Monday, October 3, 2022

Announcement and Preview: “What the Future of Anthropological Research Should Look/Sound/Feel Like: A Visual Ethnography of a Standing Drink Bar in Japan”

SouthWest Conference on Asian Studies
University of Central Arkansas, USA
Session 7.1 (Virtual)
October 8, 2022
9:30-10:45 AM (Central Daylight Time)
11:30 PM-12:45 AM (Japan Standard Time)

Abstract: Boyer et al. (2016) ask “What should the anthropological research article of the future look and sound and feel like (emphasis mine)?” This research project is a visual ethnography of a forty-year-old tachinomiya (standing drink bar) in Osaka called Tenbun. Tenbun features many kinds of food and drink, a lively and relaxed atmosphere and plenty of colorful characters. The study is based upon long-term patronage, focused participant-observation and photography, a photo exhibition and other post-fieldwork encounters. My current analysis re-positions the research in wider social and academic contexts including multimodality, sensory ethnography, food anthropology and media studies. My work is informed by, first, Collins et al. who reflect on the “changes in the media ecologies” (2017), and, second, Pink’s multisensoriality (2009). I explore how to use new technologies, engagements and collaborations in methodology and dissemination of findings to create a new sensory narrative about the standing drink bar, Tenbun.

For more information and full conference schedule:

Monday, September 19, 2022

New Gyoza Vending Machine In My Neighborhood!

This bright red machine suddenly appeared in my neighborhood, so I had to try it! I was hoping the gyoza would come out cooked, but alas it was frozen...
Official Gyoza Ichiryudo website (in Japanese):

Link to more gyoza vending machines, click here.

Bonus! Meat vending machines! (photos courtesy of M.H. on his walk to the train station from work)

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Announcement: "Electric Yen Zone - Kyoto: Can Tamura Solo Exhibition"


An exhibition of works by Can Tamura (John Wells)


September 23, 2022 (Thursday, National Holiday) ~ September 25, 2022 (Sunday), 11am to 5pm

Studio-P / ギャラリー幸楓
〒605-0005 京都市東山区三町目35-3

Studio-P / Gallery Kohfu
35-3 Sanchome, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto 605-0005, Japan

Google Maps Link:

Can Tamura カン・タムラ

Friday, August 19, 2022

"Japanese government worried young adults aren’t drinking enough alcohol"

Photo and text from Japan Today, 8/19/22.

The National Tax Agency (NTA) has a problem with the youth of today: They simply aren’t drinking enough alcohol anymore. According to an independent study, roughly half of young adults in Japan do not — I repeat NOT — even have a daily drinking habit.

Some people might consider this a good thing in that it results in healthier and more productive people less likely to yell at me on a train station platform for no reason. But these are all matters handled by other government agencies. The NTA is all about getting those taxes, of which alcoholic product sales are a rich source.

However, “Drink more, so we can get your money!” is not a great promotional slogan, so the NTA has opened up marketing ideas to the general public in their Sake Viva! contest. Until 9 September anyone between the ages of 20 and 39 can participate alone or in groups of two or three to come up with new sales strategies that would appeal to young adults. Anything is open for consideration, but the NTA mentioned that they’re expecting an emphasis on home drinking and utilizing the metaverse for sales among the ideas.


And do check out the reader comments. Some of them are mucy more enlightening that the news story...

Thursday, August 11, 2022

New Resource: Behind the Camera

Introduction (from the source):

Behind the Camera is an open-source website that creates new critical directions on the history of photography, feminist art history, and the history of modern Japan. It is a pedagogical tool for the growing global investment in diverse and expanded histories of photography and gender studies.

Part database, part teaching module, the website’s primary resource is a series of short lecture videos created by experts in the field, each re-examining an aspect of the history of photography from a feminist lens. The videos are a part of exploration modules that include translated primary source materials, annotated bibliographies, and high-resolution images that make research opportunities available to a wider audience. These resources are linked to an interactive timeline that charts the activities and accomplishments of women photographers alongside major events in Japanese and photo history. The result of five years of collaborative information gathering from libraries around the world, these resources bring together disparate information on women and photography in Japan, so that scholars and students can use it to draw connections and produce new scholarship on this important, understudied subject.

Cushman, Carrie and Kelly McCormick, eds. Behind the Camera 1.0: Gender, Power, and Politics in the History of Japanese Photography. 2022. Accessed August 11, 2022.


See also (less academic): Rare Historical Photos - Photographs that document the Japan’s transformation in the 1950s


Monday, August 1, 2022

"第14回国際手話言語学会 - Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research 14: 2022, Osaka, Japan" - September 26- October 1, 2022 - National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku)

TISLR14 will be held at the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku). TISLR will be held for the 14th time, but this is the first time it will be held in Asia. For this reason, we have also incorporated a project (panel discussion) that will serve as an opportunity to build a network for sign language linguistics research in Asia. This conference will be held online and onsite in parallel, with consideration given to preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. We look forward to your active participation and submission of research presentations. 

Date: September 26 (Mon), 2022 - October 1 (Sat), 2022

Venue: Hall at the National Museum of Ethnology
Online and onsite sessions will be held in parallel
National Museum of Ethnology
10-1 Senri Expo Park, Suita, Osaka
565-8511, Japan

Main organizer: National Museum of Ethnology

September 25 (Sun) – 26 (Mon) : Pre-event (Japanese sign language class, Asian sign language workshop, welcome drink [tentative], meeting with interpreters [Presenters are required to attend])
September 27 (Tue) - September 30 (Friday): Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research (TISLR14)

Official languages: Japanese Sign Language, American Sign Language, International Sign Language, English

Sunday, July 31, 2022

"Homō loquēns ‘talking human’ Wonders of Language and Languages" - Special Exhibition at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka / 1 Sep 2022 – 23 Nov 2022

Dealing with “language”, which is too familiar for most people to think about, over 50 researchers inside and outside Japan, specializing not only in linguistics but also in anthropology, engineering, education, brain science and cognitive psychology, collaborate and show the wonders of language. As part of the exhibition, an installation that is inspired by language will be displayed. It was created by video artist YAMASHIRO Daisuke.

Thursday, September 1st 2022 – Wednesday, November 23, 2022
The Special Exhibition Hall, National Museum of Ethnology
Language: Japanese, Japanese Sign Language, English
Tickets: ¥880 (Adults), ¥450 (College and University Students), Free (High School Students and Younger)

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Last day of the semester - PERVERT THE NORM

Photo used with permission (and many thanks) under the condition of anonymity.

Just another Japanese t-shirt with weird/bad English, I thought. But it turns out this is a popular brand with young people like my students. And there's a lot of Twitter talk about the meaning of the phrase like: question authority, fight the power, etc. So maybe this is kinda deep...

And a Google search of the phrase found an interesting art project:

The project “Perverted Norm, Normal Pervert” attempts to draw inspiration from scientific research and explores the normality and abnormality of human and snail sexual activity. In this project, artist Kuang-Yi Ku collaborates with Dr. Joris M. Koene, assistant professor of animal ecology at the VU Amsterdam. Through the scientist’s research on the hermaphroditism of snails, the artist builds a series of art installation, transforming various sexual activities of human and snail into corresponding visual narratives. Through the juxtaposition of the two living creatures, the installations allow the viewers to reflect on the significance of “normality” and “abnormality.”


See also:

So you never know where a Japanese t-shirt will take you...

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

VAoJ is the 30th Best Anthropology Blog!

I haven't paid attention to things like this for a while. But today I was searching for other anthro-related blogs and I found this list. I guess we can say... we've still got it!


Sunday, June 26, 2022

A sad farewell to an old friend and a warm welcome to a new one...

My Nikon D-700 (purchased in 2010) is officially retiring. We shared so many adventures together. The small pins in the memory card slot got bent in March, 2020, just moments before we were to go out and shoot during the final week of Tenbun. I was finally able to purchase a replacement, the Nikon D-850, this month. I hope it serves me just as well. As the D-700 was purchased with research funds from the university and is officially their property (as is the D-850), I must return it to the university after purchasing a replacement. Since it can't be used again, I wish I could keep it on my shelf so it can look down on me and grant its photo-blessings... D-700, ごくらさまでした! D-850, どうぞよろしくお願いします!
The family is sorry to see you leave...

Friday, June 17, 2022

"Tokyo station trials sound visualization for deaf and hard of hearing"

Photo from Japan Today, June 16, 2022.

Text from The Japan Times, June 16, 2022.

A train station in Tokyo on Wednesday started reproducing platform announcements and the sounds of train arrivals and departures onto a screen in the form of text and sign language to help deaf and hard-of-hearing travelers.

In the trial project that began at Ueno Station and will run through Dec. 14, East Japan Railway aims to provide such travelers with a safer and more convenient travel experience.

In the service developed in conjunction with Fujitsu, station announcements and train sounds collected by microphones are converted into text and onomatopoeic descriptions in real-time using artificial intelligence.

They are then displayed on a screen positioned above a vending machine, with the roar of trains represented by cartoonish fonts and with different sizes to add to the detail provided, with the text changing to represent volume levels, for example. The screen will also show station staff signing commonly used announcements.

On Wednesday morning, the whooshing sound of an approaching Yamanote Line train was expressed with Japanese onomatopoeia. A sign language video was shown to inform passengers that the doors were closing ahead of the train’s departure.

Called Ekimatopeia, a portmanteau of the Japanese word for “station” and the English word “onomatopoeia,” the service is based on ideas that came out of a workshop conducted at a school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students last summer in Kawasaki.

“We thought it would be helpful if we could understand what was going on around us through written words. It feels amazing that our idea became a reality. I want it to be displayed in more stations,” said Sora Konno, 18, a student at the school.


Short video of the Ekimatopeia:

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

VAoJ is going to Lithuania (at least virtually) with「Tenbun: The Intersections of Performance, Place and Ethnographer in a Japanese Standing Bar」


Gerald Berreman describes a dilemma within ethnography: “how to be scientific and at the same time retain the humanistic insights—the human relevance—without which no account of human beings makes sense” (1966: 346). He suggests that, rather than choosing one or the other, ethnographers should develop a methodology that is both insightful and scientific. How to accomplish this in practice is still a question for ethnographers today.

This presentation is a visual ethnography of a tachinomiya (standing drink bar) in Osaka, Japan, called Tenbun. The bar features many kinds of food and drink in a “grimy” (Farrer 2019) and lively atmosphere, populated with an array of colorful characters. Following the recent work of Kajimaru et al. on the concept of ba (place, space), this research describes Tenbun as more than a location. Rather, it is “a co-emergence of performance, place and peoples” (2021: x). The ethnographer plays a dual role as an immersed participant at Tenbun and later as a distanced cultural analyst. My attempt to describe Tenbun in both insightful and scientific ways uses multimodality (Collins et al. 2017), sensory ethnography (Pink 2009) and photography.

Conference Information:

Old Discipline, New Trajectories: Theories, Methods and Practices in Anthropology
Hosted by Faculty of Philosophy at Vilnius University
Vilnius, Lithuania June 16-18, 2022

JUNE 16, 2022 (Thursday), 13:00-15:00 local time.
Japan time: JUNE 16, 2022 (Thursday), 19:00.

Special Bonus Photo:

Saturday, June 4, 2022

“A new wave of hard-boiled eggs has arrived.”

Text and image from Japan Today, June 4, 2022.

Imitation octopus balls are Japan’s newest pseudo-gourmet recipe for boiled eggs

Takoyaki are one of Japan’s best snack foods. The savory spherical seafood dumplings are inexpensive, tasty, and filling, which is pretty much the holy triumvirate of good munchie criteria.

There is, however, one potential drawback to takoyaki. The tako part means “octopus,” and while the oceanic octopod is commonly eaten in Japan, it might not be something you’re accustomed to, or even able to easily find at the supermarket, depending on what part of the world you’re living in.

But we recently came across a way to get most of the takoyaki flavor without any tako, thanks to a recipe for takoyaki-style eggs.

The recipe comes from the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives Group’s National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations, which, thankfully, abbreviates down to Zen-Noh due to how those terms are rendered in Japanese. The recipe is incredibly simple, and has only a handful of necessary ingredients:

Eggs, Takoyaki sauce, Mayonnaise, Aonori (powdered seaweed), Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

And as short as the ingredient list is, the number of cooking steps is even smaller.

Step 1: Boil the eggs.

Step 2: Pour on the takoyaki sauce and mayo.

Step 3: Sprinkle on the aonori and katsuobushi.

That’s all there is to it. Zen-Noh recommends whipping up some takoyaki-style eggs when you’re feeling like you could use just one more side dish for a fully satisfying dinner, and if you happen to be in the habit of keeping a batch of hard-boiled eggs in your fridge, the rest of the prep work only takes a few seconds.

Taste-testing duties/privileges fell to our Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko, and he says if you’ve ever eaten takoyaki, the takoyaki-style eggs will taste exactly like you’d imagine they would: a mix of sweet and savory flavors, with a dash of tartness from the mayo and a bit of mature bitterness from the aonori.

Zen-Noh’s tweet about the takoyaki-style eggs, in which they declare “A new wave of hard-boiled eggs has arrived.”