Monday, 2 November 2009

Hafu David Favrod wins the Viewbook PhotoStory contest

The Swiss-Japanese photographer David Favrod won the first prize of the Viewbook PhotoStory contest with his conceptual photographic narrative titled "Gaijin".

“Gaijin”, as David explains is the Japanese word for “foreigner” and in his series he deals with his questions surrounding his mixed ethnic identity.

David Takashi Favrod
is half Japanese. He was born in Kobe (Japan) to a Japanese mother and a Swiss father. When he was very young his family moved to Switzerland where he grew up.

When he talks about his cultural experience and sense of identity he says that “For a Swiss person, I’m Japanese and for a Japanese person, I’m Swiss or rather a gaijin.”

In response to his frustration about his confused sense of belonging, David created a narrative, where he could address his split cultural experience and represent himself belonging to both cultures. Whether painted as a Kabuki performer, or a tourist standing next to his
Japanese relatives set against the breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps, David finds a way of placing both Japanese and Swiss visual cultural references into one image.

As much as “Gaijin” is a light and cheerful piece, it is equally highly nostalgic and reflective and takes its viewer on a very personal journey to David Takashi Favrod’s Swiss-Japan.

To find out more and view the photographic series visit:

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

"A Zen Life - D.T. Suzuki" - 3 free screenings in the UK

I have come across Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki when I was reading about Tomie Ohtake’s artistic work and decided to find out more about him as his words really resonated with me. Here are two of his quotes from his book “Zen and Japanese culture”:

“When traveling is made too easy and comfortable, its spiritual meaning is lost. This may be called sentimentalism, but a certain sense of loneliness engendered by traveling leads one to reflect upon the meaning of life, for life is after all a travelling from one unknown to another unknown.”

“The artist's world is one of free creation, and this can only come from intuitions directly and immediately rising from the isness of things, unhampered by senses and intellect. He creates forms and sounds out of formlessness and soundlessness. To this extent, the artist's world coincides with that of Zen.”

Funnily only a day later we received an email about three free public screenings of “A ZEN LIFE - D.T. Suzuki” at universities in the UK next month. Here is what the director/ producer Michael Goldberg writes:

“A ZEN LIFE - D.T. Suzuki” is a 77-minute documentary about Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966) the Japanese lay Buddhist, prolific writer and teacher credited with introducing Zen Buddhism to the West.

With an excellent grasp of English, Daisetsu Suzuki was highly successful at getting Westerners to appreciate the Japanese mentality, and Japanese to see the merit of Western logic. He earned widespread respect for his deep insights into Eastern and Western religions and philosophies. The effect he had on Western psychology, philosophy, religious thinking, and the arts was profound.

A variety of excerpts from Dr. Suzuki's talks about Zen and Buddhism, Christianity, and psychoanalysis punctuate the film. Inter-faith dialogue and mutual respect were, in his mind, keys to peace. He has said that the Westerner who best understood Zen was Father Thomas Merton. Interwoven with film footage, photos and audio recordings of D.T. Suzuki are interviews of many people who knew him, including Huston Smith, Gary Snyder, Robert Aitken, William Theodore de Bary, Donald Richie, Mihoko Okamura, and Dr. Albert Stunkard, with rare historical footage of Fr. Thomas Merton, John Cage, Erich Fromm, and the voice of Christmas Humphreys.

A pioneer in improving East-West relations, his numerous writings in English and Japanese, translated into many languages, serve as an inspiration even today. Daisetsu Suzuki's message is all the more important now, in light of contemporary conflicts stemming from divergent ways of thinking.


Monday, 23 November at 6:30pm
Interfaith Chapel, University of Glasgow, West Quadrangle

Screening followed by Q&A with director

No reservation necessary
For further information about the Glasgow screening, please contact Joan Keenan, Interfaith Chaplaincy, on 0141 330 5419 or

Tuesday, 24 November, 5:15pm - 7:30pm (doors open 5 pm)
Arts Lecture Theatre, Lower Ground Floor, Samuel Alexander Building
University of Manchester
Screening followed by Q&A with director

No reservation necessary for the Manchester screening

Thursday, 26 November, 6:30 – 8:30 pm (reception afterwards)
Brunei Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Russell Square

University of London
Screening followed by Q&A with director and panel discussion

Please reserve in advance for the SOAS event by contacting,, or or call 01442 890882

These events are sponsored by

The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation
The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation

For more information visit or email

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Thinking about mixedness SEMINAR in London UK

A great seminar if you are interested in mixedness, whatever mixture!

Thinking About Mixedness and Mixing: International and Interdisciplinary Dialogue Seminar 3: EVERYDAY EXPERIENCES AND SOCIAL DIVISIONS
ESRC Seminar Series

Seminar 3 is a day event focusing on ‘Everyday Experiences and Social Divisions’.

It will be held on Friday, 18 September 2009 at Keyworth Centre, London South Bank University.


Bogusia Temple (University of Central Lancashire)
‘There will always be a part of my personality that they will never understand’: living and working across language difference

Mateja Sedmak (University of Primorska, Slovenia)
When did ethnicity become an important family issue in Slovenia?

Miri Song and Peter Aspinall (University of Kent)
How is mixedness understood and experienced in everyday life?

Suki Ali (London School of Economics)
Mixed race politics

Martina Klett-Davies (Family and Parenting Institute)

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Herbie Yamaguchi

Posted by Marcia

I went to a photography exhibition in Kawasaki City Museum, just a few minutes away from home today. The visit was completely unplanned. This morning I went to the local library to get some old books from the 50s that talk about mixed Japanese people. On the way out I saw a poster on this portrait exhibition by a photographer called Herbie Yamaguchi. The name caught my attention because at first I thought “could this photographer be Hafu?”. Although as it turns out, Herbie was a nickname given to him when he lived in London many years ago.

So, as the exhibition was taking place only 20 minutes away from home on foot I decided to make a visit. Coincidentally as soon as I arrived at the Museum I learned that there was going to be a talk by Herbie himself in 10 minutes time. This must be fate….. Off I went, to see his work briefly before listening into what Herbie had to say.

What marked my mind was his subtle message. He talked how he was ill when he was young (elementary up to high school period) and he used to get bullied. He described how he saw the “kitanai” from a young age. He never felt confident.

But one day he encountered a school friend being very kind to him – he saw something very special through her eyes. He goes on to explain, perhaps he could see something extraordinary in her eyes precisely because of his bullying experience at a young age. He says if he was a popular handsome boy he would have never noticed in the beauty she possessed. Now I understand, Herbie’s work captures the kindness, the beauty, the thoughtfulness of humankind.

Herbie started photography when he was in the 2nd year of Junior High School. When he was 23 years old he moved to London, where he says he learned how to love himself. There was no need to be anybody else. His friends recognized his beauty. He could be himself, be confident and happy.

Since he saw plenty of the ugly side of human being, his wish was to portray the niceness of people. His gentle approach can be seen in all his photographs. Whilst his photographs are wonderfully composed, his soft touch allows the viewer to get absorbed, as if under the influence of “kindness”.

Friday, 3 July 2009

The dying flowers - by Noriko Takaoka

Posted by Marcia

Today I’d like to write a little bit about our stay with Norika Takaoka a wonderful photographer based in Osaka, Japan. We were delighted to hear that we were going to stay with Noriko, a professional photographer. The purpose of our stay in Osaka was to photograph a number of people for our Hafu Japanese project. I think this is the perfect opportunity to introduce Noriko’s photography work.

Excerpt of Natalie’s words on Noriko’s project 『枯れて行くお花』LIFEシリーズ

“Noriko beautifully and poetically captures the gentle process of dying. (...) The beautifully composed shots of delicate flowers offer us a sense of real appreciation for the short lives we live. (…) Her observation of the beauty, colorfulness and strength of these flowers make the viewer feel very reflective about something we make so much for granted.”

More information here:

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

a BIG thank you

Posted by Marcia

Our photo shoot events in Tokyo and Osaka have completed succesfully! A big big thank you to Hiroshi & Britt, who offered us their valuable studio space in Kokubunji (, Noriko for offering us wonderful shelter in Osaka, Mr.Fukuzawa at Mamiya for providing us with camera equipment, and Nobue at ANA who offered us discounted flight tickets to Japan.

In the past two weeks we also delivered three talks/workshop. We would like to thank Yoshie at Santa Maria International School (Tokyo), Dr Chris Burgess at Tsuda College (Tokyo) and Dr James Farrer at Sophia University (Tokyo) for offering us the valuable opportunity to talk about our project.

----Overall we took nearly 100 photographs of Hafus and all our interviews in Osaka have completed too. Natalie is back in London and I will be in Tokyo for a while to interview more people.-----

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Photo shoot update

Posted by Marcia

The weekend photoshoot ended on an excellent note with over 50 people participating. Our special thanks goes to Mamiya who offered us their wonderful camera equipment, Hiroshi and Britt for providing us their excellent studio space and time, as well as all the participants who have happily travelled to Kokubunji. It was lovely meeting you all. Thank you.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Japan - Tokyo/Osaka

We are pleasd to announce that we have had over 80 people sign up for our photo shoot events in Japan so far. With two photo shoots this weekend in Tokyo and another two next week in Tokyo and Osaka, we are very much looking forward to meeting all the different Half Japanese people who are due to participate. We have the following slots available at the moment:

Tokyo, 21 June (Sun) 2:15pm
Tokyo, 24 June (Wed) 6:45pm and 7pm
Osaka, 28 June (Sun) 1:15pm and 13:45pm

The shoot will take 15 mins. For details please visit:

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

'Hafu' Photo Shoot & BBQ in London

Posted by Marcia

We are proud to say, last Sunday we had about 25 half Japanese people take part in our photo shoot. The weather was so tempting that we had to have a bbq lunch too.

We are very excited to see how quickly words travel: a friend of a work colleague's sister, a friend of a friend of a friend, or the daughter of a friend, etc - the route varies but we were all there for one reason - to be part of the project. It was lovely to meet some of the parents accompanying our participants too. There was a kind of a family feeling to the whole atmosphere, it didn't feel like I had never met any of them.

We are planning another Hafu shoot in London when we come back from Japan, possibly in August. Those of you who live in Japan or know anybody who may be interested in taking part, please check out details of the photo shoot events in Tokyo and Osaka: (English) (Japanese)


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Hafu Photo Shoot in London 31 May 2009

Posted by Marcia

As part of our 'Hafu' project -, we are organising a photo shoot in London this Sunday, 31 May. We are inviting half Japanese people (over 18 years old) of all mixes and ages to participate. The exact location is Brockley, in south London - zone 2, two stops away from London Bridge. We have 15 mins slots available throughout the day from 10am to 6pm.

About 15 people have already signed but we still have the following slots available:


Please email for details.

Thank you!

Note: If you are using public transport it would be best to buy a non-oyster paper travelcard covering zone 2 as pay as you go osyter cards don't work in Brockley station unfortunately. It may also be good to check train times before starting your travel:

Friday, 22 May 2009

The Black Japanese experience in Georgia, US

Posted by Marcia

I found a very interesting short film on the experiences of two Japanese African-American families living in Georgia, the so called "South" of the US. A great addition to your "favorites".

"This is a documentary that deals with the experiences of individuals of both Japanese and African American descent living in Georgia. They live in African American communities. However, because of their dual ethnic backgrounds, their ethnic identity is a major issue. They want to identify themselves as African American, but their African American friends sometimes do not consider them as African Americans. They overcome their issues and start to take pride in who they are."

Watch the documentary here:

An additional interesting website:

Black Tokyo - a site full of info and discussion on Japan from an Black perspective.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Bone marrow donors required - part Caucasian part Japanese

Posted by Marcia

Nick Glasgow, a 28-year-old in California was recently diagnosed with Leukemia and is now in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. The potential match is likely to be somebody who is a mix of Caucasian and Japanese. Please circulate this information to those who may be able to help. For those in the US, please visit this blog site for more information:

"Any person whose ethnic background is a mix of Asian and Caucasian, and is in good health with no history of cancer or major illness, and is between the ages of 18 and 60, is a potential donor for Nick. Expanding on the initial information, one does not need to be 75% Caucasian and 25% Asian — any potential mix could work. While the most likely match would be from a person who is 75% Caucasian and 25% Japanese, it is absolutely possible that other combinations of Caucasian-Asian background in different proportions could work. The Asian background should be Sino-Asian, rather than Indo-Asian. Finding an ideal match with all of Nick’s markers is very difficult, and we do not want to exclude any potential donors. "

For those in the US, please visit this blog site for more information:

For those in the UK, I just found out that it is possible to register as a bone marrow donor in the UK just by giving a blood sample in the London clinic of the Anthony Nolan Trust. If there is a match on the register from waiting patients worldwide (including the US and many European countries) you will be asked to undergo medical examination prior to the donation procedure. The procedure will take place in a private hospital too which I think is very reassuring. The Trust will pay for all expenses including your transportation costs and your family/friend who is accompanying you.

Please visit for more information about becoming a bone marrow donor. Please consider registering as a donor - there is a shortage of registered donors from ethnic minorities including mixed race people. It will not only help Nick but others waiting for a match.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Role of Photography in 19th Century Japan

Posted by Marcia

"Photography in Nineteenth-Century Japan"
History of Photography
Summer 2009, Taylor & Francis
Edited by: Luke Gartlan
Contributed by: Sebastian Dobson, Karen Fraser, Luke Gartlan, Mikiko Hirayama, David Odo and Mio Wakita.

Check out the Book Launch at Daiwa Foundation to celebrate the birth of this fantastic volume about photography and Japan. It is a shame Natalie and I will miss the event, as we are in Japan photo shooting and interview, but if you are in London and are interested in the historical role of photography in Japan, this is an unmissable event. While you are at it, check out the wonderful facilities of Daiwa Foundation in Baker Street too!

Daiwa Foundation Japan House
13/14 Cornwall Terrace
London NW1 4QP

30 June 2009

Booking is essential:



Monday, 18 May 2009

ALL our ancestors are from Africa?

Posted by Marcia

The Incredible Human Journey: Asia
Sunday 17th May 2009 @ 9:30pm

Yesterday I watched a fascinating programme on BBC2, which follwed the footprints of our ancestors, who originally left Africa about 70,000 years ago. The programme introduces how early hunter-gatherers survived in one of the harshest environment on earth - Northern Siberia, in which they managed to film a tribe in Siberia - who I think looked both East Asian and European. I personally thought I could sit amongst them and not stand out. I then wondered how many mixed Eurasian people felt the same whilst watching this programme!

In the latter part of the programme, they introduce a controversial claim that has been all very common in China, as taught at school according to the programme - the belief that the Chinese do not share the same African ancestry as others. Something I suspected to be part of a national regime to construct a strong national identity. This claim is refuted later, by a genetics research of thousands of DNA samples derived from Chinese people (lead by Li Jin at the National Human Genome Center) - it confirmed that all samples contained evidence that their ancestors were once from Africa.

If you missed this programme, you can still watch it online here until 9pm 18th June (UK time).

In fact, this is just one of the five series and you can watch the first piece here:

Interesting websites to read up on:

The National Genographic Project
Get your DNA tested to see the migration paths your ancestors followed thousands of years ago all the way from Africa:

Kenan Malik "The science of race and the politics of ignorance" 2008

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Japanese Festival in London this September

Posted by Marcia

This is great news! As part of "Japan UK 150", celebrating 150 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UK, the Japan Society and the Japanese Residents Association, are hosting a major Japanese festival on the 19th of September 2009 in Spitalfields! The last Japanese festival we saw was in 2001 - such an occasion was long due! The festival will ofcourse involve lots of Japanese food, as well as dance, music and demonstrations. Wouldn't it be great to have real bon dance in London - why not suggest it to the organisers? I have!

For artists...
Now, if you are a visual artist, you may want to start thinking about poster artwork ideas because the Japan Society is inviting artists to submit a work of art inspired by ONE of the three otogibanashi (Japanese traditional stories):

Tsuru no ongaeshi – The Grateful Crane (or The Crane Lady)
Kaguya hime – The Moon Princess (or The Bamboo Cutter’s Tale)
Issun boshi - The One Inch Boy

They are in fact offering 14 artists the opportunity to have a stand at the festival! Deadline for submission is the 31st of July 2009 so get your imagination rolling now! Have a look at the festival website for more details of what and how to submit your work.

Relevant Links:

Festival website

Japan Society

Japan UK 150