I don’t normally do such a catch up like this, but it’s been a terrible week, and so I’m using the weekend to do office stuff. In my previous blog post I said that I’m considering selling on a lens I don’t use anymore (the Sony SAL 70-300mm G), if you know someone who might like it, please tell them to get in touch with me. I also received the Dobot Rigiet gimbal for shooting videos on my smartphone. I hope to take that out to play tomorrow.
Also in the news, I’ve been in the news! Yay! News about my Kickstarter project has been distributed through a network of news outlets. The cost-share photo shoot is a new concept and an experiment, and I had no idea how it will go. Hopefully being in the news will help spread the word to small companies and startups who would benefit most from this. Anyway, it has made it in the news at Arizona News Online, Colorado News Desk, and other places. Yay!
There are just six days left, and I hope to get just ten companies who might be interested involved. This afternoon I’ve been reaching out to mainly small fashion brands telling them that I can help. I hope to get at least ten! I hope that this can be a success, and so I can repeat this and help these brands and others again in the future. Also, to sweeten the deal, there is a prize for the first company to get on board, where they can win a website (domain and webspace). Details: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/japanesephotos/cost-share-a-product-shoot.
Photo shoot services for lifestyle and product placement for social media.
It has been reported by various Japanese media outlets that CitiBank Japan was for sale to the highest bidder. Many Japanese banks wanted the Japan subsidiary to acquire the mainly wealthy customers and their money. Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (aka MUFG) has apparently been the winner about two weeks ago. This apparently is the final week of business of CitiBank Japan as a CitiBank subsidiary, next week it becomes the property of MUFG. However, CitiBank Japan customers have heard nothing from CitiBank, and all the information they’ve so far received has been via Japanese newspapers. One expat customer asked staff at the Nagoya branch about his accounts. Apparently his ATM and credit cards may not work internationally from next week, which comes at a time when he will be travelling in Taiwan. CitiBank Japan has already ceased over the counter foreign exchange, and it is said that other services will cease this week.
The main attraction to CitiBank Japan for expatriate customers was the fact that all services, in branch and on the internet are bilingual and available in English and Japanese. In contrast, MUFG does not provide services for international customers, except for basic ATM functions. MUFG ATMs provide a wider range of functions in Japanese, but not in other languages. This is in contrast to Korea and Taiwan, where I have always been able to use bilingual forms and speak to English speaking staff. MUFG staff refuse to use English, and all forms are in Japanese only, and many essential financial services are refused to people who cannot read Japanese. Consequently, many expats may be looking for friendlier services, as MUFG’s reputation may sour their shiny new acquisition. The little known Shinsei Bank, appears to be the only retail bank that provides English language support left in Nagoya, one of the riches cities in the world.
CitiBank Japan was bought by Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFG) ahead of uncertainty for account holders.
There was an explosion at Mitsubishi Materials chemical plant in Yokkaichi (ABC, BBC, Japan Times). It has been reported that there are 5 dead. This part of Japan has suffered numerous industrial problems including Yokkaichi Asthma, and drinking water issues. It has been known to be the most polluted city in Japan.
A few weeks ago, Molhem Barakat, died in the Syrian civil war. Not as a fighter, but as a war photographer for Reuters News Agency. It has since been revealed that he earned only $100 per batch of 10 photos he uploaded daily (PetaPixel). He should have been paid more than that, and on a per photo basis. The other point of concern is that Reuters never provided him with training, and it would seem that they have no or little intention to provide support to his family, and have little remorse for his loss. There is also some disagreement about his age at the time of hiring and his death. If you’re interested in showing your support for Molhem, and to prevent Reuters from exploiting other such people, Change.Org has a petition you can sign.
The Mongolian sumo wrestler Hakuho gets the second highest unbeaten winning streak in modern sumo today. Hakuho faced the ambitious rising star Kisenosato who fought well. Hakuho did not play his usual style of sumo and appeared nervous. During the bout Hakuho seemed unstable and did not calmly respond to his opponents attacks. Hakuho managed a win, which made him outright the second highest unbeaten wrestler in modern sumo with 54 unbeaten bouts. This record is also fourth highest in about 350 years of organised sumo. It is likely that Hakuho will win at least the next five or six bouts, possibly making him the third highest in sumo. If Hakuho can win all eight of the remaining bouts in the current tournament, then he will be in a very good position to easily surpass Futabayama’s 69 unbeaten bouts in the next tournament.
In a time when fans are turning their backs on sumo due to scandal after scandal, this winning streak is extremely important. Today was also the first day in the current tournament that all seats were sold out. Historically there would normally have been several days of sold out seats already by this stage of the tournament. Further, this is the first time a non-Japanese wrestler is breaking such important records.
My Hakuho Sumo Gallery. Hakuho (below) walking from Harumafuji after defeating him in the Nagoya summer tournament in July.
The idea occurred to me as I began shooting at the Nagoya Summer Grand Sumo Tournament on the 14th and second to final day. There had been scandals and problems. Let’s list some here:
Abuse of apprentices (resulting in the death of one 18 year old)
Allegations of match fixing
Unruly behaviour in public of one of the top wrestlers (Asashoru)
Giving highly prized ring-side tickets to gangsters (extremely taboo in Japan), and most recently
Illegal gambling on baseball, and high school baseball games.
I can’t hit all of those points, but I’ll tell you a story through pictures. Here’s the link the the complete Japanese Sumo Gallery.
This isn’t an abuse scene, it’s just regular practice, and no one batted an eyelid (if they even noticed this)
As a result of all the scandals, ticket sales were down 10%, according to the national radio and TV broadcaster NHK, so the first half of the tournament had few seats filled. This image was taken early in the afternoon before the crowds had finished arriving.
Whilst some see the light of day, many members of the public are still sceptical and suspect that there’ll be more scandals.
As a result of the most recent scandals, involving illegal gambling, some of the top wrestlers were told to withdraw from the tournament, which has caused a thinning out of the ranks.
However, the later half of the tournament saw the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium filled, though with late ticket sales. This image below, shows the banner displayed thanking the spectators for making this a sell-out day, which was seen much less in this tournament.
Generally, the heads of the Sumo Association have been seen as weak, ineffective, or unable to deal with the problems. These ring-side judges are actually conferring on a bout where two wrestlers knocked the referee out of the ring so the referee was unable to rule on the bout.
In the past, the Sumo Association has not wanted foreign sponsors and their sponsorship banners. However, many major sponsors including HB-101 has withdrawn their support. As a consequence, the Sumo Association has allowed in some foreign sponsors… The Golden M.
An innocent victim. Not really a metaphor, but pertinent information just the same. This proud Mongolian, Hakuho striding away from this bout, had just scored enough wins to secure a tournament victory. The next day he won again, making him completely undefeated for three tournaments straight, a first in modern (post-war) sumo. In a rare show of emotion, Hakuho wept with joy afterwards. However, the Sumo Association decided not to award him the coveted Emperor’s Cup (another first), given the circumstances and the general public’s current displeasure for their beloved national sport. Not getting the Emperor’s Cup on the day that Hakuho made sumo history has got to sting.
Cover-ups. The Sumo Association has tried to keep a lot under wraps in the past, but have decided not to cover-up the latest scandal. I bet they wish they could have put a big green tarp over the illegal baseball gambling fiasco.
The winners of bouts in the top divisions are shown with a red mark above or below their name. The wrestlers who have withdrawn from the tournament have their name listed on the left. Usually one or two pull out due to injury in each tournament.
Every crowd has a golden lining. Sumo is special. It’s the only sport that Japan has exported, and is iconic to Japan. It has its group of eclectic supporters like all sports in all countries. The Gold Hat Man (as I call him) is ubiquitous. He is seen in the much sought-after ring-side area on every day of every tournament since I’ve been in Japan (about five years now). He is one of the many characters that really enjoy the sport through thick and thin. He’s an inspiration to many.
But the crowds still gather to see their favourite wrestlers leave at the end of the day.