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Friday, August 22, 2014

Japan Looking For Air Supremacy

Despite Constitutional arrangements to the contrary, Japan is looking to up the ante in its belief it will soon require its own airfare - and not just for the Japanese Self-Defense Force.

Starting in 2015, Japan will be testing out the Advanced Technology Demonstrator-X (ATD-X) - a state-of-the-art jet fighter constructed by the Japanese Ministry of Defense's Technical Research &
Development Institute that it actually began working on some four years earlier.    

Part of this, that makes it particularly interesting, is that since World War II, this is essentially the first time that Japan has developed its own fighter jet without having to rely on the machinations of its allied Western contractors.

The Ministry of Defense has hinted it will ask for about ¥40-billion (US $384-million) in funding for the fiscal year starting in April of 2015.

Part of that funding is expected to go towards realizing by 2018 if it should continue with the totally Japanese ATD-X.

The reason why the development of the ATD-X all-Japan fighter jet began was, pure and simple, because the F-2 fighter being produced by Japanese and U.S. concerns had come to an end.

While the last of the F-2 jets is expected to be out of service to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force by about 2028 - development obviously needs to start now… or four years earlier.

According to the Technical Research & Development Institute, it has already made some great progress on the ATD-X's development, with advances on lightweighting the airframe and improvements to the missile-firing mechanisms.

Although the proposed engines for the ATD-X are not yet ready—in fact, they haven't been designed yet—an initial flight to test the way the plane handles in the air is scheduled for January 2015 using stand-in jet engines.

The Technical Research & Development Institute says that the proposed prototype jet engines for the ATD-X will begin by April 2015 involving the combined might of such powerhouse Japanese firms as: IHI Corporation, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. and other defense contractors.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, if you will recall, was the company behind the development of the Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane during WWII that inflicted heavy losses on Japan's enemy at the beginning of the war with its quickness… though at  the time, a lot of the quickness was derived from light-weighting the plane owing to inferior armor protection, which usually meant that a couple of bullets could take it down.

IHI Corporation, formerly known as Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. is a Japanese company renowned for production of ships, airplane engines, turbochargers for automobiles, industrial machines, power station boilers and other facilities, suspension bridges and other transport-related machinery.

The Ishikawajima Ne-20 (石川島 ネ-20) was Japan's first turbojet engine that was actually developed during World War II in parallel with the nation's first military jet, the Nakajima Kikka (中島 橘花 "Orange Blossom).

The task of completing these engines for the ATD-X will be completed in five years, but it is expected that for the engine's turbine blades, the companies will utilize heat-resistant ceramics… which is supposed to be an area where Japan is a global leader.

It's not like Japan hasn't built a jet on its own before, as WWII will attest, and it certainly has the know-how and capabilities, but the idea is to design a jet in 2014 that will still seem futuristic and very viable by the time it debuts and for a few years after that.

The initial costs for the ATD-X - or whatever it will be called when the final product is produced - is around ¥500- to ¥800 billion, but there will always be unforeseen costs, so you can be sure that no matter what the estimate, it is only an estimate. No one ever comes in under budget, except when they don't want to.

Now, come what may of the whole ATD-X fighter jet, which I assume MUST have stealth technology rendering it virtually invisible to radar and hat-seeking missiles, even if the plane is not purchased as Japan's next great fighter jet, the technology developed can and will be used for Japan to sell to other countries in the development of their aviation technology.

Image above shows Japan's experimental ATD-X next-gen stealth jet fighter. Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Story of Fuchida - The Man Who Lead The Attack On Pearl Harbor

Here's a comic book I purchased back in 1975 as a 10-year-old for $0.39 called simply: Attack!

I have no idea why I purchased it, suffice to say that I always enjoyed war comic books, and this one had a real cool rising sun image on it, and a cover that promised some incredible actions from Japanese airplane attacks to boats being in flames.

I probably flipped through it at the convenience/variety store and thought that my dad did not need all this change from the $10 bill he gave me to by the $0.40 loaf of bread.

More often than not, that was how a loaf of bread always seemed to cost my dad $10. To his credit, the grief he gave me afterwards was very mild. I have over 35,000 comic books nowadays.

Published by Spire Christian Comics I had no idea that it had a religious theme in it...

Spire Christian Comics actually put out a wide variety of Christian-based comic books, and utilized the services of Archie (of Riverdale fame), Tom Landry (of the Dallas Cowboys), and even Johnny Cash (of Johnny Cash fame). Regardless of the religious theme, they actually presented some pretty decent books, but did so where the religion fit in perfectly.

What is interesting is that the artist, Al Hartley, made the Japanese look Japanese and not look like something evil.

My only complaint is the error on Page 8 at the bottom panel, where our 'topic' stands in front of a statue of Admiral Togo that has the death date of 1934 on it. While the date is correct, it is obvious that our 'topic' was there in 1925 or 1926... after he declares that "Aircraft will win the next war."

This story - a true story, by the way - is about Japan's Fuchida Mitsuo (surname first)... the man who lead the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii back on December 7, 1941 - screaming out those famous words - or a version thereof: "Tora! Tora! Tora!"

Until now, I had no idea this was a real person or a real story... and yet I obviously knew this back in 1975.

Read his story here... and maybe this weekend I'll do a more indepth feature on him.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yaskawa Motoman Celebrates 25th anniversary

The Motoman Robotics Division of Yaskawa America, Inc. (Yaskawa Motoman), a leading robotics company in the Americas, celebrate its 25th anniversary in August 2014.

The company, previously known as Motoman Inc., was formally incorporated on July 18, 1989 as a 50/50 joint venture between Hobart Brothers Company and Yaskawa Electric America, and began operations as a stand-alone entity in August 1989.

The company was launched with 59 employees and was considered a niche player in North America. Within just a few years, Motoman Inc. was considered a leading force in the America’s robot industry.

In 1994, Motoman Inc. became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yaskawa Electric Corporation—headquartered in Kitakyushu, Japan—a worldwide leader in mechatronics and robots.

The company has continued to expand its operations and product offerings and now has 11 facilities throughout the Americas, nearly 600 employees and over 35,000 robots installed.

The keys to Yaskawa Motoman’s success include commitment to stellar customer satisfaction, focus on delivering innovative automation solutions, dedicated employees, strong suppliers and a committed parent company.

“The past few years, we’ve added new team members and completed our first acquisition, providing new capabilities and skills that will take Yaskawa Motoman to the next level of technology and robotic solutions,” states Yaskawa Motoman president and chief operating officer Steve Barhorst.

“Looking forward, we will continue to add new members to our growing team, and we are excited to see what the next 25 years will bring.”

Yaskawa Motoman, responsible for the Americas, is headquartered in Miamisburg, Ohio in a 300,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility upon a 25-acre site that allows for an additional 200,000 square feet of building expansion (see photo).

Yaskawa Motoman has increased employment in the Dayton, Ohio area by approximately 35 per cent since 2011 and continues to actively recruit additional employees to support its current growth. The company is also committed to supporting the nation’s STEM initiatives and promoting the use of robotics for education and workforce development.

Additional facilities are located in Rochester Hills, Michigan; Irvine, California; Austin, Texas; Mississauga, Ontario and Pointe Claire, Quebec; Mexico in Aguascalientes, Monterrey and Queretaro; and Brazil (Diadema – São Paulo).

Yaskawa Motoman will hold an internal celebration with employees to recognize their 25-year anniversary.  Plans are underway to participate in Yaskawa’s 100-year global celebration in 2015 including an open house and customer appreciation events.

About Yaskawa Electric Corporation

Yaskawa is globally recognized for innovative technology and quality products, and holds the position as the world’s largest manufacturer of AC drives, motion control products and industrial robots. Yaskawa production and distribution facilities are located in 28 countries.

As a total business solution company, Yaskawa provides motion control, robotics, system engineering and information technologies. Yaskawa has also expanded into the environment and energy domain, as well as robotic/human co-existence for the service market. Currently Yaskawa has focused R&D efforts on several rehabilitation devices, and has established a strategic partnership with Argo Medical Technologies for specific efforts in medical/nursing care equipment.

About Yaskawa Motoman

Founded in 1989, the Motoman Robotics Division of Yaskawa America, Inc. is a leading robotics company in the Americas. With nearly 300,000 Motoman robots installed globally, Yaskawa provides automation products and solutions for virtually every industry and robotic application; including arc welding, assembly, coating, dispensing, material handling, material cutting, material removal, packaging, palletizing and spot welding. For more information visit

Simpsons Do Donkey Kong

As my workflow has increased at work without so much as a 'by your leave' or a please - having it forced down my throat as though 'tough sh!t someone now has to do it so hurry up, you are already late', I'm so pissed off I just want to chuck stuff and swear.

Fortunately (?), I have Homer Simpson to do that on my behalf.

Featuring a lovely parody of the original Donkey Kong video game from Japan's Nintendo, we have Simpsons Comics # 161 from a 2009 published by the fine and demented folks over at Bongo Comics who have been publishing the American comic book for 21 years straight - not including a 1991 one-shot.

In this cover, we have Homer as Donkey Kong chucking drums of nuclear waste, Lisa as the princess who needs rescuing - though she is reading Gorillas In The Mist and seems nonplussed about her father whom she once called a "baboon baboon baboon!", and a determined, mustache-less Bart Simpson leaping over the barrels/drums to get to the top...

... and this case, I have no idea why... it's not like Bart really wants to rescue Lisa... but who cares... it's a very witty cover bringing back many fond memories for myself back when I would hangout at the not so local arcades and, while using the old taped quarter on a string trick, would fish 99 credits - 98 of which would be free, as you had to let the taped coin be captured after maxing out the machine...

You'd think I would have been better at the game - but I would sell my credits to others at a discount making enough money to purchase comic books now worth more than my memories.

And yes, this comic is from my collection, as I used to collect every Simpsons comic book published until a few years ago.   

Still, my biggest thrill, such that it is, is knowing that my son will now sit still and read these comics... pretty good considering that three years ago he was unable to to read - something very distressing for a dad who also calls himself a writer. 

I, strangely enough, identify with Bart right now.
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bo-taoshi - A Nice Violent Japanese Sport

Since I apparently forgot to post a blog at midnight my time - accidentally publishing it 12 hours earlier - d'oh! - I'm in a mad scramble to get something together for you all for lunch time.

Of course, my scramble hasn't got anything on the scramble of the Japanese involved in the game known as Bo-taoshi.

Bo-taoshi (棒倒し) translates to "pole bring-down" - once again proving that many sports simply describe the sport's most impressive feature in its name… like Football… unless of course you are an American.

This game is essentially a violent Japanese version of Capture The Flag… a game I have only played once at some paintball place, where I actually broke through and captured the damn flag after an impressive suicidal zig-zag run at the enemy's base, lunged for the flag, grabbed it and then was pummeled by about 47 paintball blasts - which actually hurt at close range, and when you are playing against a bunch of crazy summbitches who actually own and bring their own paintball guns serially charged with better penetrating power - which isn't as sexual as you might think.

It's kind of like Bo-taoshi.

Here… watch the video.

My favorite part was near the end over at the far right where you can see one guy has another guy in a submission leg hold.

Now… I have heard that this game is played on sports days at schools (plural) in Japan, but having seen it, it seems a tad dangerous, does it not?

I used to play Buck-Buck - after some dumb kid heard about it on a Bill Cosby comedy record album - and after one 15-minute recess of earth-shaking fun, it was banned from the school premises, as apparently the school thought 20 cases of mangled spines was excessive play for the average nine and 10-year-old.

Having withstood a disintegrating disc, two herniated disc (and having my 4th and 5th lumbar joined from birth) plus having the spongy material between the discs in my spine become compacted - thereby making me 5'-10-1/2", rather than a taller 5'-11-3/4 (thank god I only lost an inch in HEIGHT!) - and knowing that if I was that proper height I would actually only be less than 10 lbs overweight… I can appreciate that some sports played in school can be violent, dangerous and simply not good for one's future health. Like Bo-taoshi.

Look at that… you got a bit of my actual history and health all rolled up in one very late blog.

Anyhow, the cadets of the National Defense Academy of Japan actually participate in a massive game of Bo-taoshi on its anniversary - thereby ensuring that its students get into some real fighting.

Two teams of 150 people each try and topple each other's pole in separate charges, with 75 attackers and 75 defenders working separately.

Looking like something out of the zombie apocalypse movie World War Z, one team's 75 attackers try to take down the other team's pole, which is being guarded by 75 defenders.

Apparently while one team attacks, it is being attacked by the other team's attackers.

When that is achieved - and I assume it is always achieved - so perhaps a winner is chosen by shortest toppling time less number of broken bones caused plus broken bones suffered - but that's just a sarcastic guess on my part.      

Actually, victory is achieved when the attacking team lowers the opposing team's pole to a 30-degree angle - and does so before the other team.

Until 1973, the angle of victory was 45-degrees.

I don't know about you, but the whole thing does indeed sound sexual… Erect pole… game over when pole shrinks down… obviously 45-degrees implies it may still have life…  

If there are rules, they apparently go right out the window after a player launches himself (never HERself) at one of the piles of writhing (in agony) flesh.

How strange… in Japan where there is a rule for everything, there are no stiff rules hoer than trying to take down the stiff competition any way possible. 

Now… even though the rules are to win or lose (in the old days did the losers have to kill themselves in shame for the dishonor they brought to the National Defense Academy of Japan, their parents, selves and most importantly to their heritage?), there are actually designated positions in this sport of sports:  

  • Pole support - to hold the pole in the upright position;
  • Barrier - the largest part of the defense, their job is to protect the pole;
  • Interference - harass and interrupt attacks that get within the barrier;
  • Scrum disabler - scrum is the offensive strategy in which the attackers use their teammates back to spring themselves over the barrier and onto the pole. The scrum disablers do whatever they can to eliminate this attack;
  • Ninja - this is the single man at the top of the pole. This is one of the most important positions on defense. The ninja must lean to the opposite side if the pole is being tilted to counteract the weight.

  • Springboard/scrum - the scrum acts as stepping stones so their offensive teammates can jump over the barrier and have easy access to the pole;
  • Pole attackers - in charge of taking the ninja down and using their weight to bring the pole down;
  • General support attackers - Do anything to make it hard on the defense.
When you see a sport like this in Japan, played in schools and by its peace-loving National Defense Academy of Japan… is it any wonder that people think Japan could actually have its own version of The Hunger Games - like THIS Battle Royale.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, August 18, 2014

Neko Pitcher

I'd like to show you the newest cartoon to be featured in The Japan News newspaper, called Neko Pitcher... about a cat who is a baseball pitcher... which seems appropriate enough since my son is making me watch a horribly predictable movie called Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch... a 2002 movie about a dog who... whatever.

Neko Pitcher--that's him in the image above--is written and drawn by Sonishi Kenji (surname first).

Anyhow, click HERE for a look at Neko Pitcher, which has been translated quite well from its native Japanese to English.

I'm just not sure if it's supposed to be funny or not - because it's only mildly amusing.

I know one shouldn't criticize unless one can do better themselves, but the concept just seems weak...I mean that cat isn't even wearing a uniform! Where's his baseball cap? How does he grab a baseball without a thumb?

Does the cat throw anything other than furballs?

I'm not sure which is turning me off baseball more... Still... you get 27 outs before the game is over...

Andrew Joseph

Basketball Player Dunks On Three Samurai & A Sumo Wrestler

This is an old story - from the 2013 off-season, when former 2008 #1 pick by the Chicago Bulls of the NBA (National Basketball Association) - and still playing for Chicago - Derrick Rose was traveling across Asia hawking shoes for Adidas.

As part of that DRose Tour in Asia promotional tour last September 7, Rose landed in Sendai, Japan... looking to show off his mad skills with a little one-on-one.

While he also took on Japanese pro basketball player Ishida Takaki (surname first), one guy wasn't enough, so he played against three men... as in three samurai - complete with katana swords.

Obviously samurai in armor are not going to be very quick, and they were further penalized by not being able to draw their swords to cut DRose to the stem, but it was mildly amusing.

But perhaps even more astounding was the hype the Japanese and English announcer had for DRose's final victim... a former basketball player from Hawaii, who now goes by the name of Yokozuna Akebono - yes... one of the greatest sumo wrestlers of our generation... and the first-ever foreigner grand sumo champion yokozuna.

Let's see how the big guy does:

Wow... he just blew by him on the outside while rather than defending, the Yokozuna's old habits resurfaced as he attempted to push DRose off to the side with a patented one-two push with his cement-like hands...

... and then he caught himself and let the ballplayer go. That was lucky for DRose.

Afterwards, a very sweaty Akebono toweled off after his 17 seconds of work, which was about 10 seconds longer than his longest sumo match... and a hell of a long time for the retired great o-sumo-san.

And... even though Derrick Rose is with the enemy Chicago Bulls, he can play on my Toronto Raptors any day.

And Akebono - I remember watching him become the first foreigner (gaijin) Yokozuna back in January of 1993 - watching him on television and loving every minute of being a fellow gaijin in Japan.

He made me so proud.

Foreign-born Musashimaru made me prouder as I said when I first saw him that one day HE would also be a yokozuna - and he was and I was right. The gaijin no sensei was right! Good buddy Matthew was the one to tell me THAT good news.

Andrew Joseph