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Monday, March 27, 2017

Shokkiri - Sumo Comedy

Matthew sent me a video link the other day, depicting what I thought were two sumo wrestlers suddenly deciding to act all goofy during a regular sumo tournament.

Turns out, it’s actually a planned break during the sporting event by a sumo comedy troupe.

It’s a legitimate showing of sumo skills, but actually more like what a wrestler isn’t supposed to do during a match.

It reminds me of this scene from the famous Paul Newman hockey movie called Slapshot:

Uh... if you think you can watch this with your kids, or if you are under the age of 16 (let's say), don't. Lots of language... I had to fast forward over a couple of the more racy spots last week when I was watching it with my son.   

 The shokkiri comedy sumo match is not a new phenomenon… I doubt that other than finally allowing gaijin (foreigners) to become o-zumo-san/rikishi (sumo wrestlers), nothing has changed in the sport since it began.

Well, maybe having a serious attempt at ridding the sport of organized gambling is new.

Anyhow, shokkiri has been a part of the exhibition or touring sumo tournaments for over a century.

Matthew and I saw one in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken back in 1993 - but not to the extent of the video we have for you below.

No… it showed a giant of a sumo taking on a whole bunch of little kid sumo wrestlers… funny - but no where near as funny as the shokkiri play.

Trust me… you can watch the video without understanding a lick of Japanese and know exactly what is going on and exactly why it is funny.

Initially, it was like the Slapshot routine… a way to show how to play the sumo game, by demonstrating good techniques as well as bad via comedy.

However,  the modern version is all about showing the bad.

Here’s the bad about being involved in a shokkiri comedy play as a wrestler:
  1. These are real sumo wrestlers, albeit low-level wrestlers;
  2. By not taking the sport seriously, they are ostracized, and are rarely ever promoted up into the higher ranks of the sumo heirarchy after participating in a shokkiri;
  3. It’s not impossible—a long time ago some sumo champs have been shokkiri sumo wrestlers, but nowadays, it’s all about paying respect to the past;
  4. Like organized gambling and fixing of the matches, or the fact that in the old days you could still do shokkiri and one day work hard enough to become a sumo champion… okay, I’m just ranting here.
Look, I don’t know what a shokkiri sumo wrestler can earn doing this, but it is interesting to note the physical exertion they put themselves through in this long comedy routine.


The video above is from the 37th convention of the Japanese Grand Sumo Tournament held on February 10, 2013.

The shokkiri features twin brothers (surname first) Masanobu Kotobu (aka East) and Masanobu Kotoho (aka West). They put on a decent show!

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Anywhere The Radioactive Wind Blows - Godzilla

If you’ve got the money and the panache—I have one of those things, unfortunately not the first one—you might consider having your very own Godzilla weathervane.

Designed and manufactured by West Coast Weather Vanes of Santa Cruz, California, U.S. in 2013 for a customer, the Godzilla weathervane is, first and foremost, a work of art.

It is a one-off design weathervane, but I’m thinking that the company would create more customized versions if you asked nicely.

According to the company website, the Godzilla weathervane was originally designed by modifying the head and lower body of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

It makes me wonder if they already had a T-Rex model to work with… which, if so, is pretty cool, too!

Anyhow, they obviously then added the dorsal plates to the T-Rex’s back - non-radioactive plates, I should note. They actually described these plats as being akin to a Stegosaurus.

Who the heck are these people at West Coast Weather Vanes, and why do they know so much about dinosaurs! LOL!

They then said that the created the Godzilla look by adding in Iguanodon forearms and neck - again with the dinos!

Then used a crocodile to inspire the tail and skin on the Godzilla weathervane.

It seems like a lot of trouble… could they not have simply asked the customer WHICH Godzilla version he liked, and used the creature from that particular movie as the weathervane model? You don’t have to pull out the dinosaur encyclopedia to do this. (I have a couple of those.)

I’m just trying to be helpful.

For coloration purposes, you can see that the Godzilla is a copper color… which is just wrong, right? Godzilla is green… or black, if you’ve only seen the Black and White Godzilla movie from 1954 or are colorblind.

Yeah, well, West Coast Weather Vanes ain’t a bunch of dummies.

Copper turns green from oxidation… so they figured it would be a much cooler thing if the Godzilla came by its green patina naturally.

The customer wanted gold leaf on: the radioactive fire being spewed from its mouth; Godzilla’s teeth, chest, parts of the dorsal plates, claws and toes. I’m pretty sure that won’t oxidize, but it will look spectacular once the copper turns green over the years.

Man, how long does that take?

Oooooh… 15 to 20 years… I just looked that up… I hope the weathervane owner is a young man.

I’m being sexist, but I just don’t see a woman saying: “Hey, honey! I’ve got a great idea of what we can do today! Let’s get a new weathervane - even though we don’t have a barn… and let's go away from the traditional weathervane designs of a rooster, eagle or witch on a broom and get one of Godzilla!"

I mean, yeah… I wish…. but not too likely.

By the way… check out the image below… see how Godzilla is knocking down the human-sized telephone lines? That’s brilliant! What a nice touch!

You can tell that the folks at West Coast Weather Vanes really know their stuff!

Pricing starts (that’s the important word “starts”) at US$2,495 for a small weathervane; $5095 for a medium; and $6,595 for a large, but of course pricing depends on design modifications and options selected… but what the heck… if you have the money for a small, you can find the money for a large… and who the heck wouldn’t want a LARGE Godzilla weathervane? Probably some Gamara-lovin’ punk.

I like Gamara, too… just not as much as Gojira/Godzilla - the King of the Monsters.

Anyhow… a Godzilla weathervane… how cool is that?

Visit and see about getting your lizard.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Headline is a paraphrasing of a line from the classic Queen song Bohemian Rhapsody “Any way the wind blows”

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Let’s Get Small

On Friday evening, I took possession of my new car, a 2016 Nissan Micra SV. A Japanese car.That's not my car above, but it is what I bought.

You know how they always say that men need to have large, powerful cars to make up for what’s not between their legs?

I have a Micra. I’m just saying.

Okay, that’s all crap, and is all just fun and games.

I decided I needed a new car because I was constantly stressing myself out glancing at the control panels on my 1999 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight Special Edition wondering if the engine light or worse was going to come on. Yes... the car is from the last century, and not the good one. 

I’d glance at the engine temperature gauge go up to some ridiculous level before the engine fan would come on and cool it down for a few minutes, shut off, and then watch as the temperature would rise again… and… as I write this, it’s -6C (21.2F)… so what’s it gonna do when it gets stupid hot this summer?


So… as long as I no longer buy a lunch or, well… anything over the next seven years… and nothing goes wrong with the house that needs and emergency repair, I should be able to afford the tiny payments.


The Nissan Micra is a small car… a very small car… but it’s drawing power is the fact that it is the only car under CDN$10,000…  so really… my car payments… no outside lunches… I should actually be able to pay for the car and save money.

I’ll probably also save on gas… and on car fix-ups, as I inherited a service plan that I don’t have to pay any extra for over the next three years.

Yes, my new Micra is small, but it actually has a lot of leg and headroom… and is even a legitimate four-door with hatchback…. and by that, I mean you CAN sit in the back seat comfortably. Maybe not for a cross country ride if you are an adult (and Canada is pretty wide cross-country)… but what the heck.

It also has the exact same engine as the next up-size compact car - the Nissan Versa… so… I have a smaller car with a decent engine… so it should even be faster than the Versa based on the power to weight ratio.

The drawback? The name, I suppose, but maybe the small cargo space in the back - and that’s only a drag because this year I’m a head baseball coach for a Little League Select team and there’s a lot of equipment. But what the heck… it can handle the buckets of balls and other stuff.

So really, there’s only a micra problem.

The Nissan Micra isn’t my first kick at owning a Japanese car. I’ve owned a Mazda 323, Mazda Tribute, Mazda Camry Wagon x 2, and a Mazda 6 wagon… I like wagons, which no one seems to make anymore. I’ve also owned a Hyundai Tiburon, Ford Escort, a Saturn something or another (wagon), a SAAB something or another…

And, aside from the Mazda 323, which my dad bought me, and the Hyundai Tiburon which I leased, the Nissan Micra is the first new car I bought myself.,  

But is it really new? It was a 2016 demo model… so yeah. I guess it is.

Now that I fixed my leaky roof, I feel comfortable in saying: Nissan Micra SV - long may it reign.

If you would like to read about a pretty comprehensive history of Japan’s automobile industry - it’s beginnings - I wrote one. You can check that out HERE.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Today’s headline is borrowed from the 1977 Grammy award-winning comedy album from the great Steve Martin, Let’s Get Small.
Audio clip below:


Friday, March 24, 2017

Snapshot From 1951 Tokyo

Those who know me will understand why the above photograph caught my eye.

Yes, I love black and white photography.

Would you believe I love old photos that show people writing?

Okay… whatever.

I have dated more than my fair share of women involved in the art of strip tease, and have heard many a story of why they are where they are... 

From Magnum Photos, we have a 1951 photo of a woman in a striptease club in Tokyo  - perhaps writing a letter to her far away home, telling her parents and younger siblings about how well things are going for her as a clerk in a Tokyo shop.
Otōsan and Okaasan,

I miss you and the family very much.

Please provide my blessings to Obaasan. Tell her I pray for all of you every day.

I am enclosing a few yen to help. Please spend it on a treat for yourselves - perhaps everyone can go to the movie theater or go see a new bunraku puppet show. Don’t tell anyone it’s from me.

I know you wish to come and see me here in Tokyo, but Tanaka-san’s fruit shoppe keeps me very busy. I am working the evening shift, and sometimes the day shift to make extra money. As such, I would not be able to spend as much time with you, so save the money for yourselves.

Work is good. People need to eat, so the fruit shoppe is always busy.

When I am not selling the fruits, I help unload it and stack it - it is good honest work, so you should not be concerned for me. 

Tokyo is wonderful. Although I have not had much opportunity to look around, I do try and change my route back to my apartment every evening so I can see how beautiful it looks, though I am sure it is not as beautiful as it was when you were children.

No. I do not have a boyfriend or any man in my life now.

I would like to, of course, but my work will simply not allow that to occur. 

Of course, I do wish I was home right now. I do miss everyone. But since the war ended poorly for our great nation, I know that money is scarce for everyone in our farming community, and jobs for people like me, even rarer.

My break time is almost over, so I shall end with a deep bow of respect.

Your daughter Sumiko.

…or… maybe she’s tallying up her costs for working at the Tokyo striptease club: money earned from the American GIs, less rental costs for dresses and shoes used, for the apartment she shares with the other seven women, less bedding and furniture rentals, less transportation to and from the apartment to work, grocery bills, payment for o-cha and snacks we purchase to serve customers, tips to bartender, music maker, coatcheck girl, and, of course to the manager…  

Some things never change… except that she obviously is writing a letter.

Maybe it’s a resignation letter. Doubt it.

I found this photo HERE, where you can see a lot of cool old photos of post WWII Japan. Check’em out!

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Adventures In Tokyo With Godzilla And Ultraman

As a kid - sometime when I was in Grade 4 (but was only about seven-years-old), my friend Umberto and I would wrestle around re-enacting the fight scenes from the re-run episode of the Japanese television show Ultraman that we had just watched over at his house.

I had no idea, at the time, that Ultraman was a Japanese superhero, though I’m pretty sure I was aware that there were a lot of Japanese in it - I just assumed it was a sci-fi show, and didn’t give a crap about its origins.

All I know is that I found the show entertaining.

As a kid, I had been watching Godzilla movies since I was in Grade 1 (around when I was four, going on five-years-old), at the behest of now unknown friend, who had seen a movie one Sunday afternoon and was sure another such film would air the next weekend.

It did. I thought that Godzilla was the cat’s meow… sure you could tell that there was a guy in the suit, but the destruction! Oh… the destruction… it was epic. Japanese, sure… they mentioned Tokyo, Japan often enough, and I had heard about World war II thanks to a kid’s book I had on the subject… but Godzilla was the most exciting thing I had ever seen up until my-then boring life.

It was stunning.

Flash forward to my adulthood, and to the years when I started this blog and had run out of pre-written and pre-published blogs about Japan (around 76, I think), I needed subject matter… so what better than to examine newsfeeds and to plumb the depths of my own childlike memories? There are probably better things, which was why I began to add color to my initial diary entries by recalling the true weirdness while I could still recall it.

Before doing that, however, I began watching and re-watching some old Godzilla movies.

Aside from the actual first Japanese version which I only saw a few years ago… the rest of them are all actually pretty crap. Like really crap. Like one should never revisit their childhood ever again crap.

It made me not want to watch any old Ultraman television shows - just in case it disappointed me, too.

Now… I still haven’t seen any of the Japanese-made Godzilla movies in the 1990s and 2000s, which have never been officially distributed in North America (or anywhere else, I would imagine)… but many of these movies are purported to be quite good.

Purported like the old Godzilla movies.

I put the original Gamara (flying turtle) kaiju (big monster) movie on for my son a few years back - he seemed to like that very much… but the sappiness of it all made me throw-up in mouth… just a little mind you.

We went and saw the last U.S. Godzilla movie - and even as a nine-year-old, he complained that we didn’t even get to see Godzilla until half-past the movie.

Really… even a nine-year-old knew that was dumb.

I admit, also, that while kids today lack proper interpersonal skills (for the most part) due to too much digital media time, they also have learned that they like to be entertained… and entertained quickly. And often.

You know that old saying: “What have you done for me lately”?

Anyhow… I just needed an excuse to show off the image of Godzilla (left) and Ultraman posing for a photo opp in front of Mount Fuji.

I have no idea when it was taken or originally by whom or even why.

All I know is that I found it amusing.

I might actually try and watch an episode of Ultraman… no… I won’t do that. Maybe a Japanese Godzilla movie… maybe. How bad could it be? Sadly, I already know.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Caveat Emptor

To be sure, the photo above is quite a few years old, but I thought it would be appropriate anyway, because I hadn’t seen it before today, and for other reasons, which I’ll discuss in a couple of days.

It is true, in the meantime, that I did indeed own a vending machine that I was allowed to install at work - keep filled and pocket an additional $80 or so a month selling chocolates and bags of chips.

What we have here is a vending machine in Japan that sells cars.

But not really.

It’s an eye-catching 3D advertisement that plays on the Japanese cultural phenomenon of vending machines located on every available street corner.

But can you imagine if this was something for real?

There you are stuffing ¥5 yen coins into the pay slot, finally getting in about 220,000 of the damned coins… you press the button to make your selection (there’s no selection - what you see is what you get)… and it jams… re-sets and there’s no proof you ever stuck in around $11,000 in ¥5 coins… except when someone comes by and discovers 220,000 ¥5 coins in the payment box.

Hey… you’d get your car, but now you have to wait until the vending machine technician comes out.

And that’s bot happening until tomorrow… and you have to stick around, because the technician said they would be there between 8AM and 5PM… and now it’s raining… and you tried to take cover under the vending machine and now your head is stuck… and now some bratty Grade 1 primary school students in their yellow rain slickers and yellow rubber rain boots are throwing rocks at you while screaming “gaijin-gaijin” taunts, but they are only six-years-old and and can’t throw very well, and one of them breaks the glass on he vending machine, and now your Smart Car is scratched and dented, and now you don’t want it anymore, but you are screwed because there’s no deposit, no return on the car purchased from a vending machine.

It could happen.

Great marketing, however.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Caveat Emptor, is Latin, ese (Latin, not Latino) (oops) for: Let the buyer beware.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Springtime for Japan (and Hanami)

When it comes to hanami - it blows.

March 21, is the first day of Spring in Japan and other northern hemisphere countries … a time when a young man’s fancy turns to love… but truly it beats me what the hell he is doing the rest of the time.

With Spring, of course, comes warmer weather, which I suppose leads to a peeling off of layers of cold-weather clothing… exposing sun-deprived skin to the dark clouds blowing chilly winds.

In short, it’s still cool outside.

But, depending on where you are in Japan, it’s the beginning of Cherry Blossom viewing season… hanami (花見).

Hanami means, quite literally, flower-eye… but in Japan, it is a reference to cherry blossoms, and to a lesser extent, plum blossoms - the viewing of cherry blossoms.

Plum (ume) blossoms (reed, pink or white flowers), however, begin to bloom at the end of February... 

Even in the 21st century, the NEED to see blossoming cherry flowers consumes Japanese people - so much so that there is a competitive streak akin to cheering for soccer, sumo and baseball for the flower seekers, who send out employees to camp out and hold for their respective company what is considered to be the ideal hanami viewing area… 

Office parties ensue under a particular cherry tree, with plenty of food and booze for an evening’s revelries, all the while the wild and woolly wind blows the just-blossomed cherry (sakura) flowers all over the damn place.

Because I’m not Japanese, I found the whole experience irksome, as a stiff breeze would attempt to deposit an entire tree’s worth of cherry blossoms into my open container of beer or onto my plate of whatever the hell that is I’m eating.

Conceptually, the aspect of hanami is to enjoy the gentle wafting down of cheery blossoms as a slight zephyr blows around one… watching the white and pink petals weave around the air before landing gently upon the grass… calmness… beauty in death personified…

The blooming of the sakura/cherry trees in Japan is supposed to be a symbol of one’s human existence… and the beer and sushi helps. Especially the beer.

I observed a lot of drunken revelry… amongst everyone from 20-something up to 70-whatever… there might have been older and younger - and certainly there is when it’s a family hanami celebration, but I only know what I partook of.

To be fair, the Japanese tend to work many long hours at their jobs, so when it’s quittin’ time, or there’s a festival to partake in, they tend to let their hair down and have a great time.

It’s a wonderful experience to see the dichotomy of Japanese life - cherry blossoms be damned.

At a standard hanami, along with the food and drink and speeches by the bosses for a job well-done and the hopes to have a better upcoming year, there’s also poetry composed and read about ye old sakura, and songs… and jokes and all-around friendliness…

i can honestly say that there is not quite a love such as that found between one drunk for another.

If you are in Japan, or are visiting over the immediate future, you might want to head out to a park and observe the fun, or make sure you are included in your company’s hanami.

If you would like some advice about where to go, and when to expect hanami to become a thing, check out the following website for advice, based on data compiled over the past few years:

Yeah, I know it’s an Australian site, but in my opinion, no one does a party better than the Aussies. Maybe the New Zealanders are a close 1B.

Or... check out the site map here with dates around Japan showing the expected blossoming(s)... the earliest is supposed to be March 22 in the Fukuoka area. Click HERE.  

Andrew Joseph
PS: Sorry, but as I wrote the headline, all I could think about was the great song from The Producers: Springtime for Hitler (and Germany)


PPS: After watching the video, I feel like a stein of beer. Or two.
PPPS: The image at the top shows the blossoming cherry trees around Chidorigafuchi moat at Tokyo Imperial Palace, and was plucked from the public domain from a site on Cherry Blossoms.
PPPPS: I have reversed the order on the headline to make it sound more like the "song"in the rhyme scheme.