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Friday, November 28, 2014

Sapporo Wants To Host 2026 Winter Olympics

Yep - the headline is correct. Sapporo, that wonderful city up in the northern Japanese island of  Hokkaido has announced via its mayor, that it wants to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Cool… Sapporo was the fist Japanese city to host the Winter Olympics back in 1972 so it can be done.

There's just one little problem… there are serious doubts that the JOC (pronounced 'Joke', but is actually the Japanese Olympic Committee) is even going to put in a bid to host these olympics.

According to Sapporo mayor Ueda Fumio (surname first), local residents and those in the rest of the Hokkaido cities and towns are behind the supposed Y404.5 billion (US/Cdn $3.44 billion) bid.

"Hosting the Olympic Games will lead Sapporo to a new stage and be a step forward to create the future of Hokkaido," states Ueda. "An atmosphere to proceed to the dream is being nurtured among citizens."

I assume Ueda, when he mentions "the dream" is not referring to some Miyazaki anime flick, and instead means "the dream of hosting the Olympics".

Ueda wasn't kidding about the local support - which is strange because usually mayors tend to open their mouth as though they actually know what the majority of people want, but really they are only catering to themselves and what they HOPE everyone wants. It's not their fault... not everyone gets asked. And if they did, not everyone would venture an opinion.

Back in October of 2014, the Sapporo city government revealed that a survey shows that 66.7 percent of residents were either "in favor" or "fairly in favor" of the bid.

Of course… one needs to know just how many people actually responded to such a question to get a proper gauge of what the people  REALLY think… unfortunately, that number wasn't available - at least not in any of the reports I saw.

But is this just the case of a mayor wanting to leave his mark? Probably, but Ueda DOES also have additional support, as the Sapporo Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also that Mayor Ueda bid on the Olympic Games.

The JOC has until sometime in 2016 to decide whether or not it should place an official bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics - so there is time. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) would not, however, announcing the winning bid until 2019.

I'll let you know then, okay?

Why wouldn't the JOC want to prepare a bid on behalf of the very genii (exciteable/energetic) Sapporo crowd?

Well… there are concerns that not only is Japan already hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, but other Asian nations are also heavily involved in the Olympics… fearing that the already heavy Asian domination would cause the IOC to look elsewhere - even if Sapporo was the best choice.

What's going on?

Well, there are the: 
  • 2018 Winter Olympics -  Pyeongchang, South Korea;
  • 2020 Summer Olympics - Tokyo, Japan;
  • Remaining bidders for the 2022 Winter Olympics are: Almaty, Kazakhstan; and Beijing, China.
That's a lot of eastern participation.

While I won't even pretend to know anything about what the IOC prefers as a money-making scheme, the Olympics do play out quite heavily with advertising dollars and the North American market…. and there there is 14-15 hour time difference between the Olympics and its major viewing/advertising market.

That's just an opinion, and I could be way off on that. Obviously the IOC likes which ever country presents the best bribe to it. Allegedly. I have no idea how these sort of decisions are actually made. I do know, however, that I can be bought.

Anyhow… we'll have to see where this all leads… the IOC, amid complaints from the four European bids that dropped out of the 2022 Winter Olympic bidding citing cost overruns… has said that they will soon reveal plans to make bidding cheaper, easier and more attractive for future potential hosts.

That should mean the cheapskate nations from North American and Europe can try to bid again.

Now… does any of that concern you? No… not having bids from European or North American cities… that's cool… I just mean that there was concern that the bidding process was too damn expensive.

Really? What the hell is involved in a pissing, I mean Olympic bidding competition? How much payola is too much payola?

I think the REAL story is in finding that out. Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

And Andrew has just run himself over,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Empire Strikes Out In Japan

I know… you are looking at the photo above and going - WTF is the context for such a thing?

It's Japan. 'nuff said.

If you ant some play-by-play, let's just say the Protocol droid C-3PO has been called out watching a third strike whizz by far outside the legal definition of a strike zone as set out by the Galactic baseball senate council of 362236. It figures.

It is quite possible that the droid has a viable quibble with the umpire, so after originally being one of the good guys, has gone over to dark side, serving the Sith - otherwise known as the Yomiuri Giants (in Japan) or the New York Yankees (everywhere else).

What is interesting about the entire pitch sequence, however, is that C-3PO wanted to swing at each pitched thrown by Jed El Duque Skywalker… but the droid claims he was being mind-controlled… a preposterous excuse considering his computer brain can not be controlled.

Although not seen in this image, El Duque did gesture to C-3PO with his thumb and index finger in a near semi-circle, implying that the third strike was a close one.

Whatever the case, El Duque's fastball, which he calls the "Death Star" was simply too much for the first openly-gay baseball droid.

What?…  He's not gay?

You're kidding…

Really? I mean… what are the odds he wasn't gay?

What? Approximately 3,720 to one!

Never tell me the odds!

Anyhow… I am unsure exactly why this promotional event occurred at a Japanese baseball game… but I assume it has something to do with Star Wars.

Okay… d'uh… maybe it had something to do with the release of the DVD in Japan?

Or… maybe it was May 4th, and someone decided to do a tie-in… you know, May the 4th be with you… 

Ah… Stars Wars: The Fandom Menace.

Awesome photo, though…
Andrew Jar-Jar Joseph
PS: It's not a new photo... at least early 2011 or earlier... if anyone knows the exact context of this photo, please let me know. 

Killing Time In Japan

Someone recently asked me if things in Japan became a bit more routine for me AFTER my first year.

Yes, to a certain degree.

I was certainly more comfortable with the Japanese language, and while not enough for me to carry on a conversation with any one off the street, I certainly could talk either swell enough English or passable Japanese to get my face slapped nine out of 10 times in a bar.

But, that tenth time - that's magic, folks.

Like most people, whether you mean to or not, one falls into a routine.

In my second year of teaching junior high school English to the then seven junior high schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken as a part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I still had my own desk in every teacher's office, still had my own desk at the Board of Education office that I visited every Friday to 'make reports' on my week and to write letters home and to write Wonderful Rife columns and other short stories on the computer they gave (this was between 1990-1993, and the Internet was not yet a part of everyone's daily life.)

I would work anywhere from one to four classes a day - occasionally five, but that might be my revisionist history at work...

I would eat lunch with the kids, play with them after lunch, chat with them while they did clean-up, participate in whatever club activity I felt like for never more than 60 minutes after school...

I NEVER did English club activities - except maybe to help kids with a speech or two for a prefecture-wide competition. I did, baseball, judo, kendo (Japanese fencing), softball, soccer (I coached community women's soccer with my pal Rob Jones, and coached the Humber College women's soccer team - I have a Harley Hawk to prove it!, music (I can play all brass, woodwinds and keyboards - and taught clarinet and piano back in Toronto to help pay my way through Humber College's journalism program before being chosen to go to Japan), and occasionally art... my extreme weak point... though I was probably equally inept at basketball and volleyball.

I would go home then ride out to the store and buy a prepared dinner and a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola - unless a full shop was required...

If it was Monday, I had to eat quickly. I might watch Sherlock Holmes on TV in English on my stereo TV for stereo broadcast programs, and then ride out to my adult teaching class that would go from 7-9PM... then I'd go to a video store and maybe rent a movie to watch for the evening... then read a book and crash at 1AM. Laundry and vacuuming would be done somewhere in there.

I'd get up every morning at 7AM, by the way.

Tuesday... the same - except maybe Ashley would come over and we'd eat the leftover chili con carne I made over the weekend that I would have already shared with her or Matthew.
We'd watch a movie - perhaps a video tape sent to me by my folks in Toronto, or her folks in Augusta, Ga.

Or, if Ashley and I were on the outs, I might go out after 9PM to the 4C bar and have a drink and wait for Japanese people to come up and talk to me. I'd talk, laugh, and if possible tray and get the woman to come back to my place. It wasn't that difficult, to be honest. And that's with ME and my Grade 1 or less Japanese language skills.

Before going to the bar, laundry and vacuuming would be done.

Wednesday night - regardless if Ashley and I were on the outs, she'd come over, we'd go to Mosburger for dinner and then wait for my boss Kanemaru-san to take us to our kyudo (Japanese archery) lesson that he and a master would give us for free.

If we were NOT on the outs, after archery Ashley might come up and we'd fool around - I always had to make the first move. Then I would ride my bicycle with her to her town 30 minutes ride northwest to see her home, and then ride back... laundry and vacuuming might be done.

Does anyone else see a pattern with regards to my laundry and vacuuming?

My place was grand central station - so I kept it spotless, 90% of the time.

Thursday night... unless Ashley came over - usually not - I might spend a lot of time on the phone with other AETs (assistant English teachers) in my prefecture or outside - my favorite always being Kristine South, a sassy, sexy American of Japanese descent that I thought (and still do) think is one of those all time beauties... we'd flirt - oftimes those talks would border on one-handed phone sex - but despite that we never managed to hook up. The now hopefully happily-married (and mom) Kristine recently told me that 'yeah, I would have slept with you' at least makes the world feel a bit more in sync.

Most of my phone calls were to check up on people in their first year on the programme, however... so I played telephone psychologist - and by merely being on the other end of the phone, they did the same for me.

Friday night - that's the weekend, baby. By this time, Matthew had a girlfriend - now married to her and having two lovely kids! - so I didn't see him as much as either of us would have liked, but Matthew still made the time and effort to come over and see me - he was and is a very good friend.

If Matthew wasn't around, Ashley and I might do dinner - I'm buying all the time - because I would offer - because I was vagina-starved sucker - and then we'd go out to the 4C, where if I could get enough drinks into her we could go back and spend several sweaty hours on that poor couch or under the queen-sized bed I had.

If no Ashely because it was that time of the month and we were on the OUTs - I never broke up with her once, by the way - I was just a sucker with no self-esteem. I would eat a prepared Japanese meal and then go out to the 4C.

I think the Japanese figured out my schedule quite quickly and would show up for as much as the hunk New Zealand bartender (Mark) who worked there as they did to either practice their English on with me, or for the women to chat me up to sleep with me - and I was always in a bit of a competition with Mark, because although he was way better looking than me, I didn't have his work schedule and could leave the bar at 9:45 with a woman knowing she and I had an hour of sack time together before she would have to towel off and head home to make her curfew. At least on the weekends, it might be a midnight curfew for the single, Japanese women.

Mark- he had to work long past those curfews, but was able to get any woman who didn't have a curfew.

I was also blessed with having an apartment a mere three minute drunken stagger from the 4C and the rest of entertainment district.

Saturday - I would sleep in... If no Ashley, I only made eggs, bacon baked beans for one... If I was lucky enough to have a Japanese woman spend the night, she got my breakfast, and then we might have more sex, showers and a unspoken promise to maybe do this again whenever she wanted.

I did have the occasionally booty call presented to me, but more often than not, the single, young women of Ohtawara-shi would take turns chatting me and having sex at my place.

Really. Ashely once came over in the morning (we weren't a couple then) and smiled saying she could smell sex all over the apartment -which meant that if she was spending the day with me as a friend, we would probably have sex that night.

She trusted me, so I was her booty call. I didn't mind... she was every bit as good as I was.

I might do some some laundry and vacuuming, probably some grocery shopping... eat in or eat out... hit the bars, give free English lessons to middle-aged Japanese salarymen who would buy me drinks, then talk with the local yakuza boss who would "buy" me a whiskey and ask about his delinquent junior high school student son and how much I liked Japan, or maybe a curious young woman would come over to... well.. you know... I don't even know their names... I mean... I must have... I always took great pains (at the time) to pronounce everyone's name properly...

... but it was pretty obvious that everybody was using everybody to get what they wanted. At least no one was being hurt by this, so I have no problem with the system as it existed.

The point being, that I was a very approachable fellow.

I always had a smile on my face - and that was even before I became a male lesbian. I had arrived in Japan nearly 26-years-old, and a virgin.

Back in Toronto, I was too shy to talk to a woman.

After one complete year in Japan, I might still have been too shy to talk to women - at least make the first conversational fragment (still am), but I have no problem after that.

Despite Japan being a country where the Japanese are all supposed to be shy and too involved in themselves, i didn't find that at all... especially in a bar.

Alcohol + 2 people = Conversation lubrication.

Everyone talks - even if it's a slowly sipped beer or a slowly sipped soda water - being in a bar seems to loosen the inhibitions on everyone. I've done that - because you can't be ON all the time.

I don't mean to imply one MUST drink booze - I said 'soda water', but drinking together is part of the whole bonding process for the Japanese in Japan. Hell... people everywhere, I think (though you can bond over many other things, of course).

In Japan... the Japanese go out with co-workers to bond as a team. For the gaijin (outsider/foreigner), you HAVE to participate in the reindeer games, dear Rudolph... not only do you have to drink along with the Japanese with whatever they are drinking - you have to do them one better and drink more.

You are the outsider in Japanese culture, and in order to belong, or at least fit in better, you have top destroy the Japanese perception of the gaijin.

I was lousy at destroying the Japanese perception that all gaijin men want to boink Japanese women - BUT I will say this... whenever I was asked if like Japanese women, I would say sure.. but I also like German, women.. French women... blah-blah-blah... that I don't care where they are from as long as they are nice people.

I would get a lot of nods from my students and teachers who would translate that for me... I meant it.

I slept with a lot of JET women as well as Japanese women. I was an equal opportunity male lesbian.

To say anything else would be to shoot yourself in the foot, and limit one's opportunities... I still dislike doing that.

Anyhow... the point is... study your ass off all you like while you are in Japan... do it on SaturDAY and SunDAY... but fer crying out loud, go out and be seen by your local community.

Every day someone in my city would see me crying in front of the ATM as I tried to decode the kanji, or appearing dazed in the grocery store as tried to figure out if I image on the carton I was purchasing was chocolate milk, green tea or bull testicles.

I would be seen at the book store/video game rental shop... at the sports shop purchasing packs of Japanese baseball or soccer cards... at the video game shop buying the latest game for myself... out with my gaijin friends on our bicycles having lunch or dinner or teasing our students... talking to the neighbors and sharing a glass of sake... waving to the women across the street as I hung my underwear up on the laundry line as they did the same at their house - or raising an eyebrow when I would hand a pair of women's underwear causing the men across the street to volunteer to help their wife hang laundry for the first time ever....

Maybe I'd even ride my bicycle around the city and do some sight seeing... maybe I won't get lost this time... fail...

Whatever... even when I relaxed and read a book, I would perch myself on my balcony ledge and sit in plain view of my city, my home, my community and say "hello" whenever I would be spotted!

I hid in plain sight.

Now... no one can be on every day all the time, so obviously there were days when I would go home, unplug the phone and hide from everyone for a few hours to recharge my batteries - but the next day or two latter... those undercover blues would fade in vibrancy, and I would be back to being myself.

You don't have to do any of what I just said, of course... but for me, it was how I not only survived Japan, but had a wonderful life in Japan.

I don't know about you, but I don't think mine was such a bad rut to fall into.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Junior High School Girls Riding A Japanese Train

I don't see anything wrong with this photo.

All Japanese junior high school girls look like this.

Well… maybe not the one wearing white stockings/panty hose.

That's a guy! Only a guy would be too lazy to shave his legs and go out in public wearing a junior high school girl costume.

Okay - kidding... there are many oddities abound in this photo. Let's begin...

Odd is the fact that there are so many girls from different schools sitting beside each other in the train—that would never happen.

Also, what is even more odd, is that there is no Japanese man attempting to molest any of the girls by rubbing themselves on them...

Does anyone else find it odd that some 70 years years after WWII when Japan seemed to hate the round-eyes of its enemies (I'm not talking about China or other Asian nations at this time)... but that anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comic books) almost all characters lack the Asian eyes and instead have the uber big eyes?

It's not to make themselves less Asian, though... it's to make the characters even cuter. It's that whole phenomenon of a baby having eyes too large for the size of its baby head... the head will eventually grow into those eyes... but then we become less cute...

Maybe the oddest thing about the whole photo, is that it's a relatively empty train. It's relatively as lonely as the last samurai in a country that loves its warlike past - though that fond remembrance is poignant only when it's not considered to be warlike - though this might just be a simple old gaijin minority report on Japanese selfawareness.

Having lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken for three years, in my honest opinion, the most bizarre aspect of the photo is the fact that the sun is shinning.

Whenever I traveled in Japan the sun never seemed to shine. In fact, whenever I traveled it seemed to rain - hence my affectionate (cursed) nickname given to me by the Japanese - Ame Otoko.

While just saying that name could also imply "Candy Man", pronounced exactly the same but using different written kanji (Chinese style pictograph lettering), Ame Otoko becomes "Rain Man"... yeah, definitely Rain Man. Yeah. Uh-oh-uh-oh.

When he pours, he reigns,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Congratulations if you saw the multiple Tom Cruise movie references in this blog. A couple went in easier that others... that's what she said.
PPS: I am unsure if the people in the above photo are into cosplay or not.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Staying Warm Or Staying Alive

Who would ever have thought that during the cold months in Japan one could be faced with the dire decision of whether to stay warm or to stay alive? Should one mean the other can't happen?

Only in Japan, baby… and maybe other Asian countries… but this is a blog about Japan, so I at least feel slightly qualified to write about this stuff.

On Monday I listened to the recorded What The Funday, a fantastic show on Japan's premiere rock and roll station Radio Baka that my friend Mike Rogers works at. You can read about his blog Marketing Japan HERE

Within the show, a reporter discussed a recent Japanese survey involving the use of heaters, noting that house fires caused by stoves/heaters increase during the winter months.I would assume that was because that was when they would be used, but what the hell do I know.

Respondents were asked which form of heater was the biggest cause of such house fires:  

  • 80% of survey respondents say that kerosene stoves were the cause;
  • 4% say it was electric stoves topped the list…
That leaves 16% unaccounted on the report… which leads me to wonder if it could be the wonderful kotatsu. That's just a guess... the report did not mention the missing 16 per cent.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department, there is a large number of fires actually caused by electric stoves - but I assume that to mean electric heaters. Still, no number was actually given…

Basically, the survey shows that most people didn't know that electric heaters were pretty dangerous in their own right.

So basically Japan, don't place anything flammable atop an electric heater - even if that item has signage indicating it is inflammable.

Inflammable means the same as flammable. I don't get it either. English - what a language.

Of course… in Japan, 可燃性の or Kanen-sei no is the way to say flammable. It's just that people who have an electric stove heater don't seem to know what the word means.

When I lived in Japan, I was scared spitless with my electric water heater (that I had to turn on to get hot water) - why was there a tube attached to the heater just hanging there leading to the floor behind my washer/dryer? That's it in the photo above.

I even asked my building superintendent - he didn't know, but was reluctant to touch it. It stayed the way it was for my entire three-year stay.

I never touched that tube. Ever. I'm still alive.

As far as actual heat generating heaters go… At one time, I had three options.

I had a kotatsu… an electric table that allows one to slide a quilt in-between the heater and the table top to trap the heat under it where gaijin and nihonjin alike may huddle to keep warm from sometime in November through March - unless you live in one of those tropical temperate zones like Okinawa, in which case watch out for poisonous snakes.

I have no idea if that quilt was flame retardant - I never caught fire - so I assume it was…

I also had a kerosene heater… I was instructed to leave a door open an inch or two… that door was my heavy sliding glass door at the base of my living room - where I spent most of my waking hours either having sex or trying to convince some poor female human waif to have sex - but it led to the north facing balcony… where the cold winds would waft down at about 1,000 kilometers an hour from the snow-capped mountains maybe 15 kilometers in the near distance - so it was a chilly wind.

In fact… simply by having the door open, it actually made the apartment colder than what the kerosene heater could do to heat it up. So… unless I sat on the kerosene heater, there was no way I could keep warm.

The first night I used it - with the warning from my Japanese bosses to keep the door open to allow fresh air in to avoid the kerosene gases emitted from killing me… I slept a chilly night… waking up in the morning to chip ice from the top of my aquarium so that I could feed my goldfish. Really.

That next night… screw the open-door policy… I closed my door… and in an effort to hopefully not die, I closed my bedroom sliding paper doors…

Stupid, in hindsight. I could have and should have died. I did not, because the gods apparently love a fool, but detest an idiot.

I told my bosses what I had done, and they were completely aghast! Their idiotic gaijin no sensei (foreign teacher) was going to commit hara kiri (ritualistic suicide).

I guess they must have liked me… because later that night the bosses came over with the building superintendent to look at one of my walls… left, came back with another worker holding a large wall-mounted air-conditioner/heater that would once it was created, vent to a hole behind the machine.

To everyone else who has ever lived at 307 Zuiko Haitsu after me - you are welcome.

I now had electric power A/C in the summer and a powerful heater in the winter… good enough to heat the whole three-bedroom LDK (living room-dining room-kitchen)… though admittedly, not the far away bathroom. At least the toilet seat was air-padded so it wasn't too much of a shock in the cold. Little shrinkage.

And to get such a gift from my office, I only had to try and accidentally (on-purpose, apparently) try and kill myself.

The system works.

Again… I did not really try to kill myself… I had hoped (successfully) that the paper door to my bedroom would allow the heat to come through but would keep out the bad stuff as I tried to avoid asphyxiation.

As you should all be aware, kerosene heaters consume oxygen as they burn.

If they are operated in a small room or in an inadequately ventilated area, oxygen in the air could be reduced to a dangerous level.

Reduced oxygen supply could lead to incomplete combustion of fuel and the production of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas which in sufficient concentrations can kill you, which is just like being dead.

I made my choice… not freezing to death versus asphyxiation.

The thing I had hoped was that the kerosene heater was placed in a very large room - which the LDK area was - especially by Japanese standards.

I'm just saying… I got lucky.

Don't be stupid. Either don't use the damn kerosene heater or make sure you have proper ventilation available.

Do as I say, not as I did.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, November 24, 2014

3D Fish Painting

Prepare to have your mind blown - like 'Ka-POW!!!!'

I pretty much spent the day writing a couple of articles for work, and to quote my friend Vincent who sent me this story, I certainly could use a cleansing of the palette - though I think he meant it because of the horrifying photo I posted yesterday.

Meet Fukahori Riusuke (surname first), a Japanese artist from Kanagawa-ken, Japan who creates, as the headline suggests, 3D Fish Painting.

Watch... and Ka-POW!!!


He paints the fish on the bottom of a bowl, adds resin and Ka-Pow!!! 

I've got a pair of goldfish now (Creamsicle and Licorice). They don't come when I call them, however.

I got my first when I was just three years old... it died when I was 17... growing from one-inch-long to over 10-inches... at least with the 3D Painted version I could have saved a fortune in goldfish food.

I also could have saved myself a lot of heartache when I had to give away the goldfish I had to the special education kids at Wakakusa Chu Gakko (Wakakusa Junior High School) in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. I would expect they would be dead by now. The fish, that is.

With Fukahori, the fish live forever.   

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Not-So Cute Photo Of Japan

In the photo above we have a Japanese man dressed up as a woman.

I have no problem with that.

Love and do as you will - to quote St. Augustine.

However, I do take great umbrage over his/her decision to wear such cutie, young girl pink clothes complete with gloves, when he is obviously far too old to pull it off without looking as he/she looks - ridiculous.

Seriously… WTF is up with the shoes!!!

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
There - I believe this is my shortest post ever.