HodoBuzz: New York-based Japanese Filmmakers Tackle Japan’s Sexism and Press Freedom With Crowdfunding

As Japan spiral downs the gender equality rankings each year with impressive speed(114th out of 144 countries), progress, on the other hand is being made at a snail’s pace in every corner of society.

But Japan’s death spiral towards the bottom isn’t just the status of women, it’s also with freedom of the press. Japan ranked 11th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) annual world press freedom survey in 2010, this year (2018) it came in at 67.  The only reason it wasn’t lower was that under the influence of President Donald Trump, press freedom has taken a punch in the gut all over the world—Japan remains essentially just awful.  The media here has never been much of a watchdog, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has turned much of the press into simpering lapdogs. NHK has become Abe TV thanks to political appointments.  Japan’s few investigative news programs have been cancelled or so neutered they no longer have bark or bite.

But what if….there were still some journalists, fighting the good fight. and what if, it was a woman?

A crowdfunded Japanese drama “Hodo Buzz” depicts a female reporter trying to get real news out while battling all the obstacles inherent in Japan’s media machine.

A new show “HodoBuzz” made by Japanese filmmakers based in New York City takes on these very topics and JSRC is excited to support and watch a show about Japanese people who aren’t afraid to speak the truth and champions a tenacious and outspoken woman(!) who will not be silenced.

Read on to learn more and support their fundraiser campaign!

Derrrrruq!!!, a New York-based Japanese filmmaking team, launched a Kickstarter campaign last month for its new journalism drama HodoBuzz. The campaign seeks to raise $30,000 by September 4th to complete post-production, release, and promote the show.

HodoBuzz Kickstarter Page

http://kck.st/2u8rx8o

The project will only be funded if it reaches its goal of $30,000 by Tue, September 4 2018 11:59 PM EDT.

The creators have a good reason as to why they had to turn to crowdfunding. The show focuses on issues that the Japanese entertainment industry tends to avoid discussing: media sexism and press freedom in Japan. You can check out the series trailer made for the Kickstarter campaign. Don’t forget to turn on the subtitles!

Link: https://youtu.be/TxRQt5vA83g

HodoBuzz is a story about Asuka Wada, a Japanese female reporter. Tired of sexism and objectification in Japan’s TV industry, Asuka quits her job as a game show host in Tokyo to pursue her long-time dream: becoming a news anchor. 

A Japanese version of The Newsroom would be a thrill to watch.

Asuka moves to New York City, the world’s leading journalism center, to work for HodoBuzz, a digital news company.

The first sensitive issue HodoBuzz deals with is the rampant sexism in the Japanese media. In Japan, female TV reporters are constantly objectified. They are often referred to as “joshi ana”, or “girl announcers,” whereas male reporters are called simply, “announcers”. Female reporters have to dress up in a way that entertains the male audience. It is not uncommon for some female reporters to be assigned sexually charged assignments, such as reporting from a beach in a bikini. However, the most obvious point regarding the sexism female journalists face in Japan is that hard news or more “serious” topics are almost exclusively reported by male journalists.

Even at HodoBuzz, which is based in New York, Asuka’s boss, colleagues, and several viewers underrate her skills, because of her past as a game show host. Asuka will experience intense online harassment and bullying, due to the belief that she was hired for her looks, not her abilities.

The second issue the show uncovers is the constant breach of ethical journalism standards in Japan. In HodoBuzz, characters discuss real news, cite actual political commentary, and refer to known false reports by existing Japanese TV networks and newspapers. This has never been done on a Japanese TV drama, due to the strong and complicated codependent relationships among the news industry, political parties, TV stations, sponsor companies, and major talent agencies.

The nature of HodoBuzz has made it very challenging for the creators to get enough investment and distribution support. And it’s safe to assume that HodoBuzz won’t get good coverage from Japanese legacy media, either. Due to the time-sensitive topics discussed, Derrrrruq!!! decided to turn to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter video Link: https://youtu.be/AuhIUjyFGUk

Their team name, “Derrrrruq!!!,” was inspired by the Japanese expression “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”, which describes the conformist nature of Japanese society. Derrrrruq!!! aspires to be the nail that sticks out, a “disruptive” voice in the industry.

For the readers of Japan Subculture Research Center, Derrrrruq!!!’s three creators, Mari Kawade, Maho Honda, and Tsukasa Kondo, might look familiar. Their previous work, 2nd Avenue, was also a bicultural show set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The entire series of 2nd Avenue is available on YouTube to watch.

Link: https://youtu.be/9jbXtOYNS1w

Like 2nd Avenue, Derrrrruq!!!’s aim with HodoBuzz is to create a show that is hard to find in the Japanese entertainment industry. To learn more about HodoBuzz and to make a donation to the crowdfunding campaign by the September 4th deadline, please visit http://kck.st/2u8rx8o.

HodoBuzz Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/derrrrruq/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/derrrrruq

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/derrrrruq/

Website: https://www.derrrrruq.com/

 

CICADA by Yu Shibuya Limited Screening with English Subs

CICADA

Yu Shibuya is a quiet force to be reckoned with. As a rare bilingual and exceptionally talented playwright, screenwriter and director he has won multiple awards with his shorts and features across the world. His works are often painfully tragic yet peppered with subtle humor, resulting in a poignant and hopeful aftertaste. His ability to depict Japan with a loving gaze of one that knows it from the inside and out, uniquely teases out the mundane and obscurities alike, creating a distinct and irresistible world.

His latest feature CICADA(千里眼) is no exception. It was made in 2014 in Japan with a Japanese cast but with an entirely American crew. The director Dean Yamada is a Japanese American whom Shibuya teamed up with in 2009 to create the short “Bicycle” which was chosen as an official selection at major film festivals, including the 66th Venice Film Festival and Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.

CICADA has won many awards including three Grand Prizes at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Guam International Film Festival, and the Pan Pacific Film Festival and is now showing for a limited run at Ikebukuro Humax Cinemas with English Subtitles. Shunji Iwai, legendary director of  90s New Wave films became a fan of Shibuya’s work after watching Bicycle and flew to LA to watch CICADA, subsequently casting Yugo Sasou the leading man in his own films.

JSRC recommends film lovers in Tokyo to seize this opportunity to enjoy his work on the big screen while they can.

STORY (TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJc2iQdfKSw)

Cicadas live underground until their final stage of adulthood. When they surface, they attach themselves to a tree bark, shed their skin and fly away, leaving behind their exoskeleton still clinging fully intact to the tree.
Much like the cicada, Jumpei, a mild-mannered schoolteacher, is sheltered. Introverted almost to a fault, Jumpei has finally found a woman he is ready to marry. Ever weary and careful, Jumpei decides to take a series of premarital tests and finds out that he is infertile. Devastated, he keeps the news from his girlfriend.
In the meantime, Jumpei’s nine-year-old nephew is being bullied in school, and his distraught mother and clueless father are at their wits’ end. Jumpei is enlisted in helping out the family. While Jumpei’s prospects of having a family of his own seem to be non-existent, despite attempting several alternative cures, he is forced into his sister’s dysfunctional family life, and what transpires is a series of comical and heartbreaking events.

IKEBUKURO HUMAX CINEMAS

〒170-0013 Tokyo, Toshima, Higashiikebukuro, 1 Chome−22−10

Limited run until 2/23 at 20:20 every night, with post screening talks with Yu Shibuya and guest.

http://senrigan-movie.com/

If you cannot make it to the screening, enjoy his work here

The Apology (100年の謝罪)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPr6wH2VwWY

Bicycle(自転車)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I_rok_FMW0

 

Born With It (生まれつき): Short film captures the angst of being a black child in Japan

While race relations in the United States seem to be tenser than ever, Japan is coming to a crossroads with accepting mixed race Japanese and immigrants into their mostly homogenous society. Japan is a welcoming country to foreigners, especially if you are a temporary visitor. The subtle prejudices only become visible to a foreigner once you have lived here for a while and experienced the day to day difficulties you face as an outsider when you actually try to become part of the society. Any foreigner in Japan who has been turned away from renting an apartment simply because they’re not Japanese, knows that experience.

An American filmmaker, Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, from Texas, depicts this struggle to be accepted as a dark skinned black man in Japan in his award winning short film Born With It(生まれつき). Osei-Kuffour lived in Japan for six years, encountering numerous instances of prejudice and discrimination. The film follows a black elementary school child in Japan experiencing the cruelty of racism and harsh words spoken unfiltered in the world of children, who have not learned the impact of what they are doing or saying, or how to accept difference.

Osei-Kuffour notes “I wanted to tell the story from a kid’s point-of-view because I think its powerful to see someone’s innocence broken for the first time.  This is ultimately a story about prejudice and it’s also disarming to see a child unaware of the scars of the adult world. Like most forms of discrimination, the most difficult moments I had in Japan are hard to convey convincingly.  Most of the issues I encountered seemed to revolve around me, as a foreigner, not being perceived as an equal, normal human being.  There always seemed to be the sense that since I was not Japanese, I would be unable to comprehend Japanese ideas or values, represent my given company in a meeting or share a space with other Japanese people.

Those moments seem small on paper but they begin to get under your skin when you’re trying to assimilate to the culture.  I had — and still have — a strong desire to have a film career in Japan.  So I’ve always wanted to live and work and get the same chances as my Japanese friends that were same age.  But despite a strong command of the language, it became very clear to me that no matter how fluent I became, I had to either be famous outside of Japan or Japanese to really get the chances that I sought out in all Japanese environments.  This is not the case for everyone but it is for most. ”

The seventeen minute film has resonated with many people in and outside of Japan, and garnered praise including The Best Film & Social Impact Award at the NBC-Universal Short Film Festival and Honorable Mention for Best Short Film at Toronto International Film Festival (Kids Section)  and many more festivals.

“Born With It” will be airing on PBS KQED as part of the show “FILM SCHOOL SHORTS” in San Francisco 10/13 11pm.

Watch the trailer here.

“Letters to the Most Repulsive Parents in Japan”

Goya “Saturn Devouring His Son”

Amidst the political turmoil and economic recession Japan has found itself in the recent years, how poor parenting takes a toll on the lives of the most vulnerable is often the last thing on people’s minds.

The most recent (2012) Ministry of Health and Labor’s reports showed that 16.3%, roughly 1 in 6 children in Japan live in relative poverty, belonging to a household that has less than half of the national average income, ranking 4th out of the 30 OECD countries. The numbers correlate with the rapidly multiplying number of child abuse cases. When the Ministry of Health and Labor started their investigation for a better grasp on the issue in 1990, the number of child abuse consultations to Child Consultation Centers were 1101 and it has been on the rise ever since, peaking at 103,260 cases in the most recent reports of 2015. The number of consultations alone have gone up 100 times in 25 years.

From April 2014 to March 2015, the number of victims  who died as a result of abuse was 44,  and the number of deaths by forced suicide was 27,  a total of 71 victims. Approximately every 5 days a child dies of abuse somewhere in Japan. Increasing reports in the media on the cruel fates of children has raised national concern on the matter.

Isshow Con a non-fiction writer is compiling a book 『日本一醜い親への手紙』(Letters to The Most Repulsive Parent in Japan).  The word “醜い” (minikui) in the title is often used to describe physical ugliness but is also used to depict shameful dishonorable acts. The book will consist of 100 letters written by child abuse survivors to their abusers ie., parents or guardians, to better illustrate the realities of life during abuse and the aftermath. His aim is to bring attention to the issue and also highlight the lack of support the government provides in the victims’ physical and mental recovery and social integration in life after abuse. This was an issue raised as a warning to the Japanese government in the 2010 report by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and yet no significant progress has been made.

Con is calling for submissions for letters and also raising funds for the publication of the book (four  million yen) through crowdfunding. Through the funds raised here, every letter submission will be met with an honorarium of 10,000 yen, in hopes that the money could be used by the victims to provide themselves a transportation to a shelter or to pay for a counselor which may lead to reports being made on their behalf. The donors will receive a book upon its completion this fall.

In a society where press freedom is stagnating and constitutional revision is pushed forward everyday and Japan appears to be becoming an increasingly controlled society, children’s rights will mostly likely be on of the first things to go and the issue of child abuse will take a back seat despite international pressure. Books like these are one of the few ways in which children in Japan with little resources will be able to raise their voices and be heard. Support and spread the word.

To donate : http://letters-to-parents.blogspot.jp/2017/02/blog-post_14.html

To buy this book :http://letters-to-parents.blogspot.jp/2017/02/blog-post_1.html

*This book is an updated version of the same title published in 1997, the rights to publish this overseas is available for purchase on a first come first serve basis. For more information : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj2-434FzxA

Catch the Earliest Cherry Blossoms in “Flowers by Naked”

Who knew a digital Hanami (Cherry Blossom viewing) could be such a mystical experience?

Digital Hanami
Digital Hanami

“Flowers by Naked” is a magical digital art show put on by the creative team Naked that celebrates the arrival of spring and beauty of the flowers it brings. It is a wonderful walk through a garden of exquisitely displayed natural and digital flowers. Some installations offer fun interactive features such as digital petals falling from a real branch in response to a human touch. The exhibit also boasts a magnificent Ikebana installation piece, a collaboration between the Sogetsu Ryu School of Ikebana and Naked. It incorporates 1440 pieces of chopped bamboo trees which are weaved into a gorgeous whirlpool of a tunnel one can walk through. There is even a bar where one can buy a spring themed original cocktail or sake and take in a serene atmosphere of dancers gracefully mesmerize you under artificial cherry blossoms.

Bamboo Labyrinth
Bamboo Labyrinth
Flower Lab
Flower Lab

Like all good things and cherry blossoms, this exhibit will come to an end on March 2oth. Get your pre Hanami fix and prepare for the real life Hanami just around the corner.

Flowers by Naked

Event Period:February 2, 2017 (Tue) – March 20, 2017 (Mon)

Venue: Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall 2-2-1:Nihonbashi-Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo COREDO Muromachi (Enter on 4F)

Access: Connected directly from A6 exit at “Mitsukoshimae” subway station on Tokyo Metro Ginza and Hanzomon Lines

 

 

ZEPPIN(絶品) #3/WACHOSHOKU(和朝食) Japanese Breakfast Rules!

wachoshoku
Did you know that in 2013, Japanese Cuisine, commonly known as “Washoku(和食)” was named a UNESCO intangible world heritage item? For our third Zeppin 絶品 series, we are looking at Washoku, in particular the most important meal of the day, a Japanese breakfast “Wachoshoku(和朝食)”.

JSRC attended the Wachoshoku Seminar at The Hotel Okura where the benefits of Wachshoku were discussed and manners in how to consume them were bestowed upon the participants before a mouthwatering meal from Yamazato Hotel Okura was served.

According to speaker Prof. Teiji Nakamura of Kanagawa University of Human Services University President, who specializes in nutritional science, Japanese dietary trends have undergone enormous change after WW2.

Before and after the war Japanese people suffered from lack of food and a staple overemphasis resulting in various kinds of malnutrition. However, as the economic situation and short supplies of food improved after the war, there was a large scale effort for implementation of nutrition education and equal distribution of food. Dieticians were stationed in schools and school lunches became a nationwide social dietary experiment and wheat and milk imported from the US were incorporated.

The westernization of diet is a universal tendency in economically advanced countries and studies show a correlation with lifestyle diseases since it tends to increase intake of fat and calories. Japan was no exception and while many of the malnutrition issues were solved with the introduction of the western diet, the downside was the increase in the intake of calories, fats, vitamins and minerals resulting in a rise in obesity, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, diabetes and arteriosclerosis. This trend lasted until the Heisei Era which started in 1989, when people’s awareness started to turn towards a healthier diet. Since then Japan has come to boasts the lowest rate of heart disease in the world and the rise in cholesterol level has more or less stopped during the 1990-2000 period. Still, with the super alimentation, deviation in diet choices along with an irregular eating schedule, lifestyle disease is a widespread concern.

Prof. Nakamura also touched upon the effects of skipping breakfast, emphasizing the importance of delivering energy supply to the brain and nervous system in the morning, which leads to higher consumption of energy throughout the day, leading to lesser likelihood of inducing body weight gain.

We were served a delicious meal of hot rice, cold broiled salmon, assorted pickles, sweet egg, dried seaweed and hot miso soup. I thought it was delicious. JSRC editor, Jake Adelstein, nibbled on the fish and looked like he wanted a cheeseburger. Even after there was a wonderful lesson on proper Japanese table manners, Adelstein proceeded to wipe his face with the oshibori (hot towel) and hold his chopsticks like he was getting ready for a knife fight.

Manner teacher: "Please don't ever wipe your face with an Oshibori"
Manner teacher: “Please don’t ever wipe your face with an Oshibori”

 

Adelstein : "..."
Adelstein : “…too late”

It was an amazing meal—both a pleasure to the palate and the eye.

Others tend to agree. Mandy Lynn from Metropolis, the number one international free magazine in Tokyo, graced us with a presentation based on a survey on Wachoshoku which found that it is quite a hit amongst tourists too.

From Western tourists, the meal garnered comments such as “It was well-balanced, tasty, healthy, beautifully served and I felt energized after I ate it”, “Felt much better than eating a heavy western breakfast”. Chinese and Korean tourists also raved “Japanese-style rice and the side dishes were extremely delicious”, “I usually do not eat fish for breakfast because of its smell. But it did not smell at all and was cooked just right.” It seems, if there is one thing Japan, China and Korea can agree on, it is the tastiness of a Wachoshoku.

However, it could be pointed out that homemade Japanese food is a luxury. Japanese cuisine has always revolved around a bowl of rice, surrounded by the wide array of side dishes that accompany it. As can be imagined, it takes a great deal of effort and time to prepare five side dishes. With the growing child poverty, working poor population in the country, it seems unrealistic to ask a working parent on a tight budget to buy a variety of ingredients and spend an hour in the kitchen every morning. Unless, things improve, Japanese breakfasts could soon be a thing of the past in a Japanese household.

 

 

The Great White Woman Is Here to Save Japanese Men

superwoman-flying-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-TvLMOF-clipart

Hey, Asian guys! You’re hot! Don’t you feel better now. As a reward here is an unasked for smooch from a white woman—for free. She’s even blonde! Feel better now? No? Wait this isn’t the Valentine’s Day gift you always wanted?

As they say, all roads to hell are paved with good intentions.

It is unclear though, if the intentions of Leela Rose, an actress and self-proclaimed activist/Youtuber, were purely altruistic as she claims.

On September 30th, last year, Rose unleashed a now infamous video (trigger warning) titled Kissing Guys In Tokyo  an instant sensation on the internet that went viral in a chickenpox kind of way. She prefaces the video with her sentiment that “white women can find Asian men attractive and that Asian men are not represented in Hollywood to her liking as romantic leads”. She declares that by going around Tokyo and kissing Asian men in Tokyo she wants to help fight the stereotype that Asian men are not desirable.

At this point, which is only the prelude to a white privilege nightmare, so many questions come to mind. How is a video of a white woman kissing random men on the street going to change the minds of those who run Hollywood? Moreover, her tone is completely devoid of any perspective from Asian actors who are fighting this stereotype on a daily basis, she speaks on the issue as a savior for the powerless who, conveniently are the object of her desire.

Does anyone remember Julien Blanc? Raise your hand if you do. Some are called Leela Rose a female version of the Pick-Up Artist—aka Juliette Blanc—but that is missing the point.

As her “social experiment” begins, there is a stream of horrific imagery of a blond woman forcefully launching surprise attacks on the faces of many bewildered Japanese men.

Many, after a stunned moment, go along with it.

The video continues to make the rounds on the internet but it has met with some harsh criticism, as well as scattered praise.

Japanese American playwright Leah Nanako Winkler, a vocal critic on the lack of Asian American representation in the US entertainment industry, weighs in on the issue.

“I think this white woman exemplifies clueless American entitlement–and reeks of privilege in such a destructive way that is embarrassing for our country. She is claiming to represent all western women-and I genuinely think she believes this because of the exact cultural biases she is claiming to criticize: she’s white and blonde and fits into the ‘ideal’ female beauty standards perpetuated in American culture -when in reality she cannot speak for anyone except for herself. As an American Woman- I’m mortified people like her are the clueless avatar for our country.”

Winkler further dissects “She is still fetishizing Asian men because she’s conflating all Asian identities into one- and making assumptions about an entire country (Japan) and its social politics regarding male desirability. Men in Japan as a whole don’t have problems getting laid in Japan.* How dare she assume they want her? It’s a level of entitlement that is next level honestly. American white women need to educate themselves before they speak up on Asian American issues…look what happens. It’s like white savior complex dressed in glitter and stupidity.”

It is worth repeating that Asian-American culture/people and other Asian cultures/people are not the same thing as Leela Rose assumes. Sexualizing one does not elevate the status of the other. In other words, objectification has never been empowering.

Another angered viewer, Greek woman Persephone Narra and her Korean American husband Kim Du Han uploaded a Youtube video in response. Han claims that if he was suddenly kissed on the street by a white woman he doesn’t know “he would know that she invaded my privacy and that it was sexual harassment and completely inappropriate.” Persephone stresses that if this were a man kissing random women, it would be sexual assault and the man would be in jail. She concludes the video saying, “No one in Hollywood is going to consider Asian men desirable because a girl sexually harasses them on the street.”

They go further by confronting Leela Rose on Facebook. When pressed to take the video down, Rose claims that she has apologized multiple times and that, “I’m not taking anything down because what I feel that I’m doing is right and I’m taking a stand for something that I care deeply about! I’ve gotten too much positive remarks from the Asian men to take this down. I will continue to try my best to promote more leading Asian men in the film industry whether people agree with my method or not.”

In other words: Watch out Asian men! Blond Face Sucker is on the loose!

As an Asian woman, writer and actor, I thought I’d ask Rose a few questions. She has yet to respond and she may never do but here they are. Some food for thought.

-Do you have Asian actor friends?

-Have you had conversations with them about their lack of representation in the industry? If so what was their response to your video?

-Have you gotten any positive feedback from the Asian American actor communities?

-Did you know that this would be controversial when you were making it? Were you surprised that some people are offended?

-Did all the men you kissed in the video consent to you before the shooting? (It seems in one instance you are informing them of the shoot after you have made out with them)

-Some people are drawing comparisons to you and Julian Blanc, a dating coach, who went around in Tokyo pushing Japanese girls’ faces to his crotch and preaching that foreign men can get away with this in Japan. How would you differentiate yourself?

-What other things can you do to help the Asian actors on their lack of representation?

-Would you recommend that other white females make these videos too so it becomes a movement?

-Other than Hollywood not thinking Asian men are desirable/fit for lead roles, what other problems are causing lack of representation in your view?

-How do you feel about the lack of representation in Hollywood for Asian actresses?

-You have said in other interviews that you are sexually attracted to Asian men. Would you say, you took advantage of this cause to help them being acknowledged as an opportunity to simultaneously fulfill your personal desires/agenda?

-In a different interview you stated you are attracted to Asian men. In your mind are Asian Americans and Asians for instance Japanese men the same? You point out that Japanese men are shy to approach women but also rail against the stereotype Hollywood has given them as nerds and losers. If you wanted to change the image of Asian American men, would it not be more effective to carry out this “experiment” in the US on Asian American men?

Gentle readers, how would you answer these questions?

*The writer would like to point out that while this is true, not many people in Japan are having sex these days but this is another issue entirely.