Sunday, June 18, 2017

Producing, Promoting

Following the World Premier of "Boys for Sale" in Frankfurt, Germany last month (STORY),  this review of the film by Noah Franc was recently published (HERE).  Our entire team is extremely grateful for this thoughtful reflection on the stories of the young men we documented.

And amid filming/ editing a couple of installments of a series of short documentaries I have been commissioned to direct,  I am also busy preparing for the North American Premier of "Boys for Sale" (WEBSITE) on which I worked as producer.

As part of the PR promotion for the July 12 screening in LA's OUTFEST (Tickets and INFO HERE), we are publishing some "extras".  These include over 30 "postcards" (like the one below), which are illustrations from the film that can be saved as wallpaper on smartphones and are being published once a day until the screening on July 12 (they can be found on the film's Twitter account HERE and Facebook page HERE).


Also being published are a series of "deleted scenes", short clips that are really interesting/ funny/ shocking but for one reason or another simply didn't make it into the final version of the film. The first one of those was published today (which is below and NSFW!) and will be followed by a new one each week until the screening in OUTFEST.


And we also have a new poster designed by our animator Jeremy Yamamura with our DOP Adrian "Uchujin" Storey's screenshots and our artist N Tani Studio’s illustrations.


And look at how cool this is! OUTFEST has sent us our very own GIF!


Saturday, June 03, 2017

North American Premier of "Boys for Sale" to be held in LA's Outfest 「売買ボーイズ」ロサンゼルスのOutfestにて北アメリカ初上映

After holding an extremely successful World Premier in last week's Nippon Connection film festival (STORY), and as the producer of the documentary, I am honoured and excited to announce the North American premier of 「売買ボーイズ」 (Boys for Sale) in next month's Outfest film festival in Los Angeles!

Screening information is below; thank you all for sharing with people in the LA area who may be interested!  I look forward to sharing more information about this screening as we learn it as well as more about future screenings as they are confirmed.

「売買ボーイズ」 (Boys for Sale) will be screening
Wednesday, July 12 at 5:00PM
in the Director's Guild of America (Theatre 2) 

「売買ボーイズ」 上映情報
Director's Guild of America (Theatre 2)  

Film Website 売買ボーイズ  ウェブサイト:

Film Trailer 売買ボーイズ  トレーラー:
OUTFEST Festival Website 映画祭ウェブサイト:

OUTFEST Festival Program 映画祭プログラム:

Thursday, June 01, 2017

"Boys for Sale" holds World premier in front of a full house

Traveling with Co, one of the protagonists of "Bai-Bai Boizu" ("Boys for Sale" in English WEBSITE), to Frankfurt, Germany, last Monday, we were warmly met at the airport by Nippon Connection (INFO) festival volunteers.  After dropping off our bags at the hotel, festival programmer Martin Bregenzer accompanied us to 10 gay businesses to hand out postcards for our film; since the screening was on only the second day of Nippon Connection, we had decided to arrive in Frankfurt a day early so we could get in some PR time in before the start of the festival.
After a packed opening ceremony and interesting/ slightly disturbing opening film ("Her love boils bathwater" INFO), it was time to prepare for our screening the next day (and of course see lots of other films as well!). our screening INFO.
Since we had not publicly screened "Boys for Sale" before, I was feeling nervous about what the audience reaction would be...and our screening selling out made me even more nervous even though coming to Nippon Connection for a third time was like coming home.  Athough representing a film as a producer and not the director had made me feel a bit more relaxed in general, the adrenaline rush of watching a film you have worked on with a full house was equally intense and only served to add to the addiction I have to making films.
Since our screening slot was the last for the night and the following day was a national holiday, the Q&A was longer than most- at around 40 minutes.  To be honest, it is still kind of a blur, but I remember feeling the audience had really engaged with the film and had really connected with Co.  Their questions were honest, thoughtful and deep, and I left the theatre feeling humbled that so many people had interacted so thoroughly with the story we had presented.
photo via Twitter @Schlopsi
We have a few more irons in the fire, and I look forward to sharing more about upcoming screenings as we confirm them with festivals.  In the meantime, thank you all so very much for your support.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Boys for Sale

Two years ago, I first began to talk about a film I was making with the working title of "MSM: Men Who Have Sex With Men".  As documentaries often do, the film ended up taking much more time (years!) and much more money (tears!) to complete than any of us had expected.  But I am happy to announce that the film is finally finished!

Now called 「売買ボーイズ」 (bai-bai boizu) or "Boys for Sale" in English (WEBSITE), the film documents "urisen"- mostly straight, young guys who sell sex to men- in Tokyo's largest gay district.  The trailer, which is NSFW and for which viewer discretion is advised, is here:

"Boys for Sale" will be holding its World Premier in Frankfurt, Germany, next week at the 2017 Nippon Connection Film Festival (INFO).  Nippon Connection is also where I was honoured to receive an award for my film "A2-B-C" in 2013 (STORY) and for my film "-1287" in 2015 (STORY).  Incidentally, the subtitles for "Boys for Sale" were produced by Japan Visualmedia Translation Academy (JVTA) as they were the sponsors of the subtitling award I received for "A2-B-C" at Nippon Connection in 2013!

I am really looking forward to announcing more screenings in the coming weeks and months and thank you all for sharing about this film with people you think would be interested!

Two years ago when we first began shopping the rough cut around to festivals and friends in the industry, it became clear that the documentary would benefit from undergoing some significant changes.  At the same time, however, I had become busy with work on what would eventually become two commissions for the NHK World documentary series "Inside Lens" (2016's "Dying at Home" INFO and 2017's "Suturing Cultures" INFO***).  Knowing I needed to turn fuller attention to those documentaries, I felt the best decision I could make for "Boys for Sale" was to step down as director, although I remained producer overseeing the completion of the film. 

I brought on a new director, Itako, who was in charge of taking apart the original edit, shooting new footage and then putting it all back together.  He also directed the two music composers who created an entirely new and original sound track, as well the illustrator who was commissioned to draw over 300 original illustrations for the documentary (of which about 100 ended up being used in the film). 

I would like to give a shout out to some of the other "Boys for Sale" team members, for their incredible work:

  • Our amazing DOP/ producer Adrian Storey aka Uchujin (WEBSITE and TWITTER) who handled not only TWO cameras, but also lighting AND sound in some of the smallest spaces imaginable!
  • Our two awesome composers working under the name Kazaguruma, Jack on Shamisen (TWITTER) and Komitetsu on cello (TWITTER).
  • Our illustrator N Tani Studio (WEBSITE and TWITTER) whose sensitive drawings completely changed the film.
  • Our animator Jeremy Yamamura from Denbak-Fano Design (WEBSITE), who animated N Tani Studio's illustrations, as well as painstakingly created special animated blurs to help protect the identity of the young men in the film who requested it.
  • Our talented story editor Sarah Lushia, who worked with Itako on editing the narrative for an international audience.

"Boys for Sale" is certainly one of the edgiest films I have been a part of, and considering some of the projects I have worked on, that is saying something.  ;)  But in all seriousness, working on this film has been a massively interesting experience, and I have learned so much about group dynamics, about how music and animation can be used in a documentary, and about myself.

*** "Suturing Cultures" will be re-broadcast on May 29 TIME SCHEDULE HERE.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Acres of Diamonds

Over the past year, it has been my great to honour to serve as one of the producers of award-winning documentary filmmaker Shawn Small's latest short film, Acres of Diamonds (INFO).

I first met Shawn four years ago at the Global Peace Film Festival (STORY) when he was screening his film "Ru: Water is Life" (INFO), and I was screening my first film about children in Fukushima, "In the Grey Zone" (WEBSITE).  After keeping in touch and offering moral support to each other on various projects, I was thrilled when Shawn asked me to help out on his new film, "Acres of Diamonds".

Focusing mainly on story and narrative editing, I was thrilled when the finished film began to be accepted into festivals.  When Shawn asked me to represent the last weekend's East Coast premier of the film at the Nepal International Film Festival (INFO) while he attended the West Coast premier in LA (where the film subsequently won the prize for Best Short Doc), I was honoured to accept.  One of the festival organizers, Purna Singh Baraily, chairperson of the Human Rights Film Center in Nepal, was also among the friends we had met at the 2012 Global Peace Film Festival (STORY).

In addition to directing my own documentaries, I am really enjoying recent opportunities to assist with the films of other filmmakers, to teach at university and to mentor students through internships.  Thank you all so very much for your continued support of my work.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mr Hata and T: one year later

For the one year anniversary of Mr. Hata and T's reunion (STORY), over the past three days I have retweeted each part of their story translated into Japanese at the exact same time as the original English Tweets were posted. May their story remind us of what is important-- health, family, happiness-- and of the preciousness of life.

日本語版) 『Mr.ハタとT:余命わずかの男と息子の30年越しの再会』

Original Storify English version HERE

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Imperial Hospitality: Story from the Imperial’s “Toko-an” Tea Ceremony Room

Part 3 of the series I am directing for the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, has been published on the Imperial Hotel website.  The column, which includes a documentary-style video, features the Imperial’s “Toko-an” Tea Ceremony Room.  A direct link can be found HERE.

A link to Part 1 can be found HERE, while a link to part 2 is HERE.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Documenting the March 11 disaster: six years on

I marked yesterday, March 11, 2017, the six-year anniversary of the triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Edmonton.  The event, sponsored by the Prince Takamado Japan Centre, University of Alberta and the Centre for Japanese Research, University of British Columbia (INFO), included a screening of the work-in-progress of my new documentary about the Fukushima nuclear disaster which I also screened earlier in the week at an event at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver (INFO).

Attended both by students and professors from departments as diverse as Japanese studies and Film-making, the post-screening Q&A allowed me to hear how this work-in-progress is being seen and understood an opportunity for which I am extremely grateful. This was the second time for me to screen some of my Fukushima-based work in Edmonton, after having the honour of screening my films "A2-B-C" and "In the Grey Zone" during the Global Visions Film Festival (now called Northwestfest) three years ago (STORY).

Each year on the anniversary of March 11, I have reflected on some of the experiences I had in the days and months after the disaster framed around the short documentaries I filmed during that period. I have re-posted below two entries I would like to share again this year.

Thank you all for your continued support and for keeping those people still affected by these terrible events six years later in your thoughts and prayers.

Ian Thomas Ash
Edmonton, Canada


originally posted March 4, 2013 (LINK)

On March 13, 2011, two days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I described the situation in Tokyo in an open letter to my friends and family (HERE).  I posted it along with a short documentary about panic buying and the following explanation:
I simply couldn’t stay inside today and just watch the news coverage, so I took my brother-in-law’s advice: I took my camera outside to see what was happening in my neighbourhood. The result is (this) ten-minute video about “panic buying”.
I could never have imagined at the time that this would be the first in a series of short documentaries that would eventually evolve into two feature films documenting the nuclear crises in Fukushima spanning the following two years.

As the two-year anniversary of the March 11 disaster approaches, I find myself reflecting on how it all unfolded.  As part of this reflection, I have re-visited my early documentaries and edited them together to see how my journey began.


originally posted March 12, 2015 (LINK)

Documenting 3.11: the first ten days
My journey documenting 3.11 started with the first entry I wrote (HERE) and a short documentary I filmed about panic buying in Tokyo a couple of days after the disaster (story HERE).  This was followed by several short documentaries posted in quick succession.  A compilation VIDEO of all of these early short documentaries that I edited together and posted for the 2nd anniversary... and the accompanying guest blog published by Discovery News is HERE.  The full collection of my early short documentaries about the disaster is HERE and all of the guest blogs I wrote for Discovery News can be found HERE.

Documenting 3.11: One month later
After reading a newspaper article describing the government's plan to re-open schools near the zone 20-30km from the nuclear power plant just one month after the nuclear disaster, I traveled to Fukushima with friend and cameraman Colin O'Neill.  We documented the children living there, and soon after we returned to Tokyo we posted a four part "making of" documentary, beginning with this Video (part 1 below, all 4 parts HERE):

This would become my first feature documentary about the disaster, 'In the Grey Zone' (TRAILER below and website HERE):

Documenting 3.11: Six months later
Six months later while editing 'In the Grey Zone' in Japan with friend and colleague Ed Ison, Colin and I traveled back to Minamisoma City in Fukushima where we filmed an update that we posted in three parts (Part 1 story HERE and VIDEO below, stories about Part 2 HERE and Part 3 HERE, with all three VIDEOS HERE).

Documenting 3.11: One year later
For the 1st Anniversary of the disaster in March 2012, I filmed a three-part update about the children living in the 20-30km zone which I posted to my channel (Story Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE and Part 3 HERE, VIDEO part one below, all three videos HERE):

Documenting 3.11: Fifteen months later
A couple of months later, I returned to Fukushima, this time with friend and cameraman Koji Fujita, and in the summer of 2012, I posted two short films about the continuing nuclear disaster.  The first of these was 'Nuclear Refugees: the people of Iitate Village, one year later' (story HERE and VIDEO below):

The second short documentary I posted that summer was 'In Containment', a five-part series that documented some shocking revelations about life in Fukushima after the disaster and found me entering the no-go zone for the first time (VIDEO for Part 3 below and those for Parts 2, 3 and 4 HERE).  During the filming and editing of 'In Containment', I realized I was uncovering a story much larger story than just an "update", and that I had in fact started making a new film.  Parts 1 and 5 would eventually form the beginning of my second feature documentary about the Fukushima disaster, 'A2-B-C' (website ENGLISH/ 日本語).

 Documenting 3.11: The children in Fukushima

I continued filming throughout the autumn of 2012 and early winter of 2013, focusing on the children and families living in Fukushima.  Posting the trailer in February of 2013 (TRAILER below), it was serendipitous that the last day of editing I did on the film before handing it off to Ed and Colin back in the UK to finish the post-production was on March 11, 2013, the second anniversary of the disaster (STORY).

Documenting 3.11: The story continues
In between the continuing international and domestic screenings of 'A2-B-C', I am currently filming the follow-up to 'A2-B-C', in what will be the third film in my series about Fukushima.  Thank you all so very much for your continued support and encouragement.


Friday, March 10, 2017

The Politics of Invisibility: Fukushima, 6 years after 3.11

Yesterday, the event "The Politics of Invisibility: Fukushima, 6 years after 3.11" (INFO) was held at the University of British Columbia with sponsorship from the Centre for Japanese Research.  I was honoured to present at the conference, which was organized by Geography Professor David Edgington.  I had the honour of presenting here two years ago also at the invitation of Dr. Edgington.

Split into two sessions, the lunchtime workshop began with Dr. Edgington's presentation "A day out in Fukushima: Reflections on a field trip to the Dai-chi Nuclear Power Plant" focused on his recent experience touring the crippled facility complete with photographs from inside the plant.  Dr. Matsui, Professor of Law, presented his talk "Restarting Nuclear Power Plants in Japan After the Fukushima Disaster", which focused on law, policy and public opinion regarding nuclear power in Japan following the meltdown.

In the evening, there was a screening of the work-in-progress of my documentary "Sezaruwoenai" ("Unavoidable", working title), which eventually will be the 3rd film in my series about young people living in Fukushima, following "In the Grey Zone" (2012) and "A2-B-C" (2013).  It was a rare and extremely meaningful experience for me to share this work-in-progress, and the feedback I received from this study session held at the university will stay with me as I move forward in thinking about the direction I will take with the film.
photo courtesy Savannah Li
At the lunchtime presentation preceding the screening, Dr. Edgington had asked me to focus on the plight of the so-called "voluntary evacuees" who are facing tough decisions as financial support for them is being terminated at the end of this month.  In addition to sharing about the press conference for which I served as the MC in January (INFO), I had decided the best way to for the audience to understand the situation for these families was through their own words.  I asked Noriko Matsumoto, who I had first met at the press conference, and another young mother who wished to remain anonymous (and whom I had met through one of the mothers who appeared in my documentary "A2-B-C") to write statements about how they would be affected by the termination of financial support for those who had chosen to leave Fukushima with their children.

Their statements, translated by Anthony Davis, are in full below:


松本 徳子、避難者(川崎へ母子避難)





何とか、正しい情報で子ども達を守りたい! そのためには是非沢山の方々のお力をお借りしたい。切に願います。

March 1, 2017
Noriko Matsumoto (evacuated to Kawasaki with her children)

Today, the lead article in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper stated that on March 31 or April 1, evacuation orders will be lifted for some areas within 20 kilometers of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant—the towns of Namie, Kawamata, Iitate, and Tomioka.

Why do the Japanese and Fukushima prefectural governments not give us the right of evacuation, instead attempting to return even children to these areas where the level of radiation is still high?

I am so angry and sad that it is difficult for me to express it in words. However, once this happens, evacuees like us from outside of the restricted zone will find it harder to obtain the right of evacuation, which is a matter of human rights. How can we help people in a position of weakness, and those who care for children or disabled persons?

I feel a deep sadness at the foolishness of Japan, where only the affluent ever hold power, and the weak are discarded.

I want to protect the children somehow, with accurate information! I hope for the support of many people to this end.

Translation: Anthony Davis, Kobe, Japan, March 2017






『ONE FOR AII AII FOR ONE』一人はみんなの為に、みんなは一人の為に・・・

安部総理は、東電は『アンダーコントロール』のもと、震災で大変な想いをした人々全てに『ONE FOR AII AII FOR ONE』一人はみんなの為に、みんなは一人の為に・・・支援を続けていると、発言を撤回し世界へのメッセージとして伝えてもらいたい。



March 4, 2017
Mother who evacuated with her children to Niigata (wishes to remain anonymous)

The background to my deciding to voluntarily evacuate (with my children) came after I comprehensively evaluated the incidents which I describe below.

At the time of the accident, I learnt that, previously, the radiation dose limit for the general public was stipulated by law as one millisievert in a year (or 0.23 microsievert per hour).

Before the nuclear power plant accident, the radiation level in Fukushima city was 0.03 microsievert per hour. Immediately following the 2011 accident, even inside homes, the level was 0.6 microsievert (approximately 20 times the normal level), and outside, the level was commonly 2 microsievert or higher (some 66 times the normal level). This amounts to levels far in excess of one millisievert per year. I thought that this was abnormal (and a violation of law).

On April 19, 2011, in Fukushima prefecture, the level at which children were permitted to engage in outdoor activities was changed to 20 millisievert a year, or 3.8 microsievert per hour. Thus, the former standard of 1 millisievert per year was raised to 20 times that level.

In May, the Board of Education issued notice limiting the outdoor activities of elementary, junior high, and high school students to a maximum of three hours per day.

On April 29, Toshiso Kosako, advisor to the Cabinet Office, held a press conference announcing his resignation in protest against the height of the levels. In tears, he stated the following:

“It is very rare even among the occupationally exposed persons to be exposed to radiation levels even near to 20mSv per year. I cannot possibly accept such a level to be applied to babies, infants and primary school students, not only from my scholarly viewpoint but also from my humanistic beliefs.”

The press repeatedly reported the government’s explanation that “the levels would not have an immediate effect on the human body or on health.”

Meanwhile, amid a confusion of various other information, I resolved to evacuate from Date city to Niigata, wanting to take care of my children in a safe environment in peace of mind. Now, Fukushima prefecture has started to discard evacuees, under the banner of “Acceleration of Reconstruction.”

In June 2015, Fukushima prefecture announced that it would stop providing rental housing for voluntary evacuees at the end of March 2017. The provision of free housing for voluntary evacuees will end.

Five years ago, when I voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima prefecture to Niigata, I had to start from zero. Many people were kind in their support, including local people I met, and those at my children’s school. But with the upcoming changes, the livelihood which I have finally built up after five years will be taken from me, and I will be deprived of my right to evacuation.

In Fukushima, decontamination of residential grounds has reduced radiation levels from the post-accident levels, and a false sense of security is spreading, even though radiation has not reached pre-accident levels.

With its eyes set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan is lifting the evacuation orders and discontinuing compensation, and it is firming up policy to end housing support for voluntary evacuees. I strongly resent that Japan is gradually cutting financial housing support, and forcing people into poverty, after which they are encouraged to return home and are then abandoned. Rather than the proclamation which Prime Minister Abe made for the Olympics that everything is “under control,” I want to convey a message to him of “One for all, all for one.”

I want Prime Minister Abe to retract his statement, and instead, I want him to tell the world that support will continue “One for all, all for one,” for all of the people who suffered so much from the disaster, while TEPCO was said to be “under control.”

People who were previously under evacuation orders were known as compulsory evacuees. The term “voluntary evacuation” is widely used. However, this is in no way voluntary evacuation. Using the term “voluntary evacuation” in contrast to “compulsory evacuation” implies that people made a choice of their own volition, therefore the term which should be used is “evacuation from areas outside of areas designated under evacuation orders.” Voluntary evacuees from outside of designated areas are being forcibly returned home, or forcibly evicted.

I want to tell the whole world that this is what is really occurring in Fukushima now.

Translation: Anthony Davis, Kobe, Japan, March 2017

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Marking Fukushima disaster in Canada

As the 6th anniversary of the March 11, 2011, triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown approaches, I am honoured to be traveling to two Canadian universities to participate in educational events.

I will be screening the work-in-progress of the third feature documentary in my series filmed in Fukushima.  With a working title of "Sezaruwoenai" ("Unavoidable"), it follows my films "In the Grey Zone" (2012) WEBSITE and "A2-B-C" (2013) WEBSITE.  While I do not know yet when the film will be finished and released, I am extremely honoured and grateful for the opportunity to screen "Sezaruwoenai" as a work-in-progress and to be able to both share the interviews in the film with the viewers and to receive feedback and comments of support from them that I can then share with the participants in the film.  I first screened an early cut of the film in Berlin last year at the IPPNW congress organized for the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl and the 5th anniversary of Fukushima (STORY).

Following the screenings in Canada, I will also be sharing statements from two young mothers who are so-called "voluntary evacuees"; that is, they have decided to evacuate from areas in Fukushima not officially under mandatory orders to evacuate.  With the government set to end financial support for such "voluntary evacuees" at the end of this month, these families are facing the painstaking decision of whether or not to return to Fukushima with their children.   More about these "voluntary evacuees" can be found in my post about a press conference for which I served as the MC at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in January (STORY).

On Wednesday, March 8, I will be presenting at the University of British Columbia at the workshop "The Politics of Invisibility: Fukushima, 6 years after 3.11" which is sponsored by the UBC Center for Japanese Research.  Two years ago, I had the honour of screening my film "A2-B-C" at the same event (STORY).

Then on Saturday, March 11, the 6th anniversary of the disasters, I will be presenting at the University of Alberta in Edmonton at an event sponsored by the Prince Takamado Japan Centre for Teaching and Research.  

It is an honour to take part in these activities being organized to educate and ensure that the events of March 11, 2011, are not forgotten.  

Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement.

Ian Thomas Ash
Haneda Airport, Tokyo, Japan

Friday, March 03, 2017

Events marking the 6th anniversary of 3.11 begin

It is hard to believe that the six-year anniversary of the March 11 triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster is approaching.

Yesterday, I was honoured to serve as the MC for the press conference "Yoshiko Aoki, Fukushima storyteller" at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ press release HERE).  Although Ms. Aoki is a former principal of the Tomioka High School, located in one of the towns badly affected by the nuclear disaster, she began her speech by saying "I am not a politician, philosopher or professor.  I am speaking today as an ordinary citizen".

During the Q&A, when asked if she felt "abandoned" by the government, she replied "no".  Rather, Ms. Aoki said, since the accident, which she emphasized had been a man-made disaster, she had become more independent in her way of thinking and no longer depended on the government.  Now when a government official says something "stupid", she said she no longer even becomes angry as that is what she has come to expect.  Ms. Aoki's full comments and the Q&A that followed can be found on the FCCJ Channel here:

Then this morning (Thursday evening in the US) was the event "The Politics of Uncertainty: Reassessing Japan After the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster" arranged by the Japanese Cultural Association at Brown University (event info HERE).

Following a screening of my documentary "A2-B-C" (WEBSITE), I was honoured to join via Skype the panel discussion, which included:
* Taro Kono - Member of Japan’s House of Representatives and Former Chariman of the National Public Safety Commission (via Skype)
* Kerry Smith - Associate Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Brown University
* Daniel Aldrich - Director of the Security and Resilience Program at Northeastern University
* Ian Thomas Ash - Documentary Filmmaker and Director of "A2-B-C" (via Skype)
This was the first of several events I will be taking part in at universities holding events to mark the 6th anniversary of 3.11.

******** UPDATE March 6, 2017 ******

An article about the screening has been published by the Brown Daily Herald.  READ

Saturday, February 04, 2017


***** UPDATE February 7, 2017 *****
"Suturing Cultures" is now On Demand free until Feb 20, 2017. Link HERE
Leading up to the broadcast of my new documentary "Suturing Cultures" (STORY), which will be premiering across the globe on the NHK World channel and website in a couple of days (broadcast INFO), I was asked to produce some promotional materials including a preview/ trailer and "director's interview".

For the "director's interview", I was told:
This is relatively free style. The director can speak about his motivation for making this documentary. You could also introduce yourself and speak about your social background, interests in general, etc.

After watching a few of the other director interviews, I decided to follow their approach of a piece-to-camera talking about their film and why they made it interspersed with footage from their documentary.  

Asking my friend to film so I could concentrate on what I wanted to say, I still could just not get it to come together in a natural or interesting way.  While I knew I was supposed to talk about my motivation for making the film, I also realized I didn't truly understand the full source of those motivations.  But I did know someone who might...

Re-reading the brief, the words "free-style" jumped out at me, and I decided to follow my heart.  I messaged my sister and when she called, I started recording.  Using old family photos to illustrate our conversation, the result has just been published and can be found on the bottom of the NHK World film page for "Suturing Cultures" (HERE) along with a preview for the film.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Imperial Hospitality (Part 2): Stories from The Imperial’s Bars and Lounge

In the background, I am always working on a project or two in addition to whatever is in the forefront.    Earlier this week I shared about my documentary "Suturing Cultures" which will be airing next week (story HERE and broadcast info HERE), and now I am pleased to share the next installment in the documentary-style series of videos I was asked to direct for the Imperial Hotel Tokyo, a luxury hotel with a deep-rooted history in Tokyo.
Featuring a tour of the Imperial's bars and lounges and filmed/ edited back in December, Part Two was published this week (with my accompanying column on the Imperial website HERE, a direct link to the video below, and more info on Part 1 HERE):
It is only through the support of an awesome team that I can be working on so many projects at once, and I would like to give a shout out to Matsudaira Naoyuki who shot and edited this piece.  While I wrote the music which is the same piece we used in Part 1, it was treated to a jazz arrangement by Onuki Yuichiro, who was also on piano, joined by Tani Motoaki on bass and Adachi Hiroshi on drums.
Part 3 is scheduled to be published in March.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Suturing Cultures

***** UPDATE February 7, 2017 *****
"Suturing Cultures" is now On Demand free until Feb 20, 2017. Link HERE

Usually I do not speak much about the films I am working on until after they are completed.

The first draft of this blog began "I do not know why I usually do not speak much about the films I am working on until after they are completed".  But that would not have been true.  I do know why: it is because every time I begin a film, I am afraid I will fail.

Perhaps someday I will write more about how illuminating the process of making this film has been for me (about team dynamics, about being a producer, about perseverance) but for now I will simply say that I am extremely honoured and excited to finally be able to share more details (after THIS brief mention back in October) about my newest documentary, "Suturing Cultures".  It will be premiering world-wide on the NHK World channel on February 6 (or 5, depending on timezone), but don't worry if you don't have NHK World on your TV as you can watch it for FREE on your computer, smartphone or tablet (info HERE)!

At Juntendo University, the oldest medical school in Japan, Dr. Yuko Takeda is preparing young medical students for a career during which they will most likely see foreign patients in addition to Japanese ones. As these future doctors who come from a traditionally homogeneous society navigate issues of culture, religion and sexual orientation in English, the real lesson comes when they realize that what they are being taught is about how to become better doctors.

This is the second documentary I have made for the NHK World series "Inside Lens", following last year's "Dying at Home" (INFO).  And while this film, like all of my recent films, also features a strong story line based around issues of health and medicine, the setting this time is not in a hospital or in a patient's home, but rather in Juntendo University, the oldest medical school in Japan.

I feel so fortunate to have been surrounded by an amazing creative team: editor Chris Huang, composer Komitetsu, an amazing NHK producer Yukari Harada (and many others), while working with awesome footage from the camera of Thomas Schlottman, who also shot "Dying at Home".  And it has been a poignant time as well as this also marks the last film on which my assistant, Rei, will be working.  Rei has been my right-hand for the past 18 months, but he is now going off to graduate school, well on his path to becoming a film director in his own right.

We are just a month into 2017, but this has already been one of the busiest times in my life.  And there will be more exciting news in the coming weeks as this was not the only work-in-progress I had waiting in the wings...

Thank you all so very much for your support and encouragement!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The "Voluntary Evacuees" of Fukushima

I was honoured to be asked by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ website HERE) to MC today's press conference "Fukushima Voluntary Evacuees on Verge of Losing Homes" (press release HERE).  Noriko Matsumoto, Hidetake Ishimaru and Chia Yoshida spoke about what is referred to as the "March 2017 Problem”, when the government will end support to people they deem to have "voluntarily evacuated" from contaminated areas of Fukushima; this would in effect force those who can not afford to remain evacuated on their own to return to areas many feel are unsafe.

***** UPDATE (Jan 18, 2017 at 13:15)*****

The archived video of the press conference has been published on the FCCJ YouTube page:
***** UPDATE (Jan 17, 2017 at 22:44)*****
The AFP just published this article about today's press conference:

***** END UPDATES *****
The press conference was live-streamed (and will be posted to the FCCJ YouTube channel HERE tomorrow).  As I have done in the past (and as I did when Timothy Mousseau, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, gave a press conference entitled "Fukushima Catastrophe and its Effects on Wildlife" HERE), in addition to MC'ing, I also live-Tweeted the press conference (screen grabs below) from my @DocumentingIan account.

Hidetake Ishimaru, director of "Minna no Data Site", a citizen's radiation measuring station, presented documents comparing the government policies regarding Fukushima and Chernobyl radiation levels.  After his speech, I wanted to make sure that a very central point was not being lost on those in attendance, and I felt the need to bring it up before the Q&A: the phrase "voluntary evacuee", which has the connotation that people have chosen to evacuate unnecessarily and with the added implication that they are simply "worrying too much" is being used to describe people who have decided they must evacuate their children from contaminated areas on their own because they live outside the official evacuation zone.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the government arbitrarily created the evacuation zones, I believe making them as small as possible in an effort to pay compensation to as few people as possible.  The government then deemed anyone living outside of these zones who evacuated on their own as having "voluntarily evacuated".  This is despite the fact it has been proven that the radiation did not (and does not) spread in neat, concentric circles stopping at government-determined zones.  Proof of this lies in the fact that there have been countless incidents where radiation levels many times higher than those inside the evacuation zone have been found outside of it.  Using the word "voluntary", implying that they somehow have a choice, to refer to evacuees from these contaminated areas is nothing short of secondary victimization.

During the Q&A, a journalist in attendance carried this discussion further, asking if there was not some way other than "voluntary evacuee" to refer to this group of people.  Author Chia Yoshida, one of the panelists, stated that one official way they can be referred to is as "people from outside the official evacuation zone who have evacuated", but that such phrasing is awkward and long.

With problems as deep and complex as are happening in Fukushima, issues of language and translation often occur.  Part way through the presser, I realized there were some problems with the English interpretation.  During the Q&A, some important words in an answer from Mrs. Noriko Matsumoto, an evacuee from Fukushima, had been omitted in the interpretation, lessening the impact of her statement.  Wanting to make sure that Mrs. Matsumoto's courage in sharing her story was not missed by the non-Japanese-speaking attendees, I broke decorum and corrected the translator.   Mrs. Matsumoto had given a very emotional account of Fukushima children being bullied at their new school.  When parents complained to administrators, they were told "you made the choice to evacuate- if your children are being bullied, that's your fault" (the unlined/ bold words had been inadvertently omitted by the translator).   Mrs. Matsumoto's account showed that it is not only children being bullied, but adults as well; in addition to the physical threat of exposure to radiation, evacuees are also facing emotional and psychological trauma.

Following the press conference, I had the opportunity to speak with documentary directors Kamanaka Hitomi (with whom I published THIS VIDEO and article for the Japan Times in 2015) and Atsushi Funahashi (whom I had first met at Cultural Typhoon in 2013 HERE).  Both of these filmmakers have filmed extensively in Fukushima and were supporting today's panelists.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Learning to Say Goodbye さよならの伝え方

This article was first published in English in the magazine "5": Designing Media Ecology (6th issue, December 2016 INFO), and appears here with permission.  The Japanese, translated by Takako Matsui, is published here for the first time. My gratitude to Sarah Lushia for her editing and advice, as well as to the editors of "5" for their corrections and the opportunity to write this article.

本記事は、雑誌『5: Designing Media Ecology』6号(『5』編集室、2016年12月発行)に掲載された英語原稿と、その日本語訳です(翻訳・松井貴子)。日本語訳はこれが初出となります。

It has been an honor to serve as a Bird’s Eye View guest columnist for the past two years, but as they say “all good things must come to an end.” Since learning this would be my last column, I have been reflecting on the words we use when parting both in English and Japanese.
2年間にわたってこの「Bird’s Eye View」に寄稿するという光栄に浴してきた。けれど、どんな良いことにも終わりはある。今回が最終回だと決まってから、僕は日本語と英語の別れの表現について考えていた。

In Japan, people tend to opt for parting phrases such as: “Jya, mata ne,” (see you again) or “Rai shu ne,” (see you next week) which feel quite friendly and imply a future meeting. In more formal situations, one might say shitsureitashimashita (please forgive my intrusion), domo arigatou gozaimashita (thank you so much), or something as simple as oyasuminasai (goodnight). But despite the word sayonara being widely known abroad as the Japanese word for “goodbye,” even by those who have not seriously studied the language, it is actually a word seldom heard in Japan.

If one is not careful when using sayonara, it can make the parting feel cool, or depending on the situation and tone of voice, it could even sound quite final with the implication being that the separation will be forever. And while there are times in life one must say a final “goodbye,” perhaps following a fight between two lovers, in most social situations one would not wish to leave friends or colleagues with such an ominous feeling.

Such subtleties in using newly learned words and phrases are often overlooked in beginner-level language courses, which is perhaps why I never liked studying Japanese with textbooks. Wanting to learn not just vocabulary but also how to use the words in more complex social situations, I prefer instead to share a meal or go for a drive with friends. Interactions such as these provide opportunities to learn the words and phrases native speakers really use, like what they actually say when parting.

Admittedly my uneasiness with how and when to say sayonara did not begin in Japanese… it began with how to say “goodbye” in English. Growing up, my family moved a lot. I attended nine schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, including four high schools in three different states. While this may have given me the ability to make friends quickly, it also forced me to part with them as well. After a while, the pain of saying “goodbye” was something I did everything I could to avoid, preferring instead to quietly fade out. When I knew it would be the last time to see a particularly close friend, I would leave with an upbeat “see you later!” leading my friend to believe there would be at least one more chance to say “goodbye,” although I knew there was not. Having to hear or say “goodbye” had simply become too difficult for me.
しかし、いつ、どうやって「サヨナラ」を告げるかという問題は、僕にとっては日本語の学習とともに始まったのではなかった。そもそもそれは、僕には英語の問題でもあった。僕の家族はとても引越しが多く、僕は幼稚園から12年生の間に9つの学校に通い、ハイスクールだけで4つ、それも3つの州にまたがっていた。おかげですぐに友だちをつくるという能力を 育んだのかもしれないが、そこには常に友だちとの別れがあった。やがて僕は、「goodbye」の語を口にすることが耐えがたく、それを言うくらいならだまっていなくなるほうがましだと思うようになった。とくに仲のいい友だちに対しては、僕は別れの瀬戸際にも明るく「じゃ、またあとで!」と言ってその場を離れた。相手はまたあとで「goodbye」の語を交わす機会があるのだと思ったろう。もちろん、その機会はなかった。だれかと「goodbye」を交わし合うことは、僕にはただつらすぎるものになっていた。

My inability to say “goodbye” was something I was forced to come to terms with the last time I saw my mother alive. She was sick, and I was visiting her for Christmas. At the end of our visit, I stopped to see her one last time on my way to the airport before flying home to Tokyo. I leaned down and hugged her while she was lying in her bed, and although I knew it would most likely be the last time I ever saw my mother alive, I uttered, “see you soon.” She looked up at me and as if to correct me, replied “talk to you soon.” My mother knew we would not see each other again, and she was not going to allow that to remain unacknowledged. But still, neither of us used the word “goodbye.”

Thinking about my inability to say “goodbye,” I began to question if it was really true the word sayonara is rarely used in Japanese or, perhaps, if I was subconsciously inventing a cultural observation that provided me a convenient excuse not to use a word that already made me feel uncomfortable. I decided to ask Arakawa-san, my first teacher of Japanese when I moved to Japan many years ago.

Arakawa-san told me that while it was something that had never occurred to her before, she believed it was true and that even she herself rarely used sayonara. In fact, the only time in recent memory she had uttered the word was at a funeral for a friend; in offering she had said, arigatou (thank you) followed by sayonara (goodbye). Arakawa-san told me that she sometimes even says sayonara with a feeling of thanks to her possessions when they are no longer of use and must be discarded. When she told me this, I was reminded of the temples that assist with the disposal of auspicious objects such as seasonal decorations, dolls and even sewing needles, as it is felt these things cannot simply be unceremoniously thrown away.

Cautioning me against thinking of sayonara as a bad word, Arakawa-san said she believes it has a beautiful hibiki (ring) to it. As an example, she told me about a recent poetry reading she had been to where sayonara had been used in a poem to communicate many complex feelings, like giving thanks and bidding farewell to the cherry blossom season.

So sayonara does not merely signal the end to something, but it can also be used to mark a transition and give gratitude. While I may still be learning to say “goodbye,” I realize now that there are situations in life where no other word can express one’s feelings in quite the same way as the word sayonara.