Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Visual Anthropology at the 2014 AJJ Fall Meeting

The 2014 Anthropology of Japan in Japan Fall Meeting will take place at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan on Saturday, November 29 and Sunday, November 30.

Click here for instructions to access Nanzan University.

Below is information on VAOJ events that might be of interest to visual anthropologists:

An Introduction to Visual Anthropology (Guest Lecture)

This lecture/workshop will examine visual anthropology, especially in the Japanese context, through a deconstruction of the term and an exploration of “the visual,” “visualization” and “anthropology.” We will then perform a reconstruction and consider the origins and functions of visual anthropology. Visual anthropology is more than using cameras and the passive viewing of images. Theoretical concerns such as the relationship(s) between the visual anthropologist, subjects and audience will be discussed. Finally, the challenges of doing visual anthropology will be presented through a proposed set of guidelines for “shooting culture” (both photography and film) in Japan.

R Building - Room R33
Saturday, November 29, 1:30-2:45 PM

Inspiration Porn and Representations of Deaf People in Japan (Paper Presentation)

This paper will deal with so-called "inspiration porn" and its relationship to disability identities with a focus on deaf people in Japan. Inspiration porn can be described as the idealization of disabled people “overcoming” -- doing common everyday life tasks (e.g. riding a train, having a job) or for achievements that have nothing to do with their particular disability (e.g. deaf athletes). Cross-cultural examples, observations and perspectives will be discussed to set up an exploration of how disabled and deaf people are portrayed in various media. Japanese deaf people are often critical of the representations of deaf protagonists and characters in popular television dramas and movies. Such representations create strong but inaccurate images of deafness and sign language that ultimately serve to perpetuate deficit models of disability. On the other hand, representations of disabled/deaf people themselves as seen on NHK programs such as Baribara (Barrier Free Variety Show) and the “Deaf People” corner of Minna no Shuwa (Everyone’s Sign Language) challenge and add to a social welfare discourse with abled (bodied) Japanese and their (re)evaluations of who or what makes up contemporary mainstream society.

R Building - Room R51
Saturday, November 29, 3:00-4:15 PM

There are many more interesting presentations, lectures and film screenings on both days.
For more information about the AJJ Fall 2014 Meeting:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2014 秋祭り (Fall Festival)

Apologies for another late post. A month ago I participated in my neighborhood's fall festival as I have been doing for a few years now. It was another wonderful time and a great opportunity for photos. However this year the number of participants decreased so my pushing the heavy danjiri was more valued than my photographic efforts. Still the two day festival was successful in bringing people from the neighborhood together. On the second day three neighborhoods came together to share their respective performances (taiko drums, flutes, umbrella dances). After the performances there was a mochi rice cake throwing event. I got pelted twice - a lesson of the dangers of spending too much time looking through the viewfinder... Community cooperation and communitas felt great even with sore muscles from navigating the danjiri.

2013 Fall Festival:

2012 Fall Festival:

2010 Fall Festival:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

New Guess Fashion Campaign Features Japan...

Text from

This holiday season, GUESS introduces its new advertising campaign shot in Japan by acclaimed photographer, Chen Man. Set against the breathtaking backdrops of Mount Fuji and the fields of Tokyo, the campaign is a unique pairing of Eastern and Western cultures that juxtaposes traditional Japanese surroundings against GUESS’ contemporary apparel and accessories. Bridging fine art and fashion photography­—a signature of Chen Man—the hyper-saturated color palette and mixing of cultural influences give the images a wondrous, dreamlike and fantastical brilliance.

Directed by Paul Marciano, CEO and Chief Creative Officer for GUESS?, Inc., and shot by two-time collaborator Chen Man, the Holiday 2014 campaign features GUESS Girls Megan Williams and Karmay Ngaia, both young and full of energy yet from vastly different worlds. The campaign depicts a journey of their global friendship, taking the viewer on a voyage across Japan’s most picturesque locations.

The journey begins with the GUESS Girls practicing Japan’s most traditional of martial arts, Kendo. Their powerful poses bring their strength and beauty to the forefront of each image. As the journey unfolds, we follow the GUESS Girls as they enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony set against a dazzling backdrop of rich foliage in vivid red, magenta and pink hues. The models are also seen traveling by rickshaw and posing alongside Japan’s emblematic fish flag. The story concludes in a bed full of cherry blossoms where the GUESS Girls accessorize eye-catching red mini-dresses with traditional paper parasols for an afternoon picnic.

Styled by the renowned fashion editor and stylist Satoshi Hirota, the images showcase stand-out apparel from the GUESS holiday collection. Bold red and black color combinations and head-to-toe sleek leather silhouettes offset the shadowy outdoor scenes. As the scenery softens, so too does the clothing. Pastel-colored garments, classic denim jackets, and chambray button downs complement the vibrant colors of the landscape.


See the campaign (and photos) at the Guess webpage:

More selected commentary from Japan Today, 11/21/14:

From Tokyo to Mount Fuji, the series features Japan’s wild and peaceful landscapes, while paying homage to the country’s traditional roots and modern lifestyle at the same time. The result is two models who come off looking both elegant and bad-ass.

One thought-provoking image stands out for its allusion to gender stereotypes and femininity. When a girl puts down a pole flying pink koinobori carp, traditionally used as a symbol of strength for the Boys’ Day national holiday (now known as Childrens’ Day), you know she’s heralding a new dawn for gender stereotypes.

Another photo featuring dramatic red and black looks, styled by Satoshi Hirata, pays homage to Japan’s long rickshaw tradition, which is still going strong today. The black, shiny rickshaws can be seen at tourist spots with passengers draped in bright red blankets to shield themselves from the cold.

Then there is a hanami picnic under the cherry blossoms. The model’s adoring gaze up into the cherry blossom tree makes the viewer feel like a pretty little bird.


Japan has never looked cooler. File this one under advertisements that illustrate/represent cultural fads (and fantasies) on a global level...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"7 Wonderfully Weird Things to Do in Tokyo"

Photos and text borrowed from from MSN Travel.

Visit a Maid Cafe

Eat at Robot Restaurant

Spot Freaky Fashions in Harajuku and Akihibara

Rock out to Dancehall Reggae Music at Garam

Auction for Tuna at the Tsukiji Fish Market

Experience Shibuya Crossing

Stay in a Capsule Hotel

Source (and more details):

Perhaps good advice if you are looking for a wonderfully stereotyped/staged vacation in Tokyo... But I wonder what is so weird about Tsukiji...?

My best advice is to avoid Tokyo altogether and make efforts to see and interact with the real Japan. You just might find it wonderful and weird in a good way...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Nikon repairs Mount Ontake victim’s broken camera, returns photos to family"

From Japan Today, 11/12/14:

The unexpected eruption of Mount Ontake on September 27 claimed the lives of 56 hikers, leaving family members to try to understand why their loved ones had been taken so suddenly. But out of this tragedy comes a heartwarming gesture, giving the family of one victim the chance to get back a small piece of their father who never made it down the mountain that day.

...The several hundred nature enthusiasts who took advantage of the autumn weekend on September 27 were completely caught off guard, many unable to flee the nightmarish scene when the mountain suddenly and violently erupted.

Sadly, 66-year-old Kazuo Wakabayashi of Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, was among the victims. An avid photographer, Wakabayashi would frequently go on fishing and photography trips, his hike up Mount Ontake just a part of his hobbies. He took a newly purchased Nikon camera with him on his hike, which was later returned to his family on October 1, broken and covered in ash.

When the folks at Nikon read about Wakabayashi’s story after it was published in the Yomiuri Shimbun, they reached out to his family and offered to repair the broken camera. Over the course of 10 days, the lens, filter and all interior parts were fixed and the red body of the Nikon camera that had been grayed with ash was restored to its original vibrant color, free of charge. The restored camera was returned to Wakabayashi’s second daughter, along with 200 photos that Nikon also managed to recover.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

"East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage"

Announcement from H-Japan: Photography book on the Shikoku Pilgrimage published

Alexandra Huddleston is pleased to announce the release of her new photography book:

East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage

The book is available through The Kyoudai Press and The Photo Eye Bookstore.


East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage is an abridged diary, an account of a mystical journey, and a photographic poem in the form of a book. The images are studies in luminous detail, reflecting the loneliness, quiet intensity, and grace that all true spiritual seekers come to know.

In September 2010 (a few days before her thirty-third birthday), the photographer Alexandra Huddleston set out on an 800-mile walk around the island of Shikoku, Japan. To complete the Shikoku Ohenro trail pilgrims worship at 88 temples on the island, following a route that loosely traces the life and legends of the Buddhist saint Kōbō Daishi. In the course of her journey, from time to time, the material world unexpectedly gave way to a voyage of mystical transformation. This is the story of East or West.

ISBN: 978-0-9860437-1-0

Publisher: Blind Cat Valentine: The Kyoudai Press publication series

Photographs: 18

Text: 2 quotes, foreword, journal entries

Friday, November 7, 2014

"CG image at heart of pornography case"

Text from The Japan News on-line, 11/6/14:

Should images created using computer graphics be regarded as child pornography?

In the trial of a man accused of creating and selling CG images of a naked girl in violation of the law banning child pornography, his defense attorneys argue he is innocent on the grounds that CG images are original creations and are not illegal.

Since the law took effect in 1999, defining child pornography has been a contest between tightening regulations and protecting freedom of expression. Bitter exchanges are likely to continue between the defense and prosecution until the case is decided.

Akashi Takahashi of Gifu Prefecture was arrested and indicted in July last year for violating the law. It was the first case in which CG images were considered child pornography for the purpose of criminal charges.

According to the indictment, the 53-year-old graphic designer allegedly created CG images based on pictures of a naked girl and sold the images on the Internet from 2008 to 2013. The prosecutors insist that the defendant referred to a book of photographs of a naked girl, published in the 1980s, saying, “The images, elaborately created based on pictures of a girl who really exists, constitute child pornography.”

Meanwhile, the defense insisted in a trial that started in December last year at the Tokyo District Court that Takahashi had created the CG images by referring to images or drawings of various women. “The images were pieces of art depicting a person who doesn’t exist, so it is not subject to criminal punishment,” the defense said.

Concerning a model in the photo book, the defense pointed out that the prosecutors failed to prove that the model was aged under 18 — the threshold below which regulations apply. In response, a pediatrician who appeared in court as a prosecution witness gave testimony that the model could be judged to be under 18 from her physical appearance.

Hearings in the trial had been held four times by June this year, but since then sessions concerning the disclosure of evidence and other issues have been closed to the public. In future hearings, the defense said they plan to reveal the process of how the CG images were created to demonstrate that the image is an original creation by the defendant. “It should not be allowed for freedom of expression to be threatened by stretching the definition of child pornography in an arbitrary manner,” the defendant’s lawyer Takashi Yamaguchi said.

Graphics fall into legal gray zone

Although restrictions on child pornography have repeatedly been strengthened, the materials that are controlled are limited out of consideration for freedom of expression.

After the law banning child prostitution and child pornography came into force in 1999, goods such as a photo collections of naked young girls disappeared from the market, and browsing such books at the National Diet Library was banned in 2006.

However, because the law aims to protect children from sexual exploi-tation and abuse, the restrictions only target items portraying actual children. Comics and animation have remained uncontrolled.

Subsequently, elaborate computer graphic (CG) images went into circulation among collectors of such pornography instead of photos, causing concern that this exploits a legal loophole.

The Metropolitan Police Department decided to arrest a Gifu Prefecture man apparently because the CG images he created were purportedly so lifelike that people could recognize the real girl they were modeled on.

“If we can successfully prove they were modeled on actual children, we will continue to arrest [those who produce such images],” a senior MPD official said.

In some developed countries, restrictions on child pornography are more strict.

According to the Foreign Ministry, realistic CG images are subject to control in the United States and Italy even if they are not based on actual models.

In Japan, the law revision in June additionally prohibits personal possession of child pornography. But the revision does not target manga, anime or CG images out of consideration for freedom of expression, although the ruling parties initially considered such media to be problematic.

Takayuki Oguchi, a journalist familiar with CG technology, said: “It is reality that the technology enabling the creation of elaborate CG images, very much like photography, has been established. Such technology should be used to contribute to the development of culture and art. Creators of CG images need to be aware of that and they should not let police intervene.”


Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Emoji skin tones floated: Should emoji be more racially diverse?"

Image and text from The Christian Science Monitor on-line, 11/4/14.

A new skin tone modifier option could break from guidelines keeping emojis "as neutral as possible" and make the picture symbol more diverse in racial appearance.

The Unicode Consortium – non-profit organization that coordinates the development of the Unicode standard – released a technical report detailing a new method for handling the representation of multi-ethnic groups in emoji, MacRumors reported. The forthcoming Unicode 8.0 update proposes the modifier which would allow users to send human emoji in a range of skin tones.

"People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone. The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone instead of a more generic (inhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette," says the report, which the writers emphasize is still in draft form. The symbol modifier characters are based on the tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology, according to the report.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Film screening and discussion: Stories of Tohoku

Announcement from SJJ-Forum:

Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture Presents
Film screening and discussion: Stories of Tohoku

Friday, November 21, 2014
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Sophia University Yotsuya Campus Building. 2, Room 508

Japanese American filmmakers Dianne Fukami and Debra Nakatomi will discuss the film and respond to questions following the screening.

Stories From Tohoku examines survivors' strength, resilience, grace and acceptance, and the enduring bonds between the people of Japan and Americans of Japanese ancestry. During Japan's recovery and rebuilding following the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the film is an inspiring tribute to the human spirit.
English with Japanese subtitles / No registration needed / Free

For more info on the film:

For more info on the Sophia screening: