How many women writers of Japan do you know?

A recent article at Japan-Times introduces some of the writers of Japan and ends by announcing a series of feature stories, beginning in June.

For many of us, this will be a chance to expand our own cultural literacy & social proficiency.  

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A series exploring female writers of Japan will be published on the third Sunday of the month, starting in June.

Where would we be without the words of Japanese women?


photo story, National Geographic Magazine & "hiki komori" shut-ins

The February 2018 edition of NGM includes a story of interest to Japan observers & students:

Pictures Reveal the Isolated Lives of Japan's Social Recluses

A photographer explores the hidden world of the hikikomori, and the human bonds that draw them out.



time traveler - old photos around Japan

Here is a collection of early color photos taken in postwar by GHQ staffers,



The National Diet Library in Tokyo caught attention this autumn when it published color photos taken immediately after the end of World War II by a staffer at the General Headquarters (GHQ).

For even older visual history, browse these photos copied from Library of Congress in Washington, DC at the Prints and Photograph room, http://old-japanphotos.wikispaces.com/ (and the companion project for comparison, http://old-koreaphotos.wikispaces.com/ )


info-mercial about Smartphone distraction in public (walking)

subtitles in English, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Fm0Zirt8wI


annual whale hunt - contrasting documentary viewpoints

Japan Times (7 Sept 2017) gives a good overview of "Whale of a Tale," the newly released story with builds in local villagers point of view for the annual killing in the Taiji cove that was forcefully presented by the lenses of "The Cove." Excerpt of online news article follows, with URL to full article and movie URL.

    The anthropological foundational ideas of point of view and context are well illustrated by both documentaries.

..."Quite simply, I was fascinated by the controversy," Sasaki tells The Japan Times, "but I was also pained by what I felt was a very one-sided way of viewing things.
     "'The Cove' showed us what the Taiji fishermen were doing to dolphins in a way that made any counter-arguments difficult if not impossible. As a filmmaker based in the United States, I knew that using hidden cameras and bypassing authority is a very effective way to make a documentary, but I wouldn't call that journalism. And there were a lot of misleading passages and untruthful depictions in that film.
     "And as a Japanese I could understand how the people of Taiji felt betrayed and outraged. Their response was to try and cover things up, or put up a wall of silence and hope the foreigners would go away. Well, the foreigners were never going away. Unless the Taiji locals spoke up about their side of the story, things were going to get worse."
     Sasaki dedicated six years to meticulous research and interview and says she now feels like something of an expert on cetaceans, the scientific classification for sea mammals.
     Taiji has gotten a little wiser, too. It has gradually opened itself up to overseas media and protesters that routinely visit the town. In fact, all the attention has given the local economy a bit of a boost — what could be more appropriate for the digital age than "outrage tourism"? Also, last month Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen visited the town of Klaksvik in the Faroe Islands with hopes of forging a sister city relationship. Fishermen there share the same practices and methods of hunting.

google map link
flickr, photos search
movie page, www.okujirasama.com 


福島 stories, Screening of Threshold: Whispers of Fukushima

Michigan based documentary film and photographer [excerpt from July  26, 2017 screening announcement in Ypsilanti, Michigan]

Trailer for the filmhttps://vimeo.com/103453868

"The issues of Fukushima are very complicated and delicate, and there is no easy way to explain what the problem actually is. The mass media especially tends to create TV programs which are unnecessarily sensational, and they consciously edit those programs to make viewers emotional. So, now, I refuse the offer to do interviews for those programs. Also, Fukushima has changed much since the disastrous events occurred. Locals hesitate to speak about it. It's because of resignation to the unchanging conditions, or fear of exacerbating the situation within the community by speaking to outsiders. It seems better not to talk about anything. 

In such conditions, I think 'Threshold: Whispers of Fukushima' became a very unique work. Toko omitted explanations, as much as possible, and connected people's calm honest talk (like they're speaking to themselves) and live music performances by the interviewees, to allow them to tell their life stories. Perhaps this is not even really a movie about "Fukushima". Even if she shot it in Fukushima, the theme of the film is not "the accident" nor "lost home", rather, it is a fundamental human theme: "what is 'living one's own life?'". Each individual has their own purpose in life, joy, and goal. Everyone is different from each other. Therefore, no one can truly say "my way of living is right or yours is wrong." After experiencing the confusion created by the accidents in Fukushima, I deeply feel this. How interesting that everyone in this movie, including me, said this same thing, although by coincidence.

Please watch this film once, just putting aside all preconceptions or background knowledge of Fukushima. And, if you can reconsider your own way of living life and your own sense of value by experiencing our stories, if you can perhaps reconsider the meaning of living on this planet Earth, and how we may to continue to live…… if this movie allows you to feel this… I can say this project succeeded." – Yoshimitsu Takuki

--------- And recently one of the groups who got featured in the movie Yamakiya Taiko ensemble played at Blissfest in MI! If you are interested, check out these clips! They are amazing! 

(Actually they played at Power Center last year, and so, you may have seen them in person! The fantastic residency was actually supported by CJS, CFWPS, and U of M SMTD!)
And lastly, here is the message clip from the leader of the clip about the movie: https://www.facebook.com/octoberbabiestoko/videos/10212324297756439/

Toko Shiiki: http://tokoshiiki.com

Current documentary project: "Threshold: Whispers of Fukushima"

October Babies: http://octoberbabies.net


recent blogs - visual and language materials for Japan; Japanese language

--cross-posting from H-Japan of July 12, 2017,

<>1<> Member Blog: New Online Digital Resource (Everyday Japanese Culture and Society)
A blog about life in everyday Japan written by a British professor
Responsible person(s):      Chris Burgess 
Synopsis:  Regular snapshots of everyday life in Japan with a nature and language focus plus musings on Japanese culture and society for Japan language learners and Japan lovers in general.          
Content type:  Short posts on life in everyday Japan with images and reading recommendations. Also a "Resources" section with links and information on Japanese Studies tools and sites

<>2<> Re-Envisioning Japan: Japan as Destination in 20th Century Visual and Material Culture
Re-Envisioning Japan is an open-ended recuperative project based on an original collection of tourism, travel and educational ephemera in a wide range of media.
Responsible person(s):      Joanne Bernardi  
Synopsis:     Creative digital curation of an original physical collection of travel and educational ephemera about Japan       
Content type:     High resolution images, moving images, audio materials, interactive timeline     
Intended audience:   Academic community and general public    
Host institution:         University of Rochester


film - So Long Asleep: bringing some of the 1940s forced laborers' mortal remains back to Korea

---[Pr. David Plath writes, 6/2017] 

So Long Asleep (60 minutes) follows an international team of East Asian volunteers as they excavate, preserve and repatriate the remains of Korean men who died doing slave labor in Hokkaido during the Asia-Pacific War. On the 70th anniversary of the end of the war we travel with them as they carry 115 sets of remains on a pilgrimage across Japan and over to Korea for reinterment in the Seoul Municipal Cemetery. Using a dark past to shape a brighter shared future the project offers an upbeat model for remembrance and reconciliation that could be adapted widely.
     The film and the repatriation project are featured in a 4-page special segment of the Spring 2017 issue of Education About Asia.
     See the DER website to view a trailer. Dialogue is in English, Korean and Japanese; in the DER edition the dialogue carries English subtitles. Separately, project participants have prepared editions with subtitles in Korean and in Japanese. For the Korean version, contact Professor Byung-Ho Chung (bhc0606at gmail) and for Japanese contact Professor Song Ki-Chan (kichans at hotmail).

An extended essay by Pr. Chung about the project appears in Asia-Pacific Journal; Japan Focus online magazine, as well, http://apjjf.org/2017/12/Chung.html


early days - Okayama Field Station (early 1950s) social science hub

Soon after WWII and during the time of occupation governance the Center for Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan (one of the war-time language centers to train personnel headed to Japan) got permission and assistance to establish a 3-part research location in rural Okayama prefecture. One team focused on agricultural livelihoods, another coastal resource base, and the third centered on mountain economic patterns of life. With a selection of social scientists using various approaches and projects, a lot of good fieldwork was conducted from which several books, many articles and conference presentations were produced. In recent months the U-M CJS has been uploading selected photos from the collection via their Facebook account. This screenshot gives a sampling of the 57 images as of May 27, 2017.
LINK to Facebook album, https://www.facebook.com/pg/umcjs/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1278945605481806
screenshot 5/2017 from U-Michigan Center for Japanese Studies, Facebook


Japan projections, low-income living, economic base of young people

This (Japanese language, well illustrated) PDF from METI presents the familiar elements converging in Japan (and elsewhere) for a slow-motion disaster of social fragmentation, isolation, and ever increasing numbers of cracks one can fall through, http://www.meti.go.jp/committee/summary/eic0009/pdf/020_02_00.pdf
The graph showing rates of single-parent household poverty puts Japan at one extreme; something many people do not know about or understand.

English language article based on much of the same data is online at http://www.businessinsider.com/japan-fertility-crisis-2017-4


Japanese lessons online, anybody? Duolingo tries on Japanese

There are limitations on language learning online, but here is one way to gain more Japanese exposure and experience, newly launched and likely to have updates as users chime in, http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/duolingo-helps-you-learn-japanese/

Duolingo has been helping people learn languages since 2011. However, it doesn't yet offer courses in every language, including Japanese. Until now...


documentary forthcoming about two Ainu families in Nibutani

Story from March 12, 2017 at Japan Times

It may interest students of Japanese life and language; or those interested in photography and video documentary.


peformance art - New Sumie, dancing brush with live music

Part of the February special exhibit at the Kokaido Hall in downtown Echizen city (Fukui-ken) has been a few demonstrations of the visual artist at work; in this case at the gallery, but with related events this time at Shokaku-ji, about 150m to the west, or so.

The artist, Ueda Miyuki (site requires Flash support, so IE browser), uses traditional materials (ink, brush, washi Japanese paper)  for today's themes with her dancing sumi-e brush performance event - meaning very large pieces of Japanese paper and live music to motivate the artist - note that she paints with left hand but later was writing address information with right! Among the collected video clips, below, the last one with Tibetan singing bowls is particularly riveting.

*Performance 2017-02-19, preparing the way - https://vimeo.com/204826192 

*Performance 2017-02-19, first ink - https://vimeo.com/204826215 
*Performance 2017-02-19, autobiography installationhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/gpwitteveen/32159822604 
*Performance 2017-02-19, completing the details https://youtu.be/OU_klPZ4PF4 
*Performance 2017-02-19, adding red details - https://youtu.be/-PRRiTj0g94 
*Performance 2017-02-19, after the performancehttps://www.flickr.com/photos/gpwitteveen/32849421332 

*Performance 2017-02-19, Temple (Shokaku-ji) sutra and Singing Bowls https://youtu.be/XtDW1UdUUhs 


Sonic Japan - audio recordings around the society

Sound recordings bring listeners up close to the immediacy of the context and events at hand. The Sonic Japan project has collected a variety of settings to let you explore the many cultural places around the society and language of the Japanese islands. Thanks to the initiative of colleagues in Australia, Japan, and the USA, this project has taken full form. Details of method, funding, contributors and links to follow via Twitter, Facebook, or the collection itself at Soundcloud can be found at http://sonicjapan.clab.org.au/about and this website also groups the recordings to browse by map, by places list, and by cultural theme. The soundcloud address is https://soundcloud.com/sonicjapan/

Sonic Japan is a collection of sound recordings made in Japan that enables listeners to traverse an array of themes pertaining to everyday life through a ...


documentaries in Japan, Kazuhiro Soda's filmography

The current scholar-in-residence this year at U-Michigan is Kazuhiro Soda. His Feb. 9, 2017 lecture will probably be video recorded (in English mostly).

Commonly these days the events are recorded and can be viewed online in 2-3 weeks.

=-=-=-=-= Excerpt from announcement link, https://www.ii.umich.edu/cjs/news-events/events.detail.html/38037-6859806.html
The Power of Observation: How and Why I Make "Observational" Documentaries
Kazuhiro Soda, Toyota Professor in Residence
[guiding principles]

1 No research.
2 No meetings with subjects.
3 No scripts.
4 Roll the camera yourself.
5 Shoot as long as possible.
6 Cover small areas deeply.
7 Do not set up a theme or goal before editing.
8 No narration, title, or music.
9 Use long takes.
10 Pay for the production yourself.

His filmography includes "Campaign" (2007), "Mental" (2008), "Peace" (2010), "Theatre 1" (2012), "Theatre 2" (2012), "Campaign 2" (2013), and "Oyster Factory" (2015).


meditating zazen steps 1-16, pamphlet

trifold pamphlet from the 1990s - well illustrated, accompanied in clear English, too:


summer 2017 - engaging in Japan topics (make and take workshop for higher education faculty)

....two-week intensive program in San Diego this year [2017], and many of the expenses will be covered. It encourages college professors to include Japan as a topic in their courses. This could be excellent advocacy for your program because you could make connections with other Departments and students.

Announcing the 2017 Japan Studies Institute (JSI) Program June 5-18, 2017 San Diego State University. Join your colleagues from both two and four year institutions ...


Bluegrass music in Japan

And then there is James Stanlaw's documentary on the subject, too, from 10 years ago, and this more recent presentation:
Japanese-Bluegrass: Creativity and Nostalgia in a Borrowed Imaginary Musical Genre.". 91st Annual Meeting of the Central States Anthropological Society.. Central States Anthropological Society.. (2014)


movie "0.5 miri" (2014, Japanese)

IMDB.com has an entry for this movie, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3825360/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1, which refers to a line by one of the characters toward the end of the film.
He talks about the power of human will - if enough people concentrate they can move a mountain _rei ten go miri_ (0.5 mm).
This full-length feature film presents a series of vignettes shining a light on a range of elderly people's experience in their twilight years.
So if you are looking for a possibly quirky take on contemporary life in regional and rural Japan, take a look at 0.5 miri.


vivid Japan photos for public use

If you need luscious photos, or if you're up to the challenge of deconstructing national presentation of "who we are" then these pictures may serve the purpose.
This comes via Senseionline yahoogroup:

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry just launched a gorgeous website full of photos that are under the "Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License" - Which means you can use them for anything, anytime.   https://photo.kankouyohou.com/


art in daily life - Japan's manhole covers

The Japan Times publised a story about local government making special designs for their covers.
It began in the 1980s to improve the public image about sewage systems! Perhaps the 12,000 images are online by now, but if you are in Japan then you can request a set of collector's cards.

[excerpt from news story]

...Ishii's is among a growing legion of hobbyists enchanted by what he sees as the beauty manhole cover design. Enthusiasts are taking to social networking services such as Twitter and Instagram to share their joy, and the photos fly back and forth.

"They are works of art. The designs embody details and subtlety of the Japanese aesthetic," said Hideto Yamada, a leader with Gesuido Koho Purattofomu (Sewerage Promotion Platform), a group of professionals and enthusiasts that includes officials from local governments and the infrastructure ministry's sewage management department.


video, Tokyo Olympics promotional segment

Lots of eye candy, concluding with clever homage to video game icon Mario, played by PM Shinzo Abe at Rio summer Olympics closing ceremony, https://streamable.com/mh3w
Security from human calamity and preparedness for natural disasters will be well in place, one imagines!


series this week on Japan's 27% elderly population - National Public Radio, Ina Jaffe

On the Sunday morning show, "Weekend Edition - Sunday," there was a segment on Japan being the oldest society these days with 27% at age 65 or older; life expectancy 5 years longer than USA; replacement birth rate falling short, 'scarecrow village' south of Tokyo where once 300 lived now there are just 3 and all the scarecrows planted around the space once occupied by daily lives.

The transcript is posted a few hours after the broadcast story, http://www.npr.org/2016/08/21/490820273/how-japan-is-dealing-with-impacts-of-supporting-the-oldest-population-in-the-wor
One of more of the series coming throughout this next week could make useful classroom discussion openers, or writing prompts.
And if you are not shy about engaging online in public discourse, then you can leave comments to the stories.

==excerpt from Sunday episode, 21 August 2016

MARTIN: So what's it like to just spend some time in that country? I mean, do you see evidence of that aging population?

JAFFE: Oh, you do. In the cities, for example, (laughter) one of the places you see it is convenience stores. And one of the things they're doing to compete is finding ways to cater to their aging clientele. You'll find products there you'd never see in your local mini mart like prepackaged meals for people who have trouble chewing. But really the place that you see aging of Japan most clearly is in the rural areas. There's a term you hear in Japan, it's village on the edge, as in village on the edge of extinction. I went to one a few hundred miles south of Tokyo where the population has gone from around 300 people to just 30.


photo blog; travel writing - Japan (lonelyplanet)

<><> The "tips and articles" section for Japan gives a series of articles, including lots of gorgeous photos.

For students of Japanese language and life, reading the text with a critical eye is a good exercise: ask "what context is missing" or "what limitation or bias does this writer seem to have." https://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/tokyo/travel-tips-and-articles/1437 is a good starting place, but as you scroll down to the end, then the next article will load; or a link to "next up: ______" will display in the browser window at lower right corner.

<><> Related is the photo blog by a man long residing in Tokyo, but originally from the Boston area of USA, http://shoottokyo.com/
Same thinking exercise for students of Japanese language and life, apply a critical eye and ask "what context is missing" or "what limitation or bias does this writer seem to have."


kyara Ben (character Bento)

Feature story Sunday morning on National Public Radio (USA), web version includes photos:


Packing your child's lunch calls for a whole different level of preparation in Japan. There, moms often shape ordinary lunch ingredients like ham or rice into cute little pandas, Pokemon or even famous people's faces

       It's called character bento, and there's considerable pressure to produce these cute food creations. Tomomi Maruo has been teaching how to make character bentos, or "kyaraben" for short — at her home for the past 13 years.

       "My kid brought kyaraben to the kindergarten and his friends saw the bento and moms started asking me how to make kyaraben so that's how I started teaching," Maruo said.

[related story-1These Parents Make Lovely Lunch Bag Art. Not Everyone Is Pleased


[related story-2] In Japan, Food Can Be Almost Too Cute To Eat


visual essay - Japan's exclusion zone around Fukushima reactors

This visual essay appeared July 14, 2016 at Digital Photography Review
Compare the interactive media essays at Magnum Photos,
<> Walking Kesennuma after the 2011 tsunami, part 1, http://inmotion.magnumphotos.com/essay/tsunami-streetwalk-1-kesennuma

<> Kesennuma streetwalk, part 2, http://inmotion.magnumphotos.com/essay/tsunami-streetwalk-2-kamaishi

[excerpt from DPReview, http://www.dpreview.com/news/6195625964/photographer-captures-the-ruin-of-fukushima-s-exclusion-zone]

Keow Wee Loong, a Malaysian photographer currently based in Thailand, snuck into the zone with his fianceé to document the current state of Fukushima's abandoned towns – and what was left behind. From a supermarket picked over by wild animals, forgotten laundry at a laundromat and a wall calendar forever frozen on March 2011, his photos show the eerie remains of daily life brought to an abrupt halt.

You can see more of his Fukushima photos and his photography on his Facebook page.


case studies 2011 Japan, disaster reconstruction

This special issue of the online journal includes 3 articles that focus on Japan after the disasters of 1995 (Kobe earthquake) and 2011. As well, there are two short video links.

Asian Ethnology. Guest edited by Philip Fountain, Levi McLaughlin, Patrick Daly, and Michael Feener. 

The authors suggest new theoretical perspectives on guiding frameworks such as "religion," "disaster," "development," and "Asia" as they provide case studies of religious responses to recent disaster events in Asia. Many of the special issue's articles focus on Japan.
In particular, the pieces by McLaughlin, Miichi, and Graf discuss ways Japanese religion has transformed in the wake of the 1995 and 2011 disasters.

The articles in the issue are as follows:


    Salvage and Salvation: Guest Editors' Introduction [1-28] Vol 75:1 2016


    Puripetal Force in the Charitable Field [29-51] Vol 75:1 2016


    Buddhist Disaster Relief: Monks, Networks, and the Politics of Religion [53-74] Vol 75:1 2016


    Sevā, Hindutva, and the Politics of Post-Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction in Rural Kutch [75-104] Vol 75:1 2016


    Hard Lessons Learned: Tracking Changes in Media Presentations of Religion and Religious Aid Mobilization after the 1995 and 2011 Disasters in Japan [105-137] Vol 75:1 2016


    Playful Relief: Folk Performing Arts in Japan after the 2011 Tsunami [139-162] Vol 75:1 2016


    Mennonite Disaster Relief and the Interfaith Encounter in Aceh, Indonesia [163-190] Vol 75:1 2016


    Religion and Reconstruction in the Wake of Disaster [191-202] Vol 75:1 2016


    Research Note: Documenting Religious Responses to 3.11 on Film [203-219] Vol 75:1 2016

  • In addition, Tim Graf (Heidelberg) produced two short vignettes to accompany the issue. The first documents a new festival at the temple Jōnenji that grew out of temple-based relief efforts after the March 11, 2011 tsunami in northeast Japan, and the second introduces a training program for "interfaith chaplains" that is led primarily by Buddhist priests and is now underway at Tōhoku University in Sendai.

    Asian Ethnology is open source. Please click on the link below and select "Vol. 75" for Salvage and Salvation. Click on the Vimeo links for Graf's film vignettes:


  • https://vimeo.com/141396760 and https://vimeo.com/141380269 


visual treat - cultural landscape

The group of images for the matsuri food vendor stalls, the family crests, and the decorative envelops all can be shared and used for discussion among students.

theme, "typology" (sets of related images)

[kanban, stall signs at festival time]
Many festivals are held in summer in Japan. There are lots of street stalls, and each shop has colorful shop curtain. --Kotoko Nomoto

[kamon, family crests]
Japanese family emblems.   --Hikaru Kokami

[kinpu, money envelops]
This envelope is used celebrating event. For example wedding ceremony. If you use them, you have to follow the manners. --Minami Takagi


on the occasion of the Fukushima anniversary

Japanfocus.org has high-level, but short essays each week.
Here is one about the 5th anniversary of the triple disaster, centering on N.E. Japan

[excerpt from the text]
...People whose suffering-at no fault of their own-is becoming invisible. Soon when we talk about Fukushima we will reduce the human impact to a quibbling over numbers: how many cases of thyroid cancer, how many confirmed illnesses. Lost-hidden-forgotten will be the hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee their homes, in many cases permanently, and try to rebuild their shattered lives. Public relations professionals and industry scientists will say that these people did this to themselves (see here, and here). And the curtain will draw ever downward as we forget them.

This is the tradition of nuclear forgetting.
Recommended citation: Robert Jacobs, "On Forgetting Fukushima", The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 14, Issue 5, No. 1, March 1, 2016.

journal that includes photo essays among its articles

This call for authors to submit articles may be of interest to those keen on visual communication, but to those wishing to view examples, too, this article points to a place to see stories published to date:

Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review, a quarterly, open-access online journal, is accepting proposals for photo essays for the September 2016 and March 2017 issues (and beyond).

     Photo essays include: 1) 20-40 high-quality images with descriptive captions and complete source information, 2) a curator's statement, and 3) a longer non-peer reviewed essay (8-15 pages) contextualizing the photographs and highlighting their significance for current trends of inquiry in Asian studies. This essay can be written by the curator or by an invited scholar. To view archived Cross-Currents photo essays, please click here.

     The photographs should be taken in China, Korea, Japan, or Vietnam. They may be contemporary images taken as part of the curator's research or archival materials. Please consult the Cross-Currents mission statement to determine whether the proposed essay fits within the journal's historical and disciplinary scope. Obtaining copyright permissions for all images is the responsibility of the curator.

     Proposals should include: 5-10 sample images (as a single PDF); a one-page description of the theme of the essay and the timeliness/importance of the images to scholars of Asia; a brief bio paragraph about the curator; and complete contact information.