Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Scholarship for Visual Anthropology Students

Here is a scholarship from the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan for students studying in Japan. Check out the details for the photo entry and the video entry below. Seems like something that a student of visual anthropology should be able to put together either as a new project or from a previous blog entry. Please note the tight deadline of February 15, 2010. Go for it and good luck!


The Swadesh DeRoy Scholarship is the annual scholarship award by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ). It was created in honor of a respected long-time journalist member to encourage and support university students interested in entering the journalism field. Any current undergraduate or graduate student in Japan, or any Japanese student enrolled in an overseas journalism program, is eligible to apply. The award money is intended to help students further their journalistic pursuits and should be used for such purposes (e.g. language courses, travel, computer purchase, books, living expenses during a journalism internship).

Students are not required to provide receipts or a detailed financial accounting of how the money was spent, only a report to the Scholarship Committee of how they used the funds.

For 2009-2010, First Prize will be 300,000 yen, Second Prize will be 200,000 yen, and Third Prize will be 100,000 yen. Additional prizes totaling a half million yen may be awarded at the discretion of the judges.
Entries must be submitted no later than February 15, 2010.

Entries will be judged by a panel of veteran journalists in print, television and photography. The winning entry will be published in FCCJ’s monthly magazine No. 1 Shimbun. Winners will also be asked to submit a short article (200-300 words) detailing how the scholarship money is helping them in their journalism pursuits by June 30 for publication in the club magazine (comments may also be used in FCCJ promotion and fundraising materials).
Please see below for entry details and background on the FCCJ.

(Students interested in journalism are also invited to apply for the FCCJ’s Student Membership Program. Accepted students will be given a limited complimentary membership to the club for one year.)


Students can apply by submitting an application form, resume, copy of their student photo ID, a brief statement explaining what you would use the prize money for, and ONE of the following:

PRINT ENTRY: An 800-1,200 word unpublished article in English on one of the topics listed below. Applicants are encouraged to include photos with their text, but are not required to do so.

NOTE: Priority is given to print entries that express original ideas, are clear and concise, and are well-researched, not to essays that are grammatically perfect. Non-native English speakers are free to consult with native speakers prior to submitting their articles, but there should be a minimum of outside editing. Entries from non-native speakers suspected of having been heavily rewritten by native speakers of English will be subject to investigation by the Scholarship Committee and to possible disqualification.

PHOTO ENTRY: A 200-250 word written introduction about what the photos are meant to convey as a journalistic work and a selection of at least ten 8x10 photos (color or black and white) on one of the topics with captions. Students may also submit a contact sheet or a group of digital photo thumbnails in addition to the photos. Entries must be printed photographs. Digital images on CDs and DVDs will not be considered due to the nature of the judging process.

VIDEO ENTRY: 1.5 minute – 3 minute television story package on one of the topics. Video contributions should be in spirit and principle the sole work of one individual although cited assistance from outside sources is permitted.

THE TOPICS (Choose one): NEW MEDIA versus OLD MEDIA: What Japanese Youth Think About The Future of News in Newspapers, TV, and the Internet

GRAND PRIZE: 300,000 yen
Second Prize: 200,000 yen
Third Prize: 100,000 yen

Special Mention Prizes: Up to a half million yen

REVISED DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: The deadline has been revised to February 15, 2010 (Overseas applications received after Feb. 15 will still be accepted as long as a copy of it is emailed to by the deadline)

An announcement will be made in early February and awards will be presented at a dinner honoring winners at the FCCJ in March or April.

Hitoshi Kubo
Yurakucho Denki North Building 20F
Yurakucho 1-7-1, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-0006
Tel: 03-3211-3161

2009-2010 SCHOLARSHIP COMMITTEE CO-CHAIRS: Catherine Makino, Eric Johnston

Web page:

More Security Cameras

From today's Japan Today:

16 security cameras installed on Akihabara streets

In a reaction to the 2008 stabbing rampage in Akihabara, the Kanda-Suehiro-cho neighborhood association installed 16 security cameras on streetlamps in the area Tuesday. These are the first surveillance cameras to go up in the Akihabara area.

After the June 8, 2008 incident, community leaders met with local police and Chiyoda Ward representatives to look into installing the cameras. The cameras cost nearly 10 million yen to purchase and install, a hefty price tag that was subsidised by both the prefectural government and the ward.

The cameras were also installed with hopes that the heightened security would provide a feeling of safety and stave off crime, attracting more people to the area, said an association spokesperson.

Another neighborhood association formed by local shop owners is planning to have a network of 35 security cameras installed in the area near Akihabara Station by the end of March.

The man arrested for the massacre, Tomohiro Kato, 27, will make his first court appearance on Thursday.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yellow Peril? Go Tigers!

Happy Year of the Tiger. And Go Hanshin Tigers...

I happened upon this image when reading the recent article about Jack London's reporting of China and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War. The article, written by Daniel A. Métraux, is called Jack London, Asian Wars and the “Yellow Peril.” Here is a brief description by the author:

Novelist Jack London (1876-1916), by far the most popular American writer a century ago, is these days remembered for his novels and short stories on the Yukon. The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and To Build a Fire have retained much of their early popularity, but his visits to Japan, Korea and Manchuria, his brilliant coverage of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), his short stories based in Japan and China, his essays predicting the rise of the Pacific Rim, and his call for mutual respect and better contact between Americans and Japanese are long forgotten. London deserves to be remembered, however, as a writer on Asia and the Pacific who directly confronted Western racism against Asians, denounced such concepts as “The Yellow Peril” and showed great sympathy for Japanese and Chinese in his literature.

This fascinating article can be found at Japan Focus:

Anyway, Métraux included the above image and credited it to MIT's Visualizing Cultures. There I found an interesting set of postcards from the same era illustrating relationships between Russia and Japan. Here is a brief description from the MIT Visualizing Cultures web site:

Imperial Japan’s 1904–05 war against Tsarist Russia changed the global balance of power. The first war to be depicted internationally in postcards is captured here in dramatic images from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection of Japanese Postcards at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Some really interesting visual images can be found here.

Do check it out.

Lots of other interesting stuff to look at can be found at Visualizing Cultures as well.

New Film: Shugendô Now

Image borrowed from Shugendo Now Welcome Page

An announcement from H-Japan brought this film to my attention. Here is a brief description form the film's web page:

How does one integrate lessons learned from nature in daily life?

This feature documentary is an experiential journey into the mystical practices of Japanese mountain asceticism. In Shugendô (The Way of Acquiring Power), practitioners perform ritual actions from shamanism, “Shintô,” Daoism, and Tantric Buddhism. They seek experiential truth of the teachings during arduous climbs in sacred mountains. Through the peace and beauty of the natural world, practitioners purify the six roots of perception, revitalize their energy and reconnect with their truest nature – all while grasping the fundamental interconnectedness with nature and all sentient beings.

How does one return to the city after an enlightening experience in the mountains?

More poetic than analytical, this film explores how a group of modern Japanese people integrate the myriad ways mountain learning interacts with urban life. With intimate camera work and a sensual sound design the viewer is taken from deep within the Kumano mountains to the floating worlds of Osaka and Tokyo and back again.

Might the two be seen as one?

For more details:

The film will be screened in the near future at these places:

Festival du film ethnographique du Quebec
29 January (Friday) @ 5:15pm
Concordia University's J.A. De Seve Cinema (1400 De Maisonneuve Boulevard West)

Green Mountain Film Festival
20 March (Saturday) @ 12pm
21 March (Sunday) @ 2pm
Montpelier's Savoy Theater, 24 Main Street

And of course there's a trailer at YouTube:

Seems like a very interesting and beautiful film - looking forward to checking it out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nippon Connection Festival

Photo borrowed from body. space. time. – Japanese Video Art Exhibition
(curated by Masayo KAJIMURA and Saskia Wendland)

Here's an announcement for a very interesting Japanese film festival in Germany. brief description comes from the event's web page:

From 15th to 19th April Nippon Connection once again presents exciting and creative cinema from Japan in Frankfurt. With more than 150 features and short films, the festival showcases a broad scope of current Japanese film production, from avant-garde and anime to blockbusters and documentary films, many of them German and European premieres. Over 20 filmmakers will present their work personally in Frankfurt.

Japanese Film Festival
April 15 - 19, 2009
Frankfurt on the Main

For more information:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Bestseller by hearing-impaired Ginza hostess - truths and lies"

(Image borrowed from

Form today's Japan Today:

A two-hour TV drama that aired this month, based on the success story of a Ginza hostess who overcame her hearing disability through written communication with customers, earned high ratings.

However, some have publicly questioned the truth of her touching tale, including Kohei Hatsuda, manager of Ginza club “M” where the author of the bestseller, Satoe Saito, used to work. “The book describes her as the ‘Number One Ginza Hostess’ but a small club like ours can accommodate a maximum of 10 customers. There is no way that can make her the top hostess in all of Ginza. Her monthly sales were just about average compared to the other hostesses too.”

He criticizes the title of the book, “Hitsudan (written communication) Hostess.” According to the manager, “She rarely communicated with clients in writing. She can read lips to understand the customer and for the most part, she spoke back and wrote only when her words were inaudible and hard to understand. That was the extent of it.”

Of course, not everything about the 25-year old woman written in the book is fiction. Born in Aomori, Saito lost her hearing before she was 2 years old and attended a school with special courses for those with hearing disabilities. She learned to read lips and use her voice to speak. While in junior high school, she had conflicts with her mother, strict in her daughter’s education so that her disability would not become a lifelong handicap. Saito started smoking and drinking, quit high school and changed jobs several times, until she found herself in the night entertainment business. Her autobiography depicts her tireless effort as a hostess overcoming her disability, working at one nightclub after another using written communication to entertain clients.

When it was learned that she would be writing an autobiography, she had already left “M” and was working at another club, which refused to have photos taken for the book. The managers of “M” decided to help her out by letting the publisher do their photo shoots at their club. After the book came out in May 2009, many flocked to “M” to meet Saito, who decided to work there again.

But according to the mama-san, she had become arrogant, showing up at the club only once a week, and absolutely refusing to communicate through writing. “I asked her to communicate by writing because some came to the club out of admiration for her effort as depicted in the book, but she wouldn’t listen. She’d identify wealthy-looking customers and ask for gifts. Some of those men were clearly disappointed in her.”

The last blow was when she held a publication party, inviting the customers of her fellow hostesses. “In a place like Ginza where each hostess has her own clientele list, her action is a major taboo. The other hostesses were offended and then on Sept 30, she said she was quitting via email. After all the support we gave her, this is the outcome?” laments the manager of “M.”

The book’s publisher Kobunsha and the mama-san of Saito’s current workplace refute such critical comments made by her former employers, which happens to include the mama-san of an Aomori nightclub and first mentor who educated the disabled hostess in the know-how of the business.

But bottom line, that’s the nature of the night entertainment industry. Hostesses are for-sale goods from the club’s perspective, while the women who work there will find any means to achieve popularity and profitability. Vain or humble, true or untrue, it’s all about making money.

Read the story and reader comments:

I'm sorry I missed this one on TV. Why don't I hear about interesting things on TV until it's too late? But there is always the book to check out (see image above) and YouTube clips:

Not having seen the drama or read the book yet, I cannot comment about its portrayal of deafness, Deaf culture or sign language. I would imagine because of the extraordinary setting of the story that it might not have provide much information about the normal lives of deaf people in Japan. I wonder if this is another application of the deafness as deficit model where the poor handicapped person overcomes her disability and people feel good about it (and others make money from it...). Did anybody catch the drama? Comments, please.

Update: "Photographer faces charges over nude photos for book"

Partial image borrowed from Japan Press (you can see the whole image at

It looks like the cops finally busted photographer Kishin Shinoyama for public indecency. Another warning about not only what but where you can't take photos in Japan...

From today's Japan Today:

Police plan to send papers to prosecutors shortly on photographer Kishin Shinoyama on suspicion of public indecency for shooting nude photos for a book, sources close to the matter said Saturday. Police are consulting with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on sending papers on the 69-year-old photographer and two female models, the sources said.

According to investigative sources, Shinoyama allegedly took outdoor shots of the nude models in Tokyo in the summer of 2008 at such places as a cemetery and a wedding hall for the photo book. The book, ‘‘20XX TOKYO,’’ was published in January last year. Photos in the book also include those of naked actresses at such public locations as railway tracks and waterfront areas. In November last year, the police searched Shinoyama’s office and home in Tokyo.

Reader comments follow the story:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Kyoto Asian Studies Group February Meeting: Karakuri Ningyo Robots

Photo borrowed from

Here's an announcement about the Kyoto Asian Studies Group February meeting (via H-Japan):

This February, the Kyoto Asian Studies Group lecture will be by Murakami Kazuo who will present Edo Period Karakuri Culture and Japanese Robots. This talk will be followed by a demonstration of karakuri (automata) by Minasaki Sougo. This will be a very rare opportunity to view such objects up close.

Murakami Kazuo is a freelance journalist who specializes in the history of technology in Japan and he is the author of many works on karakuri. Minasaki Sougo, with whom he has worked closely for years, is a specialist in the mechanical devices of the Edo period, and a restorer. He is also one of the few remaining craftsmen who make automata, mainly dolls, today. The lecture will be in English and the demonstration
in Japanese.

This event will take place on:

Monday 1st February

18:30 to 20:30

Doshisha Imadegawa Campus

For more information, contact: Elizabeth Tinsley, Otani University (

Sponsored by the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies.

Sounds like a very interesting presentation. While we see robots more and more in Japan, it is interesting to note that this isn't a new phenomena. While karakuri were meant to surprise people, Japan now strives to make robots as familiar and user friendly as possible. With Japan's declining birthrate more workers will be needed, especially to replace and/or take care of the increasing elderly population. And since Japan doesn't seem to be so keen on allowing women to work and allowing foreigners to immigrate and work, the best possible solution is... robots.

For more information about karakuri ningyo, check out this web page:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Portrait Project - Request for Advice

1. F-san

I am starting a new project based upon taking portraits of a particular population I have been researching for some time now. With that in mind I recently had an opportunity to practice taking portraits as sort of a pre-project exercise. Here I give you the results, some explanation of the setting and finally ask for advice for my project.

2. S-san

The Setting: I have been frequenting a certain izakaya for the last several years and have become well-known by the owner, staff and regular customers. Many of these people have become good friends. Often times I take photos and I have actually posted photos of this setting on VAOJ before. I am not sure how many of these people understand that I am a visual anthropologist, but they do understand I am a university professor and I have been accepted as a regular customer. This year the izakaya scheduled a special shinnenkai, or new year's party, offering participants food and all you drink for four hours for a mere 2000 yen.

3. A-san

The Ethics: When I made my reservation to attend I asked the owner if I could take photos and I was given permission to do so. Before and during the event I made it known to all that I was the official photographer. Everyone seemed happy to have their photographs taken. By the end of the event the owner was making sure I was getting photos of certain individuals. Only one person had an objection to being photographed and I honored her/his request. I also made sure that s/he did not appear in any public or posted photographs by accident. I am giving copies of photographs to the owner and making many of them available on my Flickr account to other customers and friends.

4. B-san

I include getting permission in such detail because of my interest in the ethics of photographing in the Japanese public and because of some recent blogs discussing photographing in public without prior permission and almost bragging about still shooting when asked not to. (I commented about this on one particular blog and warned about the strict/paranoid laws in Japan, but the author responded by deleting my comments.) I discuss ethics and legalities not to discourage students/people from taking photos in public but rather to encourage interaction. By simply asking permission one can start a dialogue and get more information about the context of the photo. Respecting the people one photographs is important as well.

5. K-san

Anyway, I found myself in a very advantageous setting where people were allowing me to get in their face and take photos of them. Here are my results. I beg feedback and advice from VAOJ readers about theses portraits.

6. O-san

The Questions: In particular I am interested in the following two questions:

1) What information would you like to have included with an individual's portrait? (For example, age, occupation, education, hobbies, etc.)

2) What information would you like to have included that would put these portraits in a Japanese context? I see this project as ethnographic in nature, so how can I make sure my audience(s) understand I am describing Japanese culture(s)?

7. U-san

Advice on photographic technique is also solicited. Most of these portraits were close-up shots with very little cropping done after the photo was taken. I tweeked exposure and contrast a bit when needed (usually to compensate for poor lighting).

8. M-san

Stylistically I choose to present the portraits in black and white. But some portraits seemed just as good or even better in color. What do you think? This is a major consideration for my upcoming project: black and white or color? Or both? How do I decide?

8.1. M-san (color)

As I said before, very little cropping was done after taking the photograph. No cropping was done in the following shot. The blurring effect comes from the person making the infamous peace sign during the shot.

9. G-san

Black and white or color?

9.1. G-san (color)

The last shot I cropped a lot out in an attempt at artistic endeavor. Of course I want to focus on her face, but I also want to have my audience(s) wonder about what is being cropped out as well.

10. T-san

Black and white or color?

10.1 T-san (color)

For my project I want to focus on the face (I think) of the individual within Japanese cultural contexts. So once again I ask for your advice and feedback.

The shinnenkai was a lot of fun as well as a chance for an academic exercise. This year has been important for the izakaya because the master has begun to turn over the shop to his daughter and her husband. So stay tuned, there might be more posting on this izakaya. In the meantime, if you are interested you can click here to see more shots of the shinnenkai.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

SPARROW: Sound & Pictive Archive for Research on Women

This project and website was recently announced in H-ASIA. While not necessarily related to Japan (it seems to focus on Indian women) it is still an interesting application of visual anthropology. Here is a partial description from its own homepage:


A trust set up in 1988 [Register Number E-11958] in Maharashtra to build a national archives for women with print, oral history and pictorial material.

A live archives reaching out to schools, colleges, women's groups and other organisations.

An active agent of conscientisation.

A forum for discussions.

An interactive space

A daring flight into unexplored areas of experience and expression.

SPARROW believes:

That recording, reviewing, recollecting and reflecting on women's history and life and communicating this information in various ways is an important activity in development.

That change is possible with knowledge and awareness -- of women's lives, history and struggles for self-respect and human dignity.

Check it out:

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year 2010 from VAOJ!


2010 is the Year of the Tiger and let's hope it's the Year for the Hanshin Tigers as well. To celebrate the new year I want to share some visual anthro experiences and photos from the end of 2009 that I haven't had a chance to post until the new year's holidays. The three events described below were all extremely positive and I hope the positive energy from the events and their participants carry over into 2010.

Kyoto Higashikujo Madan

Madan took place on Culture Day, November 3, in Higashikujo, Kyoto. Kyoto is home to many so-called zainichi Koreans. VAOJ has reported about the prejudice and discrimination these people face in Japan before, but Madan was a day to forget the bad and celebrate Korean culture. And a grand celebration it was. People of North Korean descent, South Korean descent, hearing people and deaf people all came together to enjoy food, music and other activities. The photo above shows one of the many drumming groups at the event. It also shows photographers getting into the mix to get their shots. For the most part I stayed in the background shooting and was annoyed when many of my photos had other photographers in them. I was told that one of the photographers was affiliated with the event organizing committee so I imagine he had permission for "getting in the way" and hopefully had knowledge about how to properly get in the way. I must admit he got some excellent shots.

Above is one of my better shots - this drumming group was incredible. Often they would break down into pairs or small groups to have "battles." Wonderful drumming and acrobatics.

How can one resist the wonderful and spicy Korean food? This food stall was run by the group fighting for elderly deaf zainichi Koreans to receive social welfare benefits in Japan. While the group has lost all of its lawsuits in Japan, it continues to get support for the people, both in Japan and Korea. These women were visitors from South Korea that came to help out with the cooking. Korean Sign Language is about 60% the same as Japanese Sign Language (because of the past colonial relationship between the countries) so I was able to communicate effectively with these women to ask them which food was the best.

See more Mandan photos in my Photobucket album:

See more photos and and read more information about the event (in Japanese) at their website:

Kyoto Fuku Fuku Festsa

Fuku Fuku Festa was held in Kyoto on December 12 as an event to bring together so-called disabled people for fun, entertainment, shopping and food. So of course there were a large number of deaf people present. This first picture illustrates the interpretation services available for the deaf people. A sign language interpretor interpreted announcements and speeches. There were also people writing the spoken messages on an overhead projector.

One of the groups that entertained was a taiko drum ensemble.

Even the taiko drum performance was interpreted via the overhead projector. Literally the wrote the sound of the drum, the vocal exclamations of the drummers and what instrument was being players ("the sound of a flute").

There was a bazar and several food stalls. The older fellow pictured here is very well known in the Kyoto deaf scene, so much in fact that someone made a very lifelike bust of him. I saw the bust before I met the man and was a little weirded out...

See more Fuku Fuku Festa photos in my Photobucket album:

Atolier Sign Language Circle 2009 Christmas Party

Atolier is an independent sign language circle in Hirakata city established by deaf people about 11 years ago. It has and remains an important research site and more for me. Every year Atolier has a large Christmas Party with snacks, games, sign language choruses and plays. The above photo is from one of the plays. The theme of the play was "hearing world" vs. "deaf world." For example, one scene of the play features deaf customers having to interact in a "normal" hearing restaurant. The waitress can't do sign language and has no knowledge of deaf culture so the deaf customers have many difficulties. The tables are turned in the next scene when hearing customers have to navigate in a "deaf only" restaurant. One of my favorite scenes was a deaf couple meeting a doctor. The doctor informs them that their baby was born hearing. The deaf couple is sad and upset. But they soon became happy when the doctor informs them that their is a special operation that could make the baby deaf. This scene was an interesting reaction to cochlear implants for deaf babies.

While Atolier was formed by deaf people that doesn't mean they shun the hearing. Hearing people as long as they try to communicate in JSL are more than welcome. During Atolier's meetings, the first rule is "JSL only - no speaking."

This photo has a lot going on: Members of Atolier are performing a sing language chorus; the man in the middle is dressed as a grand father clock but will later ditch the clock mask and become Rudolf the red nosed reindeer. To the right is a deaf-blind woman feeling interpretation of the performance.

View more X-mas party pics at my Photobucket album:

All three of these events were successful examples of unity, cooperation, understanding and fun. These are qualities that VAOJ hopes can be applied in the new year. Here's to a Happy 2010 and more good Visual Anthropology of Japan!