The Photographer’s Dilemma
When I first arrived at my placement, I was handed a list of rules regarding my new occupation. Many of them simple, but still needed to be stated: no extra pay from other institutions because I’m a government worker, how many vacation days I had and when my work hours are. However there was one rule in particular that struck me, which was rule number 8: “No photography of the school nor the students may be uploaded onto the internet, even with any person’s permission.”
For me, this creates a sort of…personal issue. Within the last couple of years I’ve become an avid photographer; mainly through traveling, but I was able to snag a gig here and there for some extra pocket money. My major in journalism was a large factor in the interest, but I have always been curious about the form. So, when I’m presented with a regulation that both limits my hobby and goes against what I was taught (“Information for the masses!”), it did upset me a little.
But let’s get one thing straight here: I do understand why they have this rule. One only has to look at the requirement that all Japanese cell phones must make a “shutter sound” while taking photos as to the mentality behind it. And, to be blunt, perverts ruined it for everyone. “As the popularity of [messaging] played an important part in the dissemination of cellphones at that time, phone carriers seemed to have been concerned about the negative image caused by illicit photos. As a result, all cellphones with built-in cameras shipped with a shutter sound that played when a photo was taken — and it could not be disabled. This was not something that was required by law, but it was taken up voluntarily by all Japanese cellphone vendors. These self-regulations have never been made publicly available, but NTT Docomo told The Japan Times that they implemented it to ‘prevent secret filming or other privacy issues.'” I believe the rule is simply an extension of this: it’s simply an invasion of privacy to upload photos in any capacity, at least in the board of education’s view.
There is, however, a counterpoint to all of this. I am in a situation where part of my job is cultural exchange, not just America to Japan but Japan to America. One of the many goals of my job is to not just bring more cultural awareness to Japan students, but also to those who know little to nothing about Japan back home. Take my mother, for example, who (bless her heart) asked me “are there still Samurai in Japan?” I know it’s easy to laugh at something like this in our current day and age (I did), but it’s the harsh truth that, even through mass internationalization we’ve experienced within in the last century, there are still those who have not traveled far outside their homes. I am one of the few in my family that actually has.
But even with those thoughtful ideals, I’m still not allowed to share photos related to my job. Yes, I know there is more to Japan than just my schools, and nothing is stopping me from taking photos of everything outside the school zone, but working in Japanese schools is now a large part of my life and an aspect that a lot of people back in America are curious about. And it sucks that I can’t share it with them (this includes you, dear reader), whether through this blog or social media, because it’s certainly something I do want to show. I’m just simply limited to words to illustrate the experience.
This is not to say that photos will never be an aspect of this blog, but it’s got to be something that I can actually show you. Until then you have to deal with this terrible writing.