Monday, September 29, 2014

"Own a pair of secret camera shoes? The police should be by shortly for a visit"

From Japan Today, September 25, 2014:

For most of this summer, Kyoto Prefectural Police have been carrying out an aggressive campaign of going to people’s homes and asking them to voluntarily give up their shoes with built-in hidden cameras. These house calls have resulted in hundreds of pairs of these “tosatsu shoes” (voyeur shoes) winding up in police custody.

The shoes contain a hidden camera in the toe behind some mesh which is operated by a remote control

This plan to deter the use of tosatsu shoes to illegally film in private areas such as up women’s skirts had proved so successful that police in Kyoto are spreading the word to other departments and will continue the same tactics in the future.

This strategy started back in mid-July when Kyoto police decided that rather than chase down individual peepers on the streets, they could hit the suppliers instead. On July 1, they raided a camera supply company that sells tosatsu shoes on the side.

They arrested the 26-year-old manager for “aiding voyeurism” which is a violation of the Nuisance Prevention Ordinance and fined him 500,000 yen. While putting the supplier out of the shoe camera business and confiscating their supply was a victory for the police, it later proved to be a mere drop in the bucket.

Several other tosatsu shoe vendors were still selling online with impunity and later that month an Okayama man was arrested while attempting to film up young girls’ skirts at the Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka. The shoes he used were from the same company the police had previously raided.

According to police, that company had sold about 2,500 pairs of tosatsu shoes from 2012 to 2014 for a total revenue of around 60 million yen. Setting the money aside for a moment, consider that 2,500 pairs of camera shoes were in circulation in a two-year period. Considering this is only from one company, think about how much pervy recording must be going on out there and get ready for a good boggling of the mind.

Luckily for the police, also seized during the search was a list of about 1,500 customers with their delivery addresses. By mid-August they came up with the plan to pay these former customers a visit one by one. This was tricky as simply owning a pair of camera shoes isn’t illegal and the owners technically didn’t have to relinquish them.

Nevertheless, the Kyoto Prefectural Police relying heavily on the fact that they are police and therefore intimidating, asked each customer to hand over their tosatsu shoes and fill out a “disposal request” on which they have to state why they purchased the shoes in the first place.

They went on, house by house, until, as reported by a police spokesperson, almost all of the shoes in Kyoto were collected – with the exception of a few who “threw them away.” They are also passing along addresses of customers outside of the jurisdiction to the appropriate authorities.

So if you happen to own a pair of tosatsu shoes, you may want to consider disposing of them before the police come a’knocking. But chances are if you were dense enough to buy them online and leave a record of the transaction with your correct name and address, you aren’t going to listen to me anyway.


See the shoes here:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ethics of Visual Anthropology in Japan - Part Eight: The Dialogue Continues

I cannot believe it has been 5 years since the beginning of VAOJ's Shooting Culture in Japan project. The first goal of the project was to establish and suggest some guidelines for shooting film and photographs in Japan for students in my Visual Anthropology of Japan course. Through the years my students have produced successful blogs, photo exhibitions and films with no major ethical or legal problems. The second goal of the project was to begin and promote dialogue and discussion of the methods and ethics of shooting culture with an emphasis on Japan. VAOJ produced seven posts providing various sources and perspectives on the issues of shooting film and photographs in Japan. You can review these posts at the following url:

I am happy to report that the dialogue has continued (or was going on in places I had not yet seen). Here I want to provide a long overdue update that includes important resources dealing with photography and visual anthropology from academic institutions, anthropologists and photographers.

First, I would like to examine the efforts of the Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA, a section of the American Anthropological Association, AAA). On November 28, 2001 it produced the following:

Guidelines for the Evaluation of Ethnographic Visual Media


Ethnographic visual media (specially film, video, photography and digital multimedia) play a significant role in the production and application of anthropological knowledge and form an integral part of the discipline’s course offerings. Anthropologists involved in the production of visual works make valuable scholarly contributions to the discipline. In addition, anthropologists increasingly include visual media productions as part of their curricula vitae. Departmental and university Committees for Hiring, Promoting and Tenure are thus charged with judging the scholarly quality of these non-print works. Yet not all anthropologists bring appropriate experience or training to their evaluation of visual media and no standard guideline exists.

The above is the first paragraph which seems to be mostly concerned with academic institutions being able to recognize and judge the merit of visual methods and images in anthropological research. The last sentence is important that it indicates the lack of any guidelines in methods and evaluation. See the whole statement at the following url:

In 2007 the SVA, especially members Sara Perry and Jonathon S. Marion, began a series of discussions and roundtables on the ethics involved in visual anthropology. Their publication, "State of the Ethics in Visual Anthropology"(Visual Anthropology Review, Vol. 26, Issue 2, pp. 96–104) includes a description of the first three events (2007, 2008, 2009). Below is a brief overview of the SVA sponsored discussions and roundtables (italicized descriptions come from Perry and Marion 2010 for the first three events; descriptions of the last three events are borrowed from announcements on the SVA blog).

2007 "Ethics and Examples: A Discussion Regarding Visual Ethics"

Main theme: real-world ethical matters faced by anthropologists working with visual data (p. 96).

2008 "The Ethics of Visual Data: Picturing Inclusion, Collaboration, and Engagement"

Of note: cases from the subfields of archaeological, sociocultural and biological anthropology (p.97).

2009 "End/s, Ethics, and Images: A Roundtable Discussion on Visual Ethics"

Main theme: visual media, as with all forms of representation, are often used and understood in unanticipated ways outside and sometimes within their original anthropological frameworks of creation (p. 97).

2010 “Ethics and Images: A Discussion of Visual Ethics and Circulation”

Main theme: to explore the ethical considerations implicated and involved in the intersections of images and circulation.

2011 "Traces of the Image: A Roundtable Discussion on Visual Ethics"

Questions of interest: How have histories of anthropological practice impacted on our contemporary management of imagery? How are shifting visual technologies and intellectual paradigms disrupting or rearranging our ethical priorities? Where is representational authority situated in unstable, multiply-occupied/authored anthropological contexts?

2012 "On The Boarders of the Image: A Roundtable Discussion on Visual Ethics"

Of particular interest is the iterative and unstable nature of image use-the navigation of visual value systems and moralities across time, space, cultural and institutional context, particularly when circumscribed by programmatic ethical review models.

2013 "Conflicting Accounts: A Roundtable Discussion on Visual Ethics"

Goal: to investigate the responsibility of photographers, filmmakers, ethnographers to present a ‘balanced’ representation of the conflict.

These authors are to be commended for their work and keeping the dialogue going. Their "State of the Ethics in Visual Anthropology" also provides guidelines from other anthropological associations that have ethical guidelines for their members that the SVA and AAA currently lack.

Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth - Ethical Guidelines for Good Research Practice (March, 1999)

These guidelines address such issues as personal and moral relationships, trust and reciprocity between the researcher and research participants, power relationships, informed consent, rejection of visual methods, intellectual property rights, copyright clearances, etc. See the details at the following url:

Statement Of Ethical Practice For The British Sociological Association – Visual Sociology Group (December 2006)

These guidelines start out with an important Statement of Intent:

The statement does not represent a core method for resolving ethical choices or dilemmas, but aims to give direction and stimulate consideration of ethical factors in sociological research utilizing visual methodologies/methods.

The statement is not an exhaustive list of ethical considerations, but rather a guide to ethical practice in professional activities.

The strength of this statement rest ultimately on active discussion, reflection, and its continued use by sociologists. In addition, the statement will help to communicate the professional position of sociologists to others, especially those involved in or affected by the activities of sociologists.

The document goes on to consider professional integrity, legal considerations, relations and responsibilities towards research participants, covert research, anonymity, privacy and confidentiality. See details in the following url:

These two sets of guidelines are important and helpful. Again, many thanks to Perry and Marion for supplying them in their article. Perry and Marion go on to comment about attempts to provide guidelines:

...what they witness is our collective struggles with matters of visual competency and authority: with questions about what constitutes ‘‘the visual,’’ who owns it, who can reproduce and educate about it, where it resides, how it can be manipulated and construed, and with what effects, and who has the skill to manage it with the fewest adverse ramifications. At stake, thus, are major issues of accountability, responsibility, social justice, authorship, rigor, specificity, and overall proficiency and training in image production and circulation. These are matters common and significant to all forms and subjects of visual representation and to all who make, disseminate, and consume such representation. They may not always be manageable with the same tools or intellectual strategies, but as the SVA ethics roundtables attest, they are present and potent across the anthropological field - no subdiscipline excluded (p. 100).

Perry and Marion also indicate that a SVA ethics committee has been formed. I look forward to hearing more about this group and their work.


Another helpful resources that sheds light on these issues specifically in Japan is the edited book by Jennifer E. Robertson, Politics and Pitfalls of Japan Ethnography: Reflexivity, Responsibility, and Anthropological Ethics (2009; Routledge Press). ann-elise lewallen provides a chapter entitled, “Bones of Contention: Negotiating Anthropological Ethics within Fields of Ainu Refusal” (p. 3-24) where she describes the 1985 lawsuit of Ainu activist Cikap Mieko against editors of Ainu Minzokushi (Ainu Ethnology) for unauthorized publishing of her photo. lewallen writes:

In the portrait rights lawsuit she later launched, she challenged the way that scholars had treated her as a ‘research object’ and criticized the books portrayal of Ainu as ‘primitive,’ ‘barbarian,’ and ‘uncivilized.’ Although the lawsuit is framed as a ‘portrait rights case,’ Cikap’s rationale for launching the case stems from usage of her photograph in a text that epitomizes the colonialist invasion of Hokkaido and academic excess (12).

One result of this lawsuit was the Japanese Society of Ethnology (JSE) 1989 “Statement on Ainu and Research Ethics” which established general standards for Ainu research, urging researchers to recognize Ainu as a distinct ethnic group, to promote collaborative research, and to promote public education of Ainu issues (12). But JSE guidelines for all research lack except for their Research Ethics Committee brief report in Minzokugaku Kenkyu (society journal) that touched upon issues including relations between researchers and researched, concerns related to gender, obligations to repatriate research findings, copyright and portrait rights, informant remuneration, and language and translation issues (12). lewallen discusses the problem of a perceived "ethics allergy" [where a] compulsory code might impinge on academic freedom (13).


One final source I would like to present is a very important book that was mentioned in a previous VAOJ post and is especially relevant for this discussion:

日本写真家協会 [Japan Professional Photographer’s Society]
2007 スナップ写真のルールとマナー [The Rules and Manners of Snapshot Photos]. Tokyo: Asahi Shinsho.

This book is written in Japanese; I take all responsibility for any errors in interpretation of ideas or language. The book was written in the context of more and more digital cameras and cell phone cameras available and thus being used more often in public. In some instances, intentional or not, problems have arisen in photographing and/or the dissemination of images. The book endorses good relationships with people in the realms of trust, manners, etiquette, morals, human interaction and human rights. In the areas of publishing and displaying photos the book provides legal definitions and discussions of portrait rights, copyright, use rights, personal rights, property rights and publication rights. More specifically it provides various scenarios and gives advice for each setting. These scenarios include street fairs, parks, sight-seeing locations, temples/shrines, mountain hiking paths, sporting events, shops, etc. The following are general themes that appear in various sections of the book that I have summarized and feel to be good advice for taking photos in public in Japan (especially in the realm of not for profit and for academic use only):

1. Get permission; under most circumstances a release form is not necessary. Smile and give the ”simple asking gesture” before you shoot. It is usually obvious when people do not want to be photographed.

2. Explain what you are doing and offer to send/give photos to the people you are photographing.

3. If people object, don’t take the photo.

4. Don’t take covert photos.

5. Don’t get in the way of events or people resting (from an activity or hiking, for example).

6. Respect people and their property. Understand their personal and human rights.

7. Have a confident, positive attitude; always be grateful for taking photos.

8. Put yourself in the place of your subjects: would you want to be photographed in that particular situation?

This good advice along with the various information presented from these resources seem to reinforce the scenarios and advice offered in Part Seven of this series. VAOJ will keep this dialogue going through introducing more resources and posting related and articles. Please contribute to this dialogue through comments, ideas, experiences and recommended related resources.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Free and Open Access of Alexander Street Press Anthropology Resources (limited time only)

Announcement via EASIANTH. This is free access to a wide variety of films, text and other resources. Take advantage of this open access while you can!

For a limited time the full range of Alexander Street Press anthropology collections, video and text, are available open access to the academic community.

Access to all our anthropology collections is available until 30 September using the following link:

Just click on the collections in your area of interest and start exploring today -there are seven collections released, available as stand alone collections or customized packages.

If prompted the user name is reviewer and the password is 578heroic3

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Tribe - "Performed entirely in sign language with nary a subtitle nor a syllable of spoken dialogue"

Photo and story borrowed from

Actions, emotions and desperate impulses speak far louder than words in “The Tribe,” a formally audacious coup de cinema that marks a stunning writing-directing debut for Ukrainian filmmaker Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy. Set largely within the walls of a boarding school for the deaf that reveals itself as a violent cesspool of organized crime, this bleak, pitiless yet weirdly exhilarating drama is performed entirely in sign language by an ensemble of non-professional young actors, with nary a subtitle nor a syllable of spoken dialogue — a demanding high-concept stunt that accrues multiple layers of meaning as the picture moves toward its bone-chilling conclusion. Breathtakingly controlled, riveting even at its most inscrutable, this worthy winner of three Cannes Critics’ Week prizes looks to be a significant conversation-piece at every festival it plays, and should parlay glowing critical response into serious arthouse exposure.

It will be especially interesting to see what deaf viewers make of Slaboshpytskiy’s highly accomplished first feature; engrossingly expanded from the writer-director’s 2010 short, “Deafness,” it’s an unflinchingly pessimistic portrait of a youthful underground subculture that has dealt with its social disadvantages by turning to thuggery and prostitution. Given the emotional/inspirational thrust of so many movies and TV shows (from “Children of a Lesser God” to TV’s “Switched at Birth”) featuring deaf characters, who are often presented in relation to their hearing friends and family, there’s something coldly bracing about “The Tribe’s” total immersion strategy, as well as its utter refusal to sentimentalize its characters and the harsh, isolated world they inhabit.

Read the full review:

See the trailer (warning - nudity):

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"HIV/AIDS awareness in Japan still lacking"

From Japan Today, 9/6/14 (by Chiara Terzuolo):

It starts as a quick twist in a morning chat with friends, sipping coffee as the still cool morning breeze wafts off the port of Yokohama. My two friends are women in their mid-30s, professional and well-traveled. One tilts her head to the side and wonders: ‘I dunno, I feel a bit weird… maybe it’s the heat? Or maybe I got pregnant from that guy a few weeks ago…’ The other quickly laughs it off, saying it is unlikely at their age, with much assenting and nodding. And my blood runs cold.

“Why didn’t you use a condom?!” The question pops out of my mouth before my brain even has a say in the matter.

“Oh, I dunno,” is the unsatisfactory answer, accompanied by a self-deprecating chuckle.

“Are you nuts?!”

“Oh no! You set her off again!” laughs my other friend, as if my concern about safety is a silly, weird quirk to be tolerated. But I can’t let it go, my thoughts pulsing with alarm.

And so this is how I find myself, once again, giving women almost a decade older than myself the AIDS talk.

While in other industrialized nations, HIV infection rates have been steadily decreasing over the last decade, Japan stands out as the exception. From 2000 to 2014, the reported cases of HIV in Japan have more than doubled, with 70% of the cases being individuals in their 20s and 30s. Naturally, there will be many, many more carriers of the virus out there, who simply have not been tested or started showing signs yet. (1) About 30% of AIDS cases in the country are individuals who had no idea that they were HIV positive until the damn disease had progressed to full-blown AIDS.

Besides the continuous rise in cases, another fact that should cause great concern is that the number of people getting tested is falling. (2) So, there are thousands of people out there, unknowingly continuing to spread the virus through lack of safe sexual practices (as the number of cases of HIV transmission through needle-sharing or from mother to child is a minor in Japan).

Considering the lax use of condoms (and minimal amount of sexual education in schools or on TV, which are the main ways people find out about the dangers of HIV), this is no surprise. As typified by my friend’s reaction, the main worry about unprotected sex is pregnancy, not diseases.

In fact, many people don’t believe that HIV and AIDS are a problem in Japan. It is considered a “foreign” disease by many, which can only be caught by intercourse with “foreigners”—completely ludicrous, considering that 85% of new cases were infected in Japan. In addition, the number of non-Japanese cases in Japan has continued to decrease, with circa 93% of HIV/AIDS carriers being Japanese nationals.

My friends in their 30s brush away my concern about their lack of awareness by saying that they are from a “different generation,” and that now this info is taught in school. Obviously not sufficiently well, as cases continue to rise and 50% of university students are uninformed about how the virus is transmitted and how to protect themselves. (3) Asking a few younger friends directly about how they were taught about HIV/AIDS, most replied that they were taught about the existence of the disease, but little to nothing about transmission or prevention.

Because of the lack of awareness and lukewarm campaigns (including a recent one, featuring one of the members of the band Exile) people do not really think to look online for information. Many have no clue about even basic things, like the difference between HIV and AIDS or the fact that the virus can be transmitted through oral sex. A few people implied “it can’t be helped” and that in Japan, “they don’t teach about these sort of things.”

While saying this is a group-oriented society, the disregard for the consequences of their actions angers me. I ask if they have ever been tested, only to be told it is “too scary” or “embarrassing”... while continuing to have unprotected sex. The average age for women newly diagnosed is 25-34, putting them right in the bracket. Cases in heterosexual males are also on the rise, despite the tired and dangerous misconception that this is a “gay disease.”

Having been taught from a young age about the importance of safe sex, I feel that protecting not only yourself but also your partner(s) is the greatest gesture of love and respect. Education from a young age is essential for all genders, as is showing the reality of living with the disease. I for one will continue giving my talk ad nauseam ... and pray for a ripple effect.


Click here for previous HIV/AIDS posts on VAOJ.

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Man arrested for taking 'normal' picture of woman on train"

As VAOJ has stated many times, privacy laws are different in Japan. People have a right to privacy even when in public. So it is always best - and safe - to ask permission before taking a photo in public. See the story below from Japan Today, 9/5/14:

Japan was one of the first countries to sell mobile phones equipped with a camera back in 2000. Having a camera on you at all times sure does come in handy, as you’ll always be able to capture that special moment wherever you are.

Unfortunately, sometimes that special moment is a peep-shot or a scandalous photo which is certainly a violation of privacy. Japan has taken a very no-nonsense approach to help stop these highly inappropriate photos, and it comes in the form of the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance. So powerful is this law that the latest person to be arrested has caused a bit of commotion. His crime? Taking a picture of a fully-clothed woman sitting beside him on the train.

The 40-year-old man was arrested in Kawasaki City for taking pictures of a young woman next to him on the train. The police arrived on the scene after the woman called and informed them of what the man did. The photos in question did not contain any sneaky under the skirt shots or attempts to get a glimpse of her bra, just full body shots, head to toe.

So, why was the man arrested? Cases like this have made the news in the past few years, falling under the aforementioned Anti-Nuisance Ordinance. The law is quite broad in its language, but seeks to protect one thing: the safety and well-being of women. The law states that it doesn’t matter what you are taking a picture of, if the woman being photographed is made to feel uncomfortable or starts feeling anxious, you are liable to be arrested. Even so much as pointing a camera in the victim’s direction without taking a picture is grounds for arrest.

The last controversial case like this became big news back in 2011, when a man was arrested for taking pictures of a woman sleeping on the train. Another back in 2008 involved a Self-Defense Forces member, whose guilty verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court for violating the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance by taking 11 pictures of a woman’s butt/hip area. The woman had all of her clothes on but the court ruled he was in clear violation of the law.

The law also does not discriminate with the age of the woman and any female, young or old, can complain that she is feeling “shy, ashamed or embarrassed”, and the person causing that discomfort will have to deal with the police in some fashion.

With another case getting national coverage in Japan, the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance will surely continue to be scrutinized. For example, the ordinance does not mention males in any fashion. What if it’s a man’s picture being taken and it makes him feel uncomfortable? Is this against the law? There’s also the question of how far does this law go? What about people who are taking pictures in Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world? Or someone who’s been caught by the Google Maps car? Or most of the programs on Japanese TV?