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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cool Japanese Photo #4 - 1945 Nagasaki

I would assume that nowadays, weaponry that contains fissionable material is safe to move around, as the shell is probably lead-lined and will stop radioactivity from coming out to harm people within its environment.

And… while I know this is 1945, and the dawn of the atomic age is about to unloaded in all its gory upon first Hiroshima and then Japan, it still blows my mind that the two US military personnel involved in the transportation of the Fat Man bomb bound for Nagasaki are not better protected… like maybe wearing an Army regulation shirt…

I mean, you almost expect the guy staring at the camera man to have a cigarette dangling from his lips.

This is another one of those photographs that is supposedly never seen, or more likely, rarely seen by the public. I have no idea who owns it, who took the image and why it was being distributed around the Internet to fall into my hands. 

The photo shows the Fat Man atomic bomb being transported towards the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, nicknamed Bockscar that will, in a few days, drop its payload upon an unsuspecting city of Nagasaki, killing between 45,000-75,000 people in the initial blast… and an estimated 80,000 deaths over all in the next few days…

This Nagasaki bomb, pictured above was more powerful than the one used on Hiroshima, but because of the location of its detonation confined by hillsides to the narrow Urakami Valley, it did not kill as many as in Hiroshima days earlier where an immediate 70,000–80,000 people were killed with an additional 70,000 injured.
Here's the Fat Man exploding over Nagasaki... photo courtesy of the US National Archives.
The nickname Fat Man refers generically to the early design of the bomb, which was also known as the Mark III. Fat Man was an implosion-type nuclear weapon with a plutonium core.

The Fat Man had a fission of one kilogram (2.2 lb) of the 6.19 kilograms (13.6 lb) of plutonium contained, which was expected—( in the pit, i.e. of about 17% of the fissile material present. 1 gram (0.035 oz) of matter in the bomb is converted into the active energy of heat and radiation, releasing the energy equivalent to the detonation of 21 kilotons of TNT or 88 terajoules. The explosion is said to have generated heat estimated at 3,900°C (7,050°F) and winds that were estimated at 1,005km/h (624mph).

A ground view photo of the atomic bomb exploding over Nagasaki. Photo courtesy of Corbis.
The Little Boy atomic bomb that exploded Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 was a uranium-based weapon (uranium-235) that exploded with an energy of 16 kilotons of TNT (67 terajoules).

Say what you will about why the U.S. should not have used such a terrible weapon (twice), but it officially believes that with the U.S. and her allies winning the Pacific Theater battles, an eventual invasion of Japan would need to take place… one in which the Allies were afraid would involve a never-say-surrender attitude from the notoriously stubborn Japanese who would, it was felt, begin utilizing its common citizenry to sneak attack Allied troops.

Therefore… to avoid large allied losses and losses to Japan's non-military personnel via a ground-based attack, the U.S reasoned that an atomic bomb or two would bring Japan's leaders to its collective senses and end the war.

It did.

A Japanese survivor of the Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki. I know... holy fug... photo courtesy of Corbis/
And, even though the two atomic bombs killed some 160,000 Japanese people—including women and children and the elderly, the actions are justified by the Allies as that an invasion force on land would have killed the same number of Japanese and a large number of American and allied soldiers—not to mention the cost of running a war.

Plus they had already built the bomb, so why not use it rather than let it go to waste.? I'm being sarcastic.

This elementary school in Nagasaki took a beating, but it's one of the few buildings still standing... though it is highly doubtful anyone inside survived the heat and radiation. Photo courtesy of Corbis. 
Two more Fat Man bombs were detonated during the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946. Some 120 Fat Man units were produced between 1947 and 1949, when it was superseded by the Mark IV nuclear bomb. The Fat Man was retired in 1950.

Cool photos - well, they are regardless of the topic, as they are an excellent reminder of just how insane war is. As an aside, I do wonder what the incidence of cancer was amongst the U.S. military personnel who worked with the bombs, not knowing the 'fallout' from being around it?

Have you ever wondered how someone decommisions an atomic or nuclear weapon? 

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Another Error Mars Japanese Baseball

Mizuno—a very good sports equipment manufacturer in my opinion, in that they usually create excellent products—is owning up to a problem with the baseballs it manufactures on behalf of Japan's professional baseball league.

In this case, the balls have been made in such a way that there is more 'bounce' to them making it easier for the balls to leave the stadium as home runs.

Proof of that is supported by the fact that as of April 18, 2014 there were 131 home runs this year compared to 113 in 2013.

And last year… well…. Mizuno was part of a baseball scandal then - also involving its balls leaving the yard at an abnormal rate.

WTF?

Yes… in 2013 (I wrote about this story HERE), the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) commissioner Kato Ryozo (surname first) was made to quit after it was discovered that the League and Mizuno were working together to make the balls livelier… to make the game mow exciting for the fans with more home runs

NPB, at that time, admitted it made Mizuno keep quiet about the changes to the ball…
The major problem with that was that the player's union was supposed to have been notified of any changes, which it was not. 

This time, however, Mizuno says there is no conspiracy, merely an error on their part and that the problem of liver balls was thought to be a culprit after an abnormal number of home runs occurred during the first week of play this season.


Mizuno, by the way, opted to come forward with its mistake, without any prompting. NPB does not appear to have known about Mizuno's accident until they revealed it to them recently.   

Mizuno says that the wool yarn wrapped around the balls’ inner core was too dry, which meant it was flatter… which means that more wool was required to wrap around the ball to fill the space… more wool, regardless of its thinness, appears to have given the balls more bounce off the bat.

More than what NPB baseball regulations allowed. In this case, Mizuno says it's mistake was believing that the wool's thinness would effectively counterbalance the amount of wool required and would thus create an acceptable ball…

An honest mistake, perhaps… but yes, Mizuno obviously did not test the balls well enough, nor did it tell the NPB about the changes it made to the ball.

That's two strikes in 2014, plus the cover-up - or at l;east agreeing to the cover-up in 2013 is three strikes… and we all know that 1-2-3 strikes you're out of the old ball game.

So… despite my like of Mizuno products… perhaps the NPB needs to find an alternative supplier by penalizing Mizuno for a couple of years.

Since when did Japan become so forgiving of mistakes? Do I smell kick-backs? I'm just asking. I don't really smell anything so prosaic out of my nose.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
Image above is a Mizuno baseball from 2013. Originally posted to Flickr as "モーガンの打ったファウルボールげっとしたwwwwww #加藤良三" Cropped by UCinternational

Question Everything: A Guide To Surviving Japan

Despite the headline begging YOU to question everything, I am instead, more correctly, encouraging you to reverse it. To look at every question and question HOW you will handle it.

In Japan, from the moment you are separated from the herd of foreigners in Tokyo and are taken out to your posting village, town or city, you will be inundated with questions from the Japanese.

There are various reasons for this, none of which I could conceive of when I was there in 1990-1993, but thanks to time, wisdom and an anal retentive need to write a blog every day, I have come up with possible reasons as well as some entertaining examples (in my mind) about questions you can be expected to be asked.

I made it a personal rule, that if a Japanese person asked me a question in English, regardless of the embarrassment, I would answer it honestly.

That seems fair, right? I'm in Japan to further internationalization and maybe even get the Japanese to speak more English, if not better English... it seems silly not to answer a question from them asked in English.

I know, I know... sometimes the buggers will ask embarrassing questions... give them an answer... in English... but just note that it doesn't have to be the truth. You'll see why below...

First off... why the questions?

As near as I can figure out, there are a few possible reasons.

1) The Japanese are really curious about you. You may indeed be the first foreigner they have ever had the opportunity to interact with.

2) They simply don't know the answer.

3) It's to ensure their superiority. This one is a bit more difficult to explain, but essentially, thanks to Japan being quite homogenous with next to zero immigration, Japan has always looked upon itself with a smugness... that no one other than a Japanese person could possibly understand what it is like to be Japanese. Their questions to you are meant to maintain that illusion - and it is an illusion to everyone not Japanese... and yet, considering how weird Japan often seems to the foreigner, it is also a harsh reality.

4) It's not superiority, but pride. Numbers 3 & 4 are easily confused... it depends on your perspective, after all... In Japan the Japanese want YOU to learn all about how great their country is... no biggie... that's what you do when people visit your town, right? Let me show you the sights...
As such... they want you to know as much as the deem possible about Japan... the rest you'll have to figure out yourself... and you never will, what with not being Japanese and all... I do think, however, that if you are able to let go of your home country, you can become more Japanese... but it is tough to do that.
I don't even know if it is advisable.
I was born of parents from India... I was born in London, England... I was raised in Canada from the age of 3 on up. I might have been a citizen of Great Britain... but I was hardly English. I might have the correct skin tone to be Indian, but having never been there, have zero knowledge of its culture, language or history (pretty much), people from India would known immediately that I am not one of them. In Canada... I might not look like a 'typical' Canadian, but I sure act and talk and dress like one.
I lived in Japan for three years... I lived in their society... I followed the rules... I dated their women, ate their food, and even tried to study the language... but... just like everything else... I could fit in... but I lacked a single identity... at least in Japan I knew I would never be Japanese... even if I married a Japanese woman... I'd be the gaijin with a Japanese wife, and she'd be the Nihonjin with a gaijin husband.
In Canada, 30 years ago... maybe even 20 years ago, in the big cities, interracial couples would get a stare... I would even do it... but now... most of the people I know are interracial couples... which I actually find odd, but NOT disconcerting. It's change... and one that happened... and I don't think people saw it happening.

It's what will happen in Japan, one day... but, owing to a lack of immigration, it's going to be damn slow. In the mean time, who can blame the Japanese is they pride in being Japanese? ... uh, as long as they don't foist it upon anyone else.

Anyhow... let's look at some questions the Japanese will ask you, and perhaps a bit of what is meant by such question. As usual... these are merely my opinions. I offer advice for women here, but I'll admit it if I have no clue.

Actually... all of the answers to the subjects below are merely opinions and are not answers written in stone. The answers are based on my experiences and thoughts.

These are some of the thousands of I was asked pretty much right through all three years I lived in Japan:

1) Are you American?
As a Canadian, this tends to upset us... but really, there is very little to separate a Canadian from an American... except that with such a melting pot of humanity in North America, what does an American or a Canadian even look like? There's the stereotype of White skin, Blonde hair, Blue Eyes... but really, wasn't that the Teutonic ideal Hitler wanted?
Hell... I was born of parents from India, born in England, and raised in Canada. I have little to nothing in common with anyone from India except the color of my skin, eyes and hair color. I don't speak with a London accent, but I was named after Prince Andrew. But... I do have a love of maple syrup, hockey and redheads. So... Canadian, right? Sure... but even in Canada no one sees that... they see a foreigner. As such... I was quite used to being a foreigner long before I set foot in Japan and continued to be a foreigner there. No big deal for me.
In my JET personal exam, I was asked: "In Japan, the Japanese are not used to foreigners and often gawk and stare and call people a gaijin (foreigner/outsider). How would you handle it?" I answered: "The same way I handle it in Toronto." I explained more, obviously, but the point was made.
Anyhow... just as you Irish hate being called English or Kiwi's being called Aussies, and maybe you American's hate being called Canadian... this is an opportunity to tell them a bit about yourself, and where you are from and about the differences that make you a Scott or French Canadian.

2) Do you like Japanese girls?
Of course I do... I had never actually seen one until I arrived in Japan. But, when asked this question by co-workers, students and strangers on the street, rather than pandering to Japanese superiority where they want to ensure that everyone knows that Japanese women are 'very beautiful', I would answer: "No."
Gasp!
I would explain (once they picked themselves up from the floor—shock because I was either gay--Horrors! he says sarcastically, or that I don't like "Japanese" girls) that I don't really care where a person is from. If they are attractive to me and smart and funny, then I like them. I don't care if they are Japanese or Canadian or Russian. I just like women. Definitely women over girls. Feel free to correct that part of the sentence.
That, folks, is how you educate and internationalize all at the same time. Of course... some of you guys really only do like Japanese women.
For you women out there... I have no idea how to properly answer this. If you are asked if you like 'Japanese men", and you answer "yes, I like men", will you suddenly be labeled a 'slut' or worse, suddenly make yourself available to every pick-up line from Japanese guys?
No idea...
It might be best, if you are interested in dating on your own terms, to say that you have a boyfriend back home. It's my opinion.... but as mentioned, I have no real idea what you should say...
Now... as for being gay, lesbian or other... dammit... Japan is making strides, but they are still backwards (as a whole) in acceptance... just as every other country on this planet is... some care, some don't.
It's up to you, of course... I'm just saying the Japanese may not be as tolerable of your sexual predilections as what you are used to back home. Fair warning, okay?
Now... having said that... my wife has a cousin who has been living in Japan for over 30 years. Gay dude living somewhere in Japan with his gay lover. Happy? I hope so. Safe? I hope so. Hassled? I hope not... but his parents couldn't handle his being gay, so he left and really has avoided all contact with them. Why Japan? Well... that juts happened to be where he had traveled first to teach and met someone special...
Is he out of the closet in Japan? No idea. I never met him... only learning of him after I left Japan...

3) Do you like Japanese beer?
This only sounds like a stupid question. Beer is beer, right? D'uh. No. For six years prior to arriving in Japan, I had been legally drinking beer. I would go to a bar I knew in downtown Toronto and would order their beers from around the world.
As such... I could honestly answer that: "Yes, I like beer. Japanese beer has an interesting taste and not all Japanese beers taste the same, of course. I prefer Lager over Ale... and like Kirin Lager... though I am looking forward to trying as many different Japanese beers as possible." Here I was diplomatic, but I want them to know that the term "Japanese Beer" is pretty open-ended. I will also tell them about all of the different beers from around the world that I have drunk. I guess I'm pretty worldly after all...
And... for goodness sake... while Bud Light is certainly an enjoyable beer, try a Guinness or a Stella Artois or a Blanche De Chambly or a Heineken or an Elephant Beer, Bishop's Tipple, or Jamaican Red Stripe or El Diablo or Steamwhistle... expand your taste buds. You're going to need to do that in Japan anyway.

4) Do you like Japanese rice?
It's rice. It's rice-flavored. How is Japanese rice better than any other rice? Despite my India heritage with ancestors rolling over in their grave, I was a rice neophyte.
I ate it, but wanting to be considered Canadian, I didn't eat a lot of it for fear of being lumped into a stereotype curry eater. I sure missed out on a lot of good food while growing up.
But... apparently there is Japanese rice, American rice, Indian rice, sticky rice and non-sticky rice and short-grained, medium-grained and long-grain rice, as well as puffed rice and wild rice and who knows what else.
But really... the Japanese do NOT want to know your answer. They don't. They already know what they are going to say... that Japanese rice is very delicious and better than ever other type of rice.
Yeah... like they would know. The Japanese, to a man, have probably only ever eaten Japanese rice. How could they compare it to other rice varieties? They can't. It's just them trying to maintain some Japanese superiority.
It doesn't even matter to them that countries around the world grow the same variety of Japanese rice... or that it is often exported to Japan... I think the Japanese know this even if they don't want to know this.

5) Can you use Japanese chopsticks?
No. No I can't. Japanese chopsticks? WTF? I had never used chopsticks in my life, but after two weeks in Japan, my boss Hanazaki-san taught me how—first training me with pencils before allowing me to move up to the real thing.
Me or you not knowing how to use chopsticks helps perpetuate Japanese superiority. The Japanese really do like to think they are better... or at least an individual race...
It really pissed off or confused them all when I could say that "yes, I can use chopsticks... can you?"
I even learned how to use chopsticks to pick up dry beans and soup. You'll figure the soup part out yourself... but the dry beans... that takes skill. And I can use chopsticks to eat faster than most people on this planet, though the indigestion tells me I should slow down.
But... Japanese chopsticks? Yup. There are even Korean and Chinese chopsticks... and I bet there are Vietnamese and Cambodian and Thai and Laotian chopsticks... So... the question is technically a good one... but you can before that it is being asked to see if you have any of the skills of a Japanese person.

I should state that my bosses at the Ohtawara Board of Education office were not aghast that I couldn't use chopsticks... they were smart enough and cool enough to note that I wasn't Japanese and perhaps had never developed a need to know how to use chopsticks. That was true. They simply taught me. No one made fun of me. They already knew that I was a recent college and university graduate with a degree in political science and one in journalism and had worked as a reporter with one of the top papers in North America... granted only for three months or so... but being a reporter... that meant respect... and respect that I would give that up to come to their country to work with their youth. I was told that. They were impressed that I would give up a possible career to work in Japan... that's something I think Japan no longer is impressed by... though I think that has more to do with the fact that the people going to Japan nowadays more often than not do not have any work experience.
Personally... I do think that having some work experience is necessary in being able to work effectively in a foreign country. But... sometimes, the right person with the proper skills, can get away without the work experience.
Anyhow... my bosses were very keen on helping me become acclimatized to Japan... and they were very helpful early on... and as the months turned to years, I was afforded more and more autonomy.
You have to realize that I arrived in Japan without any knowledge of how to live on my own... this was my first time for that... so I didn't mind the help... still... even from the get-go... my BOE offered me a lot more freedom to do my own thing... they gave me the rope... and it was up to myself to not hang myself with it. The more I proved willing to do things the Japanese way (with honor and respect), the more I was left alone...
I think.
It's possible someone was charged full-time with watching me...

6) Do you like Japanese crackers?
It's food, right? So... yeah. Japanese crackers are made with... surprise... rice. Whatever, man. "Yes, I like Japanese crackers."

7) Do you have a car?
Being from Canada—as opposed to the U.S.— certainly 20 years ago owning a Japanese car was no big deal. Japanese brand cars in Canada and the US are now made in one of those two countries, so you are 'buying local'. But I owned a Mazda 323 (white of course), which was originally a Mazda GLC but is now rebranded as a Mazda 3. In Japan, that car (only available in white - so I achieved instant superstar status) was known as a Mazda (Matsuda) Familia. Zoom-zoom.
My father's care was a Toyota Camry wagon... not white, which when I showed a photograph of it caused all sorts of fun rumblings within the various school classrooms.
My point in telling you this question is to show off a Japanese prejudice... an honest and for real prejudice.
I described the Hyundai car a girlfriend owned... a car that is Korean... and man... it was quiet in the classroom... I was pulled aside after class and informed that a Korean car is not something any Japanese person would want to own because it is an inferior vehicle. And... I was told, the Japanese do not like anything Korean.
Wow... you could have knocked me down with a bowl of kimchi. I never could understand why there was this hatred of the Koreans amongst the Japanese, because I always read history whereby the Japanese were the ones who always seemed to be starting crap with the Koreans... wars, battles, murders... it was the Japanese hating something foreign to themselves...
I restored order when I mentioned that a previous vehicle owned by my father was a Nissan Stanza. I was told that Honda and Toyota were the two better class car companies, though I'm not convinced of that statement at all.
I will tell you for free, however, that my 2005 Mazda Tribute SUV (what I call the SUK for reasons you will soon understand) died last week after I took it in to the mechanic's garage and discovered that the left rear shock tower holding the wheel to the car had rotted away from the body.... the garage said the car is undriveable and unfixable. It is ready for parts and the junkyard. I should note that there is no rust anywhere else on the body... just this one crucial place on the car... a car that never had an accident... it is obviously a defect in the manufacture of the car. Thanks for a piece of crap, Mazda.

8) What do you like sex?
Pretty much every foreigner has heard this question in Japan. Of course I know what they mean... but don't you love the way it is phrased? I do correct the question with a smile, but I always answer it honestly: "Yes!"
The Japanese love honesty, and I think this question is just a feeling out question to see if you are a prude or not. I'm no prude... and since it was more or less an English question, I answer it truthfully. Now... owing to circumstances or religious sensibilities... or simple moral prudence... you may not wish to answer the question... instead... tell them why this is an inappropriate question to ask. Do so honestly and with dignity. I bet you will get a bow and an apology from whomever asked it.

9) Do you play swim?
Damn... "Do you play..." soccer, golf, baseball, basketball... damn near every sport... that question works... but not swimming. Not wrestling. And not sex.
I would get the "Do you play sex?" question at least once a week for three years. I know what they mean... but how do I answer the question?
"I don't 'play' sex. It's very serious to me.
None of your business.
Yeah, I play sex. Got a sister?"
You have to at least teach them the proper sentence. I would do that... they would ask the question and because I was a pal of my students, I would tell them the truth... you guys have read my blogs... what the fug do I have to hide?

10) How big?
They mean the size of one's penis... and the only ones asking this were the male junior high school students.
I would always laugh and say "Big". It's all relative, right? They would then point to their own crotch and say "Small-small!"
Why would you do that? Whatever... I appreciate the bonding experience... but this sure as hell doesn't show Japanese superiority.
It's all quite strange, when you think of it. The Japanese are these fierce economic masters... war machine makers in Asia... and yet... when they come up to a 'westerner' (I'm including you Aussies and Kiwis, here, of course), the Japanese appear humble... like our imposing size frightens them... and here I am talking about stature, not penis size. I only wish I could have scared them with that. Then again... time, like size, is all relative to the observer. Einstein more or less said that.

Obviously any question a Japanese person asks you that has the modifier 'Japanese' in front of an object(?)... (Fug, I can read, write, speak and spell English better than most people, but I have no idea how to explain grammar, because I simply don't know it very well)... anyhow... citing points #2-6 as examples... you can see that those types of question are meant to show Japanese superiority... even if they don't realize it.

Sometimes what seems like a stupid question is just meant to bridge an awkward moment or shows the limited scope of their English-speaking abilities. Think about it... pretty much the first thing everyone learns in a foreign language after 'hello' or 'goodbye' are all the naughty words. I can even get my face slapped nine of out 10 times in Swedish! Ahh... but that 10th time... that's magic (Det är magiskt). Even I can't believe who I've dated, sometimes...

11) Three sizes, please.
This is not a question... or even a complete sentence... but I have heard Japanese students walk up to a female AET and ask for this information.
What are the three sizes being requested?
Why the little perverts want to know your measurements: Bust-Waist-Hips.
Interesting, eh? You see the kids as being so grim half-the-time, and then they come out and ask such
a personal question.
Hell's bells! I can't even begin to tell you how many women I have dated (truthfully), or if I ever knew their measurements. I can tell you I never asked... and perhaps aside from one exotic dancer and maybe one prostitute I actually dated without paying for, they never offered to tell me.
Maybe I was able to guess a cup size and perhaps I was playfully chided for my skill in doing so, but... it's so personal, isn't it?
Now... just so you recall... in Japan, measurements are done using the Metric system... so even if you have the chutzpah to say you are a 36C-22-36 (and we should meet!), the kids will laugh because this is a country where inches don't mean anything to them... and you have just given the measurements, in their mind, to a rather curvy kid's doll.
Regardless... this is the opportunity to internationalize, not to show your moral outrage and disgust. Internalize those things and tell other AETs this... but you... you are a teacher. Teach them that in (add country here), and even here in Japan, it is rude to ask such personal questions about one's body. You can ask a woman about height, but certainly not about her weight... unless that is someone you are dating... and even then... you may never get a straight answer. Some women I have kissed are upfront and honest, others, despite having kissed simply feel it is none of my damn business.
And besides... I think for women... they are afraid to tell men what size they are (re: clothing) for fear that their man will purchase clothes for them. Aside from a terrycloth robe, a man should probably never attempt to purchase women's clothing... if it's for yourself, however, go for it... I don't judge. But for a woman... us men simply have no clue. Even when they drop us a clue, we will screw it up somehow. Yes... I am speaking from experience. How to survive women...

12) Do you like Japanese judo?
Is there any other type of judo? No. But when I answered 'Yes' and explained that I play judo, I mean, I learned judo as a boy for a couple of years, I'm was invited to join every school's junior high judo club, where every fricking 12-year-old is a blackbelt and could kick my ass by breathing on me. Still... it's good to see which kids you should not pick on in class.
The same question was asked about Japanese kendo (fencing) and Japanese sumo (wrestling) and Japanese kyudo (archery)... which are all quite different from western forms. Excluding sumo, I spent three years learning the other two sports... for the Japanese, being a multi-sport person is not done really... maybe some track and field and a team sport... but that's when they call you a 'sportsumahn' (sportsman).
Again... why the need to ad the modified 'Japanese'? It's also to instruct YOU, the foreigner, that certain things are Japanese. It's a pride in ownership, as well as superiority... you can take it any way you wish...

13) Do you like Japanese kimono?
They are bery beautiful. Sure... I suppose they are... but again, I didn't really think that there might be a form of kimono in Korea or China... China, sure... they don't call them kimono, though... and Korea? They do have some for weddings.
But I'm a guy... what the hell do I know about kimono? I know that when a woman wears a kimono and I want to have sex with her, that I will spend about 20 minutes trying to unwrap her.
The question is meant to determine a bit of your knowledge of Japan. I don't think it has anything to do with superiority. I think it's to establish whether or not you, the savage gaijin, possess any of the gentle arts that the Japanese are so fond of.
The Japanese enjoy viewing hanami... cherry blossoms (and getting drunk under them), as well as watching the leaves change color in the autumn... it's a way of communing with nature. To show your gentler side... something I bet the Japanese feel we foreigners lack.
Oh... the compliments I received when guests would see how I arranged some cut flowers in a dish (with a spiky base to hold them erect)... they wondered where I had learned the Japanese art of ikebana (Japanese flower arranging).... where did I take the classes... who was my master? I'm a gaijin... I just know what looks good to me.
So... either my guests were being exceeding polite at praising my ikebana skills (a very distinct possibility), or they figured no foreigner... certainly not a male foreigner... would show such deft skills with flowers.
I like beautiful things.
And... if, as a man I have to go out and slaughter some weeds to make my apartment smell nice and look nicer, than I will gladly pay some merchant good hardly-earned money to go out and kill some pretty little innocent flowers on my behalf.
Death to flowers. Long live beauty. For a week, I hope.   
The Japanese spend decades mastering the techniques of sado (the Japanese tea ceremony) or shodō (Japanese calligraphy)... in an attempt to achieve perfection that they know in their hearts is unattainable.
The Japanese crave beauty... but I'm sure we do too...but while I can appreciate clothing and its aesthetics, I'm hardly an expert on Japanese kimono and wouldn't know a good one from a bad one, but I do know when one is beautiful. In my own opinion, of course. I hardly need a discourse in kimono to know what I like... but perhaps the Japanese do?

14) Do you like Japanese sushi?
I had only eaten sushi for the first time three days before leaving for Japan... but it's food... so I like it.
But... the Japanese have heard that many foreigners do not like Japanese sushi, thinking we believe it is raw fish. Sashimi is sliced raw fish. Sushi is something different. You can look it up.
My friend Jeff hated Japanese food. Why he wanted to marry a Japanese woman (and did) confuses me, because he was a guy who would bring his own deli meat sandwiches wherever he went or would eat at Dunkin Donuts everywhere in Japan. In his defense, I ate at a lot of Japanese McDonalds... but I would have the Teriyaki burger...  
This is a Japanese superiority question... Trust me... The Japanese love it when you say you love anything Japanese. It just proves that they were right in being born Japanese. But, they understand when you say you are unable to do something Japanese. It's because you are a foreigner... and not Japanese.
This is your opportunity to show them that you can do whatever a Japanese person can... it's why I ate and learned to enjoy natto (rotting fermented soy beans). It's why I eat eel (unagi) whenever I can. It's why I did a lot of things in Japan... to try and fit in... and even though I never would (and you won't either), the Japanese appreciate the effort. Make the effort.

15) Can you use Japanese Chopsticks?
Yes... I already had this question up above... but it bears repeating.
As mentioned, when I arrived in Japan I could not use chopsticks (hashi). But by the time my school visits started, I certainly could.
I should state for the record, however, that every single time I was asked this question, I was using Japanese chopsticks!
So... is it a dumb question? Or is it someone making conversation? Are they just surprised that I can use chopsticks? Sure to all three... but I think they really are surprised to learn that foreigners can use their eating utensils with the same dexterity as themselves. I think our use of chopsticks weakens the Japanese resolve that they are special.

The Japanese are special, or there wouldn't be so many people writing and reading about them. But, the Japanese... well... they really do like to feel special...

So do you.

We may not be as upfront regarding our bragging, but trust me... you see other cultures and peoples and you want to scream at them sometimes about why they are wrong and you are right... about why your way of life is better.

Look... the Japanese education system had identified some 40 years ago, that its students lacked proper English skills, figuring bringing in some native speakers would help everyone involved get better.

But, the Japanese education system is rooted in strict protocols and no matter what you do, it won't make a huge difference in changing their behavior... at least not one you will see... but maybe years from now... perhaps the then-adult junior high school student will recall the impression you made on him or her and will slowly affect changes within Japanese society.

Maybe.

In my opinion, this is the best we can hope for.

You will not go to Japan and change the way they think... even Gandhi and Hitler had their nay-sayers. I can't believe I put those two in the same sentence to make my point, but really... it's true.

But... perhaps you can add to the way they think.

That old adage is correct... there are no stupid questions... just opportunities to learn and teach.

It is an Exchange programme, after all.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
PS: Did I really use 'Hitler' twice in this blog to make a point? 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Beginner JETs - Bring Money

I must apologize.

I made a mistake in assuming that things on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme were the same now as they were when it first began back in 1987. 

It's not. And not for the better, either.

I arrived in Japan in 1990, as part of the second-tier of fresh-faced foreigners looking to impart the awesomeness that is internationalization upon the rosy-cheeked youth of Japan. I stayed for three years, and I think I did a pretty decent job of telling them all about the world outside of Japan.

Back then, Board of Educations (BOE)/Cities participating on the JET Programme wanted to make an excellent impression. They knew you were coming to Japan from a foreign country... no friends... alien work environment... and as such, they paid a wage greater than what they paid their own teachers (oh yes, indeed), set you up in housing... essentially took care of you... protected you... made sure you lived to tell the world about how cool Japan was/is.

That was the plan - at least back then.

My mistake, it seems, is telling you fresh-faced young adults of 2014 that things are going to be rosy for you upon setting foot in your well-to-do clothing in what I know will be a hot and humid day in Japan.

Yes... you may or may not have a wonderful rife in Japan.

First... in a pair of blogs I wrote first for women and then men going to Japan on JET, I meekly suggested you bring about ¥50,000, which is about Cdn/US $500. That's a fair chunk of change. But... I was wrong.

I suggested you bring that amount because although you will be set up in your new city, town, village or hamlet with a subsidized apartment (or if lucky, a house), furnishings and food--that since pay day is a month away and you have a week or three off until school starts for you, that you might want to have some reserve cash for some sightseeing or sampling local cuisine... whatever.

For many of you, this is the case.

Still... for many others, you are going to need a butt load more money to survive that first month. Somewhere in the neighborhood of  ¥250,000 ($2,500)... and this is the actual amount recommended by JET.

Apparently not every place that accepts a JET participant (you) is as thoughtful as others are.

1) Housing: You may have to pay your rent up front. Key money, could also be requested, which is a pseudo-legal 'gift' of money you give to your landlord, consisting of anywhere from two to six months of actual rent... and please note that since it is a 'gift', it doesn't actually count as rent paid. Really.
Truthfully, initial rent and key monies if 'requested' or 'suggested', it's my opinion that this type of standard Japanese rental behavior should be undertaken by your Board of Education.It is not. Not always. YOU may have to pay it.
2) Furnishings: I had a massive three-bedroom family apartment with two balconies, L-D-K (Living room, dining and kitchen), a western style toilet and a shower. I also had a washer/dryer... and a clothes line on a balcony... though with the huge spiders always frequenting my northern view, I ended up purchasing a spider-armed laundry hanger for inside and kept my clothes to dry in the room I never went into. I had a nice, wood dining room table with a pair of chairs, a couch, a kotatsu (heater/coffer table), carpeting in every room except the bedroom which was done in standard tatami mats. I eventually ditched the futon for a Queen-sized bed and furnishings. I had book cases, a standard Japanese unilingual TV on a TV stand, an alarm clock, another long coffee table. I had a dish cabinet for all the dishes and glasses that were provided. I had all the cooking implements and eating utensils I would need, I had a stove (but no oven), sink, fridge (it's small - think hotel bar fridge--in Japan you go shopping every day or two), but I had a convention microwave oven that I could use to bake or nuke or warm my sake rice wine in the winter. I had kitchen cupboard space. I had a writing desk and chair - a large wooden table - by the western balcony. In my third bedroom, I had a huge clothes drawer - six drawers... a huge liquor cabinet (empty - for the first few weeks), and a sliding set of doors to hide my closet where I could hang my fancy clothes and coats. The weirdest thing for me was the gas water heater that I had to turn to get hot water for doing the dishes or for a shower.
I had every single creature comfort of home basically, except that I was in Japan.
Back in 1990-1993, although I had more and perhaps better quality stuff than some other AETs in Tochigi-ken... in fact better than most people on JET in Japan... I know that damn near everyone who arrived in Japan got the basics of living furnishings. You had a fridge, stove, bathroom, some sort of tub or shower, cooking utensils, bed/futon and bedding... whatever... stuff that would enable one to survive.
BUT... in reading various blogs and books by former JETs, I have found that some had to purchase a water heater... or a futon... or bedding... a TV... forks and knives... stuff that was once freely given to the humble guest to the country is now not.
Personally, I think it's because there are new towns and cities becoming involved in JET and rather than being told what they had to do for JET participants, they are offered suggestions. They are supposed to provide lodgings for participants, but in their mind that means that they have FOUND lodgings, but it is up to the participant (you) to cover all costs such as initial rent or key monies.
It sucks. I know and you know that JET just might be your first ever job... and that money is tight... and how the hell will you survive. I don't know. Apparently the official JET handbook recommends you take with you some ¥250,000. That's $2,500!
That's nuts... but it has become the grim reality in JET.
With my cash in hand converted to Yen, and my empty credit card, I suppose I had that and more... I just didn't need that much.
3) Transportation: Depending on your situation, you may need to utilize a train to get where you are going, and are expected to pay for such transportation out of your own pocket.

I was lucky enough to be able to receive rides (in a car) from various school teachers or could ride my bicycle to the closer schools.
My Ohtawara-shi (in Tochigi-ken) Board of Education had a bike for me to use... but it was made for a very small person... and while I'm not huge, I'm bigger than the average Japanese. So... upon noticing that my red girls bicycle was unseemly for a larger than average male foreigner, they had one of the hundreds of bicycle repair shops in my small city of 50,000 people construct a bicycle for me from various machines... and lo... I had an 18-speed bicycle (with a basket and a bell - a necessity, trust me) that was freshly painted metallic blue... plus I received a bicycle chain and lock.
Apparently some people nowadays do NOT even get a bike, let alone have one made for them.

It's not discussed - not ever, but at least when I was in Japan, the BOE was supposed to set aside around  ¥100,000 ($1,000) every year to be spent on the AET assistant English teacher) any way they saw fit. It was supposed to be on things they absolutely required to make their stay in Japan more enjoyable.  

Things I did not pay for:

1) Tatami mats. I had to pay for new tatami mats after I wrecked mine. I didn't dry my futon out enough and the dampness caused mold and mildew and mushrooms to grow under it. I paid for the new mats... well... actually... I was supposed to have paid for it, but my bosses said 'never mind' and covered it for me... that came out of the stipend the Board of Education had allotted to spend on me. I included this just to show you that my BOE was pretty damn nice.
2) JET-sponsored events: For major conferences and such, the BOE would allow you to pay for your travel to an event, could actually purchase the travel tickets for you, or might forward money to you to ensure you got were you were going. Your hotel was paid for by them... even the food at the events was covered. Phone calls from the hotel, drinks and foods outside the conference, dance clubs... that was on you... but really, the entire JET conference was covered.
3) Bicycle. This was how I got around town... they paid for a bicycle to be built for me. I thought the basket on the front was gay... but I quickly learned how practical it was to have.
4) Air-Conditioning. After nearly killing myself by using a kerosene heater with the doors and windows closed - it was effing freezing! Why stay warm by letting in the cold... my bosses realized it would not look good on them if I was to die while under their care. They spent some of my set-aside money on a AC/Heating unit, as well as the installation of it... that enabled me to stop shivering or sweating.
5) Bedding. Ooh yeah... that tatami mat accident... I also ruined my futon... so apparently the city got someone to donate a queen-sized bed for me, but the BOE did pay for all the new queen-sized sheets. All my girlfriends and partners for the evening were very thrilled with never having to endure tatami mat burns on their knees or backside as long as they were with me.
6) Key Money. We were told right from the get go before we left for Japan to NOT pay any key money. That option may not exist anymore, as some of you may have to pay it. It is a gift of money to the landlord.
7) Advance Rent. Some places want you to pay rent six months in advance. I pity you.
8) Basic Furniture. See above.
9) Initial stocking of the Fridge. It's a small fridge, but I had milk, and orange juice and bread... and hell, they took me shopping to buy what I wanted... but I did pay for that. That's more than fair. 
10) Hanko - for all official signings... my first hanko was paid for by the BOE.
11) Banking. The BOE took me to the Ashikaga Ginko (Ashikaga Bank) in downtown Ohtawara, set up an account for me for my direct deposit paycheck... and got me a bank card... just like I had/have back in Toronto. I could take money out from the bank machines anytime I needed it up to ¥50,000 ($500) on any given day... but not on national holidays. Everything would be closed. Be warned. This was a bank card - NOT a debit card. I'm sure you can get one of those now, though.
12) Airfare. This was paid for by the BOE for me to come to Japan... and for me to leave Japan when my contract was up.

Things I paid for:

1) television cable and telephone, local and long-distance.
2) daily English newspaper
3) apartment rent - though it was also partially paid for by my board of education... I paid the equivalent of $327 a month for my huge place. The full monthly price must have been over $1,000 a month. Keep in mind that if I was in Tokyo, a place like mine would have been over $3500 a month. Come on... I had two balconies. But then again... I was in a city whose name translates into Big-Rice Field-Field (Oh-ta-wara).
4) food and drinks and toiletries
5) clothing
6) bilingual television and bilingual VCR.
7) stereo system with shortwave... I never picked up anything except women and a heavy bar tab.
8) personal sight-seeing trips
9) booze and nights-on-the-town (see item #7)
10) school lunches. I was apparently offered the opportunity to eat lunch with the students at my schools, but, like the students, I had to pay into it. I have no idea what the cost was - probably something like  ¥3,000 ($30) a month... so no big deal. I also paid into my Friday office day lunches, which I gladly did, because he had decent bento lunches.
11) Business cards (meishi)... a Japanese tradition of self-introduction. I created my own when I got back to Canada and, of course, use them regularly as a writer when I go out to interview people for my work magazine. Back then, it cost about ¥4,500 ($45) for 500 cards... and I ran through them twice in three years. Everyone wants something from you, and a meishi is pretty personal to the average Japanese person.
12) Hanko: This is a ink stamp set that has your name (written backwards in katakana) that you use to 'sign' official documents. It's all stupid to me... forge a signature? All you need to do is create a hanko with the appropriate letters on it... ink it and stamp it. Legally binding. Give me a signature any day. Still... I eventually had a hanko maker create a new hanko for me for ¥45,000... a beautiful stone one with a carving of a komaiinu (lion dog) on top, with a one-inch (25mm) x one-inch base stamp of my name - first and last - in kanji I found to best describe myself phonetically. Yes... I paid $450 for it. I'm unsure if the bosses were impressed that I loved Japanese culture so much or if I was stupid or if they were paying me too damn much money and if so, why weren't they getting any omiyage (see below) after my vacation trips around Japan.
13) Bicycle repair. Yeah... My bicycle... I got a flat, I had it fixed. It cost ¥250 ($2.50). No big whoop. You look after things that are being loaned to you - even the tatami mats.
14) Collectibles: I collect sports cards here in Canada, so when Japan issued its first ever set of baseball cards in 1992 and 1993, I was all over it. The same for the inaugural set of J-League soccer cards. By the way... I have a Suzuki Ichiro rookie card... a real rookie card from Japan when he was with the Orix Blue Wave. I also bought a lot of original Japanese ukiyo-e art prints from 1867 and earlier. And a couple of netsuke carvings, one made of ivory and one of whale bone. I also bought coins and stamps as I collect those, too. I probably spent several thousands of dollars on the art. More even.
15) Mail. Yeah... I mailed a lot of letters in the days before the Internet. I'm sure most of you will be using e-mail, though.
16) Shipment of Items Back Home: I came with a lot of stuff, including a set of keyboards and a clarinet and I left with two keyboards, a clarinet, samurai swords, ninja stars... well... you get the idea... I accumulated a lot of stuff in three years... as such, aside from a small sampling of clothing I packed for my flight home, I shipped everything else back home via ship... I paid for a guy to come over and pack everything and ship it out for me. It was arranged by my BOE, but I paid for it. It arrived about 45 days later. I'm still unpacking it today, 21 years later.
17) Taxes... yes, I paid some city taxes.. fine. No big whoop. I even paid the NHK television station tax... but after the first year, they went to the BOE and collected it from them. It sucks because I never watched the NHK shows except for sumo wrestling and baseball games because every program was in Japanese. But whatever... It was ¥3,000 ($30).
18) Personal Travel... I paid for my train tickets, bus tickets, subway ticket for all personal travel in and around Japan. Food and hotels, too.
19) Office and School Parties. Known as enkai (party), these get-togethers are a way for people to let down their hair and bond with each other. Do NOT skip out on these. Ever. You will be requested to contribute some amount to the party... truthfully... I never had to pay for a school party, but I did contribute to the twice a year BOE parties. Lots of fun. I paid around  ¥8,000 ($80) each time, but I suspect that was because I was a hebbi durinkah (heavy drinker) and drank more than my fair share of booze. I also ate a hell of a lot beforehand to soak up the booze. 

Things I should have paid for:
1) thank-you gifts to the people who gave me rides in to the schools. Never even thought about it until just now... like I assumed my profound thanks were enough.
2) omiyage (presents) every time I went on vacation for my office co-workers... a Japanese tradition, and I didn't do it (enough).
3) New Year's cards... I received, but never sent out. I never knew what year it was half the time anyways.

That's pretty much it.

Nowadays, you will also probably pay for an Internet connection... and through this, you can watch television on your laptop or phone or whatever the hell you do with it. I still don't have a cell phone or smart phone. I'm one of seven people in Canada who lack one. I don't feel left out.

So... your experience will differ from mine... I'm telling you what I paid for and what I didn't pay for... I really hope you don't have to pay for such basics as key money or rent advances or furniture, or like some... for a water heater or a bicycle. That's just ridiculous.

I assume that the BOE's still have monies in their coffers to pay for a lot of AET necessities... but Japan... well, not every BOE is as generous as some... I was treated very well by my Ohtawara Board of Education office. My buddies were, too. We all had a great time, and few if any complained miserably about the cheapness of their BOE. Some did after seeing how Matthew and I were set up, but they weren't hard done by.

I obviously spent more money than I earned on the JET Programme... mostly because I earned extra money from teaching an English language class once a week for the Ohtawara International Friendship Society... my BOE didn't mind. As well, in my third year I taught lots of English conversation classes and somehow saved $8,000 in a six month span... and that's after I spent around $1,500 shipping my goodies home by shipping container and paying the taxes on it.

I hope you have a great experience in Japan... but be forewarned that it will differ from everyone else's.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Japanese Fairy Tales: The Quarrel Of The Monkey And The Crab

Here's another Japanese Fairy Tale that was translated to English back in 1908 by Yei Theodora Ozaki. in her book appropriately entitled: Japanese Fairy Tales, containing 22 stories. I will present them all and then move on to some other Fairy Tales I have uncovered.

The reason for my presentation is to offer you all a chance to see how Japan used to think, and to a certain degree, still think. These stories offer a brilliant scoop into the inner workings of Japan.

The Japanese always claim that no foreigner can truly understand what is in the heart of the Japanese, but truthfully, after living there, reading about Japan, talking about Japan to the Japanese, and even understanding simple innocuous things like its children's fairy tales... we, the foreigner, get a little bit closer to figuring out just what it means to be Japanese.

In the tale below, we see a moral struggle showing Japan's warrior penchant for revenge... for love of family... and more. What do you see in the story called さるかに合戦 (saru kani gassen), or the:

The Quarrel Of The Monkey And The Crab

Long, long ago, one bright autumn day in Japan, it happened, that a pink-faced monkey and a yellow crab were playing together along the bank of a river. As they were running about, the crab found a rice-dumpling and the monkey a persimmon-seed.

The crab picked up the rice-dumpling and showed it to the monkey, saying:
"Look what a nice thing I have found!"
Then the monkey held up his persimmon-seed and said:
"I also have found something good! Look!"

Now though the monkey is always very fond of persimmon fruit, he had no use for the seed he had just found. The persimmon-seed is as hard and uneatable as a stone. He, therefore, in his greedy nature, felt very envious of the crab's nice dumpling, and he proposed an exchange. The crab naturally did not see why he should give up his prize for a hard stone-like seed, and would not consent to the monkey's proposition.

Then the cunning monkey began to persuade the crab, saying:
"How unwise you are not to think of the future! Your rice-dumpling can be eaten now, and is certainly much bigger than my seed; but if you sow this seed in the ground it will soon grow and become a great tree in a few years, and bear an abundance of fine ripe persimmons year after year. If only I could show it to you then with the yellow fruit hanging on its branches! Of course, if you don't believe me I shall sow it myself; though I am sure, later on, you will be very sorry that you did not take my advice."

The simple-minded crab could not resist the monkey's clever persuasion. He at last gave in and consented to the monkey's proposal, and the exchange was made. The greedy monkey soon gobbled up the dumpling, and with great reluctance gave up the persimmon-seed to the crab. He would have liked to keep that too, but he was afraid of making the crab angry and of being pinched by his sharp scissor-like claws. They then separated, the monkey going home to his forest trees and the crab to his stones along the river-side. As soon as the crab reached home he put the persimmon-seed in the ground as the monkey had told him.

In the following spring the crab was delighted to see the shoot of a young tree push its way up through the ground. Each year it grew bigger, till at last it blossomed one spring, and in the following autumn bore some fine large persimmons. Among the broad smooth green leaves the fruit hung like golden balls, and as they ripened they mellowed to a deep orange. It was the little crab's pleasure to go out day by day and sit in the sun and put out his long eyes in the same way as a snail puts out its horn, and watch the persimmons ripening to perfection.

"How delicious they will be to eat!" he said to himself.

At last, one day, he knew the persimmons must be quite ripe and he wanted very much to taste one. He made several attempts to climb the tree, in the vain hope of reaching one of the beautiful persimmons hanging above him; but he failed each time, for a crab's legs are not made for climbing trees but only for running along the ground and over stones, both of which he can do most cleverly. In his dilemma he thought of his old playmate the monkey, who, he knew, could climb trees better than any one else in the world. He determined to ask the monkey to help him, and set out to find him.

Running crab-fashion up the stony river bank, over the pathways into the shadowy forest, the crab at last found the monkey taking an afternoon nap in his favorite pine-tree, with his tail curled tight around a branch to prevent him from falling off in his dreams. He was soon wide awake, however, when he heard himself called, and eagerly listening to what the crab told him. When he heard that the seed which he had long ago exchanged for a rice-dumpling had grown into a tree and was now bearing good fruit, he was delighted, for he at once devised a cunning plan which would give him all the persimmons for himself.

He consented to go with the crab to pick the fruit for him. When they both reached the spot, the monkey was astonished to see what a fine tree had sprung from the seed, and with what a number of ripe persimmons the branches were loaded.

He quickly climbed the tree and began to pluck and eat, as fast as he could, one persimmon after another. Each time he chose the best and ripest he could find, and went on eating till he could eat no more. Not one would he give to the poor hungry crab waiting below, and when he had finished there was little but the hard, unripe fruit left.

You can imagine the feelings of the poor crab after waiting patiently, for so long as he had done, for the tree to grow and the fruit to ripen, when he saw the monkey devouring all the good persimmons. He was so disappointed that he ran round and round the tree calling to the monkey to remember his promise. The monkey at first took no notice of the crab's complaints, but at last he picked out the hardest, greenest persimmon he could find and aimed it at the crab's head. The persimmon is as hard as stone when it is unripe. The monkey's missile struck home and the crab was sorely hurt by the blow. Again and again, as fast as he could pick them, the monkey pulled off the hard persimmons and threw them at the defenseless crab till he dropped dead, covered with wounds all over his body. There he lay a pitiful sight at the foot of the tree he had himself planted.

When the wicked monkey saw that he had killed the crab he ran away from the spot as fast as he could, in fear and trembling, like a coward as he was.

Now the crab had a son who had been playing with a friend not far from the spot where this sad work had taken place. On the way home he came across his father dead, in a most dreadful condition—his head was smashed and his shell broken in several places, and around his body lay the unripe persimmons which had done their deadly work. At this dreadful sight the poor young crab sat down and wept.

But when he had wept for some time he told himself that this crying would do no good; it was his duty to avenge his father's murder, and this he determined to do. He looked about for some clue which would lead him to discover the murderer. Looking up at the tree he noticed that the best fruit had gone, and that all around lay bits of peel and numerous seeds strewn on the ground as well as the unripe persimmons which had evidently been thrown at his father. Then he understood that the monkey was the murderer, for he now remembered that his father had once told him the story of the rice-dumpling and the persimmon-seed. The young crab knew that monkeys liked persimmons above all other fruit, and he felt sure that his greed for the coveted fruit had been the cause of the old crab's death. Alas!

He at first thought of going to attack the monkey at once, for he burned with rage. Second thoughts, however, told him that this was useless, for the monkey was an old and cunning animal and would be hard to overcome. He must meet cunning with cunning and ask some of his friends to help him, for he knew it would be quite out of his power to kill him alone.

The young crab set out at once to call on the mortar, his father's old friend, and told him of all that had happened. He besought the mortar with tears to help him avenge his father's death. The mortar was very sorry when he heard the woeful tale and promised at once to help the young crab punish the monkey to death. He warned him that he must be very careful in what he did, for the monkey was a strong and cunning enemy. The mortar now sent to fetch the bee and the chestnut (also the crab's old friends) to consult them about the matter. In a short time the bee and the chestnut arrived. When they were told all the details of the old crab's death and of the monkey's wickedness and greed, they both gladly consented to help the young crab in his revenge.

After talking for a long time as to the ways and means of carrying out their plans they separated, and Mr. Mortar went home with the young crab to help him bury his poor father.

While all this was taking place the monkey was congratulating himself (as the wicked often do before their punishment comes upon them) on all he had done so neatly. He thought it quite a fine thing that he had robbed his friend of all his ripe persimmons and then that he had killed him. Still, smile as hard as he might, he could not banish altogether the fear of the consequences should his evil deeds be discovered. IF he were found out (and he told himself that this could not be for he had escaped unseen) the crab's family would be sure to bear him hatred and seek to take revenge on him. So he would not go out, and kept himself at home for several days. He found this kind of life, however, extremely dull, accustomed as he was to the free life of the woods, and at last he said:
"No one knows that it was I who killed the crab! I am sure that the old thing breathed his last before I left him. Dead crabs have no mouths! Who is there to tell that I am the murderer? Since no one knows, what is the use of shutting myself up and brooding over the matter? What is done cannot be undone!"

With this he wandered out into the crab settlement and crept about as slyly as possible near the crab's house and tried to hear the neighbors' gossip round about. He wanted to find out what the crabs were saving about their chief's death, for the old crab had been the chief of the tribe. But he heard nothing and said to himself:
"They are all such fools that they don't know and don't care who murdered their chief!"

Little did he know in his so-called "monkey's wisdom" that this seeming unconcern was part of the young crab's plan. He purposely pretended not to know who killed his father, and also to believe that he had met his death through his own fault. By this means he could the better keep secret the revenge on the monkey, which he was meditating.

So the monkey returned home from his walk quite content. He told himself he had nothing now to fear.

One fine day, when the monkey was sitting at home, he was surprised by the appearance of a messenger from the young crab. While he was wondering what this might mean, the messenger bowed before him and said:
"I have been sent by my master to inform you that his father died the other day in falling from a persimmon tree while trying to climb the tree after fruit. This, being the seventh day, is the first anniversary after his death, and my master has prepared a little festival in his father's honor, and bids you come to participate in it as you were one of his best friends. My master hopes you will honor his house with your kind visit."

When the monkey heard these words he rejoiced in his inmost heart, for all his fears of being suspected were now at rest. He could not guess that a plot had just been set in motion against him. He pretended to be very surprised at the news of the crab's death, and said:
"I am, indeed, very sorry to hear of your chief's death. We were great friends as you know. I remember that we once exchanged a rice-dumpling for a persimmon-seed. It grieves me much to think that that seed was in the end the cause of his death. I accept your kind invitation with many thanks. I shall be delighted to do honor to my poor old friend!" And he screwed some false tears from his eyes.

The messenger laughed inwardly and thought, "The wicked monkey is now dropping false tears, but within a short time he shall shed real ones." But aloud he thanked the monkey politely and went home.

When he had gone, the wicked monkey laughed aloud at what he thought was the young crab's innocence, and without the least feeling began to look forward to the feast to be held that day in honor of the dead crab, to which he had been invited. He changed his dress and set out solemnly to visit the young crab.

He found all the members of the crab's family and his relatives waiting to receive and welcome him. As soon as the bows of meeting were over they led him to a hall. Here the young chief mourner came to receive him. Expressions of condolence and thanks were exchanged between them, and then they all sat down to a luxurious feast and entertained the monkey as the guest of honor.

The feast over, he was next invited to the tea-ceremony room to drink a cup of tea. When the young crab had conducted the monkey to the tearoom he left him and retired. Time passed and still he did not return. At last the monkey became impatient. He said to himself:
"This tea ceremony is always a very slow affair. I am tired of waiting so long. I am very thirsty after drinking so much sake at the dinner!"

He then approached the charcoal fire-place and began to pour out some hot water from the kettle boiling there, when something burst out from the ashes with a great pop and hit the monkey right in the neck. It was the chestnut, one of the crab's friends, who had hidden himself in the fireplace. The monkey, taken by surprise, jumped backward, and then started to run out of the room.

The bee, who was hiding outside the screens, now flew out and stung him on the cheek. The monkey was in great pain, his neck was burned by the chestnut and his face badly stung by the bee, but he ran on screaming and chattering with rage.

Now the stone mortar had hidden himself with several other stones on the top of the crab's gate, and as the monkey ran underneath, the mortar and all fell down on the top of the monkey's head. Was it possible for the monkey to bear the weight of the mortar falling on him from the top of the gate? He lay crushed and in great pain, quite unable to get up. As he lay there helpless the young crab came up, and, holding his great claw scissors over the monkey, he said:
"Do you now remember that you murdered my father?"
"Then you—are—my—enemy?" gasped the monkey brokenly.
"Of course," said the young crab.
"It—was—your—father's—fault—not—mine!" gasped the unrepentant monkey.
"Can you still lie? I will soon put an end to your breath!" and with that he cut off the monkey's head with his pitcher claws. Thus the wicked monkey met his well-merited punishment, and the young crab avenged his father's death.

This is the end of the story of the monkey, the crab, and the persimmon-seed.

THE END

The image at  the very top is an Edo-era emakimono... a Japanese picture scroll of the Monkey and the Crab, where we see the monkey making off with the persimmon. 

In tomorrow's blog... something interesting... an apology from me for providing incorrect information...and an in-depth look at how you can have a wonderful rife in Japan,

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, April 19, 2014

World War II American Comics Versus Japan - 6

In the infancy of the modern American comic book, the very first Marvel Comics super-hero was not Captain America, but rather a strange denizen of the deep, known as the Sub-Mariner.

His name is not pronounced 'submariner', but rather as 'sub-maar-inner'.

The Sub-Mariner was created by artist-writer Bill Everett, first appearing in Marvel Comics #1, cover dated October 1939. This was the very first comic book published by Timely Comics, who would eventually become known as Marvel Comics — so now you know where the name came from. 

Along with the mis-named Human Torch (a synthetic robot) and the juiced Captain America who was injected with chemicals to become a Yankee Doodle fighting machine, the Sub-Mariner was one of the 1940s most popular characters ever.

Everett says he was inspired to create Subby from reading Cooleridge's famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem I love so much I can quote it as easily as any from Alice in Wonderland.

Not quite human, Namor is the mutant son of a human sea captain and a princess of the undersea kingdom of Atlantis. Namor/Sub-mariner has super-strength and the aquatic abilities of the made-up Homo mermanus race, as well as the mutant ability of flight, along with other superhuman powers.

He is the first Marvel mutant to appear in comics regardless of their revisionist history to make Wolverine the first.

And, despite Batman and Wolverine being a bad-ass, Sub-Mariner was the first comic book anti-hero.


So... who is this Marvel mutant, and why isn't he in any Marvel movie treatments? No clue.

Along with Marvel Comics (later known as Marvel Mystery Comics with issue #2), the Sub-mariner also appeared in his own Sub-Mariner Comics... which is what I am looking at today.

As we all know, Japan was part of the so-called Axis with Germany and Italy, who all three essentially tried to take over the world like a pair of cartoon mice (Pinky & The Brain). Excluding the waffling Italy who seemed to be on whatever side was considered to be winning the war, German and Japan were the ultimate baddies, and the western comic book industry—especially at Timely—jumped aboard to sell comics to a patriotic youth base, while probably not realizing they were also feeding them full of western propaganda against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

In this case, because it is a blog about Japan, I have sought out each Sub-Mariner cover featuring the mutant pummeling the Japanese.

Whether on purpose or just because in my opinion the artists were not that good, the Sub-Mariner is often drawn as a pointy-earred giant smacking around the tiny Japanese.

Yes, the Japanese are shorter in stature, but the comic books show the Sub-Mariner as unearthly huge, which combined with his demonic looks, triangular face and pointy ears, it was no wonder that when the WWII ended kids weren't that interested in a guy that looks evil battling simple criminals...

Of course, the entire comic book buying population soon felt that way, with such former stalwart icons as Captain America and Captain Marvel were soon canceled... and the Sub-Mariner Comics were no exception.

By the way... in the Fantastic Four #4, the new (human) version of The Human Torch finds Namor as a beadred homeless guy, shaves him and helps him get his memory and thus his kingdom back. Though the kingdom was destroyed by nuclear weapons, and so he now has a real reason to hate all Homo sapiens sapiens.

Namor then played a hand in the revival of Captain America when he finding Cap frozen in ablock of ice and tossing him into the waters which eventually melted, and allowing him to joing the Avengers in Avengers #4.

I want you to know that I am doing all of this from memory. I've owned Fantastic Four #2, and owned every Avengers books from #1-300—except for #4... but have certainly read reprints of these classic stories. I sold #1, but still own the rest.  

Anyhow.. although the Sub-Mariner did originally take on the Germans during the early stages of WWII, as soon as Japan hit Pear Harbor, having a water-based super-hero was the best way to take on the Japanese who lived so very far away... and... if he wanted to take on any Japanese planes, he did also possess tiny wings on his ankles that someone didn't cause him any difficulties in flying even if they were wet.

The Sub-Mariner is still a popular Marvel Comics character, every once in a while gaining back his own comic book, but for now he has to be in that third-tier of super-hero. Not in the movies, and not able to sustain his own comic book. He wasn't even included in the LEGO Marvel super-hero game... and they even included something stupid like Squirrel Girl. You only think I'm joking. She was even an Avenger in the comics.


In my opinion, Sub-Mariner needs to be recreated... given a whole new reason to hate someone or something. And maybe they should bring back the Original Human Torch and Toro, too. I have a plan... actually, I have a really good plan to deconstruct Batman for a year...

Marvel/Timely really seems to enjoy dehumanizing the Japanese within its comics... but with the unhuman-looking Sub-Mariner, the Japanese don't look as evil... 
    
Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, April 18, 2014

Advice For Men Going To Japan On The JET Programme

I've done the women, so to speak, now it's time to advise the men who are about to embark on the JET Programme for Japan.

Of course, it's not just for those going on the JET Programme... but seeing as how I don't talk about how to find a place to stay or how to get a work visa, it really is about the JET participants. That's what I was, and it's what I know.

So... congratulations on being accepted into the JET Programme. Now what?

I went to Japan in 1990-93. That was the fourth through sixth year of existence for the JET Programme. I didn't know that at the time, and truly, I only found that out on Thursday of this past week.

While peaking at 6, 273 participants in 2002, the programme had 4,360 participants in 2012. So... if you got accepted, it still quite an accomplishment. You are hopefully the best of the best.  

While I was in Japan, there were still a lot of things JET needed to improve upon, but it also did a lot of things right, and perhaps they did it better then than now in some instances.

There was no Internet when I left for Japan and thus no plethora of blogs and forums to peer into for advice. There were zero books on the JET experience at that time—and even if there were, I am sure I never sought one out.

I did prefer to walk into the situation without anyone coloring my view - and I try to do that here in this blog.

But... there are a few things that I wish I knew beforehand... and as such... I'm going to give a few bits of advice that you don't need to listen to because really... it's your time in Japan and therefore your choice on how you experience it.

I actually went to Japan with zero knowledge. I knew nothing of the language. Had only eaten Japanese food for the first time three days before leaving. I didn't know how to cook, clean, wash clothes, iron, shop for food or even how to live on my own. I was also a stone-cold virgin and thus had, excluding a few dates, zero experience with women.

And yet... not only did I survive Japan, I grew while I was there. I enjoyed myself immensely... then again... I had no preconceived notions.

All I knew is that there used to be samurai and ninja in Japan, and that geisha might still be around (I saw one once - only once) but I didn't know what role they played or still might play in Japanese society. I hated the anime (cartoons) and manga (comic books) even though I do like western cartoons and comic books and probably know more them than any human being has a right to know.

I also knew about Godzilla and Gamara monster movies. I did judo as a kid and could maybe count to 10 in Japanese... but if you asked me to do so before I left I would not know how.

I knew nothing of Japan's culture... whether there was a Prime Minister or a President or a Queen. I did drive a Mazda, and my dad a Toyota... but that's it. I knew nothing.

So... my first bit of advice to you is:
  1. do not have your opinion colored by others. Go... have fun. Your experience will differ from everyone else on the programme's. Stop reading books on the subject, but do pick up some information via good blogs like my own. Just know that your experience will vary.
  2. bring condoms.The average Japanese condom will not fit the average westerner. See that photo up above... I blew a couple up... one Japanese, and one not Japanese. And yes, that is the only time my lips have ever touched a condom... which is something I never actually thought about until now. Ugh. I practicing safe balloon sex.
  3. bring more condoms than you think you will need. After five months, I had to ask my mother to ship five or six more boxes of condoms over. It was easier the second and third time I asked... and after a while she would just add a box of condoms to the cartons of stuff she would send over every couple of months (comic books, recordings of TV, music, a T-shirt, pasta, etc.)
  4. money. Bring along about ¥50,000 yen (US/Cdn $500) with you for that first month of living. That first pay check is a long ways a way... and you may want to buy things like food, do a bit of sight-seeing... surviving. Things in Japan are expensive even though you are getting a fair wage and are living in subsidized rented housing. Your board of education pays for some of the rent - you will pay the rest.
  5. Clothing... the Japanese are generally smaller in stature than the average foreigner not named Sarah... as such, getting an XL shirt or shoes larger than a Size 8 are difficult. I have a size 10-1/2 foot size, which equals 30 cm. The Japanese use centimeters for shoe sizes... but rarely offer a shoe larger than a 26. Bring two pair of runners and dress shoes, or have them sent over as required. If you can get slip-ons rather than laces you will thank me as you will have to constantly remove your shoes wherever you go. That also means you will need socks without holes in them, darn it all.
  6. Voltage is different in Japan. Make sure you go out and get an electrical converter if you are bringing an electric shaver... Japan is 100v and the U.S./Canada is 110volts. The outlets are the same two-prong outlets... and do not have the safer three-pronged variety. I didn't need a power converter for anything, I used a small battery-powered radio as an alarm clock and used a hand-razor for shaving.
  7. That's pretty much it. There were a few more items for the women, but guys don't have it as rough as the women do.
Guys, as soon as they arrive in Japan, seem to want to hook up with a Japanese woman. Fine, I suppose. Do what you want to do... but after 27 years of the JET Programme, they've heard all the best pick-up lines.

My best line was: "You are very pretty. Do you wanna - ?" and then I would comically raise my eyebrows a few times. It worked often enough for me to reuse that line. Warning. This line only worked in Japan and did not work in Canada... though it did work with both Japanese and foreign women on the JET Programme.

Now... despite getting away with such a bullcrap line, the Japanese women would prefer it if you could also take an interest in their culture and language, and even then, there is no guarantee that their parents want you dating their daughter.

I slept with about 30 women while there in three years... Not a bad number taking into account that I was slowed down with a girlfriend for the first year and a fiance the third year... so, it can be done. I'm okay-looking, so I feel that I got by on personality (always smiling and complimentary without being a fawning douchebag) and possessed enough Japanese language skills to be confused with a slow six-year-old Japanese child.

Trust me... making the effort to speak Japanese intrigued the women who didn't mind getting closer to help me with my language skills as I helped with theirs. In a noisy bar, you also have to get closer together to hear one another speak. Once body contact is made and that exchange of body heat happens, it's not long before you can leave with her and head back to your place.

I know... I sound like such a prick, but sometimes... it really was just that easy. It sure as hell wasn't easy in Toronto—hence the whole virgin thing for nearly 26 years.

When I arrived in Japan, I got a girlfriend my second day in. An American girl.When that petered out, I had achieved a fair bit of knowledge in social customs... but still lacked the language skills... so... I hung out at a local bar and drank... and after giving a few English lessons to men and women, and they offering some Japanese language skills, after a while they got bored... and just women would approach to chat me up.

In my small city of 50,000 people, everyone knew when I had a girlfriend and when I didn't. When I didn't—and I still don't know how everyone knew—I could be picked up by a Japanese woman who spoke a modicum of English combined with my modicum of Japanese.

Yes... I was approached by hordes of Japanese women who fought for the right to screw my brains out.

But... this did not happen to everyone on the JET Programme. Yes, I know men who dated Japanese women, and even a few who slept with about five women or so... but no one was getting more bang for his buck than me and my newly discovered insatiable yen for sex.

Just note that your experience in Japan will most assuredly differ from mine, which is both a good thing and in some ways, not such a good thing. Sexual interludes aside, I had a fantastic time in Japan with an excellent set of Board Of Education (BOE) bosses and co-workers, pretty nice students, except for one school out of the seven I visited (I visited one school for four days a week), got to spend every Friday at the BOE offices writing letters and studying whatever it was I thought I should study, was taken out by the BOE for tours around town, had lots of friends—Japanese and foreigners—pretty much did what was expected of me while still being able to feel as though I was doing whatever it was I wanted to do. Dream job.

But not everyone gets that experience.

I could grow my hair and be told I looked cool - other AETs were told to go and get a hair cut if it looked a little shaggy. I could do no wrong, while others could apparently do very little right.

I was too stupid to know about all of the omiyage (presents) one is supposed to bring back for my co-workers and bosses, and I'll only mention here that you can if you want to.. but you aren't Japanese, so don't worry about it. It's a lot of money to buy stuff for everyone whenever you travel around Japan, and while I enjoyed spending my money, but I enjoyed spending my money on me.

And on the women.

So... back on to the women. If you want to date Japanese women, note that they want a relationship, though depending on your situation, there are women who would just like the sex.

I'm unsure if this is as relevant now as back when I was there (probably less so), but I was only the second assistant English teacher in my city from a foreign country (Canada). My predecessor was from the U.K., but was a female... therefore... I (along with Matthew who lived in my city and taught in the more rural areas) were the first male AETs the city had seen.

We were, in many instances the first foreign men to walk the streets in their city. We were nice, good-looking guys and very funny. I'll only speak for myself here, but that is why I made out like a bandit.

All those Ohtawara-shi women wanted to try out a foreigner as a sex toy. That's true internationalization. They believed the hype that we are better-endowed than the Japanese guys, but that's not a 100% truth as there are always people bigger and smaller than you, and anyhow... who gives a crap.


That's the real part of the Exchange in the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme. The exchange of bodily fluids.

So yes... it was easy for me to get laid. These women were just interested in sex. Not marriage. They knew I was there for a good time, not a long time. Though I leave it up to you regarding the phrase 'long time'. They wanted to try out a foreigner... and I would like to think I did a good enough job at it that I was always in demand.

But... when I wanted a relationship... that was more difficult.

While I really, really like sex, I prefer to have some sort of kinship with the woman I am schtupping. There's nothing wrong with caring about someone... you can still fug and make love... but that only happens with someone you care about.

For a relationship, well... it's like any relationship anywhere. You need to be able to communicate effectively, and until that happens, you ain't getting a serious relationship. Just sex. Hopefully you can handle that.

My buddies Jeff and Matthew each married a Japanese woman. Beautiful, charming, intelligent and headstrong are their female counterpart. They would have to be do get involved with a gaijin (foreigner) guy.

Me? I was engaged to a Japanese woman... and despite my best efforts and our love for one another, the influence her dad had on her was too strong. I was always going to be the second-best man in her life. And I don't like being anyone's second best. I don't mind being a second option, however.


I'm just saying that sometimes it works out... and sometimes it doesn't. It's too bad. I am good at sex. LOL!

Guys... don't be a dick. Treat everyone with respect. Don't use women for sex or for money. Have sex, but don't use them for sex. That means: don't be a player.

I knew a guy on JET in my prefecture who arrived in 1992, who would borrow money from women, use them, abuse them... and then after selling all his furniture in his apartment scrammed off the JET Programme back to the US. It wasn't his furniture to sell. It was his Board of Education's. He also never paid back those women who were scammed by him.

Don't sleep with your students. Even if you teach at a university. You wouldn't do it back home, you don't do it in Japan. However, if you are teaching a night school class of adults... all's fair.


We were told, when we arrived in Japan, that we were ambassadors of our respective country. That is still true today. Don't fug it up for the rest of the participants on the Programme. No stealing. No growing your own drugs. Don't buy drugs. Don't do drugs with others. You just never know who is watching. And trust me... you are a GOD—a Gaijin On Display. You won't be able to take a crap without everyone knowing. Fortunately for me, I didn't care if everyone knew when I was taking a crap.

While it implies a lack or privacy, it also implies that people want to know about you.

If I was riding my bicycle around the city while wearing a T-shirt that was ripped, you can be sure that the next day I would have a couple of T-shirts folded neatly in my mail box. No name from the presenter... and because bigger than most Japanese, those shirts would never fit me, and I would give them away to students or to whomever my female guest of the evening was.   

Anyhow... go to Japan and have fun. Drink and womanize because that's what men do in Japan - both the foreigner and the Japanese. But remember... moderation.

Oh... and enjoy doing the teaching thing... but please note that you are not a real teacher - unless you are, then at least note that you are not a real Japanese teacher in a Japanese school system. You are an assistant English teacher. They key word is "assistant". You may be used properly in your own opinion or you may not. It depends on one's expectations, I suppose.

I had none and so I was always pleasantly surprised.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph