Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Some recent interesting and brief videos to introduce Japan

One of the challenges of teaching courses about contemporary Japanese culture at my university is that my students come from a variety of countries, backgrounds, majors and areas of knowledge. I cannot assume all of my international (and local) students are anthropology majors and/or have knowledge about the social sciences, cultural studies and/or Japanese studies. To bring my students up to speed at the beginning of the semester I usually recommend that they read An Introduction to Japanese Society by Japanese sociologist Yoshio Sugimoto. Now in its 4th edition (2014, Cambridge University Press) I find the chapters on "The Japan Phenomenon and the Social Sciences" and "Geographical and Generational Variations" to be especially useful as an introduction to Japan. But these days I have to wonder if my students actually do such recommended readings... Perhaps another way to introduce Japan might be through the use of popular YouTube videos. With this thought in mind I offer the following as a starting point for the exploration of Japan and its cultures. They are not perfect as there are a few small errors here and there, some bias problems and they might appear too pop in style for academics, which is why I still strongly recommend Sugimoto...

Geography Now! Japan

History of Japan (Bill Wurtz)

[360°VR] JAPAN - Where tradition meets the future (VisitJapan)

Why Japan Has No Mass Shootings (act.tv)

Initial information and motivation from Japan Today, 2/17/18: https://japantoday.com/category/features/lifestyle/informative-video-condenses-everything-about-japan-into-16-minutes-of-pure-gold

Monday, February 19, 2018

"Mie man arrested for collecting photos he took of female coworker while at work"

To illustrate the complexities and anxieties of public/nuisance photography, especially when unrequited love is thrown into the mix...

From Japan Today, 2/18/18:

Police in Kameyama City, Mie Prefecture, have arrested a 25-year-old man on charges of violating the Anti-Stalking Control Law. He is said to have taken numerous pictures of a female coworker without her knowing using his smartphone camera.

The incident was uncovered in October of last year when a man doing some weeding in an area of thick grass stumbled across a plastic box containing several items including a USB memory stick. On the stick were over 100 images of a 24-year-old woman that appeared to have been taken without her knowing.

Police managed to trace the images back to the suspect who had secretly taken the photos of a coworker with whom he was infatuated while she was in and around their workplace. The man reportedly admitted to the charges saying, “I took the pictures because I liked her but I couldn’t bring myself to speak to her.”

Reaction to the news online sided largely with the suspect. Many felt that he was simply a shy person suffering from a case of unrequited love rather than a threat to anyone’s safety.

“You can get arrested for only that? Shocked.”

“I sympathize with him.”

“While it certainly is unpleasant to photograph someone without them knowing, does it really fall under the anti-stalking law?”

“This makes me furious. They regulate smartphone cameras like they were guns.”

“I know how he feels… that’s a terrible story.”

“The man who picked up the memory stick seems more suspicious. Why did he snoop around like that?”

“We live in an age where being shy is an arrestable offense.”

“That’s scary. So anytime I take pictures in public places where there are other people I can be arrested for it?”

“His motive seemed more cute than malicious.”

The investigation is still ongoing and police are looking into whether or not similar incidents involving other women exist. They also have yet to interview the woman whom he had photographed.

Source: https://japantoday.com/category/crime/mie-man-arrested-for-collecting-photos-he-took-of-female-coworker-while-at-work

Also note the reader comments after the article.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Heartbreaking Tragedy: "One dead, four injured after construction vehicle rams pedestrians in Osaka"

Very sad news from The Japan Times, 2/1/18:

A loading vehicle struck a group of students and teachers from a school for children with impaired hearing in Osaka on Thursday, killing an 11-year-old girl and injuring four others, police and rescuers said.

The driver of the loader, Takuya Sano, 35, was arrested at the scene.

The girl was identified as Ayaka Ide, who was heading home with two other pupils the same age at around 4 p.m., accompanied by two female teachers in their 40s.

According to the police, the five had left the public school in Osaka’s Ikuno Ward and were waiting on a sidewalk for the traffic signal near its gate to change when the loader rammed them.

Sano was quoted as saying he accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of the brake when the traffic light turned red. It is not known why he veered into the students.

The accident took place in a residential area about 400 meters south of JR Tsuruhashi Station. Road work was underway near the site.

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/02/01/national/girl-dies-osaka-construction-vehicle-hits-children-impaired-hearing/

I visited this Deaf school in December and gave a guest lecture for the deceased little girl's class. She and her classmates were so energetic, so full of life. I am shocked and heartbroken.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"Tokyo hospital gauge effect of daily anti-viral use on HIV infections"

From The Japan Times, 1/29/18.

Starting next month, a Tokyo-based hospital will start a clinical study to ascertain whether HIV infection rates can be reduced if high-risk individuals take anti-viral medicine on a daily basis, a source close to the matter said Monday.

In the first such study in the nation, the Center Hospital of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine will conduct the study with individuals seen to have a higher risk of HIV infection, such as men who have sexual contact with other men, the source said.

The move comes amid reports that Japan logs around 1,500 new cases of AIDS each year, along with HIV infections among people who have not shown AIDS symptoms, despite calls for preventive measures such as the use of condoms.

Anti-viral medication is being used in an increasing number of countries to prevent the spread of HIV, the source said.

In promoting the approach, called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or Prep, the website for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “For those at very high risk for HIV, PrEP can significantly reduce your risk of HIV infection if taken daily. Daily PrEP use can lower the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent.”

The method also protects against HIV infection in circumstances such as when condoms are not used or are torn, the source said.

In the two-year clinical study, the Tokyo hospital will seek 120 participants who match certain criteria, including having been infected by a sexually transmitted disease within the past year and having engaged in sexual intercourse without the use of a condom in the previous six months.

The subjects will take the anti-viral medicine Truvada daily and undergo hospital exams every three months, the source said.

The hospital will also regularly check subjects to avoid a scenario in which an HIV infection occurs and the subject continues to take the anti-viral medicine, since there is a possibility the HIV will develop resistance to the drug. This would in turn reduce the subject’s treatment options in the future.

The study will also examine whether decreased fear of HIV infection prompts people not to use condoms, increasing the risk of infection with other sexually transmitted diseases, the source said.

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/29/national/science-health/tokyo-hospital-gauge-effect-daily-anti-viral-use-hiv-infections/

Related story, also from The Japan Times, 1/29/18:

Japan’s dramatic surge in syphilis cases, with particularly high incidence in Tokyo, puzzles experts

Syphilis, a classic sexually transmitted disease nearly eradicated decades ago, is seeing a resurgence in Japan, with the reported number of patients in 2017 topping 5,000 for the first time in 44 years.

According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, the number of people diagnosed with syphilis rocketed to 5,770 in 2017, more than double the 2,697 seen in 2015 and far exceeding the 621 in 2010.


In December, Nobuyuki Suzuki, a male assembly member for Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward, caused uproar by tweeting that the recent upsurge in syphilis cases is due to more tourists from abroad — especially from mainland China — bringing the bacterium into the country and spreading the disease by visiting sex industry establishments.

Read the whole story: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/29/reference/japans-dramatic-surge-syphilis-cases-particularly-high-incidence-tokyo-puzzles-experts/

The blame game continues. It's not a lack of discourse or education. It's not the fault of the sex industry. It is due to foreigners... When will the ignorance and prejudice end?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Remains of the 2018 Kayashima Shrine Tondo Festival

Kayashima Shrine (萱島神社) conducted its Tondo Festival (とんど祭り) on January 15, to coincide with ko-shogatsu (小正月), or "small new year" - ko-shogatsu is a holdover from the time when Japan used a lunar calendar. This festival has many names (Dondo yaki - どんど焼き - is a common name but there are many others) and local variations. At the Tondo festival, shimekazari (a traditional New Years decoration hanged at the entrance to a house), omamori (good luck charms), ofuda (talisman), ema (votive tablets) as well as other religious or new year's related ornaments are burned. This is in effect a sort of recycling - these various ornaments are returned after a year or so of use and new ones are purchased.

I have previously written about the Tondo festival at the Shinto shrine in my neighborhood. (It is actually one of my favorite VAOJ posts - check it out!)

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Tondo Festival - とんど祭り, posted January 16, 2013.

I missed the actual burning this morning but I was able to see the ashes/remains when I visited the shrine in the afternoon. The religious paraphernalia were burned in the metal barrel and she ashes were occasionally dumped when needed. It seems that from the size of the ash heap many items were burned.

Here is a close-up of the remains in the barrel. A couple items seems to have been deposited after the burning ended.

These boxes placed by the entrance are for non-burnable items.

You can see some of the items deposited in the boxes. The mikan oranges were most likely a part of the shimekazari.

The Kayashima shrine is famous because there is a train station right above it. The kami-deity associated with the shrine resides in a large 700 year old Camphor tree. When the train station was being built, the tree could not simply be cut down. Thus the station was built around it.

The tree/kami is seen as especially powerful. Many people claim their wishes have come true after praying and giving a small cash offering. The shrine is small but contains a lot of interesting sights.

2018 is the Year of the Dog so it seems appropriate that the shrine would have this public service request: Please take your dog's poop home.

Previous VAOJ posts on the summer festival at the Kayashima shrine:

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri I: The Mikoshi, posted July 30, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri II: Evening Activities, posted July 31, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri III: Tamago Senbei, posted August 1, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri IV: People, posted August 2, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri V: くわしく, posted August 3, 2013.

Visual Anthropology of Japan, Local Matsuri, 2014 Edition, posted August 17, 2014.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018 New Years Shots at Hozanji: Enjoying Warm Amazake and Takoyaki Behind the Noren

As long term VAOJ readers are well aware, I usually take a New Year's pilgrimage to Hozanji Temple in Nara. This has been well documented (see links at the end of this post). This year was no different. Except that my camera battery and back-up battery failed me. So the few shots I am willing to share with you come from my iPhone... (New batteries purchased upon arrival at home after setting up the new new year's amulets...)

These first few shots illustrate the general atmosphere: people washing their hands before paying, disposing old amulets and buying new ones... Temples and shrines are usually very crowded the first few days of the new year. It slows down a bit after January 4th or 5th when most people return to work after the holiday. There was still a steady stream at Hozanji today.

One difference between the first few days and the days following is the reduction of roten「露店」, temporary outdoor food stalls, at least at Hozanji. But one shop that remains, run by a nice elderly couple that have been there for as long as I can remember, sells sweet, warm amazake and large, tangy takoyaki. This is always a nice treat at the end of the walk through and up to the top of the temple. This year there was a new shelter made of plastic sheeting to help protect from the wind and cold. It also had noren - on each partition was the name of a food or drink the shop sells. I couldn't help myself from playfully shooting through the curtains.

If you are unfamiliar with noren, check out these links:

Photo Exhibition and Visual Ethnography - "Tachinomiya: There Are Two Sides to Every Noren": http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2016/01/photo-exhibition-and-visual-ethnography.html

Tachinomiya: Photo Exhibition as Research Method: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2017/12/ajj-presentation-tachinomiya-photo.html

See more of Hozanji through the years on VAOJ:

2011 Hozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2011/01/hozanji-temple-2011-selected-shots.html

2012 Hozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2012/01/happy-new-year-2012-from-vaoj.html

2013 Hozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2013/01/new-year-2013-hozanji-pilgrimage.html

2014 Hozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2014/01/2014-new-year-hozanji-pilgrimage.html

2016 Hiozanji shots: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.jp/2016/01/2016-hozanji-offerings.html