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Friday, October 31, 2014

Japanese Kit Kat Taste Test

Well.. I just did one video in my last entry - why not another.

For those of us stuck in anyplace NOT Japan, we are quite limited in our Kit Kat chocolate selections... with chocolate, dark chocolate... I think there's an orange flavor... but that's about it.

In Japan... there are over 200 flavor varieties. 200!!!!

Here's a video that gives some of these flavors to Americans who are not experienced with Japan - and then films their reactions.

Anyhow, thanks to Julien for the heads up! 

Have a nice light snack!

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, October 30, 2014

OK Go Music Video Filmed With Drone

From my friend Emily, comes the following music video from the group OK Go - featuring their song: I Won't Let You Down.

OK Go is an American alternative rock band originally from Chicago, Illinois, US of A., but are now based in Los Angeles, California. The band is composed of Damian Kulash (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Nordwind (bass guitar and vocals), Dan Konopka (drums and percussion) and Andy Ross (guitar, keyboards and vocals).

So why do we care here on Japan—It's A Wonderful Rife?

Besides the interesting beat (I really do prefer less dance and more driving rock chords in my music), there is a Japanese element to the song and video.

Plus... it's kinda a catchy tune.

And they used a special-built drone to film the while video in ONE take - although they did do 44 takes, completing the whole routine 11 times... but still... this version was their best take... and it is one continuous shot.

And they use Honda's new car, the UNI-CUB

Oh yeah... OK Go are also apparently friends with the video's director - the Japanese dude named Morihiro Harano.

Okay... I have to admit the song has grown on me after a couple of listens...  It won't let you down.

Andrew Joseph

Scandals Rock Prime Minister's World

As a fairly normal guy, in my more happy horny days of my youth, I have spent an evening in a strip club and promptly thrown away hundreds of dollars on booze and strippers - I believe my high was $1400 where I'm pretty sure I bought someone thigh-high red boots.

I'm not bragging about that. It is what it is and I had a good time while the good times lasted. Do I wish I had the money now? You betcha. It sure seems like a stupid waste of time - but oh! the stories I could tell!

Still, I am sure there are better ways I could spend that money if I still had it nowadays… but I doubt I would still have it. I spend what I have to enjoy life.

Money - unless it is spent, is just some colored pieces of paper in one's wallet or purse. I use a wallet.

Anyhow… here's the thing… when I spent my money out at the aforementioned clubs several times a week (how out of control was I after my mother died and I left the love of my life behind in another country?), it was my money spent for entertainment purposes. I see it now as the price of growing up.

I ate the cost.

Can you imagine if you or I had dared to ask for a receipt from such an establishment so that I could invoice it back at work for tax purposes or to get money back from petty cash as the cost of doing business?

Well… as silly as it might sound to some of you, despite it being 2014 many a legitimate business deal has been brokered between executives while a naked woman gyrated inches from their noses.

That kind of thing is certainly frowned upon in my current industry, but I have a friend involved in the finance world - and invoicing such dark and skanky retreats is common practice.

But that's finance. It has it's own moral values.

Money makes the world go round. Money is the root of evil. Therefore the world is evil.

I've vocally quoted that for decades.

Politics has its own moral values, as well… and despite me living in Toronto where the most recent former mayor liked to smoke crack cocaine, spew racist dialogue and utter inappropriate sexist comments as easily as breathing… the political clime does have a moral code.

With great power comes great responsibility - or so Peter Parker, the spectacular Spider-Man was told via that great communicator Stan "The Man" Lee… but when it comes to politics, if you're going to do something shady or naughty, regardless of great responsibility—don't get caught.

Which leads us to the hapless-looking fellow pictured above.

That is Miyazawa Yoichi (surname first), Japan's federal minister of industry - a very important position.

Apparently members of his staff had gone out partying at a Japanese sex bar.

Okay, fine… whatever. They even paid their bill.

That's not the issue… though being a sex bar, it is highly probable that there was 'issue'.

No… it seems that the happy, horny government workers—NOT Miyazawa - he wasn't there—they paid the bill using monies from the office.

No… they did not use the government credit card.

No… they did not raid the government's small change drawer.

No… they paid for it themselves with their own money.

So what is the problem? Where's the government scandal?

Uh… they tried to invoice it back to the government claiming usage of a sex bar as though their visit was government business.

Someone's getting screwed by this government business… but despite the embarrassment, this is hardly the type of act to take down a politico or a government.

How much was the bill at the sex bar? It was a measly 18,230 ($170).

wow (yes, lower-case). That's it? I can tell you that there probably wasn't any sex involved - unless it was a really cheap and disgusting place... in which case.. eww. Have some class. Have some dignity. Have some penicillin.

The report notes that the invoice wasn't from one person - it was from multiple people, and that the 18,320 was them combined cost for all of them.

It might have just been the entrance fee or the cost of the necessary drinks as entrance fee.

Of course… whose to say that they didn't purchase any sexual favors with their own money? No one is giving you a receipt for that! Okay… maybe Holland or Reno where it's legal. But if they did, they didn't try and invoice that to the government.

The whole embarrassing thing is that they went into a sex bar.

Is that so embarrassing?

Well… yeah… the place could be owned by a Yakuza clan… do you want the Yakuza working with members of the government?  

Anyhow… Miyazawa, as you can see from the photo above - he ain't happy. But, he should be okay, job-wise… even though his predecessor Obuchi Yuko (surname first) stepped down over claims she misspent political funds.

So… Miyazawa… he only JUST arrived on the job as of Tuesday, October 21, 2014. Welcome! Here's your scandal. Please move to the back of the line.

And further… the whole visit to a sex bar thing occurred back in September of 2010.

But for Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) this is the THIRD political scandal to hit him - even though HE only came to power in December of 2012.

Like Miyazawa, Abe has inherited a scandal through no fault of their own…. though he did put Obuchi into the position of Trade minister.

Yes, one scandal was Obuchi's alleged misspending, the other is the sex bar stuff that happened four years ago - but all things that have only come to light this week.

The third scandalous event involves Japan's justice minister Matsushima Midori - another woman (what is it about women and politics? Ha! Plenty!) who resigned her position after opponents allege she tried to buy votes - IE misspent money.

Here's the thing regarding Abe… it's the first major problem for him since he came to power nearly two years ago. His two years in power is actually quite impressive for Japan, consider that before him Prime Ministers entered and exited office as easily as government workers in a sex bar. I'm here - I'm gone.

But the real shame, of course, is that he has lost two high profile FEMALE ministers - a serious blow to his promise to raise the profile of women working in Japan.

There's your role models, women…

The Obuchi resignation as Trade minister is particularly galling to Abe, as that area of government has been in charge of Japan's energy sector… yes… that part of the government that is looking after public safety at nuclear power plants - with currently all 48 of the existing ones still shut down following the near multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Dai-Ichi facility in Fukushima-ken.

Recently, Japan's federal government has been pushing to restart the nuclear plants that have passed the muster and are considered safe and following all the rules and regulations - at least that's the news as reported to Abe by the minister of Trade.

How do you trust the government to do the right thing when they have been forced to resign over misappropriation of monies and wrongly invoicing (and we assume getting monies back) for time spent at a Japanese sex club?

You can't.

That's the scandalous part of this whole bad couple of weeks for Abe and the government of Japan.

Dim your lights. The party appears to be over.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above is Industry minister Miyazawa Yoichi - Photograph: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images
PPS: Want some cool female role models? Check out this article at Ozy: HERE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Japan Movies: Hercules Defeats All Comers

I know... the image above seems to have nothing to do with Hercules... despite the effort required for gentleman in the photo to prop up the legs of the very sexy Japanese woman... who may or may not be playing the role of a high school student.

Here's a an interesting tidbit from the shhh-quiet darkness of Japanese movie-goers—manga adaptation Kinyori Renai (aka Close Range Love) beats Hercules on admissions, but loses on revenue.

So… despite the fact that Hercules (starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) opened on top of the Japanese box office with $1.32 million (¥143 million) from 72,000 admissions and 653 screens this weekend, Japanese manga adaptation romance Kinkyori Renai took home $1.03 million (¥112 million) for second place, but was number uno in terms of admissions, with 91,400 - which is important, because in Japan… that is how they really rank a movie—how many people go to see it, rather than how much money it takes in.

It's like how The Avengers sold 50 million tickets and made $380-million… in JUST the first FOUR weeks in JUST the U.S. of A.

Compare that how in 1939, the great classic movie Gone With The Wind took in $221 million.

Cool… so The Avengers is a better movie? Not in the strict sense of the word 'better". So more people went to see The Avengers… no… not really. I think more people 'died' in Gone With The Wind.

Gone With The Wind was in theaters for four years, 60 million tickets sold… and when you compare the $506 million it made in 1939-1943… adjust it to 2014's inflation… and now you have some $3.3 billion.

So… adjust for the higher 3D ticket prices for Hercules (which opened in the U.S. back in July of 2014) and bigger proportion of adult tickets sold, versus the younger audience for Kinkyori Renai... and it's obvious that more people saw Kinkyori Renai than Hercules.

Not the whips and chains Herc! Not the whips and chains!
What the heck is Kinkyori Renai? As far as I can tell it is about a female genius in everything but English… after insulting her English teacher - and he hearing it, she starts getting private lessons from him… which is actually far less nefarious than it sounds.

Except... from the image above - it certainly looks nefarious. That female student - that's as good a reason as any to not offer private lessons - to avoid possible jail time.

I wouldn't give private English lessons to any female under the age of 21 - especially since I taught junior high - probably better to be safer rather than sorry… but apparently the Kinkyori Renai series is for the teens. (Actually... definitely NOT 'probably'.)

I am unsure how anyone could create an on-going comic book/manga - let alone a movie out of such a topic, so I assume that despite the limited descriptions of the manga/anime, I'll bet there's a whole lot more stuff going on.

Denzel Washington's The Equalizer (opened in the US at the end of September 2014) taking the third spot with $722,000 (¥78 million) from only 183 screens.

Further down the Japanese box-office chart, Grace of Monaco, the Grace Kelly biopic starring Nicole Kidman, fell to sixth after opening in the third spot last weekend.

Stand by Me Doraemon dropped to the 10th spot after nearly three months that saw it earn $74 million (¥8 billion) in Japan. The Takashi Yamazaki-directed 3D CG installment of the long-running manga, TV series and theatrical franchise is due for release in an unprecedented 59 overseas territories.

Cool… I've not seen Doraemon in English, but I always did enjoy attaching his antics on Japanese TV back in the early 1990s. I taught myself how to speak colloquial Japanese from watching Japanese cartoons.

Unfortunately, most of my sentence structure involved me, at the end of a sentence, hitting my conversationalist with a fish with X's over its eyes.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Japanese Town Rebuffed For Blabbing About WWII Sins

Japan has always wanted to bury the truth regarding its negative actions and inaction's during those dark days of WWII and earlier if you are one of those southeast Asian countries Japan was being a prick with.

Here in a link to The New York Times is the story how how Japan literally buried the truth about some nasty business that went on in a small fishing village... and now - even in 2014 the residents of that particular village are coming under fire from some factions in Japan who call them traitors for bringing to light these 70 year old crimes...

Imagine... trying to do the right thing... and trying to erect a monument admitting one's own guilt and to honor the dead... and being lambasted as a traitor for it.

Granted... not everyone in Japan feels this way - and I doubt if even half the people think this way... but the problem remains that the one's who do feel anger at those causing Japan to look weak and blabbing state secrets have big mouths themselves.

Kettle. Pot. Pot. Kettle. Black.

It's a sad state of affairs when one gets chastised publicly for doing the right thing. It's wrong when the Mayor has to intervene and admit defeat in order to protect the town's economy.

It's wrong that the bullies get to win. Yeah, yeah... you Japanese are tired of being told that you must apologize for all the bad mojo you caused in a war that ENDED nearly 70 years ago. I get that.

But the problem is, is that is another crime you got away with and never apologized for.

What should the global community do? Accept a blanket apology for everything? Okay... then confess to the global community all of the evil that was wrought in the name of the Emperor - and then apologize with one blanket statement.

The global community might or might not accept that apology, but at least you can say you apologized for everything.

The problem is that after 70 years plus... memories of what was done and to whom it was done to have been dulled by age or voided by death of those who knew the secrets.

But when they are discovered, it doesn't excuse a country from getting off its ass and saying they are sorry for the actions of its citizens. What great hurt does that cause anyone who has confidence in themselves?

Ah... perhaps Japan has no confidence in itself and fights to project itself as a big, bad samurai with a sharp, pokey sword.

Shut your damn whining, Japan. Apologize when it has come to light you have screwed up and be grown-up enough to move on and ensure the sins of the father and grandfather do not rear its collective ugly head again.

While I suppose Japan notes wryly that very few people alive today played an active part in the evil crap - so why can't we just move past all of the fussin'-and-a-fightin'.

Perhaps because English translations of Japanese apologies always see to denote Japanese 'regret,' rather than a better word that might mean 'sorrow'. It's a far more powerful word. 

Aha... so what exactly am I talking about? You should read that New York Times article now!

Click HERE to read about how Japan seems to still have some difficulty in doing the right thing.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above was taken from The New York Times article written by Martin Fackler. The photograph is by Ko Sasaki for The New York Times.

Mental Health In Japan

A 2008 study by Japan's Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor found that 24 per cent of Japanese people had suffered from some kind of mental health problem.

That's one in five people.

Another report found that one in five adults had considered killing themselves, with actual suicide rates at 51 per 100,000 people — twice as high as the U.S. and three times that of the UK.

Makes one not want to be Japanese.

For those of you who do think you suffer from a mental health issue - don't worry... the stigma isn't as strong as it used to be just six years ago when that initial report came out!

Look around your office or classroom... and know you aren't alone.

In my workplace, I know of at least six people who have confided in me that they suffer from depression... and who knows how many more out there at my place have it or something else.

I don't - believe it or not - but I am understanding of it. Amongst many family members who suffer from it are a cousin, uncle, aunt and even a grandmother. Any others would just be a guess, but I think there might be a couple more.

Having said all that, please go and talk to either a doctor or licensed professional or professional service about your concerns.

Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ultima Japanese Manga

I was one of those kids who was early into the concept of playing video games at home - sometime in the late 70s and early 1980s.

While I do recall playing such text adventure video games like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it was really when video came into vogue that video games became 'real'.

While my favorite game from the early days was the Seven Cities of Cibola - a large floppy diskette game where one had to go and placate or eliminate the new world natives in order to garner as much gold et al as possible - I think in today's terms it would be considered politically incorrect - it was when the RPG (role-playing game) adventure games started coming out that I was super hooked.

Although relatively late to the imaginative and highly complex game of Dungeons & Dragons back in 1979, my nerdiness was complete when I was able to play video games of a similar ilk… I finished my first one in 20 hours… but was in seventh heaven - where the dead natives go - when I first encountered Lord British and the world of Ultima.That's a screen shot of the first game above from 1980, though admittedly, I only joined the party in 1983 with Ultima III, which was when the games really got good.

Let's just say it was Dungeons and Dragons in a video game, and let's just say it was terribly fun and let's just say I never studied at school anymore… I won't say because of it, because I was, as a youngster simply a lazy little basturd. That spelling is correct.

Along with living in my parent's basement, watching reruns of Star Trek, playing D&D and later AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons), I was a rock and roll/punk rock record-purchasing demon who also bought virtually every single comic book published in the 1980s, and have every single video game system made at that time, as well as a hi-tech computer with modem and tablet et al… I was wired to the future in ways you can't imagine.

I dreamed of electronic sheep and read about Johnny Mnemonic before Blade Runner and er, Johnny Mnemonic became films about Utopian dystopia.

Johnny Mnemonic, which featured many scenes shot in Toronto and Montreal, was premiered in Japan on April 15, 1995 before anywhere else in the world.

So.. I'm just saying that I was incredibly tapped in to the future back in the 1980s, and it was obvious why I was still a virgin.

Come the 1990s and so come I.

Nowadays, I don't even have a cellphone (they can track you, you know - just kidding, I don't care about that… I just don't have a need for a cell phone. Call me at work or at home).

Conversely, no longer being a techno geek, I can get laid anytime I like. I just don't want to, he says as his nose grows longer.

But back to Ultima. I played maybe five or six versions of the computer video game, with each successive game becoming longer and harder (that's what she said) and replete with better graphics and gameplay (that's what I say).

As mentioned, I also collect comic books - I'm stuck at around 35,000 not being able to continue the now expensive hobby these past two years, but imagine if I knew that there were actually comic books published regarding the Ultima video game storyline?! If there was porn involved back in 1988, I would have been all over it, which could ruin the pages, but you know what I mean.

Here's the kicker, though. It wasn't just a comic book form of Ultima… it was a manga version of Ultima - Japanese comic books … which you pretty much figured out if you see the pictures around this blog.

Circa 1988-89 when Pony Canyon/FCI was publishing Japanese editions of the Ultima video games, Japanese book publisher JICC released four full-length manga series loosely inspired by the games' stories - basically Ultima III and Ultima IV. (Anybody familiar with Japanese comics will understand what 'loosely' means in this context).

In addition to these, Ultima also appeared in short stories and comics in a variety of different Japanese magazines due to the wild popularity of Japanese-flavored western fantasy in Japan in the late 80's and early 90's, a popularity that was largely inspired by Ultima and Wizardry.

The comic book/manga versions are presented below - just covers, unfortunately:  

JICC No. 1: Ultima: The Terror of Exodus
 (ウルティマ ~ エクソダスの恐怖 ); When the dark god of evil, Exodus, arises once more in the realm of Sosaria, it resurrects the evil magicians Mondain and Minax and with their aide threatens to plunge the land into eternal darkness.
It's up to the four chosen "Dragon Warriors" of prophecy to defeat it: Genji, a futuristic space explorer; Aida, a peaceful, animal-loving cleric; Lennon, a paranoid and often disgruntled bard who seems a lot like John Lennon; and Bigelow, a mechanized robot with a capacity for human emotion.
Created by artist Tanaka Seiji (surname first), it was published on Ausust 15, 1988 and sold for ¥880 (now about US $8.13) and provides a loosely retelling of the events contained within the video game Ultima III.

JICC No. 2: Ultima: Quest of the Avatar (ウルティマ ~ クエスト オブ アバタール);

A young paladin, Deane goes on a quest to discover what has become of his older brother, the druid Shiva, who embarked on the quest of the Avatar some years ago.
Along the way he meets a variety of new friends and eventually comes to learn the truth about who he is and what he is fated to become.
Created by artist Tanaka Yuko (surname first), it was published on August 29, 1988 for ¥900 (~ now about US $8.32) , retelling the events of the video game Ultima IV.

JICC No. 3: Ultima: The Fall of Magincia
 (ウルティマ ~ マジンシアの滅亡); Britannia's seas are being ravaged by monsters under the command of the sorcerer Vitor, head of Magincia's merchants.
The young pirate captain Susadora and his gang - accompanied by Rani Sentri, captain of Britannia's special forces - are commanded by Lord British to find arms strong enough to stop Vitor, as well as discover a mysterious truth about Susadora himself.
Created by artist Watanabe Hiroyuki (surname first), it was published on December 15, 1990 selling for ¥980 (now about US $9.05).

JICC No. 4: Ultima: The Maze of Schwarzschild
 (ウルテイマ ~ シュワルツシルドの迷宮);  Aida and Lennon have resurfaced in Genji's outer-space "homeworld," under new identities as caretakers of a space station. But so have Mondain and Minax - as scientists who have discovered the remnants of Exodus trapped within an asteroid and seek a way to unseal the dark god.
The hero Genji is shown on the front cover, with Aida, Lennon and Bigelow on the back.
Created by Tanaka Seiji (surname first), it was published on November 15, 1991 and sold for ¥980 (now about US $9.05).

The art in all of these manga is of the typical Japanese style art - see:
.. and the stories are less than stellar - certainly not up to par as to what the video games were...

Still, a part of me wishes he had seen this back in his sacrificial virgin days and that he could have read it. Now... if you can find one, just know that there is an APP for translating Japanese language via a quick scan, into English and perhaps a few other languages. 

Andrew Joseph