Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Kishiwada; Kansai's Rowdy Danjiri


As the teams pull the danjiri around narrow streets and tight corners you can expect a few collisions.

Inflatable danjiri balloons were popular this year and a group of kids in these photos, who were already in costumes, recreated the Kishiwada tradition; with pullers, runners and whistle blowers. They even recreated what Kishiwada is famous for... danjiri crashes!

The danjiri festivals in Japan often involve elaborate ladies hairstyles as part of the pageantry of the event. At Kishiwada the style is typically tight braids that draw the hair close to the head so that it does not flail about.

A man in the crowd was drunk and disorderly but the Japanese police officers deescalated the situation with patience and smiles. Good job Japan!

Pokemon Panic at the Aquarium!!

Tempozan is a popular attraction in Osaka, with a shopping mall, museum, Ferris Wheel, park and a major aquarium (Kaiyukan). September 19th, "Respect for the Aged Day," a public holiday in Japan. While people were enjoying the day off and Tempsosan was hosting The World Performaces Fair.

Pokemon flashmob
Around 4pm, hundreds of people suddenly appeared, all of them playing Pokemon Go. Many of them were serious Pokemon trainers who were using multiple devices (two phones, or a phone and a tablet) and following social Pokemon mapping apps and websites that point them toward locations that have rare Pokemon.
Pokemon Panic at Kaiyukan!
Pokemon Go fans, drawn to the Squirtle (Zenigame), Dewgong (Jugon) and Hitmonchan (Ebiwalar) reports, would react to Pokemon tracking sites and swarm to specific location. In this video hundreds of people are seen sprinting to a small side road parking lot, slowing traffic and bumping into each other while creating a real life spectacle for non-Pokemon bystanders.
Security staff spoke into megaphones and put up sandwich boards cautioning not to walk while looking at smartphones

"Searching far and wide"* - even in a typhoon
*lyrics from the Pokemon theme song
Even as night fell and typhoon began to roll in the pokemon trainers, often times in family groups, remained. When a wild Gyarados appeared near docks there was a mass dash to that location; although the Gyarados only had 37CP.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Automesse; Custom Car Show in Osaka, Japan

Automesse Car Show
Automesse is an annual event at INTEX, the international expo center in Osaka.
The event focuses on customized cars but also features major manufacturers who bring out concept vehicles.

Car show girls
The booth models are a major attraction at car shows. Models, hired by exhibitors, will be brought out at intervals during event and pose for photos. 
The models often wear themed outfits and pose for everyone at regualrly scheduled intervals. Very rarely do the models have other tasks but you may see a few handing out promotional material.
Some independent models will ask for contributions and make themselves available to photographers who can then request specific poses. Other models try to promotevthemselves on social media by displaying their Twitter handles.
Swarms of photographers gather around the models during the brief model session, creating a competitive situation in which you occassional see old men getting very angry over perceived slights (blocking a camera or bumping into someone).
Racing exhibits

Some racing companies display their cars and some drivers are brought out for photos and staged interviews. This includes some foreign drivers.
"Ita" cars are a popular type of customization in Japan which features large decals and artwork usually around a theme of anime girls.
The term "ita" comes from the word "ittai" (痛い) meaning "painful" and is a joking salute to the "eye-sore" nature of these flashy cars.

Japanese trucker culture
Featuring elaborate, expansive art with traditional motifs this trucks often look similar to the tattoos of Japanese gangsters.
The tractor and trailor are combined and have enormous numbers of running lights making these trucks look like a rolling casino.

Customized exteriors
Customized car shops show of their handiwork with gold and crystal covered cars, carbon fiber, ground lights, rims and more.

Vintage Cars
In addition to modern vehicles there is a showing of a few classic cars.

Custom Parts, interiors, audio and entertainment systems
Exhibitors who specialize interiors show off lighting, specialized seats, custom upholstering, entertainment systems and over powered speakers.

Software developers display their race simulators with elaborate displays where players can sit in fiberglass units with large LCD screens, specialized controllers and built in speakers.

Expo booth art, displays and performances
Works of tangible and performing arts are displayed by exhibitors including this lion made of shredded tires. Some stages host musical performing arts to attract attention, including acrobats.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Japanese Summer Traditions; Are young people actually doing this?

Japanese Summer Traditions

There are certain things that permeate a culture to form nostalgic images, idealized standards and stereotypes.
Summer has a very particular set of images associated with summer; wearing yukata, eating watermelon (or more specifically, playing suikabari), going to festivals...
These images are often reflected in advertisements, product packages and anime.

Are young people actually doing this?

As an English teacher in Japan I took a survey of my high school students, asking them about about their activities diring summer vacation. I felt surprised by some of the results. These numbers represent high school seniors from an Osaka suburb class (only 25 kids).

I visited my relatives for obon: 8%
I wore a yukata: 12%
I ate watermelon: 36%
I ate soumen noodles: 68%
I had a part-time job: 12%
I rode a shinkansen train: 4%
I went to the Tenjin Festival (the biggest summer festival in Osaka): 16%
I caught a fish: 0%

These numbers make me wonder if young people, in general, are moving away from observances of some traditional activities. Are these traditions quickly fading away?

As a foreigner, it is expected that your preconceived notions will be challenged while living in a new culture; some Japanese people probably imagine Americans wearing cowboy boots, shooting guns and eating hamburgers.

Are there any other English teachers who have surveyed their students about participation in traditional culture? What questions did you ask? What was the response?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

8.8 million person disaster drill

Every year Osaka prefecture stages an emergency drill for everyone in the area.
During the drill, the government tests the tsunami and earthquake warning systems including sirens and the cellular phone system's warning service.
The drill is called the 8.8 million drill in reference to the population in the Kansai area who are affected by the drill.
The cell phone warning are transmitted through all phone service providers and varies depending on your location at that moment. Each local municipality transmits instructions relative to the severity if the emergency and availability of emergency facilities.
The drill encourages citizens to be prepared with their personal supplies and  emergency plans.
Before the drill, the city publicizes the drill details, including the date and EXACT time of the test, with many posters around the city.
Students take time out of class as school staff announces the oncoming test and asks students to turn ON their phones.