Meet The Beast! A night with Bob Sapp This Friday

I’ve known Bob since back in those K-1 Days. He’s a survivor.

Bob Sapp, Pro Fighter and Actor will speak at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan this Friday!

18:30-20:00 Friday, June 7, 2019
(The speech and Q & A will be in English)

Cocktail Party: 18:30-19:00
Speech: 19:00-19:20
Q&A session: 19:20-20:00

“Being a Foreign Entertainer in the Japanese TV Industry”

To MMA fans all over the world he’s known as “The Beast. Bob Sapp is a former American NFL player, WWE professional wrestler and World Champion kickboxer. Bob has appeared on an episode of HBO Real Sports and has been featured in magazines all over the world and once was ubiquitous in Japanese Television. Bob has appeared on the big-screen as well in ‘Conan the Barbarian’ and with Adam Sandler in ‘The Longest Yard’. No one knows the business and entertainment and MMA world in Japan than Bob Sapp.

If you’d like to meet and greet The Beast. Please reserve in advance, 3211-3161, says the FCCJ.

*Due to space restrictions, please note there will be a limited number of reservations to attend. Reservations will be limited to the first 40 applicants and Reservations cancelled beyond 18:00 Thursday, June 6 will be charged in full. Those without reservations will be turned away once available seats are filled. Reservations and cancellations are not complete without confirmation. FCCJ members, including TV cameras, will have priority for the reservation and seating/setting positions and one TV camera for affiliate networks. 

Fee: FCCJ members: 2,000 yen / non-FCCJ members: 3,000 yen (Two Drink Tickets included). 

PAC イブニング ミーティング
ボブ・サップ、プロファイター、俳優

6月7日(金)18:30-20:00
スピーチ、Q&A:英語
費用:会員様2,000円、非会員様3,000円(2ドリンクチケット付)
    非会員の方々の参加費は、現金またはクレジットカードでお支払いいただけます。

Boy’s Love: A Dynamic Expression of Sexuality

By Taylor Drew

Introduction           

The decades following the end of the Second World War marked a significant period of development for Japanese manga. The genres of manga became divided between two primary genres, shounen, and shoujo, for boys and girls respectively, and the art of telling longer running stories became mainstream practice. As well, women began to enter the manga industry rapidly during the 1950’s and 1960’s, which would cause a significant shift in the stories that were told and how they were presented within shoujo manga that was released (Prough 2011:46-48). The stories that were produced in this new style followed patterns of using exotic locations outside of Japan as the main setting and expressing the emotions involved in human relationships, often love triangles between the main character, the heroine, and two boys that she was close to. They also employed a drawing style that remains recognized as a style for shoujo manga. Despite the many changes that took place, it was not until the 1970’s that female manga artists would begin to experiment with the portrayal of kissing and sex in shoujo manga for older teenagers (Prough 2011: 53). However, these initial intimate scenes were not between two people of the opposite sex but rather between two boys.

This new genre of shoujo manga, known as yaoi, shounen ai, and/or boys love depending on time period and context, offered a new type of story to be consumed by the girls that were reading manga at that time. Even though this new genre of shoujo manga was about the love between two boys, it was not about portraying a realistic and loving relationship between two men. Instead, the relationships within boys love manga were symbolic of things desired and things experienced by Japanese girls and women; they were a way for restricted individuals to express their sexuality in text. While the genre has gone through many stylistic changes, especially in recent years, this symbolism can still be seen even in more recent works of boys love manga. By understanding the thematic and stylistic origins of boys love manga and by analyzing some more recent works, it will be possible to see how this symbolism continued on through various dynamic changes in the genre while also developing into something new to accommodate for continuing critic from the gay community and its allies in Japan.

The Origin of Boys Love

            The boys love genre saw its origins in the early 1970’s as a type of mainstream shoujo manga. At the time known as shounen-ai, these stories followed the romance between two beautiful boys. The appearance of these beautiful boys is striking because of the androgynous nature of their appearances; with their long flowing hair and slender bodies their gender appears as ambiguous to the untrained eye. In addition to their genderless appearances, when engaging in intimate activity, the panels of the manga were placed in a way that made their sexual actions even more ambiguous by never directly showing insertion of a penis or other obviously male occurrences (Prough 2011:53). While the appearance of these beautiful boys may bring to question the true nature of their sex, interviews with artists of the genre suggest that in their eyes at least, there is no doubt that these beautifully drawn androgynous boys are male (Welker 2011: 213). None the less, it is likely that the ambiguous appearances of the boys likely helped facilitate an understanding of the characters for the readers.

Additionally, the early settings of these shounen-ai manga were placed in exotic locations just like other shoujo manga of the time. Not unlike other shoujo manga, these exotic locations were typically historical Europe in aristocratic families, all-boys boarding schools, or both. Again like other shoujo manga of the time, the focus was on the emotions and connections made by the main character to others around him.The combination of foreign location and androgynous boys allowed for the mainstream shoujo manga readers to enjoy these early shounen ai stories by distancing them from the sexual  content but also by being relatable which was an overall important accomplishment for manga because intimacy had never been expressed in such a way in manga before (Prough 2011: 54).

            By the 1980’s, shounen ai had left mainstream shoujo manga magazines and began publishing in specialty magazines for the genre. With this new vein of publishing the genre took on a new name courtesy of the publishing industry, becoming the English “boys love” that is primarily used in this essay. Stories about the love between two boys also began to thrive in another market, that of doujinshi, or self-published fanfiction (Prough 2011: 54). In this instance, these self-published works were manga though doujinshi as a term refers to all fan-published material. Within these fan-made works, the genre was known as yaoi, an acronym that stands for “no climax, no ending, no meaning.” This terminology represents the way that these stories were written without much thought or plot. In this case of boys love doujinshi they were typically a quick and steamy after between the two main characters.  These fan-made works were often much more sexually explicit than their counterparts in shounen-ai were originally and as already stated, their sexual encounter was overall the main point of the story.  Many of these fan-made works are now often based off stories in shounen manga, with those released in the Weekly Shounen Jump magazine being especially popular (Saito 2011: 180). Some of these titles include Gintama, Naruto, One Piece, and The Prince of Tennis.  The authors of these particular doujinshi displayed and still do display a special ability to shift the friendly bonding of shounen manga and turn it into a romantic encounter between two teenage boys. The development of these doujinshi as separate to published boys love is important because of the way they influenced setting and also sexual content in commercially published works. Boys love manga was already evolving continuously right from the start based on competition between the producers and the consumers.

 Experiencing Sex in Boys Love

            The boys love manga that was produced from the 1990’s until today has been able to become much more sexually explicit in part due to the influence of the market of self-published manga (McLelland 2000: 19). While not all boys love manga has sexually explicit content it is very common and much more common than it was in the past. The role of the beautiful boy has also changed. While most of the boys shown in boys love manga, there is less emphasis on androgynous features than there was before; there is little doubt by anyone that the characters are male, even without clear display of a penis. A result of this is a division between roles that have become more clearly visible to the readers, a division of roles that is essential to understand current boys love narratives about sex more clearly.

 In the vast majority of boys love manga, the relationship between the two boys is understood in terms of their individual roles as either the uke or the seme. The seme is recognized as the dominant, aggressive, male role in the relationship and the uke is seen as the passive feminine role (Saito 2011: 184). In this dichotomy, while both boys are more clearly masculine in their features, the uke typically has more feminine features such as longer hair and larger eyes as well as being more emotional while the seme shows more masculine traits. The manga The World’s Greatest First Love, by Shingiku Nakamura, is a good example of this type of character description. The story follows two men that reconnect ten years after a high school love gone wrong in the editing department of a publishing company where they are now both employed. The seme, Masamune, has a squared chin and always remains relatively expressionless even in some of their more steamy encounters.

On the other hand, the uke, Ritsu,has a more triangular chin and easily blushes in romantic situations because of embarrassment (Nakamura 2015). While not all boys love manga change the appearance between the two roles to such an extent, it is usual for the features of the uke to be more cute and feminine than those of the seme both in appearance, mannerisms, and even personal skills and interests. These personality traits as assigned by role are prominent in most boys love manga that has been published in recent years by commercial publishers.

These appearances and personality traits also translate to what sexual role each character performs. The more masculine and dominant seme plays the role of the penetrator, and the more passive and feminine uke plays the role of the penetrated (Saito 2011: 184). By framing the relationship between the two boys is this way, the authors of the manga are placing them within a very stereotypical heterosexual relationship structure. The more masculine and dominant seme is almost exclusively the character that initiates a relationship and then sexual contact, sometimes initiated by platonic teasing or despite his insecurities about his sexuality. When the two boys inevitably have sex, the uke will be on the bottom, usually facing the seme and laying underneath him. The story No Touching At All by Kou Yoneda is an example of a story that follows this format. The main character Shima is a closeted gay man that has moved from his old company to a new company after a relationship with a straight man gone sour. He is therefore timid and shy because of his past experiences and catches the attention of the laid back and apparently straight section chief Togawa. Togawa is initially interested in Shima platonically because of his cute behavior but eventually falls in love with him (Yoneda 2011). The first time they have sex is somewhat of an accident and uses sexual actions that are stereotypical to heterosexual sex. The seme, in this case, Togawa, is the dominant role in the relationship that is leading on the relationship despite Shima’s hesitations. None the less it is clear that even though their first sexual experience happens largely by mistake, the experience was still pleasurable for both people involved.

By placing boys love relationships into the frame of a heteronormative relationship, the readers are able to understand what is happening between the two characters on an emotional level, but in a sense, the couple is not understood within traditional heterosexual relationship values. Instead, the boys love couple is seen as functioning within a loving and equal relationship that cannot be experienced outside of their world (Saito 2011: 180). While the roles between the uke and the seme may seem to be quite strict for determining character personality and sex roles, the fact that they are both able to feel immense pleasure from sex is an important aspect of sex that is presented in boys love manga. As a genre that is directed to straight women, the perceived equality portrayed within the boys love genre is said to be a response to traditional sexual restrictions for Japanese women (Welker 2014: 267). Therefore the narratives in boys love manga became a place for both the authors and readers to express their sexuality freely. In a society that there is still great pressure for women get married and have children within a certain time frame which puts a heavy restriction the sexual liberty of women who are expected to be primarily mothers and wives within a limited frame of time.

In comparison, men have more freedom sexually in Japan even though they are also expected to get married (McLelland 2000: 14). In this sense, the boy becomes the perfect canvas for describing the ideal sexual situation, that of mutual pleasure, for women because men traditionally have more sexual freedom than women. While it is true that the appearances of the boys have become less ambiguous, the placement of the panels in the manga still leaves a lot to the imagination. That with the combination of the more feminine features of the uke makes it easy to imagine how a woman could relate to and desire what this character may experience. A sexual experience between the two partners as portrayed in many boys love manga is, therefore, able to illustrate the possibility of giving and receiving pleasure without fear of shame. This sex acts as an extension of love as well as a confirmation of feelings and is a very important aspect of sexuality in boys love manga.

While many interactions in boys love manga are focused on the mutual development of feelings between the seme and the uke through normal means, there are also works that are much more violent in nature that seem to work in contrast to this image of pure and mutual love. These aggressive sexual situations occur within a variety of different scenarios that usually involve the negative emotions of the seme or an outside individual that has enacted some type of violent act, psychological and/or physical towards the uke. For example, in No Touching At All, Shima’s initial fear of being in a relationship with Togawa and people discovering that he is gay stems from the sour relationship that he experienced at his previous workplace because of his love for a straight man. There is also a point in the manga where this fear does not allow him to trust Togawa’s love and the two have rather aggressive sex for the “last time” in which they do not face each other in mutual pleasure but instead Shima is used as a release for frustration and violently taken from behind (Yoneda 2011). Another much more graphic and violent example of aggression in boys love manga can be seen in the series that in English known as Caste Heaven by Chise Ogawa. As the title of the manga alludes to, the main characters of the series attend a Japanese high school that the students run using a caste system. The main character Azusa has always been the King of the caste but when the next caste game begins he is tricked by the Jack, Karino, and plummets to the lowest level of the caste after being pulled from the game by a situation where he is gang-raped by a group of boys at the school. His subjugation continues as he is targeted by students who could not go against him when he was King. Karino, who has become the King, promises to protect him on the condition that Azusa will become his personal sex slave (Ogawa 2015). Put into this role Azusa is subjugated over and over again to the whims of Karino who simultaneously protects him and sexually abuses him as his own personal public toilet. In this type of situation, the dominance of the seme towards the uke is exaggerated and intensified, but they still fit into the general guidelines of the roles, even though Azusa is originally portrayed as being dominant.

Albeit disturbing to certain readers, this type of story is also essential in understanding sexual narratives in boys love manga. Unlike the example of Shima and Togawa who symbolized sex that was desired, the type of violence experienced by Azusa acts as a way for readers to become spectators of violence rather than be victimized by such an incident (McLelland 2000: 20). The acts committed against Azusa by Karino can be seen as a method of revenge as well as a way to subjugate an inferior to elevate status. While Azusa begins by appearing more dominant, he gradually gains more and more characteristics that are associated with women, and his new status as subjugated may reflect the way that certain Japanese women feel about the possibility of their position. By being the viewer instead of the victim, reading about these actions becoming committed against a boy in the story may provide the readers with comfort or some type of twisted empowerment by acting as a fictionalized revenge against a system that works against them in cases of sexual violence. As Caste Heaven is an ongoing series, it is hard to say how the story will end, but if using other manga of this style and by this author as a guide, the story will end in either a mutual love or it may really just be a case of sexual abuse with no alternative motive by Karino. These options bring to question the feelings of the authors as they write these types of stories; are they merely a kink or is there some deeper and darker frustration that fuels their creation? Regardless of what the answer may be, the portrayals of aggressive sex in boys love manga as violent, and abuse can be seen as symbolic of the suppression felt by many Japanese women in Japan.

Boys Love Moving Forward

            With increasing popularity and stories that reach out to many types of female readers, the boys love genre has been able to expand far beyond being a subgenre of shoujo manga. While unstable, the market has expanded to include many different forms of boys love narratives including anime adaptations, novels, PC and video games, voice-only drama CD’s, live action movies, and other boys love related character merchandise as sold in stores such as Animate in Ikebukuro.  As already explained, sexually explicit content as also moved out of doujinshi and into publisher released boys love manga.  While boys love films are not new, there has been a great about of recent success, especially with the release of the movie adaptation of No Touching At All last year that this year was rereleased for additional screening (Taiyou Garden 2015). This level of success has likely contributed to an increased released of live-action adaptations of manga such as Seven Days and Wait for Me at Udagawachō. With the release of live action films that are more popular, the fans and genre of boys love will only become more visible from now on. None the less, these fans remain to stigmatize in Japanese society until today because they are essentially seen as consuming gay pornography. This stigmatization makes a full evaluation of the boys love market impossible because many fans consume boys love in secret as not to be shamed by their acquaintances that are also not fans (Saito 2011: 176). This expansion also represents an increased importance of the symbolism and representations of perceived equality in boys love manga as well as approaching issues of gender fluidity.

            This increased attention has also affected the types of narratives that are seen within boys love manga today. It was already shown how the development of doujinshi influenced the amount of explicit sexual activities shown in boys love manga, but the exposure to critics also affected the narratives that were being told. These types of criticisms can be cited as far back as the early 1990’s to both gay men in Japan and their supporters criticizing what they claimed as completely fictional and unrealistic representations of homosexual relationships (Nagaike 2015: 65). More and more often, the main characters of boys love manga are openly gay from the start, such as Shima who was previously described. Shima’s situation also shows an increased representation of some of the problems and fears that gay men in Japan may have to face such as alienation at the workplace (Yoneda 2011). Previously published stories often diminished or ignored the seriousness of these issues real life and important issues. While No Touching At All displays some of these improvements, other works have taken it a step further, perhaps as the pioneers of something completely new. One such work is called Koi Monogatari, meaning “love story” in English. This story is told through the perspective of Hasegawa, a high school student who discovers that one of his classmates, Yamato, is gay when he catches him stroking the hair of one of his friends. Given his carefree personality, Hasegawa is initially shocked because his friend is the subject of interest but gradually gets to know Yamato and starts to wish for his happiness (Tagura 2015). In becoming friends with Yamato, Hasegawa is able to learn more about some very real struggles and insecurities that gay young men have and comes to realize that there is nothing wrong with being gay because that is just the way they are; they cannot do anything to change it even if they want to. This narrative suggests that there are authors in the boys love community that are starting to take the lived experiences of gay men very seriously and are being to incorporate that narrative into the genre through an understandable shoujo manga style lens.

Conclusion

            From the beginnings of shoujo manga following the Second World War and the introduction to shounen ai narratives in the early 1970’s, boys love as a genre has gone through many dynamic changes since its creation. The genre that began sexual expression in shoujo manga developed over the years from ambiguously gendered boys that participated in equally ambiguous sex, to some less ambiguous and much more sexually explicit. Even with that level of change, boys love as a genre was still able to maintain the symbolism that it originated with, the narratives of expressing restricted female sexually and subjugation. These narratives have remained relatively unchanged as since through Shima and Togawa, Ritsu and Masamune, and Karino and Azusa. Boys love has always been a way for women to voice their dissatisfaction and also a way for them to experience their desire through fiction. More recently, the genre has expanded the way that it has reached its audience, making boys love have even more influence over the way in which participants express their sexuality through fiction. However, the dynamic changes of the boys love genre are not stopping with just increased styles of expression but also increasing the type of narratives that are being told. While the genre may not be and may never be able to be completely embraced by gay men in Japan given its shoujo feeling, this does not discount the fact that more and more narratives that express the sexuality of gay men in Japan are being released such as the story of Yamato by Tohru Tagura. All of these narratives, regardless of homophobic tones or not, are an important representation and expression of realities and desires of sexual equality in Japan. While it cannot be understood now how far the influence of boys love will expand, the genre is without a doubt an important place for those that are restricted to express sexuality without worry or fear.

References Cited

McLelland, Mark J.

2000 The Love Between ‘Beautiful Boys’ in Japanese Women’s Comics. Journal of Gender Studies 9(1): 13-25. EBSCOhost. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.library.smu.ca

Nakamura, Shingiku

2015 The World’s Greatest First Love. Adrienne Beck, trans. San Francisco: SuBLime.

Ogawa, Chise

2015 Kasuto hevun. Tokyo: Libre Shuppan.

Prough, Jennifer S.

2011 Straight from the Heart. United States of America: University of Hawai’i Press.

Saito, Kumiko

2011 Desire in Subtext: Gender, Fandom, and Women’s Male-Male Homoerotic Parodies in Contemporary Japan. Mechademia 6: 171-191. Project Muse. http://muse.jhu.edu/

Tagura, Tohru

2015 Koi monogatari. Tokyo: Gentosha Comics.

Taiyou Garden

2015 News. http://www.doushitemo.com/news.html

Welker, James

2011 Flower Tribes and Female Desire: Complicating Early Female Consumption of Male Homosexuality in Shōjo Manga. Mechademia 6: 211-228. Project Muse. http://muse.jdu.edu/

2014 Beautiful, Borrowed, and Bent: “Boys’ love” as girls’ love in shōjo manga. In Gender and Japanese Society: Critical Concepts in Asian Studies Volume IV. Dolores P. Martinez, eds. Pp. 256-281. New York: Routledge.

Yoneda, Kou

2011 No Touching At All. Jocelyn Allen, trans. California: Digital Manga Distribution.

Parade the Penis: Kanamara Matsuri

Text & video by Phoebe Amoroso, cover image courtesy of Kanamara Shrine

Our roving reporter, Pheebz, visited the annual Kanamara Festival on April 7th, which involves a lot of phalluses. The Kanamara Shrine (literally, “Metal Penis Shrine”) is where people pray for sexual health and fertility.

The annual festival – informally known as “penis festival” – has been growing in popularity, with 30,000 visitors in 2016, 60% of those coming from overseas. Could watching the phallic parade be something of a release?

What’s the story behind this upstanding event? Watch the video below to peel back the mythological foreskin and get to the root of the matter.

The festival has its roots in local sex workers praying for protection against sexually-transmitted infections, but in recent years, it has come to represent LGBTQ and diversity with profits going towards HIV research.

Quite rightly, however, many have pointed out the hypocrisy inherent in a country, which made international headlines for condemning vagina art by Megumi Igarashi, better known as Rokudenashiko. Who was arrested on obscenity charges for distributing 3D data of her vagina that she used to 3D print a vagina canoe as part of her work.

Yet the obscenity of the flagrant double standards provokes discussion, and an event that promotes inclusivity is worth celebrating in a notoriously conservative society.

Many festival attendees are likely satisfied with pure spectatorship and sucking on phallic-shaped candy, and that’s fine too. But for maximum enjoyment, it’s worth digging a little deeper into the legend of a SAVAGE VAGINA DEMON (you read that right).

One legend has it that a beautiful woman was plagued by a jealous demon, who hid in her vagina and killed Husband Number 1 by biting off his penis. Husband Number 2 met a similar fate. Dismayed, she enlisted the help of a local blacksmith who seems to have been really chill about dealing with vagina demons. He made her a metal phallus, which she inserted. The demon, of course, bit it, but he broke his teeth and fled. Presumably she lived happily ever after, especially since she had her own personal metal phallus.

Come along for the ride – watch our report. ↑

The Art of The Inkstone (硯石)

You can’t make blood from a stone but you can make ink with a stone, and beautiful artistic ink. That is, if you’re using as 硯石(suzuri-ishi), a traditional Japanese ink-stone, which in and of itself can be an art object. I went to Daigo-machi in Ibaraki Prefecture to see one be made by a traditional craftsman and try one out for myself. If you’re an amateur calligrapher (書道家)but aspire to greatness, you need one of these in your life. 

It’s cold up in the mountains where the ink-stones are made. Warm tea makes the trek better.

Daigo-machi located in Ibaraki Prefecture is one of the few places where traditional suzuri are still made. There is a particular kind of stone that is perfect for making suzuri and the town still has a limited supply. The stones are able to grind down the solid materials used for making ink to do calligraphy, but are also resistant to being ground down as well.  As far back as the Tokugawa era, the stones from Daigo and the suzuri produced there were considered natural treasures. 

The stones were treasured by Japanese artists like Hoan Kosugi, noteable authors such as Saneatsu Mushanokōji (武者小路 実篤) and even Japanese  Prime Minister Tsuyoshi (話せばわか) Inukai*.

Taizan Sato became fascinated with the process of making ink stones after attending a workshop conducted by the man who would later become his master, Taiseki Hoshino.

He opened his own workshop in the town in the year 2002. He has learned over time to touch a stone and know immediately whether or not it is suitable to be an ink-stone. It can’t be too hard and it is helpful if it has some claylike qualities, but not to the point of being absorbent.

The process of selecting the stones

Other stones and materials are used to smooth the basin
The master uses his own proprietary powder for the finish.

In an effort to combine the town’s traditional lacquerware with the ink stones, he uses only lacquer painstakingly handscraped from the urushi trees to paint the outside edges of the stone, and ads design, to turn them into works of art on their own. Many of Japan’s living national treasures use his stones in their artwork and calligraphy. 

The finished ink-stone (on the left) is coated with urushi (lacquer) to give it a shine and transform the object into art itself. The rough-edged version is considered even more elegant (渋い).

Sato-san has one disciple (弟子) to follow in his footsteps.

As an amateur calligrapher, I can tell you that the feel of the one of his hand-made stones compared to the cheap ones sold in stationary stores is a world apart. The smoothnesss of his hand-made suzuri are extraordinary and yet the part of the stone used to grind down the ink is so subtly raised that you can barely feel it with your finger. The ink has to be ground very slowly, almost as if you were gently rubbing the ink stick against a bare nipple—-a bare nipple with razor stubble. The right amount of water and delicate friction produces a finite level of ink which pools in the “ocean” of the ink-stone (suzuri). 

The detailed structure of the ink-stone makes it possible to vary the lightness and thickness of the ink; the results are brush strokes that are not uniform and subtle on the paper. For Sumi-e paintings, it is also a wonderful tool to have. Admittedly, such a majestic tool is slightly wasted on a person like myself who as my calligraphy teacher points out, “Lacks all delicacy and does not follow the proper stroke order” but maybe someday…..

I purchased one of the stones for someone much more qualified than me to make use of it (list price 30,000 yen but I only had 23,000 yen in cash so he generously cut me a deal). I gave it to a curator at the Met who is an expert on calligraphy. In another decade, I may be worthy of owning one myself. Which means another trip to Daigo…..a town with many charms.

As long as you’re in town…..

Japan is a famous for lacquerware known as urushi, and to make it the authentic way, you need organic sap from the urushi tree. Daigo provides much of the quality organic urushi needed for Japan’s traditional crafts.

The process of urushi-kaki

Due to the cold climate and soil composition Daigo produces what some say is the finest raw urushi in Japan. It is clear, dries quickly, and has a fragrance reminiscent of Japanese cypress. If you make arrangements in advance, you can go to the serene Urushi tree forest and see how the sap is extracted. The master urushikaki (person who scrapes urushi) is Yuzo Tobita, who is 84. There used to be a hundred people doing the work. Now there are, including Tobita, five or six people continuing the tradition. It’s hard work. It takes up to ten years to grow an urushi tree and from one tree, at best you can extract 200 milliliters, basically a small bottle of Shiso Pepsi Cola.

Fortunately for the tradition, there are young apprentices like Yuma Watanabe who is 26 and now learning the art. If he sticks with it, traditional urushi may last another few generations.

After you’ve seen the urushi drawn from the sap, and maybe tried your hand at the work yourself—take a visit to Kijian, where you can see lacquerware being made and buy some souvenirs. The master , Toru Tsuji, has his own style of creating lacquerware, Yamizonuri, which results in elegant and zen-like austere utensils.




*Prime Minister Inukai was assassinated on May 15, 1932 starting the dark age of Japanese Imperialism

Book Review: Japanese Tattoos

By Taylor Drew

Coauthored by Brian Ashcraft, a senior contributing editor for the website Kotaku, and Osaka based tattoo artist Hori Benny, this book Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design was written with the goal with the intention of helping those that are thinking of getting a Japanese style tattoo (perhaps most commonly known outside of Japanese as irezumi・刺青). Both authors use extensive knowledge of Japanese style tattooing and personal interviews to guide the novice away from committing any cultural faux pas in a work that spans 158 glossy pages.

“Over the course of researching, interviewing, and writing this book, we consulted numerous friends, colleagues, experts, and total strangers with the goal of introducing and decoding the most prevalent motifs so that English speakers can have a better understanding of their meaning and hopefully get Japanese tattoos that can be worn with pride – as they should be”

The book begins with an introduction to the history of irezumi in Japan, from punitive tattoos, to prohibition, and all the way back to modern times. This first section also covers briefly some reasons why Japanese tattoos have changed over time. The book is then divided into six additional chapters based on the different styles and motifs found in irezumi, with numerous sections in each chapter that clearly divide different motifs in that style. A tattooist and client profile are also included at the end of every chapter, giving life to the theme of that particular chapter. There are also information boxes that provide additional information to support the content within the main body of the work. All of this is supported with high quality, full colour images of tattoos and virtually every single page of the book.

What I found extremely impressive about this book was the sheer quantity and quality of the accompanying images. Not only are specific motifs and their meanings clearly explained, but the authors have also provided imagery and explanations of the images themselves. The reader is able to enjoy each and every motif – usually in more than one style. Both Ashcraft and Hori Benny did an exceptional job collecting the various photographs of irezumi for the book.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of the book though, was the addition of the Tattooist Profile and Tattoo Client Profile at the end of every single chapter. While the majority of the book reads, to an extent, like an irezumi dictionary of sorts, these sections brought extra life into the vast amount of information being provided. We, as readers, are given the opportunity to hear the voices of individuals that are not the authors. These sections are personal and provide a real solid look into the minds of the tattoo artists and their clients. We are able to see their views on irezumi and what they mean to them personally. The extra insight brought in by these sections is a crucial component in what makes Japanese Tattoos work – it makes the “foreign” content relatable.

That being said, the large amount of information that the book contains is also a weakness. There were certain sections that I found difficult to read. There are extra text bubbles of information throughout the book, but in some places their existence takes away from the overall flow of the work. The reader is obligated to both stop midsentence to go read the “extras” or move on and hope they don’t forget to go back and read them again. Such as,

“The fox (kitsune in Japanese) is associated with the formless Shinto deity Inari, who is sometimes depicted as male, other times as female and sometimes as gender-less. Inari is not only the god of rice, sake wine, and fertility, but also the god of metal workers and commerce. Stone fox statues often appear at the more than ten thousand officially recognized Inari shrines in Japan, and because the fox guards these shrines, the animal is often confused with the god. The pure white foxes, however, aren’t simply the god’s messengers, but also guard and protect the shrines. These foxes also carry connotations of wealth and fertility, due to Inari’s rice associations.” (pg. 57)

The Fox (Kitsune/狐) Tattoo is a joy to behold.

I found sections like this rather disjointing and it did affect my reading experience. Definitely not a problem for many readers, but something that I wish would have been laid out a little better, especially considering the high quality of the content on every single page.

Overall, Japanese Tattoos was a fascinating read and I would recommend it enthusiastically to anyone interested in tattoos or keen to learn more about specifically about irezumi. While perhaps the academic might find the content a bit shallow in terms of the historical content, it is important to remember that that is NOT the goal that Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny set for this book. They wanted to create a resource for English speakers who wanted to get Japanese tattoos. A goal that I would say they accomplished with flourishing colours.

Taylor Drew is a new contributor to JSRC she is a Canadian living in Tokyo since 2015. (Almost) fluent in Japanese. Loves Iwate and cats. 

[令和]は暗黒時代の幕開けか

ニッポンの新時代『令和』は大嘘と大騒ぎに包まれ、5月1日に幕開けを迎えました。奇遇なことに、新しい元号の発表日はエイプリルフール(April Fools’ Day) と重なりました。エイプリルフールとは毎年4月1日には嘘をついても良いという西洋の伝統で、政府にとっては「令和」が「美しい調和(Beautiful Harmony)」を意味するというインチキ仮説を国内外で広める絶好の機会でした。文字通りに解釈するならば「命令と平和」。ついジョージ・オーウェルの陰鬱な小説を連想してしまいます。

もちろん、国民の大半は政府説明の胡散臭さを見抜いているばかりか、驚きもしませんでした。2019年1月の時点では、日経新聞の世論調査で、「政府の統計を信用しない」と答えた人は79%でした。 

政府統計「信用できない」79%

日本を取り戻すって?どこへ?

つまり、日本人の五人に四人は政府が発表する統計が事実だと思っていません。オオカミ少年政権といえるでしょう。その背景には、安倍政権が2014年5月30日の内閣人事局設置以来、官僚を手懐けてきたことが挙げられます。また飴と鞭でマスコミを支配しているだけでなく、公文書の廃棄·改ざんなども許しています。いや、「許している」というよりも共謀者にご褒美を与えて出世させています。この時勢で、不正を嫌って自殺する官僚は英雄です。森友学園関連の文書改ざんを倫理的に許せなかった英雄ですが、政府に全く賞賛されない英雄ですが。真実とともに葬られた被害者です。全面的に違法行為に加担し、偽証までしてくれた財務省の佐川宣寿・元理財局長は処罰されるどころか、隠蔽工作の腕前が認められ、出世の階段を早々と登りました。

しかし、安倍総理と右腕の管官房長官らが不都合な事実の隠蔽工作を全部官僚に任せっきりというわけではありません。仲間のためなら強姦容疑の捜査も中止したりするなどして(ご参照→安倍総理の太鼓持ちジャーナリスト・山口敬之氏による伊藤詩織さんレイプ疑惑 なぜ逮捕状は中村格刑事部長によって止められたのか――? 超党派の国会議員が警察庁・法務省を徹底追及!)「上級国民」の防衛に奔走しています。安倍総理内閣の人々は自己利益及び仲間の利益を死守するには、「嘘も方便」と弁えている勇者です。

確かに人間は嘘をつく生き物だといいますが、いくら自分自身に嘘をつき、さらには国民にまで騙せたとしても、いずれは現実という不都合にぶち当たるでしょう。

『クールジャパン』改め『クルールジャパン”Cruel Japan”』

非情な国の行く末

ここ数年日本政府は“クールジャパン”の名の下観光大国のイメージを全面に押し出してきました。しかし現実はといえばヒトラー狂の金持ちらが国を操り、報道の自由は勢いよく右肩下がり、蔓延る貧困問題、公的文書改ざん、あとを絶たない過労死、腐敗しきった官僚主義、そして中世から変わらない司法制度と、まるでパンドラの箱の開けてしまったかのような惨状が広がっています。そこに追い打ちをかけるかのように、福島のメルトダウンをものともせず原発再稼働を急ぐ政府はあっぱれとしか言いようがありません。

もちろん、人口減少に高齢化も忘れてはなりません労働環境はといえば、低賃金、産休もろくに取れず(父親の育休など論外)、慢性的な保育園不足に過度の長時間労働。そんな生活では男女ともに恋愛、結婚ましてや子育てなど望めるはずがありません。

シングルペアレントとして子育てなどもってのほかです。もし女性がシングルマザーとなった場合、50%の確率で貧困ライン以下の生活を強いられるでしょう。人手不足で倒産を余儀なくされる企業も後を絶ちません。

人手不足ともなれば女性の躍進を期待しそうになりますが、男尊女卑大国ニッポンではそうもいきません。世界経済フォーラムの2018年の男女平等格差調査で149ヵ国中、日本は110位でG7最下位です。

今後ますます深刻化する人手不足への対策として政府は外国人労働者受け入れを拡大する計画を推し進めています。しかしこれまでに沢山の外国人労働者が搾取されてきた技能実習制度の問題点を置き去りにしたこの政策は、根強い外国人嫌いが蔓延する日本では失敗に終わること間違いありません。

令和のハイライトとなる2020年東京オリンピックですが、安倍首相は自身のレガシーに華を添えてくれると期待しているのでしょう。

そんなオリンピックですが、賄賂で招致した上、ヤクザも絡む堕落っぷり。さらには誘致時想定予算の7,000億円が、いつの間にか「3兆円」まで膨れ上がっています。極めつけに開催は真夏の8月、酷暑の中日射病による死者、さらには対応に追われる病院を襲う数々の危機は計り知れません。

また、トリクルダウン理論に則ったアベノミクスも失敗とみなされ始めていいます。東京商工リサーチによれば、中小企業の倒産は上昇傾向にあり、アベノミクス成功論はそもそも改ざんされたデータを根拠にしている可能性も否めません。

一方、政府が年金資金を用いて日本の株式市場を底上げしようとした結果、高齢化する国民が年金を受給できなくなる危険性が浮上しています。 公的年金を運用する年金積立金管理運用独立行政法人(GPIF)は今年2月、昨年10~12月期で14兆8039億円(うち半分は国内のシェア)の運用損が出たと発表しました。このような損失が続けば、高齢者への年金支給への支障をきたすと見られています。

令和の未来はそう明るくありません。

名前に込められた意義

 令和時代は4月30日、平成天皇陛下の生前退位によって始まりました。安倍政権は平成天皇の生前退位に反対されていましたが、遂に阻止することはできませんでした。

平成天皇が生前退位の意志を表明した結果、安倍政権の改憲運動に歯止めがかかりました。天皇は国の象徴として力強い存在です。天皇が日本人の日常生活に登場することも多く、天皇にまつわる祭日は5つもあります。使い勝手が面倒臭くても「元号」は意義深いものです。

一方、安倍総理と仲間らは神道的カルト集団でも右翼系圧力団体でもある「日本会議」に支えられています。日本会議が米国の”押しつけ憲法”

を排除して帝国時代の憲法を復活させたいのです。日本会議の息が掛かった政治家にとって、一番気に喰わない現代日本の思想といえば「基本的人権」「平和主義」「国民主権」です。安倍総理と彼が任命した 大臣らが信仰としていることは基本的に5つです。

①日本は神の国である

②第二次世界大戦で防衛戦であり、日本に戦犯はない

③再び天皇を元首にして神様として崇拝すべき

④ 少子化の悪因は男女平等主義である

⑤米国の押しつけ憲法が日本をだめにしている

皮肉なことに平成天皇は80歳の誕生日記者会見で、米国へ感謝の意を述べて憲法·平和主義の大切さを訴えました。 平成25年12月18の宮殿石橋の間で次のように話しました。「戦後、連合国軍の占領下にあった日本は、平和と民主主義を、守るべき大切なものとして、日本国憲法を作り、様々な改革を行って、今日の日本を築きました。戦争で荒廃した国土を立て直し、かつ、改善していくために当時の我が国の人々の払った努力に対し、深い感謝の気持ちを抱いています。また、当時の知日派の米国人の協力も忘れてはならないことと思います」。

平成天皇は30年の公務の中で繰り返して平和憲法を守る重要性をアピールしてきました。「押しつけ憲法」解体を企む安倍総理らとは対照的です。安倍総理だけでなく、日本会議と自民党の一部にとっては、天皇陛下の存在そのものが邪魔者だったようです。安倍総理らが天皇陛下を神様と崇拝しながら、その神様の発言が彼らの政策に反対しているので、困っていたでしょう。続く令和天皇(徳仁天皇陛下)も平和主義者のようです。「歴代の天皇のなさりようを心にとどめ、自己の研鑽に励むとともに、常に国民を思い、国民に寄り添いながら、憲法にのっとり、日本国及び日本国民統合の象徴としての責務を果たすことを誓い、国民の幸せと国の一層の発展、そして世界の平和を切に希望します」(令和元年5月1日)

非常に不思議なことです。日本会議や安倍総理らは天皇陛下を神様と崇拝しながら神様のいうことを聞かぬのです。それは一種の冒涜ではないでしょうか。

安倍総理が理想としている国を知りたければ、このビデオを見て下さい。戦慄を覚えるはずです。平成24年5月10日、憲政記念館にて行われた自民党内の「創生日本の研修会」での様子です。 

その中で、第一安倍政権(消化が悪かった第一安倍政権)の長勢甚遠元法務大臣が憲法から「平和主義、国民主権、基本的人権削除しよう!」と言っています。素朴な疑問ですが、憲法の精神と基本的人権を否定する輩を法務大臣に任命する安部総理には果たして良心というものがあるのでしょうか。

ビデオを見ると、元法務大臣らが「国民主権、基本的人権、平和主義…この3つを無くさなければ、ほんとの自主憲法にならない」と叫び、出席者からは拍手が鳴り響いています。平和憲法を守ろうと誓った平成天皇が拍手するはずがあるでしょうか。

余談メモ·この会議で、「尖閣諸島を取り戻せ」と叫ぶ人もいたようです。それは基本的には賛成です。不当にも「反日」と後ろ指を指される私からしても、個人的には尖閣諸島を中国から守ることは大切だと思います。明らかに尖閣諸島は日本の領土ですから。それだけは間違いないでしょう。

「令和」誕生まで

令和という元号はどのように決定されたのか明らかではありません。しかし文字通りに解釈するのが妥当といえるでしょう。「令」は「命令」の「令」です。複数の文献をみると次のような意味でよく知られています。

①「命ずる」、「いいつける」

②「法令などを世の中に広く知らせる」

③「みことのり(天皇の命令)」、「君主(国を治める人)の命令」

また「令和」の「令」は「箝口令」の「令」でもあり、「逮捕令状」の「令」でもあります。「和」は表向きに「平和」の「和」で「穏やか」「なごむ」などの意味です。口の部首と米の穂先が茎の先端に垂れかかるイメージから出てきた漢字といわれてます。また、もう一つ「やまと(日本)」の意を持ち合わせています。つまり、「日本人よ、命令に従えば平和ですよ」というような意味合いではないでしょうか。「万葉集から引用された」という説明はおそらく後付けでしょう。一部の新聞報道を読んでみると、実際、新しい元号を「令和」と決めたのは安倍総理です。彼のまったくの独断で「令和」となったのです。しかしここまでくれば、それも想定内のことでしょう。この記事を御覧ください。

安倍首相が統計不正追及に「だから何だってんだ!」と逆ギレ野次!「私が国家」とまた独裁発言もポロリ

本題に戻りましょう。「命名」という行為にはどれだけ意味があるのでしょうか。確かに安倍政権は命名の達人です。特に名前と全く反対の意味を持つ法律の作成·立法化には腕が成るようです 。危険すぎるとして何回も見送られた「共謀法」を「テロ対策特別措置法」と名前を変えて無理矢理議会を通しました。この法律によって捜査·逮捕の対象となる「共謀罪」対象犯罪は277種類に上ります。やはり、「無資格スポーツ振興投票」などのテロ行為を厳密に処罰しなければ、この国は終わりですね。SNSも対象となるので、「テロ関連情報」と見なされる呟きを拡散しただけでもアウトかもしれません。

しかし、安倍政権流のダブルスピーク(受け手の印象を変えるために言葉を言いかえる修辞技法)は日本製のウイスキーのように毎年、質が上がります。「働き改革」法は数千人から残業代の権利を奪い、一ヶ月の残業時間を100時間と限定したものです。しかし、それは厚生労働省の過労死ライン(80時間)を20時間も超えているのです。また、安倍政権のダブルスピークの中では、戦争行為を可能にした安全保障関連法「戦争法」がやはり傑作でした。

安倍政権の「令和」の世界では、まるでジョージ·オーウェルの小説「1984年」内で描かれた社会が現実となりまそうです。もうそろそろ学校の教科書では「戦争は平和である(WAR IS PEACE)。安保法は平和主義の法律」「自由は屈従である(FREEDOM IS SLAVERY)。残業代は鎖」

「無知は力である(IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH)。自由民主党は報道の自由と国民主権を大事にしている」とか明記されることでしょう。

詰まるところ、安倍政権のこれまでの言動を考慮すると、安部総理が「令和」の意味を「綺麗な調和」(Beautiful Harmony)」と語るならば、まず疑ってみた方が良いのではないでしょうか。

「綺麗な調和(Beautiful Harmony)」よりも「暗闇の虐政(Stark Tyranny)」の意味合いが込められているかもしれません。

あまり知られていませんが、令和天皇は歴者学者です。歴史から学び、二の舞いを演じないよう平和主義と基本的人権を肯定的に考えているわけです。安倍総理は戦犯として逮捕された故·岸信介元総理大臣の孫だけでなく岸元総理の生まれ変わりのような歴史修正主義者です。だからこそボンボン総理は歴史から何も学べずに原発を再起動させてひたすら日本を暗黒時代へ取り戻そうとするわけです。このままいけば「令和」は「美しい日本」の暗黒時代の幕開けとなるでしょう。

メモ・この記事一部はThe Daily Beast 5月1日付け「Japan Has a New Emperor and a New Era, but a Dark Future」を引用しているが、直訳ではありません。ご了承下さい。


 

Father accused of raping his daughter in Japan found Not Guilty, “She could have resisted” rules Nagoya court.

Today’s Asahi Newspaper, NHK and other media ran a story about an appalling ruling handed down in Nagoya Court on March 26th.

The father of a woman, who was 19 at the time of the alleged sexual assault, was tried on charges of quasi-rape (準強制性交等罪)after having non-consensual sexual intercourse with his daughter at their home in Aichi Prefecture in August and September of 2017.

Quasi-rape in Japan is defined as sexual intercourse taking place when the victim is unable to give their consent or say not. You may remember that a prominent friend of Prime Minister Abe, and also his biographer, was supposed to be arrested on charges of quasi-rape for an alleged attack on journalist Shiori Ito. In Ms. Ito’s case, she claimed to have been drugged and sexually assaulted. A high-ranking police office who was formerly the secretary to cabinet spokesman Yoshihide Suga, intervened to stop the arrest and later scuttled the investigation.

In situations where the victim is drugged or unable to refuse to have sex with an assailant, due to threats or danger to their life, charges of quasi-rape can apply.

The prosecutors argued that because of repeated violence and threats leveled against the daughter, that she was unable to say no to her father’s sexual demands. The defense argued that the sex was consensual—and even if she wasn’t able to resist, she still consented.

The court, in his verdict, recognized that the daughter had not consented. The judge even noted, “Because of the many years of sexual abuse [and other abuse], that she was mentally under the control of her father.” The court also recognized that she had been compelled have sex with her father since her second year of junior high. However, the final judgement was that she wasn’t completely under his control, “Therefore, there is a reasonable doubt as to whether she was really unable to resist.” Thus, her father was found not guilty of the charges. In other words, she could’ve resisted and she didn’t so Dad goes free.

Incest is not a criminal offense in Japan, although it was once in the past.

Masako Chiku*, the Nagoya Prosecutor, said they would consider appealing the case. Public reaction in Japan was of out rage and disappointment. In Japan, police are reluctant to pursue sexual assault charges; prosecutors routinely drop 50% of cases of sexual assault. According to one survey, 90% of Japanese women feel that Japan is easy on sexual offenders. In a country, where the Prime Minister’s pals get away with having quasi-rape investigations stopped before prosecution can even happen, you can kind of see where they are coming from.

What a different Japan it would be if the man accused of sexually assaulting Shiori Ito had been arrested, as was planned, and thrown into jail for 23 days, like Carlos Ghosn, and interrogated eight hours every day. But of course, this didn’t happen. He’s a friend of the Prime Minister. And he’s a Japanese man.

*The name of the prosecutor may be phonetically incorrect. In Japanese 築雅子次席検事

The last words of Carlos Ghosn (before his 4th arrest) translated from the French

For those who are interested in the interview of Carlos Ghosn,former CEO of Nissan, with French TV LCI, here is the transcript in English.
As you may know, Mr. Ghosn has been arrested four times, after Nissan executives went to the Tokyo Public Prosecutors Office and decided to make them the tool of getting rid of Carlos Ghosn, rather than settling the matter internally.
This is shared here for educational purposes.
The actual interview is available in French here: https://lnkd.in/giWYb9D
This comes courtesy of Jacques Deguest
Angel Investor, Co Founder & CEO in Japan, MBA, LLM

Abstract Art, Coffee And Art Photography In Osaka: The Slaby Sisters Exhibition Until July 9th

The Slaby Sisters: Johnna Slaby (painter) and Reylia Slaby (photographer) are pleased to present their first joint exhibition at the Intercontinental Hotel Osaka until July 31.. The exhibition features five pieces from each of their collections, and will be shown. Reylia and Johnna Slaby, twins, were born and raised in Osaka, Japan.

From a young age theywere free to explore and play within different facets of the art world. They began to develop a strong relationship with both Japanese and Western art, inadvertently creating their own fusions within the juxtaposing styles.

Oyster by Johnna Slaby

———

Johnna Slaby-Artist

http://www.johnnaslaby.com

Johnna Slaby is an abstract artist born and based in Osaka, Japan. Originally on the road to becoming a classical pianist, her career took a sudden turn when shediscovered urban sketching and fell in love with the rough lines, textures and the different ways of representing life. She made the transition from sketching to abstract painting from 2014. She currently experiments with incorporating physical objects and coffee (literally) into her work, creating pieces that start conversations of culture and the beauty in our everyday lives.

Reylia Slaby-Fine Art Photographer

Ame-Onna (雨女) “Rain Woman” by Reylia Slaby

Having been born and raised in Japan, Reylia Slaby uses the influences from her unusual upbringing as the main theme in her artwork. Her photos are a rich blend of the Japanese aesthetic, and is greatly revealing of her personal experiences and thought. Her desire is to weave all the different aspects of her life into her art. She strongly believes in an empirical body of work, and is adamant when it comes to adding an individual and unique meaning to each image. Photography entered her life as a gradient. Originally a semi-professional graphite pencil artist, Reylia made a gradual switch to photography around her teen years, and then discovered fine art photography in 2012. It instantly struck a chord, and she knew that she had finally found her ideal outlet of self-expression, and for years immersed herself in the fine art world though books, online sources, and other artist’s work that inspired and moved her.

About the space:

STRESSED patisserie is proud to present fine works of art on periodic exhibition. Having invited leading artists locally and from around the world to display their outstanding works at STRESSED, the patisserie has become a gallery of fine art with paintings and prints displayed and on sale throughout. Patrons can obtain a catalogue in the patisserie for more information about the artists and their works as well as listings of the artwork for sale.

 

The venue and time:

February 10th  2019- July 31 2019 

EXHIBITION SPACE Intercontinental Hotel Osaka

STRESSED Patisserie