Sunday, August 24, 2008

Samurai

Just feeling slightly artistic, so I went into Photoshop Elements and tried some simple stuff. Some chroma to make it look like an old photo, and a paint transformation just for fun. I think I might blow up the painted effects one and frame it. At this size you really can't see the difference from the original, click to enlarge.

Hatsukaichi "Sera Fireworks Festival"

Yes, there were even Samurai at the festival! They protected us from all the crazy drunk people.

Some high school age girls dressed up in their yukatas. A yukata is like a light summer kimono made of cotton. They wear yukatas to fireworks festivals and other traditional gatherings. Men can where them also, however the girls versions are always much more colorful and pretty.

Hanabi! A shot of some fireworks going off.

More fireworks going off.

Found Midori dressed in... midori! Very nice!

Midori brought her adorable neice along. :)~

The parade marches on! They played the Shamisen (a 3 stringed Japanese banjo thingy) and traditional music as they marched up and down the narrow streets only to stop and do funny comedy acts in the middle of the street. The show must go on!

A lady making candy apples. They always look so yummy, however, they take forever to gnaw on. I like caramel apples better... but they don't have those here. Oh well, I'll live.

Some of my students were part of a dance troupe, but they didn't want their photos taken, so they were all acting cool. Still, a nice shot.

Random Japan Pics, Miyajima, Takoyaki, Space and so much more!

The ever epic Miyajima! And just for added effect on distinguishing the massiveness of it, sans tide, I took a size comparison shot. I threw in some people into the shot too. I hand placed them which took forever. They kept wanting to do their own thing, but I was like, "No, dammit! Stay put! This is for art!" Needless to say, I eventually got the shot I wanted. No thanks to them!

"Eat me!" Bwahhh! What is this, some kind of sick joke? Or ironic advertising? Probably the first one, because the Japanese have absolutely no concept of irony. But they do know how to fry dem'selves up sum taco! And by 'taco' I mean octopus.

Some Hello Kitty idols to worship. You have the classical stone idol look, for Buddhist temples and what not, and then you have the golden version to distract those monotheistic based religions, like the Jews and what not.

Here are some of my girl students. I tried to make the pick look like a giant "puri-kura" photo. There are such sweet girls. It's been really fun to watch them grow up.
Japan's red dot is supposed to be symbolic of the sun. Probably because the Emperor was a sun-god or something. Which would go against the laws of physics not to mention reason.

Speaking of physics, I got my P.h.d in the study of the effects of zero-G on nose-picking. Space, the final frontier!

Oh, and speaking of space... here's a cute little space critter. A freehand sketch of Stitch I did in my spare time. Just a doodle.

Mini car! Hey, it looks like it could come from outer space. Or the future! What...? The future?! I just came back from the future! Great scott!

A nuclear submarine, because maybe space isn't the final frontier?

Don't worry. It's not a real demon.

Uh...yeah, heh hehe, whatever you say. Huh?

Exactly. This is my own personal motto in life. Whereas some people have all these rules, and morals, and stuff. I only live by one rule! "Hamburger is my life."


Friday, August 15, 2008

Dokuritsu Girls: Help Fight Sex Crimes Against Japanese Women



Please check out Dokuritsu Girls on MySpace.com. They are a group of women trying to bring awareness to rape and other sex crimes in Japan, and have asked me to write a series of articles for them. So please check it out and join the conversation!


Help Fight Sex Crimes Against Japanese Women!


Part 5: Pornography Brings Awareness to AIDS and the Spread of STDs in Japan


By Tristan Vick

8/14/2008


December 1st of 2007 Hotaru Akane, one of Japan’s most publicly recognizable AV idols, was invited to speak at “World AIDS Day” in Shibuya, Tokyo. Since then Akane has put links up on her Blog and website which help bring AIDS awareness to Japanese people. Before you shrug off this as a PR stunt, be aware that Japan does not have formal sex education training in schools and many young Japanese students never learn about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. Combined with the early age of sexual experimentation in Japan, knowing that (by word of mouth and confiscation of passed notes) some of my own 13 and 14 year old students are sexually active, I would say that some education is better than none—especially if it comes from a source where sex is going to be an interest/focus. The alarming growth of the AIDS virus in Japan since 2000 shocked the nation, and due to Akane’s high-profile celebrity image in the sex industry, I would say Akane’s humanitarian efforts and attempt to educate and bring awareness to HIV and AIDS quite admirable.


Since 2000 HIV rates have significantly increased and continue to do so. In 2004 HIV/AIDS cases had topped one million, and as of 2006 the Mainichi Daily News reports that AIDS has sky rocketed to well over a million, citing that, “In Tokyo it is thought that HIV infection increases at a rate of one a day. 75% carriers of HIV have only discovered via their local doctor or hospital once the virus had developed into AIDS that they were infected.” In the article “Japan Failing to Wake up to the Danger of AIDS,” Dr. Kunio Kitamura warns that AIDS is growing faster than anyone expected. The Japanese AIDS foundation cites casual attitudes to sex as a big factor in the increase in cases. Despite news articles like this, the level of Japanese knowledge on HIV and AIDS is low. In addition, many people fear prejudice or fear finding out they have contracted the virus and refuse to be checked up while remaining sexually active, another factor which hides the true extent of the problem. Make no mistake, the growing problem of HIV and AIDS, the lack of education surrounding how the virus is spread and how to prevent it, plus adequate funding to treat it is one of the major issues facing Japanese society today.


Akane, like any mainstream AV star, is in control of her carrier and is quite safe. All Japanese porn stars, like the U.S., must undergo blood testing and scanning for AIDS and any other diseases. Akane has ventured into mainstream film and starred in Sekiryu no Onna (2006) and she also was featured as a singer on a celebrity compilation CD titled Mero Raba. However, like the leading American female porn star Jenna Jameson, Akane has defined her role as a sexual woman who has personally chosen this line of work citing her love of having sex and being in the lime light. To deny her this right would be to deny her an independent choice, and so we cannot say that because Hotaru Akane likes to make porn that she is a bad person. She is simply an entertainer in a country that does not put unfair stipulations on sex. Nor does Japan confuse sex with religion. Sex is strictly a personal matter for the individual and how they live their lives—nobodies business but their own.


Japan may be the rare case in which porn is not a final solution to injustice but a viable carrier choice to expanding the horizons for women, who like Akane, have a deep seeded sexual desire. Unlike America, where women’s lib groups find porn a demeaning form of entertainment, always stemming from a deeply anchored religious conservative bias and historical anxiety of having been repressed, the Japanese do not automatically approach it in the same light. On the AV industry in Japan Wikipedia.org reports:


The line between “adult” and family entertainment in Japan is not as clear-cut as it is in some other countries. A celebrity may appear in AVs after already having established a carrier in mainstream television. Also, it is not rare for a popular AV actress to go on to mainstream celebrity. Fornander reports that, “a background in porn is not necessarily a skeleton in the cupboard anymore. In some cases, it’s a carrier move.


The transition of many gravure idols, i.e. models and pop stars, into working AV idols, i.e. full fledged porn star, is not uncommon in Japan. Other women may have held high paying professional jobs, such as Ann Nanba who began as a successful News Anchorwoman and who later opted to quit that life and became a popular AV idol—proving that it’s not always about the money. Sometimes it’s about the woman getting’ some! It’s about a woman’s independent and free choice to do what she wants and be in control of her own body, and that’s an independence which I will defend to my last breath.


Pornography has its upsides and its downsides. What we need to realize is that there is a difference between the fantasy aspects of the entertainment. American porn is totally unrealistic. I’ve never in my life heard of a woman ever uttering the words, “Oh yeah, give it to me…harder.” That is ridiculous. Whereas Japanese porn is easier to watch, it’s less sport and more pleasuring, as the girl squeaks and moans in a more naturalistic manner when engaging in sex. Although this too is fantasy, because she’s performing, and it’s sometimes taken too far where she begins squeaking like a mouse gone into hyper drive—this is what we might call over acting.


Not all the women are in the Japanese porn industry with aspirations to become professional entertainers. Some of them are college students exploiting the industry, which in turn is exploiting their sex, to pay off their college debts by making a couple videos. However, because porn in Japan isn’t viewed as negatively this is a viable “part time” gig which many girls choose over working low paying part time jobs for five years unable to become financially independent. It may be sad that it’s difficult for women to get higher paying jobs in Japan, although not impossible, I should inform you about an intelligent and charismatic Japanese woman who frequently attends my adult English class, owns her own real-estate traders agency in Tokyo, drives a Jaguar, flies first class to and fro Hiroshima every week, and brings a new $3,000 designer brand purse to my class each time. She figured since Japanese men wouldn’t give her a job she would create her own company. She’s been driving the men out of business ever since. According to Rosemary Iwamura speaking about the progressive feminist AV idol Kaoru Kuroki, she has this to say, “…she didn’t seem to be making videos because of a lack of options but rather as an informed choice.” Many Japanese women do opt to make a few amateur videos on the side, after all they’re free to enjoy sex too, it’s not like they don’t have other options—the options are just limited (for now). Respectably, an AV idol can make in the range of $20,000 (American) per video, whereas stars like Akane make upwards of $70,000 per video (and she made 10 videos last year! I think only a woman who loves loves loves sex would be capable of a feat like that). Again referring to Wikipedia.org we find some other odd statistics.


The AV, or “Adult Video” market is a major industry in Japan, reportedly worth about ¥400 billion per year. In 1992, it was reported that over 11 AVs were being made every day by over 70 production companies in Tokyo alone. The AV market was estimated to make up about 30 percent of Japan’s video rentals. It was estimated in 1994 that, between legal and illegal videos, around 14,000 AVs a year were being made in the country, in contrast to about 2,500 in the United States.


This isn’t to excuse all pornography though. A lot of it is down right awful. But we must distinguish between the good and the bad by keeping in mind that under the conditions of bringing greater cultural awareness we may approach a different culture with an open mind to how they do things. My first Japanese girlfriend (before I met my wife) casually invited me to a “love” hotel, not because she was in anyway kinky, but because she wanted to enjoy the sexual encounter! At first I thought what sort of dodgy girl did I get myself involved with? But at the time I was oblivious to the cultural aspects surrounding Japan’s need for love hotels. As I came to learn more about Japan I learned that sex to them means something different than to Americans. So too with pornography, it means something different to different degrees. Still, we cannot escape the fact that many men do abuse and oppress women. This happens in every society. But placing all the blame on pornography doesn’t solve our human rights issues which would exist even without pornography.


Unexpectedly, it seems that (according to the study by the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Hawaii) pornography doesn’t add to sex crimes but instead solves many of the social problems on its own by giving us an outlet to be sexual and express or enjoy what nature has to offer us. For years I was anti-pornography if only because I was under the impression that it destroyed women’s lives. Until I came to Japan and learned more about the AV industry and how Japanese women use this medium of adult entertainment to their advantage, and indeed as a liberating vehicle, I never would have thought to be a supporter of the AV industry—or more accurately a supporter of the women of pornography. Of course you may not like pornography, and you don’t have to, but in regards to sex crimes against women it seems to have little to no adverse effects other than clogging up one’s personal hard drive. Clearly, level headed people everywhere understand that pornography is just as much fantasy as Batman punching the Joker in the face. And the one’s that don’t understand the distinction, the lewd and mentally ill sex offenders, they will go to jail—and they will not pass go or collect $200 dollars.


Japanese women are independent enough to make the educated choice to go into the porn industry or the sex industry on their own, or not. All this may prove Japanese women are free to think for themselves and that like any society of patriarchal design there is a focus on sex used for commercial means and gain. However, as long as women are allowed the same control and can amass great fortunes from this industry—then we might tolerate it as long as it serves a positive function in society. It is not the final answer, by any means, but I postulate that the AV idol industry and Sex Industry in Japan does more good in the interim. It may serve as a detour on the way to full liberation of women, allowing them to take power with their bodies when they are denied the power of their intellect, however—even when and should they be granted unconstrained and total equality—I have the strong feeling that the porn industry will only grow more cemented in Japan’s historical context. As long as we remain sexual beings, then, sex is here to stay. Let’s all be responsible. And please, if you do happen to see a clown, do not automatically assume he is evil and punch him in the face. That would be rude.


If you have any questions on Japan, the Sex Industry, Japanese women’s rights, or anything related to Japan please feel free to email me at: tvpikachu@gmail.com


Tristan Vick is a Junior High School English teacher living in Hiroshima Prefecture of Japan. He has written for the Wide Island View, a newspaper publication in Hiroshima, has written numerous articles about Japanese comics, called manga, enjoys Blogging about Japan, and is married to the most amazing Japanese woman ever! His blog on Japan can be found at: www.swirlymuffins.blogspot.com

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hiroshima 2nd Annual English Camp

This year was the second English Camp sponsored by the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education. It was also the second year in which I volunteered my services as a camp Assistant Language Teacher, or ALT for short.

What did I do there? Well, lots. Basically, 10 native English speaking ALTs, like myself, got assigned approximately 30 students each. For a week we would eat, sleep, play games, teach, bathe, and bunk with these students. Over the course of three intensive days of English learning the children would be immersed into a "English Only" speaking environment and gain new found English speaking abilities while simultaneously honing in on their various skill levels. The camps design ensures the children leave with improved English skills, new friends, and a life changing educational experience.

At the camp 200 some students learned English songs, joined in communications activities sponsored by the JETs and ALTs, created all English skits, engaged in sports activities with us native speakers of English, and furthermore, participated in group activities focusing on enhancing English and communicative skills. But the best part, and the funnest part for all those who attended, was inevitably the social engagement and interaction with one other during the off hours.

Last year's camp only lasted 2 days before getting prematurely cancelled due to being whiped out by a Typhoon. We and the students had to evactuate and it was a sad waste of time and energy. This year, however, was entirely the opposite. It was way too hot, reaching 37 celsius during the day with 80% humidity. We were drenched most of the time, not only in our own sweat, but in the pure mugginess of the weather. This was the most uncomfortable part, but we all soldiered on together.

If you're a young Japanese man, count yourself lucky. The guy to girl ratio at the camp was a whopping 8 girls for every 1 boy. Why couldn't the summer camps I attended growing up be like that? Anyway, here the total of my boys. Six in all.

As for my ladies, this table and also the one behind this one, were my girls. Aren't they cute? Well, even though the weather was ferociously unrelenting, this years camp went a lot more smoothly and many new friendships were forged. All in all, I'd say this is one of the most excellent experiences a young Japanese person can have. By getting out of their crammed concreted jungles of the city or the sparsely populated farmlands of the country side, these kids got to meet each other, bond, share some unforgettable experiences, and take home stories that will last them a life time. And what's better than that? Home sweet home maybe... and boy am I glad to be back in a building with air conditioning! It's like Dorothy Gail says, there's no place like home! But the camp will live on in all the attendees hearts and memories. Until next year that is. It's hot, so stay cool, and have a good one ya'all.