Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Update: Visual Documentary Project 2013: Plural Co-existence in Southeast Asia

Announcement from H-ASIA:

On 11 March 2014, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS),hosted the second visual documentary project forum. This project aims to offer a platform to young Southeast Asian documentary film makers who are producing films/documentaries in the region. This year's theme was plural co-existence in Southeast Asia and we received very strong submissions. Five were chosen to be shown in Kyoto, Japan and all directors traveled from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines to participate in the event. The documentaries are freely available to watch online and can be accessed below.

Link: http://sea-sh.cseas.kyoto-u.ac.jp/en/visual-documentary-project2013/

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Just say no... in Japan.

Image borrowed from Japan Today, 3/15/14. Caption reads: What do you think of this ad by the Osaka Pharmaceutical Associations warning people to be aware of the danger of marijuana. It features Monster Engine, a comedy duo from Osaka, and says Dame Zettai or Absolutely No.

The bottom text includes the kanji characters for cannabis (大麻 or taima) and marijuana written in katakana (マリファナ or marifana). The text on the right side of the image can be translated as "the wrath of the gods." Monster Engine seems to have skits where they portray the play of the gods. Here is a YouTube clip to get an idea of who these guys are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJODLiCIvS8

I'm not sure whoever made this poster was thinking. Japan and the Osaka Pharmaceutical Associations need to reassess their ideas about marijuana, especially when countries, states and communities have lax laws or even support medical and/or recreational uses of it. An acquaintance of mine recently went to consult his English speaking Japanese doctor about stress related illnesses both mental and physical. The doctor prescribed handfuls of pills without explaining possible side effects. My acquaintance did some simple research on the internet and found many negative side effects of the stress relieving prescriptions, including addiction, depression and sexual dysfunction that would not go away for two years after the use of the drugs. At their next meeting my acquaintance asked the doctor about medical marijuana in Japan. The doctor just laughed... "Oh! Not in Japan!"

I recently had a cold and went to the doctor and requested a prescription for a strong cough syrup. He seemed confused. Both my Japanese interpreter and I extensively explained what I wanted and he seemed to understand. When I took the prescription to the drug store I was handed four different sets of pills and no cough syrup. The doctor didn't seem to understand in the end, or perhaps he thought he knew best and simply prescribed drugs made by company members of the Osaka Pharmaceutical Associations.

It would be nice if individuals had the opportunity, choice and respect to collaborate in their own health... And not be subject to such blatantly biased (and misinformed) propaganda. (Sorry for the rant. Being sick sucks no matter where you are...)

Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/picture-of-the-day/view/crock-pot

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Teens sharing photos of themselves 'praying' for victims of Tohoku disaster cause stir"

Image and text borrowed from Japan Today, 3/14/14.

Last Tuesday marked the third anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku disaster, a day on which tens of thousands of people lost their lives and many more were displaced, never able to return to their homes. At 2:46 p.m., the exact moment the quake struck three years ago, people across the country stopped to take part in nationwide moment of silence.

Teens across the land also took a moment to pay their respects that day, although the actions of a few were perhaps a little misguided. Soon after the moment of silence, photos emerged online showing kids “praying” inside “purikura” sticker photo booths, which were quickly shared and “favorited”.

Internet commenters reacted angrily to the images, calling them disrespectful and deploring how the smartphone generation feels the need to broadcast almost everything they do.

Although some people, busy as they were, went about their day oblivious to the fact that the moment of silence was being held, the vast majority stopped what they were doing and took a few seconds to reflect. Even on the streets of Tokyo, hundreds of people came to a sudden halt as memorial services were broadcast on big screens.

Not long afterwards, a number of photos appeared online showing teens supposedly praying and showing their respects for the dead. Many included messages such as “in memory of those who lost their lives on March 11, 2011,” and seemed quite genuine. Others less so.

Naturally, the online community was both surprised and angered to see such photos, which were mostly taken in “purikura” photo booths, which require manual operation and for the participants to strike a suitable pose while the machine takes their photo. They’re also almost always located within noisy video arcades, begging the question of whether these kids were really taking their reflection seriously.

Despite being daubed with the kanji characters for silent prayer (黙祷), few netizens believed that these shared displays of respect for the dead were genuine, and found the very idea of taking photos of oneself during a time like this, not least then sharing them online, in very poor taste.

“What on earth are these people doing sharing photos on Twitter of themselves praying? What on earth is wrong with Japan?” wrote one of the many angry Twitter users in response to the photos, adding that surely the money spent on taking the photo would have been better given to a relief fund to help those affected by the disaster.

The majority of the comments made online, however, were far blunter:

“Man, this pisses me off.”
“These kids have zero morals.”
“Are they even praying properly?”
“Purikura is anything but silent prayer.”
“Silent prayer isn’t some event you know!”

In fairness, we’re sure that at least some of the kids who took photos like these genuinely meant well and that their hearts were in the right place. They’re young and, what with growing up in the age of smartphones and selfies, by sharing their photos in this way they may have felt that they were showing their respects appropriately. Rather, it is down to their teachers, parents and even older siblings to tell them that while social media can be a wonderful tool for spreading a message, there are times when we should put down our phones and appreciate the gravity of the situation, and certainly not just for show.

Stepping into a purikura booth to document your prayers for the dead is most definitely not a good idea. But then again, sharing photos of yourself supposedly passionately kissing your boy/girlfriend, or taking time out from “having an amazing time with the best friends ever” to Tweet or update your Facebook status with is perhaps just as idiotic, so maybe we’re not really setting the best example?

Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/teens-sharing-photos-of-themselves-praying-for-victims-of-tohoku-disaster-cause-stir

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Special Screening of "HAFU"

With an ever increasing movement of people between places in this transnational age, there is a mounting number of mixed-race people in Japan, some visible others not. “Hafu” is the unfolding journey of discovery into the intricacies of mixed-race Japanese and their multicultural experience in modern day Japan. The film follows the lives of five “hafus”–the Japanese term for people who are half-Japanese–as they explore what it means to be multiracial and multicultural in a nation that once proudly proclaimed itself as the mono-ethnic nation. For some of these hafus Japan is the only home they know, for some living in Japan is an entirely new experience, and others are caught somewhere between two different worlds (from the Hafu project website).

VAOJ presents a special screening of this film sponsored by the Kansai Gaidai University Center for International Education.
When:Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 6:45 PM
Where: KGU International Communications Center 4th floor Grand Hall
Admission: FREE

For more information about the film and project, and to see the film trailer, visit the project website: http://hafufilm.com/en/about/

Friday, March 7, 2014

Not Japan, but... "Massachusetts Court Rules Upskirt Photos Not a Crime"

We discuss the ethics of doing fieldwork and photographing in Japan quite often at VAOJ. Protecting the privacy of our informants/collaborators is of utmost concern. An extreme example of not respecting privacy that appears quite often in the Japanese media is up-skirt photo taking. It would seem to be common sense that up-skirt photos are a breach of privacy - isn't that why we call them private parts? Taking such photos is against the law in Japan. But apparently this is not the case in many parts of the United States... Read on. Story from NBC News.com, March 6, 2014:

Massachusetts lawmakers are pledging to pass a law against "upskirting" after the state's highest court ruled that a man who took cellphone photos up the skirts of female subway riders did not violate existing statutes.

Michael Robertson was arrested in an August 2010 sting operation, and a lower court upheld the charges against him.

But the Supreme Judicial Court ruled Wednesday that because the women were not nude or partially undressed — requirements under the state's Peeping Tom laws — Robertson was not committing a crime.

"A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is 'partially nude,' no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing," the court said in its ruling.

State law "does not apply to photographing (or videotaping or electronically surveilling) persons who are fully clothed and, in particular, does not reach the type of upskirting that the defendant is charged with attempting to accomplish on the MBTA," the court said.

Prosecutors had argued that the current law could be interpreted to make upskirt pictures illegal. Now that the court has weighed in, they want lawmakers to amend the statute.

Politicians in both houses of the legislature said that would happen.

"The ruling of the Supreme Judicial Court is contrary to the spirit of the current law," Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo said. "The House will begin work on updating our statutes to conform with today's technology immediately."

Senate President Therese Murray said she was "stunned and disappointed" with the ruling.

"We have fought too hard and too long for women's rights to take the step backward," Murray said in a statement. "I am in disbelief that the courts would come to this kind of decision and outraged at what it means for women's privacy and public safety."

In the meantime, transit police may not be able to make any arrests for upskirting.

Some other states, such as Nebraska, are also moving to rewrite statutes that now apply only if the person being photographed is undressed or on private property.

Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/crime-courts/massachusetts-court-rules-upskirt-photos-not-crime-n45441