Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fake News, Fake Businesses, Fake Academic Conferences: Real Scams

A recent headline in The Japan News (Dec 21, 2017) reads:

Cybersecurity survey in Japan finds 20,000 fake shopping sites

A cybersecurity survey has found that around 20,000 fake shopping sites were in operation in the second half of this year, Japan’s National Police Agency said Thursday, warning that the sites are designed to swindle money from unsuspecting shoppers.

Most of the websites use a hyperlink with a fake ad to lead victims to a scam site, the NPA said, based on the survey by the Japan Cybercrime Control Center involving information security and online service providers.

Typically, victims are led to the fake sites after using a search engine to look for information about a product they want to buy and then clicking on a hyperlink that includes an enticing phrase, such as “brand wristwatch, high quality.”

Link to article:

I suppose it is not so surprising that bad people are trying to cheat buyers on the internet - it is a part of the times along with computer hacking and so-called fake news. But academics also need to beware. I found myself recently using a search engine and I saw my own name on an unexpected site. I was listed as a member of a review board for a multidisciplinary social science research conference I had never heard of before. Even a casual glance at the website and organization made it obvious it was suspicious. Eventually I contacted my university's Personal Information Protection Committee and they looked into it further by contacting the listed organizing committee chair who also had no idea that his name (and photograph) were being used. Another surprised professor found his name and contacted the suspicious organization directly demanding that his name be removed. He was subsequently attacked with frequent spam mail. So now my university along with 3 others whose faculty members and institutions are victims of identity theft are working together with the authorities to find out who they are and have the website shut down. As of now all of our names and affiliations have been removed from the website and replaced with other professors from outside Japan.

So again, be careful and beware on the internet. We certainly do have much pressure to present and publish papers but need to use good judgement when offering our precious research (and money).

Saturday, December 2, 2017

AJJ Presentation - Tachinomiya: Photo Exhibition as Research Method

I will be presenting about the Tachinomiya photo exhibition at the Anthropology of Japan in Japan (AJJ) 2017 Fall Meeting at Doshisha University in Kyoto.

Abstract: Recently I held a photo exhibition called Tachinomiya: There are Two Sides to Every Noren. It was as a visual ethnography of a local drinking establishment in Japan with prints illustrating the atmosphere of the shop along with portraits of the owner, employees and regular customers. One outstanding feature of this tachinomiya is its long, dark blue noren, a kind of fabric curtain as its entrance that signals that the shop is open for business and provides partial seclusion for the shop and customers. The noren can be seen as a fluid wall; when calm it blocks much of the view from the outside, but when the wind blows its separated partitions offer more glimpses of the inside. The glimpses can be narrow or revealing. One cannot control the wind; this fluid wall illustrates the complexities of personal privacy in public spaces in Japan, especially in the context of taking photographs in public and image rights. Initially I thought the photo exhibition to be the final product of the fieldwork and research. But I found the exhibition and interactions with the gallery audience to reveal important aspects of heuristic processes, meaning-creation, evocation and multivocality. Viewers were doing more than merely looking at my photographs, they were analyzing, scrutinizing, reacting and providing various interpretations and valuable feedback. In this presentation I will discuss the "post-fieldwork encounters" of the photo exhibition as a research method and a collaborative media event along the lines of the relatively new multimodal perspective in visual anthropology.

Date & Time: Saturday, December 9, 2017. 2:00 PM
Place: Doshisha University, Imadegawa Campus, Ryoshinkan

For more information about the AJJ 2017 Fall Meetings:

AJJ Fall Meeting 2017 Schedule:
AJJ Fall Meeting 2017 Abstracts:

More information about the Tachinomiya photo exhibition:

Monday, November 27, 2017

"‘Boys’ for rent in Tokyo: Sex, lies and vulnerable young lives"

Image and text borrowed from The Japan Times, 11/23/17.

There is a story in the November 23, 2017 edition of The Japan Times about new documentary film about urisen (rent boy) in Shinjuku's Ni-chome gay district.

The subject of urisen is at the center of a film titled “Baibai Boizu” (“Boys for Sale”), whose production was led by two foreign Japan residents. Since its release earlier this year, the documentary, directed by the singularly named Itako, has been screened in over 25 film festivals around the globe, including London’s Raindance and Los Angeles’ Outfest.

Many urisen interviewed for the film, whose more intimate on-the-job moments are cleverly represented by often-explicit animation sequences, are uneducated, occasionally homeless young men who cite financial hardships, even crippling debts, for taking on the work. It also highlights how some bar owners and managers willfully conceal crucial information about the nature of the work and potential health risks.

“I think the film tells a lot about the vulnerability of young people, particularly when they are economically disadvantaged and how they can be taken advantage of,” says Ian Thomas Ash, a Tokyo-based filmmaker from New York and executive producer of the film, which will make its Japan premiere on Nov. 26 during Tokyo AIDS Week.

Link to the story:

There is one section of the article called "Film’s disturbing revelations:"

Perhaps the most disturbing revelation in the film is how poorly schooled interviewees are in sexual health matters. Some appear to have no or only a vague notion as to what sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are or how they can be transmitted. Soap, mouthwash and brushing teeth are cited as being effective ways to prevent them. One urisen is unsure if men can even get STDs.

Ash says he is occasionally asked by film viewers if he ever attempted to educate the urisen.

“These are people who don’t even possess the vocab to describe parts of their body or substances that come out of it,” Ash says of the urisen interviewees, whom he and fellow producer and director of photography Adrian Storey put in front of the camera — some with masks to conceal their identities — for one hour each within the confined space of a typical room where they would fornicate with their clients. “So you’re not going to get far trying to make them understand why it’s dangerous to brush your teeth before oral sex.”

Indeed, the same lack of awareness is apparent with regard to HIV/AIDS. First Dash’s Hiroshi admits to sometimes having unprotected sex, both at work and in private life, but is unconcerned about contracting AIDS. “It’s curable now, right?” he says.

Statistics show that this lack of concern about HIV/AIDS among young Japanese is part of a new and worrying trend.


Particularly vulnerable are those in the sex industry, especially those who are in a weak position, financially or physically, such as urisen — who fit the AIDS-unaware age profile almost too well.

“If a bar operator has a strict condom policy, that’s one thing, but … as there is money being exchanged, if the customer wants unprotected sex, I can imagine sex workers might find it difficult to say no. In the case of urisen, the boys are young and customers are invariably gay men, so this is another layer of concern that needs to be addressed,” Ikushima says.

Instilling a sense of responsibility among bar managers and owners is also essential, Ikushima says, although this concern is not confined to the urisen industry. Indeed, a similar lack of instruction on sexual health would seem to exist in host clubs, an industry that traditionally pairs handsome young men with female clientele, though not officially for sex.

“We never mention such matters as sexual health, STDs or HIV to our staff at interviews,” says Ryo Tachibana of Goldman Club in Shinjuku. “I’m sure unprotected sex is also requested. You just assume, for their own sakes, they will be careful.”

One host, who requested anonymity, said to his knowledge unprotected sex was “not unusual” among hosts.


Reflecting Ikushima’s observations about a lack of HIV/AIDS awareness among the under-25s, however, are worrying statistics that show an increase in HIV diagnoses among that age group, from 65 cases in 2002 to 141 last year, according to health ministry data.

While incidences of HIV among Japanese aged 30 and over are still high, they have leveled out over the past decade, Iwahashi says. However, when it comes to the under-25s, surveys have unveiled a steep upward curve “of the kind never seen before,” he says.

“Whichever way you look at it, in Japan HIV/AIDS is a predominantly MSM problem and 73 percent of those who contracted HIV in 2016 were Japanese MSM,” says Iwahashi. “When you look at where the major movements are, it’s among younger MSM. And the background to that is the awareness issue.”

There is a side bar story with the article called "Foreign men defy drop in HIV/AIDS cases."

Numbers of HIV and AIDS cases among foreign residents in Japan continue to rise, according to health ministry statistics.

In 2016, homosexual contact accounted for 72.7 percent (735 cases) of all HIV infection cases (905) in Japan, while heterosexual contact (170) accounted for 16.8 percent, according to a Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare study. For reported AIDS cases (total 355), homosexual contact accounted for 55.1 percent (241) and heterosexual contact 26.1 percent (114). A further 82 HIV and 65 AIDS cases were listed as status “unknown.”

Yet while the figures for Japanese nationals have remained relatively stable over the past six years, even decreasing since 2012, the same can’t be said of HIV and AIDS cases among foreign residents, particularly men. Between 2005 and 2015, HIV cases among foreign males reached 108, including a more-than-four-fold increase among foreign men who have sex with men (MSM) (from 15 in 2005 to 66 in 2015). In 2016 that shot up further to 126 reported cases, although non-MSM case numbers were virtually unchanged. AIDS cases between 2015 and 2016 increased from 38 to 43.

In the past, women from Southeast Asia involved in the sex industry were thought to make up the bulk of foreign residents with HIV, says Kota Iwahashi, head of the HIV/AIDS awareness NPO akta. “Looking at the data, while those numbers have been decreasing for some time, the number of MSM foreigners who have contracted HIV has been growing.” Indeed, since 2014 there have been more foreign MSM than foreign women living in Japan with HIV, he added.

A major problem is the dearth of places for non-Japanese to get sexual health check-ups with English-language support, says Place Tokyo’s Yuzuru Ikushima, adding that at present the only place providing such a service is the Shinjuku public health center.

The majority (57.7 percent) of Japanese nationals who find out they are HIV-positive discover their status during visits to hospitals for other treatments, he says, which shows just how crucial specific sexual health check-ups are. According to Ikushima’s findings, of that unwitting 57.7 percent, almost 90 percent are found to have full-blown AIDS.

“With the Tokyo Olympics approaching, it has never been more crucial to provide foreign-language testing and support,” he says.

The accumulated total of HIV and AIDS cases in Japan in 2016 was 18,920 and 8,523, respectively — approximately 0.015 percent and 0.007 percent of the population. In contrast, 39,513 people in the U.S. received an HIV diagnosis and 18,303 an AIDS diagnosis in 2015 alone. The overall prevalence of HIV in the U.S. was around 0.3 percent of the population. In Europe, nearly two-thirds of new HIV cases in 2015 were in Russia (98,177).

While I am glad that a major news outlet is covering this issue, it is unfortunate that they continue the trend of the blame game, in particular blaming foreigners. Are foreigners coming to Japan to have sex only with other foreigners? Do foreigners not sleep with Japanese people? And once again we have to be careful with the statistics. Japan's HIV/AIDS stats are sadly under-reported and so it would seem unscientific to compare national rates other than to emphasize once again that HIV/AIDS is a foreign problem. It is not - it is a global problem.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Japan to offer free HIV testing in annual company health checks to encourage early detection"

Photo and text borrowed from The Japan Times, Oct. 30, 2017.

In a bid to encourage more people to undergo HIV tests, the health ministry is planning to offer testing as a free option during companies’ annual health checks.

The program will start on a trial basis in fiscal 2018 in big cities like Tokyo, where the rates for HIV and AIDS tend to be higher, a ministry official said Monday.

The free HIV test will be optional at the annual health checks companies carry out on employees, and the ministry will send the results directly to the patients instead of together with all of the usual health check data, the official said.

The health ministry has requested about ¥28 million from the fiscal 2018 budget for the HIV program.

“The important things are early detection and early treatment because the development (of AIDS) can be prevented by finding and treating the infection at an early stage,” the official said. “Detection can also prevent the spread of HIV.”

In Japan, public health centers offer HIV tests for free, but they are usually offered only on weekdays, when most people are working.

According to the official, the number of people tested for HIV at public clinics has dwindled in recent years, and the ministry is working to make the test more accessible.

“We hope the program will encourage more people to take the test,” the official said.

Japan saw a steady increase in new HIV infections through 2008. Since then, the number has hovered at around 1,000, according to ministry data.

In 2016, a total of 1,011 people became infected with HIV, according to the data. Of them, 735, or 73 percent, contracted the virus through homosexual intercourse and 170, or 17 percent, through heterosexual intercourse.

According to the data, 437 people developed AIDS in the same year, many of them in their 30s. Those in the 50-or-over age group accounted for around 30 percent of people with AIDS, the data showed.


Click here to see the previous extensive coverage of HIV/AIDS in Japan at VAOJ.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Tachinomiya Halloween - and - (Pre-)Announcement: AJJ Presentation in December: "Tachinomiya: Photo Exhibition as Research Method"

Here's another post about Halloween in Japan. Again, Halloween has exploded here in the last several years in terms of celebrations, events and merchandise. Halloween has even touched the traditional tachinomiya that has been the subject of my latest research and photo exhibition. The photo above shows the Halloween decorations up now at the shop (yes, research continues - see below). The following shots are from my previous fieldwork in 2015. None of these shots have been showed before because I didn't want to deal with Halloween issues in the exhibition. So here they are for you now to enjoy. And if you can't make it to the tachinomiya to enjoy the Halloween decorations, the Christmas decorations will undoubtedly be up soon.

I have been informed that my paper presentation, "Tachinomiya: Photo Exhibition as Research Method" has been accepted for the Anthropology of Japan in Japan (AJJ) Fall Meetings in December at Doshisha University in Kyoto. As soon as the official schedule is announced I will post my formal announcement with the thesis for the presentation as well as information about the AJJ meetings. For more information about my project see the posts listed below.

And Happy Halloween from VAOJ!

Photo Exhibition and Visual Ethnography - "Tachinomiya: There Are Two Sides to Every Noren"

"Tachinomiya" Photo Exhibition and Visual Ethnography: The First Week

"Tachinomiya" - A Successful and Memorable Photo Exhibition/Event/Research Method

Monday, October 30, 2017

「31st」- A Film about Halloween in Japan

Halloween in Japan has exploded in the last 10-15 years or so. Now, Halloween merchandise and activities start in August and sometimes even continue into November. I would even make the claim that Halloween sales and celebrations rival those of Christmas in Japan. Globalization moves quickly. The recent popularity of Halloween here is hard to convey to my students, after all many of them are used to such things in their own countries. But the numerous comments and observations of old-timers and long-term residents voicing their own surprise ("Where did all this Halloween stuff come from?") justify my comments here. One of my former students noticed some differences between the celebrations in Japan and the United States and decided to make a short film about the subject. I think the film is quite good in capturing the differences as well as student attitudes towards the holiday and their use of social media. I am happy he has made it available on YouTube. Watch, enjoy and get in the trick-or-treating mood.

Monday, October 23, 2017

"Traveling Across Japan" - A New York Times Photo Story about Hiroyuki Ito

Photo and text borrowed from The New York Times, Oct. 21, 2017.

Hiroyuki Ito, a photographer who grew up in Tokyo, wanted to see more of his country. So he spent two months this summer documenting interesting moments.

Hiroyuki Ito covered a lot of ground this summer: Moji, Dazaifu, Hakata, Yanagawa and Kumamoto on Japan’s Kyushu Island; Kochi-city and Cape Ashizuri in Kochi; Atami in Shizuoka and Omiya, Saitama. 54 cities in 18 prefectures, to be exact.

He was looking to capture the way people live outside of Tokyo — the faces, architecture, even, sometimes, what he sees in a trash can.

“I like to document the small things people do on a daily basis that are not significant enough to be listed in the history books,” he said. “I would like to think that that’s part of history, too, but not in an obvious or romantic way.”

With that in mind, the Mr. Ito got in a car with three of his best friends from elementary school and drove 90 minutes from Tokyo to Atami, a kitschy seaside city that is a popular destination for family vacations. “I think that’s part of Japanese culture, too,” he said of the country’s goofier tourist attractions.

Read and see the whole story:

Thanks to E.K. for the heads up on this story.

Monday, October 9, 2017

"A mission to capture the full range of half-Japanese experience — in 192 photos"

Photo and text borrowed from The Japan Times, 10/8/17.

The son of a Japanese father and Belgian mother, photographer Tetsuro Miyazaki grew up in a multilingual and multicultural environment.

“My younger sister and I were raised in Dutch-French-bilingual Brussels, where our dad would speak Japanese to us, our mom would speak Dutch, and they would communicate in French between themselves,” says Miyazaki, now 39. Annual summer vacations spent in Japan and Saturday school helped him connect further with his father’s culture.

Reflection on his own cultural heritage was a catalyst for the “Hafu2Hafu” project, a collection of portraits of other bicultural Japanese people.

“As a half-Japanese photographer, living in Amsterdam at that time, I wanted to take on a personal project that would force me to pick up my camera and meet people,” Miyazaki says.

He began by speaking with Dutch hāfu.


After interest in his initial sessions with Dutch hāfu led to invitations to present his work at symposiums overseas, Miyazaki came up with an ambitious plan to photograph a hāfu person with one parent from every other nation in the world.

“Since there are 193 sovereign countries, there are 192 possible different combinations. The idea behind this is that I want to show how diverse being half-Japanese can be and I want to understand the different aspects of it. What influences the way we experience the ‘half-Japanese’ side of our identity?”

Miyazaki says he has been humbled by the willingness of his subjects to open up and talk about their personal feelings. While each one has a unique story, some common themes have emerged.

“One topic that always comes up is about the sense of belonging,” he notes. “What also struck me is that most hāfu people find themselves to be quite empathic. While I can’t say for sure, I believe it has a lot to do with having to interpret two different languages, the corresponding nonverbal communication, cultural backgrounds and, sometimes, religious differences.”

Miyazaki’s interviews with participants who grew up in Japan reveal the sometimes ambivalent attitudes that bicultural people may encounter in this traditionally homogenic society.

“Both those raised abroad and those raised in Japan want to ‘belong’ to Japan more than most of them do. But this is more ‘painful’ when one is living in Japan. Even if you understand the Japanese language or the customs very well, you may not be considered Japanese and often do not get treated as such,” Miyazaki points out.

“Another difference is what ‘the other half’ is. There are Western hāfu, hāfu with African heritage or a Latin parent and then Asian hāfu. They all have very different experiences, both in Japan and abroad,” he says.

Some foreign parents of bicultural Japanese kids dislike the connotation of the label “half” and advocate for such people to be called “double.” Based on his interviews so far, however, Miyazaki says that most bicultural adults do not share this view.

“Although some dislike the label half/hāfu, most of them embrace it. It has also struck me that the dislike comes from the parents, who do not want to refer to their child as ‘half.'”

Read the whole article:

Hafu2Hafu web page:

Hafu2Hafu Presentation and Workshop
Sunday, October 15 at 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
at Sophia University, Tokyo
More information:

Monday, September 18, 2017

The solutions to all of your modern First World problems...

Some fun globalization stuff... No product endorsement intended. First the problem:

Then the problem solvers:

And then see the product in action!

Choku Fish web page:

Monday, September 11, 2017

South Korean Film 「반짝이는 박수 소리 」("Glittering Hands") Barrier-Free Release in Osaka

"Glittering Hands" (Japanese title:「きらめく拍手の音」), a 2015 film by South Korean filmmaker Lee-Kil Bora, has been released for its Japanese roadshow.

Brief English description (from Korean Film Biz Zone): Sang-guk and Kyung-hee cannot hear a thing, yet they are a happy couple. Bo-ra, their daughter, gazes at the world of her parents through the viewfinder. What we witness is not only a world of silence, but also a world of beauty where bodily gestures and facial expressions come to life. This film shows us that humanity exists with the imperfection of the body.

The filmmaker is a CODA (child of deaf adult) and portrays the life and history of her parents and family. I really like the karaoke scene in the trailer as I have experienced karaoke with my Deaf friends in Japan many times. The short film has won several awards including the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (2015) - New Asian Currents, Seoul International Youth Film Festival (2015) - Special Program 2, Busan International Kids&Youth Film Festival (2015) and Persons with Disabilities Film Festival (2014) - Grand Prize.

The Japanese release is emphasizing the barrier-free showings, that is open captions in Japanese (the film itself is in Korean and Korean Sign Language).

Film's Japanese web page:

Osaka's Nanagei Theater web page with film info and screening times:

Saturday, September 9, 2017

"Mizuko Yamaoka takes a different approach in documentary about people with disabilities"

Excerpts from article in The Japan Times, 9/7/17.

Disability presents different challenges for everyone but wheelchair users share a common dilemma: Their mode of locomotion stands out, while they often struggle with social isolation... “The Lost Coin,” [is] a 2016 short by Mizuko Yamaoka, a filmmaker who has been using a wheelchair since a 2002 bicycle accident in Brooklyn left her paralyzed from the waist down.

In contrast to Japanese documentaries that try to win viewer sympathy by portraying people with disabilities as lovable victims — if not candidates for sainthood — this 30-minute film begins with extended point-of-view sequences of the director wheeling through the night streets of Barcelona and attending a party.

Her night out isn’t different from that of anyone else’s except for one crucial difference: She experiences it sitting down. People treat her with courtesy, but she can’t jump into conversations as easily as the other guests because she can’t stand. This, she shows us clearly, if minus the usual explanations, is what life for her is like — including a semi-invisibility those who don’t use wheelchairs may find hard to imagine.

The remainder of the film is devoted to a revealing one-on-one interview with Jelena, a French woman who began using a wheelchair after a fall during a hike with her then-boyfriend. Under Yamaoka’s gentle but pointed questioning she opens up about her break-up with her lover, her sex life and her decision to leave Paris for relatively barrier-free Barcelona.

“The Lost Coin” will begin at 7 p.m. on Sept. 14 at Couzt Cafe and Shop (2-1-11 Yanaka, Taito Ward, doors open at 6:30 p.m.). Mizuko Yamaoka will be on hand to discuss the film with University of Tokyo assistant professor Daisuke Son. Admission with a drink is ¥1,300. For more details about the screening and talk event, visit “The Lost Coin” Facebook page at

Read the whole article:

You can find a trailer here:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A WHALE OF A TALE, lecture and screening by documentary filmmaker Megumi Sasaki

Image borrowed from

Announcement from SSJ Forum:


The issue of commercial whaling in Japan remains a contentious issue, as animal rights activists engage cultural traditionalists on the historical roots of this practice and its contemporary relevance. For this event the documentary filmmaker Megumi Sasaki will screen excerpts from her film “A Whale of a Tale,” and discuss the controversies surrounding this topic.

About the film “A Whale of a Tale”:

Can a small town with a proud 400-year-old whaling tradition survive a tsunami of modern environmental activism? The camera delves into the lives of local whalers, global activists and an American journalist in the “whale and dolphin killing town” of Taiji, Japan, revealing not everything is as black and white as it seems.

In 2010, Taiji, a sleepy fishing town in southern Japan, suddenly wakes up in the global spotlight. A documentary film called The Cove, which denounces the town’s longstanding whale and dolphin hunting practices, has just won an Academy Award. Almost overnight, the town of Taiji has morphed into a battleground as the go-to destination for international activists.

Jay Alabaster, a Tokyo-based Associated Press journalist and twenty-year Japan resident, is sent to Taiji to cover the controversy. He is warned by his boss to “be careful in the dangerous town”, which triggers the sense that something is not quite right with media reports surrounding Taiji.

As the fall hunting season begins, anti-whale and dolphin hunting activists arrive from abroad with binoculars and cameras in hand. Their mission: To expose the “atrocities” committed in Taiji via the web.

Every time dolphins are captured in the hunt, tension in the cove grows. Activists yell and thrust cameras in whalers’ faces. Local police and the Coast Guard stand by. Camera crews arrive in droves. A Japanese nationalist van harasses activists over a loudspeaker.

For the local whalers, hunting is their livelihood, pride and identity. Catching whales and dolphins – as they do other fish - has allowed them to feed their families and support the town’s economy.

The activists fight back, saying the whales and dolphins are not fish, but intelligent mammals deserving special protection on a global scale. Hunting and eating them is barbaric, and selling them to aquariums is comparable to a slave trade.

Will Taiji survive under global pressure? Following the town’s fate for six years, A WHALE OF A TALE tells a story not yet heard in the global controversy of whale and dolphin hunting. Through the point-of-view of an American journalist, the film unearths a deep divide in eastern and western thought about nature and wildlife, raising questions about cultural sensitivity in the face of global activism.

Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017
Time: 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)
Venue: Temple University Japan Campus, Azabu Hall 1F Parliament
Admission: Free. Open to the public.
Language: English

See the YouTube clip:

Film web page:

More: Japan Times article, 9/6/17:

Documentarian Megumi Sasaki hopes to bring balance to the story of Taiji in ‘A Whale of a Tale’


See the previous and extensive coverage of The Cove and related issues at VAOJ. Click here.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

How can such awful discrimination and abuse against deaf people happen in 2017?

Two recent articles that can only be characterized as unbelievable and unforgivable:

Nun from Japan arrested for allegedly abusing deaf children in Argentina

A Roman Catholic nun from Japan has been arrested and charged on suspicion of helping priests sexually abuse children at a school for youths with hearing disabilities in Argentina, authorities said.

Kumiko Kosaka was also charged with physically abusing the students at the Antonio Provolo Institute for children with hearing impairment in northwestern Mendoza province.

Local media showed the 42-year-old nun in handcuffs and wearing her habit and a bulletproof vest as she was escorted by police to a court hearing. Kosaka, who was born in Japan but has Argentine citizenship, denied any wrongdoing during the eight-hour hearing late Thursday.

Authorities say that Kosaka lived at the Provolo Institute from 2004-2012. She had been on the run for about a month before she turned herself in last week.

The case against the nun was launched after a former student accused her of making her wear a diaper to cover up a hemorrhage after she was allegedly raped by priest Horacio Corbacho.

Corbacho, fellow priest Nicola Corradi and three other men were arrested last year after they were charged with sexually abusing at least two dozen students at the Provolo Institute. They are being held at a jail in Mendoza and have not spoken publicly since the arrest. If found guilty, the accused face 10 to 50 years in prison.

Corradi had earlier been accused in Italy of abusing students at the Provolo Institute in Verona, a notorious school for the deaf where hundreds of children are believed to have been sexually assaulted over the years by two dozen priests and religious brothers.

Advocates for clerical sex abuse victims have expressed anger that Corradi wasn’t sanctioned by the Vatican and allegedly went on to abuse children in Pope Francis’ native Argentina.

Victims and prosecutors say the anal and vaginal rapes, fondling and oral sex allegedly committed by the priests took place in the bathrooms, dorms, garden and a basement at the school in Lujan de Cuyo, a city about 1,000 km (620 miles) northwest of Buenos Aires.

A Vatican investigative commission recently visited Mendoza to learn more about the case against the priests.

Source: The Japan Times, 5/6/17.

Deaf Japanese tourist denied interpreter at Honolulu airport: ACLU

A deaf Japanese tourist was illegally denied a sign-language interpreter while detained and interrogated after landing at the Honolulu International Airport, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii said in a discrimination complaint.

The ACLU said Thursday it filed the complaint last month with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Her name is redacted from a copy of the complaint the ACLU provided. She fears retaliation by immigration officials, the ACLU said.

She arrived in Honolulu on the morning of Jan. 31 to visit her boyfriend. Customs and Border Protection officials took her into an office to question her about her past as an international student in the United States, according to the complaint.

She requested an American Sign Language interpreter, but during hours of questioning she was forced to communicate by lip-reading and writing in English, the complaint said. In the late afternoon, she was handcuffed and taken to the Honolulu Federal Detention Center, where she was put into a cell overnight. “She was handcuffed behind her back, so there was no way for her to use her hands,” the complaint said. “When detaining deaf individuals, it is appropriate to modify handcuffing practices to allow such individuals to use their hands to communicate with signs or in writing.”

That’s equivalent to silencing her, said Mateo Caballero, legal director for ACLU of Hawaii. “She was treated like a criminal,” he said.

Customs and Border Protection received the complaint and will address the accusations after an investigation, agency spokesman Jaime Ruiz said in a statement, adding that accusations of mistreating travelers with a disability are taken seriously. Officers “receive extensive training in disability awareness and treat all travelers with disabilities with dignity, respect and professionalism,” the statement said.

At the airport, customs officials took away her cellphone, so she wasn’t able to alert her boyfriend, who waited 12 hours for her at a cafe near the airport, the complaint said.

At the detention center, which is near the airport, she again asked for an American Sign Language interpreter, but didn’t receive one, the complaint said. Instead, staff members tried to ask her questions by using a Japanese translator on the phone, but the woman can’t hear people talking on the phone, the complaint said.

“She felt humiliated,” the complaint said.

The Bureau of Prisons, which oversees the detention center, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The next day, she was taken to the airport for a flight back to Japan and her cell phone was returned. That’s when she was finally able to let her family in Japan and her boyfriend know where she was, the complaint said.

Source: The Japan Times, 5/12/17.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"SDF member arrested for forcing girlfriend to send nude selfies"

From Japan Today, 4/20/17.

A 26-year-old member of Japan’s Ground Self Defense Forces was arrested Thursday on charges of making threats and intimidation after he forced his girlfriend to take nude photos of herself and threatened that if she disobeyed him, he would circulate nude photos of her taken in the past on social media and send them to her parents.

According to police, Hiroaki Makino, a private first-class stationed at the Ground Self Defense Force’s Koga base in Ibaraki Prefecture, is accused of sending threatening messages to his 28-year-old girlfriend through the free messaging app LINE on April 14, demanding that she send him nude photos of herself. Fuji TV reported that when the woman expressed her unwillingness to respond to his requests, Makino threatened that he would show previously taken nude photos of her to her parents and post them online.

Police said Makino had frequently demanded his girlfriend send him "up-to-date" nude photos of herself and would act in a menacing manner toward her if she didn't comply.

The two have apparently been together for two years, but the nude photo requests began to escalate recently, police said.

Makino, who has admitted to the charge, was quoted by police as saying he likes women to be obedient to him.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Ken Domon and the artistry of real life"

Text and photo from The Japan Times, 4/16/17.

By 1957, photographer Ken Domon had reached the peak of his creative powers. A picture taken that year in Hiroshima, which he was visiting for the first time to chronicle the lingering effect of the bomb, shows him supremely confident: ram-rod straight on a stool, tripod in one hand, he casts a sideway glance at the viewer. His brow is lightly furrowed; his lips display a slight pout reminiscent of a kabuki actor adopting a mie pose. What we see is an intense, tenacious and uncompromising mind.

Two years later, Domon suffered the first of three brain hemorrhages that marked the beginning of a long, slow and painful decline. In an image from 1979, on a photo shoot near Nara, he is in a wheelchair, his shoulders slumped, his cheeks a bit hollow. We can still notice a glimmer of passion in his eyes, but his gaze is distant. Not long after that, he was back in the hospital, in the coma in which he remained until his death in 1990.

Domon was a prolific artist who produced almost 70,000 photographs over a career that spanned more than four decades. And yet, much like Japanese photography as a whole, he was until recently almost completely unknown outside his homeland. In fact, the first museum exhibition entirely dedicated to his work was organized only last year, in Rome, and the accompanying catalogue, which will be published in English by Skira in June, is the first full monograph on his life and work to appear in that language. Late in coming, this recognition is long overdue.

The son of a nurse and office worker, Domon was born in 1909, in the city of Sakata, on Japan’s snowy northeastern coast of Yamagata Prefecture, where the Ken Domon Museum of Photography is located today. He moved to Tokyo when he was 7 and while still in his teens, he developed a passion for painting — he exhibited his first canvas at 17 and promptly sold it for ¥30. However, he never succeeded in making a living out of painting, so in 1933 he followed his mother’s advice and joined a photography studio as an apprentice. This turned out to be a great move: two years later, he was working for Yonosuke Natori, the founder of Nippon Kobo, one of the most important publishing agencies of that era, and an influential force in the development of photojournalism in Japan. Domon had found his calling.

The period that followed the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, when Domon came of age, was a time of great social ferment, when Japan was undergoing rapid and, at times, chaotic change. Artists engaged in bold experiments and moved beyond the mere imitation of Western modes of expression that had previously been prevalent. Graphic magazines and photo supplements were established, and these helped disseminate a new aesthetics. By the early 1930s, photographers were also learning how to use their cameras to critically draw attention to the country’s social ills.

By the later years of that decade, however, the atmosphere had changed. With the Pacific War in full swing, censorship became stifling. Like many of his peers, Domon produced propaganda images for a while, but he became disillusioned, even critical of the government’s attitude toward art, and he struggled to find ways to do work that remained meaningful.

In 1939, he visited Nara’s Muroji Temple for the first time — he would return over and over again — and this became a turning point. In the words of Rossella Menegazzo, a professor at the University of Milan and the co-curator of the Rome exhibition as well as the co-editor of the catalogue, it marked the beginning of “the greatest effort of reportage of his life.” Domon then spent much of the following five years photographing Japan’s cultural and architectural heritage. His widely hailed series on bunraku (puppet theater), which by 1943 totaled 7,000 images, dates from that period.

The postwar years, particularly the 1950s, marked the climax of Domon’s influence as a photographer and public intellectual. He went freelance in 1945 and began collaborating with a broad range of publications. He also became a judge for amateur competitions, wrote essays and became one of the leading exponents of a social-realist approach to photography.

In an email interview, Menegazzo explained that what mattered most for Domon was “to show the pure reality” in front of his eyes.

“In a society profoundly scarred by war and defeat, Domon refused to make beautiful photos,” she added. “This is particularly evident in the Hiroshima series, which was shocking and therefore criticized by many, but it also significantly changed the consciousness of people in Japan after the war.”

In those days, there were few commercial galleries focusing on photography and so the main medium to spread knowledge of one’s work was through books. Some of Domon’s volumes sold as many as 100,000 copies.

The “devil of photo-reportage,” as he came to be known, had little interest for the world beyond Japan. Except for a brief sojourn in China during the war years, he never traveled overseas. This partly explains why international recognition was so long in coming. But another reason is the sheer diversity of his work. As Menegazzo puts it, “It is not simple to assess the legacy of an artist who produced so much and continuously changed the subject of his work.”

And so today, Domon is mostly remembered for his series, on Hiroshima, or on children, those of Koto Ward in Tokyo and of Chikuho in Kyushu, or for his portraits, smaller sub-sets of his oeuvre that are easier to digest.

Domon did not purposefully aim to create beautiful images, but through patient and painstaking efforts, he captured the beauty of everyday life and culture in Japan. This alone ensures he will retain his place as one of the most important Japanese photographers of the postwar era.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Japanese Photography" - Two Current Exhibitions in Tokyo -and- (Bonus!) Two Good Sources

Caption: 'Boy Wearing Armor' by Suzuki Shinichi (c. 1882-1897) | GOTO SHINPEI MEMORIAL HALL

Photo and text from The Japan Times, 3/28/17.

There are two photography exhibitions currently showing at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum that are thematically and chronologically unrelated, but together make a strong testimony of the extent to which Japan embraced photography from its earliest beginnings, and how the medium is a strong suit in Japan’s contribution to the contemporary art scene. One is a celebration of the extensive history of Japanese photography in the 19th century; the other a solo show featuring the extraordinary work of photographic artist Hiroshi Yamazaki.

“Dawn of Japanese Photography: The Anthology” is the latest volume in the museum’s long-term project to bring together images from archives around the country in an extensive display of samurai portraits, landscapes, carte de visite (the pictorial and more socially oriented version of the business card) and documentary photography of construction, war and natural disasters.

The majority of images were taken by Japanese photographers for Japanese viewers, but there are a significant number by foreign travelers, some whose visits were short, such as Commodore Perry’s daguerreotypist, Eliphalet Brown, and others who were resident in Japan for several years, most notably British subject Felice Beato and the Austrian Baron Raimund von Stillfried. There is also the rare sight of samurai in 19th-century France, which resulted from the renowned photographer Nadar taking the portraits of the Second Japanese Embassy to Europe, while they were in Paris in 1864.

Around the turn of the century, the foreign market for photography in Japan favored the alluring, exotic and fantastical. This was catered to by native and nonnative photographers alike, who helped cement the iconography of Japan as the land of cherry blossoms, Fujiyama, samurai and geisha. Photography for the domestic market was more austere, personal or practical, and the value of this exhibition is to focus on the wealth of material that has, for various reasons, been underrepresented in global histories of photography.

Expressing a quiet nobility, samurai portraits taken by Nagasaki-born photographer Hikoma Ueno, for example, have a very different feel to the hand-colored images known as “tourist photos” or Yokohama Shashin destined for export, which sometimes featured day laborers or studio assistants dressed up in samurai armor in a kind of early cosplay.

The print chosen as the main promotional image for the exhibition is one of the most well-known examples of early Japanese photography: the portrait of handsome reactionary Toshizo Hijikata (1835-69) by Tamoto Kenzo. The photograph has created a romantic legacy for the sub-commander of the rebel Shinsengumi, a group that supported the last shogun and opposed the restoration of the Emperor Meiji. Hijikata lives on as a popular manga and anime character in part due to this one photograph.

The choice of Tamato’s image is good marketing, and its connection between early photography to contemporary popular culture is entirely appropriate. With a few exceptions, the exhibits were originally never intended to be viewed as high art. The material qualities of the miniature silvery mirrors of daguerreotypes, framed in ornate gold frames or the handmade crimson lacquerware of a camera body (1863) are, nevertheless, a delight, and possibly a revelation for a generation used to digital photography viewed on screens.

The exhibition shows that in its nascent stages, photography was valued for its ability to approximate the view of the human eye and to preserve a sight over time. Spreading through Japan with the ideals of the enlightenment, photography was, as the Japanese word “shashin” (literally “truth copy”) suggests, the scientific method made visually manifest. By contrast, the concurrent exhibition “Yamazaki Hiroshi/Concepts and Incidents” shows what happens when photography is liberated from the task of being literal.

Hiroshi Yamazaki is best known for his 1970s work that used long exposures to show the path of the sun through the sky. Focusing on process, rather than subject matter, Yamazaki is expert at making the ordinary look strange, and continues to create work that is strikingly ingenious.

Early pieces show that Yamazaki could imbue even relatively straight photography with unusual intensity and a sense of the uncanny. A 1969 portrait of an unshaven, plaintive-looking Tatsumi Hijikata, the founder of butoh, kneeling in a hallway by sets of shoes, hints both at the creative energy and abjection of the choreographer and performance artist, with a composition of lines that is dynamic but also isolates Tatsumi from his quotidian surroundings.

The 1978 series “The Sun is Longing for the Sea” experiments with photographing the sun over time, resulting in images that feature a blazing white line reflected in blurred seascapes. Yamazaki called these experiments “optical incidents” — the action of working with photographic equipment and using their particular characteristics to go beyond human vision. More recent work looks at chromatic aberration — the optical defect that photographers generally try to avoid through buying expensive lenses, or using software correction — and photograms of hands creating ripples in water.

“Dawn of Japanese Photography: The Anthology” runs until May 7, ¥700; “Yamazaki Hiroshi/Concepts And Incidents” runs until May 10, ¥600, at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Thu. and Fri. until 8 p.m.). Closed Mon.

For more information:


We have been discussing "Japanese Photography" in class lately. These two sources have been helpful:

Photography and Japan by Karen M. Fraser (2011)

Blurb from The University of Chicago Press Books: In Photography and Japan, Karen Fraser argues that the diversity of styles, subjects, and functions of Japanese photography precludes easy categorization along nationalized lines. Instead, she shows that the development of photography within Japan is best understood by examining its close relationship with the country’s dramatic cultural, political, and social history.

“Uniqueness” in Japanese Art Photography: Toward Situating Images in Context by Pablo Figueroa (2015)

First paragraph from article available at Asia Pacific Perspectives: All nations assert cultural difference through contrast with other countries, and Japan is no exception. However, the country believes it is extraordinarily unique, and has built pervasive cultural myths that claim uniqueness to anything Japanese. Could “uniqueness” in Japanese art photography be one of those myths?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"Writing with Light Photo Essays - A Collaboration between Cultural Anthropology and Visual Anthropology Review"

Today in my Documenting Japan class the students are starting their Two-Frame Photo Story Presentations. The assignment was inspired by my participation in a visual literacy workshop run by John Condon and Miguel Gandert at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication Workshop in 2009 and the film Life Through a Lens about photographer Annie Liebovitz. The experimentation of experience with photography combining image and text remains important and relevant. See announcement below:

Writing with Light is an initiative to bolster the place of the photo-essay—and, by extension, formal experimentation—within international anthropological scholarship. As a collaboration between two journals published by the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Cultural Anthropology and Visual Anthropology Review, Writing with Light is led by a curatorial collective that aims to address urgent and important concerns about the sustained prominence of multimodal scholarship. Anthropological projects based in video, installation, performance, etc. take as a given that multimodality changes what anthropologists can and should see as productive knowledge. Such projects compel anthropologists to begin rethinking our intellectual endeavors through an engagement with various media, addressing the particular affordances and insights that each new form of scholarship offers. How, for example, does photography produce different types of knowledge than text and/or film? What criteria might we need to interrogate and evaluate each of these forms of multimodal scholarship? As part of a broader set of questions about the relationship between forms of scholarly work and knowledge production, we explore the ongoing relevance of the photo-essay.

The Writing with Light collective focuses on the photo-essay in the belief that multimodal (or visual) forms are not a singular paradigm and that a consideration of a singular research form might help us to rethink a broader array of anthropological questions. How does the photo-essay configure our engagement through its unique form of mediation and composition? We believe that the photo-essay provides a critical opportunity for reevaluating the word–image relationship. Conventionally known for its narrative qualities, the photo-essay is especially useful in reconsidering the relationship between words and images in photographic storytelling, as well as efforts to generate innovative anthropological knowledge with the capacity to go beyond storytelling. For example, we are especially interested in the photo-essay’s potential to generate insights focused on issues of mediation and representation, as well as methodological questions with the potential to shift how anthropologists conceive of the discipline itself.

This initiative is unique in that it draws on Cultural Anthropology’s wider view of emerging trends in anthropology, while foregrounding the particular concerns of Visual Anthropology Review as far as theorizing and critiquing practice-based modes of ethnographic scholarship. By relaunching the existing Cultural Anthropology Photo Essays section as a collaboration with Visual Anthropology Review, the initiative aims to open new spaces for interaction between sections of the AAA and corners of the discipline. By merging the literary and epistemological critiques of an earlier generation with the formal and aesthetic critiques driving visual anthropology today, we draw on the etymology of the word photograph for inspiration: thus, writing with light.

For more information:

I am cheating on my own two-frame story today by borrowing two photos from Japan Today both published today to examine and ponder current housing conditions in Japan.



I am not suggesting that these housing types are representative of Japan by any means. But it is mighty sad and one wonders about the priorities of the Japanese government as it increases its military budget and pledges aid for developing countries (aid = business opportunities). What about the people in Japan that need assistance? These are urgent and important concerns that need exploring...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"Gov't seeks installation of visible fire alarms for hearing impaired"

From Japan Today, 3/16/17.

The Japanese government has called on municipalities across the country to install visibly recognizable flashing fire alarms for deaf or hard-of-hearing people.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency has asked local authorities to install more flashing fire alarms in public spaces such as stations, airports and welfare facilities. The introduction of such devices is still limited in Japan.

Installation of fire detection devices including emergency bells is mandatory at such places as stations, airports, nursery homes for the elderly and care facilities for the disabled above a certain size.

But meeting the needs of those who cannot hear fire alarms has been a challenge, with visible fire alarms only introduced at a limited number of places including the international terminal of Tokyo’s Haneda airport and some welfare facilities.

The flashing alarms, fitted on walls or ceilings, show blinking signs when they detect outbreaks of fire.

In its first guideline compiled last autumn, the agency also called for introduction of the devices at commercial facilities visited by many people with hearing impairments.

It also recommends setting flashing alarms less than 10 meters above floor level and using white light so that those with color perception deficiencies can easily recognize alarm signs.

Chieko Yamashita, 69-year-old chair of an association of the deaf in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, expressed hope for further introduction of the devices.

Yamashita, who has participated in an emergency drill with a flashing alarm, said, “With strong flashing light, I immediately noticed that I needed to evacuate even though I was looking down.”


"Surveillance cameras to be installed in every subway car in Tokyo"

From Japan Today, 3/15/17.

Surveillance cameras will be installed in each of the roughly 3,800 subway cars in Tokyo, their operators said Tuesday, part of an effort to improve public safety ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Starting in 2018 or 2019, Tokyo Metro Co will begin installing a camera above every door of each subway car, while Toei Subway will install several cameras on the ceiling of every car over the period of just under 10 years from next August.

All video footage will be saved to hard disk drives and kept for around one week, and only a limited number of employees will have access to it, according to Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway, which is managed by the Tokyo metropolitan government’s Bureau of Transportation.

Tokyo Metro will start fitting cars on the Marunouchi and Hibiya lines with security cameras first.

Cars on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Hokuriku shinkansen bullet train lines have already been fitted with security cameras. Tokyu Corp, which operates railways in the Tokyo area, plans to follow suit by 2020.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Ethnography and Street Photography" (New article at Anthropology News) plus some bonuses...

Really interesting article incorporating text and photos by Brent Luvaas recently posted at Anthropology News. Short excerpt:

Street photography, notes Magnum photographer Alex Webb, is a practice of harnessing serendipity. Photographers never know what they are going to find when they go out on the streets. They have to stay open to what comes their way and be ready for it when it does. They have to let go of expectations, plan to have no plan. They are, writes Webb, “at the mercy of the world and the world only gives them so much” (Webb and Webb 2014, 56).

Ethnography is like that too. Anthropologists, once out in the field, have to let go of our pre-conceived notions of what our projects will look like or how they will unfold. We have to adapt to the circumstances as they present themselves, go with the flow. Sometimes, we have to disregard our research plans entirely. Designed in front of a computer with the input of advisors and colleagues, the best laid ethnographic plans often fail to conform to the realities of ethnographic research.

Check out the entire article and photos:

BONUS! Sources regarding experimentation of visual + text by G P Witteveen:

SEE2THINK - thinking with pictures:

ethnographic vignettes:

Lots of good visual anthropology to explore...

Monday, March 13, 2017

"Seeing Ainu as they want to be seen - Portrait project is the result of months spent living as part of village community"

Image (by Laura Liverani) and text (by Shannon Schubert) from The Japan Times, 3/12/17.

”Imagine this place,” says Italian photographer Laura Liverani, as she tries to conjure up a picture of Nibutani, the village where she spent two months living with and photographing the indigenous people of Hokkaido. “There’s about 400 people that live there, it’s not very well connected to other areas so it’s very rural. There’s a strong presence of the Ainu, not only because 70 percent is of Ainu descent, but because it is culturally very active.

“I would call Nibutani, if not second home, a very familiar place.” One, she says, that will stay with her “forever.”

The first fruit of Liverani’s time in Hokkaido is “Ainu Nenoan Ainu” (“Human-like Human” in the Ainu language), a photographic portraiture series now being exhibited at the Italian Cultural Institute in Tokyo.

Still in production is a documentary on the Ainu, a joint effort with collaborators Neo Sora and Valy Thorsteindottir, who also stayed in Nibutani. The trio call themselves Lunch Bee House, after an Ainu restaurant in the village. Liverani is tight-lipped about the content of the documentary, except to say that it focuses on two Ainu families, or “clans,” from Nibutani.

“The actual project started in 2012,” Liverani explains. “I was taking photos and talking to people informally and becoming engaged with the Ainu community. Then I thought I need a little bit more depth into the project, so I had the idea of making a documentary, but I had no experience in filmmaking.

“I’d like to call ourselves a punk band of filmmaking,” she says of Lunch Bee House, “because none of us have a clear position in filmmaking — we just wanted to get on stage and play.”

The rural remoteness of Nibutani first came as a shock. “There are no shops, no places to hang out, just one drive-in restaurant and that’s about it,” Liverani says. What it does have in abundance, however, is culture.

“There are Ainu museums and Ainu activists, and everyone is so engaged in promoting and reinventing and preserving Ainu culture and language,” she explains. “It was very passionate.”

Such efforts are important considering the community’s history. The Ainu are one of Japan’s most marginalized groups. They were only officially recognized as the indigenous people of northern Japan in 2008, following the passage of the Resolution on the Rights of Indigenous People at the United Nations. Oppression and discrimination have contributed to the erosion of the culture over the centuries of colonization leading up to Hokkaido’s full incorporation into the Meiji Japanese state in the 19th century.

The official figure for the number of Ainu in Japan now stands at 25,000, but unofficial estimates put it closer to 200,000, considering that the policy of forced assimilation into Japanese society means many people of Ainu descent may not even be aware of their heritage.

“The main theme in my series of photographs is actually the theme of identity, so how people represent themselves as Ainu,” says Liverani. “The theme of adoption through Ainu culture is very strong, a very strong point in my work.”

Collaboration was key to this project for Liverani, who insisted on including the subject of the photo in the decision-making process of orchestrating the portrait.

“My idea was to subvert the language of the anthropological portrait by engaging the people in the portrait,” she says. “So I would ask people how they would want to be photographed … so it wouldn’t be only my own projection onto the person, but it would be more a collaboration and the person photographed would have a say in how they would want to be represented. So the portrait became the only possible mode.”

But the project grew to encompass more of what constitutes Ainu culture.

“I started with portraits but obviously a portrait is just partial,” she says. “It became natural to expand the narrative with other photographs, but the portraits are still the core of the project.”

However, Lunch Bee House’s time in Nibutani wasn’t just about the film or Liverani’s photography. She says the three visitors made real, meaningful connections with the people and the community.

“We were sort of adopted by families,” Liverani says. “Of course, we were working on the documentary and on the photo series, so our position was clear, but at the same time we became friends. It was hanging out and also working — it was all entangled together. It was quite an intense and interesting experience.”

Laura Liverani’s documentary photography project “Ainu Nenoan Ainu” is showing at the Italian Cultural Institute in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, until Saturday, March 18. The artist will be at the exhibition on Thursday, March 16, 4-6 p.m. For information, please contact the Istituto Italiano di Cultura via or by phone on 03-3264-6011 (extensions 24, 10).