazawa at the Sea Press in Neyagawa-shi. The venue was small and intimate; jazz lovers and supporters were numerous and enthusiastic to see/hear the music. The audience was not let down. Teacher and student really started to jam during the second or third song. The last set was brilliant, showcasing Sakai's technique and Kanazawa's playful plucking. Watch for these guys - they are going places.

A dark room and back lighting made a challenging setting for photographing the event. Despite taking many shots from multiple angles I was extremely disappointed with what I got. Should I use Photoshop to fix the problems? Or do the images captured under the harsh conditions better capture the jazz-atmosphere?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

"1st grad school for visually, aurally challenged to be launched"

From Japan Today, 10/31/09:

Japan’s first graduate school for students with visual or aural handicaps will be launched next April at the state-run Tsukuba University of Technology in Ibaraki Prefecture, it said Friday. It will be the world’s first graduate school for visually impaired students and the third for hearing-impaired ones, following such schools as Gallaudet University in the United States, according to the university.

Master’s degrees will be offered in two faculties—industrial technology for visually challenged students and health science courses for hearing-impaired students, which will focus on acupuncture and moxibustion as well as physical therapy. The university is planning to provide various learning aids, such as sign language, Braille and magnified letters to accommodate the students’ needs.

Good news, perhaps, but word to the wise: sign language is not a "learning aid." And why should blind and deaf people be limited to only two fields of study? This story is another classic example of the deficit model of deafness (and other so-called handicaps): let's help the disabled by giving them prescribed programs. Such good intentions ignore the basic human rights of minority peoples who use different languages and/or language delivery systems than the majority.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Don't be a self-centered zombie visual anthropologist

Today in Vis Anth class we were discussing Susan Sontag's "On Photography" (1977); in particular we were talking about how the action of taking photographs affects the scene being photographed. Certainly the act of photographing makes the scene even more important, something worth commemorating. What we as visual anthropologists want to do is to reduce our interference and invading of the scene. By coincidence there was an interesting article in Japan Today entitled "Self-centered zombies running rampant through Japanese society" that provided some good examples of interference/invasion.

During the Japan Open golf tournament held in mid-October, 18-year-old pro golf prodigy Ryo Ishikawa botched his swing on a bunker shot for a double bogey.

It may have been shutter noise emitted from the cell phone cameras brandished by the horde of adoring spectators that interfered with his concentration. Subsequent to that, staff at the country club went into the crowd to plead that spectators refrain from picture-taking. But ring tones and shutter noises continued right up to the final hole.


A certain Ms A and her female friend women were partaking a meal in an upscale Italian restaurant when she noticed the couple at the neighboring table using a cell phone camera to shoot pictures of their food—probably to post on his blog. The boyfriend looked over at the dish “A” was eating and said, “Wow, that really looks tasty,” and then without warning approached her table and snapped photos of her meal.

“I was too shocked to say anything, but thinking about it afterwards, I really felt humiliated,” she tells the magazine.

The article discusses these and other scenarios as examples of bad manners in Japan. Self-centered zombies, as if in time for Halloween, are running amok. Avoid such interference/invasion and don't be a self-centered zombie visual anthropologist, not even for Halloween only.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lecture on New Visual Research Methodologies

Announcement from SSJ:

Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture presents

Dialogues on the Intersection of Art and Scholarship (II): an introduction to new research methodologies

DATE: 12 November 2009
TIME: 5:00pm to 7:30pm (Q & A with directors after screening)
LOCATION: Room 301, Building 10, Sophia University

The program will consist of short films and a discussion of the methodological issues surrounding the intersection of the following terms - auto-ethnography, anthropological films, a/r/tography, ethnodrama, ethnographic poetry, ethno-fiction and art-based research or action research.

Dr. Sik Ying Ho is Associate Professor in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at University of Hong Kong. She is internationally recognized for her work on male and female sexualities and published widely in international journals. Aside from her work as a scholar she also has an active role in radio broadcasting, currently hosting a radio talk-show whereby callers explore their relationship and intimacy issues with her. She has also discovered a passion in documentary film making after her latest project on the lives of middle aged women in Hong Kong. It is through her work in these areas that Dr. Ho had begun to engage in artistic endeavours and other forms of art-based research on gender and sexuality issues. She hopes to show that meaning making and creation can just be as powerful through actions and images as through the written word.

Jolene Mok is a graduate in Creative Media and now works as a research assistant to Dr. Ho. Her interests span a number of mediums including photography, video and new media as a way of creating her own platform for expression. She is particularly interested in action/participatory research which emphasize interaction and collaboration among participants. She believes that this will not only lead to a development of a mutual educative relationship but also to allow her to continue her journey of learning and growth.

Sik Ying HO & Jolene MOK Production was co-founded in 2008. Their collaborations have led to the creation of a number of documentaries detailing the lives of Hong Kong women and their experiences of middle age. The two women whilst born in different eras share a belief that communication is a multi-channel process and through their experiences of making the documentaries have discovered how filmmaking has been an alternative yet powerful way of presenting these women’s stories as well as eliciting their own.

List of films to be shown during the session:

Virgin Mary, 10 mins (Dir. Sik Ying HO), 2009
“Virgin Mary” is the story of Constance, a single woman at the age of 48 who is still a virgin. This film explores her reasons for adopting a 4 year old boy as
well as reasons for staying single.

My daughter’s younger brother...but he’s not my son, 10 mins (Dir. Sik Ying HO), 2008
The story of TO-Bik Yu, whose divorced husband has asked her to care for his son that he had with his new younger mainland wife. The film focuses on how she handles her life after marriage and the relationships that arose as a result of its demise.

Love Competition, 10 mins (Dir. Sik Ying HO), 2009
A story of a Hong Kong woman who is fighting to win back her husband from the mistress that he met on the mainland. Her belief is that if she loves her husband more, then he will realize this and return to her. Thus she sets out on a mission to become the ideal wife to him in order to show that her rival is of no competition.

24, 30 mins (Dir. Jolene MOK), 2009
In this auto-ethnography Jolene MOK compares the path she has embarked upon in contrast to two friends who had taken distinctively different paths. Through this film it is hoped that her journey of discovery as a result of the Second Spring project can be shared with her classmates from the School of Creative Media as well as to a secret lover who had yet to hear her true feelings.

No prior registration necessary
Lecture and discussion in English
Films have subtitles in English

For more information see the ICC webpage:

"Cop caught taking up-skirt videos during anti-pervert campaign"

From Japan Today, 10/27/09: (Amusing considering the last post...)

Police said Monday that a Tokyo police sergeant will be prosecuted under a prefectural nuisance prevention ordinance after he was caught using his cell phone camera to take up-skirt videos with his mobile phone camera on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line on Sept 18.

The incident took place right in the middle of an anti-“chikan” (pervert) campaign being conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police to stamp out groping on trains.

The offense was noticed by another police officer who was on the same train. Police said that the sergeant broke his cell phone in half, destroying the evidence, after he was reprimanded by the officer.

According to authorities, the sergeant, who is in his 50s and served in Tsukiji’s organized crime division, resigned from his post and apologized, admitting to the charges and saying that he had committed the same act several times in the past.

For the story and reader comments:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Police to request installation of security cameras on trains"

From Japan Today, 10/24/09:

Police decided Friday to request that 16 train operators in the capital region install security cameras on trains as measure to prevent groping and provide investigators with hard evidence of the crime often believed to result in wrongful convictions.

The Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo along with the Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectural police will convey the request to East Japan Railway Co. and 15 other train operators on Monday at the Tokyo police headquarters, the police said.

The National Police Agency plans to set up a study group in fiscal 2010 on introducing security cameras on trains as some have raised questions about the idea in relation to cost and privacy concerns, but the four local police headquarters decided to move ahead, saying they hope the request to serve as a ‘‘catalyst’’ for a debate on the issue.

Police expect high-resolution cameras to be installed on the ceilings of train carriages, which they say may not be able to capture a groper’s hand movements but could provide information on who stood where inside the train when molestation occurred. They also believe the cameras would serve to deter crime, they said.

Read the whole story:

"Diplomats express 'wabi,' 'sabi' concepts via lens"

From Japan Today, 10/24/09:

An exhibition of photographs taken by diplomats and members of their families in Japan will open Oct 27 in Tokyo, showcasing a variety of work imbued with the Japanese concepts of "wabi" and "sabi."

About 90 works by 58 diplomats and family members, representing 37 countries plus the European Commission and Palestine, were selected from about 500 submissions that freely interpreted the theme "Colors of Japan" for the annual show, known as "Japan through Diplomats’ Eyes."

This year’s show, which will move to Nagoya in November and Osaka in December, features a special theme, "Wabi-Sabi," with "wabi" reflecting beauty found in simplicity and tranquility and "sabi" showing appreciation of transience and withered things. It is the first time that the event has carried a second theme, making it more challenging for participants to express their interpretation of Japan through the lens.


The show will run through Nov 3 at the Roppongi Hills business and commercial complex in Tokyo. It will be held in Nagoya from Nov 21 to Dec 3 at the Central Park shopping mall, and in Osaka from Dec 16 to 24 at Osaka University of Arts’ Hotarumachi Campus in Fukushima Ward.

Read the whole story:

For more information, see Japan through Diplomat's Eyes:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Controversial New Documentary Film: The Cove

(Image borrowed from http://songphon.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/the-cove/)

There has been much talk about the new documentary film, The Cove, which depicts the alleged slaughtering of dolphins in a small Japanese village. The film brings to the forefront the age-old question of cultural traditions versus animal rights. Do the Japanese have the right to kill and eat dolphins? How about whales? How about blue-fin tuna?

Here are some sections of a recent article about the new film from Japan Today:

"The Cove" gets mixed reaction from Japanese audience

"The Cove," a U.S. investigative documentary about dolphin hunting in Wakayama Prefecture, made its debut in Japan on Wednesday, with the movie’s director describing the work as a "love letter" to Japanese people informing them of the adverse health effects from eating dolphin meat.

The film, which has prompted criticism of dolphin hunting in the western Japanese town of Taiji following screenings in countries such as the United States and Australia, was shown as part of the lineup of the 22nd Tokyo International Film Festival.

Director Louis Psihoyos flew into Tokyo for the festival despite worries that he might be arrested on trespassing charges from making “The Cove.” Police have repeatedly questioned the secret shooting of key footage in the documentary.

The fishermen have blocked access to the cove with barbed wire and fences, and Psihoyos was unable to get permission to access it. So he and his film team secretly broke into the restricted area—which is in a national park—at night to set up cameras that capture the slaughter.

“It’s very courageous of the Tokyo film festival to show this film,” said Psihoyos. “I’d also like to thank the Japanese government for not arresting me when I came in. I was pretty nervous yesterday, and I’m still a little nervous about getting out.”


Organizers at the Tokyo film festival clearly wanted to distance themselves from the film. A disclaimer stating that the festival had nothing to do with the production of “The Cove” ran at the start of the screening, and festival officials prevented journalists from interviewing viewers, herding them off the premises of the event in Roppongi Hills.

Japanese people who watched the movie showed mixed reactions, with some calling afterwards for a halt to the dolphin hunting and others raising questions about some of the ways the film was made.

"It’s a movie that takes up a difficult issue," said Mai Miyashita, a 32-year-old housewife living in Tokyo. "I can only say that dolphin hunting should be stopped immediately...although I do not think it will be easy because the livelihood of people in Taiji depends on it."

Rikako Yamane, a 21-year-old university student from Tokyo, said she was shocked to see footage of dolphins being killed by fishermen, but added that she felt the movie was lacking in the presentation of objective data as well as the voices of people in Taiji.

Tempei Miyaji, 26, a university student who lives in Germany, expressed concern that the scene of the dolphin killing was taken covertly.

"I cannot deny that (the movie) is evocative, but there may be some parts that are exaggerated," Miyaji said. "It would have been good if it had included what local people have to say and become something that would lead toward a resolution through talks."

Junko Inoue, a resident of Saitama, said she found the final scene, where dozens of dolphins trapped in a hidden cove are speared by fishermen, turning the water blood red, “shocking.” But she didn’t think the hunt should be stopped entirely. “There are a lot of cultural differences in people’s eating habits,” she said.

“Westerners say it’s OK to kill and eat cows, but not dolphins,” said Hiroshi Hatajima, a 42-year-old office worker from Tokyo. “That kind of special treatment isn’t going to register with a lot of Japanese. We have to eat animals to survive. It’s a cultural clash.” The film, while well-made, “comes across as somewhat propaganda-like,” he said.


At a press briefing following the screening, Psihoyos praised the film festival for its "courageous act" to show the film, but noted that the move was made possible due to the change in government in Japan that ousted the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"Three months ago, it would have been impossible to show this film. The LDP...was an oligarchy and the outgoing powers did not want this film shown," he said without further elaboration.

Read the whole story and reader comments at Japan Today:

The film brings up a lot of interesting issues in both its subject matter and filming methods. And it certainly does not hide its own bias.

For more information about the film:

Sundance Film Festival webpage:

The Cove webpage (includes a trailor):

Friday, October 23, 2009

“Architecture & Photography: Longing for the Past and Reconstructing the Future”

Announcement from H-Japan:

Upcoming event at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan:

Nichibunken Evening Seminar on Japanese Studies (143rd Meeting) November 5, 2009 (Thursday), 4:30 P.M.-6:00 P.M.

Speaker: Murielle Hladik

Topic: “Architecture & Photography: Longing for the Past and Reconstructing the Future”

Language: English

Place: Seminar Room 2, International Research Center for Japanese Studies, 3-2 Oeyama-cho, Goryo, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 610-1192

URL: http://www.nichibun.ac.jp/


What are the relationships between architecture and photography? How has the photographic eye toward the past been used as an instrument for a (re)-construction of national identity? If in the West, modernity in architecture was constructed with a hypothetical tabula rasa, what about Japan’s interest in traces and remains of the past? What is the meaning of “past”? Is “past” not always a kind of reconstruction and even “a foreign country,” as stated by David Lowenthal?

Japanese modernity, which oscillates consciously or unconsciously between “tradition” and “modernity,” needs to be reinterpreted in terms of reconstruction of national identity. How did the photographic medium, used as an instrument of propaganda, play an important role in this (re)-construction process? The selective choice of an “image” of the past will be aired in textbooks on the history of architecture in Japan, but also becomes an image that will be exported to the West. This talk will explore how this re-invented image of the past serves as a reinterpretation of a phenomenon and (re)-creation of modernity, or even as a hybrid modernity.

About the speaker:

Murielle Hladik, an Architect with a Ph.D in Philosophy, is a professor at the School of Architecture of Saint-Etienne and a researcher at the Research Center for Contemporary Logic of Philosophy, University of Paris 8. Her research interests include Japanese aesthetics, comparative philosophy, and theory of architecture. She is the author of the book Traces and Fragments within Japanese Aesthetics (2008).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Japanese Film Workshop at Meiji Gakuin University

Announcement from H-Japan:

Please join us for the next meeting of the Japanese Film Workshop on November 12 (Thursday), 7PM, at Meiji Gakuin University, Shirokane campus. The venue is called "Kyozai junbi shitsu" (教材準備室), a room next to the office of the Department of Art Studies (芸術学科) on the 6F of the main building. The Japanese Film Workshop is open to all, and directions to Meiji Gakuin can be found at:


The Alterity of Cinema: Subjectivity, Self-Negation, and Self-Realization in Yoshida Kijû’s Film Theory

Patrick Noonan--PhD Candidate at University of California, Berkeley.

In a number of articles written between the late 1950s and the early 1970s, filmmaker Yoshida Kijû sought to re-theorize the production and consumption of film in Japan. He called for a cinematic form in which filmmakers paradoxically disassociated themselves from the production of they very films they were creating. Renouncing control over a film, he believed, would prevent filmmakers from communicating a specific message to an audience and, thereby, provoke an audience to interpret and complete a film’s significance. Creating such a film, he contended, required a new understanding of the filmmaker’s self. The previous generation of filmmakers, Yoshida thought, saw themselves as entities distinctly separated from others, entities that used film to express a particular idea, often politically disengaged fantasies, to an audience of passive receivers. For Yoshida, by contrast, the filmmaker’s self always existed in relation to an other – the very film itself, an actor, or an audience. By “negating” the individuated self during production, a filmmaker could create a film that would cause audience members to analyze it and, in turn, incite them to scrutinize and engage in the social and political situation of the time.

Yoshida’s film theory, I argue, displays an ethics of self-realization in its formulation of the relationship between the self and other. In his theory, self-negation (jiko hitei) leads the self to know itself as other, as essentially unknowable to itself, through its interaction with others. At a time when devotion to a theory of self-negation ultimately led sects of student activists to violently attack one another with the intent to eradicate those that adhered to differing revolutionary ideologies and tactics, Yoshida’s use of the term led him to formulate a theory of ethical social life wherein self and other remain mutually exclusive yet bound to one another through a common activity: the creation of cinema. Within the context of the 1960s, Yoshida’s theory represents one among many attempts to conceptualize and practice a form of collective life outside of or in contrast to the dictates of dominant institutions and ideologies of the time.

For more information, please contact: naoki.yamamoto@yale.edu

Always interesting to know what others in the field are doing...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sour Music Video - Cool Webcam Videography

Here's a fun viral video that was recently featured on Boing Boing by the band Sour. Very creative, visual and collaborative. Check it out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Be careful, even with consent you might get busted...

We have been talking a lot about the ethics of taking photographs in public in Japan, perhaps too much. Now it seems many of my students are afraid to take pictures of people. The following story certainly won't help matters...

Story from Japan Today, 10/15/09:

Taxi driver, woman arrested for making up-skirt videos in Osaka park

Police on Wednesday arrested a Kyoto taxi driver and his female companion on charges of creating a public nuisance after they were caught making up-skirt videos on a slide in a park in Osaka’s Minato Ward.

According to police, Isao Tanabe, 38, and Maiji Kurozawa, 25, were spotted by a passerby at about 11 a.m. Kurozawa was flashing her underwear while Tanabe was filming it. The passerby, a woman, called police.

Officers arrived on the scene and questioned the pair. The two told police they met via the Internet, and that Tanabe paid Kurozawa 10,000 yen to pose for the video. Tanabe was quoted by police as saying, “It’s been a passion of mine to film women’s underwear, and I have done it before.”

The park is located in a residential area.

OK, so this is an extreme case. But the point is that the taxi driver asked for permission to take photos of the woman. And she said yes. In class I didn't mean to scare my students away from photographing people by introducing a set of guidelines, rather I hoped to encourage them to interact with people. Get their permission to take their photograph. Talk with them. Get useful information. This is called fieldwork. Respecting people and their privacy and following ethical guidelines does not mean avoiding people altogether. As some of our readings have suggested, the camera forces us to be out their and open with the people we study. It forces collaboration. This is an important contribution that visual methods give to the discipline of anthropology.

"HIV/AIDS continues steep increase in Japan"

Story from Japan Today, 10/15/09:

Many foreigners who live in Japan are surprised to know that HIV and AIDS is increasing rapidly in Japan. While HIV/AIDS infections in North America, Western Europe and Australia peaked in the late 1980s, Japan’s HIV infections have continued to increase. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s Annual Report on HIV/AIDS Surveillance in Japan reports that in 2008 there were 1,126 HIV and 431 AIDS reports, the largest number of yearly reports to date.

Despite much media attention to the point of what is now known as the “AIDS panic” when the first AIDS patients were diagnosed in 1992, in recent years there has been a lack of media attention given to HIV/AIDS. The lack of English information, in particular, might lead foreigners in Japan to assume that they do not need to think about HIV when having sex in Japan.

“The majority of HIV and AIDS reports in Japan are among gay and bisexual men, who have little targeted HIV information and support, and there is a particular lack of resources in English. In recent years, the data indicates a slight increase in HIV reports among foreign gay and bisexual men, so we decided there was a need to investigate the health and information needs of foreigners in Japan,” said Prof Seiichi Ichikawa who is head of the Study Group on the Development and Evaluation of Community-based HIV Prevention Interventions for Men who have sex with Men at Nagoya City University.

The study group is looking for gays, lesbians and bisexuals living in Japan who are interested in doing the English language Internet survey which is being conducted until Jan 31 2010. The survey is anonymous and confidential. The Gay Travel Internet Survey can be found on a secure SSL site at https://www.gaytravel.jp.

An important reminder of the HIV/AIDS situation in Japan as it's been a while since VAOJ has posted on the subject. Click here for previous posts. While it is good to see these kinds of stories in the media in Japan, it is unfortunate how much attention is paid to foreigners and gay men as the usual scapegoats, rather than looking at the more important reasons for the increases in HIV/AIDS. "The lack of English information, in particular, might lead foreigners in Japan to assume that they do not need to think about HIV when having sex in Japan." How about the lack of information or dialogue among Japanese people leading to assumptions that they don't need to worry about safe sex?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chinese Invisible Man

(photo borrowed from IfGoGo.com)

Myra in the Hawaii VAOJ office brought my attention to this. No photoshop here, this man uses paint to blend in. Seems there is some political commentary going on as well.

Check out more photos of this art at IfGoGo.com

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Photo Album featuring Ainu Living in Tokyo

Photo and story borrowed from Kyodo News, Oct. 6, 2009.

Photo album of Ainu people living in Tokyo published

A record of the daily lives of Ainu people living in the Tokyo metropolitan area has been published as a photo collection.

Around 160 photos in "Ainu, at times Japanese" depict Ainu people who are involved in traditional religious exercises, dancing and singing, and marriage ceremonies despite being far from their hometowns, mainly in Hokkaido.

"I have repeatedly visited Hokkaido to photograph Ainu people as I considered it their living base," said Makiko Ui, a Tokyo-based freelance photographer who shot the pictures between 1992 and 2008. "But I was surprised to know it is estimated that at least 5,000 Ainu people live in and around Tokyo."


The new photos also include a shot of a Tokyo rally in May last year, at which Ainu people demanded the government give them indigenous status. In response, the government eventually recognized in June last year that the Ainu are an "indigenous people that have their own language and religious and cultural identity."

Read the whole story:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall 2009 Visual Anthropology Student "Two Frame Story" Photo Blogs

Sanjūsangendō (三十三間堂), Kyoto, Japan, on Autumnal Equinox Day (September 23) 2009; sign in the lower right hand corner prohibits photography/video of sacred Buddhist statues and interiors of buildings.

A new semester has begun and Visual Anthropology of Japan students from all over the world are already out there in Osaka, Kyoto and beyond shooting and blogging. Their first set of posts with the theme of "Early Impressions" can be found and accessed by scrolling down to the Fall 2009 Student "Two-Frame Story" Photo Blogs section on the left. I am especially impressed and pleased with my students' early impressions of Japan and how they challenge long-held stereotypes and frame them ethno-photographically with their cameras. They are already discovering aesthetics, cultural values and diversity in their new found research settings. Of special concern this semester is the ethics involved in taking photographs of Japanese people in public.

Visitors leave Toyokuni-jinja (豊国神社) where Toyotomi Hideyoshi, powerful warlord of the 16th century is enshrined; the view of Kyoto City can be seen in the background.

Please tune in every week to see how students grapple with complex issues of cultural representation while researching and presenting on such themes as Japanese neighborhoods, traditions, pop culture, religion, sports, gender and globalization among others. How will students represent these themes via photos and text within the "two-frame story" format? Please leave comments, feedback and advice for individual students' blogs. Our project here is a collaborative one and we appreciate all the cooperation we can get. よろしくお願いします!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Osaka Tattoos in London

(Photo borrowed from Japan Today; caption reads "Rie Gomita from Osaka shows off her tattoos at a tattoo convention in London.")

Several students have been asking me about tattoos this semester. Today's Japan Today has the above photo as its photo of the day. Check out reader comments for attitudes about tattoos in Japan these days.

Link to Tattoos:

Here's another shot of the woman that better shows off her art (borrowed from Telegraph.co.uk):

Link to The International London Tattoo Convention (Sept. 25-26-27 2009):

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Japanese Film Workshop at Meiji Gakuin University

Another announcement from H-Japan:

Please join us for the first meeting of the Japanese Film Workshop on Thursday, October 1, 7PM, at Meiji Gakuin University, Shirokane campus. The venue is called the Kyozai junbi sitsu (教材準備室), a room next to the office of the Department of Art Studies (芸術学科) on 6F of the main building. The Japanese Film Workshop is open to all, and directions to Meiji Gakuin can be found at:


Unburdening Zainichi Films

Oliver Dew - PhD candidate at Birkbeck College, London and JSPS research fellow at Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo.

Critics have long recognised that films depicting traumatic historical events have a privileged access to public memory forming. All too often though the critic of the zainichi film is caught in a dilemma: how to engage with the film’s claim to represent diasporic Korean histories and identities, yet at the same time avoid sliding into the “historical scorecard” approach to criticism, which repeatedly asks, “is this depiction realistic?” This approach implies that historical verisimilitude rendered in the realist mode is the only appropriate way to tell these stories. This can only reproduce the burden of representation that zainichi films carry.

To move beyond this concern over whether the details of plot are factually verisimilar, yet still be able to interrogate the films’ politics, I argue for a closer attention to these films as rhetoric, as specifically cinematic interventions in a debate that is conducted across TV variety shows, weekly opinion magazines, long-form essays, celebrity memoirs, internet blogs, and other popular media. To this end I will focus in this presentation on the narrative figure of “coming out” as zainichi, first seen onscreen in the mid-1970s, most notably in the early film roles of Johnny Kura. Since the success of the Kaneshiro Kazuki’s novel Go in 2000, and its film adaptation a year later, this has become a recurring motif. The heightened, manichaean terms in which this narrative figure is so often staged are at odds with the main features of “post-zainichi” writing: calls to go beyond a fixed ethnic identity on the one hand, and the strategic deployment of prosaic, de-dramatised ordinariness on the other. But the critical preoccupation with whether, say, the Pacchigi films’ depiction of inter-ethnic relations is “representative” too often forecloses the question of mediation: in this case, the extent to which audiences are appreciative of dramatic license and the highly codified imperatives of melodrama that are operative in Pacchigi.

For more information, please contact naoki.yamamoto@yale.edu

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CALL FOR PAPERS - Performing Space in Asian Film: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

(Announcement from H-Japan)

Date: 4 Feb 2010 - 5 Feb 2010
Venue: Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

The notion of ‘space’ has become a key subject in many disciplines ranging from its more physical and material relationship to architecture and geography, for example, to its discussion in fields as diverse as philosophy, film, theatre, literature, history, cultural studies and art history. In the latter disciplines, space is variously interpreted in its metaphorical, psychoanalytic, emotional, cultural and social registers.

Likewise, the notion of performance has also been widely re-appropriated by various disciplines. ‘Performance’, traditionally defined as a mode of entertainment or ritual, is also increasingly understood now as a critical methodology enabling an interpretation of cultural behavioural patterns. All performance is ultimately framed by space. Different spatial typologies – institutional, civic, domestic, liminal, ceremonial, or religious, for example – orchestrate sets of culturally recognized and appropriate forms of behaviour. As such, space is instrumental to the codification of socially acceptable patterns of actions, and conversely to the enactment of performances, which either reinforce or contest such patterns.

The application of performance and the performative as a methodological tool for understanding space is critical. This concept exposes the constructed nature of space, reinforcing the argument that space cannot be essentialized. This non-essentialized point of view is particularly relevant to recent studies focusing on Asian spaces, where there are tendencies to oversimplify Asian identity simply by suggesting a binary relationship to the West. Through this critical lens, the broad questions like ‘What is Asian space?’ can be refined as ‘How is Asian space constructed?‘Who are its producers/ protagonists?’

Developing the multivalent perspectives of space, this workshop is structured around the performative potential of space in Asian films. Of interest is how space serves as more than context or setting in a film’s mise-en-scène, but also how space is called upon to construct and reconstruct particular forms of identities, meanings and interactions. Here, space may be variously perceived as, but not limited to, physical, psychological, subjective, narrative and/or cinematic.

For our purposes, film is also adopted not as a strictly mimetic medium but one that can engage other epistemic modes of identity – bodily, emotional, experiential. We suggest that film in its various formats – feature, shorts, propaganda, documentary, experimental, and amateur – and through the application of cinematic styles and conventions, offers performances that reveal how spaces are reflected, constructed, and how they may be performative, that is, transformed or transgressed.

‘Performing Space in Asian Film’ attempts to address several questions: Is there a distinctive way in which Asian spaces are performed? Are these distinctions specific to particular modes of Asian cinematic practice or in the work of particular filmmakers? How are these spaces performatively re-negotiated through/in film? What is the role of space in Asian film? Responses to these questions may be routed through more precise topics of spatial representation related, for example, to notions of authorship, genre studies, popular culture, national cinema, nationalism, immigrant discourses, migrant culture, diaspora, transnationalism, gender, ethnicity, class, and globalization.

The aim is to bring together different readings of Asian spaces embedded in film, enriched by disciplinary concerns from within the fields of architecture, urban studies, film and theatre studies, performance studies, history, anthropology, geography, cultural studies, and literature. In such instances, film is also revitalized differently as a ‘text’, which adheres to the disciplinary limits of each field. Ultimately, the intention is to approximate an understanding not only of what makes Asian space, but also how it operates and how identities and meanings may be contested or embodied through its performances.

Accepted papers will be presented in an interdisciplinary workshop hosted and supported by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, in February 2010. The papers will be published as part of the conference proceedings’ Working Papers. A special journal issue or edited book featuring the developed papers is planned following the event.

For more information, check out the event web page:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Japan Then and Now

(Photo borrowed from Time.com)

My colleague brought this photo gallery at Time magazine's internet site contrasting photos of Japan then (1989) and now (2009) to my attention. Twenty years seems to make a lot of difference. Most of the 1989 photos, like the one above, are happy, positive and celebrating the bubble economy. Now seems to be isolation, recession, doom and gloom. Perhaps a little simplistic, but some interesting photos anyway. Check it out.

Link to Japan Then and Now at Time's Photos:

Thanks to P.S. for the heads up on this one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cool Sign Language CM

Another cool YouTube video to procrastinate with. It has American Sign Language and Billy Idol - how could one go wrong with that! It's not a real commercial, but if you go to the YouTube site you can read interesting comments about how the video was made and reactions to the video. I'd say the video was very educational for some not familiar with deaf people. This video reminds me of a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert I went to many years ago. There was a large group of deaf people dancing in front and a sign language interpreter who was amazing, combining dance and ASL.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009


For those VAOJ readers in LA this weekend, check this event out!

Selected films by acclaimed vanguard of new Philippine Independent Cinema sonically reworked by Los Angeles based DJ's and Musicians.

Featuring selected films by KHAVN, RAYA MARTIN, JOHN TORRES, DADA DOCOT (Philippines)



Ticket $3, doors at 8:30pm, screens at 9pm

251 S. Main Street
Los Angeles, California

For more information:

Blog writers beware!

From today's Japan Today:

Libel suit filed against doctor-writer over blog entry

An academic blogger critiquing a government funded study, albeit done by his rival it seems, is being sued! Beware of Japanese libel laws! Can academic critique be grounds for a libel case in Japan? Even if the defendant is found innocent, as he most likely will be, the idea that this case actually is going to court and the costs involved are ridiculous.

Story below:

A pathologist-writer, known for his bestselling novel "Team Batista no Eiko" (The Glory of Team Batista) that depicts the inside story of medical practice, has been sued for libel by a fellow pathologist over his blog entry, judicial sources said Wednesday. Takeru Kaido, who promotes autopsy imaging, or the use of postmortem imaging in an autopsy, criticized Masashi Fukayama in his blog for disrupting the spread of what would help identify the causes of patients’ deaths.

In his suit for 14.3 million yen in total damages, Fukayama, a professor at the University of Tokyo and a vice president of the Japanese Society of Pathology, also targets two publishers that carried Kaido’s blog on their websites, according to his written complaint.

At issue is Fukayama’s finding in a study subsidized by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in fiscal 2008 that autopsy imaging would not be a substitute for postmortem dissection, while providing useful information before such an autopsy.

In his blog, Kaido, a graduate of Chiba University’s School of Medicine and who works for a medical research institute in Chiba City, accused Fukayama of "seizing credit for others’ work," as well as "messing up studies on autopsy imaging" and helping the health ministry "wreck" autopsy imaging.

"I have had no contact from Mr Kaido and the content (of his blog) is false," Fukayama says in his complaint. "I have incurred great trouble since access (to the blog) has been very busy."

In his written reply, Kaido argues that "the study is nothing new and is disrupting the spread and development of the adoption of autopsy imaging by placing undue emphasis on dissection," adding that his blog entry is public in nature because Fukayama holds a public post.

Kaido has called for the widespread use of autopsy imaging as a step to determine whether dissection is needed, as it allows a quick examination of bodies without damaging them.

It is expected to help address the declining rate of autopsies after patients die, according to the Japan Society of Autopsy Imaging, which Kaido helped establish in 2004.

Read the story and reader comments:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Google showing rough photo-shooting locations for Street View service"

Update on the Google Street View situation. Article from today's Japan Today.

Google Inc on Friday began disclosing approximate photo-shooting locations for its Street View service that provides close-up views of city streets as caught by cameras installed in vehicles driving along the roads. The Japanese unit of the Mountain View, California-based Internet firm made the move following the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry’s call in August for taking steps to ensure that the service will not intrude into people’s privacy.

To respond to the request, Google divided each prefecture into a number of blocs and began providing information enabling users of the service to know photo-taking blocs, it said. While the ministry called for Google to inform local governments and residents beforehand of the time and place when it shoots street images, the company turned down the request and said it will send officials to the governments to make explanations before disclosing photos.

For individuals, Google will offer related information through public relations activities, it said.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Up-Skirts and Security Cameras: A Whole Lot of Picture-Taking Going On...

From Today's Japan Today:

Truck driver arrested for taking photos up skirts of school girls

Police on Thursday arrested a truck driver for violation of the prefectural nuisance prevention laws after he was caught taking photos up two high school girls’ skirts with his mobile phone camera. According to police, Ryuichiro Hayashi, 25, a resident of Shimane Prefecture, admitted to the charge. He was quoted as saying: “I got excited when I saw the girls and couldn’t resist taking photos.”

Hayashi is accused of taking photos up the skirts of two third-year high school students at a convenience store in the town of Omachi at around 8 a.m. on Thursday. A store clerk thought Hayashi’s behavior was suspicious, and after he left the store, the clerk and store owner checked the security cameras and saw Hayashi snapping photos. They then called the local police.

Hayashi was on his way to Nagasaki Prefecture. When police arrived, he was sitting in his truck in the parking lot of the convenience store.

See the story and reader comments:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cool "Hands" Video

Getting ready for the new semester always entails some form of procrastination. While doing so, I came across across this Japanese video on YouTube entitled "Hands." Very cool.

URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp_EHxp4

Monday, August 31, 2009

"Security cameras on trains being considered to reduce groping"

From today's Japan Today:

The National Police Agency plans to consider ways to reduce the occurrence of groping on trains, such as installing security cameras inside carriages, after a recent spate of acquittals in groping cases has raised questions about how to investigate them, agency officials said Monday.

A study group to be set up in fiscal 2010 with railway operators and outside experts will discuss the matter, the officials said, but whether the plan to install cameras will be put into place remains to be seen as the discussions will be held under a new administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan.

In its policy package released in July, the DPJ, which won a landslide in Sunday’s general election, raised concerns about the "harmful effects of an unlimited expansion of police authority, such as the abuse of investigative authority and the invasion of privacy."

It also vowed to "firmly lay down with human rights in mind the rules of administration when new investigative techniques are to be used."

Read the whole story: