Recently in Fieldnotes Category

I'm often asked by people who have read my articles or my book, Deaf in Japan, if I could introduce them to people who are engaged in disability or deaf studies in Japan. Unfortunately, I cannot do this because introductions in Japan are considerably more fraught than in the United States:

An introduction in Japan has two dimensions:

  • Guarantee: By introducing someone to one of my informants, I am serving as their guarantor and vouching for them. If there are any problems or difficulties, it then becomes my responsibility to resolve any social or financial damage that might be caused by them.
  • Reciprocity: By introducing someone to one of my informants, I am asking my informant to do a favor on my behalf -- to take care of the visitor and to make sure that their needs are met. The assumption is that this favor will be reciprocated by me at a later date.

While I will do introductions for my students and people that I meet and know, I cannot vouch for or ask favors of my informants for people that I have not met and do not know. Instead, I will usually refer people to google or use the white pages and to cold call people (or more appropriately, to use their own letterhead in a formal letter of self-introduction).

This is definitely one of more stuffy and formalistic aspects of doing fieldwork in Japan.

I'm in Japan for the next couple of months and making good use of for many of my purchases, including camera equipment. Many people don't know, but Amazon's foreign subsidiaries have the Amazon Currency Converter feature where you can make the purchase either in the local currency (Japanese yen, in my case) or in US Dollars. This can be handy for credit cards that charge a currency conversion fee -- or for invoicing one's university in US dollars (in my case).

Will buying from using my local currency make my purchase less expensive? When you buy in Japanese Yen (JPY) at with a card denominated in a supported currency other than JPY (for example, a Euro-denominated card), the payment is converted from JPY to your local currency by your card company. In addition to the exchange rate, you may be charged additional foreign conversion charges and fees, which may increase the overall cost of your purchase.

With Amazon Currency Converter, your purchase total will be converted into your local currency while you're placing your order. In many cases, your purchase will be less expensive than using your card to make the purchase in Japanese Yen (JPY), as we offer a competitive exchange rate that includes any charges or fees related to the conversion.

But I was curious just how good of a rate Amazon was giving me. So on a recent JPY8225 purchase, I got the foreign conversion quote and then went ahead and made the purchase anyway using Japanese yen on an American credit card that doesn't charge a foreign conversion fee (CapitalOne):

	Local price: JP Y8225 - foreign conversion into USD: $111.19
CapitalOne credit card: $107.24

Amazon's rate: 73.97247954 y/$
CapitalOne rate: 76.697127937 listed rated: 76.7014

Conclusion: If you have a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card, then it's about 3% cheaper to use your own card than to use Amazon's Currency Converter feature.

p.s. Today's date 2011.09.19 21:24 JST.

I had trouble locating the full text of the 1900 Mental Patient Custody Act in Japan. Here it is below for mostly my purposes. The original was here ( but like all things on the web, I don't want to count on it still being there.


第一条 精神病者ハ其ノ後見人配偶者四親等内ノ親族又ハ戸主ニ於テ之ヲ監護スルノ義務ヲ負フ但シ民法第九百八条ニ依リ後見人タルコトヲ得サル者ハ此ノ限ニ在ラス
2 監護義務者数人アル場合ニ於テ其ノ義務ヲ履行スヘキ者ノ順位ハ左ノ如シ但シ監護義務者相互ノ同意ヲ以テ順位ヲ変更スルコトヲ得
 第一 後見人
 第二 配偶者
 第三 親権ヲ行フ父又ハ母
 第四 戸主
 第五 前各号ニ掲ケタル者ニ非サル四親等内ノ親族中ヨリ親族会ノ選任シタル者

第二条 監護義務者ニ非サレハ精神病者ヲ監置スルコトヲ得ス

第三条 精神病者ヲ監置セムトスルトキハ行政庁ノ許可ヲ受クヘシ但シ急迫ノ事情アルトキハ仮リニ之ヲ監置スルコトヲ得此ノ場合ニ於テハ二十四時間内ニ行政庁ニ届出ヘシ
2 前項仮監置ノ期間ハ七日ヲ超ユルコトヲ得ス
3 行政庁ノ許可ヲ受ケテ監置シタル精神病者ノ監置ヲ廃止シタル後三箇年内ニ更ニ之ヲ監置セムトスルトキ又ハ民法第九百二十二条ニ依リ禁治産者ヲ監置セムトスルトキハ行政庁ニ届出ヘシ

第四条 精神病者ノ監置ノ方法又ハ場所ヲ変更シタルトキハ二十四時間内ニ行政庁ニ届出ヘシ

第五条 監置シタル精神病者治癒シ死亡シ若ハ行方不明ト為リタルトキ又ハ其ノ監置ヲ廃止シタルトキハ七日内ニ行政庁ニ届出ヘシ

第六条 精神病者ヲ監置スルノ必要アルモ監護義務者ナキ場合又ハ監護義務者其ノ義務ヲ履行スルコト能ハサル事由アルトキハ精神病者ノ住所地、住所地ナキトキ又ハ不明ナルトキハ所在地市区町村長ハ勅令ノ定ムル所ニ従ヒ之ヲ監護スヘシ

第七条 行政庁ハ精神病者ノ監護ニ関シ必要ト認ムルトキハ監置ノ許可ヲ取消シ監置ノ廃止ヲ命シ又ハ監置ノ方法若ハ場所ノ変更ヲ命スルコトヲ得
2 監置ノ許可ヲ取消サレ又ハ其ノ廃止ヲ命セラレタル者監置ヲ廃止セサルトキハ行政庁ハ直接ニ監置ヲ廃止スルコトヲ得

第八条 精神病者監置ノ必要アルトキ又ハ監置不適当ト認ムルトキハ行政庁ハ第一条第二項ノ順位ニ拘ラス監護義務者ヲ指定シ之カ監置ヲ命スルコトヲ得但シ急迫ノ事情アルトキハ行政庁ハ仮リニ其ノ精神病者ヲ監置スルコトヲ得此ノ場合ニ於テハ第三条第二項ノ規定ヲ準用ス
2 市区町村長ニ於テ監護スル精神病者ノ監護義務者ヲ発見シ又ハ監護義務者其ノ義務ヲ履行シ得ルニ至リタルトキ亦前項ニ同シ
3 本条ニ依リ精神病者ノ監置ヲ命セラレタル監護義務者其ノ命ヲ履行セサルトキハ第六条ノ例ニ依リ市区町村長ニ於テ之ヲ監護スヘシ
4 本条ニ依リ監護義務者ノ監置シタル精神病者ニ関シテハ行政庁ノ許可ヲ受クルニ非サレハ其ノ監置ヲ廃止シ又ハ監置ノ方法若ハ場所ヲ変更スルコトヲ得ス

第九条 私宅監置室、公私立精神病院及公私立病院ノ精神病室ハ行政庁ノ許可ヲ受クルニ非サレハ之ヲ使用スルコトヲ得ス
2 私宅監置室、公私立精神病院及公私立病院ノ精神病室ノ構造設備及管理方法ニ関スル規定ハ命令ヲ以テ之ヲ定ム

第十条 監護ニ要シタル費用ハ被監護者ノ負担トシ被監護者ヨリ弁償ヲ得サルトキハ其ノ扶養義務者ノ負担トス
2 市町村長ニ於テ監護スル場合ニ於テ之カ為要スル費用ノ支弁方法及其ノ追徴方法ハ行旅病人及行旅死亡人取扱法ノ規定ヲ準用ス

第十一条 行政庁ハ必要ト認ムルトキハ其ノ指定シタル医師ヲシテ精神病者ノ検診ヲ為サシメ又ハ官吏若ハ医師ヲシテ精神病者ニ関シ必要ナル尋問ヲ為サシメ又ハ精神病者在ル家宅病院其ノ他ノ場所ニ臨検セシムルコトヲ得

第十二条 本法又ハ本法ニ基ツキテ発スル命令ノ執行ニ関シ行政庁ノ違法処分ニ由リ権利ヲ傷害セラレタリトスル者ハ行政裁判所ニ出訴スルコトヲ得

第十三条 本法又ハ本法ニ基ツキテ発スル命令ノ執行ニ関スル行政庁ノ処分ニ不服アル者ハ訴願ヲ提起スルコトヲ得

第十四条 官吏公吏又ハ行政庁ノ命ヲ受ケテ公務ヲ行フ医師本法ノ執行ニ関シ不正ノ所為ヲ為シタル者ハ三年以下ノ重禁錮ニ処シ百円以下ノ罰金ヲ附加ス

第十五条 官吏公吏又ハ行政庁ノ命ヲ受ケテ公務ヲ行フ医師本法ノ執行ニ関シ賄賂ヲ収受シ又ハ之ヲ聴許シタル者ハ刑法第二百八十六条ノ例ニ照ラシテ処断ス

第十六条 左ニ掲クル者ハ一年以下ノ重禁錮ニ処シ百円以下ノ罰金ヲ附加ス
 一 詐偽ノ所為ヲ以テ行政庁ノ許可ヲ受ケ若ハ虚偽ノ届出ヲ為シ精神病者ヲ監置シ又ハ拘束ノ程度ヲ加重シタル者
 二 医師精神病者ノ診断書ニ虚偽ノ事実ヲ記載シ又ハ自ラ診断セスシテ診断書ヲ授与シタル者
2 前項第一号ノ場合ニ於テハ監置又ハ拘束ノ日数十日ヲ過クル毎ニ一等ヲ加フ

第十七条 左ニ掲クル者ハ二月以下ノ重禁錮ニ処シ二十円以下ノ罰金ヲ附加シ又ハ百円以下ノ罰金ニ処ス但シ監置又ハ拘束ノ日数十日ヲ過クル毎ニ一等ヲ加フ
 一 許可ヲ受ケス又ハ届出ヲ為サス若ハ命ヲ受ケスシテ精神病者トシテ人ヲ監置シタル者
 二 禁治産ノ宣告又ハ監置ノ許可ヲ取消サレ又ハ監置ノ廃止ヲ命セラレ若ハ仮監置ノ期間ヲ経過シタル後監置ヲ廃止セサル者
 三 許可ヲ受ケ又ハ届出ヲ為シ若ハ命ヲ受ケタル程度ヲ超エテ精神病者ヲ拘束シタル者

第十八条 左ニ掲クル者ハ一月以下ノ重禁錮ニ処シ十円以下ノ罰金ヲ附加シ又ハ五十円以下ノ罰金ニ処ス
 一 精神病者ノ監置ニ関シ虚偽ノ事実ヲ記載シタル願届其ノ他ノ書類ヲ行政庁ニ提出シタル者
 二 監護義務ヲ履行スヘキ順位ニ在ラサル者ニシテ許可ヲ受ケス又ハ命ニ依ルニ非スシテ監置ヲ廃止シ又ハ監置ノ方法若ハ場所ヲ変更シタル者
 三 官吏又ハ行政庁ノ指定シタル医師ノ臨検若ハ検診ヲ拒ミ又ハ其ノ尋問ニ対シ答弁ヲ為サス若ハ虚偽ノ答弁ヲ為シタル者

第十九条 左ニ掲クル者ハ百円以下ノ罰金二処ス
 一 監置ノ方法若ハ場所ノ変更ヲ命セラレ其ノ命ヲ履行セサル者
 二 監護義務者精神病者ノ監置ヲ命セラレ其ノ命ヲ履行セサル者
 三 第八条第四項及第九条第一項ニ違背シタル者

第二十条 第四条及第五条ニ違背シタル者ハ十円以下ノ罰金二処ス

  附 則

第二十一条 本法ハ明治三十三年七月一日ヨリ之ヲ施行ス
2 本法施行前ヨリ精神病者ヲ監置シタル者ニシテ仍之ヲ継続セムトスルトキハ本法施行ノ日ヨリ二箇月内ニ第三条ノ許可ヲ受ケ又ハ届出ヲ為スヘシ
3 第三条ノ許可ヲ受ケス又ハ届出ヲ為サスシテ前項ノ期間ヲ経過シタル後監置ヲ廃止セサル者ハ第十七条ノ例ニ照シテ処断ス
4 本法中市区町村長ニ属スル職務ハ市制区制町村制ヲ施行セサル地ニ在リテハ市区町村長二準スヘキ者之ヲ行フ

第二十二条 外国人タル精神病者ノ監護ニ関シ別段ノ規定ヲ要スルモノハ勅令ヲ以テ之ヲ定ム

第二十三条 人事訴訟手続法第五十条又ハ第六十条ニ依リ裁判所ニ於テ精神病者ノ監護ニ付必要ナル処分ヲ命シタル場合ニ関シテハ本法ノ規定ヲ適用セス


Film: A Japanese Funeral

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These days I've been busy editing my new film, titled A Japanese Funeral. A few months into my fieldworkin Japan, one of my informants died. I was given the opportunity to film the entire funeral sequence -- from the moment the body came back from the hospital to the cremation.

Editing it was very difficult emotionally for me. I'm close to the family, which is why I got the permission to film it. But it also means I feel a deep responsibility to make sure my informant's death is remembered properly.

The film is designed to be shown in the classroom. The current rough cut is 10 minutes, but after watching it today I think I cut it a bit too short and might expand it to 15 minutes. I want to screen it to a few more people first, though.

One of the students in my visual anthro class asked about how to capture an iChat video conversation (both sides). She wanted to tape a conversation with one of her informants. A little googling revealed a neat little application called Conference Recorder:

There are also some neat tips in the article, including the use of SnapZ or Garage Band to record iChat (and perhaps Skype) conversations.

As always, let the other person know that you are recording the conversation -- for ethical and legal reasons.

We talked in my Ethnographic Filmmaking class yesterday about field journals. I'm particular to keeping paper journals (which I scan and PDF) but students had some recommendations for online journaling software:




I should mention that some of my grad students have also experimented with using blogging software set to a privacy mode to blog their fieldnotes.

I also posted an older (but much more extensive) list a while ago:

I recently gave a talk at a symposium during the 4th annual meeting of the Japan Disability Studies association. It was held on September 17-18th at Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University.

There's a short article in the Kyoto News:

During my recent visit to Awaji Island, I went to the Nojima Fault Preservation Museum. The Nojima fault was the cause of the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake that killed over 6400 people in the Kobe-Awaji area.

What was unique about the Nojima area of Awaji Island was that the fault plane was clearly visible as it sheared the earth up several centimeters and laterally a meter or so. This caused roads, ditches, hedges, fences, and buildings to buckle and shear in a unique fashion. The photos below express it best. After the earthquake, an effort was made to preseve the physical evidence by building a museum over it.

This photo shows the shear line clearly. The two halves are composed of different types of soils because this area has been seismologically active for some time, causing the two halves to exhibit different properties.


DMC-LX2.jpgOne of the doctoral students asked me in May which digital camera he should get for his summer predissertation fieldwork. He was leaning towards getting a digital SLR but I suggested he instead look at high-end compact digital point-and-shoots -- specifically the ones in the 8-10 megapixel and $400-600 range. He ended up getting the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2.

Just as I believe that film rangefinders are superior to film SLRs for ethnographic work because of their portability and inconspiciousness, I think the high-end compact digital camera has now come of age. They now have just as many megapixels as their dSLR brethren and if the engineers can work on the noise reduction of high-ISO images just a little bit more (and put back in optical viewfinders), they'll be perfect.

Fast forward a month later and I'm in Japan looking at the various options for my own fieldwork this summer and fall. After a couple of hours playing with the various cameras at Yodobashi Camera in Umeda (Osaka Station), I ended up choosing the same camera -- the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. Here are the things that I particularly like about it:

  • 16:9 frame format (4:3 and 3:2 selectable)
  • 24mm equivalent on the widest angle, about 100 mm on the tele
  • 10 megapixels
  • SDHC compatible -- I bought an 8 gigabyte SDHC card for it
  • Movie format (MJPEG)

There's some shutter lag, but if you prefocus you can take sports photographs with a little practice (see photograph of one of my informants playing ball). I'm also playing with the movie mode and finding it isn't nearly as unusable as I thought it'd be.

Now the big news is that the new Mac OS 10.4.10 update now supports the Lumix RAW format of the LX2. I'm storing all my fieldwork photographs in Apple Aperture and using its powerful organizing indexing functions.

I've uploaded a two minute trailer for Bethel: Community and Schizophrenia in Northern Japan onto a new website I've dedicated for Bethel publicity:

Please enjoy!

I was asked the other day by a graduate student about how to get published by a university press. I thought the easiest thing to do was to post the letter that I wrote to Cornell University Press back in 2003 proposing the book that eventually became Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity.

November 14, 2003

Roger Haydon
Senior Editor
Cornell University Press
Sage House
512 East State Street
Ithaca NY 14850

Dear Mr. Haydon:

I enjoyed meeting you earlier this year at the Asian Studies conference. I regret that we did not have the opportunity to talk further in depth about the manuscript that I am currently working on and apologize for the delay in sending you the proposal. Cornell University Press has a reputation for cutting edge work in Asian Studies that blends political science, ethnography and history. I am excited by the opportunity of working with you on this project.

That’s Sign Fascism!: The Conflict Over Deaf Identity and Sign Language in Contemporary Japan is the story of the development of deaf communities, minority identities, and political movements. It is designed to be able to be read in introductory Japanese culture and history, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Political Science, Sociology, Deaf Studies, and Disability Studies, courses as well as focused topic courses in those areas.

In my book, I trace the history and development of deaf identity from the turn of the 19th century, linking deaf identity with early Showa and post-War modernization and industrialization discourses. I embed oral histories (well... in reality they were signed histories) from deaf women in the different generational cohorts to illustrate how larger social and political forces have shaped individual life stories.

The title refers to a comment made by one of the leaders within the somewhat assimilationist (albeit communist-inflected) Japanese Federation of the Deaf. She was incensed by the new generation of deaf activists who were adopting an American-style, radical, separationist deaf identity. The youth activists were claiming that they were the true bearers of a “pure JSL” (Japanese Sign Language) and attempting to control the lexicon and grammar through various means. The book ends by exploring how the language wars around Japanese signing are evidence of changing generational attitudes towards disability, identity, and culture in Japan.

Written for advanced undergraduates and interested laypeople, this ethnography appeals to several readerships. Deafness has characteristics of both ethnic minority as well as disability status. Those interested in minority groups in Japan will be attracted to my explicit analysis and comparison of the deaf against other Japanese minority groups (including the Burakumin and zainichi Koreans). As you may know, several volumes on minorities in Japan have come out in the past several years, indicating that this is increasingly an area of scholarly interest. Sonia Ryang’s recent edited volume on Koreans in Japan, the slate of books on Brazilian Nikkeijin, and the interest in Okinawan studies all point to minority studies as an area of growth in Japan Studies and Asian Studies.

My book also contributes to the growing field of Deafness and Disability Studies. While there are numerous texts on deaf communities in Western contexts, there are not many books that deal with deafness or disability cross-culturally. My co-edited volume Many Ways to be Deaf (Gallaudet University Press) released this summer has already sold 300 units in the first month, according to my most recent royalty statement. This is as a $70 344-page hardcover volume with little advertising. I have no doubt that a paperback monograph on deafness in Japan will have much broader appeal in deaf and disability studies, similar to Nora Groce’s (1988) classic Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language (Harvard U Press), which is ranked 78,000th in and which has gone back to print several times. In terms of CUP publications, I would situate my text between Ellis Krauss’ Broadcasting Politics in Japan and Joshua Roth’s Brokered Homeland.

I’m enclosing a table of contents and the first two chapters for your consideration. Please also find enclosed a reprint of my Social Sciences Japan Journal article, which was awarded the 2003 ISS/Oxford University Press Award for Modern Japanese Studies and is based on a chapter of this book.

I would like to sign a contract at your earliest convenience with the manuscript to be submitted by May 2004. As I will be working on a new project by August 2004 funded through the Abe Fellowship, I have considerable incentive to finish this project by the end of next summer.

Karen Nakamura
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
Macalester College

Hi Karen,

My name is Loren and I'm a media grad student and documentary filmmaker in Buffalo, NY who stumbled across your blog some time ago and have been following it for a while now. I have some technical questions about the film you just finished since I know you're working in the HDV format and am currently working on a full length doc in HDV as well.

What I'm wondering, assuming your shooting ratio for the project was relatively high, is what kind of workflow you used to deal with all the material? Could you maybe do a post describing it for your blog?

Anything from whether you used native HDV or an intermediate codec for editing, software / hardware issues you ran into that were frustrating, and hd delivery format for festivals (if you're using one) to whether you captured / logged your tapes at night during the time you were shooting or left the capturing / logging process entirely until after you had completed filming.

Your blog gives a lot of insight into the tools that you use and I'd love to hear more details about both your experience shooting ethnographic documentary in HDV and your overall production process.


My Workflow

In the field, I usually operate as a one-person crew. If I'm lucky, my partner can help me with a second camera and do interviews, but usually I am by myself. Sound is important to me, so I try to use wireless lav mics or use dual-system sound with a digital audio recorder. I shoot everything to HDV and label each cassette with the date, sequence number, and topic, and camera name. For example: 20051221b-BETHEL – Canon is the second tape I shot on December 21st, 2005 at the Bethel Community using my Canon XL-H1.

DVD Jacket.jpg

I write daily fieldnotes and I note the tape numbers in my fieldnotes where possible. Otherwise, I just correlate them later by date and time. I don't otherwise have time to log and review tapes in the field. I also carry a very minimal fieldkit which doesn't include a preview monitor (except the one built-into the camera). This has led to some problems -- noticeably that I have fluorescent flickering in some sequences of Bethel because Hokkaido uses a different power frequency than western Japan. This was not noticed until I went into post.

After the first fieldwork period, I went through the tapes that I knew had core material and I made a rough cut with them in SD mode (standard def using the built-in downconverter on the XL-H1). I sequenced a few shots together in iMovie to get a sense of what the film could be about. This gave me a sense of what I was missing (hospital life, community activities, etc.). When I went back to the field again, I shot those additional sequences.

Back home, I organized and logged all of the tapes. I had about 40 hours of tape for the two shoots in Hokkaido. Since the film is about 60 minutes long, that's a 40:1 shooting ratio. Pretty high, but I'm not very skilled. I captured and logged everything into Final Cut Pro. With each hour of HDV about 8 gigabytes, the 40 hours fit fairly well onto a 500 gibabyte hard drive that I dedicated to this project. Since i was using Final Cut Pro HDV, I stayed with the HDV codec rather than converting to a HD or intermediate codec that would take up much more space on the hard drive. The trade-off was some additional processing time, but the Quad-Core Mac Pro made that less important than it could've been.

Logging all the tape was a major pain and a major project. My partner Hisako helped here too. :-)

From there, we went through the tape logs and highlighted what we thought were key sequences. I storyboarded some of them on the corkboard in my office. And then I made some rough sequences and patched them together.

Right now, I'm outputting and distributing the various rough cuts to standard-def DVDs. I am editing in HDV and only downconverting at the final moment in Compressor. The resolution of the standard def DVDs that I'm burning isn't quite as high as I'd like -- I understand that there is some magic involved in getting Compressor to downconvert HDV into SD properly. In any case, I'm excited that the latest version of Compressor handles burning HD formats to DVD-Rs for playback on HD-DVD drives, so as soon as the prices drop on those, I'll implement that into my output formats.

One of the people on DV-L posted a question about what to do when shooting in the very cold. These are my notes based on my experience in Minnesota and Hokkaido, Japan:

There are two issues involved: cold temperature and condensation. Cameras can handle the cold fairly well as long as they get sufficient battery power, what they can't handle is condensation which will get on the lens, muck up the tape heads, film, or media.

In Minnesota, I found that acclimating the camera to the external temperature was better than trying to keep it warm. If I stuck the camera inside my jacket, it would get condensation from the moisture near my body.

As long as you have the camera on and running, the internal electronics will keep it warm. I'd use an extra large size battery because the capacity will go down when it's cold. Also, keep the spare battery near your body where it's warm -- the high humidity won't bother it as much as the camera lens.

Before you go inside after being outside for while, stick your camera in a ziplock bag or even a plain plastic bag. Tie it shut. And then bring the camera in. That will prevent condensation from building on the camera because of the temperature differential.

If you're really worried, you can get an underwater case for your camera and use that -- it'll protect against bumps, shocks, and humidity changes. But remember to always acclimate the camera to the current temperature before opening the case -- or you'll be back to square one!


We had an Ethnography and Social Theory colloquium today on the topic of organizational software for the field. Several graduate students and one of the senior faculty presented. Here are my very rough notes.

Allison Alexy's (Mac-based) suggestions for organizing your life / fieldnotes:

Professor William Kelly's (Windows) suggestions:

  • Biblioscape -- bibliographic database
  • Window's Explorer Plus -- file management
  • WhizFolders -- note taking and fieldnote database
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking -- speech recognition / transcription software, great for taking reading-notes, transcribing dictated fieldnotes, etc.

Gavin Whitelaw's field tips and solutions:

  • tupperware in the field -- for organizing/carrying gadgets (esp. post-9/11)
  • Mini-mini-tripod -- esp. for taping shows off streaming sites
  • Using your digital camera as a portable scanner / portable photocopier, taking photos of texts etc.
  • Quick-release for digital camera on tripod
  • Two small digital cameras -- one to work, and one as a backup; with large LCD preview/review screen (to show informants photos or to review on the train, etc.)
  • Portable USB or Firewire back-up drive -- to backup fieldnotes in the field, every night (alternately, use your iPod)
  • iPhoto / Portfolio / Lightroom, or other photo management software -- be sure to tag all your photos, but try to keep the number of keywords to a minimum, less than 30 if possible
  • Using digital camera as another form of fieldnotes -- take photos of everything and everything
  • TypePad -- personal and public blogging, personal/private blog as an easy way to clip articles, tag information, etc.
  • Take screenshots / print to PDF of any website you've seen and want to keep (since websites change constantly)

Other topics:

  • Cpen 20 - pen scanner, to scan documents on the fly
  • Solar power / AC-inverters for places without power
  • Copywrite note taking software
  • WordPress, Joomla, or MediaWiki -- content management systems -- blogging software that can be reused as fieldnote management
  • Zotero -- firefox extension that almost works like a bibliographic reference

My own suggestions:

  • Canon LIDE scanner -- small, lightweight scanner, easily bookbaggable
  • Sharp Zaurus -- small microportable computer, can easily get recharged

Feel free to post other suggestions as well!

DVD Jacket.jpgI mocked up the DVD jacket cover for my forthcoming film, Bethel: Community and Schizophrenia in Northern Japan.

Comments and thoughts more than welcome! Also, let me know if you or your organization would like to arrange for a screening. I'm doing several this semester. The film is still officially still in editing, I'm hoping to open it in January at a film festival.

Darn it if I don't have some flickering from fluorescent lights in indoor footage from Japan -- shot with both my Canon XL-H1 and Sony HDR-HC1. This was both in footage shot in 60i and 30f -- with shutterspeeds of 1/30 and 1/60.

What is going on? While the United States is 60hz and Western Japan (where I normally stay) is also 60hz, eastern Japan including Tokyo and Hokkaido is 50hz. This means that I should have used a frequency multiple of 25/50 instead of 30/60. So the best shutterspeeds for avoiding flicker were 1/25, 1/50, or 1/100.

Let that be a lesson to me.

After much vacillating, I decided to get the Edirol R-09 digital recorder to record audio in the field. The other choice was the MicroTrack 24/96. The R-09 and the MicroTrack are almost identical in size, weight, and price. See my previous blog entries on this topic (here or here or here). The main factors were:

  • Replaceable AA batteries rather than proprietary
  • Built-in mic (one less thing to lose)
  • Time/date stamping

There are some notes and a more extensive chart comparing the two after the jump.

An undergraduate in Canada recently wrote me asking whether visual anthropology was a valid field of study for an M.A. or Ph.D. I won't post her original letter here, but here is an excerpt of my response (from which you can deduce her queries):

Dear XXX -

Thank you for your e-mail. I apologize that I will not be able to reply at length as I am about to leave for the field. I took the opportunity to look at your website. Your photographs are quite well done, evocative and emotional.


What is ethnographic photography? As with regular print ethnography, there is no single type. However, as with written ethnography there is a purpose. Look through the print ethnographies that you have found particularly evocative (one of my favorites is Lila Abu Lughod's Veiled Sentiments) and ask what the author is trying to do in the work. Then ask yourself how you would do this in the medium of your choosing.

To answer your other questions in brief:

  1. Visual anthropology is on the margins of the discipline. Few programs offer degrees in it and there are even fewer jobs.
  2. It is my own belief that photography or film work that isn't backed by participant-observation research is weaker than that that is. If your goal is to fly in, take photos, and fly out, then you might want to pursue a degree in journalism.
  3. There are dwindling grants for visual social science research. You would most likely apply to standard anthropology grants -- which means that your work should speak to the discipline of anthropology in some way.

Explore the reading lists posted on my course website for further direction.


Karen Nakamura

Frequent readers know that I've been working on a ethnodocumentary film about disabilities in Japan. I spent three weeks over winter shooting and I'm going back again next week to shoot some more. I've already gotten a rough cut of one film (on mental illness) done, which I've been screening to a limited audience.

I shot the footage using two cameras, the Canon XL-H1 and the Sony HDR-HC1. Both are HDV or high-definition DV camcorders, shooting in 1080i. The images from both of them are simply stellar. The Canon has a much better lens, better sensor, better on-board sound, XLR jacks, etc. but the Sony can be taken to places where the shoulder-mounted larger camera is too indiscreet.

I'll be taking the same rig back to Japan. Here is my modified equipment list, you can compare to what I brought last time to see that very little has changed.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court just issued a summary judgement against Michael Mammone in his disability lawsuit against Harvard University for terminating him after a bipolar manic episode. The Court found that during this psychotic episode Mammone engaged in egregious and inimical misconduct, which means that he was unable to perform the essential functions of his job. No attempt was made at reasonable accommodation and reading the majority opinion, it does not appear that this is necessary under the precedent set by Garrity v. United Airlines, Inc., 421 Mass. 55 (1995).

A "qualified handicapped person" is one "who is capable of performing the essential functions of a particular job, or who would be capable of performing the essential functions of a particular job with reasonable accommodation to his handicap."(3) G. L. c. 151B, § 1 (16). In granting summary judgment, the judge found that the workplace misconduct, which led to Mammone's termination, was egregious and sufficiently inimical to the interests of his employer that it would have resulted in the termination of a nonhandicapped employee. In these circumstances, the judge concluded, it would be impossible for Mammone to show that he was "capable of performing the essential functions" of his job. Mammone appealed, and we transferred the case to this court on our own motion. has the ruling online. Read through it, especially the dissenting opinion.

Need to rent camera equipment (bodies, lenses, lights, etc.) while in the field in Japan? Many pros recommend National Photo. MapCamera has also started up their own rental side-business. Have any recommendations of your own?

I'm off this summer for 6 weeks of trekking across the Silk Road in China. I think it'll be an experience of a lifetime -- and an opportunity to take some great photographs. But that's not what I want to blog about today. Today's topic is: Purity of Essence .... errr... water (in a Strangelovian sense)

That is, in the nether reaches of the world, you're not always guaranteed to have fresh water. Even in Beijing and Shanghai, you're warned not to use the water from the hotel taps for drinking -- instead, boiled water in thermoses or spring water in sealed PET bottles is provided.

When I went to my travel doctor for the usual pre-travel battery of injections (HPA, HPB, DtP, tentanus, and influenza), he also recommended that I think about purity of water as well, since Western China is still developing. The main fears that I have about water are:

  • Viruses: Hepatitis (even with vaccination, it's best to avoid exposure)
  • Parasites: cryptosporadia and other protozoa, etc.
  • Bacteria of all sorts
  • Industrial pollutants: pesticides, heavy metals

When hiking in the American backcountry, I've usually relied on iodine tablets such as Potable Aqua or my little MSR filter. But my MSR filter (which didn't work against viruses such as Hepatitis) was lost in the Black Hole of Moving and Iodine doesn't work against Cryptosporadia. My doctor recommended chlorine dioxide tablets, but I noticed that it would take 4 hours of treatment before they killed all the little buggers.

Being a gadget-girl, I couldn't fail to notice the latest high-tech weapons race against ailments of the stomach and liver. (more after the jump)

I've recently read a fascinating book called Methods of Discovery: Heuristics for the Social Sciences by Andrew Abbott. This book explores the various ways by which social scientists develop and test the hypotheses and heuristics that drive their work. It's fascinating reading and highly recommended to graduate students about to begin their studies (or writing up their dissertations).

The book made me a bit reflective about my own doctoral studies, especially as my first book is about to be published by Cornell University Press this summer. My hypothesis going into field work was:

Changes in deaf identity in Japan were due to globalization effects and the importation of American cultural Deaf identity principles by younger deaf activists.

After I spent more time, my hypothesis was revised to:

Although it would on first glance appear to be biologically bound, deaf identity is constructed through individual interaction with social institutions (most importantly: schools for the deaf and associations of the deaf). In order to understand generational changes in deaf cohorts, one must begin with a study of the particular histories and institutional environments that members of those cohorts experienced.

Most of my book is a narrative history of deaf communities in Japan, interspliced with microhistories of five deaf women born into the three main cohorts that I explore.

Scott North sends me this link to the Japan Times website for a movie about "Japan's Helen Keller"

SHIMONOSEKI, Yamaguchi Pref. (Kyodo) Independent movie distributor Sumio Yamamoto has long been irritated by what he sees as the film industry's excessive concentration in Tokyo....

So the 52-year-old Shimonoseki native finally decided to take a chance by making his own film, a story about the turbulent life of a 74-year-old deaf and blind woman in Yamaguchi Prefecture struggling to achieve equal rights for people with visual and hearing disabilities.

The movie -- "Have You Ever Heard of Japan's Helen Keller?" -- was completed recently after months of planning by filmmakers and fundraising by residents of this harbor city. It is Japan's first movie on the life of a deaf and blind person.

The film is directed by Setsuo Nakayama, 68, and stars Ayako Kobayashi, who played the heroine in the popular TV drama "Oshin."

[read more]

Communications in the field is always a problem. GSM is the cellular technology that is used in most of the world. In the USA, Cingular and T-Mobile are the only providers with GSM networks. If you travel a lot, this list of GSM phone frequencies can come in handy: (died due to link rot) or here: or If link rot kills them all, there's always google (updated 2006.04.17)

I have a T-Mobile Motorola v-330 which is quad-band, so it works pretty much anywhere except Japan. One reason I like T-mobile is that they will unlock your phone after 6-months of usage, which means you can pick up a local SIM card and use that during your travels rather than burning up roaming minutes. And I think T-Mobile has great customer service.

In Japan, the cheapest is to get a pre-paid cellular. However, they're getting much harder to find than in the past -- and you have to show some proof of ID. I'm not sure if they'll take foreign passports as proof.

There's been a noticeable absence of quality journal articles on the topic of sexuality in Japan. This has now been partially filled by the publication of a special issue (#12, January 2006) of the online journal Intersections: Gender, History, and Culture in the Asian Context. From the table of contents:

One of the grad students in my department recently wrote to me asking me where they could stay while in Tokyo over the summer for some short pre-dissertation fieldwork. They wanted to stay 8-10 weeks, which is too short for my personal favorite which is Leopalace 21. Here are the options I gave the student:

  1. Gaijin houses (google for "Gaijin House Tokyo" or "guest house Tokyo"). Rates seem to range from ¥35,000 / month for dorm style accomodations to ¥80,000/month for apartments.
  2. Weekly mansions (Japanese google: ウイークリー マンション 東京). Rates are about 30-40,000 a week.
  3. Long-stay business hotels (Google: ビジネスホテル 東京). Rates are about ¥7000/day but there's usually a 10-20% discount on monthly stays.
  4. International House of Japan. They don't serve pancakes (well they do, but only for breakfast), it's the pre-eminent location where many foreign faculty stay while in Tokyo for a short time. Centrally located in Roppongi. Single rooms are ¥6583/day.
  5. If you're Christian, then many of the churches have attached guest rooms. For example, the Lutherans and Catholics both have places where people can stay for short visits.

The U.S. Census Bureau has a great demographic GIS tool called the FactFinder. Give it a whirl in your neighborhood.

I'm off to Japan for a three week fieldtrip: one week in Tokyo, one in Hokkaido (the northern island), and one in Osaka. I'm cramming a lot in a very short amount of time. If you were wondering about the flurry of equipment posts, it's because I've been thinking out loud what equipment to get and to bring with me. This is what my fieldkit looks like:

On the DS-HUM list, a link was recently posted to a wonderful article by Mark O'Brien on disability and sexuality:

In 1983, I wrote an article about sex and disabled people. In interviewing sexually active men and women, I felt removed, as though I were an anthropologist interviewing headhunters while endeavoring to maintain the value-neutral stance of a social scientist. Being disabled myself, but also being a virgin, I envied these people ferociously. It took me years to discover that what separated me from them was fear -- fear of others, fear of making decisions, fear of my own sexuality, and a surpassing dread of my parents. Even though I no longer lived with them, I continued to live with a sense of their unrelenting presence, and their disapproval of sexuality in general, mine in particular. In my imagination, they seemed to have an uncanny ability to know what I was thinking, and were eager to punish me for any malfeasance.

Whenever I had sexual feelings or thoughts, I felt accused and guilty. No one in my family had ever discussed sex around me. The attitude I absorbed was not so much that -- polite people never thought about sex, but that no one did. I didn't know anyone outside my family, so this code affected me strongly, convincing me that people should emulate the wholesome asexuality of Barbie and Ken, that we should behave as though we had no "down there's" down there.


Frustrated by my inability to get The Answer, a blinding flash that would resolve all my doubts and melt my indecision, I brooded. Why do rehabilitation hospitals teach disabled people how to sew wallets and cook from a wheelchair but not deal with a person's damaged self-image? Why don't these hospitals teach disabled people how to love and be loved through sex, or how to love our unusual bodies? I fantasized running a hospital that allowed patients the chance to see a surrogate, and that offered hope for a future richer than daytime TV, chess, and wheelchair basketball. But that was my dream of what I would do for others. What would I do for me?

Read more.

ModuleRecords has a nice overview/review of portable flash audio recorders for professional use. While you can use your iPod or other flash MP3 player for recording interviews, you might want something with better audio fidelity if you're doing video work or recording concerts. I've been looking for a good device that I can use with external mikes and later sync up to my video tracks. The best devices let you use balanced mikes (less noise on extended cable runs) and mikes with phantom power (higher sensitivity mikes).

The M-Audio Microtrack seemed to be the ticket, but the review has me thinking about the Zoom PS-04 or Edirol R-1. I think I need to do more research.

Anindya Bhattacharyya has a story in the New York Times about his travels as a deaf-blind man in the U.S.:

WHEN you are deaf-blind, technology is an ever-present companion. I travel with a laptop for e-mail, phone and Internet access. I use a G.P.S.-equipped Braille Note note-taker to get information about my surroundings. To communicate with others, I have a Screen Braille Communicator with two sides: one in Braille, which I can read; the other an L.C.D. screen with a keyboard, for someone who is sighted.

What is a disability? This is an extraordinarily complex question. The Americans with Disabilities Act was vague on this issue, stating that it was a "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." In recent years, this definition has been severely narrowed by several Supreme Court decisions. In Japan, disability is defined medically through specific definitions of certain impairments -- degrees of motion in legs; decibels of hearing loss; etc.

What does the U.N. convention propose? This is an issue that is still under debate. From footnotes to Article 3 of the Working Group text:

12: Many members of the Working Group emphasised that a convention should protect the rights of all persons with disabilities (i.e. all different types of disabilities) and suggested that the term "disability" should be defined broadly. Some members were of the view that no definition of 'disability' should be included in the convention, given the complexity of disability and the risk of limiting the ambit of the convention. Other delegations pointed to existing definitions used in the international context including the World Health Organisation's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). There was general agreement that if a definition was included, it should be one that reflects the social model of disability, rather than the medical model.

This issue is coming up today as delegates discuss disabilities and secondary disabilities.

When doing archival research in Japan, I had a Canon flatbed USB scanner that could fit in my backpack and ran off USB power. I believe they call the series the LIDE scans. They're quite nice and very cheap, less than $60 or Y7,000. The problem though is that they are rather slow. They also do not have a lot of depth of field, so you really have to PUSH the book onto the bed of the scanner in order to read the text near the spine.

I found that if I was trying to copy a lot of pages, it was faster to set up my Canon 10D on a tripod (Velbon Carmagne) and photograph the pages instead. With the flatbed, I could maybe scan one page a minute, with my 10D, I could photograph over 10 pages a minute. At 6 megapixels, this is just about the same as scanning at 250 dpi. It was also easier to photograph fragile material like rare books, without breaking their spines by forcing them on the scanner.

I was curious about the absence of the United States from the process and asked NGOs about this. Apparently the United States indicated very early on in the process in the second session that they would not be signing the International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities:

Day three of the International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations. We've been talking about draft article 17 of the convention. This has to do with the educational rights of people with disabilities. This is one of the most important articles of the convention and the committee spent much more time debating it than other sections.

P1020002WTMK.JPGI'm writing this right now from conference room #4 of the United Nations in New York, where we're in the 6th session of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. I'm observing the proceedings that are going on this week and next (August 1-12).

Why is there a need for an international convention on disability rights? Aren't people with disabilities covered by previous international conventions on human rights?

Many folks in the USA are now hooked on Google Map's innovative web based mapping system. What makes Google different from MapQuest or Yahoo! Maps is its java based interface which lets you drag-and-scroll in real time as well as its satellite overlay and new hybrid overlays. Google Maps has recently spawned Google Maps - the Moon.

Google has recently teamed up with Japanese cartography company Zenrin to bring Google Maps to Japan. The interface is provided in both English and Japanese, but most of the map detail label are in Japanese. While you can ask it for detailed addresses like "千代田区永田町1-7-1", you can't do point to point driving directions (yet). If only they had this when I was doing my fieldwork!

I've now uploaded my photoessay coverage of the 2005.05.12 disability protest in Japan to my web gallery page. Organized by DPI-Japan and several other major disability organizations, this is the fourth and last national protest against the proposed Grand Design of social welfare services for people with severe disabilities.

For background information, see my earlier coverage of the 2004.10.20 demonstration, followed by the 2004.12.13 demonstration, and the 2005.02.15 demonstration.

The photographs in this series were taken with a Leica M7 film rangefinder and 35mm f/2 Zeiss Biogon lens. The film used was Fuji Neopan Acros 100 for the black and white work and Fuji Provia 100 for the color work. They were scanned on a Nikon LS 4000 Coolscan film scanner and processed in Adobe Photoshop CS.

All of the photographs on this site are copyright 2005 Karen Nakamura and cannot be used without prior written permission.

Continue reading the "2005.05.12 disability photoessay."

The Abe Fellowship Program

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP), and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) announce the annual Abe Fellowship Program competition. The Program is one of the central components of CGP and is named after the late Mr. Shintaro Abe, former Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, who proposed in 1990 to establish the Center.

The BBC News is reporting on 'Fears over CIA 'university spies':

CIA scheme to sponsor trainee spies secretly through US university courses has caused anger among UK academics. The Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program pays anthropology students, whose names are not disclosed, up to $50,000 (27,500) a year.

They are expected to use the techniques of "fieldwork" to gather political and cultural details on other countries. CIA scheme to sponsor trainee spies secretly through US university courses has caused anger among UK academics. The Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program pays anthropology students, whose names are not disclosed, up to $50,000 (27,500) a year.

I'm still recovering from the two week field trip to Tokyo, Akita, and Hokkaido that I took a few weeks ago. I've finally finished processing and scanning the film, but haven't gotten around to organizing the some 50 gigabytes of data. I'll be posting a full gallery from the trip to this blog, here's a sneak preview:

This is from the disability protest organized by several groups on May 12, 2005. This particular photograph is of Hiroko Nakamura (no relation), the head of the Center for Independent Living in Matsue (Shimane Prefecture), reading a statement to the representatives of the Lower House of Parliament. Taken with a Leica M7 and 35mm f/2 Zeiss Biogon on Fuji Acros 100 film

Naked man with CP on highwayHara Kazuo is a Japanese documentary filmmaker (and photographer) famous for works such as the The Emperor's Army Naked Marches On. His first film, Goodbye CP (さようならCP or Sayonara CP) was made in 1972 with the cooperation of the radical disability group Aoi Shiba no Kai (青い芝の会), which was composed of people with cerebral palsy (CP). The film's portrayal of the plight of people with severe disabilities in the early 1970s in Japan was darkly disturbing and the film was criticized for its tone at the time. For several decades, Goodbye CP was not widely available but Hara's production company Shissho Productions has recently rereleased it on DVD and VHS (Japanese language only). Dartmouth's Jeffrey Ruoth has a good write-up of Hara's filmography.

My current research is on disability activism in Japan and the United States. This article discusses the equipment that I carry when I do field interviews. My kit is optimized for size and weight. Everything fits into a regular backpack. If I know I won't need the computer to write notes, then the camera and iPod fit into a small handbag.

I've been going over some of my old fieldnotes as I've been preparing my book on deaf politics in Japan for publication. I did much of my work during 1996-2001 and my notes were written in ClarisWorks and NisusWriter on a PowerBook 230. Unfortunately, I'm finding that many of the notes in ClarisWorks are inaccessible -- I don't have a copy of AppleWorks on my machine. Some of my notes were even in a ClarisWorks database -- quite innovative I thought, but also now inaccessible.

01.gifIn Japan, people with disabilities are eligible for a disability welfare ID card (障害者手帳). The card certifies that you have a registered disability and makes you eligible for a broad array of social welfare benefits including a disability welfare pension, faster access to public housing, free municipal transit (buses and subways), lower income taxes, subsidized durable medical equipment, and discounts on Japan Railways and national highways, among other things. Companies can also hire you under the Employment Promotion Act for People with Disabilities (障害者雇用促進法).

If you're doing social science research in Japan and need the latest population demographics or other data, there are several options.

  1. First, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (MHLW) home page is a good starting point. They have all of their white papers and vital statistics listed there. If you can read Japanese, there is more information on the Japanese page than the English one.
  2. The MHLW also publishes many of its reports through the Health and Welfare Statistics Association. You can order many of their texts directly. For some of their more "popular" books such as the Vital Statistics of Japan, larger bookstores will carry it. It has a companion CD-ROM which I recommend. In Tokyo, I have the best luck in finding government publications at the Yaesu Book Center, located on the Yaesu side of Tokyo Station.
  3. The National Diet Library in Nagatacho also has most of the data available in publication form. They have a branch office in Kyoto and most university libraries can also request information by inter-library loan (if you can find the right reference librarian to ask). Local town libraries also usually carry the general statistic publications.
  4. When in doubt, I prefer going directly to the source. On the 19th floor of the MHLW building in Kasumigaseki is the MHLW Resource Library. They have a tremendous archive of information, all on open stacks. The reference librarians there are extremely helpful. For example, I wanted to get data on the unemployment rates of people with disabilities. They took me directly to the internal geppo of the MHLW division that issues it. The Ministry copy machine is expensive and they don't let you use your computer, so bring lots of coins with you.

Additions and corrections appreciated.

Japan: Disability Protest

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I forgot to post this yesterday. It's one of my favorite photographs from the protests last week. This group is from the southernmost island chain of Okinawa / Ryukyus. The straw hats are traditional to the Ryukyu Islands. The group decorated their hats with slogans protesting the government's changes. People with severe disabilities require one or two care attendants ("guide helpers" or "home helpers" in Japanese). The able-bodied people you see in the photoessays are staff or supporters at the various centers for independent living (CILs). As a rule, CILs are run by people with disabilities themselves in both management and board positions.

On February 15 and 16th, a coalition of disability groups including DPI-Japan, the Japan Council on Independent Living Centers (JIL), and People First Japan staged their fourth major protest in front of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare in Tokyo. The coalition was angered by the Ministry's pushing forward of a disability welfare bill (humbly) called the Grand Design that would make major changes to how people with severe disabilities would receive social services such as attendant care. This bill was written without full input from the people that it would affect the most. There were no public hearings, only closed door meetings with select members of the disability community known to be sympathetic to the government position.

This event followed similar protests in June, October, and December (follow links to my earlier articles). The February event was perhaps the largest of all of the protests with around 2,000 people with disabilities and their supporters travelling from all over Japan. Some of the largest groups came the furthest, from Sapporo on the northernmost island of Hokkaido, to a group from Okinawa, the southernmost.

On the first day, about 1200 people crowded the front of the Ministry building. Unlike earlier protests, the Ministry had told the building police not to interfere with the protesters and to allow them to use the Ministry's toilet facilities. This was a major point of contention during the October protest.

One of the hallmarks of this coalition is that it included members with severe physical, psychiatric, and intellectual disabilities as well as people with chronic diseases (nanbyo which are not considered disabilities) and other people who find themselves left out of the disability categorization system. Most disability groups in Japan and elsewhere tend to be single disability or if they are cross-disability, restrict themselves just to physical disabilities or to just intellectual disabilities (mental retardation, etc.), for example. It is rather unique to have a pan-disability movement with such broad reach. This is both a strength and weakness

Even though their impairments made it difficult for some members to speak, a major effort was made in making everyone's voice heard. In some cases, translators were used for speakers with severe cerebral palsy or intellectual disabilities.

Each group designed their own placards and signs that they wore on their chests or backs. This one reads: "The lives of people with disabilities are in danger! We thank you for understanding and supporting this movement of and for disabled people." Some of the other signs were a bit more dramatic, reading: The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare is killing disabled people.

The protesters staged an all-night sit-in in front of the Ministry building. The group from Nagoya brought in propane gas stoves, blankets, and enough cardboard boxes to rival the box shantytowns in Ueno Park. Another group even brought in band equipment including drums, an electric guitar, and amplifier system. People were invited up to the mike to sing and for a while, it was karaoke night at the Ministry.

All was fun and games until 3:00am when it started raining and the temperature dropped below zero. At that time, there were about 50 protesters sleeping in front of the Ministry building. The cardboard box shelters became drenched. Large tents were quickly erected and the protesters huddled in them for warmth. To make things worse, at 4:46am, a strong magnitude 5 earthquake struck the Tokyo area. The shaking was apparent even to people on the ground level. Buildings in Tokyo are built to handle a tremor of that size, so there was no property damage, but it shook the spirits of the protesters a bit.

The next morning, the leadership of the protesters met with various political party members. Here, one of the members from the Hyogo area is listening to a lower-house representative from the Japanese Social-Democratic Party. The Social-Democrats are against the Grand Design, but with only 4% in the lower-house, they have no power to block it. The other political parties that the group met with with the Japanese Communist Party (against the Grand Design), the Democratic Party of Japan (wishy-washy) and Komeito (for the government's plan). The opposition parties do not have enough votes to defeat the Grand Design. The protesters are hoping that they might be able to put the brakes on it so that it is not immediately implemented.

After meeting with the party representatives, the protests marched to the main Diet Building and presented their formal complaints to the Diet. This presentation of complaints is a ritualized process in Japanese politics. Unfortunately, I was in the main representatives building and wasn't allowed to take close-up photographs of the formal petition process.

What will happen? The bureaucrats in the MHLW are pushing this bill through, emphasizing that there is not enough money in the government budget to continue expensive attendant care programs. They have the support of the political parties in power (LDP/Komeito). The general trend in Japan (following the USA) is to cut money on social welfare and emphasize "individual responsibility." In this case, individual responsibility means greater co-payments and reductions in social welfare pensions for the elderly and disabled. It's hard to be optimistic about the situation.

Editorial: As with previous protests, there was no major print or television media coverage of this event. According to the protesters, the Ministry has made it known that it will not be tolerant of journalists who cover the issue from the protester's perspective. Indeed, one of the major dailies apparently temporarily lost its seat in the Ministry Press Club for straying beyond the party line in its coverage. That is not likely to ever occur again. There was a news crew from Fukoka covering the protest, but they were apparently doing a documentary on one of the individual protesters from the area and not the larger issue. In general, no one in Japan knows that 2,000 protesters had gathered in front of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare on these two days. Even this small blog will reach more people than all of the nonexistent reportage from the mainstream media. This is not good. Democracy depends on a free and open distribution of information. In this regard, the mass media in Japan are fundamentally failing their job. And unfortunately, this is a worldwide phenomenon.

- Karen Nakamura

Intra-city public transportation In Japan is excellent with extensive subways, buses, and light rail systems. However, you quickly find that while inter-city transportation is very fast using the Shinkansen (bullet-train) which travels at about 300 km/h, it's also very expensive. Here's my guide to getting from Tokyo to Kyoto (400 miles; 600 kilometers) as cheaply as possibly:

  1. Train: Tokaido line with Seishun 18 ticket ¥2,300 each day (9 hours, 1-3 transfers) - warning: Seishun 18 can only be bought/used during particular periods of the year; otherwise it's ¥9000 if you buy the train ticket normally
  2. Bus: City Liner - ¥4,300-¥4,500 each way by overnight bus (7 hrs)
  3. Bus: JR Highway Bus - ¥8,180 each way by "deluxe" overnight bus (7 hrs)
  4. Train: Shinkansen Nozomi - ¥13,990 each way -- that's about US$130, $260 round trip! (2.5 hrs)
  5. Car: If you're driving, tolls will be ¥10,050 (according the JH Navigator) + gas will be about ¥8,000 = ¥18,000. It will take you about 6~7 hours each way, depending on traffic. I've never seen anyone (Japanese/female) hitchhike in Japan, so that's not really an option for me.
  6. Plane: about ¥19,000 each way / Y27,000 round trip. (45 minutes)

Astute people will note that the round-trip plane is slightly cheaper than the train, although getting to the airport adds another Y3000 or so to your bill and isn't any faster. Really astute people will note that it's cheaper to fly to Seoul, Korea from Japan than it is to fly between Kyoto and Tokyo. Go figure!

I'm just about to go to yet another disability protest in Japan, so these were my back of the napkin figures. If you have updated figures or more information, please post them! Well, I'm off to catch the City Liner! :-)

Updated 2005.02.16: Added Seishin 18 information and hitchhiking caveat
Updated 2005.03.16: Added accurate highway tolls (and gasoline guesstimate)

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