2012年12月5日水曜日

Concert Review of Super Orchestra 2012

The following article was written as an assignment for the Exploring Music class.

Kioi Hall
I went to a classical concert on November 18, 2012 that was held at the Kioi Hall in Yotsuya, Tokyo. It was designed for classical music beginners including teens and young children who were not familiar with classical music. The orchestra played six pieces in total including the two played as encore pieces. Half of them were classical pieces and the other half were the orchestral versions of a movie soundtrack and a TV commercial. In the following paper, I would like to report more in detail about the program and performance, and also discuss what it meant to me, who is still a beginner.

The concert was hosted by the conductor Yukihito Kobayashi, who was the vice-conductor for the Shin-Kokuritsu Theater and also the chorus conductor for the Tokyo Philharmonic and Tokyo Symphony Orchestras. He has held concerts every year since 2009 with amateur musicians as well as a few professionals. The ticket only cost 1,000 yen per adult and he had to ask the audience to donate at the end of the event.

Kioi Hall
The big hall, which can hold 800 people, was almost full. Among the audience, there were not only many young children and teens, but also many adults. There was an infant who cried at times. His mother had to bring him outside of the hall every time he got cranky, which might have been very unusual for an ordinary classic concert. I sat the six or seven rows from the front on the right side so that I could watch the performance clearly. As a result, I could hear the sounds of the orchestra members turning the pages of their scores and their fiddle sticks hitting the bass strings. This may also have been different from listening classical music on a CD. I had no phone reception inside the hall.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 4 in B flat major (Op. 60) by Beethoven was played first. This piece was written in 1806 and premiered in the next year. The symphony was scored for a large orchestra including flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani, and strings. The entire impression of the symphony was very different from Symphony No. 5 which I heard in the class. For me, it sounded gentler, not solemn like Symphony No. 5, and more like a piece made in the classical period. The piece is in four movements. Some parts in the first movement were played in 2/2 in the sonata form, which sounded very interesting. The third movement sounded like a scherzo, but I am not sure. It then became very bright unlike Beethoven's other pieces. The last movement was very fast and strong. The performance lasted about 30 minutes in total.

Benjamin Britten
The next program was The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra – the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Purcell, Op. 34. It was composed by Benjamin Britten in 1945 originally for an educational documentary film. It is scored mainly to introduce each family of a large orchestra to beginners. The symphony is in four movements in A minor and A major. The theme is initially played by the entire orchestra. Then the woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussions follow. At the end, they all play together again in fugue. There was a narrator beside the conductor to tell the audience about what each family was composed of. I heard the same piece in class, but it sounded very different. This is probably because there was the narrator who made the piece more understandable. It began to sound so strong at last since the percussions were inserted. The performance lasted about 25 minutes.

Maurice Ravel
The third piece was Boléro. It is a one-movement orchestral piece in C major originally composed as a ballet by Maurice Ravel in 1928. From the beginning to the end, it repeats the same rhythmic pattern (except the very last two bars). There are only two melodies (A and B). According to the conductor, he chose this piece since it could also show every instrument in the orchestra to the audience. At the end, all the instruments got together and left a strong impression. What was interesting for me is that often the string players play the instruments by picking the strings with their fingers without using bows. I felt that the sound was more varied and heavier than that of The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra although both pieces were played for the same purpose. The performance lasted about 15 minutes.

My Neighbor Totoro
The last piece in the program was the soundtrack from a famous Japanese anime My Neighbor Totoro (1988). This piece was rearranged for an orchestra by the Japanese music composer Joe Hisaishi, who also composed the soundtrack for the film. According to him, he rearranged the original music and songs into the orchestral version for children and adults who first listen to classical music. He also said that he used The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra as reference for the rearrangement. The orchestra first played seven different pieces with each family (woodwinds, brass, strings, percussions, and harp + piano at last). Finally all the instruments played the theme of the film. The narrator stood by the conductor and as before and depicted each scene of the film so that the audience could imagine them while listening. There was only one long movement. The piece was targeted toward the child audience. The performance lasted about 20 minutes.

There were two pieces played as an encore. One was the orchestral version of the soundtrack from a popular TV commercial in Japan. It was called Oriental Wind and also composed by Hisaishi. The other one was another orchestral version of Totoro. This is rearranged by the conductor Kobayashi himself and was much shorter than the one just played before (about 10 minutes each). Both two were in one movement. Although their styles were fairly same as the first Totoro, they sounded more dramatic. I saw that the musicians played the pieces relaxed.

Overall, the concert perfectly matched my requirement and interest as a classical music beginner. It was probably the first time that I had attended this kind of classical concert since I became an adult. The orchestra seemed to perform very well. The program really helped me to recognize and understand what kind of the instruments an orchestra consists of. Above all, the impact was so strong that I had been drawn to the beautiful melodies they created almost all through the performance. It was an exciting live music experience for me.

Deciphering a Sequence of A Page of Madness

The following article was written as an assignment for the Classical Japanese Cinema class.

Kinugasa Teinosuke's A Page of Madness (1926) is now known as the first avant-garde silent film made in Japan. Besides its unique cinematographic style (no intertitles) and strange story (about a family at a lunatic asylum), it involves various intellectuals in its production including the novelist Kawabata Yasunari in the context of a new literary movement emerging at the time. Above all, the film had been missing for almost half a century. It was found and released to the public again in 1971 though in an incomplete form, which makes the film more difficult to comprehend and appreciate. In this paper, a sequence of the film is to be examined to see how far the narrative of the film can convey the story to the spectators without any sound and intertitles and only with the graphic images by comparing the sequence with the script and other secondary sources.

Before examining the sequence, I would like to make a few points clear about the film edition and my analytical stand in this paper. For analysis, I use the existing 59-minute edition and consider it as a complete work (according to Mariann Lewinsky, this edition is 500 meters shorter by reel than the original one released in 1926) (Sharp). In order to get a clue for the interpretation of a sequence, I will often refer to the script that Kawabata wrote. Regarding this script, after the first draft was written by him, it had been changed throughout the shooting according to what was actually shot at the studio. After the shooting was done, a few reconstructed the script and Kawabata rewrote it. It was finally published under Kawabata's name with a small note saying that the story was made with the help of three people including the director Kinugasa (Kinugasa 71-72). I'd also like to refer to a secondary source such as Kinugasa's autobiography. I use these materials not as a support to reinforce my interpretation as the director's intention, but as a reference and guide to a possible interpretation that can be drawn out from the present film.

The Last Laugh
The main difficulty in interpreting the sequence of the film lies in the style of using no intertitles. This style was strongly suggested by a novelist Yokomitsu Riichi in the same literary group called Shin-kankakuha, to which Kawabata also belonged (Kinugasa 78). Lewinsky points out that a German expressionistic film titled The Last Laugh (1926) by F. W. Murnau, which was also made in the same style and released in Japan while Kinugasa was shooting the film, had also made a strong influence on him since he chose it as his favorite film (Sharp). Since the film does not use any intertitles, the spectators are unable to understand the story by words and are inevitably forced to read the sequences purely consisting of images. At the time that A Page of Madness was first released in 1926, there was a story narrator called benshi at the theater along with a music band, which was quite common for a silent film show at the time. The benshi basically explained what's going on on the screen to the audience and told how the characters in the film felt based on the libretto of the film. Tokugawa Musei, who was a well-known benshi then, actually narrated for the film (Kinugasa 79). On the other hand, the existing edition has no narration but music that was added later in 1971 by Kinugasa, which again makes the spectators understand the story only through the montages in the film.

Without any dialogues or intertitles, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the sequences so that the spectators have to look for a clue on the screen to understand the story better. The story mainly takes place at a lunatic asylum. An old janitor works there in order to get close to his insane wife hospitalized there. His daughter comes to the asylum to report her engagement. What is to be examined here though is a sequence showing linguistic signs not as intertitles, but as Japanese kanji characters tagged on props. In the middle of the film, there is a sequence that the janitor goes to a local festival, buys a lottery ticket, and wins the first prize. Before he actually buys the ticket, there is a long take that shows various kinds of gifts displayed randomly on the shelves such as kettles, pots, and pans for each prize. As the camera is panning, the gifts are shown at the back of the crowds with the tags indicating fourth, fifth, and eighth prizes on them. Among them, there is a wooden closet with the first-prize tag. It is clearly shown twice during the sequence. Besides that, the camera also shows a tag indicating the extra gift for the first prize. It is labeled on the long object and only shown for a few seconds. It looks like a soft cloth with a certain pattern hung on the wall. In the following scene, the chest is being brought down from the shelf and handed to the janitor. In the next scene, he is carrying it on his shoulders with the first-prize tag on it. He then meets his daughter on the way and shows her both the chest and cloth with a smile on his face. The scene in which an insane dancer is dancing in a fancy dress unlike the tattered one she usually wears in a cell follows the next. The spectators then understand that the janitor received something else beside the chest as the extra gift for the first prize and it was the fancy dress that he later gives to the poor ex-dancer at the asylum. This episode indicates that he is kind enough to give her a present. This also sets up his kind character for his continuous care and support to his insane wife in the next room even if she does not understand who he is at all. In the next scene, the spectators find out that the janitor is laughing alone in his room. It suggests that the whole lottery episode was just his daydream and is all about what he wishes to happen to him. From this short sequence, his tendency to daydream, and his humane characteristic, especially toward the insane patients at the asylum, becomes clearer to the spectators.

The sequence above, however, requires the spectator's sincere effort to pick up the clues and put them together. It is difficult to grasp the meaning of the sequence mainly for the following reasons: One of them is that not only for its grainy black-and-white shots and the fact that motions become quicker than the usual speed because of the 18 frames-per-second film is projected with 24 fps speed, but also for the way the scenes were shot. As the camera keeps panning and does not fix onto the dress, and the dress itself is not displayed in its own shape, we merely know the fact that there is something as an extra gift for the first prize. Even though the janitor shows the extra gift to his daughter for a moment right after he shows the chest to her, the main object focused on the screen is the chest, not the dress. Since there is no scene in which he either receives the dress at the festival or gives it to the ex-dancer at the asylum, it is a bit difficult for the spectators to notice and understand why she is suddenly dancing in the different dress in the next scene.

Kawabata Yasunari
The lottery sequence also indicates what the janitor really wants for his daughter. There is no scene in which he actually gives the chest to her, but it is easy for the spectators to guess that he will surely give it to her later as a wedding present since a chest is a typical trousseau at that time in Japan. This suggests that he really cares about her marriage. In the script, there is a scene after this sequence which shows that she and her fiancée are shopping at a big furniture shop looking for a new chest (Kawabata 425). Including this one, most scenes between her and her fiancée in the script were deleted and only two of them (very short ones) remain in the present film. The omission of these scenes also makes it difficult to understand the relationship between them and what her marriage means to her family. We can barely guess that they are engaged because she shows her ring to her father in his room. In the script, there are several scenes that clearly show her crazy mother becomes an obstacle to their marriage (Kawabata 389, 426, 427). Without these scenes, we can barely imagine what she worries about only with her facial expressions and a momentary flashback of her fiancée. In his autobiography, Kinugasa commented on why he cut the scenes. He said that the deleted scenes were unnecessary as a result because most of them only showed the process of the events (Kinugasa 72). Eliminating the scenes with the daughter, however, blurs the narrative of the film. In the script, the story ends with a scene showing beautiful flowers in her fiancee's room, which indicates their happy wedding coming soon (Kawabata 436), whereas the film does not tell what happens to the couple. Instead, her wedding is visualized in her father's fantasy that she later married not her fiancée, but one of male patients at the asylum, and departed by car leaving her father and insane mother behind. In the present film, the story takes place not only at the asylum but also in the janitor's mind. Most of the subplots in the script are not used or used only as memories and fantasies of the janitor.

We have a hard time telling which scenes are fantasy and which are real. Because from the beginning to the end, A Page of Madness is full of memories, flashbacks, imagination, daydreams of the characters using superimposition, cross-cutting, distorted images, and rapid montages. Even the reality is often shown as distorted images seen through the insane patients' eyes. We are often fooled by the montages and may come to wonder about what the 'reality' is in the film. In other words, not using intertitles is a way to push the spectators to the position where even a neutral text by the narrator cannot be found and to leave them in the situation that they have to find the sane reality in the film through careful reading of the montages by themselves.

2012年12月4日火曜日

Tatsumi Movie Trailer with the Director's Interview

This video was edited for the assignment in Editing Film and Video class (The footage was provided by the instructor. I only did the editing).

The Skipper

This video was edited for the assignment in Editing Film and Video class (The footage was provided by the instructor. I only did the editing).

The Assasin

This video was edited for the assignment in Editing Film and Video class (The footage was provided by the instructor. I only did the editing).

How to Make Yakisoba (Japanese Dried Noodle)

This video was edited for the assignment in Editing Film and Video class (The footage was provided by the instructor. I only did the editing).

2012年10月26日金曜日

Theatrical Experience of Bunraku

The following article was written as an assignment for the Theater: The Collaborative Art class.

Bunraku is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre founded in 1684. Its style had developed and finally completed in the 1730s. The plays have been performed exactly in the same way since then. Because of this long tradition, bunraku was designated as the Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2009. This unique Japanese theatre reveals totally different meanings to today's audience especially when it is seen from the Western theatrical point of view. Referring to Donald Keene, Roland Barthes, and Susan Sontag, this paper explores how a bunraku play is constructed with various audio and visual elements and analyzes how the audience perceptually recomposes them into a play and appreciates it.

Various hand props
In bunraku, a puppet's movements play a huge role. The play is usually performed by a chanter, a shamisen (Japanese small guitar) player, and three puppeteers. Many of them have a long performance career. Some players have performed for more than 30 years and are designated as a living national treasure by the government. The three puppeteers are in black costumes and work cooperatively to manipulate a puppet. One of them operates the puppet's head and right arm, another moves its left hand, and the last person controls its legs. The puppet is then vitalized with the perfectly matched manipulation by these puppeteers. In most bunraku plays, puppets just walk, sit, and talk to each other on stage. They rarely move acrobatically. What the audience sees here is everyday's human behaviors such as walking, looking around, and chatting. As a result, the audience is set to focus more on the puppet's subtle gestures during the play. A puppet has minimum movable parts for actions. It can bend its fingers to hold props such as a tobacco pipe, umbrella, stick, letter, towel, and sword (a puppeteer actually holds them for the puppet). Some male puppets even have movable parts on their faces. They can move their eyebrows and close their eyes and mouths. However, these facial functions are used only at a climax scene when the playing characters are deeply moved or dying. During most time of the play, these functions are not used and the puppets show no facial expression at all. When it comes to female puppets, they do not have any facial functions. They usually cover their faces with their sleeves when they cry. They even do not have legs since they are all covered with kimono. The puppet's movements and gestures sometimes seem so subtle that without the chanter's narrative, the audience hardly understands what the puppet tries to express. In a sense, the art of allusion is highly developed in here (Brazell 33). The audience is set to observe and find meanings in the puppet's every movement and gesture. The audience notices that the puppet is crying by seeing its shoulders trembling and imagines that it is thinking about something when it slightly tilts its head. By seeing the puppet turning its face to a certain direction or lowering its eyes, the audience may know where its attention goes. As the audience reads more emotions from the gestures, the puppet is gradually perceived and seen more as an independent actor with emotional sensitivity.

On the other hand, bunraku also constantly reminds the audience that it is only a show. During the play, the audience is forced to ignore the existence of three puppeteers that manipulate a puppet even though they are on the same stage. They do not try to hide themselves from the audience at all. The head puppeteer even shows his face to the audience. The interesting point here is that they are seen as if they were just standing next to or behind the puppet. They do not seem to manipulate it since their hands are completely covered with its cloth. They are there as if they observe it closely together with the audience. The head puppeteer does not show any emotion at all on his face during the play. He just stares at the puppet. The other two faces are covered with black cloths so that the audience would not know how they look. For the audience, the puppeteers and the puppet are seen as separated beings although they are actually united and one controls the other. As a result, the exposure of the puppeteers on stage makes the puppet look more independent rather than dependent.

What drives the audience to read the movements and gestures of a puppet is a chanter's narrative heard simultaneously all through the play. The chanter sits on a sub stage set next to a main stage. He only narrates, sometimes as if he sings. Not only does he tell the story to the audience, but also he describes each scene, suggests what characters think, and impersonates all the characters by himself. He chants very emotionally, sometimes with loud voice, whispers, and gasps. His narrative is much exaggerated and rhythmically stressed by a shamisen player's beats. Because his narrative flows very smoothly, dialogue and description parts are not obviously separated. He even has rich facial expressions and gestures while he is narrating, but again the audience is forced to ignore his existence and the shamisen player on the sub stage. The puppets on the main stage are to be focused all through the play. What the audience needs during the play is just the chanter's narrative and shamisen player's music. The audience's eyes are fixed to the main stage while listening to them. Barthes calls this integrated theatrical experience as "a total spectacle but a divided one" (Barthes 55). Sontag further says that bunraku "isolates – decomposes, illustrates, transcends, intensifies – what acting is" (Sontag 2). This point is also argued in the context of a German playwright Bertolt Brecht's Verfremdungseffekt (distancing effect) in his performing-art theory (Skipitares 13).

Chanter and shamisen player
Even though the chanter is not focused on stage by the audience, he controls the whole play. Bunraku is basically "a narrative art" and "a form of storytelling" (Keene 135). He narrates exactly what a script says. Any word changes or improvisation are not allowed since the puppeteers would be confused. From the beginning to the end, they manipulate the puppet strictly under the narration of the chanter. What the chanter says is represented exactly the same on the next stage at the same time. The shamisen player does not lead the chanter, either. He is just an accompanying company who keeps rhythm and helps the story move. During the play, the chanter, shamisen player, and puppeteers never see each other, but they perform as an ensemble (They usually do a rehearsal only once before the opening day of a performance (NHK)).

Story lines and themes of bunraku are also well-structured for the audience to have unique theatrical experience. Most bunraku stories deal with serious issues that relate to farewell and death, which are the common themes often seen in the famous bunraku playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon's double suicide stories. Usually the story is about heartbreaking farewell to a loved one. They can be lovers, a husband and wife, siblings, or parents and their child. On stage, a chanter's voice by the chanter and shamisen sound function very well to dramatize this kind of tragedy. In many cases, the story starts with the violation of an ordinance or a norm regarding money, honor, or love. The main characters are usually outcast or fleeing from the community where they once belonged. Their conflicts with the society and dilemma push them to the final solution, a suicide. Their obligations (giri) and feelings (ninjo) continuously conflict with each other in their hearts. In many cases, this storyline seemed convincing for the audience at the time probably because of their Buddhist belief was widespread spread then. When the main character says to the loved one that they will be together in the next life, they both believe in reincarnation. According to Keene, bunraku plays had been very successful because the stories were basically romantic. He says that the audience had no chance to demonstrate their loyalty in their real lives and found satisfaction with the characters in the bunraku plays, which is almost same as ordinary American people who feel a sense of identification with the heroes in the Western movies (Keene 145).

Bunraku stage
Analyzed from the audience's point of view, the bunraku performance is perceived in visual and audio elements played by the performers and is recomposed intellectually into a whole play by the audience. Because of bunraku's non-animate setting, the audience's willing suspension of disbelief (to watch the play as if it were real) may work more easily than that of the Western theatre with human actors. For example, the bunraku audience enthusiastically applauds right after the chanter's passionate speech at climax. Some even cry. This shows that the aesthetic distance of the audience to the play is totally compatible with its empathy to the character on stage. This is what Sontag calls "elevated, mythic impersonality and heightened, purified emotionality" (Sontag 6).

Bunraku is far from realism. The puppets do not have rich expressions on their faces. They do not overact, either. Their hands and feet are not crafted elaborately enough for that. On the other hand, the way chanter narrates is much exaggerated and formalized. According to Keene, bunraku does not focus on realism at all from the beginning. Chikamatsu, who is considered the best bunraku playwright in history, once wrote that art lay in the narrow area between fiction and realism (Keene 125). He also said these two should not be off balance in the play. Here the term 'realism' does not refer to the visual and audio verisimilitudes of the characters, but to the movement and gestures of a puppet that triggers deep emotion in the audience. This is what Barthes calls "sensuous abstraction" that includes "fragility, discretion, sumptuousness, unheard-of nuance ... impassivity, clarity, agility, subtlety" (Barthes 60). He further points out that this fetishism of the body's gestures decomposes the totality of a human actor and the body's organic unity in the Western theatre (Barthes 59). In bunraku, the concepts of fiction and realism had evolved into two technical terms: furi and kata. Furi refers to basic human movements in the play such as sitting, running, and crying. These are all formalized and presented in the same ways each time they are performed. Kata is a pose that shows the beauty of a female puppet (e.g. the waving lines of the hems of kimono as seen from behind) or an intense emotion of a male puppet. Kata is also stylized, but the audience finds real beauty in it. According to Keene, kata has no direct connection with the text at all. He says that besides psychologically interpreting a character in the play, a puppeteer's main purpose is to show the audience the moment of visual beauty that he reads and senses in the text (Keene 168). Here the audience anticipates the moment of human beauty created by the inanimate puppet.

Bunraku has been considered a part of Japanese traditional theatre for a long time. However, when it is examined from the Western point of view, it surely shows new aspects to today's audience although the stories and the language used in the plays are very old. Its theatrical experience also decomposes the concept of the Western theatre to a certain degree and makes us think what acting is. Realism in bunraku is sought not in the verisimilitudes of the characters but in the movements and gestures to which the puppets allude. This art of allusion also suggests that the practice of reading emotions in an inanimate bunraku puppets might have laid the foundation of today's Japanese character-loving culture.

2012年8月6日月曜日

Crisis Communication Practices of Japan's Government Right after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake

The following article was written as a group assignment for the Introduction to Public Relations class.

Abstract
Investigation report (FGDI)
This paper explores what the Japanese government had done for public relations right after a huge earthquake that hit the northeastern part of Japan in 2011. More specifically, its media management in three different media categories (mass, social, and international media) is to be examined in detail with two investigation reports recently published on the crisis, several official documents, and some scholarly works on crisis management. Actual management practices by the government such as the frequency of the Prime Minister's press conference and its uses of Twitter and Facebook during the crisis are to be examined in detail, and finally its crisis communication policy that only confirmed facts should be provided is critically analyzed referring to other crisis management studies including the one written by Arjen Boin. By the end of the argument, this paper will provide better understanding of what the Japanese government could have done better during the disaster for the public relations.

Introduction
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitute earthquake hit the northeastern part of Japan. People all over the country had faced the threat of radioactive pollution right after the Fukushima power-plant accidents had happened by tsunami on the following days. During that time, the Japanese government had to deal with this unprecedented crisis and at the same time convey its urgent messages to the publics using various kinds of media in order to inform them of crisis situation and give them a relief. A year has passed after the quake and two investigation reports on the government's crisis management during the disaster were released. One is published by a private think tank (Fukushima Genpatsujiko Dokuritsu Iinkai [FGDI], 2012) and the other is by the National Diet of Japan (The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission [FNAIIC], 2012).

Purpose of Study
In this paper, the practices of crisis communication by the Japanese government during the crisis are going to be examined in three different media categories (mass, social, and international media) mainly with the two investigation reports and several related scholarly works on crisis management.

Justification of Study
This paper is written to contribute to the better understanding of what the Japanese government could have done better during the disaster for the public relations and what it should now do for the preparation for the next huge disaster. The paper may also contribute to the study of crisis management by a government as a case of a media management at a huge natural disaster in the digital era.

Review of the Scholarly Literature

Crisis Management by a Governmental Organization
A volume of preceded scholarly literature can be found regarding crisis management theories and practices. Among them, Arjen Boin's work (Boin, 2009) mainly focuses on the challenges that a governmental organization would face at a huge natural crisis. Through the examination and analysis of how the Louisiana State Government had dealt with Hurricane Gustav in 2008, Boin points out the main characteristics of today's transboundary crises and illustrates the five main tasks that an administration must do for its crisis management and policy making.

Reports and Records on Japan's 2011 Tohoku Earthquake
Investigation report (FNAIIC)
After a year has passed since the earthquake, there are two full investigation reports on the government's crisis management available so far. One of them was released by a private think tank called Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (FGDI, 2012). The investigation committee members had interviewed more than 300 people who involved in the crisis management. They analyze risk-communication process among the Prime Minister's Office, TEPCO, and the on-site center at the nuclear plants in Fukushima and examine how the government had actually conveyed its messages to the public during the disaster. Prior to the publication, they released the summary of the report in English (Funabashi and Kitazawa, 2012). In this summary, the authors severely criticize the crisis management done by the staffs at the Prime Minister's Head Office as we shall see in detail later in this paper. The other report was released by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission established by Japan's Diet. The investigation team had interviewed more than 1,000 people who involved in the crisis management. However, this report does not spare many pages for the crisis management in public relations during the disaster. Still it points out the professional negligence of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) as a main cause of the human disaster, and strongly suggests that the government should have had a clear guideline of information disclosure at a crisis (FNAIIC, 2012). There are also some English materials that were released by the governmental office available on the web including the PowerPoint slides presented by a public affairs official at a global communication conference (Shikata, 2011) and an op-ed under the name of the Prime Minister which was covered on several international newspapers all around the world (Kan, 2011).

Other Scholarly Literature on the Tohoku Earthquake
Because very few complete investigation reports are available at the moment, there is very small amount of scholarly literature that focuses on the crisis management by the Japanese government. One of the few works that deals with a crisis communication issue is the paper written by Ronald L. Carr, Cornelius B. Pratt, and Irene C. Herrera (Carr, Pratt, & Herrera, 2012). In here, the authors examine the disaster and how Japanese publics reacted to the government through SNSs with a sense of distrust. They point out that the public's frustration had emerged to a perceived level with a great help of new social media.

Media Management of Mass Media
Tsunami flooring in Sendai Airport
In mass media, there are several incidents that had caused the public's disappointment and sense of distrust against the government. According to the investigation report, the Prime Minister then Naoto Kan had press conferences after the crisis only on March 13, 15, 18, 25, April 1, and 12 (FGDI, 2012). The number of the conferences was few and the frequency dropped rapidly toward the end. Kan's appearance in media was intentionally avoided by the media relations team in order to hedge the risk of his making a slip of the tongue since he had hostile feeling against media long before the disaster happened. Another example is a strange personnel replacement of a spokesperson in the government. On March 12 around 2:00 p.m. at the press conference of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Koichiro Nakamura, who was responsible for publicity at that time, stated that there was a possibility of meltdown in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. On the same day at 5:15 p.m., there was another press conference, which became the last one for Nakamura to attend. A new director of publicity was assigned right after that. Although the government officials denied that Nakamura was replaced due to his improper speech about the meltdown, it was one of the momentums that people held doubt about what the government announced. The publics also cast doubt on the government's ambiguous announcement on public safety. The Chief Cabinet Secretary then Yukio Edano had often said to the publics that “There is no immediate effect” regarding the effect of radiation to the health. However, this announcement sounded too ambiguous for many people and the possibility of long-term radiation effect was immediately raised as a counterargument. Edano told the investigation team in his interview that he had tried his best to speak as simple as possible avoiding technical terms in order to make his announcement understandable to the general public (FGDI, 2012). Furthermore, observational data of radioactive diffusion was not released immediately when it was needed. The System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) remained largely unused during the crisis despite the fact that there was widespread environmental contamination by radioactive material between March 11th and 15. The SPEEDI data was not officially provided to the Prime Minister's Office until 23 and evacuation orders were issued without the data (Funabashi & Kitazawa, 2012). As a result, only 20% of the residents living near the plants knew about the nuclear accident when they received the evacuation order on March 12th (FNAIIC, 2012).

According to FGDI, around 70% of the respondents of a public-opinion poll said “insufficient” about the information provided by the government during the crisis. The other poll indicates the public's strong dissatisfaction with the public relations activities by the government. Moreover, about 60-70% of people did not support its crisis management (FGDI, 2012). Public opinion became more negative after the TEPCO admitted that the nuclear meltdown had actually occurred right after the earthquake. The public support had largely gone down as negative criticisms for the government's initial response to the disaster had increased. (FGDI, 2012).

Media Management of Social Media
Prime Minister's Office
According to FGDI, many people were using the Internet right after the massive earthquake and tsunami. They used social media as a communication tool since telephones had not been available for a while right after the earthquake. The Japanese government also took action on the web using social media. It created a website on the same day of the quake and had its own Twitter account (@Kantei_Saigai) two days later for sending out disaster information. It was a quick action that many people, especially the evacuees at the disaster-hit area, really wanted at that time. In its twitter feeds, it mainly announced what the Press Secretary had said at press conferences. Tweeting had been managed by three young officials who worked in the public relations department of the government. They worked 24 hours a day in rotation. By March 21, the number of followers of the government's account was about 260,000 and became 300,000 by the 28. These figures show how curious people were about the actions that the government had taken at the time. The government also tried to fulfill the public's needs. It had tweeted 48 times on March 14 and 62 times on the next day. However, the numbers decreased after that. On March 23, it had only tweeted 23 times. The government's Twitter account was only used for sending disaster information to the followers, not replaying to them.

At the other departments like Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC), the staffs there acted together to build an online system that enabled the official administrators to acquire a certified Twitter account smoothly and at the same time list their accounts on a social media portal site as a public institution.

Even with the various efforts mentioned above, the government did not seem to earn public's trust much. According to a poll in the report, 28.9% of people decreased confidence in the information released by the government, whereas only 7.8% increased it. On the other hand, 23.1% still saw the governmental announcement as a valuable resource (FGDI, 2012).

Overall, the government had insufficient PR organizations at the disaster. First of all, the government did not have proper staffs who knew about social media very well. There was no specialist from a social media industry until it finally employed a blogger who are assigned to interact more with the public in September (FGDI, 2012). In a word, most of the PR practices that the government did were one-way communications to the public and were not intended to get feedback from them.

Media Management of International Media
Prime Minister then Kan
Regarding press releases to international media and non-Japanese residents in Japan, the Japanese government had kept providing information mainly in English. In dealing with international press, the Global Communications Office of the Prime Minister's Office played the main role. For example, the Head of the Office Noriyuki Shikata had had 65 interviews with the international press between March 11th and 30. Even after a month from the disaster, the Office post an op-ed titled “Japan's Road to Recovery and Rebirth” under the name of the Prime Minister then Kan (Kan, 2011) in order to lure foreign investment and business to Japan again. It was run on the Washington Post and other 128 media in 62 countries and areas (Shikata, 2011). For image management, the Office also placed an ad to express its thanks to other countries for helping Japan at the disaster on 216 media in 63 countries and areas including International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times. Regarding social media relations, the Office made a new Twitter's account for English speakers right after the earthquake on March 14 and started tweeting about disaster information. It was just two days after the Prime Minister's Office started tweeting the same information in Japanese. The number of the followers expanded to more than 22,000 in two weeks. On the 23, the Global Office also made special pages of the 3.11 Earthquake on Facebook and started providing information there in English (Shikata, 2011). Even with these government's efforts to release appropriate information and messages about the crisis and recovery situations in Japan to the world, foreign media had often reported the disaster sensationally with distorted, negative images and wrong information.

Analysis
Map of seismic intensity
As all the practices of public relations in three different media categories mentioned above suggest, the Japanese government did lose the publics' trust to a certain degree as a result. This was also attested by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Adviser then Hiroshi Tasaka (FGDI, 2012). The aforementioned poll showing that 60-70% of the public gave little credit to the government's accident response also supports the fact. What may have worsened the situation was the weakness and inefficiency of its “amateurish level” crisis communications (Funabashi & Kitazawa, 2012). It is clearly shown, for example, in the use of social media. The staff at the Prime Minister's Office did not know much about how to use it for the purpose of communicating with the public. It basically had one-way communication and did not try to receive and analyze what the public actually needed at the time of the crisis (FGDI, 2012). It could not even deal with the criticism raised by citizens and local governments through SNSs (Carr, Herrera, & Pratt, 2012). Most of all, however, the main reason for the management failure may lie in its crisis management policy (FNAIIC, 2012). The staffs in the Prime Minister's Office stuck to a policy regarding information disclosure. It was clearly stated by the Chief Cabinet Secretary then Edano at the press conference on March 13th, two days after the earthquake. He told the press that the government was trying to exclude uncertain or unidentified information from the press releases and only gave the certain, confirmed information swiftly (FGDI, 2012). This policy seemed totally fine as an official stance, but it actually worked very negatively to the public. Because of this policy, the government had often been seen as if it had not revealed important truth to the public (FNAIIC, 2012). Regarding crisis management, Arjen Boin points out that one of the most crucial leadership tasks during a crisis is to explain what is happening and what leaders are doing to manage the crisis. With the convincing rationale they offer, the public supports for their crisis management efforts (Boin, 2009). This is what the Japanese government should have done for the public first even if there had not been enough concrete facts to announce. Even the incomplete information should have been delivered to the public if it was used for the government's decision making (FNAIIC, 2012). Since the government did not fully put forth every effort on this point, it was seen to have very weak attributions of crisis responsibility and was perceived merely as a victim of the natural disaster (Carr et al., 2012). In other words, the Prime Minister's Office could not take a lead at all in its crisis management and was finally seen less credible and lack of leadership by its own public.

Conclusion
The impact of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and the following nuclear crisis in Japan were unexpected for all the staffs in the Prime Minister's Office. They could not handle them successfully, especially in the field of public communications. Due to a chaotic situation, communication problems in the Office, and inefficient uses of social media, the government had gradually lost the public's credit. The situation had gotten worse with its media-relations policy that it only conveyed the limited, confirmed information. The information policy only made the public and international media respect less of what the Japanese government said. There are still some investigation committees working on their final reports on the government's crisis management during the crisis. The English translations of the two investigation reports are also going to be published soon. Through these investigations and examinations, the Japanese officials and public will learn what went wrong during the crisis and know what can be prepared for the next possible natural disaster in the future.

2012年7月28日土曜日

Character and Communication Analyses of Antigone

The following article was written as an assignment for the Theater: The Collaborative Art class.

A man in the power always plays a big and tragic role in Greek tragedies. Especially in Antigone, the play written by one of the great Greek playwrights Sophocles around 440 B.C., the main antagonist Creon suffers tremendously due to his own attempts to fulfill his need for approval as the king of the Thebes. In this paper, analysis on his character and confrontation with others reveal the main theme of the play about how he fails to establish his own legitimacy of being the king.

The plot of Antigone can be described as a chain reaction of tragedies. Creon, who has just taken the power of the Thebes, orders to ban the burial of Polyneices who betrayed the state. This is Creon's first trial to show his power to the people he governs. However, Antigone defies his order and holds a funeral for his brother. Creon orders to send her to the prison. There she hangs herself. Following her death, her fiancée and Creon's son Haemon kills himself, too. Out of despair, Haemon's mother and Creon's wife Eurydice also kills herself. Creon is terribly shocked at realizing that his orders have ended up in this way. Besides these characters, Antigone's sister Ismene, the prophet Teiresias, and the Chorus, which represents the citizen's voice in Thebes, sometimes encourage, sometimes discourage the characters' intentions, and influence their decisions throughout the drama.

Sophocles
The key character of Antigone is not Antigone, but Creon and the key points are how he has tried to establish his legitimacy of being the king and how his attempts have failed. First, he thinks that Polyneices does not deserve to be buried properly because he betrayed his own country. Later Creon changes his mind and compromises with the others around him on his first policy. This occurs simply because his legitimacy of being the king is not concrete at the beginning and he completely fails to establish it at the end. He became the king of the Thebes by accident based on the two facts (“when Oedipus righted the city and when he was destroyed, you [Chorus] still continued with steadfast thoughts toward their children.” (166-169), “I hold all the power and throne according to nearness of kin to the dead.” (173-174)). He tries to apply his governing principles to confirm his legitimacy with the people around him. He tries with his son Haemon by applying son’s royalty to a father (“Yes, you should always be disposed this way [...] to assume your post behind your father's judgments in all things.” (640), “[Sons] may both repay an enemy with evils and honor the philos equally with the father.” (643-644)). However, Creon cannot persuade Haemon with this reasoning. Instead, he is rebutted by his own son from the governed point of view of his subject. Haemon tells him what his subject say in the state about his policy. To Antigone, Creon repeatedly uses the tactic of gender discrimination against her to show his legitimacy. (“While I am alive, no woman will rule me.” (525), “We could not be called "defeated by women"--could not.” (680), “You abomination who trails after a woman.” (746)). Antigone totally refuses Creon's attempts to legitimize himself by regarding Gods as a higher power than him and positioning herself as a pious devotee to them. These conflicts between Creon and other characters clearly show the main theme of the play about the power game regarding the legitimacy between governor and the governed, and how they conflict with each other in different logics.

A scene from Antigone
The same theme can also be found through the character analysis on the Chorus in the play. The Chorus group of Theban Elders has kept a neutral stance toward Creon throughout the whole play. They seem to be obedient to the king, but are very careful not to be seen totally on his side. For example, at the beginning Creon asks the Elders to be the “watchers of my orders” (215), but they refuse his offer by suggesting “Set forth this task for a younger man to undertake” (216). They also objectify Creon's statement by telling what Haemon says also makes sense (“Lord, it is fair, if he says something to the point, for you to learn, and in turn for you from him. It has been well said well twice.” (724-725)). By keeping a fair distance from the king and at the same time keeping good relationship with him, they finally succeed in persuading Creon, making him dependant to them, and changing his mind (“You are right.” (771), “What ought I to do, then? Tell me. I will obey.” (1099), “You advise this? It is best for me to yield?” (1102)). Even the governed Elders, who are supposed to give him legitimacy as a king, would not let that happen. At the end, Creon completely loses his credibility as a king and sees himself as “a useless man” (1339). In a sense, their neutral position toward the king is intended only to damage his prestige and lead him to the tragic end implicitly.

What Creon shows in Antigone is how one's attempts to fulfill one's need for approval in a community can easily fail. One has to use different kinds of value systems, logics, social hierarchy, and principles such as father-son relationship and gender roles to persuade others and build one's legitimacy of being in the power. The play shows how often these attempts are likely to go wrong. In a sense, the play illustrates how difficult it is even in the Greek era to acquire and keep the legitimacy of the governor.

2012年5月21日月曜日

Correlational Research on SNS Activity in Japan

The following article was written as an assignment for the Math for a Digital World class.


1. Introduction
Sending information through emails, chat, and short messages becomes an essential skill for everyone who lives in the digital world today. On the other hand, social networking services (SNS) such as Facebook and Twitter have also become an important socializing tool recently. Through an online survey, I wanted to find out if there is any correlation between the numbers of emails a person sends a day and his or her daily social-networking activity in Japan.

2. Hypothesis
Before Carrying out the survey, I hypothesized that there was a strong correlation between the numbers of emails a person sends a day and his or her daily social-networking uses. More specifically, it was assumed that the more the person uses social networking services, the more he or she would send emails. Besides this main hypothesis, it was also expected that women send more emails than men do as is often said. As a result, it was assumed that the most-often email senders would be female SNS users and the least-often email senders would be male non-SNS senders.

3. Survey method
78 Japanese Internet users were participated in the survey as the sample population of ordinary Japanese Internet users. The survey asked them five questions about sending emails and SNS uses including some basic personal information such as gender and age. It was a six-page, web-based survey all in Japanese. Not only did I ask my friends and acquaintance to participate in the survey through email, but also posted the link to the inquiry on several online bulletin boards asking anyone to participate. I used the data received from July 19 to 23 for this analysis. All the questions were answered correctly without any unanswered ones, but there are some doubts that some of the participants did not answer the questions honestly (I'll discuss this issue later in this article).

4. Data description
4-1. Sample distribution: gender
Among 78 samples, 53 (68%) are male and 25 (32%) are female. It is hard to tell if it fairly represents the actual proportion of male and female Internet users in Japan, but it is commonly known that there are more male Internet users than female users in Japan.

Chart 4-1

4-2.Sample distribution: Age
In the second question, I asked the age range of the respondent. More than one third (36%) of the participants are in their teens, the 18% of them are in their twenties, another 18% are in their thirties, and 14% are in their forties. It can be assumed that most of the teens probably came from the online bulletin boards that I posted the link to my inquiring message, most of the twenties are my TUJ friends, and the thirties and forties are my old friends who are close to my age. The mean is 30.8 years old and the standard deviation is 9.08. However, there is a strong possibility that two outliers (age ranges 71-80 and 81-90) are false answers because there is no friend of mine who use the Internet on a daily basis over age 71 and the main users of the online bulletin board that I posted on are high school and college students. As a result, the mean without these outliers is 25.7 years old and the standard deviation without them is 9.66.

Chart 4-2

4-3. Result data: Emails/messages sent by a mobile phone per day
Next, I asked the respondents how many times a day they usually send emails to their friends and family through their mobiles (not for business purposes). The chart below is fairly skewed to the right. More than 60% of them send less than five emails a day. Since I did not give any options for the emails more than 31, it is difficult to know the distribution within that range. It could have been easier to identify outliers if more detailed ranges were given. The mean is 6.1 mails and the standard deviation is 10.41.

Chart 4-3

4-4. Result data: Emails/messages sent by PC per day
Next, I asked the respondents how many times a day they usually send emails to their friends and family through their PCs (not for business purposes). The chart below is strongly skewed to the right. More than 85% of them send less than five emails a day, which is less than that through a mobile phone. Again, since I did not give any options for the emails more than 31, it is difficult to know the distribution within the range more than 31. It could have been easier to identify outliers if more detailed options were given. Due to the less emails and bigger empty gap between the data than those in the third question, the mean becomes less and the standard deviation is much larger than those  the mobile phone case. The mean is 4.1 mails and the standard deviation is 18.85.

Chart 4-4

4-5. Result data: Activity on SNS
In the last question, I asked whether the respondent regularly (at least more than once in two weeks) uses any SNSs such as Facebook and Twitter. According to the result, more than 60% said no (more detailed analysis will be shown in the next paragraph). It may weaken the basis of my hypothesis (the more one sends emails, the more he or she would participates in SNSs).

Chart 4-5

5. Statistical analysis
5-1. Gender difference in sending emails
I assumed earlier that female Internet users would send more emails than males. The following results show the same tendencies as I expected. The mean of the emails sent through a mobile phone is 4.6 in male users, whereas 11.8 in female users. In the case of sending emails through PC, the mean in males is 2.4 and that in females is 7.8. Both comparisons show that females send emails more than double or triple than males do. Since I did not give detailed ranges over 31, the same problem I referred earlier occurred again in the distribution of the data. It makes the standard deviation in each category larger (especially in males since there are big empty gaps between the data chunk and outliers as seen in the Chart 5-1).

Table 5-1

Chart 5-1

5-2. Comparison between SNS users and non-SNS users
There are some age differences seen in SNS users. Chart 5-2a shows the tendency of practicing social networking activity in each age range. It clearly shows that the younger a user is, the more he or she joins SNS (Non-SNS users do not show that kind of trend). The mean of the SNS users is 26.7, whereas that of non-SNS users is 33.2. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is a high possibility that most of the answers in the age ranges of 71-80 and 81-90 seem false. If these outliers are excluded, both means become almost the same (20.0 in SNS users and 20.8 in non-SNS users). The standard deviations without the outliers are 4.26 in SNS users and 5.94 in non-SNS users. Only a little difference is seen in ratio between male and female SNS users (Chart 5-2b and 5-2c). They are almost in the similar ratio (36% in males and 40 in females). Even though, it still implies that females are a little more active in using SNS than males.

Chart 5-2a

Chart 5-2b

Chart 5-2c

5-3. Correlation between sending emails and SNS use
Here is the main purpose of this survey, the correlation between sending emails and SNS use. I tried to establish a correlation between them. It turned out that they have a negative association (Chart 5-3). All of the pairs between mobile and PC users and SNS and non-SNS users have a negative association between each other. Against my expectation, the results do not indicate that the SNS users send more emails than non-SNS users. The linear regression lines barely show that non-SNS users are less likely to send emails than SNS users both in mobile and PC (Chart 5-3), but the data does not strongly indicate that the SNS users actually send more emails than non-SNS users (Table 5-3). In addition to this, the undivided ranges over 31 emails prevent me again from predicting an appropriate Y value from the X value on the regression line.

Table 5-3

Chart 5-3

6. Conclusion
My survey analysis showed that there is a very low correlation between emails sent per day and SNS activity of an Internet user. On the other hand, the expectation that a female sends more emails than a male is proven. It indicates that women are more communicative than men as is usually said. As often referred in the chapters above, the options in the answers were not set appropriately so that it generated often outliers in the charts. It can be also said that one's SNS use should have been asked not only yes or no, but also how often he or she usually participates in the services. By evaluating more actual involvement in SNSs, I could have made much clearer regression lines in order to demonstrate the correlation between sending emails and SNS use. The sample population I used was also not reliable because some of the respondents are totally anonymous and do not know me at all, which might have allowed them to answer the questions irresponsibly. This survey taught me a lot about the important points in designing a survey.

2012年5月14日月曜日

Audio Clips for Newscast Assignment 2

The followings are two audio clips that I recorded with my own voice and the scripts that I wrote as a newscast assignment for the Writing for Journalism class.


[PSA] Sexually Transmitted Deseases
PSA for Sexually Transmitted Deseases (60 sec. version) by Shinichiro

[Script]
What would you do if you passed sexually-transmitted-disease to your partner without knowing it? The 80-percent of the people infected with chlamydia today didn't notice the symptoms at all. In Japan, chlamydia is the most spread S-T-D. More than one-million people are infected, especially young people. What can you do? Here is the answer: You can have S-T-D testing at the Public Health Service Center in Minato Ward with no fee, no name, and no risk. H-I-V, Syphilis, and Gonorrhea can also be detected with the blood and urine tests. For more information, call 03-3455-4770. English and Japanese speaking staffs are available at the center. Now it's time for you to have S-T-D testing. Not only for you, but also for your partner. This public service announcement is presented by the T-U-J Counseling Office.

[Weather] 
Weather News for Newscast by Shinichiro

[Script]
Turning to the weather in Tokyo for this weekend. We had fairly nice weather today. The city of Hachiouji had a high for the day of 20-degrees-Celsius this afternoon. For those of you planning outdoor activities on Saturday, you can expect clear skies for most of the day with high temperatures of 18-degrees. However, things might change by the evening with a storm front moving in. The temperature will drop by the evening. We can expect light scattered showers over the northern part of Tokyo bringing cooler temperatures in the lower teens. This rain should stop by early-Sunday morning. It will be partly cloudy for most of the morning on Sunday, but the clouds should move out by mid-afternoon. Lows should be in the mid-teens, with high around 18. The chance of rain is 15-percent. And that's all for Tokyo's weather for this weekend. I'm Shinichiro Hamazaki reporting from the Temple University's Japan Campus in Tokyo. See you again on Monday.

2012年4月30日月曜日

Identity Politics at an Academic Seminar on Campus

The following article was written as an assignment for the World Regions and Culture class.



Introduction
My Freshman Year
A university is a place where a student isolates oneself from the ‘real world’ and cultivates oneself for an academic purpose. At the same time, one can see competition and power politics below the surface among the students. Thus exploring an academic community is interesting in that one can observe the students struggling for their impression management. As Rebekah Nathan writes from an anthropological point of view, a college student is seen at a liminal stage while he/she is in the university (Nathan 2005:146-147). Based on my fieldwork at an academic seminar held at the Japan campus of an American university in Tokyo, I would like to examine and illustrate how an American undergraduate student in an American university tried to represent himself as a member of minority groups and to be accepted as a member of an intellectual American community in a foreign country.

Setting
My fieldwork had been done during an academic seminar that was hosted by a research institute belonging to the American state university’s Japan campus in Tokyo. The settings were as follows: It was a Friday night from 7:30p.m. until 9:00p.m. The seminar was open not only to the students and faculty at the institute and university, but also to the public. It was all done in English. On the third floor of a business building, two classrooms were combined and used as a site. 80-90 seats were available in the room. First only one of the rooms was used, but as more people came, partitions between the two rooms were removed and another room was opened to the audience right before the seminar started. In there, two people shared one table. There was a podium and a big white screen at the front of the room. Two tables with chairs were set beside them for two guest speakers and a moderator to sit. The front area of the classroom was a bit dark during the first half of the seminar due to the use of a projector. After the first speaker finished using it, lights went on. A university’s brochure was left on the table at each seat. There were a few chairs also available on the window side.

Description
The events during the seminar had occurred as follows: At 7:15p.m., my observation started. This time I attended the lecture as a participant. The seminar was free. No reservation or procedure was needed. I sat at the end of the row at the left corner so that I could observe all the audience members in the room. There were about 20 people in the classroom then. Many were white and aged between 40 and 60. Most of them wore dark-color suits or light-color jackets. Among them, there were a few Asian men (probably Japanese) and a few white and Asian women. There were two undergraduate students (male and female) working as assistant staff. They were helping set up the seminar by checking a video camera position and microphone volume, and setting tables and chairs. I talked with one of them. There were a few graduate-like students in their thirties and several professors that I know in the room. I also saw two black undergraduate students (male and female) in their twenties in the audience. Other than that, I could not see any undergraduate students in the room. Most of the audience seemed like foreigners working in Japan.

At 7:30p.m., the lecture session began. The number of the audience members increased to more than 50 by then. More Japanese-like men were seen in the audience. The director of the institute gave a short speech to the audience. Then the first guest speaker, who was a white, college professor in the U.S., started his lecture using PowerPoint. The topic of the seminar was the 2012 U.S. Presidential election and Republican primaries. The lecturer explained the geographical and historical factors of the Republican Primary race going on in the U.S. in detail. One person in the audience pointed out a mistake in the speaker’s data, but other than that, the audience was listening to the lecturer’s speech quietly and intently.

At 7:50p.m., the first speaker finished his speech and the second guest speaker, who was a white, Tokyo-based political analyst, started his lecture. He did not use PowerPoint. The number of the audience members increased to about 60. The audience laughed once when the speaker made a mistake in telling a candidate’s name. Besides that, they seemed to listen to him quietly and intently. There were two very old white women sitting at the first row near the podium. The older one kept nodding during the speeches.

By 8:12p.m., there were few available seats. In total, there seemed to be about 70 people in the room. 90 percent of them were men. Among them, 10 percent were Asian. There seemed to be no undergraduate students in their twenties in the audience besides the two mentioned earlier.

At 8:15p.m., the second speaker finished his speech and a Q and A session started. During the session, there were about 7 or 8 questioners. All of them were male and all of them except one (an undergraduate student to be mentioned later in this paper) were working adults. They all asked questions related to the U.S. Presidential election. Most of them gave their names and their job titles or company’s names before they asked a question.  Among them, an American lawyer, a U.S. official of the Department of Treasury, and a Japanese researcher working at a Japan’s top economic think-tank were included. A few of them seemed to know each other since they mentioned each other’s names in their questions. At the very end, the black male undergraduate student, who was sitting at the end of the last row, raised his hand and asked two questions to the lecturers. One of them was about why a college student like him could not vote from abroad. The other one was about how ‘minority people’ in the U.S. are affecting the election this time. His first question was immediately answered not by the lecturers, but by two of the audience members. Right after he finished asking questions, and before the lecturers opened their mouths, two of the questioners (the lawyer and the U.S. official) commented on his first question. First, the lawyer confirmed with the student that he is a U.S. citizen, and pointed out that he can vote even if he were in Japan. The undergraduate student seemed to understand that what he just said was based on wrong information, and just said “Okay” to him. The lawyer added that he or the U.S. official could help the student on this issue if the student needed their help. He then replied to the lawyer jokingly saying, “I usually don’t trust lawyers, but thanks.” After these exchanges among the audience members, his second question was briefly answered by the lecturers. The Q and A session continued until 9:00p.m., and the seminar finished with a short speech by the director of the institute.

Social events on campus in the U.S.
Before analyzing the event described above, I would like to explain what an academic event means to an undergraduate student. The fact that very few undergraduate students actually participated at the academic seminar on campus was no surprise to me at all. In general, social events on campus are reported to have become less influential in the last decade as young students become more individualistic. They are more likely to shut themselves in their comfortable friend networks such as on Facebook or among friends from high school. As a result, many college students are less likely to attend social events on campus (Nathan 2005:41-66). Among social events on campus, according to the New York Times, only college sports games (Pappano 2012) and corporate-sponsored promoting campaigns run by hired students (Singer 2011) are the two most powerful social events mobilizing people on campus today. As Nathan pointed out, contemporary college students draw on little academic interests and contacts on campus (Nathan 2005:57). For most students, the university community is experienced as a relatively small, personal network of people who did things together (Nathan 2005:54). Therefore, it is quite understandable that most students did not spare their time to attend the academic seminar even though the topic such as the U.S. Presidential election was familiar and important for them and was held in one of the classroom they usually used.

Analysis
Small Places, Large Issues
From an anthropological point of view, the point I focused most during the seminar is the Q and A session. In this session, each questioner represented oneself as a ‘qualified’ speaker who had a keen interest in today’s U.S. politics and was intelligent enough to comment on the current political trend with a sharp insight. Their job titles and company’s names would have given them added prestige. This is what Thomas Eriksen describes as a form of impression management, that “Americans may strive to acquire status symbols” (Eriksen 2001:153). They were a minority (foreigners) in Japan, but at this seminar, they were the majority in terms of the language spoken and the topic discussed in the room. In other words, they represented themselves as intellectual elites who could discuss the political issue academically with the experts.

The most interesting questioner was, however, the undergraduate student who asked his questions last. He also tried to represent himself as a representative of dual minority groups. In his first question, he asked why an American student in a foreign country like him did not have a chance to vote. This question sounded more like a complaint against the working adults in the same room. In this case, he represented himself as a representative of other American undergraduate students at the same campus in Tokyo. What he said to the lawyer last clearly showed that the student was positioning himself as an anti-authoritarian. He also positioned himself as a member of ethnic minority groups in the U.S. when he was asking the second question regarding minority effects on the election. This is what often happens in class on campus in the U.S. Nathan writes in her book that “when the [racial or ethnic] subject is raised, as in the occasional class, students of color report being continually expected to educate whites about minority issues or speak” (Nathan 2005:60). In a sense, the undergraduate student just did what minority people are expected to do on campus although the half of his initial attempt unfortunately failed. From an anthropological point of view, he just stepped into the part of the ‘real world’ on his campus with his identity as a college student and also as a member of the ethnic minority group, and faced his immaturity as a result. For him, attending the academic seminar and asking questions to the experts would have been a challenge to become a grown-up adult in the society. In a word, this could be seen as a rite of passage for him in order to be accepted as a politically-conscious American citizen like the other participants.

Conclusion
An academic seminar or conference on campus has ambiguously symbolic meanings. Most of the audience members are usually professionals and experts, but the event is held right in the middle of an undergraduate students’ territory. For the undergraduate students, the seminar is the part of ‘real society’ right next to their ordinary campus life so that they can easily step in and feel the atmosphere of it. My fieldwork this time was based upon these dimensional settings. On an anthropological perspective, a young undergraduate student’s attempt to represent himself in the ‘real world’ was made in the middle of the impression-managing game among the other adult audience members, most of whom have symbolic statuses. It was interesting to observe this symbolic politics played by American people in a classroom in Japan.