Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween! Why Does Kit Kat have Japanese Sign Language on its wrappers?

One of my students showed me a photo of a special Halloween Japanese Kit Kat candy bar with spooky characters doing Japanese Sign Language (JSL) on the wrapper. What? Why? What's going on? So I had to investigate (and buy some of those Kit Kats...)

Kit Kat is popular in Japan because of its many (glocalized) flavors: Green Tea Flavor, Strawberry Cheesecake, Apple Vinegar, Sweet Potato, Wasabi, Sakura, Choco Banana to name a few. For more of this see the recent "In Japan, the Kit Kat Isn’t Just a Chocolate. It’s an Obsession" in The New York Times Magazine, Oct. 24, 2018.

Well, I haven't found very much in my investigation but others have noticed the sign language as well:

My KitKat has Japanese Sign Language on it.

KitKat みんなでハロウィンブレイク!


What's the connection between Kit Kat and sign language? Does anybody know?

The mystery continues with this video (not JSL... Is it a real sign language? If so, what?)

If you know anything, please share! And Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 12, 2018

"A photographer took pictures of people at 7am and then again 7pm"

Text and images from (2016). Photos by Barbara Iweins.

Five years ago, Amsterdam-based street fashion photographer Barbara Iweins decided that she wanted to get to know the fascinating strangers she captured on camera.

So she did.

'Au Coin de ma Rue', or 'At the Corner of my Street', is a multi-year project exploring how Iweins' relationship with her subjects has changed as she got to know them better. Iweins told indy100:

"At first it was a selfish sociological experiment. I thought that meeting them a few times in my life would not change my perspective towards them. But very quickly, a feeling of trust and complicity started to grow. I realised that’s what happens when people are no longer anonymous people any more. We start caring for them."

The yearly portraits - with possessions, friends, and hugging Iweins herself - are intimate and lively.

Perhaps the most striking is year four, where Iweins photographed her subjects at 7am, when they'd just woken up, and 7pm.

Either they spent the night at Iweins', or she went around to wake them up:

"Entering their place as a burglar to wake them up was... quite an experience."

"The funny small thing I realised is that I thought I would have 20 minutes to shoot the expression of a person waking up but actually no, the uninhibited glaze in the eyes of a person disappears in five minutes... Behind my camera I could really see in a matter of seconds that the person was taking his face, his body back in control. The vulnerable human being was gone."

Check out all of the photos:


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

Friday, October 5, 2018

UBC Meiji at 150 Digital Teaching Resource

Announcement from H-Japan:

The Centre for Japanese Research and UBC Library at the University of British Columbia are proud to announce the launch of the Meiji at 150 Digital Teaching Resource (DTR). Curated and edited by Tristan Grunow and Naoko Kato, the Meiji at 150 DTR presents open-source scholarly content that will be useful for educators and academics looking for new images and topics to introduce into their classroom teaching, while highlighting the academic research made possible using UBC Library’s digital archives. Along with collating numerous Digital Resources documenting the early modern and modern eras, the Meiji at 150 DTR features over a dozen Visual Essays by prominent scholars of Japanese history, literature, and culture, pairing digital images and analysis to re-visualize cartography, political turmoil, and natural disasters in the late-Tokugawa period; urban change and architecture in Meiji Tokyo; poetry, fashion, and photography; and the history of Japanese overseas migration and the prewar Japanese-Canadian community in Vancouver. These essays are also available in open-source e-textbook form as Digital Meijis: Revisualizing Modern Japanese History at 150 through the BCcampus platform. The Meiji at 150 Digital Teaching Resource is one aspect of the UBC Meiji at 150 Project, comprised of a lecture series, workshop series, and ongoing podcast series. See our website for more details, to access video and audio recordings of past events, or to listen to podcast interviews with leading scholars of Japanese history, literature, art, and culture.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Relaxing at the refurbished Hirakata-shi eki...

MUJI 無印良品 has recently moved into the Keihan Hirakata-shi train station with its bland and beige products. They display some of their furniture outside of their store and whether it was intended or not many people seem to use the chairs to sit and relax. Not sure what was going on with the empty chair and shoes though...

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Deaf Documentary on NHK: "A World of Boisterous Silence"

Screen grab and text from NHK World - Japan.

A World of Boisterous Silence

Broadcast on September 29, 2018

Children who cannot hear learn through sign language at Meisei Gakuen, a school in Tokyo. Their small hands weave together many words. With no narration, the program explores the children's silent, vibrant world and the lives of alumni. The children's eyes sparkle as they recite, in sign language, the poem "The Song of Spring" from their textbook. They do not use their voices. But as we watch the silent recitation, the fresh early spring breeze caresses our cheeks, and tiny veronica flowers bloom in profusion before our eyes. For many decades, Japan's schools for the deaf gave priority to adapting to a society where hearing people are the majority. But at Meisei Gakuen, students are encouraged to embrace their deafness. We turn our eyes to that "boisterous world of silence" and perspectives on Japanese society, as seen by alumni of the school.

Available until October 13, 2018


Of the 90 or so deaf schools in Japan, Meisei Gakuen is the only one that uses Japanese Sign Language (JSL) as its language of instruction. The school has a bicultural (Deaf/Japanese) and bilingual approach (JSL and Japanese) to education. Teachers are both Deaf and hearing. I have visited the school once and found the environment to be very different from other deaf schools that employ oral methods. Please check out this film while it is still available on-line.

Thanks to my former student Bryce for the heads up on this!