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February 18 2014

February 16 2014

February 11 2014

Art Arises From Snow-Covered Tokyo

The heaviest snowfall in 45 years hit Tokyo over the weekend. The unusual amount of snow triggered traffic accidents, killing 11 and injuring thousands, and travel was disrupted across the country.

However, amid the cold and white, some used the snow to create beautiful, fun and sometimes strange artwork. RocketNews24 has compiled photos that were taken and shared by Japanese Twitter users.

Tokyo Snowfall Sends Voter Turnout Plunging in Governor Election

As a winter storm dumped the heaviest snowfall in 45 years on Tokyo, only 46.16 percent of voters went to the polls to cast their ballots for governor on Sunday, February 9, 2014, the third-lowest turnout in

People holding umbrellas in heavy snow. Photo taken on February 8 in Tokyo by flickr user lestaylorphoto (CC BY NC-ND 2.0)

People holding umbrellas in heavy snow. Photo taken on February 8 in Tokyo by flickr user lestaylorphoto (CC BY NC-ND 2.0)

Tokyo's governor election history. 

The newly elected governor is Masuzoe Yoichi, former cabinet minister backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komei Party, winning 2,112,979 votes, or about 43 percent of the vote.

Twitter users shared their criticism of the low turnout. Philosopher Tatsuru Uchida [ja] expressed his disappointment:

The number of voters who went to the polls for Tokyo's governor election made me feel washed out. It seems to me that the Japanese with conventional virtue and conventional political means, are silently heading in a direction where it's like, “hey, there's a precipice ahead.”

Illustrator Nigirikopushi drew a caricature, linking the coldness of the weather and the losing anti-nuclear candidates. In the center, winning Masuzoe is holding three umbrellas representing “Walfare”, ‘”Olympics” and “Economy” while wearing a warm jacket with the Liberal Democratic Party's and Komei Party's emblems on it. On the left is a portrait of a shivering Kenji Utsunomiya, an anti-nuclear human rights lawyer who came in second place. On the right is anti-nuclear candidate Morihiro Hosokawa, who took third, standing next to his supporter, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, saying “it's cold out here”. The writing in the snow reads “anti-nuclear”:

Caricature portrait for Tokyo's governor election.

Former newspaper reporter Eiken Itagaki argues [ja] that Masuzoe may run afoul of Japan's Public Officers Election Act, saying he distributed Tokyo Olympic badges worth 3,000 Japanese yen (about 30 US dollars) each to gain support, an act that could violate the law prohibiting political contributions for campaign. The complainant is the same activist group that has filed a complaint against former Governor Naoki Inose late last year for allegedly receiving contribution. Inose claimed that it was a personal loan but he resigned over the issue. The complaint against new Governor awaits whether or not the court will take his accusation.

The post was edited by L.Finch

February 09 2014

Heavy Snowfall Brings Playtime to Tokyo

Heavy snowstorms hit Japan on Feb 8, 2014. Twenty seven centimeters of snow fell in central Tokyo, for the first time in 45 years. Moro Miya, a writer and a blogger who specializes in introducing Japanese culture to Chinese readers, collected the photos of snowmen and snow-animals that were posted by the netizens on twitter.

February 03 2014

Is Japan Alone? Survey on Dance Regulations and Clubbing

Fresh off writing a series of posts on dance club regulations in Japan for Tokyo's city life magazine Time Out, James Hadfield is taking a survey on clubbers around the world:

In light of the ongoing controversy regarding clubbing in Japan, where clubs continue to be shut down and harassed by the police for the ‘crime’ of dancing, Time Out Tokyo is looking to get to the bottom of the problem. We'd like you to tell us a few things about the clubbing environment in your country, city, or area, wherever in the world that may be. 

February 02 2014

Imagining Japan's Citizen and Community Media in 2020

[All links lead to Japanese-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

What will citizen media look like in 2020? For Tokyo, the latest city awarded the honor of hosting the Olympics, the year 2020 marks a turning point in history in certain a sense. Six years from now into the future, what will citizen media and community media look like as they continue to provide information to the public? That very question was at the heart of a talk called “Let's Think About Community Media and Citizen Media in the Year 2020” on February 1, 2014 at Pundit, a new event space in Tokyo.

The event welcomed guests who have made pioneering efforts in the field of Japan's citizen media and community media in the early 21st century—an era in which, thanks to the Internet, individuals are able to share image-based information freely. Freelance journalist Taro Iwamoto, who visits anti-nuclear demonstrations in front of Japan's prime minister's official residence every weekend with a video camera in his hand, began using a mobile computer to broadcast the protest on the Internet. Asuka Hashidzume, who after working for the non-profit Internet broadcaster OurPlanet-TV [en] and OhMyNews!Japan [en], a citizen reporter platform, now works as a radio personality for FM Tomi, a community station in Tomi city, Nagano prefecture. The use of technology by non-professionals to spread information only came under the spotlight following the Tohoku earthquake of March 2011.

Joined by the students from the “Student-Run Citizen Media Project to Provide Aid to Disaster Areas” at Musashi University, the first part of the event took a look at the use of video produced by individuals using a non-professional video camera. 

Student-Run Citizen Media Project to Provide Aid to Disaster Areas:

Following that, the second part examined new uses for visual media produced by citizens. Speakers included Yuichi Watanabe, who heads The Laboratory for Global Dialogue [en], a face-to-face communication project using video calls via the Internet and satellite phone to connect people over great distances; and Tadakazu Fukutomi, the teacher responsible for the Kawasaki 1 SEG Project, a project out of Senshu Univesrtiy conducting mobile terrestrial digital audio/video broadcasting [en] that may hold the potential to become a new form of community media on university campuses. The discussion was moderated by Hiroaki Sato, a video artist who has worked for many years on the judge’s committee of the Tokyo Video Festival, formerly the world's largest citizen video festival.

Dialogue of elementary school students in Miyagi, Japan and Aceh, Indonesia through the Internet:

The event is the first in a continuing series that will focus on the future potential of community media and citizen media in the year 2020.

The English post was edited by Keiko Tanaka.

February 01 2014

Japan's US Base Plan Hits Snafu With Local Mayor's Re-Election

More than a thousand people came to the prefecture office of Okinawa to show their opposition to the governor's decision. Photo taken on December 27 2013 by Ojo de Cineasta (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

More than 1,000 people came to the prefecture office of Okinawa to show their opposition to the governor's decision. Photo taken on December 27, 2013 by Ojo de Cineasta (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

The election results of a small city in Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture, are stirring up a national debate over plans to relocate a US military base to Okinawa.

Susumu Inamine, the mayor of Nago city who opposes a plan to transfer the US airbase from Futenma, a populous part of central Okinawa, to Henoko district, a coastal area of Nago, was re-elected on January 20, 2014 with 19,839 vote. Susumu beat out pro-base challenger Bunshin Suematsu, who was backed by the central government which maintains that building a new facility would benefit local economy via government subsidy.

Susumu Inamine spoke in front of his supporter on January 8 2014 during his re-election campaign. Screenshot from Independent Web Journal.

Susumu Inamine spoke in front of his supporters on January 8 2014 during his re-election campaign. Screenshot from Independent Web Journal [ja].

Meanwhile, the central government said they would move forward with the relocation plan, calling it the only way to reduce the burden on Okinawa while maintaining a deterrent effect against potential threats.

A heavy US presence in Okinawa

When it comes to American military presence, Okinawa prefecture is at the forefront of the debate. According to Japan's Ministry of Defense, Okinawa prefecture make up 74 percent [ja] of the American military presence in Japan, whereas the prefecture constitutes only 0.6 percent of the country's landmass.

The issue at the heart of the mayoral election was a plan that originated 17 years ago: the US and Japanese governments’ suggestion of building a base in Henoko as a replacement for the current Marine Corps air station at Futenma. Just last month on December 27, 2013, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima finally approved the relocation plan, putting an end to prolonged impasse to return the Futenma site to Japan.

The presence of US military there goes back to World War II. Award-wining documentary filmmaker John Junkerman explained in an interview with Amy Goodman of news program Democracy Now!:

Nearly 70 years ago the United States took over the Japanese island of Okinawa after one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. More than 200,000 people died, mostly Japanese civilians. Today the United States operates 34 bases on the island and is planning to build a new state-of-the-art Marine base, despite mass protests. A multi-decade movement of Okinawa residents has pushed for ousting U.S. forces off the island, citing environmental concerns and sexual assaults by U.S. soldiers on local residents.

The people of Okinawa generally do not live with explicit aversion to the presence of US forces. As their economy relies heavily on the presence of American troops, the overall relationship is friendly. However, aircraft noise, fires caused by live ammunition exercises in the forest, occasional helicopters crashes, and cases of rapes are problems that greatly concern residents.

Image modified by Keiko Tanaka

Areas colored in red represents base in Okinawa [ja]. The relocation plans to move the Futenma Air Base [pointed in Green] to Henoko, coastal area [pointed in orange] of Nago City [blue]. Image made by Keiko Tanaka using the image from Misakubo on Wikipedia. GNU

One of the most famous cases of rape in Okinawa involving US troops stationed there was in 1995, when three servicemen kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old Japanese girl. The crime triggered an anti-base movement, and Okinawans demanded to take back Futenma from base. This then resulted in the relocation plan: close Futenma and relocate the facility to Henoko.  

Environmental concerns

This relocation plan – a landfill project to build a new facility in Nago's coastal Henoko, which would construct a runway for existing base Camp Schwab – has long been met with fierce opposition by local residents and environmentalist groups. Environmentalists who oppose the plan fear that the coral-rich ocean of Henoko would be damaged by the landfill and the area's endangered population of dugong, a large marine mammal similar in appearance to a manatee, would be affected. The Association to Protect the Northernmost Dugong wrote in a petition campaign on change.org that the environmental assessment is turning into an inconvenient truth:

The Governor has already expressed grave concerns regarding the environmental assessment and impact on the welfare of local residents. In response, the Defense Bureau has simply maintained its assertion that the dugongs would not be affected.

But on September 22, Kyodo News broke the story that the Defense Bureau had actively hidden important facts about dugong activity in Henoko waters uncovered during its environmental assessment. Dugong feeding traces had been found in the waters off Henoko through April to June last year and a dugong was sighted in Oura Bay, adjacent to the Henoko beach. It’s clear that for the Defense Bureau, those findings constituted ‘inconvenient truths’ better hidden from the public.

Anti-base movement in Okinawa

Other anti-base Okinawans do not wish to have additional military facility. So when the governor finally made the decision to accept the proposal by the central government, protesters who once dreamed of the base's relocation outside Okinawa, what was originally put forth by the governor, felt betrayed.

The win by anti-base Nago city mayor Susumu came as an upsetting disruption for Prime Minister Abe and Governor Nakaima's plan to relocate the base from Futennma. According to newspaper Japan Times, Susumu said “the plan must go back to square one” and that he will reject all procedures related to the landfill project.

According to a poll taken in December 2013 by Asahi Shimbun in cooperation with Okinawa's local newspapers and broadcaster, 64 percent of people in Okinawa are opposed [ja] to the governor's approval of the relocation of Futenma base to Henoko. But an online poll conducted by Yahoo! Japan found an even higher 80 percent considered [ja] that the governor's approval was an appropriate move. It's not clear whether one of these polls is more accurate than the other when it comes to the opinions of the people in Okinawa, but the sentiments among Okinawans seem different[ja] than those of other Japanese living elsewhere.

A blogger and tour guide living in Futenma for more than 30 years expressed [ja] mixed feelings about the election turnout:

現市長が当選したことで、この500億円の北部振興策のためのお金は白紙に戻ったそうな。
・・・500億円は沖縄へ恩返しのつもりだったと言っていたのですが・・・。
だったら今までの敗戦後の基地がこの沖縄に残り続けていることに対しての恩返しをするべきではないでしょうか・・・。
すごく長い歴史で色んな方たちが傷つきました。この空の上に飛行機が行き交う事がなかなか想像できません。
逆に普天間であんなものを見て、うるさいところにいるから、こんな静かな場所に行きたいな~っていう気持ちにもなります。
だけど、もし辺野古に基地がいったら・・・大騒音をまき散らすことになります。
うるさいけどきれいな場所っていうことになるから・・・私は今後ここに観光ルートで訪れることが・・・なくなるかもしれません。
[中略]…やっぱり沖縄の方たちはこの自然を守ろうとそして子供や孫を守ろうとしている、こんなお金で解決なんてのは
ダメなんだよ~って言っている気がします・・・。

Now that Nago city's mayor was re-elected, the subsidy of 500 million US dollars [50 billion Japanese yen] funding for north Okinawa has gone back to square one.
…while the governor was insisting that the 50 billion Japanese yen was meant to be requital for Okinawa…
If so, shouldn't he be working to return something else…the land of Okinawa where the base remained after the war?
In the long run, many people were hurt. I can't imagine another sky filled with aircraft.
Because I live in Futenma, and see things, and hear noises, it makes me feel like going to some other quiet places.
But if the base moves to Henoko, they will suffer from noise.
It will make Henoko a noisy, yet beautiful place; I might not bring tourists to this area [an island across coastal Nago] anymore
[...] It reminds me that people in Okinawa, who are trying to protect nature and children and grandchildren, are saying no to a solution via money.

The post was sub-edited by L. Finch

January 30 2014

Japan's Taiji Fishermen Return to Infamous Cove for Annual Dolphin Hunt

Pasay, Philippines. 2nd September 2013 -- The systematic killings of dolphins and porpoises in Taiji, Japan prompted protesters from various animal rights group to hold a protest rally in front of the Japanese embassy in Pasay City. -- The annual killing in Taiji, Japan of dolphins and porpoises sparked a prayer protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Pasay City, south of Manila. Earth Island Institute lead the prayer rally together with PAWS and PETA. [Photo by J Gerard Seguia ©Demotix]

Pasay, Philippines. 2 September 2013 — The systematic killings of dolphins and porpoises in Taiji, Japan prompted protesters from various animal rights group to hold a protest rally in front of the Japanese embassy in Pasay City, south of Manila. Earth Island Institute lead the prayer rally together  [Photo by J Gerard Seguia ©Demotix]

Once again, fishermen from the small Japanese town of Taiji have made headlines over their annual dolphin hunt, during which hundreds of the creatures are captured in a local cove to be slaughtered or sold into captivity. 

According to conservation society Sea Shepherd, about 250 bottlenose dolphins were rounded up this year in a secluded cove now infamous as the location of the hunt following the release of the 2010 movie “The Cove“.

Taiji fishermen, who take part in the hunt with permits from the Japanese government, defend the practice as part of long-held tradition and count the support of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who defended them in a recent CNN interview. The captured dolphins are either slaughtered for food or sold to marine mammal parks for thousands of US dollars.

But environmental activists oppose the hunt as cruel. The animals are killed using spears, knives and other weapons, creating a bloody scene as they thrash about in the red-stained water and struggle to escape. The Oceanic Preservation Society claims that more than 20,000 dolphins are slaughtered in Japan every year during the hunting season from September to May.

Not everyone in Japan are as keen as the Taiji fishermen and Prime Minister Abe are to defend the tradition. Japanese conservationists held a protest rally on January 24, 2014 to raise awareness of what was happening in Taiji. Activist Noriko Ikeda of Action for Marine Mammals told Raw Story that, in fact, most Japanese don't know about dolphin hunting. “It is extremely rare to find Japanese people who eat dolphins. The real problem is that hunt is driven by demand for live dolphins among aquariums to put on dolphin shows,” she said.

Japanese artist Yoko Ono, the widow of the Beatles’ singer John Lennon, wrote an open letter this year addressed to the fishermen of Taiji, pleading, “The way you are insisting on a big celebration of killing so many Dolphins and kidnapping some of them to sell to the zoos and restaurants at this very politically sensitive time, will make the children of the world hate the Japanese.”

The US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, even jumped into the fray:

Some people in Japan considered the comment by Kennedy as meddling in the country's affairs. Observing such reactions, technology blogger Satoshi Nakajima wrote [ja]:

ケネディ大使のイルカ漁に体する発言を「内政干渉」と大騒ぎをしている人がいるが、彼女の発言を理解するには、イルカ漁やクジラ漁が米国人にとって、どんな意味があり、何を象徴するか、を理解する必要がある。[...]大半の日本人が、あれは野蛮な行為であり、私たちの子孫の時代になっても、世界中の海を鯨やイルカが自由に泳ぎ回る地球であって欲しいと望むのであれば、捕鯨もイルカ漁も禁止すべきだ。鯨やイルカが自分の食卓に並ぶことを望む日本人が沢山いるのであれば、話は違うが、すでにそんな時代は、日本にとってすら過去の話だと私は思う。外圧に屈するのではなく、日本人として「捕鯨とイルカ漁は野蛮なことだからもうやめる」という判断を自らする時が来ていると思う

There are people making a fuss about Caroline Kennedy's comment against Japan's dolphin fishing as “interference in domestic affairs”, but to understand where her comment comes from, we need to understand what whaling and dolphin fishing mean to Americans, and what such practices represent. [...] If most Japanese consider such practices as a barbaric act and if we wish the ocean to have whales and dolphins swimming freely around the world, we should ban whaling and dolphin fishing altogether. It would have been a different story if there were many Japanese who hope that whales and dolphins to be served on plates, however those days are gone. I think rather than giving in to external pressure, it's time for the Japanese to make our own decision to “stop more dolphin fishing and whaling because it barbaric”.

Twitter user Takao Setaka took a look at both sides of the argument:

I never wish to eat dolphins and whales, however, I don't think it's necessary for the state to ban fishing when there is a portion of local people who traditionally practice it as part of their lifestyle. Although, I also do not think that it's necessary to continue to fish just because it's a tradition.

Reading the post, another blogger, good2nd, argued that treating the topic as a cultural issue does not advance the discussion:

It's wrong to label a culture as cruel, but at the same time, you can't say, “It's not cruel because it's culture”, either. Even as people insist on culture, we eat less and less. 

Dolphin meat is considered a delicacy in some regions, but the culinary luxury can come at a high cost. Taiji's coast, where the dolphins are found, is reported to contain high levels of mercury, and residents in Taiji had mercury levels which were 10 times higher than the national average, according to a study conducted by the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido and Daiichi University's College of Pharmaceutical Studies. Mercury levels of 50 ppm in the human body can cause nerve damage.

Dolphins, unlike whales, do not fall under the protection of the International Whaling Convention. Recently, India's Central Zoo Authority banned dolphin captivity in the country, stating that they are “highly intelligent and sensitive” by nature and ought to be seen as “non-human persons.” This is because dolphins and whales are self-aware, demonstrate individuality and are highly intelligent. Dolphins are even known to recognize themselves in mirrors, and are certainly aware that they and those around them are being massacred.

The post was edited by L. Finch and Keiko Tanaka

January 29 2014

Double Standards Toward Women in Corporate Japan Are a Joke

Photo of Japanese male employee and female employee working in office, discussing plans. Rroyalty free photo

Photo of a Japanese male employee and female employee working in office, discussing plans. Royalty free photo

A Tumblr post [ja] illustrating double standards in attitudes towards women in corporate Japan has been widely shared on social media among users:

彼が部長にお昼を誘われると、昇進間近じゃないかと言われる。
彼女が部長にお昼を誘われると、愛人じゃないかと言われる。

彼が同僚と話していると、何を議論してるのかと言われる。
彼女が同僚と話していると、またおしゃべりかと言われる。

彼の結婚が決まると、これで落ち着いて仕事ができるなと言われる。
彼女の結婚が決まると、仕事はいつ辞めるのかと言われる。

彼が海外出張に行くと、いい経験になるからがんばれと言われる。
彼女が海外出張に行くと、夫や子をほっとくのかと言われる。

彼が会社を辞めると、いい転職先が決まったんだなと言われる。
彼女が会社を辞めると、これだから女は・・と言われる。

If a boss asks him for lunch, they say he is getting promoted soon.
If a boss asks her for lunch, they say she is a lover.

If he talks with his colleagues, they ask what he is discussing.
If she talks with her colleagues, they say she's chatting again.

If he decides marry, they say to him “now you can settle down to work”.
If she decides marry, they say to her “when will you resign?” 

If he has overseas business trip, they will say to him, “it'll be a good experience, go for it”.
If she has overseas business trip, they will say to her, “are you leaving her family at home?”

If he resigns, they say, “he found a better job”.
If she resigns, they say, “here it goes again, women…”

The Tumblr post seems to be quoting a website [ja] that collects jokes around the world, but when and who made this joke remains unknown.

The post was sub-edited by Kevin Rennie and L. Finch

January 26 2014

‘AFTER 25 Conference': Tokyo and Berlin Discuss Creative Culture

As Berlin and Tokyo mark 20 years of friendship as sister cities, representatives of two creative industries, including Chairman of the Club Commission of Berlin Marc Wohlrabe and Takahiro Saito, a lawyer and member of Let's Dance, a consortium that fights against Japan's dance regulations, will come together for the AFTER 25 conference on March 1, 2014 in Tokyo to discuss how creative culture can contribute to the socio-economic development of both cities: 

After the fall of the Berlin wall, extreme social, cultural and economic changes transformed the city into a unique playground. Today, 25 years later, it attracts creatives, tech startups, social entrepreneurs, and investors from all over the world.

Berlin recognized its creative sub-cultures as part of its identity and history, which now act as key drivers for tourism and economy. This transformed Berlin into a unique, successful city demonstrating how supporting creativity can grow into key economic and social factors fueling innovation and growth.

This dramatic yet positive change that Berlin went through leads us to the question: what role can Tokyo’s creative cultures play in laying the foundations for the city’s next phase? How can we paint a brighter future by aligning the creative potential of these two cities?

January 17 2014

Creating Japanese Food With Ingredients from Crete

Five prominent Japanese chefs and five of their Greek counterparts got together at a hotel in Crete on January 14, 2014 to create ten dishes representative of the respective origins using local products. At the culinary event dubbed “CRETE delicious” [el], Japanese chefs demonstrated how Cretan products can be incorporated into Japanese popular dishes, and exchanged their healthiest recipes. More about the event including the menu can be found here [ja/en/el].

Chania, Greece. 15th January 2014 -- Group picture of cretan and japanese cooks after the event. --

Chania, Greece. 15 January 2014 – Group photo of Cretan and Japanese cooks after the “Japan meets Crete” event, an initiative of Japanese and Greek entrepreneurs, star cooks and hoteliers. Japan's most famous chefs met with Cretan chefs and prepared foods using local fish and agriculture. Photo taken by Wassilis Aswestopoulos, ©Demotix

Japan Scores Well on Internet Freedom Status Report

U.S. based watchdog organization Freedom House compiled a report on Freedom on the Net 2013 and included the report on Japan for the first time.

Japan was evaluated as “Free”,  where the constitution protects all forms of speech and prohibits censorship, and Internet and digital media freedom are generally well established. For key developments during May 2012 to April 2013, Freedom House reported that: 

  • Political speech was constrained online for 12 days before the December 2012 election under a law banning parties from campaigning online.
  • In April 2013, the legislature overturned that law, but kept restrictions on campaign emails.
  • 2012 amendments to the Copyright Law criminalized intentionally downloading pirated content, though lawyers called for civil penalties.
  • Anti-Korean and anti-Chinese hate speech proliferated online amid real-world territorial disputes.  
  • A constitutional revision promoted by the newly-elected LDP party threatens to erode freedoms and rights that “violate public order” .

You can read the full report here.

January 11 2014

Viral Photo of a Giant Squid Found in California is Fake

image widely circulated on the

Image widely circulated on the Internet. Originally, it appeared io lightlybraisedturnip.com on January 10, 2014. Image used under fair use.  

This fake image of giant squid has been circulating widely on social media across many languages. Originally found on Lightly Braised Turnip, which appears to be a satire news website, the photo was accompanied by the description that a “giant squid was discovered on California coast and scientists suspect radioactive gigantism“, blaming the Fukushima nuclear accident for the existence of the large sea creature.

Giant squid (genus: Architeuthis) is a large, deep-ocean dwelling squid that can grow up to 13 meters (43 feet) naturally. Japanese blogger Piyohiko, suspicious of the photo, investigated [ja] the image online and quickly debunked it.

He searched for images of a “giant squid” on Google and found the original giant squid photo: 

image of giant squid posted in Xinhua news

Photo of a giant squid posted on Xinhua News. The photo was taken by Enrique Talledo [es], who specializes in documenting the ocean

10秒ぐらいで見つけてしまいました!!
なんだか似てると思うのですが、気のせいでしょうか?

It took only 10 seconds for me to find !!
The image looks very similar to me, don't they?

Photographer Masahiro Ariga [ja] also noticed that the image was fake. He noted that the spectators of the giant squid image coincide with those of the photo below, uploaded to 4thmedia.org in 2011:

image from 2011 on

Photo taken November 3, 2011, which appeared on 4thmedia.org's reporting a whale found dead in Chile.

Ariga commented [ja] how quickly the fake image was circulated on Facebook:

このフェイク写真、驚いたことにフェイスブックで物凄い勢いで拡散している。
9日のお昼頃にネット新聞のページを見たとき、いいね!は1300だったのに、その夜にはなんと2万に達していた。イカが放射線によって巨大化したことを信じて不安になる人も多いようだ。
このでたらめ記事が、冗談で書かれたのかそれとも悪意があるのかは分からないが、事実として受けとっている人が少なくない。ネットという空間で嘘と不安が拡大されて、世界中に広まっていくのを、現在進行形で見ているところだ。

The fake photo [of a giant squid washed ashore along the Santa Monica coastline] is spreading at amazing speed. When I saw the online news at noon on January 9, it only had 13,000 Facebook likes. However, overnight, it was already reaching 20,000 likes. Looks like many people believed the news of a squid growing enormous due to radiation and became anxious.

It's not clear whether this fabricated news was written as a joke or with vicious intention, but many people accepted the news as fact. I'm observing how lies and anxiety are amplified on the Internet throughout the world. 

January 10 2014

‘Abita', Animated Short Film About Fukushima Children


“Abita”, an animated short film about Fukushima children who can't play outside because of the radiation risk, delicately illustrates their dreams and realities. The film, produced by Shoko Hara and Paul Brenner, won the award for Best Animated Film at the International Uranium Film Festival in 2013.

Shoko Hara, a student in Germany who was born in Okayama in the western part of Japan, wrote about the metaphor she used in the film.

We used Japanese symbolism in our film. The Dragonfly represents the Japanese island, because of its form. It also symbolizes hope, perspective, dream, energy in Japan and it unites all the natural elements like water, earth and air. These were destroyed with the Fukushima disaster, they don't have any perspectives for their future. Furthermore dragonflies in japan are carriers of fertility. The Dragonfly represents the inner world of the child, that it wants to be free in the nature, but it can't. Dragonfly is a popular symbol in japan and we often use it in arts, poems and in literature. 

Despite scarce media coverage in Japan, the film has been shared widely on social media.

Radiation remains a serious problem for residents in the area surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant since the plant suffered a meltdown following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

No Girls Allowed at New Cosmology Public School in Japan

Photo taken at Jaxa Space Center in Tsukuba by Phil Knall (CC BY-NC)

Photo taken at Jaxa Space Center in Tsukuba by Phil Knall (CC BY-NC)

In collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), a new public school specialized in cosmology education in the southernmost peninsula of Kagoshima prefecture is set to recruit students from all over Japan.

The school sits 20 kilometers away from Uchinoura Space Center and will educate from 7th grade to 12th grade starting from the April of 2015. It is going to be the first public school to require all students to live in a dormitory.

Reaction to the news among Web users has been very positive. Twitter user ririri, who is a student, commented with excitement:

A school that teaches “cosmology”, that's awesome. Sounds exciting. I hope a school like this will help Japan lead the future of the space age! 

Some users drew connection between the school and a comic book series called Twin Spica, a science fiction story of a group of Japanese high school students training to become astronauts. In the comic book, main character Asumi Kamogawa, a female student, enters the Tokyo Space Academy:

TwinSpica

Cover art of the first Twin Spica manga volume featuring lead character Asumi Kamogawa (image from Wikipedia, ©mediafactory)

It reminds me of Twin Spica.

Looks like many people were reminded of the Twin Spica like me. 

However, there is one significant difference between the school in the sci-fi comic book and the new public school: The latter will be only open to boys.  

Twitter user APICa wondered [ja] in disappointment:

The school is so romantic, but why does it have to be only for boys when we have female astronauts, and there are other high schools that have co-ed dormitories?

Hatena bookmark user Unimmo commented [ja] with suspicion whether the school is intentionally discriminating against women:

女性は宇宙にふさわしくないとでも?

Are you saying that space is not for women?

Yuki pondered if the decision was less about gender and more about economics:

It's sad when there are female astronauts out there. Maybe it's only for boys due to cost?

The news, however, did not fuel a gender issues debate online, though many users did continue to express their disappointment with the limitation. Despite the boys-only rule, the unique school will likely carry on gaining the attention of space-loving netizens.

The post including the headline was sub-edited by L.Finch

January 09 2014

‘Hafu’ Film Explores Mixed Race Japanese Identity

Determining our own identity and how we fit into the puzzle around us goes far deeper than a label or definition. In October 2013 Megumi Nishikura, a documentary filmmaker, talked at TEDx Tokyo about explorations into being hafu/haafu (ハーフ hāfu), a term used in Japanese to refer to somebody who is biracial, or ethnically half Japanese.

Upon returning to Japan in 2006, after having lived in the United States for 11 years, Nishikura found herself facing identity issues that she had thought she had put behind her. Then she met others who, like herself, were “hafu”, including the founder of Hafu project, an exploration of the experiences and identities of mixed-Japanese people through portrait photographs and in-depth interviews launched in London in 2008.

By social researcher Marcia Yumi Lise and photographer Natalie Maya Willer, the Hafu Project probes the half-Japanese experience by asking what it means to be half-Japanese inside and outside of Japan. To date, the project has collected 130 portraits and 65 extensive interviews, exploring topics ranging from background and upbringing to personal identity and sense of belonging.

 

Inspired by the Hafu Project, what began as a personal quest for Nishikura has grown into an exploration of identity and expanded into “Hafu the Film”, co-produced with Lara Perez Takagi:

Narrated by the hafus themselves, along with candid interviews and cinéma vérité footage, the viewer is guided through a myriad of hafu experiences that are influenced by upbringing, family relationships, education, and even physical appearance. As the film interweaves five unique life stories, audiences discover the depth and diversity of hafu personal identities.

Hafu - the mixed-race experience in Japan. For more about the film, view the press release here

Hafu – the mixed-race experience in Japan. For more about the film, view the press release here [pdf]

Notions about and the conditions of hafu among Japanese do not necessarily coincide with what each hafu person feels about themselves. Sociology student Fujisaka Shunsuke at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto wrote what he learned about hafu:

I learned about hafu in this class and I learned the situation of hafu. My opinion was changing gradually. After I read a first reading, I leaned how hafu people think. Then I saw the opinions from classmates and I thought hafu people faced more difficult situation than I thought

Another student, Kanami Hirokawa wrote about the tendency of Japanese to exclude people who standout:

Japanese tend to ask hafu questions like “where are you from?” even if they grow up in Japan and have Japanese values and Japanese culture. Japanese must know that people who have different looks with Japanese live in Japan as Japanese. Moreover, Japanese should accept hafu as a member of Japan and should not make borders between Japanese and hafu because they grow up in Japan and have same identity with Japanese. In order that hafu become Japanese completely, not only Japanese accept hafu as a member of Japanese in Japanese society but also Japanese government should begin the approach to make Japan a ‘true’ multicultural country. Japan is based on the idea of jus sanguinis and conservative to foreigners. Today, in the world, globalization is developing now and Japan should review their principle.

While the film captured under the label of “hafu” may not intend to speak for all the mixed race people living in Japan, it touches millions who seek the answer to the question “Who am I?” Check out the latest screening information and more about the film here.

The Faces of Those Affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

the three-dimensional terrain of Google Earth, and the testimony of the victim who survived the tsunami disaster, a photo that is collected from immediately after the disaster.

Screenshot of Project Aceh Tsunami Archive. The project page allows users to view the three-dimensional terrain of Google Earth overlayed with stories of people who survived the tsunami disaster as well as photos collected from immediately after the disaster.

[All links lead to Japanese-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

A group of researchers in Japan in cooperation with the Tsunami and Disaster Mitigation Research Center of Syiah Kuala University in Indonesia have used Google Maps to publish an extensive digital archive of stories and images of people in the Indonesian province of Aceh, one of the areas hardest hit by the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami [en].

Project Aceh Tsunami Archive was developed by three professors, Hidenori Watanave, Hiroyuki Yamamoto, and Yoshimi Nishi, and their students to digitally archive the stories of Aceh's damage and recovery toward a brighter future.

Hiroyuki Yamamoto shared his hope that there is something everyone can learn from the disaster recovery process:

被災から復興への過程は人類共通の財産です。その過程そのものが他の被災地域にとっても大変参考になる資料ですし、被災地域以外にとっても教育・防災で参考になる点が多くあります。この点で、復興に向けて町が変化すること自体が記録すべきものだと考えます。モニュメントとして一部の象徴的な爪跡などを残す動きはありますが、復興の過程で被災の面影が全く感じられなくなるほど変化するエリアもあります。私たちが継続的に定点調査し、日々の変化を記録しているアチェ津波モバイル博物館のデータをもとに、一般の人に使いやすくデザインされたアチェ津波アーカイブにより、被災地の内と外が繋がり、アチェの経験が人類共通の財産となることを期待します。

The process of recovery from the disaster has universal interest. It serves as a reference which will be very helpful for other affected areas, as well as helpful in disaster prevention education outside the affected area. In this regard, we believe that the changes in the region towards recovery should be recorded. Even though there is a movement to preserve damage as a monument, some areas undergo such drastic changes during reconstruction that no damage from the disaster can be traced. I have been researching the regions on a regular basis along with the data sets from Aceh Tsunami Mobile Museum. I hope that our usefully designed interface for the Aceh Tsunami Archive will help connect the people inside and outside of the affected region, and that the experience of Aceh will be shared as common property of mankind. 

Users have the option to select what information appears on the map, such as stories, photos, and aiding countries. By clicking the round photos of people, users can read the story of disaster victims in both Indonesian and Japanese. These stories of survivors were originally compiled and published by Badan Arsip Provinsi Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, the library branch of the National Archives of Indonesia in Aceh, and will be updated more in the near future as more of the text is translated into Japanese.

Screenshot of Aceh Tsunami Archive

Screenshot of the Aceh Tsunami Archive showcasing the story of Intan Mayasari, survivor of the disaster who quickly ran out of the house after the earthquake. 

Project Aceh Tsunami Archive is a counterpart to the already published East Japan Earthquake Archive [ja], so both sets of information can be viewed on a single globe integrated in Google map.

Hidenori Watanave, who has worked on a series of digital archive projects including the aforementioned archives as well as the Tuvalu Visualization Project [en], Nagasaki [atomic bomb] Archive, Hiroshima Archive, and Peace Learning Archive in Okinawawrote:

現地の学生たちは、口を揃えて「津波の記憶が薄れつつある」と話していました。このことには、日本とインドネシアの国民性の違いもあらわれているかも知れません。しかし学生たちは、未来に記憶をつなぐ研究活動を精力的に続けています。また、被災遺構である発電船や、打ち上げられた船の周りに集って遊ぶ子どもたちなど、津波の記憶が「日常」のなかに定着しつつある例も見受けられました。こうしたバンダアチェの被災状況、そして現状を知ることは、日本の将来を考える手がかりとなるかも知れません。

The students in Aceh unanimously said that the memories of the tsunami are fading away. That's something different from Japanese counterpart victims, which may reflect the different characteristic of each nationality. Yet these students are working hard so that their experience will be preserved for the future. We have also seen children playing around the powership and the stranded ship, which are remnants of the tsunami. These scenes are example of memories of the tsunami staying in everyday life, and knowing the condition of the effects and aftermath of the disaster may give clues to how we think about the future of Japan.

January 05 2014

PHOTOS: First Visit to Shinto Shrine of 2014 in Japan

Image of Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo by blogger Tokyobling.

Image of Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo by blogger Tokyobling. Photo used according to blogger's reblog rule

Hatsumōde (初詣 hatsumōde), the first Shinto shrine visit of the New Year, is a common practice among Japanese. Tokyo-based blogger Tokyobling posted a series of photos about the ritual of Hatsumode in Japan.

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