Friday, December 24, 2021

Happy Holidays from VAoJ!

Looking forward to drinking the psychedelic bottle of California Zinfandel with our traditional Christmas Eve dinner tonight. It's been a while since I have had wine, as my research has taken me in a different direction...

As always, here is the VAoJ bonus holiday present:

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 13, 2021

Best Zoom Workshop Ever!

As a part of my ongoing tachinomiya project, I participated in a two-day Introductory Sake Professional workshop over the weekend. I have drunk a lot of sake over the last twenty years, but not in any educated way (probably quite the contrary...). But I learned so much from the experience. I hope to take further workshops and perhaps become a sake sommelier... In any event, I am gaining knowledge that should be useful for future tachinomiya/izakaya fieldwork.

The last part of the workshop was a sake tasting exercise. My new sake sensei sent all participants six small bottles of various kinds of sake and an ochoko. This is what it looked like when I opened the box.
And this is what it looked like after I removed the bubble wrap. I learned how to observe the color, aroma and taste of sake. And there was plenty left over to enjoy after the workshop. It was a great weekend of research.
The workshop was also a wonderful example of a globalization. The sensei is Italian and affiliated with a British sake institution and the students were from Britain, Australia and America. The only Japanese participant was my daughter/research assistant with her zoom bombs and extreme interest in smelling the different kinds of sake. Cheers! #jijisake

Saturday, November 27, 2021

「Food and Drink at a Japanese Standing Bar: An Appetizing Production – Extended Media Mix」@ AJJ (Anthropology of Japan in Japan) 2021 Annual Meeting, Dec. 4


In Japan, food is prominent in documentaries, cooking shows, travel shows, variety shows, dramas, manga, anime, books, magazines, blogs, Facebook and Instagram. This food, not eaten but consumed, provides gratification and knowledge. Many of these media descriptions are set in izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) and tachinomiya (Japanese standing bars) that serve B-kyu gurume (B-rank food)—comfort food and/or local food. These are fascinating shops and sites to explore the production (cooking) and consumption (eating) of food. Media portrayals are another form of production, that of information and recreation, that is “good to think” (Levi-Strauss 1962), “communicated” (Barthes 1966; Dusselier 2009) and “shared among people” (Cheung 2002).

This presentation is a multimodal visual ethnography of a 40-year-old tachinomiya in Osaka called Tenbun. Tenbun features many kinds of food and drink, a lively and relaxed atmosphere and plenty of colorful characters including the owner, employees and regular customers. Based upon long-term patronage, focused participant-observation and photography, a photo exhibition and other post-fieldwork encounters, my analysis positions the research within the intersection of food anthropology and the popular Japanese “foodie” media. Matthew Longcore discusses how Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsey and other Western food experts feature “ethnographic culinary adventures [that] bring food and film together for the enjoyment, entertainment, and enlightenment of foodies and anthropologists alike” (2019). Nancy Stalker provides an excellent and detailed history of popular Japanese media that influences and reflects the so-called modern “gurume boom” beginning in the 1980s and 90s (2016). I build upon this history through explorations of current documentaries, TV dramas and social media, gaining different perspectives to re-position my tachinomiya research in wider social and academic contexts.

Virtual talk on Zoom.
Saturday, December 4, 2021
Special presentation: 1:00 - 2:00 PM Japan time

AJJ takes place December 3-5. Participation is free, but you must register to get the Zoom link. Lots of good people and scholarship at the AJJ! Check it out!

For the link and full meeting program, go to

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

"Tokyo gyoza shop hopes their skateboard gyoza set will boost your luck at year-end jumbo lottery"

Image and text from Japan Today, 11/24/21.

From Nov 24 to Dec 24, the Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho branch 新宿思い出横丁店 of gyoza specialty restaurant chain Gyoza no Antei 餃子の安亭 will offer a new winter menu item which will surely surprise you and invite you to snap a picture for your social media account.

Called the 年末ジャンボスケボー餃子 nenmatsu janbo sukebo gyoza (Year-End Jumbo skateboard gyoza), the unconventional gyoza dish brings together two incongruous sources of inspiration, the first and most obvious one being skateboarding which made its Olympic debut this year in Tokyo, giving Japan five medals. The second one is Japan's Takarakuji Lottery and its Year-End Jumbo (年末ジャンボ nenmatsu janbo in Japanese), the first and second prizes of which total one billion yen.

The owner of the restaurant, who has been a lottery fan for 30 years, wanted to support customers who dream of becoming millionaires. The main star of the dish is a giant board-shaped version of Gyoza no Antei's gyoza dumplings, attached to a set of nori seaweed roll "wheels" made from the chain's popular Golden Fried Rice. The wheels are connected by an axle made of a Matcha-flavored Pocky cookie stick.

Taking a hint from the Japanese skater term ゴン攻め gon-zeme (bravely taking on hard obstacles) which went viral this summer after former skateboarding champion Ryo Sejiri used it when he was guest commentator on public broadcaster NHK's coverage of the events, the dish has "G" for gyoza, "O" for 大きい oki (big), and "N" for nenmatsu janbo, making it a GON-zeme culinary creation.

The dish is 8 cm long, 17 cm wide, and 3.5 cm high (including the wheels), which is apparently a reference to the Jumbo Lottery. The gyoza "deck" of the board weighs about 120 grams fully cooked), which is equivalent to about five regular gyoza dumplings (22 to 24 grams each), making it quite a mouthful.

Read more, including shop info...


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Announcement: A Virtual Talk at the American Anthropological Association 2021 Annual Meeting - 「Visual Ethnography of Drinking Establishments in Japan」

It's time for the AAA! If you are registered, you can see my presentation (on-demand) and so much more...


This research project is a visual ethnography based upon over two years of fieldwork at a local drinking establishment in Japan examining photography in public, privacy issues and image rights. The intended final product was a photo exhibition with prints illustrating the atmosphere of the shop along with portraits of the owner, employees and regular customers. But rather than a final product I found the exhibition and interactions with the gallery audience to be a source of important data about the photographs, the subjects and spectators. Viewers were doing more than merely looking at my photographs, they were analyzing, scrutinizing, reacting and providing various interpretations and valuable feedback, shedding light in terms of heuristic processes, meaning-creation, evocation and multivocality. 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.

I should say, I went old school with a talking head presentation. It might seem odd that a talk about a visual ethnography has no photos. But to be honest, the accessibility requirements made it virtually impossible to do a visual presentation like I would usually do. I am not criticizing accessibility in general, but the AAA, in my opinion, has become too politically correct and turned barrier free into accessibility for some at the expense of others. Barrier free should be barrier free for all... Still, a lot of good stuff at the AAA. Check it out.

2021 AAA Annual Meeting Website

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Acquisition of Sign Languages" in Annual Review of Linguistics, Volume 7, 2021

Abstract (in case it is too small to read in the image above): Natural sign languages of deaf communities are acquired on the same time scale as that of spoken languages if children have access to fluent signers providing input from birth. Infants are sensitive to linguistic information provided visually, and early milestones show many parallels. The modality may affect various areas of language acquisition; such effects include the form of signs (sign phonology), the potential advantage presented by visual iconicity, and the use of spatial locations to represent referents, locations, and movement events. Unfortunately, the vast majority of deaf children do not receive accessible linguistic input in infancy, and these children experience language deprivation. Negative effects on language are observed when first-language acquisition is delayed. For those who eventually begin to learn a sign language, earlier input is associated with better language and academic outcomes. Further research is especially needed with a broader diversity of participants.

While I am glad to see this article, it is sad that these facts aren't common knowledge among linguists, anthropologists and the general public.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Alternative Media for Visual Anthropology - check out the Graphic Ethnography in Anthropology News (especially Signs in ‘Toons)

Image borrowed from Erich Fox Tree's "Signs in ‘Toons." URL and citation below.
Signs in 'Toons

For one anthropologist comic-style graphics provide a means to document, study, and strengthen Indigenous Mesoamerican sign languages. Linguistic ethnography within (non-tactile) sign language communities is almost inherently visual. Without images, how would one capture and convey how signers communicate?

Photography and video are not always acceptable for disseminating visual data and findings, let alone conducting fieldwork itself. Photos add expense to printing, and photocopied photos become undecipherable blurs. More problematically, cameras may be forbidden in ritual contexts, or participants and researchers may negatively associate them with witchcraft, exploitation, distraction, wealth, or past trauma. In rural Guatemala, where I work, many find electricity, phones, and Internet access costly and unreliable.

My solution for preserving data is to draw cartoon-style caricatures. For research on Mesoamerican sign languages, cartoon graphics are not just a means of documenting signed linguistic discourses; they can reiterate and embody some of the ancient techniques that Indigenous artisans used to represent ancestral signs or gestures.

Read the entire article:

Fox Tree, Erich. 2021. “Signs in ‘Toons.” Anthropology News website, October 15, 2021.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Poster in front of a local izakaya (that has been closed for a few months): "Don't turn off the lights in the izakaya #Corona Self-restraint [i.e. following the rules during quasi-states of emergency, states of emergency and post-states] is compensated [by the government if the shop applies/complies] - Save tavern culture" - brought to you by the Japanese Communist Party

Click here for a pdf of the poster:

This is a part of "Overcoming the Corona Crisis, Peace of Mind and Hope for Living-The Japanese Communist Party's New Economic Proposal."
URL (in Japanese):

If you search for the hashtag (#コロナ自粛には補償を), it will take you to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare's "New Coronavirus Infectious Disease Response Leave Support and Benefits"
URL: (in Japanese):

Save the izakaya! Save the tachinomiya!