Thursday, April 29, 2010

"50 Japanese town logos with kanji"

(Image borrowed from Pink Tentacle)

Pink Tentacle has posted a link of town symbols based upon kanji. The one above is from Tenri city in Nara prefecture. Can you see the kanji 天? And perhaps the circle represents the kanrodai at ojiba at the headquarters of the religion Tenrikyo.

Check out more town symbols:

At the end of the post is a link to their post on town symbols based upon hiragana and katakana.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Films by young directors shed new light on A-bomb survivors"

From Japan Today:

U.N. disarmament experts and antinuclear campaigners may have heard about Japanese atomic-bomb survivors, but a pair of documentaries about them designed to connect with ordinary young people were recently completed by directors under 30 from Costa Rica and Japan.

Erika Bagnarello’s ‘‘Flashes of Hope’’ and Takashi Kunimoto’s ‘‘Traveling with Hibakusha: Across Generations’’ both feature, with different approaches, a group of over 100 such survivors, called ‘‘hibakusha’’ in Japanese, who cruised around the world in 2008 in the nongovernmental organization Peace Boat’s first such project for them.

A series of events across Japan to screen the two films and talk with the directors began Wednesday, and at least Bagnarello’s work, designed for English-speaking audiences, will be shown in New York on May 1, two days before the start of a key U.N. conference to enhance the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In interviews prior to the events, both 29-year-olds expressed hope that their roughly hour-long movies will help viewers in Japan and other countries respond to the hibakusha’s message that the tragedies caused by the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should never be repeated.

‘‘I feel like the message of the hibakusha is very clear: they want to bring hope to the world, they want to tell their story and make sure that it never happens again. So for me, the film is about hope,’’ said Bagnarello, who was in Tokyo on her first visit since the voyage for the screening.

Kunimoto, whose film shed light on hibakusha of a younger generation than the seasoned activists, said, ‘‘What is really important is that we think by ourselves how we can respond to the stories of hibakusha…I hope to offer a catalyst for that.’‘

Both admitted, however, that they joined the voyage as staff filmmakers initially to travel around the world free of charge.

A freelance director for corporate videos and commercials for the Costa Rican market, Bagnarello had not made a documentary before, and Kunimoto was an amateur video maker earning a salary in an unrelated business until he made it a career after the voyage to make web videos for a radio station.

Read the whole story:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Monitoring cameras to be removed from post offices at Y3.2 bil cost"

From today's Japan Today:

Japan Post Holdings Co plans to remove monitoring cameras from about 18,000 post offices nationwide at the cost of 3.2 billion yen in response to criticism that they are "undercutting" postal staffers’ working morale, a government paper showed Friday. The paper was a written reply to House of Representatives lawmaker Mito Kakizawa of Your Party, who questioned the appropriateness of the removal plan.

The monitoring cameras have been installed in stages since April 2007 by Japan Post Corp, the predecessor of Japan Post, prior to the 10-year privatization program that got under way in the fall of the year. The cameras were part of the 70 billion yen crime countermeasures enhancement program.

In the paper, the government says the use of the cameras "has led to monitoring working behaviors excessively and has caused various negative effects, such as reducing workers’ morale."

The removal decision has been made by the management of Japan Post Holdings, the government said in the paper.

Postmasters and other postal workers have long balked at the use of monitoring cameras, saying Japan Post management "is keeping tabs on postmasters’ behavior."

Read the story and reader comments:

"Right-wingers vow to block release of 'The Cove' in Japan"

More "Cove" related news from today's Japan Today:

Dozens of right-wing activists protested Friday outside the office of a Japanese distributor of the Oscar-winning “The Cove,” demanding that the gory portrayal of dolphin hunting in Japan not be shown in the country.

“The Cove” won this year’s best documentary Oscar with its depiction of dolphin hunts in Taiji, a small fishing village in western Japan.

The protesters Friday accused the distributor of betraying Japanese national pride by supporting the film, which they see as insulting to traditional village culture of which dolphin hunting is part.

“Traitor! Money scavenger! Shame on you!” Shuhei Nishimura, who led Friday’s protest, shouted outside the downtown Tokyo office of the distributor, Unplugged Inc.

He demanded a meeting with the company president, while about 30 protesters held up signs saying “Crash the showing of anti-Japanese film ‘The Cove,’” and urging the Japanese to “be angry.”

Nishimura handed a statement to a company employee, who declined to comment or be identified. Unplugged President Takeshi Kato did not show up.

“We will block the distribution of the movie and we will protect this country,” Nishimura said. “If the country does not protect the life, spirit and pride of its people, we will have to protect them by ourselves.”

The film has not yet been released in Japan, but it will start showing here in June at 20 to 30 theaters nationwide. When it was shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October, viewers gave it mixed reviews. Unplugged had said it planned to obscure the faces of the Japanese fishermen in Taiji to protect their privacy.

The documentary, directed by Louie Psihoyos, follows Ric O’Barry, a trainer for the 1960s “Flipper” TV series who says he became an activist because of a suicidal dolphin in his charge. The film team broke into a restricted area to set up cameras that captured the slaughter.

Taiji, the village of 3,500 people, has been hunting dolphins and whales since the early 1600s. It calls itself “Whale Town” and has a massive pair of whale statues looming over the main road. “The Cove” refers to Taiji and its dolphin fishing as “a little town with a really big secret.”

Most Japanese do not eat dolphin meat. Its consumption is limited to a handful of fishing villages where the animal is hunted.

The Japanese government allows about 19,000 dolphins to be killed each year. Taiji hunts about 2,000 dolphins every year for meat—less than other places—but is singled out in part because of its method of herding and killing them near the shore. Some are captured and sold to aquariums and dolphin shows at water parks.

Read the story and reader comments:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Beauty in Contemporary Japan: Spring 2010 Body/Comm Poster Workshop

Once again Body/Comm students are searching for beauty in contemporary Japan. In this semester's poster workshop, students cut and pasted images from fashion magazines to illustrate recent trends. Consistent themes included big eyes, skinny legs and bodies (and the diets, cremes and other methods to attain them), fair skin (and methods to attain it if you are not half Japanese), accessories and boots. See what each group came up with:

See posters from previous semesters here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

This year's cherry blossoms...

It's that time of year again - time for ohanami (cherry blossom viewing). Japanese people love their cherry blossoms whether it be for the viewing of the pretty flowers or the eating/drinking parties that go on. These first few shots are from around my neighborhood.

At Osaka Jo Koen. I am assuming the man on the left is passed out from drink rather than dead...

There are plum blossoms as well.

Leaving Osaka Jo Koen and heading towards Yodogawa River.

Festivities at Yodogawa River.

Click here for previous posts on VAOJ about hanami and other spring time themes. Happy Spring and happy Hanami!

Monday, April 5, 2010

"Nikkatsu revives successful porn genre of ’70s and ’80s"

More from today's Japan Today:

The promotional flyer says it all: “This is not a remake — it’s a return!”

Four decades ago, struggling movie studio Nikkatsu shifted its focus from action and gangster films to a form of soft pornography termed roman porno (a combination of the English words “romance” and “pornography”). It was a breakthrough genre for a major studio: hour-long films with relatively substantial storylines blended with copious nude scenes.

I suppose this might be of interest to at least some visual anthropologists... But what caught my attention appears later in the article.

Opportunity for emerging filmmakers

Nikkatsu sees the roman porno revival as an opportunity for emerging filmmakers and actors to make their mark. Over the last few years, Japan’s box office has been dominated by TV network-produced films, which are staffed by their own production crews — a trend that many in the industry believe is shutting out new directors.

“It is hard for young talent to make a debut,” says Yoshinori Chiba, a producer of the new films. “We are hoping that the ‘Returns’ series will bring opportunities to young directors to break through this closed environment.”

Times are tough and jobs are hard to get, especially in the film industry. So perhpas here is a chance for some...

Read the whole story and reader comments:

"Man punches officer for using mobile phone camera at crime scene"

From today's Japan Today:

Police on Sunday arrested a 37-year-old man for obstruction of duty after he punched a police officer in the face at the scene of a warehouse fire in Akaiwa, Okayama Prefecture. The 27-year-old police sergeant was taking photos of the scene with his mobile phone when Yuji Iwamoto reportedly yelled, “This isn’t the time to be taking photos!” and punched the officer in the face.

Since last year, Okayama police have distributed 500 authorized mobile phone handsets to police boxes around the prefecture to be used to take photos of crime scenes and other incidents when officers make their initial investigations.

Visual anthropologists beware... I have been using my cell phone camera a lot more recently because it is smaller to carry (plus I have my keitai with me always) and the photo quality is better than my Xacti. Seems that in addition to ethics of taking photos in Japan, there are some manner issues as well.

Read the story and readers comments:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Japan - The Strange Country"

Japan - The Strange Country (Japanese ver.) from Kenichi on Vimeo.

This video was made by a young Japanese graphic designer. Here is his description of the video:

This is my final thesis project. I created info-graphic, motion piece. My objective is to make Japanese people to think about that everything happening here in Japan, isn't that normal. So I created this video from foreigner's point of view, rather than Japanese people's point of view.

Both English and Japanese versions are available.

Unfortunately English versions on Vimeo and YouTube have been removed. I wonder why... But I think the graphics in the video make his points easy to understand whether you speak Japanese or not.

Thanks to my student, Rodrigo, for telling me about this video.

Trippy Cat Food Commerical (or, what do they put in Friskies?)

I think cat owners understand... For those of you that don't, check out the article at Slate:

Psychedelic Cat Food
Why is the new Friskies ad so trippy?
By Seth Stevenson

For an even more psychedelic version of the commercial:

Mugi-chan says yoroshiku...