Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Climate change - or is it just the weather - influencing neighborhood summer activities; Radio Taiso cancelled due to the heat; a subdued Jizo-bon due to the typhoon

It's been mighty warm this summer in my neighborhood and other parts of Japan and the world. Usually at the end of August neighbors gather in the morning at the local Shinto shrine to do a program of simple exercises and of course socialize. This is usually done over a two week period. Participants get a stamp card and receive a stamp on the days they participate. Young children get treats as well. But this year we received no information about the program and it was by chance that I bumped into the head of the neighborhood association and inquired. "It's just too hot and everyone is worn out..." he explained with a slight expression of shame and embarrassment. Too bad. Let's hope we can do it next year. For more about Radio Taiso, see the following VAOJ post:

"Summer Vacation Rajio Taisō (Radio Calisthenics) in My Neighborhood" (9/1/15):

But the good news was that I was able to witness and photograph the Jizo-bon that happens every August at a local cemetery (for various reasons I have been unable to shoot over the years). In the afternoon of 23 August neighbors began setting up for the festival but this was also the time that a typhoon was moving in. So not much happened that evening as the rain and wind were quite strong. Luckily things calmed down on the 24th and lanterns were able to be hung and people could gather. What is Jizo-obon?

Toward the end of summer, when children's summer vacation is coming to an end, Jizo-bon takes place... On street comers or in back alleys, in front of the small shrines in which a Jizo statue is placed... Red and white lanterns tell where a Jizo-bon... is taking place in a neighborhood.

Jizo-bon is a festival performed for the Jizo deity, A Buddhist bodhisattva... Japan Buddhism is often associated with funerals and memorials for the dead... But Jizo is an exception: he is considered the guardian deity of children... his mission to walk throughout the world and save anyone in need... On August 24 a special celebration, Jizo-bon, takes place for Jizo...

Excerpts from Jizo-Bon in Kyoto Today: A Celebration of Children and Community by Miyuki Hirayama (Children's Folklore Review, Vol. 29, 2006-2007)

Read the whole article in pdf format:

This is another Japanese festival event that seems to differ locally. Hirayama describes the festival as an exciting event for children in a place as close to us as Kyoto. For our local cemetery there are no games or food booths; the event seems to be a chance to clean and decorate the grave sites and receive offerings (money, flowers, beer) for the local Jizo. So here are my shots of a subdued celebration this year...

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sunday, August 12, 2018

"A Front-Page Insult to People With Disabilities"

A New York Times opinion piece (7/26/18) - thanks to JH for the heads-up on this one.

[T]he cover of The New York Post on Thursday — the 28th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act — was more shocking than usual. It promoted a damaging misperception about people with disabilities, on a day better suited to celebrating their progress in one of the most neglected areas of American civil rights.

The print edition’s headline, “WALK OF SHAME,” followed by the clarifying “‘Handicapped’ man suing NYC businesses spotted not using wheelchair,” told the story. A photo of a surprised-looking man — Arik Matatov of Queens, N.Y., standing in the doorway of his home — covered the page.

Mr. Matatov, The Post reported, had been threatening New York City businesses with lawsuits for not complying with A.D.A. accessibility requirements, demanding through a lawyer that they pay him $50,000 and pledge to build an access ramp, or else face a multimillion-dollar suit under the law. He reportedly visited these businesses in a wheelchair, claiming he was personally prevented from accessing them.

The new photos of Mr. Matatov standing were evidence, readers were to believe, that he wasn’t really disabled.

Whether Mr. Matatov is engaged in fraud would seem to be the story here — and sure, it’s possible that he is. But the bigger message being sent by the paper’s reporters and editors, intentionally or not, was troubling: If a person using a wheelchair can stand or walk, that person is not “really” disabled, and does not deserve protection under the A.D.A. Such a person must be a fraud.

That is an ill-informed and damaging misunderstanding of disability. An estimated four million people in the United States use wheelchairs, but many of them are able to walk or stand some of the time. Many have injuries or genetic conditions that are disabling, but that allow partial mobility — standing or walking or otherwise moving physically sometimes. Their wheelchairs are necessary to their lives and livelihoods, and they are without question legally disabled.

Please do read the whole text.


Thursday, August 2, 2018

"A Japanese Photographer’s View of Life in His Family’s One-Room Home"

Image and text borrowed from The New Yorker, 6/9/18.

Thanks to GW via EASIANTH for the heads-up on this great piece.

The Yamamoto family values were forged in small spaces,” the Japanese photographer Masaki Yamamoto told me recently. For eighteen years, his family of seven coexisted in a one-room apartment in Kobe. His father drove trucks, and his mother worked as a cashier in a supermarket. They and their five children all slept in the same space, a room the size of six tatami mats, limbs overlapping amid a pile of ever-multiplying junk. When you looked up, you couldn’t avoid meeting the eyes of someone else, Yamamoto, the second-oldest of his siblings, said, adding, “The one place you could be alone was the bathtub.” “Guts,” his new photography book, is a celebration of his family’s everyday existence in these close quarters.

In the West, Japan is often characterized as an island of loneliness—of family-renting industries, of sexless youth, of the unwanted elderly shoplifting out of a longing for the social comforts of prison. At first glance, Yamamoto’s photographs might seem to provide further evidence of a claustrophobic solitude. In one image, his sister sits in the bathtub, her thin knees folded close to her chest, a Rodin immersed in a tiny tub filled with milky water. It is a sombre scene, until we read the caption and find that she had jokingly drawn her knees up so that she would look like she had huge breasts.

Read more and see more of Yamamoto's photos.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"Okayama photo studio offers to clean rain-damaged photos"

Photo and story from The Japan Times, 8/1/18.

A photo studio in Okayama Prefecture has offered to restore — free of charge — photos damaged by the heavy rains that ravaged western Japan last month, prompting people in the disaster-hit areas to send in tens of thousands of photos.

Staffers and volunteers at the Yagyu Photo Studio in the city of Kasaoka are hand cleaning and drying the photos that include snaps of school field trips, wedding ceremonies and images of moments dear to many of those affected by the storms.

Mud-stained photos are prone to rot and it’s not possible to use regular chemicals, which could possibly damage them, so those working on the restoration must clean the images by hand.

The photo-cleaning service has garnered such attention — prompting the massive influx of damaged photos — that other studios in Aomori and Yamaguchi prefectures have offered to assist with the cleaning.

“Photos are precious possessions. I hope this endeavor can contribute to the region’s reinvigoration after the disaster,” said Kuninobu Yagyu, CEO of Yagyu Photo Studio.

Kayano Photo Studio in Soja, Okayama Prefecture, is also offering a service to reprint photos for customers who have used the studio since 2008, but only if the studio still has the image data. The studio said it will take several months for reprints to be delivered after an order is made.

Riichi Konishi, 64, a Soja resident who lost his wife four years ago, visited Kayano Photo Studio. Rains from the storms damaged his wife’s face in a family photo, which he was hoping to get restored.

“We will never be able to take photos together again. Although it is heartbreaking that she is no longer here, I feel grateful for the cleaning of this photo,” Konishi said.