Monday, November 23, 2015

"Broadcasting watchdog finds TBS violated scandal-hit composer Samuragochi’s rights"

From The Japan Times, 11/18/15. See the VAOJ commentary at the end of the story.

A Tokyo Broadcasting System Television variety show committed a human rights violation when it aired a segment on allegations surrounding composer Mamoru Samuragochi in March 2014, an independent panel promoting ethical broadcasting has ruled.

In a rare harsh decision against a TV network, the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization (BPO) urged TBS to broadcast its decision and prevent similar incidents in the future.

The decision, announced Tuesday, is the toughest penalty the industry watchdog can take against a network. It is the first time in nine years the BPO said a TV program violated human rights.

The segment in question was aired during the program, “Akko ni Omakase,” featuring Akiko Wada, a singer and talk show host known for not mincing words.

Introducing a news conference given by Samuragochi, who apologized for having had another composer ghostwrite his music, the program narrator said “normal conversations took place (between him and the reporters).”

Such narration gave the impression to viewers that he was faking deafness, “without sufficient grounds to assume so,” and damaged his reputation, the BPO said.

“It is a sensitive theme that concerns the human rights of the hearing impaired, and should have been given sufficient consideration from the viewpoint of broadcasting ethics,” the BPO said.

The BPO concluded another variety show aired on the Fuji TV network that also featured the controversy surrounding Samuragochi, which the composer claimed humiliated him, did not violate ethical standards.

TBS released a statement following the BPO decision, saying it will “take the recommendation sincerely.”

“We tried to present the questions raised by (Samuragochi’s) news conference, including views from experts. But we will examine the panel’s decision in detail and will use it in future programming,” TBS said.


I am still trying to get my head around this story. On the one hand it definitely illustrates how the idea of defamation is different in Japan. Samuragochi, once dubbed the Beethoven of Japan, was caught red-handed lying. There is no denying this. But it doesn't matter that he did something wrong. Rather his image and spirit were seen to be damaged through televised narration that might have given the audience a false impression. This is a standard interpretation of defamation laws in Japan.

What I am having difficulties with is the idea of how the "human rights of the hearing impaired" were damaged. The problematic narration was "normal conversations took place (between Samuraguchi and reporters)." Does that not also imply that a deaf or hearing impaired person is unable to have normal conversations with hearing people? And if they do they are somehow faking deafness? As there is a wide variation in levels of deafness and communication styles, some (not all) deaf/hearing impaired people can speak and speechread so as to have so-called normal conversations. Is this decision by the BPO not another example of possibly giving impressions "without sufficient grounds to assume so"?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Oxford chooses emoji as word of the year"

Image and text from The Japan Times, 11/18/15.

Reflecting the increased use of emoticons as a communication method, Oxford Dictionaries has chosen one particular emoji as its word of the year for the first time.

The emoji, officially called the “Face with Tears of Joy,” depicts a half-crying, half-smiling expression. It beat out candidates such as “refugee,” “sharing economy,” “Brexit” and “on fleek,” an informal phrase originating in the U.S. and meaning extremely good, attractive or stylish.

“This year, instead of choosing a traditional word, Oxford Dictionaries has chosen a pictograph . . . to reflect the sharp increase in popularity of emoji across the world in 2015,” Oxford University Press, which oversees Oxford Dictionaries, said in a statement Tuesday.

Oxford University Press and London-based Swiftkey, which develops keyboard apps for smartphones, jointly researched how people were using emoji. They found that the “Face with Tears of Joy” emoji was the most popular, totaling 20 percent of all emoji use in the U.K. and 17 percent in the U.S.

They also said the usage of the word “emoji” — which originated from a combination of the Japanese terms “e,” meaning picture, and “moji,” meaning word — has increased threefold this year over last year.

Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, said conventional words have been having a tough time fulfilling the surging needs of visual communication in recent years.

“It’s not surprising that a pictographic script like emoji has stepped in to fill those gaps — it’s flexible, immediate, and infuses tone beautifully,” he said.

Emoji, which first gained popularity among young people, are now spreading among other generations and influential figures.

Oxford University Press mentioned that in a tweet in August, Hillary Rodham Clinton asked her followers to express what they thought about student loans in three emoji or less.

In May, the term “emoji” was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

In April, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama mentioned emoji, along with karate, karaoke, manga and anime, as things from Japan that Americans love.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Kyoto International Student Film and Video Festival

Announcement from Visual Anthropology Forum listserv:

Kyoto International Student Film and Video Festival is the largest international student film festival in Japan, all organized and run by university students in Kyoto. We invite student work from all over the world,select provide opportunities for screening and discover new talent.

Kyoto is known as “Cinema City” where there are a lot of heritages that contributed the development of Japanese Cinema. Kyoto is also known as “College City, Student City”, students taking up 10% of the population.

The festival strings these two characteristics together, also offers forum for cultural and international exchange and ultimately vitalizes Kyoto.

18th Annual Kyoto International Student Film and Video Festival
November 21-27, 2015 @ Kyoto Cinema

For more information:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

"Style complements functionality at Shibuya exhibition of aids for disabled"

Text and photos from The Japan Times, 11/13/15.

Caption: People Design Institute's Shinji Sudo looks at Wheelchair DJ, which has wheels that play music when spun and can be 'scratched' back and forth like a record.

Caption: Shinji Sudo of exhibition organizer People Design Institute shows off a range of prosthetic arms.

A new design exhibition in Tokyo is aiming to give the public perception of disability a makeover by placing style at the top of the agenda.

The exhibition in Shibuya Ward, which runs until Monday and is part of a wider event titled Super Welfare Expo, showcases a range of wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and other disability aids, with the emphasis as much on fun as functionality.

“When you think about glasses, nowadays they’re fashion items,” Shinji Sudo, of event organizer People Design Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping minority people, told The Japan Times.

“In the past, glasses used to be prescribed to you by doctors. Now, people have no stigma about having bad eyesight. I’d like that to be the case for people who use wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs too.”

Among the products on display at the Shibuya Hikarie venue is an electric wheelchair with a giant back-mounted speaker in the shape of a sail, and wheels that can be pounded like drums.

Another, called Wheelchair DJ, has wheels that play music when spun, and can be “scratched” back and forth like a record.

Elsewhere is a selection of prosthetic legs with a sci-fi flavor, reminiscent of the iconic HR Giger design for the creature in the movie “Alien.”

Sudo, whose son has cerebral palsy, explains that the products are intended to be shown off, not hidden away as a mark of shame.

“I have a disabled son,” he said. “When I use medical welfare services, quite honestly I feel very uncomfortable. One of the reasons for that is the image, which is one of feeling pitied by others. I want to turn that completely around so that the image people have is of it being ‘cool’ and ‘cute.’

“In Japan, when you go to get a wheelchair, your options are limited. You usually get the one that has been recommended to you by the doctor or medical facility. I want to show people that there are lots of different kinds in the world that you can buy.”

Visitors to the exhibition found themselves leaving with a different perspective on the 3.9 million people with a registered physical disability currently living in Japan.

“There is a gloomy and difficult image surrounding disability, so I thought ‘oh, so things have developed as far as this?’ ” said able-bodied 30-year-old Akio Ota. “I think it’s cool.

“From an able-bodied person’s point of view, you have an image of something where design isn’t really taken into consideration and the quality is low. But this is very stylish and cool and something that I would use myself.”

Sudo hopes that the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics can provide further positive inspiration, but cautions that it will take more than just a sporting event to change perceptions.

“I don’t think things will change totally in the space of five years,” he said. “But one characteristic of Japanese people is that once a switch in our feelings flips, we all move on to a new phase pretty quickly.

“Shibuya is a great place for breaking new ground in terms of culture. First I’d like to see handicapped people mixing freely as the norm here.”

According to the 2011 World Report on Disability, compiled by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, Japan has one of the lowest employment rates among working-age people with disabilities. Fewer than 1 in 4 disabled people were working in 2003.

Sudo believes it is up to everyone to help overcome those barriers.

“I’d like to see more disabled people going out and interacting in society,” he said. “In Japan, handicapped people don’t have so many opportunities to mix. They are put in a different class in school. If they find themselves in difficulty, I’d like them to be able to ask people for help.”


Super Welfare Expo webpage (in Japanese):

『超福祉展2014』Super Welfare Expo 2014 Facebook photo album:

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"Subway worker’s ticket chad masterpiece goes viral"

From The Japan Times, 11/13/15.

Japan’s rail service, known for its punctuality and reliability, has not only been appealing to rail fans but is also the subject of great pride among its employees — so much so that one of them has created an artwork depicting a train with 153,600 fragments from passenger tickets.

The piece was created by a 46-year-old employee of the Osaka Municipal Subway who declined to be named. It shows a New 20 series unit, a rapid train operated by the company, and is now on display in an underground passageway of Nishi-Umeda Station, close to the city’s largest commercial center.

The train has been precisely depicted in black and white shades by using both sides of the waste fragments, which are generated from ticket punching machines installed near the platform gates. Each one was painstakingly pasted on using a pair of tweezers.

The employee thought it would be an appropriate way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the station, said an Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau spokesman on behalf of the employee, who has worked there for 30 years.

The work drew a lot of attention online after a university student from Kyoto uploaded a photograph of the piece to his Twitter account on Tuesday.

The post was believed to have been retweeted more than 30,000 times within the first 24 hours. As of Friday, it had been retweeted by more than 40,000 users, prompting passers-by to start sharing photographs of the piece over the Internet.

The employee also gained acclaim for what he wrote beside the artwork — that he spent some 300 hours between June and September creating it at the station office after work.

According to the spokesman, since early childhood the employee has been very interested in art and often produced drawings or tried his hand at other forms of detailed work, such as building plastic models.

“I would not be able to produce such a work of art,” the spokesman said, praising it as an effective means of attracting commuters to the work of the rail staff.

But the employee said he had to sacrifice his private life to complete it, and in the end the project turned out to be stressful.

“I won’t do it again,” the author wrote.

But according to the spokesman, the artist is delighted his work has gained so much attention and is thinking about producing another one — but not for public viewing.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

"Man arrested after hiding in drain to peep [and photograph] up skirts"

Here's another one... From Japan Today, 11/12/15:

A man in Kobe who hid in a drain for five hours, allegedly to snap photos up women’s skirts, was given away when passers-by spotted his hair sticking out of a grate, police and reports said.

Yasuomi Hirai, 28, allegedly squeezed himself in a section of a gutter 28 centimeters wide, with his head under a piece of iron grating, a police spokesman said Wednesday.

“His hair got caught at the edge of the grate, which drew the attention of some pedestrians,” the spokesman with the Hyogo prefectural police in Kobe told AFP.

The alleged offense took place in August, but police said that Hirai’s arrest on Monday came after a lengthy investigation.

Police did not elaborate but the Sports Hochi tabloid reported Tuesday that Hirai kept himself in the small space for about five hours, holding a smartphone to take photos from under the grate.

Local reports said it was not the first time Hirai has been arrested for the same offense, which violated a local ordinance preventing nuisance acts.

He was nabbed two years ago after squeezing himself into a drain allegedly for the same purpose, Sports Hochi said.

Hirai reportedly told police at the time that he wanted to be reborn as “part of pavement in the next life.”


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Tokyo man accused of stealing Facebook underwear photos"

From The Japan Times, 11/10/15:

A Tokyo man accused of accessing a woman’s Facebook account and allegedly downloading pictures of her in her underwear has been arrested.

In what is being reported as Japan’s first such arrest, Ryosuke Koga, 25, allegedly logged into the victim’s Facebook account 17 times between January and March, a Metropolitan Police Department spokesman said.

The police quoted Koga as saying he committed the crime “to fulfill my sexual desire.”

Investigators also found that Koga, an employee of communications and office equipment distributor Hikari Tsushin Inc., allegedly had approximately 770 Facebook and iCloud IDs and passwords. Of these, they have identified users of 140 accounts, all but one of whom are women. They are trying to determine how he obtained the information.

Koga could face up to three years in prison or a fine of up to ¥1 million, the police spokesman said without providing further details.

The police found the collection of ID data and passwords when they raided Koga’s house, the Mainichi Shimbun said.

Why would someone put pictures of themselves in their underwear on Facebook? Another reminder that once it's on the internet, it's out of your control...


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Interesting photo story at Japan Focus: "Inside Fukushima's Potemkin Village: Naraha"

Text by David McNeill and Androniki Christodoulou. Photos by Androniki Christodoulou.

Twice a year, journalists are taken on guided tours of the ruined Daiichi nuclear plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO). The drive there from the southern outskirts of the 20-kilometer exclusion zone imposed in 2011 took them through the nearly empty towns of Hirono, Naraha, Tomioka, Okuma and Futaba. The state of neglect could be measured by the encroachment of weeds and wild animals, and the slow decrepitude of housing and infrastructure.

Despite the decline and the still urgent beeping of Geiger counters nearer the plant, there has never been any official talk of abandoning the area. Instead, it was divided up into three zones with awkward euphemisms to suggest just the opposite: communities with radiation of 20 millisieverts (mSv) or less (the typical worldwide limit for workers in nuclear plants) are “being prepared for lifting of evacuation order;” 20-50 mSv are “no-residence zones;” the most heavily contaminated (50mSv) are “difficult-to-return.”

A vast public-works project was started three years ago to decontaminate an area roughly half the size of Rhode Island, at an estimated cost of $50 billion. Compensation by TEPCO was explicitly linked to the possibility that many of the 160,000 nuclear refugees would return, and any hint otherwise was controversial: When new trade and industry minister Hachiro Yoshio called the abandoned communities “towns of death” in September 2011, he was forced to quit a week later.

In September 2015, Naraha, 15km south of the plant, became the first town in Fukushima Prefecture to completely lift the evacuation order imposed after the Daiichi plant's triple meltdown. At a ceremony to mark the town’s reopening, Mayor Matsumoto Yukiei declared the nightmare that had descended nearly five years ago officially over. “The clock that stopped has now begun to tick”, he said. Explaining the decision, Takagi Yosuke, state minister of economy, trade and industry, said contamination was “not dangerous enough to continue forcing evacuation on residents who want to return home.”

That explanation somewhat inverts reality. A Reconstruction Agency survey conducted last year of evacuees from Okuma, Tomioka, Futaba and the town of Namie, northwest of the plant, found that just one-fifth wanted to go back to their homes. Thousands of refugees have reluctantly made lives elsewhere and fear that their nuclear compensation, amounting to a monthly stipend of 100,000 yen ($837), will be terminated if they refuse to go back to areas declared safe. Many feel they’re being pushed back, not invited.

Read the whole story and see all the photos.

David McNeill and Androniki Christodoulou, "Inside Fukushima's Potemkin Village: Naraha", The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 41, No. 1, October 19, 2015.