Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Tokyo exhibition focuses on plight of sexually exploited girls"

Photo and text from The Japan Times, 8/17/16.

In Japan, teenage girls who turn to prostitution do so because they want to make easy money or fulfill their own pleasures.

Or not really.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, “few girls I’ve seen began prostituting themselves light-heartedly or to earn easy money,” said Yumeno Nito, a 26-year-old activist who heads Colabo, a Tokyo-based organization supporting marginalized teenage girls.

“In many cases, they are in poverty, abused at home or bullied in school. . . . Feeling lonely, they wander the streets or explore the internet before being approached by adults who trick them into prostitution,” she said.

An exhibition titled “Watashi-tachi wa Kawareta” (“We Were Bought”) kicked off in Tokyo’s Kagurazaka Session House on Aug. 11 in an effort to dispel misguided assumptions. The event, co-organized by Colabo and Tsubomi, a self-help group of young girls victimized by sexual abuse and exploitation, runs through Sunday.

“It’s not like we got involved in prostitution because we wanted to. We had to. Some of us felt so isolated at home we had nowhere else to go,” a 16-year-old girl who went by the pseudonym Nao told a news conference at the Kagurazaka gallery prior to the opening of the exhibition.

“At first I thought what happened was my fault because I was too cowardly to say no. . . . Looking back, I do think I shared some blame, but eventually, I’ve realized I wasn’t entirely at fault,” she said, without elaborating on her past.

Sex trafficking and child prostitution remain long-standing problems in Japan.

In the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report, the U.S. Department of State slammed the entrenched practice of enjo kosai, or “compensated dating,” where older men pay young women for sexual favors via gifts. It also pointed out that variants of the notorious “JK” business, which sexually exploits joshi kosei (high school girls), “continue to facilitate the sex trafficking of Japanese children.”

“Sophisticated and organized prostitution networks target vulnerable Japanese women and girls — often in poverty or with mental disabilities — in public areas such as subways, popular youth hangouts, schools, and online; some of these women and girls become trafficking victims,” the report said.

Traffickers and offenders in Japan, Nito said, rarely browbeat the girls into commercial sex.

Instead, she said, they approach isolated teens on the street with an avuncular air and offer them what they need — a quick meal, a place to stay and most importantly, a gesture of affection the girls are sorely denied at home and at school. By taking advantage of their loneliness, those adults slyly put the girls under their psychological control, wearing down their resistance, she said.

The exhibition showcases an array of photos, drawings, letters and diaries revisiting the trauma of the girls. A total of 24 girls, aged 14 to 26, were involved in organizing the event, Nito said.

About 10 of them allowed themselves to be photographed, albeit incognito, posing in various settings to re-enact particularly traumatizing scenes or situations that remain etched in their memory.

In these pictures, some are seen wandering downtown streets, while others writhe in shame on a bed. One striking photo, meanwhile, shows a kimono-clad girl posing during her actual coming-of-age ceremony, with her wrist marked by numerous traces of cuts and cigarette burns.

In another highlight, participating girls violently scribbled down on a massive piece of paper examples of verbal abuse adults heaped on them that particularly tore them apart. Phrases such as “you shouldn’t have been born,” “drop dead” and “we won’t bother to have a funeral for you even if you die” are among them.

Meanwhile, on one tell-all letter that was hung on the wall, an 18-year-old girl recalled an experience that she said had destroyed her life.

“I can trust nobody,” she wrote. The girl, whose mother was rarely at home due to work, said she had barely hit puberty when she got involved with a man who falsely charged her over a porn website she had browsed and roped her into sex under the pretext of helping her to pay the bill.

“I wanted people to know the poverty situation of girls like me and the fact that I’ve lost my dream, friends and family because of that one guy,” the letter read.

Despite the gut-wrenching nature of the displays, Nito expressed hope that visitors to the exhibition won’t focus too much on their past.

“Instead of just feeling sorry for what the girls went through, I hope visitors will realize they have stood up against their own challenges and are now moving forward, alive.”


Exhibition time and place:
Date: 8/10-21, 2016
Place: Gallery in Tokyo, Kgurazaka session house

For more information on the exhibition:

Monday, August 15, 2016

"Complaint filed against police in Oita over hidden cameras"

From Japan Today, 8/13/16.

The administrator of a building used by opposition party supporters and a labor union chapter filed a complaint against the Oita prefectural police on Friday for trespassing and secretly installing cameras on the premises in June.

The police vowed to “thoroughly investigate” the incident, which took place around the time official campaigning for the House of Councillors election got under way.

Last week, they admitted that on June 18 two of their officers had installed two cameras in the grounds of the building in Beppu city in Oita Prefecture, southwestern Japan, without the permission, for the purpose of monitoring the actions of certain individuals.

The police have yet to reveal why they felt it necessary to install the cameras, which were in place through June 24, and who they were monitoring.

The building is home to a support group for the Social Democratic Party, a small opposition party, and a regional body linked to the Oita chapter of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, known as Rengo.

The cameras were set up at two different locations—one covering the building’s entrance and another monitoring the parking lot, local labor union members said. The cameras were discovered after official campaigning for the upper house election began on June 22.

“We want the prefectural police to explain the purpose of their probe,” said Kenji Ishimoto, secretary general of the Oita labor union branch.

According to the union members, the cameras captured “images of an unspecified number of people entering and leaving the building,” a move they said constitutes a “violation of privacy.”

So far, police have said two male officers from their criminal affairs section installed the cameras on the night of June 18, but said the pair did not think the outdoor areas where they installed the cameras were privately owned.

The police acknowledged it was inappropriate to enter the premises without permission and install the cameras. They have apologized to those affected, but declined to say whether their surveillance activities were linked to the election.


Saturday, August 6, 2016

"Embarrassing Photos of Me, Thanks to My Right-Wing Stalkers"

Photo (that accompanied the quoted text below)

Following up on the last post about a severe breach of privacy and photo ethics I offer some passages from an op-ed by Bill McKibben in the International New York Times, 8/5/16 to further illustrate the power and abuse of power of photography.

There are shameful photos of me on the internet.

In one series, my groceries are being packed into plastic bags, as I’d forgotten to bring cloth ones. In other shots, I am getting in and out of … cars. There are video snippets of me giving talks, or standing on the street. Sometimes I see the cameraman, sometimes I don’t. The images are often posted to Twitter, reminders that I’m being watched.

In April, Politico and The Hill reported that America Rising Squared, an arm of the Republican opposition research group America Rising, had decided to go after me and Tom Steyer, another prominent environmentalist, with a campaign on a scale previously reserved for presidential candidates. Using what The Hill called “an unprecedented amount of effort and money,” the group, its executive director said, was seeking to demonstrate our “epic hypocrisy and extreme positions.”

Since then, my days in public have often involved cameramen walking backward and videotaping my every move. It’s mostly when I travel (I’ve encountered them in at least five states so far, as well as in Australia), and generally when I’m in a public or semipublic space. They aren’t interested in my arguments; instead, these videos, usually wordless, are simply posted on Twitter, almost always with music. One showed me sitting in a church pew, accompanied by the song “Show Me That Smile.” The tweet read, “Ready for his close-up.”

This effort has resulted in all kinds of odd things appearing on right-wing corners of the web: out-of-context quotations from old books and articles apparently put on display to prove I’m a zealot, and photos from God knows who intended to make me out as a hypocrite (the plastic bags, for instance, and my travel by car, which, you know, burns gas). Mostly, they’ve just published those creepy videos, to remind me that I’m under surveillance.

Merely having someone with a camera follow you somehow makes you feel as if you’re doing something wrong.


And yet, for all that logic, I still find myself on edge. To be watched so much is a kind of never-ending nightmare. And sometimes it’s just infuriating. I skipped the funeral this summer of Patrick Sorrento, an important mentor to me at my college newspaper, because I didn’t want my minder to follow me and cause a distracting spectacle. When my daughter reports someone taking pictures of her at the airport, it drives me nuts. I have no idea if it’s actually this outfit; common decency would suggest otherwise, but that seems an increasingly rare commodity.


A good thing about movements is that you really do have brothers and sisters, and they do have your back. The fossil-fuel industry may threaten us as a planet, as a nation, and as individuals, but when we rise up together we’ve got a fighting chance against the powers that be.

And perhaps that realization is just a little bit scary for them.

Read the entire op-ed:

Friday, August 5, 2016

"Singer Akina Nakamori wins damages suit over secret photograph"

From Japan Today, 7/28/16.

A secret photograph of singer Akina Nakamori taken during a break from show business aggravated her illness and may have delayed the resumption of her career, a court ruled Wednesday, ordering a publisher and a photographer to pay compensation to the veteran singer.

The Tokyo District Court awarded the 51-year-old Nakamori 5.5 million yen in compensation from Shogakukan Inc and the photographer for mental distress. The singer had sought 22 million yen.

In November 2013, the photographer captured an image of Nakamori inside her Tokyo apartment, using a telephoto lens from an apartment about 45 meters away. Shogakukan printed the image in the Josei Seven weekly magazine for women.

Nakamori, who was taking a break from her career due to illness, “suffered tremendous pain due to the illegal photograph,” Presiding Judge Yuko Mizuno said. As a result, the singer was obliged to move to a different location.

Nakamori, who debuted in 1982 with the single “Slow Motion,” resumed television appearances more than a year later at the end of 2014 when she sang in NHK’s “Kohaku” (red and white) annual song festival.

The male photographer had been convicted of violating the Minor Offenses Law by the Tokyo Summary Court, which found his act was a form of voyeurism.


This is a case where someone's personal privacy was violated, a photo published without consent and a lawsuit being won by the victim under a Japanese law that is quite different than in other countries. Here's the gist of this Japanese defamation law.

In Japanese, then, defemation/meiyo kison is not about damage to mere reputation (hyoban)... it's about damage to honor (meiyo)... Reputation/hyoban is the view from the outside, how others see you... Honor/meiyo has several definitions... [I]t also includes... internal feelings that can be variously described as pride, personal integrity, dignity, or awareness of the worth of one's character. It's this concept of honor as both internal feelings and external reputation that illuminates the Japanese defamation law regime. (From Mark D. West. 2006 Secrets, Sex and Spectacle: The Rules of Scandal in Japan and the United States. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Chapter 3 "Privacy and Honor" p. 79)

For more on these issues in Japan, please review the Shooting Culture in Japan Project on VAOJ.