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:

Friday, September 9, 2016

"Man arrested for trying to film up woman's skirt with smartphone" + a solution to the problem?

Story from Japan Today, 9/8/16.

Police in Osaka have arrested a 50-year-old self-employed man on suspicion of committing an obscene act after he was caught trying to film up a woman’s skirt with his smartphone camera.

According to police, the incident occurred at around 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday at a bookstore on Kita Ward. The suspect, Tetsuji Moriyama, placed his phone up the skirt of a woman in her 40s. The woman yelled at him and Moriyama fled, pursued by the woman and a male bookstore employee, Sankei Shimbun reported. Police said they caught up with him and detained him near Hankyu Umeda Station.

Police quoted Moriyama as saying he was drunk at the time and can’t remember the incident. He was arrested before for committing a similar lewd act in February, police said. At that time, Moriyama attached a miniature camera to his sandals to film up a woman’s skirt in an underground shopping area at Umeda.


The same day that Japan Today ran this story (including all the usual critical comments about the up-skirt photographer by readers), they ran a seemingly related story and possible solution (note the intended sarcasm) to up-skirt perverts...

Is this suggesting there is no stopping up-skirt perverts and that all one can do is block access to their intended journey to the center of the universe?


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Japanese Photography Museum Re-Opens

From The Japan Times, 9/6/16.

Japan’s TOP museum sees the big picture

After being closed for two years for major renovations, Tokyo’s best-known photography museum in Tokyo’s fashionable Ebisu neighborhood reopened on Sept. 3, just in time to celebrate its 20-year anniversary. The venerable facility now boasts a new look, improved exhibition spaces and a new name in English: the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, or TOP Museum for short.

When it opened in 1995, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (as it was previously known in English) was the first public institution in Japan devoted entirely to photographic art. Although the English name has been changed to better reflect the museum’s mission to handle all forms of photographic media, its Japanese title remains the same: Tokyo-to Shashin Bijutsukan.

The museum’s original mandate was to not only collect, preserve and display photographs, but also to conduct research, encourage artists and give the public more opportunities to enjoy photographs and moving images. At the time, it was almost unheard of for an art museum in Japan to exhibit photographs, so the museum was blazing a trail.

In its first two decades, the museum did the expected: showcasing the work of well-known Japanese photographers including Eikoh Hosoe, Ikko Narahara, Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki. But it also consciously supported recognized yet still developing artists by providing exposure at critical points in their careers. Yuki Onadera and Tomoko Yoneda are notable examples who received a boost through solo exhibitions there. Curators also took a broad view of photography as art, promoting genres that tended to be overlooked, including fashion, travel and alpine photography. A handful of exhibitions tackled thorny social issues, including AIDS and gender.

In historical research, the museum undertook an ambitious 10-year project to survey, identify and exhibit early Japanese photographs, contacting museums, and government and other archives across the country to inquire about their holdings of old images. The project brought important photographs into public view and advanced the understanding of how this imported technology was adopted and adapted in Japan. This research will culminate in an anthology exhibition next March.

Yet, while all this work was progressing, time took its toll on the physical plant. In addition, lighting, exhibition and projection equipment, and storage facilities grew outdated as technology advanced. So in September 2014, the museum’s doors were closed. The staff and collection were moved out and construction crews moved in. Two years later, for its first post-renovation exhibition, the museum brought in high-profile Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, who has based himself in New York since the 1970s and is famous for using large-format cameras and long exposures to take huge yet minutely detailed photographs.

The most noticeable changes to the museum are in the lobby and exhibition spaces, which now look brighter and more open. The carpeting in the second and third floor galleries has been replaced with wood flooring, and all galleries fitted with LED lighting and automated environmental-control systems, which matters because photographs and film are easily damaged by light and changes in temperature and humidity. Exhibition conditions in the museum now exceed international standards and, importantly, also meet Japanese government rules for the exhibition of Important Cultural Properties. This will allow the museum to display certain historical photographs that previously couldn’t be shown.

The library on the fourth floor, which has an extensive collection of photography books and just about every resource you could hope to find, is again open to the public. Getting there will be easier now with the addition of a second elevator, which addresses the frequent complaints about long waits for the building’s previous single elevator.

In other changes, the museum shop was moved up to the second floor, freeing up additional area for the first-floor cafe, operated by Maison Ichi, a trendy bakery-cafe in Daikanyama that serves up tasty sandwiches and desserts. Take- out is available, a service that will no doubt be appreciated by workers in nearby office towers, and a bit of outdoor table space was added.


TOP website: