Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fun video with hands: "Man creates viral video love letter for girlfriend"

<br/><a href="http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/man-creates-viral-video-love-letter-for-girlfriend/20k1arvw?q=Viral%20video&rel=MSN&fg=sharenoembed" target="_new"title="Man creates viral video love letter for girlfriend">Video: Man creates viral video love letter for girlfriend</a>

Monday, December 27, 2010

X-mas is over...

Yes, folks, X-mas is over in Japan. No one keeps their decorations up until New Years (or march/April as the case may be for some...). And to heck with storing X-mas decorations - much better to throw them away - more casualties of "cute trash" - and buy new, better ones next year... This one is dedicated to my former communist friend in Germany who hates X-mas. Happy Holidays from VAOJ.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Arashiyama Light Up 2010

Good things come in threes here in Japan and one of the top three light up events in the Kansai area around Christmas time is Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro. Bamboo groves and bridges and everything in between is lit up drawing huge crowds to enjoy the scene and take lots of photographs.

The other famous Kansai light up events are the Luminarie in Kobe and the Hikari Renaissance in Osaka. The events in Kyoto and Kobe have ended but you have until Christmas day to check out Osaka.

Link to Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro: http://www.hanatouro.jp/e/arashiyama/index.html

Link to Kobe Luminarie: http://www.kobe-luminarie.jp/

Link to Osaka Hikari Renaissance: http://www.hikari-renaissance.com/

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Power of Visualization: 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

Swedish academic superstar Hans Rosling graphically illustrates global development over the last 200 years.

Link: http://www.wservernews.com/R51AYG/101206-200-Countries

Thanks to Myra at VAOJ Hawaii for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kameraoke: Photographic Democracy

Visual Anthropology of Japan recently participated in a photo exhibition in Osaka called Kameraoke. Here is a brief description of the event, as advertised in the Kansai Scene Magazine:

Kameraoke 5, Osaka, Dec 12: Kameraoke is back for its fifth edition. Don’t miss Kansai’s largest annual photo event — on for one day only. See great photos, meet the photographers and vote on your favourite shots. Cool prizes, delicious food, great music and a lot of fun. Time: 3pm (door open) Admission:¥1,000 (at the door)  Where: Café Absinthe, Osaka.

Kameraoke is a combination of the words camera and karaoke, suggesting the fun, participatory nature of the photo exhibition/event. It seems to go along with Susan Sontag's idea that photography is like sex and dancing - it is an activity that everybody does, hopefully in a social setting.

There were four broad categories for the contest: shapes, sizes, colors and and numbers; within each category were subcategories. For example, within colors there were colorful characters, black boots, red light district, orange, flashy and so on. I submitted 10 photographs and three were chosen to be displayed for the contest.  The image above shows some of the photos that were displayed outside of the cafe. The bottom left photo is mine, under the category of colorful character.

More photos on display. There were all kinds and qualities of shots, from casual snapshots to artistic compositions. The photo on the bottom left of the dancers is mine under the category of orange. People who came to the event voted for their favorite photo in each category. Winners were announced at the end of the event.

Sixty six photographers submitted over one thousand photos for the contest. Each photographer had at least 2 or 3 photos selected for display. According to one of the organizers, photos on display and for the contest were chosen because they felt they best represented each category. Some categories were popular and had many entries. I was pleased with the three photos of mine they chose, especially because they were all of people (I am an anthropologist after all...). Two of the shots were the results of long term fieldwork (the dancers, also featured in a previous VAOJ post, were in a public performance I was lucky enough to stumble upon).

All submitted photos were displayed on a big screen at the front of the cafe. In the rear a DJ was spinning music. Café Absinthe was an appropriate setting for such a hip event.

My second photo on display on the big screen.

My third photo, under the category of red light district, on display on the big screen. You might recognize this photo from a recent VAOJ post.

One of the organizers announcing the winners of each category. In addition to the four winners, a photographer who entered a photo for every subcategory was also honored. While VAOJ did not win any of the categories, I was still honored to be a part of this democratic photo exhibition. Many thanks to the organizers and all participants.

Link to Kameraoke blog: http://www.kameraoke.com/

Link to a story about Kameraoke in Kansai Scene Magazine:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another Three-Frame Story: Protecting the Privacy of a Snack Mama

Another attempt at the three frame story format... Not so long ago a good friend brought me to one of his favorite "snacks." A "snack" in Japan refers to a small bar usually run by an older "mama-san" where one pays not only for the drinks and food but for the conversation and care of the mama. This particular snack seemed to attract an older crowd who liked to sing enka karaoke. I very much enjoyed the setting and asked if I could take photographs. The mama was incredibly shy when it came to pictures and immediately declined.

But then in the blink of an eye she grabbed some disguises - which seemed to be props for karaoke performances - and granted me permission. I think the wishes of both subject and visual anthropologist were met here...

This is the night-life in Osaka, Japan...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Three-Frame Story: Angela at the Thirsty Pagan

We have all heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words, or variations on that theme - and of course that is the very premise and challenge of visual anthropology.  Contrary to some beliefs, visual anthropology doesn't negate the word, whether it be in text, sound or signed form. Rather imagery serves as a complement to the word and vice versa. Words alone are limiting, images alone are also limiting. Since the time in my participation in the  2009 Visual Literacy workshop at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, I have been experimenting with the "two-frame story" as introduced by Jack Condon and Miguel Gandert. The idea is to limit yourself to two photos and about 200 words of text or so and still be able to tell some story. I probably have failed at every attempt to do such a thing. It has also been challenging for my students to accomplish such a project in Japan. There are always so many things to photograph and show, and there are always so many words and references to supply the needed context. It is enough for a visual anthropologist to give up on photography completely and work on ethnographic documentaries.

I am reminded of the incredible work of Annie Leibovitz that we studied this semester in class. She was and is able to convey so much in a single photo whether it be using ethnographic type methodologies as she did in her early work or setting up extravagant settings and scenarios as she does in her later work. So I won't give up and instead will attempt a new approach: the three-frame story.

This story, not Japan related by the way, goes back to this summer when I was visiting family in Superior, Wisconsin, U.S.A. My cousins and I after a long day trip went to a local brewing company/bar, the Thirsty Pagan, for some pizza and micro-brew beer. There was also a live show that evening, the first set featuring a young female singer/guitarist, Angela Brannan, backed up by a drummer and stand-up bass player. The food, the drink, the company, the music - it was one of the highlights of my America trip. After the first set the crowd began to thin out as did the accompanying musicians. It seems the big party that night was across the bridge in Duluth, Minnesota where the NorShor Theatre Centennial Celebration was going on. During the break I met Angela and the band, bought her CD and got their autographs. I also asked permission to take photographs during her second set. She performed solo for the second set, providing an intimate, almost private, show for the few of us who stayed. Angela is a great musician and the Superior/Duluth music scene seems to be thriving.

I gave Angela my card and she contacted me a few weeks after I returned to Japan. I sent her several photos and asked her permission to do this post. Reading this post now I think my words are failing to capture the mood and feelings of Angela's music and show. What is a visual anthropologist to do?

Please check out her web site (and you can hear a sample of her music):

Link to Thirsty Pagan Brewing (check out the beer and music schedule):

By coincidence (?), Angela is playing at the Thirsty Pagan again tonight...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Lights! Camera! Study humanity!"

From today's Daily Yomiuri Online:

Renowned film critic Tadao Sato has high hopes for Japan's first university to specialize in making movies--the Japan Academy of Moving Images, which will open in Kawasaki next spring.
Sato, 80, is scheduled to serve as the first president of the university. "I want to make this academy a place where students will discuss movies all day," Sato said.

Sato has served as head of a vocational movie school, the forerunner of the academy, since 1996, having taught there as a lecturer from 1981. 

The school was established by late film director Shohei Imamura, who in 1997 became the first Japanese to win the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival with his movie "The Eel."

Many movies produced by students as class projects straightforwardly depict the distress of young people and therefore touch people's hearts, according to Sato.

"I thought my job is to encourage young people in their expression of such unexplored feelings," Sato said.

Sato agreed with Imamura's plan to establish a movie university, hoping to equip young people with a wide body of knowledge and teach them more sophisticated ways of filming. 

The plan hit a snag as they faced difficulty in securing a site for the campus.

It was not until 2009, three years after Imamura's death, that they finally got permission to use the site of a defunct primary school in Kawasaki.

"Movies deal with the universe, so [filmmakers] must have a wide range of interests and great sensitivity," Sato said.

With the basic educational concept of "studying humanity," the school will expose students to subjects such as information sociology and folklore.

"I really want ambitious young people to join us," Sato said.

Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T101213003123.htm

Japan Academy of Moving Images web site (in Japanese):

"Hilton plans live wedding party video service for those unable to attend"

From today's Japan Today: 

Hilton Worldwide said Monday it will begin offering in Japan a service that will bring people who are unable to attend a wedding reception at its hotel and those present at the party together through live video service. The U.S. hotel chain operator’s new service, due to begin in Tokyo in January, will target especially the grandparents of a bride and groom, who are in frail health and would be unable to attend their relatives’ wedding.

Hotel staff will visit the grandparents’ home to cook a meal and set up an iPad tablet computer, which will allow them to view the wedding reception, while those at the reception will also be able to watch the relatives at their home to enable two-way communication. 

Link: http://www.japantoday.com/category/technology/view/hilton-plans-live-wedding-party-video-service-for-those-unable-to-attend

Maybe someday visual anthropologists won't have to leave their house to do fieldwork. And maybe even get a meal to boot...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"'Hot' chosen as kanji of the year"

Seihan Mori, chief priest of Kiyomizu temple, writes the kanji character ''sho,'' meaning hot, during an annual calligraphy ceremony to unveil the Chinese character of the year at the temple in Kyoto on Dec. 10, 2010. The kanji character was voted as best characterizing Japan, which experienced a record-hot summer.

Text and photo borrowed from Kyodo News:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kyoto Lectures: Bafelli on Internet and New Religions

Announcement from H-Japan

Can the Internet make religion?: Japanese New Religions online

Speaker: Erica Baffelli

The analysis of the socio-historical context of Japan in the 1980s and 1990s,  especially in relation to the terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway by members  of Aum Shinrikyo in 1995, demonstrates the vital importance of understanding  the processes by which religious groups produce meanings through the media. Indeed, the media can be incorporated into religion (i.e. the use of media devices during rituals), and religious experience can even be totally mediated through them (i.e., a leader communicating to members only through videos or, more recently, the increasing use of online rituals). In particular, the development of the so-called new media has apparently amplified the possibilities for religious groups not only to inform others about themselves, but also to create wholly novel forms of religious practice and interaction between leaders and members. This lecture will focus on the use of the Internet by so-called Japanese New Religions. More specifically, it will dwell on the  shift from official websites to what has been deemed Web 2.0 in particular, social networking services and video sharing websites.

Erica Baffelli is Lecturer in Asian Religions at the University of Otago (New Zealand). Both her doctoral research (Foscari University of Venice, 2005) and her post-doctoral research project as a Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS, 2005-2007) investigated the relationship between the media and the image construction of Japanese New Religions. Her research interests lie primarily in the groups self-presentation, both online and offline, and in the interaction between religion and popular cultures. She is the co-editor (with Ian Reader and Birgit Staemmler) of Japanese Religions on the Internet: Innovation, Representation, and Authority (Routledge, forthcoming 2010), and she is currently working on a monograph discussing media and religion in 1980s and 1990s Japan.

Date: Thursday, December 16th, 18:00

Place: Institute for Research in Humanities (IRH), Kyoto University (seminar room, 1st floor)

UTCP Talk: "Film as a 'Synthetic Art': Imitation, Copyright Infringement, and Masquerade in the Toho Film Musical"

Announcement from J-Japan:

A talk by Michael Raine (University of Chicago)

The project of "unthinking eurocentrism" in film studies asks us to incorporate  non-western practices of filmmaking and film criticism into a global history of  cinema. Earlier attempts to write Japanese film history often reinforced its exotic difference but recent work emphasizes the cultural permeability and global simultaneity of Japanese cinema, as well as the geopolitical incline between Japan and the West. This presentation argues that a reconsideration of film study in 1950s Japan would "de-provincialize" western film studies by reminding us of alternatives to the auteurism and political modernism that came to define it. In particular, the importance of social psychology in the 1950s and 1960s marks an interest in the popular audience that motivated Abe Kobo and other critics' embrace of musicals as a form of anti-naturalist critique. In its most extreme form that defense celebrated a “culture of the copy” that stood in opposition to a “culture of authenticity” canonized in the Japanese
New Wave.

Japanese film around 1960 was a synthetic art [sogo geijutsu] in two senses:  the aesthetic dialectic of avant-garde music and theatre in the "Japanese New Wave" was housed within a synthetic "transmedia exploitation" of musical and televisual celebrity in popular genre cinema. This presentation expands on that reading formation to explore how practices of imitation, copyright infringement, and cultural masquerade in the Toho studio's color-coded musical-comedy celebrity vehicles, from Janken Girls (1955) to You Too Can Succeed (1964), could be understood as forms of "modernist mimesis" that modeled the experience of postwar modernity in Japan even as they furthered the growth of celebrity culture.

Michael Raine is Assistant Professor in Japanese Cinema at the University of Chicago. He has a palimpsest on the tension between a "culture of the copy" in postwar Japanese commercial cinema and a "culture of authenticity" in the Japanese New Wave around 1960, and is developing a project on image culture in wartime Japan and its territories, with a particular focus on the style and significance of the People’s Film [kokumin eiga]. His other interests in film studies include rethinking the history of film theory through pragmatism, and using digital media for teaching and research, including subtitling, data-mining, and a metrical analysis of Ozu Yasujiro’s “silent” films.

Time: Tuesday, December 14 at 16:30
Place: University of Tokyo, Center for Philosophy, Collaboration Room 1, 4th Floor, Building 18, Komaba Campus

For more details:


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Can't Go Native?

I have been hearing about this film for some time - it has been shown at several conferences I have been unable to attend. I finally ordered the DVD and am looking forward to seeing it. In the meantime, here is some info about the film and a link to the film's web site. There is a short trailer to see as well. Seems to portray some interesting research methods. Check it out.

In 1961 as a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Chicago, Iowa farm boy Keith Brown went to Mizusawa in northeastern Japan to gather data for a dissertation on Japanese kinship. Out of his immersion in village life grew friendships and family-like bonds that have endured for more than half a lifetime.

As the camera follows Professor Emeritus Keith Brown around the community we sample everyday life in regional Japan, an area of the country bypassed by world media.  Unlike Tokyo and Osaka and other megacities regional Japan must grapple with an aging population and infrastructure, with shortages of young adults and cheap labor, and with downtowns that are hollowing out.

In an era of short attention spans we come to sense the long-wave rhythms of human relations that anchor Japanese society in the currents of global change. And we glimpse Japan’s “greatest generation”---those who rebuilt the country after a lost war and who have opened their homes and made connections with the rest of the world on personal terms.

And in an era of Big Science with its pricey technology and platoons of investigators we get to know a researcher who uses ordinary tools---a bicycle, 3x5 note cards, a simple camera---instead of intrusive apparatus, who steps aside so that a way of life can reveal itself.

Link: http://www.cantgonative.com/

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Resource: Japan Air Raids.org

Announcement from H-Japan:

We are pleased to announce the launching of a new website, japanairraids.org, a bilingual digital archive dedicated to the international dissemination of information about the United States Army Air Force air raids against Japan. While in its infancy, the website features air raid survivor interviews, primary documents produced by the U.S. and Japanese governments, photographs, moving images, and sound recordings. We encourage educators to inform students about the website, which can act as a one-stop shop for them to conduct original research. Given our wish to significantly expand the offering of primary documents and survivor interviews, we welcome any suggestions for funding possibilities.