Friday, April 28, 2006

Subway Love arrives in the USA

“It’s so interesting to see how things turn out. I can’t get enough of them. This book is fantastic. I think it’s my best collection ever! That’s what I feel. There’s still a restless hunger, a sort of desperation towards photography, towards myself.”

by Nobuyoshi Araki

Today we are photographed everywhere we go, from the many mobile phones with built-in cameras to the security cameras in every corner. Despite this, we continue to sneak a “private” moment when we think no one is looking (or cares): picking our noses, taking naps, or shedding tears.

But that wasn’t the case in 1960s Tokyo when one of the few cameras aboard the subway was hidden in the lap of a young commuter, Nobuyoshi Araki. Internationally famous today, especially for his portraits of women in bondage, Araki had to satisfy his early urges to photograph by using a spy cam on his way to and from work at Japan’s leading ad agency. A collection of the results are now available in the book, Subway Love, available from Stone Bridge Press in April 2006.

“People would say to me all the time, ‘What a waste. Commuting to work is hardly the greatest subject out there, is it?’” said Araki. “I disagree: I think the subway makes a fabulous studio.”

This collection reveals contact sheets as well as enlarged images of Araki’s choosing, all printed on glossy photo paper. Over 200 black & white images capture the 60s and 70s within Tokyo’s subway system, which the young commuter saw as a “prisoner transport car.”

However, Araki still sees the “Subway Love.”

“I don’t think the pictures project a sense of loneliness. Everyone’s alive; everyone’s okay. They’re not alone in this world. They’re gonna meet with someone somehow. It’s not about love, but some sort of encounter is just around the corner.”

Of course, Japan’s most celebrated and controversial photographer can no longer anonymously use a spy cam on the subway, and on the street is more likely to BE photographed despite never leaving home without a camera or two. His problem with it, however, is not exactly about privacy.

“People are always taking my photo with their mobiles. I don’t mind, but then they go and send it off to their boyfriend or girlfriend. That pisses me off, I tell you. It’s not that I’m anti-digital...It’s not right for shadows to become bright. And it’s the same with our emotions: we may have all sorts of faults, but we all have good points, too. Taking a picture makes a momentary connection between two people: it’s a marriage proposal that lasts a microsecond.”

Subway Love, by Nobuyoshi Araki is a publication of Stone Bridge Press. It will be released in April 2006, retailing for US$40. It is 228 pp., paper, 10” x 8” with 200+ b&w photographs. ISBN-10: 4-89684-140-9, ISBN-13: 978-4-89684-140-4.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tokyo Fragments reviewed in Multicultural Review

Multicultural Review's Spring 2006 issue reviews Tokyo Fragments: Short Stories of Modern Tokyo by Five of Japan's Leading Contemporary Writers, saying, "'Enigmatic' describes Tokyo Fragments... this collection offers a glimpse of life in the big city; it's a view that tourists don't get."

Tokyo Fragments is written by Ryuji Morita, Tomomi Muramatsu, Mariko Hayashi, Makoto Shiina, Chiya Fujino and translated by Giles Murray.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Author Frederik L. Schodt to rock out at Cherry Blossom Festival

Writer, translator and overall Renaissance Man Frederik L. Schodt will be appearing live with his band Just Friends at the famous San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival this Saturday, April 15 from 1-2 pm. You can find them at the Comcast Stage on Webster Street in Japantown.

Mr. Schodt is the author/translator of several SBP titles: Mobile Suit Gundam, Native American in the Land of the Shogun, Dreamland Japan, The Four Immigrants Manga, and America and the Four Japans.

Rock on, Fred!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Support SF students at scholarship dinner

You are cordially invited to attend the Annual Scholarship Dinner to be held on Friday, April 28, at the Radisson Miyako Hotel San Francisco from 5:30-9:00 pm

Asian Coalition (AC) is a voluntary membership organization comprised of faculty, classified staff, administrators, trustees, students and community members at City College of San Francisco (CCSF).

Established in 1979, Asian Coalition was established to promote the success of Asian American students and equal opportunity for Asian American faculty and staff at CCSF. AC provides a vehicle for an organized and unified voice to address the needs and concerns of Asian Americans at CCSF.

This event will include a silent auction that has several Stone Bridge titles.

Stone Bridge Press needs cosplayers!

Stone Bridge Press, publishers of books about Japan that is well known for its titles on anime and manga, are coming out with two new books dedicated to cosplay.

Cosplay: Catgirls and Other Critters arrives this May, and Cosplay: School Girls and Uniforms arrives in June. That means Stone Bridge is down to the last of the layouts, but they need more photos!

Cosplayers of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, etc., are asked to submit hi-res digital images or photo slides (no mere jpeg will do). For the themes of the books, cosplayers must be catgirls, schoolgirls, or "critters." Stone Bridge Press will also need the actual name of the cosplayer(s) pictured and a model release statement.

There is no pay but there is glory, international exposure and a free book!

Cosplayers should email Stone Bridge Press before April 14, 2006 about what they have in terms of digital images or photo slides, and the type of cosplay. No need to attach an image just yet!

About Cosplay: The Anime Costuming Handbook

Why just draw your favorite anime character when you can BE it? Cosplay – short for "costume play" – is sweeping the anime con scene from coast to coast, and once again we're leading the way with a pair of books for both beginning and veteran cosplayers. Each volume features: transforming ordinary fabric and accessories into fabulous contest winners, creating genre-specific costumes from scratch; duplicating your favorite characters or inventing your very own; cosplaying both for competition and just for fun; accessories from shoes to makeup; finding hard-to-get and imported items; patterns, measurements, and sewing techniques; money-saving tips and how-tos for cosplay on a budget; pointers on the care and transportation of costumes; resource lists, websites, where to find character models, etc.; plus full-color photos, plans, and drawings.

Catgirls and Other Critters
Catgirls are a favorite of fans from All Purpose Cultural Catgirl Nuku-Nuku to Hyper Police and great for purring and prowling.

School Girls and Uniforms
This is all about schoolgirls (think Sailor Moon) and how to make uniforms with just the right bouncy-skirt done anime style.

About the author: Gerry Poulos is a long-time anime reviewer, illustrator, and photographer. He lives in Ohio.

The Way of Taiko reviewed at Japan Visitor

Japan Visitor reviews The Way of Taiko: "For those with even a passing interest, this is a lovely little book. Written in an easy-to-understand style, this is a perfect primer."

Read the review

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Spirtit of Taiko to be screened at Portland Taiko

On April 12 Portland Taiko is screening The Spirit of Taiko. After the screening, there will be a short program in which filmmaker Gayle Yamada will be interviewed by the Executive Director of Portland Taiko. The Spirit of Taiko features Seiichi Tanaka who wrote the foreword for The Way of Taiko.

The Spirit of Taiko will be aired on public television throughout the country this year. Check your local listings!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Japan Journals reviewed at Reader Views

Reader Views has posted its review of The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 by Donald Richie:

"Sure, this book can be taken as the history of a changing Japan during an integral fifty years. More, it should be taken as the history of a changing man who happens to live in Japan while history marches on."

Read the entire review

Monday, April 03, 2006

Asiatic Society reports on Frederik L. Schodt's lecture

The Asiatic Society of Japan has already released the notes on Frederik L. Schodt's speaking event on March 20:

March Meeting

The Czech Ambassador, H. E. Mr. Karel Žebrakovský, had kindly invited the Society to hold its March meeting in the embassy's very comfortable cinema hall. On this occasion we were also happy to have with us the Canadian Ambassador, H. E. Mr. Joseph Caron, and Mrs. Caron.

The speaker was Mr.
Frederik L. Schodt, a graduate of ASIJ and ICU, as it happened, who had chosen to give us the outline of his latest book, Native American in the Land of the Shogun: Ranald MacDonald and the Opening of Japan, which was twelve years in the researching and writing, and last year was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine. (He presented a copy of this book to your secretary to help in the writing of this summary, and it will be passed on to the ASJ library in due course.) Mr. Schodt's presentation held his audience spellbound, illustrated throughout, as it was, by slides.

Ranald MacDonald, who was remarkable for coming to Japan five years before Perry and teaching English to an interpreter who would play an important role when Perry did come, was born in Fort George, Astoria, in 1824, the son of a Scotsman, Archibald McDonald, an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company, which virtually operated as an independent state in an area ranging over what is now Washington and contiguous regions, and set up various "forts" of which Fort George (built by earlier traders as Fort Astoria) was one; a monument to Ranald now stands in the partial reconstruction of the original Fort Astoria. His mother was a daughter of the Chinook Chief Comcomly, but she died soon after he was born. The Company then set up its main base in Fort Vancouver, further up the Columbia River, and after moving here Archibald met and married Jane Klyne, whom photographs show to have been a "Métis" (like a Spanish mestizo - the traders had no white women with them). This was the place where Ranald acquired his first rudimentary education.

Around this time, three Japanese drifters (hyôryûsha) were cast ashore near Cape Flattery, and made their way to the neighbouring Ozette. From there they were taken to Fort Vancouver, and the chief factor there, John McLoughlin, sent them home on a roundabout route via Hawaii, London and China; however, they were barred from coming home by Japan's Seclusion Laws, and all died abroad. It is unlikely that Ranald ever met them, but his interest in Japan was undoubtedly stirred by hearing of their story.

At the age of ten, Ranald was sent to the Red River Settlement (now absorbed into Winnipeg) to receive a better education; this community in "Rupert's Land" had churches and schools. Then in 1839 Archibald, having greater ambitions for him, sent him on to a friend in St. Thomas (near London, Ontario), Edward Ermatinger, to be apprenticed to his business. However, Ranald did not take to this arrangement, and ran away and went to sea. In 1842 we find him in Sag Harbor, on Long Island, aboard a whaler. By this time whalers had fished out the Atlantic, and moved to the Pacific, including the area north of Japan. There was one Captain, Mercator Cooper, who picked up a number of Japanese sailors and successfully put them ashore in Tokyo Bay. (Another Japanese drifter picked up by a whaler was the famous "John" Manjirô Nakahama, and Ranald must at least have heard of him, as Manjirô was taken to Fairhaven, Massachusetts.) In 1846 Ranald arrived in Lahaina, in the Hawaiian Islands, aboard the Plymouth, and must have heard there about Captain Cooper. On Lahaina there was a missionary doctor, Dwight Baldwin, and his mission contained reading matter for seamen, such as newspapers and books, some of which carried information about Japan. At one stage Baldwin had hosted shipwrecked Japanese sailors, and had tried to learn their language.

In Honolulu there was a missionary, Samuel Damon, who was a chaplain to seamen and published a newspaper, The Friend, which printed the story of Captain Cooper and of other shipwrecked Japanese sailors, and also of Americans shipwrecked in Japan. Damon was becoming increasingly interested in Japan, and feeling that the time must come when the country would be opened up, first to trade and then to missionary work. Another paper, The Polynesian, carried accounts of foreign ships being provided with food and water in Japan, although their crews were not allowed to land - this representing an easing of the seclusion policy which had been initiated in 1842. These accounts Ranald read, and they must have stimulated his determination to make a landing in Japan, which was also spurred by a love of adventure.

Late in 1847 the Plymouth set out on a voyage to Hong Kong and Japanese waters, and in June 1848 the ship arrived off the west coast of Hokkaido. There Ranald got the captain to cast him adrift in a small boat, with food and water and a chest full of his books, including a Bible. He landed first on a small island called Yagishiri, and finding no people there he made for Rishiri, further north. When he landed he was met by Ainu, who, as was their duty, handed him over to the Japanese authorities. He was taken to the Japanese outpost of Sôya, on the northern tip of Wakkanai, and from there to the administrative centre of Matsumae, on the extreme south-western tip of Hokkaido, all the time keeping up his story that he had been shipwrecked. (There were other American sailors imprisoned there, and one slide showed a Japanese sketch of one of them, named "George".) Eventually he was transported to Nagasaki, to which there was a degree of access granted to Dutch traders, and from which foreign nationals could be deported on Dutch ships, and there he was imprisoned and interrogated, through the use of the professional "Dutch interpreters", of whom a young man, Einosuke Moriyama, proved to be able to understand English to some degree. Interesting Japanese records of the interviews survive, and in one slide could be seen, for example, the katakana "Roburutsurando" for "Rupert's Land". The Japanese found he was not rough and tough like the usual sailors they had to deal with, and as they were now discovering that English was the predominant international language, and the interpreters were desperate to learn it, they made use of him as a teacher, with Moriyama as his star pupil. Ranald also made efforts to learn some Japanese, and another slide showed a word list he had made, with the Japanese written in his own system of romanization, with silent vowels not recorded, thus fta for futa. The Chinese temple where he was kept has been identified in recent times, and a monument to him now stands close by.

In April, 1849, the U.S.S. Preble, captained by Commander James Glynn, arrived, with orders to repatriate any U.S. seamen they found there, and Ranald was one of them. His movements over the next four years are unclear, but he travelled by way of Hong Kong, Australia and the various capitals of Europe before reappearing in North America in the spring of 1853. This was the year in which Perry first came to Japan with certain demands, returning the next year to negotiate them. The negotiations were officially conducted in Dutch and Chinese (Perry brought interpreters with him), but men like Moriyama were able to use their English informally to establish friendships. Thus Ranald contributed indirectly towards the establishment of international contacts and the modernization of Japan.

After returning home he seems first to have gone to British Columbia to join in the gold rush. In 1864 he played a leading role in the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition, but by 1885 the wanderlust had finally run out, and he settled down near the old Fort Colvile, close to what had now become the modern national border north of Spokane, and died there on August 5th, 1894. He was buried in an Indian cemetery at Toroda, near Curlew, Washington.

There followed a number of questions, to which Mr. Schodt gave very full answers. One questioner asked whether, during his interrogations, Ranald ever said that he had entered Japan voluntarily. Mr. Schodt said that he did not. He also speculated on what may have been Ranald's reasons for coming - to become an interpreter, to make his fortune, to proselytize. Another questioner asked what books he might have read in North America to make the racial connection between Native Americans and the Japanese. The speaker said that we cannot be sure, but as the Hudson's Bay Company's records were extremely meticulous he had been able to establish that in their library there were books on Japan by William Broughton and also by Russian explorers such as Vasilii Golovnin and also Georg Langsdorff (the German physician who accompanied Nicolai Rezanov in 1804). He added that the officers of the Company held the racial connection as a common theory and saw a particularly strong resemblance between the Native Americans of the Pacific North West and Asians, with their shorter stature and broader faces than the Plains Indians. Mr. Schodt quoted a letter written by Ranald to Samuel Damon from Hong Kong in 1849, in which he mentions his complexion as being one reason why he went to Japan. A question was asked about whether there were a lot of shipwrecked Asians washed up in the Americas. Indeed there were, especially in the North West but also in Mexico; one group arrived in Santa Barbara, in California, believing they were near Nagasaki! Some did even eventually make it back to Japan. Many of these are detailed in Katherine Plummer's The Shogun's Reluctant Ambassadors. (See her account of one of them in Series III, Vol. 19, 1984, of the Transactions.)

The meeting closed with a vote of thanks proposed by ASJ Council Member Keith McPhalen, who commended the speaker's ability as a writer to look ahead and find something new to write about that would afterwards become a popular topic. This book on Ranald MacDonald was expansive in its aims and provided something deeply gripping to the reader.

After the meeting the ambassador invited those present to stay and partake of drinks, including Czech beer.

"Bulletin" of the Asiatic Society of Japan, No. 4, April 2006.