Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Short Documentary: "Die for Japan: Wartime Propaganda Kamishibai (paper plays; 国策紙芝居)"

Professor Jeffery Dym from Sacramento State recently announced his interesting visual project on H-Japan:

We live in an increasingly visual culture and I believe it is important for us as scholars to become involved in creating and adding scholarly contributions to it and not just as talking heads in a documentary. Thus, I have embarked on a road I call "visual scholarship."

I would like to announce the publishing of an eighteen minute documentary--Die for Japan: Wartime Propaganda Kamishibai (paper plays; 国策紙芝居)--I recently completed. The film examines Japanese propaganda from a unique angle and the film could be used to spark classroom discussion, particularly if paired with an American wartime propaganda film like Know Your Enemy Japan.

Here is the text included with the YouTube version:

While American World War II propaganda often focused on killing the enemy, Japanese propaganda focused more on dying for the nation. This film exams Japanese World War II propaganda as depicted in kamishibai—Japanese paper plays, a form of street entertainment popular in Japan at the time.

YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFavUjEYc7Y

Vimeo link: http://vimeo.com/35458335

I think this film is a great example of visual anthropology - using visual methods to explore visual aspects of culture. The film is tightly edited and has lots of good examples to illustrate the various uses of kamishibai. Related to the last VAOJ post, there is some mention of the the strong use of the Japanese flag as a powerful symbol in Japan's wartime propaganda. There are even examples of the use of cuteness in Japan - cute characters fighting battles and cute bunnies signing up for military service. While the film might be historical in nature, it certainly illustrates political and cultural values that continue to the current time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stand! In the place where you work (as ordered)...

Stand in the place where you live
Now face north
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before

Now stand in the place where you work
Now face west
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven't before

If you are confused, check with the sun
Carry a compass to help you along
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around

("Stand" by R.E.M. from the album Green released in 1988)

I doubt R.E.M. was thinking about Japan, the Hinomaru and Kimigayo when they wrote this song. Perhaps it is time for a re-make of the video featuring the Hinomaru flag in the background with Tokyo Govenor Ishihara Shintaro and Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru singing and dancing.

VAOJ has long been following the lawsuits of teachers who refused to stand for the national anthem and flag at school ceremonies. There have been a few updates recently.

Top court calls for care in punishing teachers over flag, anthem

(from The Mainichi Daily News,1/17/12)

The Supreme Court on Monday nullified some punishments meted out to current and former Tokyo public school teachers for refusing to stand for the hoisting of the Hinomaru national flag or to sing the "Kimigayo" anthem at school events, saying careful consideration is required.

"In choosing a punishment greater than a reprimand, such as a pay cut or a greater punishment, careful consideration is needed," Presiding Justice Seishi Kanetsuki of the top court's First Petty Bench said in delivering rulings on three lawsuits brought by around 170 plaintiffs seeking nullification of their punishments.

The court annulled the suspension from work of one plaintiff and the pay cut for another, saying such punishments amounted to an abuse of power and were therefore illegal.

However, the court found the suspension from work of one plaintiff and reprimands meted out to the remaining plaintiffs were appropriate.

The decision concerned three suits filed by current and former teachers and other staff members at public schools run by the Tokyo metropolitan government.

Last year, the Supreme Court found constitutional school principals' orders requiring teachers at school events to stand up for the raising of the national flag and to sing "Kimigayo," but said such orders indirectly restrict a person's freedom of belief and conscience.

Monday's ruling called for care when punishing teachers for not following those orders.

The ruling could also have an impact on debate in the Osaka prefectural assembly over a proposal calling for a "three strikes and you're out" rule to dismiss school teachers who repeatedly defy principals' orders to stand up and sing "Kimigayo." The proposal has been advocated by a regional political party, the Osaka Restoration Association, led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto. 

Link to entire story:

Japan Focus has an informative post about this recent development as well (1/22/12).

Japan's Supreme Court Limits National Anthem Punishments for Teachers

Link: http://japanfocus.org/events/view/125

And here's more...

Osaka mayor orders officials to bow to flag

(from The Daily Yomiuri Online, 1/23/12)

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has instructed high-ranking officials of the city government to always bow to the Hinomaru national flag as they take a seat in the municipal assembly's main conference hall and when replying to questions when the assembly is session, it has been learned. 

Hashimoto e-mailed the instruction earlier this month to bureau chiefs who sit on the platform of the conference hall during the assembly's deliberations. 

Titled "Paying homage to the national flag at the conference hall," the mayor's e-mail read, "You are asked to bow to the flag when seating yourself on the platform," assembly sources said. 

The e-mail also said senior city officials were required to bow their heads to the national flag every time they step on the hall's platform or respond to a question posed during assembly deliberations, they said. 

Furthermore, the instructions said officials must bow to the flag again when deliberations are resumed after a recess, according to the sources. 

Hashimoto has expressed his intention to present a draft ordinance in the coming assembly session in February that will call for the national flag to always be hoisted at the municipal government's facilities.

Link to story:

Mastering Manners

In today's Daily Yomiuri Online (1/27/12) there is a story about manners and the proper way to bow. Here is an interesting quote:

Japanese etiquette was developed during the era of the samurai, when strict relationships between superiors and subordinates were a key part of class-based societies. The tradition has been passed from generation to generation, but some people today may find its practice cumbersome.

"The idea behind Japanese etiquette is to use actions to express your deep feelings for other people," Kondo says. "As long as you acquire the basics, you can act with grace and confidence, while those around you will treat you with respect."

Link to entire story:

Manners and etiquette through the use of body movements are for showing respect to people. Such gestures should not be forced upon people to display patriotism or national pride.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Yomiuri ties up with AFP for broader worldwide photo circulation"

From NSK News Bulletin January 2012:

The Yomiuri Shimbun is to begin distributing its news photos on a subscription basis to foreign media via AFP, the French state-owned news agency, starting on Feb. 1.

The Yomiuri’s photos for overseas distribution via AFP include photos not appearing in the Yomiuri’s daily newspaper, various on-the-spot photos of disasters or incidents that have been provided by Yomiuri readers, and an archive of the paper’s past news photos.

The leading Japanese daily signed a distribution contract with AFP on Dec. 9.

The Yomiuri had earlier tied up with the Associated Press, the leading U.S. news agency. That August 2010 tie-up put Yomiuri photos into distribution in many markets overseas. In this latest tie-up, with AFP, the Yomiuri is targeting its Japan photo distribution at Europe, the Middle East and Africa, all of which are distribution strongholds for AFP, Yomiuri officials said.

Link to NSK News Bulletin: http://www.pressnet.or.jp/english/newsb/

Link to AFP - Photos: http://www.afp.com/afpcom/en/taglibrary/know-how/photo

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Diversity in Place Film Festival

Announcement from SSJ-Forum...

Diversity in Place Film Festival

(April, 2012, Honolulu, HI)

Seeking short films (under 30 minutes) in any style or genre (narrative, documentary, experimental, animated) on the theme of Urban Explorations: "stories about the existing, yet unseen places in or around the urban areas you've lived, visited, encountered." An intersection between film festival and conference, DIPFF explores the potential applications of film as a format through which we can understand our relations with place and promote awareness and a critical outlook on how we experience place.

Deadline: February 1, 2012

Diversity in Place Film Festival
c/o The ARTS at Marks Garage
1159 Nu'uanu Ave., Honolulu, HI
T: (808) 206-0848,

Link: http://diversityinplace.org/

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Preparing for death while still healthy / Leaving memorial portraits, 'final wishes' can ease burden on loved ones"

From the Daily Yomiuri Online, 1/15/12: 

Activities to prepare for the final stage of life, including having photos taken to leave behind, writing down final thoughts and wishes in a special notebook, and attending workshops on how to write a will, are enjoying a quiet boom.

Experts say that behind the recent rise in popularity of these activities that take a candid approach to death is the emotional impact of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake, in addition to uncertainty over the future, including life after retirement.

"Please smile. That's good," a female photographer said while taking photos of participants of a session held at a hotel in the city of Tachikawa, western Tokyo, in late November. The photos will be used for portraits after their death.

A total of 38 people in their 40s to 80s attended the session, including a couple who celebrated their golden anniversary and a woman in a hula dancing outfit. Before having their photos taken, they were done up by a makeup artist according to their request.


According to the publisher of a free paper in Tokyo that organized the photo session--its first session was held in May 2011--there were many requests to hold an additional session.

One of the staff members said: "There are plenty of people who said they had difficulty finding a photo of close relatives after they died to use as portraits. I assume the recent boom is a result of the fact that an increasing number of people don't want to cause their families unnecessary trouble after their deaths."

Link to whole story: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120111001983.htm

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Aichi director records the deaf's stories"

Photo borrowed from Yomiuri Online.

From the Daily Yomiuri Online, 1/14/12:

Deaf director Ayako Imamura's filmography boasts movies about the lives of deaf and hearing-impaired people.

Imamura, 32, recently shot a documentary titled "Coffee and Pencil," whose main character is a deaf man who runs a surf shop.

The man offers customers coffee with a smile, shows them paper and a pencil, and starts communicating with them using gestures and writing.

"Did you surf today?" he writes.

Customers, puzzled at first, are soon drawn into a conversation with him.

"Even if we don't talk and people don't know sign language, we can enjoy conversations. I wanted everyone to know this," Imamura said.

The movie became the talk of Aichi Prefecture, her filming home base, and other areas. In March, the movie will be screened at a theater in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo.

When she was a primary school student, Imamura felt quite lonely as she was not able to join conversations with her friends due to her hearing problem.

In those days, her father rented the movie "E.T." and Imamura was deeply moved by the movie's captioning.

Aspiring to be a director, she studied filmmaking in the United States at a university that provides lectures in sign language.

The consistent theme of her films is the lives of the deaf--such as their working environment at offices and the support provided to students with hearing problems.

Lately, she has been doing research in areas hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

"[In the disaster] many people were anxious as they were unable to obtain information because of their hearing problems. I'd like to convey their situation [in my films]," she said.

Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120113005054.htm

日本語: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/komachi/news/20111230-OYT8T00118.htm

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Happy New Year 2012 from VAOJ!

We are always a little late with x-mas cards, nengajo and holiday greetings in general... Nonetheless VAOJ wishes all health, prosperity and happiness in 2012, the Year of the Dragon. Here are some shots from my annual new year's pilgrimage to Hozanji temple in Ikoma, Nara.