Monday, December 26, 2016

David Bowie Exhibition in Tokyo

Image and text from David Bowie is webpage.

DAVID BOWIE is, is the first international retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie ‒ one of the most pioneering and influential performers of modern times. Over 300 objects including handwritten lyrics, original costumes, photography, set designs, album artwork and rare performance material from the past five decades are brought together from the David Bowie Archive for the very first time. The exhibition demonstrates how Bowieʼ s work has both influenced and been influenced by wider move ments in art, design, theatre and contemporary culture and focuses on his creative processes, shifting style and collaborative work with diverse designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre and film. Seen by 1.5 million people worldwide at sell-out shows in London, Chicago, Sao Paolo, Paris, Berlin, Melbourne, Groningen and Bologna, DAVID BOWIE is comes exclusively to Tokyo, its only Asian venue.

More information:

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from VAOJ!

Santa Claus as displayed at a local convenience store in Osaka.

Santa Claus as displayed at Tenbun.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Wine Project

What happens after a busy and stressful day at work after drinking one, two and three glasses of wine? Here's a sampling from the Wine Project by Marcos Alberti.

I am not necessarily advocating the method used in this venture, but with my own work photographing people as they drink at the tachinomiya as well as occasionally needing some stress relief after quitting time myself, I can certainly appreciate this project. And I love the facial expressions.

Project description from the photographer's web site:

Brazilian photographer creates a unique experience among friends. Marcos Alberti decided to put together some of his passions in this project, friends, photography, wine and also a good old talk. There is a saying about wine that I really like and it's something like this “The first glass of wine is all about the food, the second glass is about love and the third glass is about mayhem” I really wanted to see it for myself if that affirmation was in fact true says Marcos about his latest project.

3 Glasses after started as a joke like a game after hours but a serious work with a good humorous vibe ,the first picture was taken right away when our guests have just arrived at the studio in order to capture the stress and the fatigue after a full day after working all day long and from also facing rush hour traffic to get here. Only then fun time and my project could begin. At the end of every glass of wine a snapshot, nothing fancy, a face and a wall, 3 times. People from all walks of life, music, art, fashion, dance, architecture, advertising got together for a couple of nights and by the end of the third glass several smiles emerged and many stories were told.

See more at Alberti's web site:

Monday, November 28, 2016

"2 men arrested for extorting over Y3 mil from someone they saw taking upskirt video"

From Japan Today, 11/25/16.

According to Tokyo Metropolitan Police, on Nov 8, 22-year-old Masashi Nakamura and 20-year-old Ryoma Fujishima witnessed a white-collar worker in his 30s taking a secret video up the skirt of a high school student in Machida Station. So, like any upstanding citizens, they confronted the man.

However, like slightly-less-than-upstanding citizens they told him they knew what he was up to and requested he pay them off. Caught red-handed, the voyeur complied and handed over 41,000 yen to the two “Voyeur Hunters” as dubbed by the media.

Now with a small chunk of change obtained from the voyeur, they probably all could have gone their separate ways to reflect on their own various crimes. However, the pair of Voyeur Hunters made the classic mistake of getting greedy and said to the vile videographer, “We know the girl you taped and a few tens of thousands of yen isn’t going to make up for what you did.”

So they went to a money lender where the voyeur took out a three million yen loan, bringing the total extorted amount to 3.41 million yen. With such extensive damage to his finances, the voyeur felt he had no choice but to swallow his pride, go to the police, and report Nakamura and Fujishima, who could be easily identified by security camera footage.

Expecting the Voyeur Hunters to stalk the same grounds, police easily found them again prowling through Machida Station and made the arrest on 17 November. During interrogation Fujishima is reported to have confessed while the seemingly more legal-savvy Nakamura denies the charges saying he “did not intend to threaten the man.”

Police are assuming this is not the first time these Voyeur Hunters caught someone. According to their various social network accounts, they both had recently dropped out of their universities with Nakamura pursing a career as a DJ and uploading pictures of himself at a Macau casino. Meanwhile, Fujishima posted photos of himself staying in high-class hotels and attending fancy parties.

The number of reported hidden camera incidents in Japan was 3,265 in 2014 and has been steadily rising. In response there has also been a reported upward trend in Voyeur Hunters as well, some of whom are said to get more efficient results by working with women who will ride up and down escalators wearing short skirts to lure out potential pervs. An investigation is still ongoing to see whether this was the method of these men as well.

While this latest incident isn’t entirely unprecedented, many readers were still surprised by this novel industry.

“Japan is a country of opportunity, where you can make a business out of anything.”
“Someone should start a Voyeur Hunter Hunter business.”
“I’m already working on a Voyeur Hunter Hunter Hunter business.”


Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Lensless-camera technology for easily adjusting focus of video images after image capture"

Text and image from Japan Today, 11/26/16.

Hitachi Ltd has announced the development of a camera technology that can capture video images without using a lens and adjust focus after image capture by using a film imprinted with a concentric-circle pattern instead of a lens.

This camera technology makes it possible to make a camera lighter and thinner since a lens is unnecessary and allow the camera to be more freely mounted in devices such as mobile devices and robots at arbitrary positions without imposing design restraints.

Moreover, since it acquires depth information in addition to planar information, it is possible to reproduce an image at an arbitrary point of focus even after the image has been captured. Focus can be adjusted anytime to objects requiring attention.

Hitachi said it is aiming to utilize this technology in a broad range of applications such as work support, automated driving, and human-behavior analysis with mobile devices, vehicles and robots.

As for cameras mounted in mobile devices represented by smartphones and robots, which require designability, making them thinner and lighter while providing higher performance−without imposing restrictions on where they can be mounted−is being demanded. As a camera technology to meet that demand, there is an increasing anticipation of applying a technology called “computational photography” which is a scheme used in an optical system under the presupposition that image processing will be used after images are captured. As a camera utilizing this technology, a light-field camera, which records position and direction of light beams simultaneously and whose focus can be adjusted after images are captured, is well-known. However, a light-field camera is considerably thick since it needs a special lens. On the other hand, a lensless camera which is thin and light because it has no lens has been developed. Even so, processing of images captured by the camera incurs a heavy computational load.

Aiming to overcome the difficulties described above, Hitachi has developed a camera technology−based on the principle of Moiré fringes (that are generated from superposition of concentric circles) − that combines a function for adjusting focus after images are captured in the same manner as a light-field camera and features of thinness and lightness of a lensless camera which computational load incurred by image processing is reduced to 1/300.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

"‘Sailor Moon’ condoms combat syphilis but heroine’s fans flustered by age issue"

Text and image from The Japan Times, 11/25/16.

The superheroine from the popular manga and anime series “Sailor Moon” has emerged once again to fight another evil — syphilis.

As a part of its campaign to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases, the health ministry will distribute 60,000 condoms wrapped in pink, heart-shaped packages adorned with the blond, doe-eyed character Usagi Tsukino.

The condoms, which call for STD testing on the wrappers, will be sent to 142 municipalities for distribution at events like World AIDS Day on Thursday and at Coming-of-Age-Day ceremonies in January, ministry officials said.

The ministry will also distribute 5,000 posters and 156,000 leaflets illustrated with the junior high school character and a slogan that says: “I will punish you if you don’t get tested!”

By turning to the popular character, the ministry aims to regain control over syphilis, which has made a rapid return among young people, said Kazunari Asanuma, head of the ministry’s Tuberculosis and Infectious Disease Control Division. He said the STD outbreak is especially serious among women in their 20s and men in their 20s to 40s.

According to the ministry, syphilis cases hit 2,697 in 2015, which is more than four times the 2010 level and the highest since the survey began in 1999. As of Nov. 6, cases were at 3,779 and climbing.

Patients infected with STDs like syphilis and AIDS usually don’t notice the symptoms for weeks or even years. The ministry believes early testing and appropriate use of condoms are effective means of prevention.

Although Asanuma says that “Sailor Moon” is popular with people of all sexual orientations and may prove useful in bringing up STDs among those too shy to discuss them, some Usagi Tsukino fans are upset the junior high school student is being used as the “campaign girl” to broach the topic.

“I don’t like it a bit. ‘Sailor Moon’ was a childhood heroine and a sacred figure for me. I still want her to be distant from this issue,” Twitter user @akaimihajiketa wrote Monday. “But I want the leaflet … I am still looking for words to explain my mixed feelings.”

“Sailor Moon,” created by Naoko Takeuchi, made its TV debut in 1992. The tale of magical schoolgirls has been aired in more than 50 countries and attracted millions of fans from around the world.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

"Sailor Moon fights against spread of STIs on behalf of Japan’s health ministry"

Image and text from Japan Today, 11/24/16.

As the main star of an anime about magical high school girls fighting to protect the universe from forces of evil, this new collaboration between Sailor Moon and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to fight the spread of STIs in the community actually makes a whole lot of sense.

According to the official press release distributed by the ministry, the Pretty Guardian will now be appearing on 156,000 A4-sized leaflets and 5,000 A2-sized posters, with part of the star’s catchphrase, “In the name of the moon, I will punish you!!” reworked to read “If you don’t get tested, I will punish you!!” in the poster’s tagline.

The posters and leaflets will be distributed at coming-of-age ceremonies for the nation’s 20 year-olds around the country in January, along with a total of 142 local governments and groups such as the Japan Foundation for AIDS Prevention, the Japan Medical Association, the Japanese Society for Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and the Japanese Foundation for Sexual Health Medicine set to receive the specially marked campaign materials for distribution.

In addition to the posters, the campaign materials will also include heart-shaped packages featuring an image of the sailor-suit wearing star of the anime series, with a free condom tucked away inside. The ministry will be distributing 60,000 of these specially marked packs.

Despite the cute appearance of the campaign, preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections is an issue that the government is taking very seriously. Cases of syphilis infections are reportedly on the rise in Japan, with records showing 2,697 people were infected with the disease in 2015, which is 4.3 times more than five years earlier, when 621 cases were reported in 2010. Furthermore, from the beginning of 2016 to mid-October, over 3,000 people contracted syphilis in Japan.

With a large number of females being infected with STIs like syphilis, the ministry wanted to find a way to connect with young women, ranging in age from teens to 30s, which resulted in them seeking out the cooperation of Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi for the new campaign. While it might seem like an unlikely collaboration, using the familiar face of the Pretty Guardian, who speaks to a wide generation of women across the country, might actually be the perfect way to help protect the population after all.

Source, image: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Press Release


At least the government is finally doing something. But is cute manga/anime the cure for everything? Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"Supreme Court upholds Osaka city’s tattoo check on workers as legal"

An unfortunate update; from The Japan Times, 11/14/16.

The Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that said the Osaka city office’s 2012 probe into whether its workers had tattoos was legal, court officials said last week.

In a decision dated Wednesday, the court’s five-member Second Petty Bench rejected an appeal from the plaintiffs after the Osaka High Court last year overturned district court decisions in favor of the two employees. The workers had refused to comply with the city’s investigation.

At issue was the city’s move in May 2012, under the leadership of then-Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, to inquire if 33,000 employees had tattoos. The city required them to reply in writing whether they had any tattoos on visible parts of the body, including the hands and neck. They were also asked to answer on a voluntary basis whether they had tattoos elsewhere.

The move came after an incident in which a city worker showed a tattoo to children at a welfare facility.

The two employees who had refused to comply with the probe had no tattoos but refused to submit the required documents, arguing that the investigation was an infringement on their right to privacy. The two were reprimanded in August that year and later brought their cases to court, seeking to have the reprimands invalidated.

In December 2014, the Osaka District Court ruled that the city’s investigation was illegal on anti-discrimination and privacy grounds and ordered that the disciplinary measure against city worker Tadasu Yasuda be invalidated.

Yasuda, a bus driver, had sued the city office after being reprimanded. He was subsequently urged by his boss to drop the suit, and was transferred to a desk job when he refused.

“Whether people have a tattoo or not falls into the category of information carrying a risk of causing discrimination, the collection of which is prohibited under a city ordinance for the protection of personal information,” the district court said in its ruling.

Yasuda filed a separate lawsuit seeking to invalidate his transfer of assignment. He won the case at two lower courts, and the city is now appealing.

In February 2015, the same district court issued a similar ruling on a lawsuit filed by Atsuko Mori, a nurse at a city-run hospital.

But later that year, the Osaka High Court reversed the earlier lower court decisions, saying the city’s check does not “cause discrimination unlike in cases in which one’s criminal record or race (is revealed).”

The city government has, since fiscal 2013, been checking for the presence of visible tattoos on potential new recruits. In the 2012 investigation, 114 workers reported they had tattoos.


Click here for previous VAOJ coverage.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Details during the fall festival

This post is intended to accompany "2016 秋祭り (Autumn Festival)" posted on 10/23/16. This year for various reasons I was unable to participate fully in the neighborhood autumn festival as I usually do and so my photo vantage points were somewhat limited. Sometimes having to wait for the danjiri to come to me I spent time in the park and shrine near my home and noticed certain details.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Japanese city gives back photo award stripped in connection with girl’s suicide"

Image and text from The Japan Times, 10/19/16.

A northeastern Japanese city buckled under public criticism and decided Wednesday to hand back a cancelled photography award despite the subject of the winner’s artwork being a girl who was bullied into committing suicide.

The city of Kuroishi, Aomori Prefecture, had stripped the winning photographer of his award because he had unwittingly submitted a photo featuring a dancing and smiling 13-year-old Rima Kasai, who later took her own life.

Kuroishi Mayor Ken Takahi told a news conference, “We would like to deeply apologize to her bereaved family.”

After the withdrawal of the award on Monday, Kasai’s family released both her name and the award-winning image in the hope it would bring attention to the issue of bullying, saying they want people to see their daughter smiling.

The photo was taken in Kuroishi on Aug. 15, 10 days before Kasai jumped to her death from a train platform. The girl had left a suicide note asking that her tormentors never bully again.

Unaware of the girl’s fate, the photographer later submitted his photo to a contest linked to the Kuroishi Yosare festival.

Despite the family giving its consent to the handing out of the accolade, the contest’s executive committee withdrew the mayor’s award after protests from within their organization.

Kasai committed suicide while in her second year of junior high school. She had been bullied by her classmates via a messaging app for more than a year before her death.


A sad story indeed. I think the issue behind the withdrawal of the photo award wasn't so much out of respect for the privacy of the family but rather to cover up the bullying in the city and school. I admire the family for going public and offer my deepest sympathies for their loss.

Monday, October 24, 2016

We do it for the love, not the money... But maybe the economy needs our kind of love...

I am not sure I should be sharing this with my students... Non-anthro-majors might want to check out how their fields of study rank in this scheme of things...

Screenshot taken from source:

But wait... Check out this editorial by Takamitsu Sawa, distinguished professor at Shiga University, in The Japan Times, 10/24/16:

Liberal arts studies are key to Japan’s economic revival

Brief quote: The [Japanese] education ministry says “true scholastic ability” is composed of three elements: (1) knowledge and skills, (2) ability for thinking, judgment and expression, and (3) willingness to cooperate with others. It is impossible to hope for elevating the abilities for thinking, judgment and expression without liberal education, of which humanities and social science constitute the core.

Read the whole editorial:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

2016 秋祭り (Autumn Festival)

With the coming of autumn, fall festivals are celebrated in many neighborhoods across Japan. This year it seemed that the danjiri brought the cool autumn weather with it as it was pushed and pulled through the narrow roadways of my neighborhood - there was a noticeable change in temperature after the festival was completed on Sunday evening.

As I have been observing and participating with my neighborhood's festival for several years now (see previous VAOJ coverage through the links below) it has been interesting seeing children grow and older people's hair getting grayer. The unfortunate observation is lesser participation in the festival. It seems most of my neighbors are too busy and/or uninterested in this event. It makes me admire even more the extraordinary efforts of those who come out year after year. They start out preparing the danjiri Saturday morning and after a blessing by the local shrine's Shinto priest they parade the danjiri around the neighborhood receiving donations from residents along the way. After a grueling afternoon of hauling the danjiri around the same people organize and run an evening festival at the shrine, preparing various food, holding games for children and hosting groups from other neighborhoods. After cleaning up after the festival they get up early on Sunday morning and haul the danjiri around once again. After cleaning the danjiri they put it away for next year and then hold a thank you party for the participants in the shrine grounds. It is a full 2 days of work carried out by 40 people or so for the benefit of the whole neighborhood. I worry about the future of this event as the core members and most participants are well into their 50s and 60s. I am honored to be allowed to record and participate in the festival (my assistance in pushing the danjiri seems to be valued than my photography...).

Previous VAOJ Fall Festival Photo Essays:

2014 Fall Festival:

2013 Fall Festival:

2012 Fall Festival:

2010 Local Matsuri in Classic Black & White:

2010 Local Matsuri In Living Color:

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Face saver: Surgical masks worn at speed dating sessions"

From Japan Today, 10/18/16.

Looks aren’t everything. At least, that’s what one Japanese dating service is trying to prove - by requiring participants in speed dating sessions to wear white surgical masks.

“In order to achieve marriage, it is important to provide chances to know a partner’s personality and values in the early stages,” said Kei Matsumura, head of Tokyo dating service Def Anniversary. “We chose surgical masks as an essential tool for that.”

White surgical masks covering most of the face are common sights in Japan, where people don them to avoid catching diseases, keep out pollen and, sometimes, just to keep their faces warm. Some women also opt for a mask on days when they haven’t worn makeup.

“Since I wasn’t judged by my appearance, I think I was able to be more outgoing with women,” said 28-year-old Yasumasu Kishi at a weekend speed dating event for 19 men and 18 women.

Dating services are booming in Japan as young people shy from tying the knot. The marriage rate has plunged by 50% over the last 40 years, from 10.1 per thousand in 1975 to 5.1 per thousand in 2014, according to a Health Ministry survey.

Young people brought up in the digital era find face-to-face encounters daunting in ultra-polite Japan, while long work hours add still another hurdle. These make konkatsu - active “marriage seeking activity” - often the only option.

“I think I was able to find out more about their inner selves and not just judge them by their looks,” said Chiharu Tsukahara, a 28-year-old office worker.

“In this event, personality matters. I quite liked that,” she added as she prepared to leave with Kishi and two friends for another date. This time, masks were optional.


YouTube video of the event:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Police up surveillance against Peeping Toms among Kyoto’s camera-toting tourists"

From The Japan Times, 10/17/16.

Police are ramping up their vigilance at train stations, temples and shrines amid an increasing presence of alleged Peeping Toms in Kyoto’s major tourist areas.

Due to the compactness of image-recording devices, peeping techniques have become far more stealthy, and victims aren’t even aware they are targets.

Kyoto is also a city full of camera-toting tourists, making it hard to determine who might be a Peeping Tom.

In the latest case, a 55-year-old male high school teacher of Osaka was caught red-handed Sunday at the renowned Kiyomizu Temple after he allegedly took a photo up the skirt of a female college student, Kyodo News reported.

The 18-year-old victim was sitting on steep stone steps within the temple compound. Suspect Yoshikazu Tamura reportedly told police he was “disguising himself as a tourist taking photos of the scenery.”

The incident was discovered by staff of TV station Tokyo Broadcasting System who were reporting on Peeping Tom incidents in Kyoto.

In addition to major tourist sites, Kyoto Station, the gateway to the ancient capital, has also experienced a surge in the number of voyeurs.

According to a report by the Iza News website, some internet users call the station a major panchira spot, meaning “that’s where you can get a glimpse of panties.”

The report quoted the Kyoto police as saying the number of peeping incidents in the first half of this year has already exceeded the total of last year.

Plainclothes police are increasing vigilance near escalators and stairs, the report said.


Monday, October 17, 2016

"'Japan: Guilty Until Proven Innocent' documentary shines light on controversial legal system"

From Japan Today, 10/17/16.

Japan is known for being one of the countries with the lowest crime rate in the world. Numerous reasons are given for this such as the illegality of weapons, a smaller wealth gap, or unspoken rules of conduct that people live by.

But one other factor behind such low crime could have a darker reason to it: fear of the Japanese legal system.

Al Jazeera news recently put out a documentary on that very subject, showing one of the scarier parts of Japan that most people don’t have experience with. The full video is below.

The documentary follows the story of Keiko Aoki, a woman who in 1995 was convicted of setting her house on fire and intentionally murdering her daughter to collect life insurance money. Her conviction was based solely on her and her husband’s written confessions that they claimed were made under extreme duress.

Keiko and her husband spent the next 20 years in jail, claiming they were innocent the entire time. It wasn’t until earlier this year that the verdict for their retrial was finally delivered, proclaiming them not guilty.

But why would someone confess to a crime they didn’t commit? Put simply, the documentary claims that the Japanese legal system is designed to extract confessions no matter what.

In Keiko’s case, she was held in an interrogation room with police investigators who constantly yelled and berated her for 12 hours straight. She was never allowed to see a lawyer. Eventually, she was told by police that her husband had already confessed to the crime, so she should too. Mentally destroyed, she gave up and wrote a confession dictated to her by police.

Keiko claims that confusion, exhaustion, and the guilt of not being able to save her daughter came together to make her admit to a crime she was innocent of.

In Japan, anyone can be held by police for 23 days without being charged. Lawyers are not allowed in interrogation rooms, and police are not required to record any of the interrogation sessions. As Hiroshi Ichikawa, a former Japanese prosecutor described, investigators can just rotate in and out as they get tired of questioning the suspect, until he or she is so mentally exhausted that they will admit to anything to make it stop.

But why is the Japanese legal system so intense when it comes to extracting confessions from the accused? Ichikawa claims it’s because there’s immense pressure on police and prosecutors to obtain a guilty verdict. In a country with a near universal conviction rate, no one wants to be the only lawyer who failed to get a guilty verdict, so they’ll do anything to get it.

The documentary is very enlightening about a part of Japan that is rarely discussed. If you want to watch the full documentary, check it out on Al Jazeera’s website or official YouTube page.

When it comes to false convictions and innocent people behind bars, Japan is not alone. The U.S. and other developed countries have just as many – if not more – legal problems. But the only way any of them can change is by getting the word out that there is a problem in the first place, and this documentary is a great first step in letting people know that the system that is supposed to serve them is broken.


See the film below.

See related VAOJ posts on this subject:

"Documentary on Forced Confessions Screened in Tokyo"

"Law change would tape interrogations"

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"Shiseido app adds makeup to faces on video conferences"

Photo and text from The Japan Times, 10/11/16.

In a potential boost for the government’s drive to get more people telecommuting, cosmetics company Shiseido Co. has developed an app that makes users look as if they are wearing makeup. It amounts to an instant makeover for the unfortunate worker called to appear on screen from home at an awkward hour.

The TeleBeauty app, developed in collaboration with Microsoft Japan, allows users to choose from four different makeup options: natural, trendy, cool, or feminine.

While on camera, the makeup on the user’s face syncs with real-time facial movements, “unless the face moves wildly,” according to Shiseido spokeswoman Megumi Koyama.

The idea for the app came from Shiseido employees about a year ago, Koyama said.

She said colleagues found it bothersome to have to put on makeup for video conferences, especially those with colleagues overseas, as calls tended to come at odd hours.

And workers do not have to scramble to tidy up their homes, either.

The app, for which the company utilized makeup simulation technology that it began developing in the late 1990s, has a feature to blur the background.

“Telecommuting is becoming more common, both in our company and in society. We hope the app will contribute to that trend,” she said.

Shiseido introduced a telecommuting program in January. So far, staff have used it around 200 times.

The app, which has yet to hit the market, will be made available on an experimental basis on Skype for Business for the staff of companies taking part in a weeklong campaign by Microsoft Japan from Monday.

The aim of the campaign is to reform the way people work. In addition, 100 female staff from the software manufacturer are testing it.

Koyama stressed that the app is not just for women.

“We would like men to use it, too, because it is often said that faces of people participating in video conferences look darker than they really are, and depending on the angle of the camera, the workers look as if they have bags under their eyes,” she said. “The app is set up so the users’ skin looks brighter. I think it’s a feature that helps anyone look professional.”

The government is pushing telecommuting as a way to help female workers balance family and work. It wants to boost the percentage of people working from home at least one day a week to 10 percent of the workforce, in a bid to get 73 percent of women aged 25-44 into work by 2020.


Monday, October 10, 2016

"Disabled woman yelled at for using train’s priority seat, 'not looking like a handicapped person'"

Photo and text from Japan Today, 10/10/16.

What comes to mind when you think of people with disabilities? Chances are you imagined someone in a wheelchair or other mobility aid, or perhaps some other physically apparent handicap. However, oftentimes the disability is internal – otherwise known as an “invisible/hidden disability” – and can be anything from heart problems to anxiety disorders.

Trains in Japan have special priority seating in each car especially reserved for those who need it, including pregnant mothers, the elderly, and people with physical disabilities. While no one would question someone walking with a crutch using the priority seating, a person with, say, painful arthritis who has no outward, physical signs of their suffering may be seen by those around them as someone who needs a priority seat.

On September 28, Twitter-user @SugimotoYohko shared an unpleasant episode of discrimination her friend, who has a hidden disability, had gone through earlier that same day. The post included a photo of a tag her friend keeps with her that reads “I have an internal disability”, as well as a call for others to share the story:

“I was taking the train to the hospital in town for a check-up, my ‘invisible disability’ tag on the front of my bag as it should be, and sat down in the priority seating area, when an older man yelled at me. ‘These seats are for handicapped and the elderly! Get up!’

To be sure, I showed him the physical disability certificate, but then he said, ‘Well that’s misleading. If you’re handicapped, then you should look more like a handicapped person!’

I felt like crying. I got off at the next stop to take the following train. And after going through the trouble to look nice for a trip into town… There’s not a lot of understanding towards people with invisible disabilities, so sometimes painful things like this happen… It’s unfortunate.”

@SugimotoYohko wrote of the incident: “‘Look more like a handicapped person…’ What’s that even supposed to mean?! I don’t want my friends or anyone else with similar conditions to feel bad, so I ask everyone for their understanding and cooperation.”

The tweet has been receiving a lot of attention, with over 20,000 retweets since it was originally posted. There have been numerous angry comments about the situation, and rightly so, with a many others who have invisible disabilities themselves speaking up as well.

“I have an internal illness too, so I completely understand that feeling… You can’t tell there’s anything wrong by looking at me. I don’t care how old the person is, I wish there was something we could do about people like that who just don’t understand.”

“I’d like to reply back, ‘How about, if you’re elderly then you should act more like it! An old geezer like you shouldn’t sit in the priority seats!’”

“What the hell? That’s horrible! Terrible!”

“Is there even a handicap way to look in the first place? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

While in recent years there have been efforts to raise awareness of disabilities and handicapped people, there still seems to some way to go to increase knowledge of less-obvious disabilities. And perhaps we can all take this as a reminder to not judge a book by its cover.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

"Documentary focuses on ‘rakugo’ artist’s inspirational return to the stage"

From The Japan Times, 10/7/16.

The Japanese tradition of rakugo (comedic storytelling) depends largely on a quick wit and a way with words. So when storyteller Hayashiya Kanpei became speech-impaired due to a stroke, the challenge he faced getting back on stage was a momentous one.

Kanpei, 67, and his struggles are the subject of a new documentary film titled “Namida no Kazu dake Warao Yo” (“Let’s Laugh As Many Times As We Cry”).

The artist was 41 when he suffered a brain hemorrhage. It left him paralyzed on the right side of his body, which also affected his speech. Popular for his brisk way of speaking and specializing in classic rakugo stories, Kanpei had been promoted only five years earlier to the status of master storyteller or shin-uchi.

For a rakugoka, who tells comical stories while sitting on stage clad in kimono, the effects of the stroke were horrific.

Kanpei, whose real name is Kazuo Shibuya, gradually recovered from the ordeal to write his own story and perform it on stage.

“I love classical rakugo stories featuring warm human relationships,” he says. “But as recommended by the people around me, I decided to write a new story to express myself.”

“Let’s Laugh As Many Times As We Cry” depicts Kanpei’s arduous rehabilitation process, which continued even while nursing his 93-year-old mother at his home in Tokyo. It also focuses on the support he received from friends and fellow rakugo performers.

In August, Kanpei performed his new monologue, “Let’s Go, Shogaisha” (shōgaisha is the Japanese word for a person who has a disability), on stage as part of a show organized in Tokyo by disciples of Hayashiya Sanpei I to commemorate their late master.

In the last part of the monologue, Kanpei said, “We shōgaisha feel refreshed when we go out and meet people,” which drew a round of applause from the audience.

Kazuhito Ogino, a former movie studio executive who planned the documentary says that Kanpei’s efforts have proven inspirational to people in his generation who are concerned about life after retirement.

The film was first shown at a theater in Shinjuku, central Tokyo, in early September and is scheduled to be screened at other selected theaters through November.


More information and film trailer (in Japanese):

Saturday, October 1, 2016

"Court orders internet provider to disclose user details over Twitter photo abuse"

From The Japan Times, 9/30/16:

A court Friday ordered an internet service provider to disclose information on one of its users after a Niigata couple filed a lawsuit claiming the user had uploaded a photo of their baby daughter without permission to accompany a false Twitter post last year.

Akira Oshima, 38, and his wife sought the disclosure after a photo of their daughter taken during a demonstration in August 2014 was attached to a tweet in July 2015, in which the user falsely stated that a grandchild had died from heat after being taken to a protest rally against security bills held in front of the Diet.

“It is obvious that (the child’s) portrait rights have been infringed by the user making a post with the photo attached,” said Niigata District Court presiding Judge Tomoyasu Kondo.

“The plaintiffs have a just reason to be awarded information disclosure in demanding damages from the user,” he added.

Oshima said: “It is a big step forward toward protecting my daughter’s rights. “This ruling also will be significant for people caught up in similar cases.”

The service provider had argued during the trial that disclosing user information would not necessarily lead to identification of the actual person. A lawyer representing the company declined to comment, saying a formal statement on the ruling had not yet been received.

The Oshimas’ lawsuit against the provider comes after the Tokyo District Court in September last year ordered Twitter to disclose the user’s IP address and other information, which helped them identify the internet company.

Cases of defamation through the internet have been on the rise in Japan.

The cases include remarks from so-called netouyo, internet right-wingers who attack people they deem unpatriotic by posting their names, occupations or rumors on social media.

“The current law sets strict hurdles to protect confidentiality of communication and freedom of expression, but it should be reviewed to meet the current situation to require service providers to manage information on users so that people who incur damages don’t have to file lawsuits many times,” said Harumichi Yuasa, professor of information law at Institute of Information Security.

According to Yuasa, the law regarding the responsibility of internet service providers, enacted in 2002, took into account online forums and emails. But messages posted on Twitter and other social networking services spread much more quickly, leading to greater damage.


Sunday, September 18, 2016


The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival runs every other year in Yamagata. In the off-years, the festival brings a part of the previous year’s screening program to Tokyo. About 60 films will be screened during the festival period of Sep. 17 – Oct. 7 this year at an art house K’s cinema in Shinjuku and Josai International University. Most films will be screened with English subtitles, including many from Asia and Japan.

Dates & Venues

September 17 [Sat] – October 7 [Fri]
at K’s cinema

SHOWAKAN Bldg. 3F, 3-35-13, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku,Tokyo

Phone 03-3352-2471

September 22 [Thur] – 23 [Fri]
at Josai International University Kioicho Campus
No. 3

2-3-20 Hirakawacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Phone 03-6238-8500

Single tickets 1,500 yen at door, 1.300 yen in advance.
Three times tickets 3,600 yen at door and in advance.
 Five times tickets 5,000 yen at door and in advance.
*Three and five times tickets can be used by more than one person.


Friday, September 16, 2016

EVENT: The Regime and the Scene. Or, What Difference Did the Tokugawa Shogunate Make to the Visual World of Early Modern Japan?

“Visual World” is spongy shorthand for the physical, representational, and conceptual space of the Edo period. It can conjure the imagery of painting, prints, cartography and other texts. It can conjure urban planning and cityscapes, architecture and infrastructure, and the “look” of the built landscape (from the scale of construction to the universe of night). It can conjure interiors and clothing.


Mary Elizabeth Berry, Department of History, UCB
Julie Nelson Davis, Department of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
Matthew McKelway, Department of Art History, Columbia University
Timon Screech, Department of the History of Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Kären Wigen, Department of HIstory, Stanford University
Marcia Yonemoto, Department of HIstory, University of Colorado
Mary Elizabeth Berry, Department of History, UCB
Julie Nelson Davis, Department of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
Matthew McKelway, Department of Art History, Columbia University
Timon Screech, Department of the History of Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Kären Wigen, Department of HIstory, Stanford University
Marcia Yonemoto, Department of HIstory, University of Colorado

Friday, October 28, 2016
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Women's Faculty Club Lounge
University of California, Berkeley

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Poll shows most disabled people in Japan dislike 'inspirational' documentaries about disability"

From Japan Today, 9/13/16.

When I still lived in the U.S., I remember a time I was watching a program on the Public Broadcasting Service featuring a group of middle school-aged kids working to design a fin or flipper to fit one of the girls in the group that would best allow her to swim through water. The girl testing out the flipper designs in the pool happened to be in a wheelchair, unable to walk.

A Japanese friend who was watching the program with me remarked that you would likely never see a program on TV in Japan featuring a disabled person yet not focusing on the person’s disability. He stated he didn’t like the way television in Japan always portrayed people with disabilities, and wished they would feature them in programs like the one we were watching, where their disability wasn’t even mentioned.

At the time I thought it was an interesting observation, and as it turns out, it’s a sentiment shared by many others.

Recently, a program called “Bari-Bara” on Japanese broadcasting network NHK’s Educational TV revealed the results of a poll asking people what they thought of “inspirational programs featuring disabled people”.

The response of non-disabled people polled was split nearly down the middle, with 45 percent reporting that they enjoy such programs. Still, the greater half – with 55 percent – reported that they don’t like such inspirational programs. When asking people in the disabled community what they thought about such programs, 90 percent of those polled answered they don’t like them.

The program “Bari-Bara” touts itself as “Japan’s first variety show for disabled people”, and aims to create a “truly barrier-free society”. The title “Bari-Bara” actually stands for “barrier-free variety” (“bariaa-furii baraetii”), the term “barrier-free” meaning to be accessible, or free of barriers/impediments. The episode in question, which featured the polls regarding inspirational programs about the disabled community, also showed a talk by the late Australian comedian and disabled rights activist Stella Young in which she coined the term “inspiration porn”, referring to society’s habit of always turning disabled people into “inspirations” simply because they live with a disability.

On its own the episode relays an important and thought-provoking message, but this episode also happened to air on the last weekend of August, the same weekend that Nippon Television runs its annual 24-Hour Television telethon, a charity program whose aim is to “introduce existing conditions of social welfare in Japan as well as around the world and to present the need for assistance for disadvantaged people.”

According to their website, since the first campaign in 1978, the charity committee has raised 27,248,414,171 yen in donations as of 2008. However, the program is also infamous for showing the very “tears, please” documentaries and “inspiration porn” that “Bari-Bara” denounces. In fact, the whole “Bari-Bara” episode was a parodied mock-up of 24-Hour Television‘s program, with staff and crew wearing shirts in the same bright yellow color that 24-Hour Television uses, bearing a similar slogan and with the stage decorated in a similar fashion to that of the telethon event.

Considering the much-needed donations 24-Hour Television raises for a whole variety of charitable organizations, it’s highly unlikely that “Bari-Bara’s” intent was to completely undermine the telethon, but hopefully it has encouraged the committee as well as the program’s viewers to rethink the way they portray and view disabled people in society. And if the result of “Bari-Bara’s” poll is any indication, the tear-jerking documentaries aren’t even appealing to the majority of the population, so a new way of presenting the telethon could even be beneficial to its ultimate purpose.


See also the comments at the end of the story, including the following video suggestion:

Bari-Bara webpage:

Previous VAOJ coverage of this issue:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's new photo website

Sample photo - "Fukushima Sazae-do Hall" 

Announcement from EASIANTH:

From the PHOTO METI PROJECT website:

PHOTO METI PROJECT is a platform to introduce various parts of Japan with beautiful representative images.

By collecting and showcasing images rich in nature and sceneries of high cultural context, we will introduce our country, Japan. Images on this site are presented based on Creative Commons; meaning that we promote secondary use. Starting from here, we hope more people will be interested in Japan and choose Japan as their next destination. By connecting with “Kankoyoho Platform”, which is a database of Japanese sightseeing information, we will introduce basic information and degree of congestion as well as information for foreign visitors for each area. We are working to welcome photo posts from you in the future which we believe will strengthen PHOTO METI PROJECT as a co-creation sightseeing platform.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Gucci in Japan

I'm usually not into Gucci but I couldn't help but notice the advertisement above appearing in black and white in the August 18, 2016 edition (p. 10) of the International New York Times entitled (in hard to read yellow font) [street sounds]. The above image comes from and their article about the Fall-Winter 2016 Gucci Ad Campaign. From the article:

For the Fall-Winter 2016 ad campaign which just hit the interwebs today, we have Glen Luchford lensing his 4th consecutive campaign (or is it the 5th one?) for Gucci, shot on various locations in Tokyo from a pachinko parlour to a park and even the interior of a traditional Japanese house, complete with tatami mats. There are crowded streets, there are soap bubbles, there’s even a bowl of goldfish, with each campaign image subtitled with words like ‘street sounds’, ‘pop’ and ‘relentless buzzing sound’.

You don’t have to try to break it down and try to psychoanalyse it intently for its alternative meaning; you just have to sit back and enjoy [Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro] Michele’s world. And figure out what you’ll be buying from the collection too, of course.

You can see more of the campaign's photos at the above quoted post or at

What struck me is that the photos look like they are taken in Japan but in a very hip way without the usual stereotypes. The focus on sounds with the titles almost looking like closed captions for the Deaf is interesting as well. I knew that Gucci did big business in Japan (45% of the brands $4.3 billion sales last year) but not about the over 50 years that the company has in Japan.

More on that history here:

This post is not in any way intended to be a product endorsement (I'm an anthropologist after all and can't afford Gucci...) but rather a good example of artistic photographs with interesting concepts being used for business and profit. All artists need their patrons...


Actually I was working on this post a few weeks ago and kinda forgot about it. I was reminded of it today by seeing another Gucci ad in today's International New York Times (September 10, 2016, p. 14) that contained the photo below.

The model is sitting in the tokonoma, an alcove in a traditional Japanese house that usually displays a scroll, flower arrangements or other art. It is extremely bad manners to sit or stand in the tokonoma. And he's wearing shoes on the tatami! Doing further research I found the image online at along with a video ad with more questionable behavior by foreign models in Japan.

So while the ad campaign might not rely too much on tired stereotypes of Japan, the behavior of the fun-loving, poor mannered foreigners should not be emulated. Don't blow bubbles in a pachinko parlor...

Related fashion post about Guess ads in Japan: