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Friday, February 12, 2016

Ulysses S. Grant Visits Japan in 1879

So… American Ulysses S. Grant (April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) visited Japan in 1879.

The former General of the Northern armies in America's civil war had, at that time, only recently completed his second term as the 18th president of the United States of America (1869–77).

Although his second-term in office can be widely-criticized for having dropped the U.S. into an industrial depression with high unemployment, low prices, low profits and a plethora of bankruptcies, he was and is still celebrated enough as a General to garner his place upon the country's $50 bill.

I find it odd, that he's on the money, when his ineffectual policies led to the depression.

As well, in 1856, he voted for Democrat James Buchanan over the first Republican candidate John C. Frémont, because he thought that Frémont's anti-slavery position would cause the southern states to secede the Union.

While he couldn't vote in Illinois, he is known to have preferred Democrat Stephen A. Douglas over Abraham Lincoln. So - you can't win'em all.

Lincoln, of course, as president helped free the slaves. And, after the South's Confederate Army attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, President Lincoln asked Grant to lead the U.S. efforts against the rebels. No hard feelings, apparently, on Abe's part.

As a further aside, Grant acquired a slave from his father-in-law back in 1857. In 1859, and after two years of The Panic of 1857 that hit American farmers hard - including Grant - he freed the Black man who was worth $1,500, rather than selling him for much needed money.

But, like I said, he's probably being celebrated for his battle acumen rather than the decisions he made. Even honorable ones.

After his second-term as president of 'merca (America), Grant and family went on a two-year-long world tour, from England, France, Italy. Spain Germany, India, Burma, Siam (Thailand), Singapore and Cochinchina (Vietnam), Hong Kong, and then China.

While there in China, he sought an audience with Emperor Guangxu (who was seven-years-old at the time), but was politely rebuffed and instead spoke with Prince Gong (head of government) and leading general Li Hongzhang.

They discussed the Ryukyu Islands, and China's feud with Japan over ownership of it.

Grant then agreed to visit Japan to help the two countries avoid going to war over the islands that are worthless in the grand scheme of things for resources, but are valuable only to stop the other country from being able to put a military base closer to the respective main country.

In the article below, culled from the wonderful archives of the Readex "America's Historical Newspapers" database.

Click HERE for more information on the privately-owned facility that is attempting to have at least one copy of every single newspaper ever published in the country. Contact them if you think you might have something old and magical that they can have and share.

The article below from the San Francisco Bulletin (published as the Daily Evening Bulletin), is from San Francisco, California, June 28, 1879.

In the article, it mentions Lew Chew Islands… that's is better known as Loo-Choo, Lu-Tchu, or Lieu-Kieu, and is indeed the group of 36 islands that make up the Ryukyu Islands that are even now currently under argument between Japan, China, Korea and god knows who else.

I am re-typing the article as presented, completed with archaic spellings (but will put modern spellings in brackets, where applicable).

U.S. Grant meets Japan's Royal family in 1879.
Read on:

Revision of Treaties with Western Powers—About General Grant—Election in Southern Provinces.

Tokio (Tokyo), Japan, June 9, 1879.
There is at present an air of bustle and gayety about this city quite unusual for an oriental capital. The general revision of the existing treaties between Japan and the Western Powers, which is now in progress, and the expected arrival of so many distinguished personages during the summer, has given this metropolis a singular momentary impulse. His Imperial Highness Prince Heinrich of Prussia arrived about ten days ago, and is the guest of the Mikado. Pretty much everything which the wit of man can devise has been done by the Japanese to amuse the young Prince. The same remark is also true in respect of the preparations which are being made for the reception of General Grant. In fact, the preparations for the reception and amusement of General Grant exceed anything of the kind ever before attempted by the Japanese Government.

Among other things, arrangements are being made to afford the General an easy ascent of Fujiyama (Mount Fuji - the revered iconic mountainous symbol of Japan near Tokyo), from the lofty summit of which, if has been suggested, he may "look down upon more than forty centuries," and thereby eclipse the grandeur of the Sphynx as it "looked down upon the soldiers of France under Napoleon."
Speaking of General Grant, it may be of interest to learn that private letters from China state that he does not intend returning directly to the United States after visiting Japan. After spending a few weeks here, it appears to be his intention to sail for Australia via Singapore. After visiting Australia, he will go to the Sandwich Islands (there are many islands called the Sandwich Islands, but it appears as though Grant visited what is now the Hawaiian Islands), where he has been specially invited by the King of that country; from thence he goes to San Francisco. If this program is followed out, of which there is not much doubt, General Grant will hardly reach California before April, 1880.

The reappearance of cholera, or something closely resembling it, in several of the southern provinces of Japan, is exciting some apprehension of another cholera visitation here. It is too soon yet to predict anything with certainty about it. I am very doubtful whether there is any real; Asiatic cholera at present in Japan.
The fact is, that in both China and Japan there appears to be almost every summer, an endemic—and sometimes it becomes epidemic—disease which so nearly simulates, Asiatic cholera, that only the ablest physicians can tell whether it is the genuine article or not. Nervous people are sure to get a "cholera scare" every year of their lives in China and Japan Even if the doctors disagree about it and quarrel over it.
It will be well, at all times, during summer, for the quarantine officers of San Francisco to keep good watch over vessels arriving from the Orient.

His Ex-Majesty Sho-Tai, late King of the Low Chew Islands, arrived here to-day.
The Low Chew Han, or kingdom, was abolished some two months ago by imperial decree, and the Islands are now governed by a Japanese official appointed by the Mikado.
This sweeps away the last vestige of the feudal system of Old Japan.


Splendor of the Procession of General Grant from America (Beikoku Guranto-shi go tsūkō no han'ei) - by ukiyo-e artist Kunichika Toyohara
Interesting eh? I just like the last subject about the Ryukyu/Low Chew Islands.

So the guy who arrived in Japan was the ex-Majesty, but late King of the islands? Being the late anything means you are dead. Since ex-Majesty implies he is no longer king, could the writer simply not have said "Ex-King of the Low Chew Islands?

For the record, after talking with Japan, General Grant told the Chinese to accept the current deal with Japan in order to avoid war… a war he was sure Japan would win.

Now… 137 years later, I wonder if Grant would try harder to convince Japan to acquiesce to the demands of China to avoid a war it not only can't win - certainly not without the aid of the United States of America.

The Grant family spent about three months seeing Japan.

Grant wrote about Japan thusly:
“My visit to Japan has been the most pleasant of all my travels. The country is beautifully cultivated, the scenery is grand, and the people, from the highest to the lowest, the most kindly & the most cleanly in the world. My reception and entertainment has been the most extravagant I have ever known, or even read, of.”

Thanks to Vinny for sending me a link to this newspaper article. Vinny is the guy who finds all my grammatical and typing errors so that I don't look like a complete moron, instead allowing me to appear as a partial one from time-to-time.  

I enjoyed this article because it allowed me to use some of that American history I learned back in the days when Ontario, Canada had a Grade 13. I'll tell you one thing… being 19 or so when entering university, I was far more mature than when I would have been if I entered as an 18-year-old. Which isn't saying much.

So… including Grade 13, and doing Grade 12 twice to finally be with kids my own age (not to mention flunking out on a lot of stuff), combined with five years of university and two mow of college, I essentially spent nine more years in school following my first go-round in Grade 12. Shouldn't I have achieved a doctorate or something? A PhD in perseverance or something?

I hated school… and then managed to parlay all of that schooling and edumacating into three more years as a teacher in Japan. Like Grant, sometimes things work out despite yourself... except I probably owe someone $50.

Andrew Joseph
Image at very top is an ukoyo-e woodblock print by Yoshu Shuen, showing a scene from a reception given by the Meiji Emperor and Empress of Japan for Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Supernatural Spirits Of Japan: The Yōkai

I probably watch too much television, but I'd never admit to saying such ignorant thoughts to my plastic fantastic lover. (Kudos if you knew what that last phrase was about, old timer.)

I was watching a freshly dug episode of Sleepy Hollow earlier this week (I really do write these things ahead of time, usually), because I like to know as much as possible about American history, so along with learning that Stars & Stripes seamstress Betsy Ross was a bad ass hottie spy via Sleep Hollow, and all my modern news from the former Colbert Report.

Anyhow, the show mentioned a yōkai (妖怪), which is Japanese for ghost or apparition.

Despite the plethora of ghostbusting television shows and movies past and upcoming, there is no physical or metaphysical proof of the existence of such supernatural phenomena. Unless, of course, such things are being kept from the majority of the outside world for whatever reason—aka the television show Supernatural, or whatever goes on in Area 51 (or the real secret place Area 52). I have no idea if there is an Area 52 located in underground in Utah. That's just where I would put it. Free salt, and all that.

Yōkai—to a native English speaker, like myself, it sounds like a fun word to say… but the Japanese kanji (the Chinese-derived alphabet) for the term is plucked from those meaning "bewitching; attractive; calamity" and "apparition; mystery; suspicious".

Interesting how the first kanji has synonyms for bewitching or attractive or calamity. Been there, felt that.

Other terms for ghosts include: ayakashi (妖), mononoke (物の怪) and mamono (魔物).

I have it from first-hand experience (Wikipedia), that yōkai/ghosts are just like their western counterparts: mischievous to nasty… while some believe they are a harbinger of good fortune when encountered. I guess it all depends on who you know and whether or not you ticked anyone off while they were alive…

Of course… this is when yōkai simply infers ghost.

There is also the supernatural inference. This means a yōkai can perhaps also be something less-phantom-like living, but still spiritual (not in the good Buddha is best-way) and supernatural.

What does a yōkai look like? Depends...

Unlike traditional Euro-North American personifications, Japanese ghosts are purported to take on a myriad number of forms: human-like; turtle-like (human-ish turtle mythical creatures known as kappa); bird-shaped critters that can become human-like (tengu); take the form of an inanimate object - like a soup bowl or a rock; or Buddha help us, no shape at all - think amorphous blob.

Many of the yōkai have the ability to shape-shift… and those that do are also known specifically as obake.

So… ghosts is ghosts (though Ghostbusters reminds us that there are many types of ghost), but what are these spiritual creatures to which I alluded to earlier in the long forgotten past?

  • Bakeneko

Bakeneko are a cat creature that was a cat, but changed into a yōkai that would act in a non-cat-like way - dancing and dressing up like a human. A shapeshifter, if you will;
  • Hebi - snakes (in general, I suppose the old time Japanese must have felt that snakes had a supernatural feel to them). If there is a different version of this, I would assume that the yōkai snakes would be more sentient to the real world, and thus attack or terrify to make a point. ;

  • Inugami

These are dogs, similar to werewolves, but are, rather than throat-ripping lycanthrophs, are instead masters of black magic. They are supposed to be human-like, but still obviously canine-ish. Bad dog.

  • Jorōgumo
Image taken from I would still have swat it and then stomp on it. Maybe after sex.
This is a spider that changes into a seductive woman. As a writer, I can see how one would create such a creature for a story... a seductive woman weaving a web of deceit to ensnare her male victims, consuming their fortunes, and once done, going all black widow on the man to kill them before shambling off to find a new, rich victim. I'm sure that we could look at ANY yōkai involving a woman and see how the writer could create a similar evil creature. Writers, so I hear, get personal satisfaction and revenge with the story;

  • Kyūbi no Kitsune
Dig that shadow play on the screen! - print by Kuniyoshi Utagawa.

In Japanese, the word 'kitsune' is used to reference real-life foxes (there are two varieties in Japan), and the spirit fox - a fox-like yōkai that has up to nine-tails, and is known both as Kyūbi no Kitsune and simply as kitsune. Nine-tails? Like the anime/manga character Naruto. Apparently, nearly all yōkai can shape-shift into men or women - and while it is implied that it is done to fool or trick other humans, folklore has kitsune existing as humans working as faithful guardians, friends, lovers, and wives. Ooh! Foxy Lady!

  • Mujina

Badgers. Badgers? Badgers? We don't need no stinking badgers! (a line from the movie UHF)... but mujina is an old Japanese term primarily referring to the badger. In some regions the term refers instead to the raccoon dog (also called tanuki) or to introduced civets. Adding to the confusion, in some regions, badger-like animals are also known as mami, and in one part of Tochigi Prefecture (my home prefecture, but not in my home town) badgers are referred to as tanuki and raccoon dogs are referred to as mujina.
As yōkai, mujina badger demons may take the form of an attractive woman with a promiscuous nature, usually causing mischief in their partner's life. I believe I may have dated one while in Japan. She had a nice tail.

  • Tanuki 

There really IS a tanuki in real-life Japan, that is a Japanese racoon-dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides viverrinus), also known as tanuki):

It differs greatly from the yōkai version, however, in that it walks on all fours, does not have huge testicles (then again, that tree in the photo is blocking the view). The yōkai tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shape-shifting, but somewhat gullible and absentminded.I never saw one in Japan, which is good, because it would have scared the crap outta me. Heck... I never even saw a squirrel while in Japan. Just frogs, mice, cranes and crows. That was pretty much it. Oh yeah... and spiders...

  • Tsuchigumo
Killing a Tsuchigumo, skulls fall out from its belly.
The Tsuchigumo is a spider that hides in the ground… which I suppose has more to do with the fact that Japan isn't supposed to have trapdoor spiders… I think. It had the body of a tiger, eight legs like a spider - so it was large - and, in some case it wore clothes and ate unwary travelers.


Red oni with club. Looks like your standard demon, if I am any judge of supernatural creatures, which I am not.
Oni is the catchall term for orges and demons - classic Japanese giants with skin of a singular color - either: blue, red, brown or black. Two horns on the head, wide mouth with fangs; wearing a tiger skin loincloth (Leopard skin is much sexier). It is depicted as having a giant sword or club in hand.


Tengu - crow version.
Tengu - see above - but while once evil, later became known as a defender of Dharma - the way of Buddha, I believe.

Household Items
Really… but after seeing a talking teapot in Beauty & The Beast, I could believe anything.

The really weird belief is that these items below have come to life on the 100th anniversary of their formation - why? Perhaps some Japanese folklore writers were eating some funky mushrooms:
  • Bakezōri - straw sandals (I have visions of Porky Pig in the classic cartoon Wearing of the Grin and the tap-dancing shoes that won't stop);
  • Biwa-bokuboku - a lute - as long as it's not playing Greensleeves over and over, I could handle a soundtrack to my daily life;
  • Burabura - a paper lantern (as long as it's lit, it can float beside me to light up the dark paths I take… one just needs to remember to not go into the light, of course);
  • Karakasa - old umbrellas (Of course it's an old umbrella… it's 100 years old… and what the heck are people doing with 100-year-old umbrellas? Does it just refuse to open up in a rain storm? Who came up with this one? Waug-waug-waug-waug);
  • Kameosa - old sake jars (The horror - either the sake jars are empty when you need a drink, or they won't stop trying to drown you in rice wine. Bring it on, yōkai!);
  • Morinji-no-kama - tea kettles (What's the biggie? Does it just continues to do a wolf whistle - which if you are female is either incredible flattering but you can't say so, or incredibly sexist and annoying. If you are a man, its continuing wolf whistle is sooooo distracting - made you look - that you can't get any work done as you wonder what you are missing out on seeing;
  • Mokumokuren - paper screens with eyes… is this like a creepy painting on the wall where the eyes of the portrait seem to follow you everywhere?Or is it just a yōkai that can't stop being a peeping Tom?
I like that the Japanese felt the need to create specific words for these types of yōkai supernatural beings.

Human Transformations
Unlike the previously mentioned critters that become human-like, we have here four types of human yōkai that transform into hideous versions of humans. Add own joke here.

The Rokuro-kubi are humans able to elongate their necks during the night - and I mean really elongate… like totally snake-like. Now… this can be broken down into a type that has a stretchy snake-like neck, or one whose head can detach allowing the head to fly unfettered;

The Ohaguro-bettari - usually a female, who when it turns to face you invariable is only a face with a blackened mouth. No eyes, nose, ears… just a maw;

The Futakuchi-onna is a woman with a voracious extra mouth on the back of her head. You never see it while you are talking to the woman at dinner time wondering how the fugue she can survive just picking at that expensive meal you bought her for that first date- but then… as soon as your head is turned to check out that waitress (bad first date etiquette, by the way) for a few seconds, that mouth behind has eaten everything. Now if there was a Japanese ghost story that could explain why women don't fart like men.

There's also something called a Dorotabō a mud-creature spirit of a farmer who comes back to terrorize those who have not looked after his farmland… but that's just a reanimated corpse, and not really a physical transformation. So… forget I mentioned that.

Other creatures known as yōkai, are the Akaname. This is a demon that lurks in unclean bathrooms and supposedly comes out at night to lick up the filth on the floor. This doesn't sound scary at all, rather a welcome relief.

There's an Azukiarai - a demon yōkai that is washing beans near a river. Again… so what? While I enjoy dirty rice and beans, I'd rather not really have dirty beans and rice.

There's also the tōfu-kozō - a child yōkai that walks around carrying a plate with a block of tofu on it. It doesn't do anything annoying or scary or helpful… it's like WTF?

And lastly, the Ashiarai Yashiki - disembodied foot and leg that smashes into a house and demands that a human washes it. It's… a Monty Python joke waiting to happen. If one refused to wash the yōkai's dirty foot, it could mean misfortune or possibly death. Maybe it would jam it's filthy foot into your mouth… and while some people might not mind that sort of stuff—it's different when proper hygiene is present—even if something stupid like this really did happen, why not just wash the damned foot?

I want to believe,
Andrew "Vince Clortho" Joseph
PS: Yes, I was mixing mediums: I want to believe is the message in the X-Files (as a poster and a thought process), while Vince Clortho, keymaster of Gozer is the name of a demon possessing a man, seeking the Gatekeeper in the classic first movie Ghostbusters.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pappy Boyington, Black Sheep Squadron And Japan

When I was a kid, growing up in the 70s, my favorite television show was Baa Baa Black Sheep (also known as Black Sheep Squadron in syndication).

It was essentially my first introduction to Japan, outside of Godzilla and Gamera, and featured the fictitious antics of a real-life American aviation squadron on an island in the south Pacific who battled the Japanese during WWII.

I know, I know… again with the war and naughty Japan.

Well… the thing is, despite my memory dulled by the passage of time, I am pretty sure there wasn't anything terrible said about the Japanese, and recall the TV show's lead character saluting his Japanese counterpart while flying (though he did call him 'Riceball')… because they knew that they were both just puppets of their governments and had no real hate for each other as human beings.

Baa Baa Black Sheep's squadron was Marine Attack Squadron 214 (aka VMA-214), a United States Marine Corps fighter squadron… this is a real squadron, by the way… the current crop call Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona their home.

Here's some real history.

The show's lead was Major Gregory "Pappy" Boyington (a real dude, who was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor), and played by one of my favorite actors, Robert Conrad (I wanted to be him).

After returning from a brutal tour in China with the 1st American Volunteer Group (the AVG Flying Tigers), Boyington was brought back into the U.S. military to take command of 27 disenfranchised young men in August of 1943.

The squadron did not have any planes—heck, they weren't even a squadron yet—nor had any ancillary personnel like mechanics, so they traveled to Guadalcanal and then the Russell Islands in borrowed, crappy aircraft that could barely fly.

At the Russell Islands—northwest of Guadalcanal, Boyington and Major Stan Bailey were told they could form a squadron, but that they only had four weeks to fully train them for air combat. 

On September 13, 1943, looking to create a nickname for their ragtag group (still not yet a squadron) led by old man (he was 30) Pappy Boyington, they figured on "Boyington's Bastards"… seeing as how they were orphans and not attached to a squadron when they arrived together.

Not deemed politically correct by the Public Relations team, Marine Corps public relation office Capatin Jack deChant suggested "Black Sheep", because it meant the same thing.

You can see the VMA-214 insignia below:

The squadron flew F4U Corsair aircraft (pictured on the insignia).

The original Black Sheep squadron fought for 84 days in total… with 203 Japanese aircraft destroyed or damaged. They had nine aces (five kills or more to be an ace) who had 97 confirmed air-to-air kills. They also sank several troop transports, supply ships and island installations.

The squadron was awarded the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action.

After Boyington was shot down and captured by the Japanese on January 3, 1944, a mere five days later the squadron was disbanded, with its pilots placed into a pilot pool.

The Black Sheep squadron was reformed on January 29, 1944 and a year later was deployed on the USS Franklin (CV-13) on February 4, 1945 to join the action on Okinawa. On March 19, a Japanese bomber hitter the USS Franklin, causing the deaths of 772, including 32 Black Sheep… the squadron was prepping for an attack on mainland Japan at the time. 

The bombing ended the participation of the Black Sheep in WWII… losing a total of 48 planes and 23 pilots killed or MIA (missing in action) from combat.

So… who was Pappy Boyington, and did he really have a dog named Meatball?

Born in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on December 4, 1912, he took his first ride in an airplane in 1919 as a six-year-old with Clyde Pangborn, who… in 1931 with co-pilot Hugh Herndon Jr., was the first to fly non-stop across the Pacific Ocean.

Every image I looked at of Boyington, showed him with a non-European look… and it turns out he is part Native American Sioux… and part Irish. There's a stereotype joke in there, but I'll leave it alone.

As a pilot, Boyington was fantastic. As a member of the U.S. military, he was an attitude waiting to explode.

As a flight instructor, he took a job to fly with the American Volunteer Group (AVG) in September of 1941 (before the U.S. entered WWII) to go and fight the Japanese over China and or Burma. 

He earned $675 a month, and could earn a bonus of $500 for every confirmed kill he shot down.

The American government was aware of this arrangement, and while not sanctioned, it wasn't discouraged either.

Of the three AVG squadrons, Boyington's was the First Squadron codenamed "Adam and Eve". The squadrons had 20 pilots each and had a full compliment of ground crew. 

He, and another officer, were nearly court-martialed for 'conduct unbecoming of an officer (Boyington also admits to being a hard drinker who was rarely sober during the war years) after it was seen that they were holding rickshaw races with the locals in China.

Yeah! It sounds exactly like something the Baa Baa Black Sheep television show would have had. (In  my head I recall the introduction of the show, and scattered images of various shows - it's been 40 years, eh).
Actor Robert Conrad portraying Pappy Boyington in Baa Baa Black Sheep. He also starred in The Wild Wild West (before that weird Will Smith movie - I like Will, but c'mon... keep it Fresh), which makes me think he only acted in shows with double words and alliteration.  
Anyhow, Boyington and the others, were seen pulling around the rickshaw drivers as passengers… for Boyington, the worst part was that they had to pay the drivers to drive the drivers around in the race. It makes sense, but that's what Boyington took away from the whole event.

By November of 1941, the AVG was flying Curtiss P-40's and P-36 aircraft. Boyington says that after seeing a photo in a magazine of an RAF P-40 with a toothy shark mouth, they all decided to do the same to theirs.

Curtiss P-40

In the air, Boyington had great respect for the Japanese pilots they were facing over Asia.

He says they were lied to by everyone, stating that the Japanese pilots were bad with poor eyesight... probably some sort of stereotype everyone was pushing.

"I can tell you from firsthand experience, that the best men ever to fly a plane in combat were the Japanese—especially the Imperial Navy pilots. Those guys were no joke. If you screwed up, you were done for, end of story," Boyington recalls in a article (HERE).

From that same interview, Boyington describes what it was like for him and his pilots in their P-40 planes to fight the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero: "The Zero was legendary in its agility, due to its light weight and turning radius. No one could turn inside a Zero, but the Zero could not catch us in a dive, which proved to be a life insurance policy. However, most of our fights were against other aircraft, like the I-97 [Nakajima Ki.27]. We developed the tactics of hit and run. Dive down from higher altitude and strike, continue the dive and convert air speed into altitude for another attack. The other plus for us was the fact that we flew three element flights, with the top cover waiting until the other two had attacked. Once the Japs scrambled to intercept us, the top cover would swoop down and pick them off. We also had the advantage of heavier armament-two .50-caliber and four .30-caliber machine guns, with later versions having all 50s against their two 7.7mm machine guns. We also had armor plate in the cockpit and self-sealing fuel tanks. The Japs had none of those, and it cost them dearly throughout the war." 

After the squadron was ordered to Rangoon in late January of 1942, Boyington had his first air victory on the 26th, after his outnumbered squadron (of 20), ran into 50 to 60 I-97 Japanese aircraft some 2,000 feet above them.

As the I-97's dove, Boyington's squadron scrambled… he saw two I-97's nearby, closed and… as he fired on one, the other looped over him to get behind, causing Boyington to break off.

Diving down to the ground (aka the 'deck'), he pulled up and climbed, saw another enemy aircraft, and dove, closing in and fringe.

Boyington says that 'as he was almost filling the windscreen, he performed a split-S that any instructor would have envied'. The split-S was used by combat pilots to disengage from being attacked.

Split-S maneuver
Note that the AVG was outnumbered, so other fighters joined that Japanese craft on Boyington… so he dove and ran for home. Safely there, he discovered a 7.7mm bullet in his arm.

No kills, shot… but he survived.

Two days later…   he got two kills, with his squadron gathering another 14, with no losses.

When Boyington was shot down and captured by the Japanese, he swears he was stone cold sober. Holy crap.

January 3, 1944… Boyington's plane wasn't working well, so he took another, leading the Black Sheep squadron to Rabaul, where there was supposed to be a base of Japanese naval pilots.

With 21 kills already under his belt, Boyington, was allowed to go hunting, while a wingman promised to look after his six (butt - behind him).

Taking out three Japanese fighters, soon Boyington and his wingman were surrounded. His plane was shot up, and the cockpit caught fire… so, only 100-feet up, he parachuted up and out.

I've not ever parachuted, but pulling a ripcord from just 100-feet above the water doesn't do much. He hit hard.

He inflated his rubber raft, but his Mae West (the busty personal floating device) was shot by bullets, and would not inflate.

I'm pretty sure this isn't cricket, but he says four Zero pilots took turns strafing him in the water. That's against the Geneva Convention, isn't it?  

Hours later, a Japanese submarine surfaced and collected Boyington, with him dumping everything of military value out rom his possession before boarding.

His left ear was hanging from his head, big cut  on the scalp, shrapnel in both arms, groin and shoulders, and one bullet went through and through the left calf muscle.

The Japanese crew took care of him, with Boyington saying they were humane, with one English-speaking sailor saying he was going to be okay.

As a POW in Ofunan (and then later near Yokohama), Japan, it wasn't all fun and games like on Hogan's Heroes and the Nazi's. No… this was like Bridge Over The River Kwai. Beatings every once in a while, minimal food… Boyington said he had dropped around 70 pounds… but says an old Japanese woman who was a cook at the prison began to sneak him extra food.

Boyington says that being a POW helped keep him alive… because he couldn't drink.

He says he harbors no ill-feeling towards the Japanese, saying that he was treated - on the whole - quite well by them… saying that the Japanese civilians went out of their way to treat the POWs with care, slipping them food.

He says he feels greater shame at his own American government for the shabby way they treated their own American citizens of Japanese descent when they were forcibly placed in internment camps, losing their homes and businesses.  

Boyington received the U.S. Medal of Honor and Navy Cross. He retired from the Marine Corps on August 1, 1947, and because he was specially commended for the performance of duty in actual combat, he was promoted to colonel.

When the war ended, and Boyington surprised people by being alive, he went on a PR tour selling war bonds, but complains that he had not received any back pay (while 'dead') and so had to survive off the generosity of others.

Later, he became a beer salesman… though I would figure that stuff kindda sold itself… kidding, I know what a beer salesman does.

Boyington had three kids with first wife (divorced) Helene: Janet Boyington (suicide), Greg Boyington Jr. (retired from U.S. Air Force as a Lt. Colonel), and another child that no one seems to know anything about.

He had an adopted child with second wife Dolores - again, no information.

While I have no problem in not knowing such data, it is interesting to note that we are talking about people around for the past 70 years, and there is no on-line information about them that jumps out. To me, it puts into perspective the difficulty in discussing the real history of people and things from centuries past.

Gregory 'Pappy' Boyington died on January 11, 1988, of what they believe was complications from cancer… something he had been battling since the 1960s.

The direct quotes from Boyington, and even some of the non-direct stuff, was taken from an article written by Colin Heaton and originally published in the May 2001 issue of Aviation History.

While I found the portrayal of Boyington and the Black Sheep squadron to have been highly fictitious in the Baa Baa Black Sheep television show, the real-life Boyington appears to have been quite the character himself.

While I had initially decided to do this topic because I thought it a fine way to honor my career as a television viewing aficionado, I found myself drawn to Boyington's respect for the enemy.

That, and the way he described some of the attacks in the Aviation History article… awesome.

But here's what kills me… If that article/interview was published in the May 2001 issue of Aviation History… what took so long. Boyington died in 1988 - 13 years earlier.

Was the author sitting on the interview for that long, or had it seen print earlier - and where and when? 

And... no... Boyington did NOT have a dog named Meatball as he was portrayed in the TV show. 

We are poor little lambs, who have lost our way. Baaaa… baaaaaa… baaaaaaaaa,
Andrew Rogue Leader Joseph
PS: I know the nickname I gave myself was from Star Wars…        
PSS: I used to love singing that opening… I could really drop my voice on the three baa-baa-baa's, as each dropped two notes from the last. I'm guessing. 
PPPS: Gotta go. Just call me 'mint jelly', because I'm on the lam. - Abe 'Grandpa' Simpson.
PPPPS: And, as a child who once entertained an entire church in London with my rendition of "Yellow Submarine" singing the refrain over and over again as a two-year-old or less (now you know how old I am), I have distinct memories of singing Baa Baa Black Sheep the nursery rhyme. Or, that one is a forced wannabe memory. The Yellow Submarine one was confirmed to me by my dad, who had to leave my mother in the Catholic Church (he was a Protestant), to take me outside to avoid disrupting the congregation. I received a standing, sitting and kneeling ovation. Or my father did.
PPPPPS: Because of Boyington and his TV show, I started building more and more model aircraft of WWII vintage rather than the "modern" stuff.
PPPPPS: Holy crap! Actor Robert Conrad is still alive! Yay!
PPPPPPS: And because everything I do comes around full circle... Robert Conrad appeared in the 1993 movie Samurai Cowboy. It's about a Japanese business man saddened by life after his best bud dies, moving to Montana to become a cattle rancher to fulfill a childhood dream. Wow. I wanted to play in the NHL and win the Stanley Cup, score more goals than Pele, dig for dinosaurs, and walk on another planet. All unrealistic. Yet somehow less weird than wanting to be a cattle farmer in Montana. There's nothing wrong with that, of course... but for a Japanese dude? Do you know what would have been better... if he had wanted to be a sheep farmer.   

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Tokyo Institute of Technology Song

Okay… because you never know just what the hell you can find on the Internet… after finding a video on-line depicting a Saturday Night Live skit, I watched it, and then noticed below a suggested video I might enjoy… an eight-year-old video... called:

Song of Tokyo Institute of Technology

Maybe I'm just weird, but I really like it.

Tokyo Institute of Technology is the Tōkyō Kōgyō Daigaku (東京工業大学). In English, it's acronym is TIT. I can make anything dirty.

Founded in 1881AD, the Tokyo Institute of Technology is a national top-tier research university located in Greater Tokyo area in Japan.

Tokyo Tech is the largest institution for higher education in Japan dedicated to science and technology. I know it's hard to swallow, but at the very top is the school's badge. I wasn't trying to be dirty there.

I can only assume the cool song is not the official song of the school - but if it was, I would want to go there! Even at my current age.

The song is peppered with a few English words just so the rest of Japan will know it is cool.

I love songs that include a fast-paced "One-Two-Three-Four!", and for the group to do it in English - just bizarre.

Would it have been as rocking if they said "Ichi-Ni-San-Shi!" ? Yeah.

The break, where the singer starts talking and describing the school is hilarious… BUT-But-but the echo-y scream that leads back to the refrain is pure genius.

Mike Rogers! I know this song is eight years old, but you gotta play it on your radio show.

Whatever… I used to be a suburban punk… I liked the music but wouldn't commit to the lifestyle fashions.

A Few! A Few!
Andrew Joseph

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ukiyo - The Edo-Era World Of Prostitution: The Yoshiwara

I have often written about ukiyo-e (浮世絵), the Japanese wood block prints that have helped define Japan throughout the Edo period (1603-1868AD), but not once have I delved into what ukiyo (浮世 - "Floating World") is.

Well, ukiyo is the thing that 'saved' the art form of ukiyo-e in the 1800s... it is indeed the so-called 'floating world', but what it really means is that it's the world of legalized prostitution in Japan.

I've written about prostitution in Japan a few times - just look to the right of this blog under favorites... but the world of Edo-era prostitution is a lesson in that era's moral center. I guess it's part of any era's moral center.

It's said that after farming, prostitution is the second-oldest profession. The ukiyo-e to the left is owned by me, and depicts a prostitute checking her makeup. The image was drawn by Eisen.

In Japan, because marriages in the Edo-era were arranged for politics of every social order, for both the man and the woman, there was little romance or adventure.

Yes, the implication here is that when married, romance and adventure go out with the bath water... and for many, the same holds true today.

Of course, even if one was single back then, what adventure could one have in Japan?

After 1630 foreign travel was made illegal, punishable by death. No one could enter Japan, and no one could leave it... except for a trading post or two, there was no outside contact between Japan and the rest of the world.

At home, Japan was lead by a Shogun (将軍)... a military leadership that was essentially a dictatorship... so no political change. It was the Shogun's way or death. For 250 years.

A strict system of class was installed: farmers, merchants, samurai (the army, basically), and the aristocracy.

Born a farmer? Probably die a farmer. Little upwards movement could be achieved.


All that was left was pleasure.
Not a prostitute - I don't think... at least not depicted as one... though the ukiyo-e artists frequently used courtesans as models for their work. I'm no longer sure who the artists is? Help?
The Shogunate knew that and licensed many a pleasure center in each city.

And so, men would go and find themselves a Courtesan, or maybe the women would find a male (no female) Kabuki actor with which to spend money on for pleasure. Sexual or perhaps just emotional.

Don't judge. Everyone has felt that self same pull... we just act upon it differently (or exactly the same) as they did back in the Edo era.

Now... the art form of ukiyo-e was inspired by the Kabuki (歌舞伎 - classic Japanese dance/drama) and the brothels of Japan. Images were initially drawn depicting a famous Courtesan - Oiran (花魁) or Kabuki actor, especially after art lovers became bored with nature scenes of birds, fish and landscapes (though each still had a niche market... later in the Edo era, artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige revived the landscape market with their fresh take on things).

The most famous area of brothel was in the Capital city of Edo (now known as Tokyo), where the Yoshiwara floating world was set up. Yoshiwara (吉原) was a famous yūkaku (遊廓、遊郭, pleasure district, red-light district) - the first, official such place set-up and legitimized by the Shogun.

From shabby beginnings, to nearly becoming a city within the city with parks, shops, restaurants and gardens, Yoshiwara had, by the year 1869, 3,289 courtesans working in 153 brothels, which were known colloquially as 'green houses'.

There were also 394 legit tea houses there, because sex doesn't mean one has to be an animal about it.

Established in 1618 AD, Yoshiwara was a means for the Shogun to control Edo's more seedier elements.

Brothel owners got together (with the Shogun) and discussed plans for a single area of pleasure to be set up in Edo, who agreed that a licensed pleasure quarter would be the best for all parties, allowing them better control over who could prostitute, while ensuring its clients were kept in check.

A key rule agreed upon was that no client could stay in a brothel for longer than 24 hours at a time ensuring that no one could shirk their job or official duties.

The area was set up on a reedy-filled swamp known as the Moor of Rushes... which translated into Yoshiwara. It remained in that area until a large fire in 1657 destroyed half the city, prompting the construction of a new Yoshiwara quarter to be set up near Edo's Asakusa-ji... Asakusa Temple (it remained here until it was closed down in 1958 AD. Damn Americans. Probably. I'm not sure.

Actually, until 1957, Japan's government allowed regulated prostitution. 

Who worked here at the Yoshiwara?

Prostitutes in the form of a Courtesan... young girls who were sold by their families to the brothels to pay of debts, or from families who had suffered from some earthquake or fire or famine, or even noble families of the aristocracy who used it as a means of ridding themselves of a girl who had embarrassed herself and the noble family in some manner.

Here's a partial view of an ukiyo-e print I own that is too big for my new home scanner... actually, they are all too big for my scanner, as the one's above were done on a huge flatbed at a previous work place. As you can see, here we have a man taking advantage of a woman who was doing some writing, by slipping his hand down the top of her kimono. Is this a scene from the Yoshiwara - no, but you get the idea. How do I know it's a man copping a feel? The shaved head was always depicted in blue. I didn't know that when I bought the art, figuring I had something different. Artist help, please.
Once a prostitute, always a prostitute... unless they happened to catch the eye of a rich customer who could buy her way out of debt and into a more secure home life... each brothel did, of course, keep track of just how much money each girl had cost them... from food, shelter, training, dress, etc. Buying the freedom of a Courtesan was not inexpensive.

When a new girl arrived at a brothel, she was given a new name... the Japanese equivalent of a Brittney, Chelsea, Lexus or Porsche that are common in today's western world. It was to inform the girl that whomever they were before, upon passing the Omon (Entrance Gate) of Yoshiwara, they were now someone else altogether.

There are two sets of rankings of courtesan - Pre-1750, and Post 1750.

I am going to detail how things were first, with Post 1750AD.

These new girls... the rookies, were known as Kamuro (禿), and would act as a maid to a Courtesan. They ranged in age from anywhere from seven to 15. I know, I know. No no sex was involved... just a young life of servitude.

If a kamuro was pretty, then she had a chance to move up the ranks, and was taught the arts of music, poetry, painting, flower arrangement and even the tea ceremony... all elegant stuff that turns a female into a woman of taste. (I'm just being historically accurate here, and not expounding my own views.)

I said pretty girls could advance. Those lacking in physical beauty... well... made for maid's work. Sad but true. They could learn the other skills, but the brothel owners had to create women that men would clamor for in order to make money.

After proper training, by the time the kamuro was 13 to 15, she could attain the rank of Shinzô (新造 newly made one). At that time there would be five days of celebration within the brothel where she would be dressed up and pampered and paraded through the streets of Yoshiwara... and then she would be taught the ways of eroticism.

Its not just how to have sex... it was how to tease, and entice and pamper... and once mastered, she could work as a prostitute... which again, in those days was a courtesan.

The shinzô could be anywhere from 13- to 23-years-old, and they served as attendants to higher-ranking courtesans. Younger shinzô were identified by the long-sleeved furisode of a young girl, while those who had earned a certain degree of popularity with clients wore the tomesode (short sleeves) of a full-fledged courtesan.

Prior to 1761AD shinzô attendants were forbidden from engaging in sexual relations with clients, but after that year, they began to service men.

A shinzô of beauty could rise up the ranks... to a Heyamochi, a Zashikimochi, a Tsukemawashi, a Chûsa, or with extreme beauty and erotic skill and refined artistic skill, become a Yobidashi chûsan.

A Tsukemawashi (付け廻し) was the lowest ranking oiran, requiring no appointment, and one could enter without having to make an appointment.

A Heyamochi (部屋持, which means "room-holding") was a prostitute/courtesan who had a room at the Green House/brothel where she could entertain her clients. No attendants, usually.

The Zashikimochi (座敷持, "chamber-holding") was a courtesan who had her own small apartment/chamber for private bouncy-bouncy. The difference between them and a heyamochi was that they had up to two shinzô and up to two kamura girls working for them.

The Chûsan (昼三) was a top-level prostitute, who sat in the front room of a brothel - part of the display of what a Green House offered, and could be hired without needing to make an appointment.

The Yobidashi chûsan (呼出昼三, "a chûsan called-out, summoned") was the top of the top when it came to escorts. The difference between them and a chûsan, was that a man was required to make an appointment to see her well in advance of arriving at Yoshiwara (or other legalized brothels in Japan).

Before 1750AD, there were fewer ranks:

There was still the kamuro, and shinzô (also known as hikifune), and then to tenjin (天神), as courtesans-in-training - which means no-sex for pay for them.

I'm actually curious about what sort of training they received when it came to the erotic arts... was it just theory, or was there some practical involved? Having done university( theory) and college (practical), nothing beats hands-on-training, despite the snob appeal of university. That's five years of my life I'll never get back. But... we were talking about courtesans and prostitution. I have no idea, at this time, what the training fully encompassed. Sorry.

Before 1750AD, the lowest of the courtesan rank were the Hashi (端), and thus the most affordable. There was no application required to see her, and she had no power to reject a customer. If some fat, sweaty, smelly guy had the cash, she had to let him get atop her. Waiting for customers, she was part of the visual catalog, sitting on display in the front room of a brothel. She would have to either wait until a room opened up before she did, or she would have to rent a room in order to entertain. Entertain... it sounds wrong, doesn't it?

A Tsubone (局) was just like a hashi courtesan, except that she had a pre-set room for herself and her customers. The tsubone and a hashi are low on the hierarchy.

The second-rank Kôshi (格子, literally translated to 'lattice), was special. If a man wished to see one, he required an official letter of recommendation from that or another Yoshiwara brothel. Then he would have to set up a meeting date and time with the ageya (揚屋) at the brothel (perhaps done at the House of Introduction at the main gate). The kôshi and her sundry attendants would have a single meeting to decide if she would accept the man as a client.

If the man was accepted—rejections were rare, actually—upon arrival at the agreed upon date and time, the man would discuss services in the front room of the brothel.

The Tayû (太夫) was top of the food chain as far as courtesans came. Yes, I meant to write that. You should know me by now. I've read that the term tayû owes its origins to an official title within Japan's imperial court, but that it was perverted at some time to mean something else in the world of the courtesan - performer.

Just like for a kôshi, in order to achieve the right to boink a tayû, there were procedures to follow. One needed the letter of recommendation from a Yoshiwara brothel. An application needed to be submitted to the ageya (揚屋) at the brothel where the tayû worked.

Anyone entertaining a tayû would have to be rich. They paid for the food, and the artistic entertainment, and didn't get any sex out of it until the third visit.

Kind of like the so-called expectations nowadays over the 'third-date'.

But... like the modern version of the 'third-date', the tayû was under no such requirement to have to have sex with the man. But it would be nice.

In fact, upon that third meeting, a tayû could still reject the client-to-be. Yes... who's the real sucker?

In fact, (I say again), being rejected by the tayû was not uncommon. There were only so many hot tayû around, and since she did not need to perform as often as any of the lower level courtesans to make a lot more money... so why prostitute herself IE give herself up quickly?

No... this was a game in order to pry the most amount of money away from the marks.

Once rejected, that man had to begin the process again... trying to woo her for three 'dates' with expensive meals and gifts... trying to impress upon her that he has the financial means to satisfy her cravings - all the while not knowing if she had the wiles to satisfy his sexual cravings. She did, but that's beside the point. At least she had some power. She didn't require many clients... even one influential man would do.

And then... by the time a courtesan hit the ripe old age of 27... phhhhht. Over.

She would retire as a courtesan and, if she had been wise with her money, enter the lucrative field of brothel management, or if she were not, continue as a street-walker, carrying her own bedroll with her as she turned tricks for little money in Yoshiwara... or, she could marry and have a family.

For the brothel owners, having ukiyo-e artists draw the women in the prints was great advertising.

These women were NEVER shown nude. The Japanese ideal, at the time, was to show beauty in the face, the hair, and the kimono. Subtlety ruled.

The only thing I have seen, however, is that the courtesan's depicted in ukiyo-e prints really do all tend to look alike... maybe I'm not seeing the subtlety, not being an Edo-era Japanese man.Or maybe I have too many prints from the same artist.

As for the more explicit shunga artwork showing women and men in sexual positions, complete with description of the position achieved, the prints were gathered in 'pillow books' and given to young brides to ensure both the husband and herself achieved the best possible pleasure.

Now... not once have I said HOW a man goes about finding a courtesan, or even mentioned the word 'Geisha'. The former I will talk about, but note that a geisha - a high-level geisha, never prostituted herself for sex. She was a master of the arts and entertainment and really was also an escorted companion when he ate. Low-level geisha, of the era, might perform sexual favors for cash, however, but it was not part of the official job.

So... let's suppose you are a horny man with a yen to spend some gold Nishuban or silver Isshuban...

A few coins I picked up in Japan. I collected Canadian and U.S. coins, so what the heck, eh?
That's gold - and silver from my own collection, plus some standard coppers (with the square hole) - all from the 1600s up to the 1800s. The coppers are all around the 1630s, and I had an original piece of rope that went through each of the 100 coins to act as a wallet, of sorts. I say 'had', only because in my possession, that rope became brittle and aside from a small chunk in my possession, disintegrated. It's still cool, though, in my opinion. No wonder I had a tough time saving money... I spent it on money and other interesting souvenirs.

So... here's how it is for a man to hire a courtesan at Yoshiwara:

As we enter Yoshiwara, we must first enter the House of Introduction (Hikite-jaya), where we are helped by workers there in making our choice of which brothel to visit, and then with which courtesan we might wish to boink, and even what date or time.

At the House of Introduction, records are kept about when we enter, who we are, where we are going, and whom we are doing. No one is judging, but it helps ensure order is maintained.

Once the choices have been made, and the terms of the deal set - but not paid upfront - a serving girl accompanies us to the brothel/green house we chose, and waits on us during dinner... and then leads us to our 'sleeping chamber', and goes away.

That's when the courtesan we chose back at the House of Introduction shows up to provide her special services.

I'm pretty sure it was MSOG, which is current 'escort' slang for 'multiple shots on goal', a hockey term turned naughty that implies the man can ejaculate more than once, but will pay for that privilege based on what parameters were agreed upon earlier at the Introduction facility at the front of the Yoshiwara. No... MSOG was not an exact term used at the Yoshiwara.

Lastly, it has been my understanding from talking to various dealers in Japanese art, that when it comes to the depiction of women in ukiyo-e prints, for those of us who can not read the descriptions on the prints, one way of determining the rank of the women is to look at their hair - specifically how many hair pins are in it.

The prostitutes and low-level maidens may simply only have one or two hair pins, while the aristocratic rich one with have 10+, with ornate pins being the norm.

You can see an example of that in the triptych ukiyo-e I have framed showing the Tale of Genji.

I used to join the three images I had originally shot (back in 2011) separately. It worked pretty well... I did have to create my own sizing, though. Genji's wife - the aristocrat, is standing... compare her hairpins to the others.
Sorry I had to shoot the triptych panel by panel and from various angles (and heights - because I'm not a robot, nor do I have a tripod, though that used to be my nickname... it's still a nickname if you give the nickname to yourself, right? Oh.) it from the side to avoid flashback off the frame's glass.

Anyhow... that's enough about prostitution in Edo-jidai (era) Japan. For now.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Japan And The NFL

It's Super Bowl today, February 7, 2016, and Japan does have its fairshare of football fans, as it has played host to quite a few National Football League (NFL) games over the years.

But the country has played host to a few games between NFL teams. As seen by the photo above, they sure love their pigskin.

The first was in 1976 in Tokyo, and was called the Mainichi Star Bowl at the old Korakuen Stadium. It was played between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers, with the Cards winning 20-10.

After that, the NFL created a series of international contest called the American Bowl games - pre-season NFL exhibition games that rewarded international fans, while examining the viability of creating teams for an International league.

Teams were chosen by the NFL, and was always the fifth pre-season game for the participants held the same weekend as its Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, so it would not take away from participating teams' pre-season schedules.

According to a The Japan Times interview with former NFL linebacker Adam Seward, playing games in Japan wasn't all fun and sushi:

“I actually had some friends that played in that preseason game in Japan,” said Seward, who now serves as a coach for the Kyoto University football team.
“While some really enjoyed the experience, others weren’t so fond of it and couldn’t wait to get back to the United States.
“Though the time change was an issue, the tough part was being in an environment which differs significantly from the typical environment in the U.S. For a large NFL player, it can be tough to eat a Japanese diet, stay in a Japanese hotel room, and walk outside on narrow sidewalks, even if it is just for a few days.”

The first was held at Tokyo Dome on August 6, 1989. The Los Angeles Rams (remember them?) beat the San Francisco 49ers 16-13.

Next, on August 5, 1990, the Denver Broncos defeated the Seattle Seahawks 10-7 at the Tokyo Dome.

August 4, 1991 at the Tokyo Dome,  the Miami Dolphins beat the Los Angeles Raiders (nee Oakland) 19-17.

Next year, the Houston Oilers (they will always be the Oilers in my book!) beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-23 at the Tokyo Dome on August 2, 1992.

And on August 1, 1993 at the Tokyo Dome, the New Orleans Saints beat the Philadelphia Eagles 29-16.

August 7, 1994, the Minnesota Vikings beat the Kansas City Chiefs 17-9 at Tokyo Dome.

On August 6, 1995, it was the Denver Broncos smashing the San Francisco 49ers 24-10 at the Tokyo Dome.

There was a game on August 12, 1995 at SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre) in Toronto, Canada between the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys. It was a real snorefest. I only mention this because it was the first NFL game I had ever attended.

Oh yeah... it was also the day after it became legal for women to go topless in Ontario, and luckily a few female fans obliged. Really. Since then... sightings have been few and far between. None, by these eyes since the 1990s.

Women won the right for equality and then refuse to honor it. It saddens me. LOL! 

July 28, 1996 at the Tokyo Dome, the San Diego Chargers beat my Pittsburgh Steelers 20-10.

They skipped Japan in 1997.

By the way... there were plenty of other games being played in other cities around the world for the American Bowl... I'm not mentioning them all because this is a blog about Japan written by a Canadian. You can look it up if you are interested HERE.

On August 2, 1998, fans at the Tokyo Dome were treated to a good game between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, won by the Packers 27-24.

Nothing in 1999, but on August 6, 2000, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-9.

The next, and last three American Bowl games were all played in Japan.

August 3, 2002 at the Osaka Dome in Osaka (not Tokyo!), the Washington Redskins hammered the San Francisco 49ers 38-7.

August 2, 2004 at the Tokyo Dome, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers obliterated the New York Jets 30-14.

Lastly, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Indianapolis Colts (nee Baltimore) 27-21 at the Tokyo Dome.

Nothing since, and Japanese football fans lament the snub... but that's just business and nothing personal.

As for the 2015-2016 Super Bowl. Enjoy, and drink responsibly.

Andrew Joseph

Komori and Highcon partner up

I usually try to do my own version of news, but what the heck... here's a slightly edited version of a press release I received. Tomorrow... something on Edo-era prostitution - why it worked and what was wrong with it.

Komori Corporation of Japan and Israel's Highcon have formed a strategic partnership that will allow Komori to sell and supporting the Highcon Euclid digital cutting and creasing solutions in the Japanese market.

This partnership is a key step in Komori’s strategy to provide comprehensive solutions to their customers, covering both analog and digital workflows, and spanning printing and finishing alike.

The first Highcon Euclid machine in Japan was recently installed at Komori’s Graphic Technology Center at Tsukuba.

As part of this event, 400 of Komori’s strategic customers in Japan will receive the opportunity to see firsthand how this revolutionary digital finishing technology fits into the Komori portfolio.

By offering the Highcon Euclid, Komori will provide customers with a solution that removes bottlenecks in the post-press process. Moreover, the Highcon Euclid II+ can perform the most intricate cutouts, deliver production samples for test marketing and produce packaging for customers that simply could not be done conventionally.

Komori will offer the UV (ultraviolet) inkjet digital printing machine—the Impremia IS29—and the Highcon Euclid digital cutting & creasing system to allow their customers to grow their business by adding value.

The Euclid series of machines has already been installed in over 20 sites worldwide, and the companies using this system are successfully demonstrating the benefits of the differentiation it offers. This collaboration is a win-win situation for Komori, Highcon and their customers.

Komori operation officer and global sales and service group, group general manager Kajita Eiji (surname first) says: "We believe that concluding the agreement with Highcon, is an important step in Komori’s business target of being a PESP (Print Engineering Service Provider). We are encouraging our customers’ success by providing a variety of solutions to resolve their problems with partner companies from all over the world. The combination of Highcon’s innovative system and Komori’s products will provide a new business model which has not been possible to implement until now."

Highcon co-founder and chief executive officer Aviv Ratzman adds, "This partnership is a testament to the quality and industrial strength of our product offering which brings huge benefits to both digital and conventional workflows. We are proud to have our young technology taking its place amidst the portfolio of Komori, with their almost 100 years’ experience of manufacturing products of superior quality and reliability."

About Komori
For over 90 years since its establishment in 1923, Komori Corporation has been producing offset printing presses. Its flagship products include sheet-fed offset presses, web offset presses and related equipment. Moreover, Komori has been supplying security printing presses to the National Printing Bureau in Japan as well as to overseas customers in dozens of countries. Komori endeavors to improve the quality and productivity of its basic printing presses and develop printing information networks and automated integrated printing systems to respond to the recent trend of digital workflow and networking, and realize a total printing production system. With its sights fixed on remaining a trusted Print Engineering Service Provider, Komori also works to bring the range of its proposals to bear in solving customer issues. More information at

About Highcon
Founded in 2009 by Aviv Ratzman and Michael Zimmer, Highcon has developed a truly innovative digital cutting and creasing solution that is transforming the post-print market. The Highcon Euclid offers converters and printers design flexibility, and rapid speed to market, while eliminating costly production steps and reducing carbon footprint of label, paper, folding carton, and microflute production. Launched at Drupa 2012, the Euclid is installed at customer sites in the North America, Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Highcon is represented by channel partners and a dedicated sales force. More information at

 Image credit: "Digitally cut & creased by Highcon Euclid."