Monday, July 16, 2012

Neighborhood Summer Festival

Last night my neighborhood celebrated its annual summer festival at the local elementary school grounds. It featured various food, games, minyo folk songs and obon dancing. The turnout was very good - lots of families and children of all ages. Many people wore the traditional yukata. I was happy to see the wide variety of people present at this neighborhood event. I recall several years ago when I lived in Nara participating in a similar summer festival. I remember a group of bosozuku (young Japanese bikers) dancing with senoir citizens and children - it was one of those great examples of communitas that anthropologists love to see. And so the event in my current neighborhood celebrated in a similar way (yes, there were a couple of dancing bikers last night as well) is a good sign to see in the midst of declining birthrates, various social problems and fears of vanishing traditions in contemporary Japan. A sense of community is alive and well. The summer will be full of such festivals - if you are in Japan, please participate. Dance! And don't forget your camera.

Link to more photos of the event:

It sure is nice to be focusing on something positive. Happy Summer from VAOJ!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

七夕 @ 機物神社 (Tanabata Festival at Hatamono Shrine)

July 7 (7/7) marks the Tanabata Festival that is celebrated in various parts of Japan. It is based opon a romantic tale of two star-crossed lovers who can only meet once a year - as such it is a day for Japanese people to make wishes. For more information see the following two links:

Tanabata, from the Festivals of Shinto:

Orihime, Kengyuu, and Tanabata - Adapting Chinese Lore to Native Beliefs and Purposes:

These photos were taken at a famous version of the festival at the Hatamono Shrine in Katano-shi, Osaka. Despite the threat of rain, a colorful and wonderful time was had by all.

Link to more Tanabata @ Hatamono photos:

Link to Hatamono Shrine web page (in Japanese):

Monday, July 2, 2012

Shuwa Dandelion Event in Osaka with Ezoe & Yonaiyama

Recently at the newly established JSL school in Osaka, Dandelion, two deaf "celebrities" discussed sign language news and the current state of deaf  people in the realms of politics, culture, education, interpretation and other issues in Japanese society.

The first celebrity speaker was Satoshi Ezoe, founder of the Deaf News Network (DNN). He discussed the founding and evolution of this special internet news service for deaf people in Japan. It all began with the lack of news and information available for deaf people during the wake of 3/11 disasters. Ezoe began broadcasting on March 14, 2011 and supplied much needed news to deaf people in Japanese Sign Language. Since then, deaf people have requested more varied news broadcasts and so the DNN has been expanding. DNN uses relatively simple technology. There is no fancy studio. Rather Ezoe and other newscasters use the camera in their personal computer to make videos and then make them available through YouTube. This seems to be a popular service for deaf people throughout Japan and in other parts of the world.

The second celebrity speaker was Akihiro Yonaiyama, long time actor, writer, producer, teacher... He is probably the most well known Japanese deaf person in and out of Japan. His main lecture was a criticism of the recent policies of the Japanese Federation of the Deaf (JFD). The JFD views sign language as a means of communication rather than a boda fide language and does not support the idea of Deaf culture. This runs counter to most major national deaf organizations throughout the world and to proponents of Deaf culture (and/or Deaf/Japanese bilingualism) within Japan. While I won't go into specifics here, Yonaiyama's energetic lecture certainly illustrates the politics is alive and well in the Japanese deaf world; the Japanese deaf are not a unified group which adds to the challenges they face in an overwhelmingly hearing hegemonic society.

The event ended with a social gathering at a near-by izakaya where several ideas about improving the situation of the deaf were shared over food and drink. This was another great example of deaf people traveling throughout Japan to share information and exchange ideas.

Link to photos from the event:

Link to Deaf Network News (in Japanese and JSL; a simple English description is also available): 

Link to Dandelion Blog (in Japanese and JSL):