Search This Blog & Get A Rife

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again

It's Sunday, July 28, 1991... and I'm leaving Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan to go and meet my friend John from Toronto who is coming here for a visist.

I guess I'm a bit excited. He's a part of home. My old home, to be suree, but I went to high school with him and he was always great. Very funny, charming and somewhat witty.

I leave Ohtawara at 12 Noon and arrive at Narita airport at 3PM. Narita is the Tokyo area airport, but it's not in Tokyo... it's in Chiba-ken.. much the same way Toronto's airport is in the city of Mississauga... except that instead of Narita being in a different city, it's actually in a different prefecture/state/province.

His plane arrives 1-1/2 hours late at 4:30PM. Obviously it's not a Japanese airplane.
When I see him, I give him a big hug. The bastard has two suitcases and a large carry-on. The biggest suitcase is close to 70-pounds! What the hell is he carrying here for a short vacation?!

"Hey, AJ (my nickname)... that's from your mom."

oh.

We head down to Ueno station in Tokyo, with me dragging the heavy suitcase and then wait a half hour for Matthew who arrived the day before. Bastard's late.

He leads us to a hotel he has booked for the three of us.  The hotel is a dump, but it's right in front of the Keo Plaza Hotel where all of the new JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme folks will be staying for orientation before heading out to their respective prefectures. So at least it's handy... and besides... we're there on the cheap... and will only be using the place to sleep off a drunken binge or two, I expect.

We each grab a shower - it's stinking hot!

We then go out and show him the red-light district of Tokyo in the Shinjuku-area. Personally, I've not been there, and I expect Matthew has only been around to see the sights--not top partake of them, because that's not his (or mine) style... why buy the cow when you get the milk for free... so to speak.

We then head back to our hotel after polishing off a few wobbly pops (beer) and some food.

There's only two beds and three guys. Personally, I don't give a crap because I'm sure of my heterosexuality. Matthew gets one bed because he's... well, Matthew, and because John is my friend sleeping in our hotel room.

John and I take the mattresses apart and each sleep on one.It's ridiculous, but if it removes any doubt of who is homophobic, I'm all for that.

Oh yeah... I look in the suitacse from my mom... she sent Inuit carvings made of soapstone? These suckers are like 10 pounds each! And there's three of them! Who will be the lucky Japanese people who get one?

D'uh... my bosses, Kanemaru-san, Hanazaki-san and their boss the Superintendent of the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE) of course!

John gave me a 12-pack of Molson Dry beer. Now that's awesome! No wonder the fricking suitcase was so heavy!

Somewhere having a beer in a dive of a hotel with my friends,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by the US Military Band: MARCHING
PS: Hey Mom! How come you didn't send me any comic books?! Where's my Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy books?! Didn't anyone send me any t-shirts!? I'm not huge, but they don't make my size! I'm only 5'-11" and 180 lbs!!!
PPS: Photo is of the redlight district called Kabuchiko in the area where we took John.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blackbird

Hi readers... I know it's Monday morning and I should have a couple of stories up and ready for you... but work is still stressful for me. My magazine (Paying day job!) was purchased two Tuesday's ago... I had to finish up a May issue, put out a tradeshow guide and then pack up and get ready for the move. I start at a new facility doing the same job on Monday (today) that adds about 40 minutes each way to my commute, and I admit to feeling some stress in my life right now. I'll be doing one-a-days for a few days until I can get my rhythm back (I'll let you know when I'm back up to speed) ... As well, I know I also have to write four major articles for the June issue of my magazine this week... no rest for the wicked, I suppose.
Just as well that the time I am writing about today is rather dull... and for that, I apologize... but starting tomorrow, things will pick up... I meet an old friend, meet some new friends, and some new women. I also go on vacation in another country with my mother before she arrives back with me in Japan. Old girlfriend, new girl friend and my mother. It's a hectic month to say the least.
Just not this blog entry...

July 26, 1991. Friday. Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan.
I go in to the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE) office early and do some computer work--word processing... IE typing, printing and then photocopying.
I put together the August issue of The Tatami Times - a newsletter for JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme personnel living in the Tochigi Prefecture. I'm the editor and chief bottle washer.
When I'm done making 50+ copies, I then ride out to the Nishinasuno-eki (Nishinasuno train station) and zip down south to Oyama-shi and meet MariAnn Hironka who has pretty much assumed command of AJET (Association of JET), after our leader, Susan, has let things tumble...
Susan is still in charge, but MariAnn and I are doing a lot of work in preparation of the newcomers arriving on Sunday... though we (or at least I) won't be meeting them until Monday after they get a day to recover from the jet-lag before plummeting head first into the JET lag of our association.
MariAnn and I put together a book for the newcomers until 6PM... we stop, get some dinner before I head home at 9PM.
At home, I dictate corrections to MariAnn over the phone... she'll type up and print out things for the newcomers. It's an important responsibility... the more information they are armed with, hopefully the less stress they will go through initially.
Last year, I hardly had any stress, except for what I created for myself with an on-again/off-again romance with Ashley... an American who was my girlfriend but is now my friend with benefits (nudge-nudge-wink-wink). She left earlier this week for a vacation back in Augusta, Georgia with her family.
I miss her, but I'm also trying to move on, as she has made it clear that despite the awesome sex, we're not going to be a couple.
At this time in my life, I also hate AJET (lots of work and it seems little reward for myself) and MariAnn and her snotty then buddy-buddy attitude.

Saturday, July 27, 1991.
My friend Matthew, who lives five minutes away from me and teaches at the junior high schools out side the city where I teach, has headed down to Tokyo-shi today. The plan is that I'll meet him tomorrow... meaning I'll have to travel the trains by myself. Gods, I hope I don't get lost!
At my apartment, I do odd jobs and straighten up the place.
Matthew's girlfriend, Takako, a gorgeous local here in Ohtawara-shi, has agreed to stop by and feed my goldfish and water my plants for me while I am away in Tokyo looking after things. Tomorrow, I'm meeting my friend John from back in Toronto who has invited himself over - and why not?
Despite the anxiety of the next few upcoming days, today is pretty uneventful... and while I know I should be grateful to have a day like this, I'm going to be going full tile tomorrow and the next few days.
I hope my brain, liver and self-respect survive... but I'm not taking any bets on that.

Somewhere alone in my apartment-partment-partment-ment-ment-nt-nt,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by: The Beatles: FLY.
PS: I don't think my place has been this quiet since I arrived in Japan...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bike

It's Thursday, July 25, 1991. I'm a junior high school assistant English teacher working for the Ohtawara Board of Education in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

My friend Matthew from upstate New York who teaches at a whole whack of junior high schools outside the Ohtawara City area--and who lives five minutes away from--has come up with a plan for us today as we're on vacation.

We've decided to go to Nasushiobara-machi (It's now known as Nasushiobara-shi... a city after merging with Kuroiso-machi and Nishinasuno-machi in 2005). By bicycle.

It seems like a great idea. I have no idea where it is actually, except that it's north of my apartment building... somewhere in those mountains in the photo up above.

I'm lousy with directions--both here in Japan and back home in Canada. I get lost constantly. But this time have sided with Matthew who speaks more Japanese than myself by far, we should be okay. Besides... he knew how to get there.

A mutual friend, Kevin, who worked for an American company that had an exchange program with its Japanese parent company, had provided Matthew with some instructions.

Despite it being July... this time I was smart enough to suggest to Matthew that it might be cold up in the mountains... Matthew's response was: "D'uh." He knew already and was prepared with a windbreaker and jeans--pretty much what I was wearing.

So... without much fanfare, we were off. It was a nice day... cool in the morning, but we knew that riding would make us warm, but being up in the mountains, it could be cool and windy. We didn't bother taking food or drinks with us, as we correctly surmised that we could find what we needed at a vending machine for drinks or at a restaurant or convenience store for food.

It wasn't long after leaving my place - maybe 30 minutes or so, that we figured we were lost. Totally lost. we were riding through a field (not a rice field... which was how we knew we weren't in Ohtawara... as that name translates into Big-Rice Field-Field). We had both pretty much only ever seen rice fields here in our city...

Still, we knew where the mountain was. North.

It didn't matter. Matthew seems to have a innate sense of direction.. and we enjoy the ride... watching as white cars drive at us only to swerve at the last second and honking at us to let us know that they saw us:

"Hora! Gaijin-da!" (Look! Foreigners!)
 
It would be bad form to hit two gaijin (foreigners) at once... especially two mildly famous ones in the Prefecture.

We stop off at a vending machine and grab a drink. I get a Coke... and a Georgia Coffee (cold coffee in a can manufactured for the Asian market by Coca-Cola... Matthew gets some Japanese drink. I swear that boy is more Japanese than the Japanese sometimes.

We stop off at a 7-11 and get some onigiri (Japanese rice balls)... with the most awesome packaging... It's a triangle of rice about four inches along each plane and one inch thick. Inside it in the very middle is a dollop of white tuna or a umeboshi (sour plum) or some veggies.

First you pull tab one which splits the packaging.  Then you plug on tabs two and three to pull apart the film package. There is, as mentioned an inside layer of clear film that holds the nori (seaweed). The clear film around the nori keeps it crisp and dry. Removing it, you simply wrap/fold the nori around the rice ball/triangle and then you munch away. There is a way to never actually touch the rice  ball with your fingers while wrapping it - and I've watched a few drunk Japanese businessmen to learn how.

It is sooooo delicious. I usually have three to fill me up as a whole meal. I always get the sea chicken and mayonnaise style... Sea chicken is white tuna meat. The Japanese never really used to east white tuna meat (only red tuna meat) until maybe 20 years ago, as it was considered the garbage part of the tuna.To differentiate it from the red tuna, the name "Sea Chicken" was concocted for the Japanese market. The Japanese don't know why.. and neither do most gaijin.... but back in Canada, I used to watch these television commercials that asked: "What's the best tuna? Chicken Of The Sea!"

Yes, Chicken Of The Sea was a brand of tuna in a can. I ate it all the time back in Toronto. So... for the Japanese... sake (pronounced "sha-kay") is red tuna meat... and white tuna (pronounced "she chi-con") is based on a brand of canned tuna.    

Back on the bike... I only had one gear working on my bicycle... and the chain was groaning and creaking like my grandfather's knees. I guess I should have oiled it at least once since getting the bike a year ago.

Matthew at Mt. Nasu
We finally arrive and head over to a large part up the mountain. See... we have proof that we made it.

After 1-1/2 hours there, we head for home. But we decide to race... because we're in our mid-20s and in such great shape... right.

Matthew has more speed than me thanks to the lack of any gear shifting, but when he has to coast to catch his breath, my bicycle catches up thanks to its superior gliding power. No matter what he does, when he stops pedaling, I stop too, but I catch up and actually have to hit the brakes to avoid getting too far ahead.

We ride on to Nishinasuno-eki (Nishinasuno Train station) and park our bikes and head onto a local JR (Japan Rail) train for a ride down to Utsunomiya-shi, the capital of Tochigi-ken.

There we catch the movie Robin Hood (Kevin Costner's)--which we both agree is pretty decent.

Back home, I relax and do a bit of my puzzle and watch some more videos. I step back out onto my bicycle and head over to one of the three 7-11's near my apartment and get some more onigiri for my dinner.

Andrew at Mt. Nasu
Back home... I collapse I quickly eat, stay up a 1/2 hour longer and then go to bed early at 10PM.

I should be in pain tomorrow.

Somewhere tomorrow came early,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Pink Floyd: GERALD. It's a real old one

PS: I love Matthew's sense of adventure. My wife does that sort of stuff, too. I probably wouldn't go anywhere for fear of getting lost if it wasn't for people like this. As a result of Matthew's get up and go, aside from the leg and back muscles hurting, I got to see stuff I have already seen, but I did so from the perch of my bicycle and got to experience the sights, the sounds and the smells of Japan.
PPS: Okay... the photos of Matthew and myself are actually from another trip we did from Mt. Nasu in the same area. I think.   

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lightning Storm

It's Wednesday, July 24, 1991 and I'm living in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan. My friend-with-benefits (and ex-girlfriend) Ashley has gone back to the U.S. for  a short vacation... perhaps to recharge her batteries for yet another year with me.
I'm a tad shell-shocked, too. Since arriving from Toronto about one year ago, I've gone through so much strife - and all of it woman-related... some if it my doing, most of it not.
Now I'm on my own.
Sort of.
I have plenty of friend here in Japan. I know, shocking.
I'm up topday at 9AM. I watch some Japanese television and have no clue what anyone is saying.
The Japanese love samurai dramas. It's akin to U.S. westerns... which despite a relatively short shelf life of maybe 100 years, it spawned 20 years worth of tv shows.... but Japan... the samurai (for more on who and what they are, read THIS), they were a phenomenon for about 250 years in real life... and have been a mainstay of Japanese television or over 50 years.
After lunch I drop by the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE) office (my bosses) and do some more work for the newcomers arriving in Japan next week.
Tomorrow... and this time I mean it... I'm on vacation.
It's like I've been on vacation for over a week, but I just can't stop and totally relax. It's fine. My goal is to learn something new everyday in Japan. If I haven't, I've wasted the day. I haven't wasted a day here yet.
After finishing up some photocopying of documents, I go grocery shopping and clean up my apartment. Then I go to the back doctor to get rid of all of the pains... I've been seeing great results since I began going here a couple of months ago.
Because there's a lightning storm a-coming, kyudo (Japanese archery) is canceled tonight.... what with the metal arrows and stuff. It was actually canceled DURING my practice. I was holding my arrow, readying my release when a lightning bolt struck a recently fired arrow some 60 meters away.
Deafening, yes but it scared the heck out of me. I didn't yell or scream or anything, but I did quickly drop my arrow from my grip.
Kanemaru-san, one of my two bosses at OBOE and my kyudo-sensei (archery teacher) and good friend... he drives me home and then provides me with some presents.
I have no idea why I'm receiving presents NOW... but it is fast approaching my one-year anniversary here in Japan... and I am going away on a trip soon... or perhaps he just wants to offer me something nice. Why ask why, right?
The presents include: a talisman to ward off evil, and from his 5-year-old son Tomohiro a fugu puffer fish. (Both unfortunately were lost in a house fire I had four+ years ago...).
Kanemaru-san then drives me over to Iseya grocery/department store (where I was earlier today) and then shows me where to buy some spider spray.
I keep whining about all of the spiders on my balcony but keep forgetting to buy some spider spray!
As we arrive back home, the thunder and lightning show is over--Mother Nature has the most awesome television shows.
I head out and rent some videos, including Stephen King's "It". I then step out onto my northern balcony (I also have a western one... not to be confused with a samurai one) and spray the heck out of the 100+ spiders that descent from the ceiling.
I hate spiders.
Matthew comes over and we watch 1/2 of It together. When he leaves, I watch the rest and then some television, flipping channels. Secretly, I enjoy the murder show the best, as I am able to walk out onto my northern balcony at night for the first time ever... and watch the lightning storm flash off in the distance where the mountains are... I can feel the tiny hairs stand up on the back of my neck and I can smell ozone.
And I feel... electric

Somewhere watching reality television,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Flogging Molly: KRACKADOOM!
PS: I really miss that talisman to ward off evil spirits... I sure could have used it these past four+ years...
PPS: Waiting for something to happen? Me too. Don't worry... tomorrow Matthew and I do something fun... I'll combine a few days and then get to the crazy time in my life where I wish I could... well, we should all just wait for that... 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Desperado

It's Tuesday, July 23, 1991 - Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan. You regular readers already have a pretty good idea of the location... but here is where I'm at today:

I'm up at 7AM, shower and get dressed quickly and ride 20 minutes out to my ex-girlfriend - but friend with benefits, Ashley's place in Nishinasuno-machi (Nishisnasuno Town). It feels like it's an hour-long trek, as I'm very much down today.

Arriving at 8:30AM, we load up our bicycles with her luggage and go back inside her dark, little apartment. She's heading back home to Augusta, Georgia for a vacation.

We kiss... kiss like we never stopped loving one another. At least that what it feels like to me. I wonder... I wish...

We ride slowly out to the nearby train station - dammit, but it's hot out today! I assume Georgia is as hot as Tochigi-ken is today.

I give her a short hug and she me. We both turn away to avoid crying in front of each other... at least that's why I turn away.

As I leave the train station... I feel sad... and as I get further away... I feel less sad. I'll miss her though, but I know I'll survive.

At home (and Ohtawara is my home!) I watch some television and then go to the Ohtawara Board of Education to do some work for AJET (The Association for Japan Exchange & Teaching)—it's just some welcome information for the newcomers to our Prefecture later this month. I'm the writer, I put it together.

Matthew comes by the office at 2:30, and we head out for lunch at Mosburger—one of the very few food-related things I miss about Japan... I live in Toronto, a very cosmopolitan city... we can get any food we want... just not this fastfood-franchises great cuisine!). Back at my place we watch some videos and then head out to Matsuri, a wonderful restaurant located just below our favourite drinking establishment, The 4C.

I guess Matthew knows I'm a tad down today and buys me dinner - a very expensive one at that, but I'm still not going to sleep with him. Just kidding. I'm kidding about the kidding. Hey! How about those Bears?! And other manly things!

I tell you folks... through all of my ups and downs with Japan—actually, it was all woman related, so I guess it really has nothing to do with Japan - Matthew has been there for me. To prop me up so I don't choke on my own vomit after a great night out having a couple of drinks.

Tonight, we chill.

We rent the movies FX and Rebel Without A Cause. We watch FX at his place with his girlfriend Takako... until 11PM, when I get the idea I should leave.

So I ride home (five minutes or so?) and watch Rebel until 1:30AM.

God, but I'm so effin' tired. Maybe I'm bored? Maybe I enjoy it better when my life is in total chaos? I wish I had some chaos!

My friend John from Toronto is coming this weekend. Plus there all those newcomers (WOMEN!) arriving next Monday - more options for Andrew! Horray for me!


Somewhere not being careful what I wish for,
Andrew Joseph 
Today's blog title is by The Eageles: FLYAWAY.
PS: Ashley had a boyfriend back in the U.S. before coming here to Japan. Did they break up? Yes. Even though Ashley and I met and were an item on our second day in the country. Was I worried that she would hook up with her ex while at home? Nope. I'm pretty sure she might get hit on by him... but she is a year-older and much more globally-experienced.
PPS: Besides... once they've had BROWN they always come 'round.
PPPS: Not sure HOW original that is, but I came up with it on my own back in 1990 the first time Ashely got back after breaking up with me. Ego... thy name is Andrew.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

UN Meets With Japan

The United Nations has asked a team of its nuclear experts to meet with Japanese officials on Tuesday, May 25, 2011 to visit the Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture) Dai-ichi (Big One) nuclear facility that nearly suffered a meltdown as a result of generators losing power to cool the core in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Rumours abound that possibly all three of the reactors on-line at the time of the twin disasters may have had most of its nuclear fuel rods melt, implying that a major nuclear disaster may have been imminent.

The team will assess the nuclear facility and Japan's deadline (self-imposed) to stabilize it by early 2012.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the owner and operator of the Dai-ichi facility has released a report suggesting that the fuel rods in Unit 2 and Unit 3 mostly melted during the early days of the crisis, which had been suspected but not confirmed. Again, the report suggests, but still does not confirm.

The report also notes that it appears as though chunks of nuclear fuel may entered the inner containment chambers, or drywell, causing some damage which implies that the severity of the nuclear problem was understated, which is saying something considering it was already classified as a Level 7 nuclear problem--the worst it could get.

Last week, TEPCO had announced a similar finding of nuclear fuel chunks in Unit 1.  
   
"We should have made a more cautious damage estimate based on a worse scenario," states Hosono Goshi (surname first), director of Japan's nuclear crisis task force. 

When the nuclear reactor fuel rods in Units 1, 2 and 3 started melting after the tsunami knocked out its cooling systems, there were repeated releases and explosions of radiation into the air. Unit 4 was off-line but had a lot of spent and still radioactive fuel rods which needed cooling, while Unit 5 and Unit 6 were already off-line for maintenance before March 11 and were taken into a state of  cold shutdown by the end of March.


TEPCO says that the melted fuel rods that appear to have fallen into a lump at the bottom of each of the three pressure containment vessels, do not currently pose a problem because it is still covered with the water being pumped into the chamber, and are at temperatures far below dangerous levels.

Over two months later, the plant is still leaking radiation, but at much lower levels than immediately after the accident, and Japanese officials hope to bring the entire plant to a cold shutdown--halting all radioactive leaks --by January 2012 at the latest.


The nuclear disaster has caused the evacuation of over 80,000 people from their homes 20-kilometers (12.5-miles) around the plant, forcing many to live in makeshift rooming facilities like school .

For those that defy the evacuation order--and there are still a few out there--they face a fine of Y100,000 ($1,200 Cdn) or 30 days in detention... like in a school gymnasium? So far, no one has been arrested for violating the evacuation order. I'm guessing that no one wants to go into the evacuation zone, and even if they were unafraid, security officials do not want to create more ill will with the people of Japan affected by this problem.

TEPCO is still trying to determine what to do with the radioactive water leaking from the reactor cores into the reactor and turbine buildings, trenches and pits. The containers holding the radioactive water pumped from those areas are almost full, which has led to worries that it could overflow and leak back into the sea again.

TEPCO plans to install reprocessing equipment to pump the contaminated water from the turbine basements where it is pooling and place it into the reactor as coolant.

As well, TEPCO plans to construct a special cover over each reactor building to contain radiation releases.

The Japanese government has appointed University of Tokyo Professor Hatamura Yotaro (surname first)--an expert on industrial disasters--to head a panel of outside experts to investigate the Fukushima accident.

The nuclear crisis has raised questions about Japan's poor showing of its nuclear industry, and has prompted Japan to scrap plans for it to rely on nuclear power for half its electricity needs. Currently, only one-third of Japan's electricity is derived from nuclear power.


Files compiled by Andrew Joseph.

The End

Okay... it's Monday, July 22, 1991. Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

For the past week, I have been sleeping with my 22-year-old ex-girlfriend Ashley of Augusta, Georgia. Me? I'm a 26-year-old Canadian guy of Indian descent who is living the dream life here in Japan. While Ashley was my first ever last year, I'm fast approaching double-digits... only sleeping with other women whenever she and I are broken up... not just fighting, but broken up. It's always been her idea to break up, and my idea to get back. Obviously it takes two to Tango (three to form a Conga line, but only one to do the Twist), so she has to want it too... but now we are friends with benefits.

We've been having a great time together and haven't had a disagreement really... but maybe she wants me because she has seen first hand that other women want me. Like Shoko... a 22-year-old night school student of mine.

Ashley doesn't know about Junko, the 21-year-old stalker with a body and sexual appetite to kill for (and I think she might have one day), or the Japanese female physical education teacher, or any of the other Canadian, Americans, Brits or whatever I've been with these past 12 months.

I've been very bad by being very good.

I'm on vacation. Although I purchased a motorcycle last weekend, I haven't been on it since. It scares me, and I don't want to die.

I clean up my apartment (again!), stop by my office (the Ohtawara Board of Education) to say hello and then go shopping.

Ashley comes over at 4:30PM - and we eat a chili dinner I made and watch the movie Short Circuit. It's my good-bye present to her, as she's going back to the U.S. for a vacation - to re-charge her batteries.  It's too bad... we are ending our first year here in Japan just like we began it. With passion.

We don't have sex. We don't even kiss. We don't have to.

I ride home with her to Nishinasuno-machi (Town of Nishinasuno). I watch her pack until 1AM.

I'm really going to miss her.

The good-bye kiss is something I wish was longer... but dammit, it was good.

As I ride back home, I can't think of anything but her.

I know I'm in love with her. Damn.

Somewhere lost in a romance,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Doors: Yes, I've used it before... but I just love the line: "Lost in a romance, wilderness of pain...." OWWW

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Daydream

Mary (l) and Mari Ann (r)
It's Sunday, July 21, 1991 - Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

Let me begin by knowing that you have already arrived. It's how I try to live my life.

You might think that being a foreigner and in a plush job as an assistant English teacher in the Jet (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme would allow for good pay, a short hours... and for that actual job of teaching at one of seven junior high schools four days a week (with one day at the Ohatawara Board of Education (OBOE)), you would be correct.

Unfortunately, I'm a little social butterfly. Flitting around from one event to the next. Making myself  seen and heard - always trying to show a happy face for the Japanese and others.

I'm here in this country to show the Japanese that foreigners (gaijin) are not only cool, but are just like themselves. Hard-working but also hard-partying.

The problem is that while the OBOE has parties maybe once every two months, I'm involved with more than just the OBOE. I have JET (or AJET) responsibilities. I also participate in the Ohtawara International Friendship Association, and I teach at a couple of night school classes to pick up some extra yen to spend (which I always do!).

I'm also trying to learn as much about Japan and the Japanese, while trying to grow up a bit. I've also been in and out of more relationships than I can count at the moment of this writing--but that's okay, because I had only had two relationships prior to arriving in Japan, and neither involved intercourse--unless it was that time I was told to go 'intercourse yourself'.

Along with the women, I also have friends. Friends who, like myself, sometimes need the company of other like-minded (IE: English-speaking people) to converse with. All of us foreigners in Japan suffer from some form of homesickness. I get that way every once in a while, but then, some woman will come along and make me forget about ever wanting to leave this wonderful rife (life) I have begun to forge here in Japan.
     
Sometimes, I do think I am going crazy. Other times, despite being surrounded by so many people, I feel like the loneliest guy on the planet. Really, it's all just a state of mind. Excluding those with a chemical imbalance, one really can be happy if you let yourself be happy.

At this moment in my life, I'm a tad burnt-out. I can feel myself getting tired--I don't sleep enough. I don't have a girlfriend this week, but I am sleeping with my ex-girlfriend while making the moves on a Japanese girl I like. I was recently stalked by a drop-dead gorgeous Japanese university student who wanted to throw away everything for me--but despite enjoying being tied up, I didn't want to be tied down yet. I had to let her, and our fantastic sexual romps, be taken away by strange men in the night who literally took her and placed her in a car and took her back home and hopefully placed her on some reasonably-priced meds.

Today, I'm supposed to head down to Oyama-shi to meet Mari Ann Hironaka--an attractive Japanese-Canadian on the JET Programme with me, who is feeling the homesickness a lot worse than others... I think. I'm the type of guy who will talk to others about stuff like this and invite them to open up--and, brother have they. Of course, most of the people I talk to are women on the JET Programme... but that's mostly because the men on the JET Programme are hitting on any breathing Japanese woman they see.... and that leaves a lot of foreign woman needing comfort. That's where I've been coming in, so to speak. Someone needs to look after these women.

Oh, and don't think I don't also try to help out the poor Japanese women who want to date a foreigner--and surprisingly, there are plenty in this fine upstanding country.

Regardless... down in Oyama, Mari Ann and I head over to Mary Mueller's apartment. Mary is a sexy, blond American who loves to talk, is very opinionated, but has the brains to back it up--and I really like her. Too bad she has a boyfriend named Peter (who I like dammit) and she is going home in a couple of weeks time. Mary was the leader of AJET here in Tochigi-ken before handing the reins over to Susan St. Cyr a few months ago. Tochigi-ken AJET seems to have gone into the dumper since then.

We are supposed to be at Mary's for a meeting with Susan, mixed with a farewell party for the non-renewers. Susan, of course doesn't show up. We were also supposed to meet a few days ago, but Susan canceled it telling everybody involved but me. Needless to say, I'm not impressed.

Apparently Susan got caught teaching an aerobics's class at Robinson's department store in Utsunomiya-shi, the capital of Tochigi-ken. As a result, she's having an emergency meeting with her office. We're not supposed to teach outside of our office, but my OBOE is so freaking cool that they don't care what I do as long as I do it safely. That's why each and every one of those people at the OBOE are my friends.

So... Mary, Mari Ann and I plot the future of Tochigi AJET. I have no idea why I am bothering as I don't think I am going to re-up with AJET. I can save a few yen, and can participate if asked, but really, I'll get back a few days a months for myself.

Later, during the party (what am I doing here?... I feel odd... aside from Mari Ann and myself, everyone else is leaving this country in a few weeks... how do I relate?), there is an electrical storm that interrupts our pizza party.

I wait around for 30 minutes and decide to head back home.

Back at Nishinasuno-eki (Nishinasuno station just north of my town of Ohtawara), it's 11PM. On a whim, I decide to see if Ashley (my ex) is up... it's not a given, as she's usually pooped by 10PM.

But she's awake. So we chat. She reads me the story of Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach--the entire book! I'm blown away when I hear the line: "Begin by knowing you have already arrived." Holy crap! Does she think that about me? Or is it about her? Or, is it a warning that I don't know everything, or is she telling me that I do know everything?

Whatever. I'm here. I'm here in the now.

Ashley still cares for me--more than for the sex. I'm sure of it now! Still, we'll see what happens after she comes back from her trip home to Augusta, Georgia. But, I'm not going to worry about it. At least not here in the now.

I borrow her book and head home arriving at 2AM.

It's raining, but all in all, I think I had a good day.

Somewhere enjoying Japan,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Loving Spoonful: WHATADAY 
PS: Yup.. .that horrible shot up above is of a toasted Mary and Mari Ann, and it might be the only photo I have of these two pretty women. I'm afraid it doesn't do them justice at all... except that is what they looked like drunk. 
PPS: Very busy this week, so nothing else until 24 hours later!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Samurai

What is a samurai?

Clinically, the word samurai means: "Those who serve in close attendance to nobility." Originally pronounced as saburau and then saburai, it became known as samurai in the Edo period (1615-1868).

The samurai follow a special code known as bushido, which translates as: "The way of the warrior".

Bushi (武士, which means warrior or arms man) is a term first seen in a book of history written in 797AD called Shoko Nihongi. In the book describing the the year 721AD, it describes bushi as: "Literary men and Warriors are they whom the nation values".

The term bushi was given to soldiers from traditional Japanese warrior families, developed first in the north region of Japan, with these families in the 12th Century forming clans against the noble families who who teamed up to support the imperial family who lived in Kyoto then the capital of Japan.

Samurai was a word used by the Kuge aristocratic class with warriors themselves preferring the word bushi.

For those samurai who were masterless with no attachment to a clan--perhaps through the over throw and banishment or death of the master, or even by personal choice--they were called ronin (浪人), which means 'wave man', a person destined to wander aimlessly forever, like the waves in the sea.

The pay of samurai was measured in koku of rice (180 liters, which was enough to feed a man for one year).You might think it odd for a soldier to be paid in food, but long before the samurai, Roman solders were paid in salt. If a soldier didn't earn is pay (do his duty), they used to say the soldier wasn't worth his salt. Now you know the origin of that famous adage.

As well, the Latin word for salt is salarium... or what you might now know as the word salary. So, perhaps it's not a stretch to say you earned for salary down in the salt mines.

Weapons:

The samurai had two swords: The katana and the smaller wakizashi, two weapons that together are called a daisho (big and small).

According to Bushido, the katana is the samurai's soul--and is one reason why the warrior class would give the weapon names and consider them to be alive. receive a ceremonial sword covered in brocade called a mamori gatana.

When the child turned 13, the warrior in training was given via the genpuku (Coming of Age) ceremony: a katana and a wakizashi, samurai armour, an adult name

The wakizashi is the samurai's honour weapon weapon that never left his side--and would even sleep with it under his pillow. When a samurai entered a home or business and was requested to remove his katana, he would still carry his wakizashi.

Other weapons include: a tanto, a small, knife-like sword sometimes worn instead of the wakizashi. Both of these weapons were key in the performance of seppuku (disembowelment with one of these weapons, while a retainer would slice off the head with the katana. Hara kiri is suicide by disembowelment without the lopping off of the head.

Samurai were not just swordsmen. They also could be bowmen, but swordsmanship was still considered more important. but, to recognize the importance of a bowman in war fare, the term yumitori (弓取, "bowman") (Yumi means bow) was used as an honorary title of an accomplished warrior in the 1800s.

Still other weapons include the yari (spear) and naginata pole weapons originally but became more of a weapon for the foot soldiers to use.

As well, the samurai used a tanegashima... a flintlock gun introduced by the Portuguese in the 1540s. However, the tanegashima was controversial as a weapon for the samurai, but many clans opted to use it, forgoing bushido honor for a chance to really take out enemy clans.

By the end of this century, Japanese gunsmiths were making the tanegashima in large amounts to be used by the peasant class in their battles. Unlike today's guns, these ones took a while to load and fire and were not very accurate.

Samurai would also use: cannons to take out enemy castles; staves like the bo, jo, hanbo and tanbo; clubs made or iron or wood like the jutte (one-handed) and the kanabo (two-hander); and chain weapons like flails, called the kusarigama and manriki

Along with the katana, samurai are famous for their unique looking armour. Originally called o-yoroi (or Great Armour), the scale armour was made from leather or iron and bound into strips coated with laquer and tied together by strips of silk and formed into chest armour. But with the advent of guns, this was replaced by tosei gosoku that was iron-plated.

Samurai also wore a kabuto helmet and an iron face plate (menpo) that often had a scowl on it usually adorned with whiskers... to make themselves look more ferocious. From what I was told, since the Japanese are not known for their beard growing prowess, adding facial hair made them look like wild men. 

Emperor Meiji abolished the samurai's right to be the only armed force in favor of a more modern, western-style, conscripted army in 1873. Samurai became known as shizoku (士族) who kept some of their salary but their right to wear a katana in public was eventually abolished along with the right to execute commoners who paid them disrespect.

The samurai warrior class finally came to an end after hundreds of years of enjoyment of their status and its power to shape the government of Japan.

And now you know.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph
PS: In the photo above, a LEGO samurai clan pose in front of Himeji-jo (Himeji Castle) in Himeji-shi, Hyogo-ken (Hyogo Prefecture). From my collection, the photo shows off the clan's weapons, treasure chest of coins, and an important barrel of rice.
PPS: This blog is in honour of my friend Matthew Hall. It's his birthday today. He was and continues to be an honourble samurai. Happy birthday big guy! Yay!!!!Oh... and Matthew was with me at Himeji-jo when I snapped the background photo above!

21st Century Schizoid Man

It's Saturday, July 20, 1991 - Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

Last night was the first time since Ashley and I broke up that she actually spent the night. For the past week now, we've been having sex again as part of a friend's with benefits thing. It's good for Ashley and it's good for me. It's also good for the people around me, as my mood has certainly improved.

We get up this morning and have sex for 2-1/2 hours! We then talk about us, and really, it seems to be more about friendship than relationship... which is what Ashley wants. To be honest, you could keep all that... I enjoy the sex.

Ashley was never the most beautiful woman on the planet, but there was something about her I thought was beautiful... and isn't that what counts? Yes, she was also the first woman I had ever had sex with, and I suppose that made her even extra special in my head. I've certainly had a lot of sex with a fair number of women since arriving in Japan almost one year ago. I've been with women that would make the average guy's head spin with jealousy... even I have no idea how or why these women were with me, but why question that? I'm just enjoying the ride(s).

I ask Ashley about the condom thing... specifically why she now lets me in without a condom. She says she trusts me. She trusts me to pull out. It's bizarre. When we were dating she didn't trust me? Cripes... I wanted to date her and have sex with her, but I wasn't interested in being a father to her kids - at least not here in Japan when she's 22 and I'm 26! And now that we're not an official couple, she trusts me enough to take that risk?

I'm not the world's smartest guy, but it still doesn't make sense to me. But since I'm not the world's stupidest guy, I leave it at that. Why rock the boat when I'm having my cake and eating it too, if you know what I mean.

We dress and go to CoCo's for brunch, but she soon has to head down south to Oyama-shi to pick up a microwave oven from Peter, who's leaving the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme in a couple of weeks.

Parting at CoCo's, I go home and relax by watching a few videos. It's a beautiful day today, but I am still mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted by the events of the past 12 months - girlfriend, no girlfriend, stalker girlfriend, various one-night-stand girlfriends, friend's with benefits thing. Forget about Japan being tough to live in as it's my first time away from home. That's freaking easy. The tough part has been dealing with the women coming in and out of my life.

Later that night when Ashley's back, she invites me over to watch Field of Dreams. Damn movie makes me cry every time... especially that part where he plays catch with his dead father. We don't have sex, but we are cozy and pretty relaxed around each other.

I go home at 11PM and start doing my puzzle of The Tower of Babel, with art by Pieter Breugel.

I suddenly fixate. This was something I used to do when I would have sleeping and waking dreams of drowning by falling under ice on a river when I'm 87 years-old. I would just zone out and be carried away by the dream.

In this case, I'm swallowed up and lose control of what I'm doing... by that it feels like there's something short-circuiting in my brain that won't allow me to stop doing what I'm doing until my brain is ready to relinquish control.

This is something that has hit me only three or four times outside of my drowning dream in 46 years, but this is the first time it has happened in the 26 years since my birth. It's kind of freaky... and since I'm not doing anything stupid or nefarious... I let it take over. I still have control over my thoughts. I am aware of what I am doing - it's just that I can't stop. Like I said... at least I'm not doing anything stupid. Every time it's happened, I've been overly tired and it takes over while I do a specific function. In this case, it's putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

I feel pretty stupid telling you all about this. I haven't talked to anyone about it before - if I thought I was hurting myself or others I certainly would, but it always seems to manifest itself to help take chaos and make it into order.

I begin to pull pieces out of the box and slap them down onto the frame. Everything seems to be a perfect fit with every handful of puzzle pieces. It's like being completely in tune with the universe.

I want you to know that I'm not drinking or doing drugs.

I do about 180 pieces and I have no idea how I am doing it, but I am doing it. It's like my brain has taken over and is focusing even while I am trying to snap out of the focus--but I can't. I keep telling myself to stop; to get up; to leave; but I'm not listening to myself. I'm saying out loud "this is crazy", and it is.

I get up to get myself some Coca-Cola, and the feeling of extreme focus seems to dissipate. I actually have no idea when that feeling leaves me, but it does. I stare down at the puzzle and see all that I have done. What's weird(er), is that every single piece I picked up from the box I was able to place down where it needed to go. I did not pick up a single piece and put it back into the box. It was like being a cyborg for awhile. Half-man, half-mazing.

I go and take out my contacts from my tired eyes and put on my glasses--but as I am taking them out, I realize they are already out. Hunh. I must have missed doing that in my focused state.Okay. Now I'm a bit freaked out.

Have I completely zoned out and lost track of time? What the hell is wrong with me?

I'm afraid to lie down because I'm afraid that the dream of me dying willcome back - but this time it will be for real....

... yet, when I do lie down, I pass out immediately... and dream.

I don't recall my dreams very often... and when I do, it's usually, well, this sounds stupid, but it's usually something that comes true in the near future.. or it seems to. It's why I seem to experience deja vu quite often. Okay... that's just a theory. And not a very scientific one at that.

I believe in 'isms': mysticism, occultism, spiritualism... weird stuff... or at least I don't dis-believe it... but I do try and base everything around scientific fact. As a Catholic, do I believe the world was created in seven days? Not literally. I know my science, and I have faith in it.

In my dream, I see how angels travel. They merely open wide their arms and step through into the open space... to any time, to any place. I see ghosts in the video tape I see in my dream. I see the Tower of Babel and angels traveling.

It's a bizarre day to be sure and I have no idea what it means, but I sure hope this one doesn't come true in the near future.  

I must be more tired than I thought. Is it possible to hallucinate in one's own dreams?

Somewhere needing to spread my wings and fly by myself,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by King Crimson. I always loved the cover of this album, plus the frenetic musical notes at around the 2 minute mark. FACE.
PS: The image above is of the Tower of Babel puzzle. What do you think... Babel... people speaking different languages and no one understands each other. Confusing. It's me and Japan. It's me and all the different women in Japan. It's me being overly tired. It's me becoming mentally unstable. Let's see what happens over the next few weeks, shall we.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Look Of Love

It's Friday, July 19, 1991. Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

I spend the day watching television, drinking Coca-Cola and doing a puzzle. It's hot outside and I'm mentally exhausted. I think I've been going pretty much non-stop since I arrived here nearly one-year ago. Before that, I was going non-stop working for the Toronto Star newspaper and before that going to journalism school at Humber College while coaching the women's indoor soccer team and teaching eight people how to play the piano after classes. 

Here in Japan it's work and experience of new and exciting things, coupled with the responsibility of a girlfriend and friends and social commitments and a couple of night school classes I teach on the side, that my office, the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) turns a blind eye to. My day job is to teach four days a week at one of the seven junior high schools in the city of Ohtawara. And a Friday spent at the office.

Anyway, tonight is the night of a Nishinasuno Town Party. Matthew comes with his little sister, Krystina (she's maybe 19?) who has come over from the U.S. to stay for a couple of weeks. She's tall, funny and full of gorgeous red hair... and I hope like hell I have spelled her name correctly! Unlike myself, she's also quite brilliant!

(Uh-oh... Matthew has replied that I have indeed buggered up her name... it's spelled Krystyna. I knew there was a "Y" in there... I just forgot that there were two. Why? Mr. & Mrs. Hall? Why? Sorry Krystyna! Don't hurt me with that sexy brain of yours!)

At the party, I spend most of the evening dancing with Shoko Kofuji, the pretty young lady I really like. She's a student in one of the two adult night school classes I teach. She beautiful, about 5'7", slender and has black wavy hair, deep brown eyes, is smart, cheerful and is very, very shy. I don't mind her being shy, but she seems like a very good girl - all prim and proper, which is also nice, but I've been traveling a a different speed since arriving here. Fast and furious. Which is fine, since I had nothing for speed before arriving here as a 25-year-old. Nothing at all.

Anyhow, Shoko and I dance and dance and dance all evening to all the fast songs. Ashley is there and sees me with Shoko. Ashley is my ex-girlfriend, but is now my friend with benefits--hence, she is part of that fast and furious thing I just mentioned.

I have no idea what Ashley is thinking, but I bet her seeing me with the pretty young Shoko is making her very jealous, as it appears as though I have responded more than adequately from being dumped by her. 

Shoko thinks Ashley and I have nothing to do with each other, and that's fine by me. I haven't told Matthew either, as his girlfriend Takako has been spending a  considerable effort to get Shoko and I together... and to be honest, up until last weekend, I didn't think I would actually get any benefits from Ashley after we broke up.

When it's time for some slow dancing, I give Shoko THE look and grin at her as I'm about to put the moves on her... to press my body up against hers to show her how I feel about her. but then Mr. Tokunori Suzuki--the farmer who kind of runs the Ohtawara International Friendship Association and who is putting on this shindig, cuts in on me and steals Shoko away.

I'm completely shocked and don't know what to do, except let him. I know he's not doing it out of malice. Unless he's trying to protect her from me.

Mrs. Sugawara dances with me, and while she is nice and all, she's married and is not Shoko. Since it appears as though I'm not going to put any moves on Shoko - thank you Suzuki-san!--my thoughts turn to Ashley and our dirty, little secret.

Ashley isn't dancing, but as I spin around with Sugawara-san, I mouth to Ashley that I want her to come back to my apartment after the party.

After enough beer and food to give a heart attack to a bull elephant, I head home on my bicycle. Ashley is already inside my place. Hmmm, I'm unsure when I had another key made for het, but I obviously did... or she had an extra one still after breaking up with me previously. She had broken up with me claiming I was crowding her and she needed her space. No problem.... forgive me, but I incorrectly believed a couple did things together. I invited her out and to my place and to do things with me, and she always accepted. I had no idea wit was a burden until she broke up with me.

Regardless, we watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, picking up where we left off last weekend. We also eat some more substantial food--tacos, as the party food was just party food. That's thing about enkai (parties) in Japan. You never know what the food situation is going to be like. Booze yes, food, no. It's either a full on multi-course meal, or it's finger foods. Pretty much every party I've been to with the Friendship Association has been a major food fest, so the finger foods tonight were a bit of a surprise - but it didn't stop me from eating a whole lot to soak up the effects of the alcohol.

Ashley and I start kissing, which quickly leads to a 2-hour sex session. When we're done, we come out at 1AM and watch the conclusion of the movie. 

We go back into the bedroom and go at it again. I guess someone missed the sex. It wasn't just me, either... but remember, I was getting all I could handle and then some with my favourite sexual stalker Junko. I'm pretty sure if I had told Junko to, she would have joined Ashley and myself. I'm pretty sure Ashley wouldn't have let that happen, however. Or maybe I'm wrong about that. Oh well, I guess I'll never know.

Ashley again lets me in without a condom as long as I finish up outside. I guess she has faith in my control. I suppose both of us are ignorant of the fact that it only takes a small drop of semen to make one pregnant. I'm not arguing though.

We sleep together. Actually spending the night--just like old times. It's peaceful, and I'm content. If I snore--which I am told by every person I have NOT slept with--I sound like a jet plane with asthma. Maybe I'm more relaxed and breath easier after sex, or I just tire them out enough to not care about my snoring.

Somewhere breathing easier,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by ABC: THAT'STHELOOK

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Radiation Inside The Evacuation Zone

I thought you might like to see this video down near the bottom. Read this stuff first and then check it out. 

On April 3, 2011, the video shows Japanese video journalist Jimbo Tetsuo (surname first) in his car going through the 20 kilometer evacuation zone towards the Fukushima Dai-ichi (Big One) nuclear reactor facility in Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture), Japan.

As you know, this particular nuclear facility was hard hit after the March 11, 2011 9.0 Magnitude earthquake and the tsunami that knocked out power to the cooling generators surrounding the hot nuclear power rods. There were explosions and a lot of radiation emitted from the facility.

This video shows him in his car with a geiger counter and a device to count the amount of radiation in sievert's. I've re-calculated the data below into millisieverts (mSV), which I am more comfortable with. 

What the heck is a millisievert? 
The millisievert (mSv) is a measure of the absorption of radiation by the human body.
The average person is exposed to 2.4 mSv a year through a variety of sources like x-rays, cosmic rays, radon, granite, tobacco - in fact, if you lived in a high elevation place, you are receiving more millisieverts of radiation than those at sea-level - because of the thinner atmosphere which is a blocker. 
 
There is a rumour that the U.S. Capitol Building made up of a stone containing uranium emits more than enough radiation to shut down a nuclear power plant. I said rumour now. 
Other examples of exposure include: 
  1. Chest x-ray: .04 mSv single dose;
  2. Cosmic rays: .24 mSv per year; 
  3. Smoking 1.5 packs a day: 13 mSv per year; 
  4. Flight crew working the New York-Tokyo route: 9 mSv per year; 
  5. Living near Chernobyl when it melted down in 1986: 450 mSv cumulative over several days. 
There is a 50 percent chance of death within a month if you are exposed to a single dose of 5,000 mSv. Obviously, you double your percentage if you double the exposure: near-certain death within a month after a single dose 10,000 mSv of radiation.


I have here the video he shot via YOUTUBE. In the video you'll see some of the destruction and an amazing amount of animal life that seems to be unaffected by the radiation, despite a heavy dosage of 0.112 mSv/hour (112 μSv/hour) that is apparently above the legal limit, but is not expected to pose a health risk for short term exposure.

The 0.112 mSv/hour reached by the reporter would only be dangerous after 446 hours or 18.6 days, which would then be equal to the maximum yearly exposure for radiation workers established by the U.S. NRC (United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission) of 500 mSv (or 50,000 μSv.)

At least I hope I got the math correct: 0.010 mSv, = 10 µSv. I converted from µSv to mSv, as the video was showing data in μSv/hour.
 
But what about anyone or thing thing still left there... like the cows or dogs in the video... well, radioactivity does decay.By the 200th day, as long as there is no further release of radiation into the air, the dose rate will be quite insignificant.

Somewhere wondering what happened to the bulldog,
Andrew Joseph

Self Esteem

It's Thursday, July 18, 1991, Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan
 
I sleep in today.

I don't go in to work today. There's no school because there are exams and then summer vacation for my junior high school students. Since I'm JUST a gaijin (foreigner) assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I lack the same responsibilities as the Japanese teachers as it's supposed to be stressful enough for a foreigner just to live in Japan.

So instead of work, I'm on vacation. I do a jigsaw puzzle and then ride my bicycle around the outskirts of town... just looking at things and enjoying life.

Ashley has another enkai (party) to go to tonight, and just like the past few nights when she's had a party, she show's up drunk at my doorstep looking for action.

We kiss for awhile, and I get drunk sucking all of the beer embedded in her tongue. We then watch the Mission Impossible movie and a few episodes of Designing Women (which she really likes, so I have my mom record it for me and then send over). Then, sated intellectually, it's time for the physical/emotional satisfaction.

We have a nice little bout of three hour sex. We even do it without a condom, though I am expected to finish up outside. While we were together previously as an actual couple (as opposed to a couple of horn dogs), there was no way she would have let me do that - but now that we are friends with benefits, it's okay.

I swear, I'll never understand women.

I ride my bicycle home with her to make sure she doesn't ride off into a rice paddy and drown and get back home at around 2AM.

I had kissed her goodnight, and I could feel the passion... but it was still just sexual passion and not love. I'm an emotional guy - despite my love of sex. I want... no need more.

Isn't it funny? I get what I wanted (Ashley as a friend with benefits leaving me free to see, date and screw any other woman I want), but it's still not enough. Am I never going to be satisfied with my lot in life?

Aside from the nights, the days are long and emotionally unfulfilling. I yearn for Ashley tragically.

Somewhere puzzled,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Offspring: SUCKER
PS: You'll notice that I said I rode my bicycle rather than my motorcycle. The damn thing scares the crap out of me. I don't want to die! 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mr. Spaceman

In Tokyo recently - March 12, 2011... there was a video uploaded onto Dailymotion showing what purports to be UFO (unidentified flying objects).

Could visitors from another planet be checking out the after effects of the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disasters? Could aliens (gaijin) want to get their hands on some really great udon noodles?

Whatever the answer, it seems obvious that the woman in the video is very excited to see these white floating object up in the sky.

UFO's? Yes they are. They are unidentified flying (or floating) objects. Are they from outer space? Who the heck knows?

Personally, I want to believe (to quote Fox Mulder from the show The X-Files), but I like seeing a little more action in my spaceship videos. Like movement or flashing lights or something other than a guy yelling in astonishment.

Here's the VIDEO. Have a look and create your own opinion.

Somewhere being anally probed,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by The Byrds: TAKEMEALONG.
PS: The photo above is a LEGO alien probing some unfortunate man in a forest taken from my, er, I mean my son's collection. It's obvious from the photo that the alien has spotted me taking his photograph. The next 47 minutes were a blur.

Straight Shooter

It's Wednesday, July 17, 1991. Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

I'm especially tired today after last night's activities with Ashley, my ex-girlfriend with benefits.

While I don't have to go into work today, I do anyways, which surprises everyone at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) who seems to love my eagerness. I was told yesterday that I have 15 vacation days left and that I should use them immediately, but they re shocked that I would still come into work today.

To be honest, I have some JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme stuff to take care of. I'm preparing some welcome material for the new JET members who will be arriving in Japan at the end of the month. Even if I wasn't a part of the Tochigi-ken welcoming committee, I would have done something like this anyways... don't think I'm such a great guy or anything... my thoughts were it would be easier to meet the new women this way... this way I can be especially helpful, and have them follow me around while I flirt and hit on them with all of my sexual prowess.

For the new women here, I figure they will be lost. Lost because all of the new guys will be looking for Japanese women. That leaves me free to work my magic.

Work is still boring despite my plans for future sex.

After work, I go to kyudo (Japanese archery) with Kanemaru-san (one of my two bosses at the OBOE) and actually shoot at the real target. The larger target used by the junior level archers is missing (??) so I use the smaller real target the more experienced archers use. I also shoot from the proper distance of 60 meters. It's freaking tiny!

I come close a few times, but don't actually hit the target. My elbow and shoulder seems to have healed (I was hit by a car on two separate occasions while riding my bicycle) I actually have strength enough to pull the bowstring back  as far as possible and then hold it for 20 seconds while I correct my breathing before releasing it. It's all very zen.

The biggest problem I'm having with kyudo right now is that when I try to track the target to focus, my eyesight sees double. It's my astigmatism, which has been bad these past couple of months when I look at objects far away.

Still, because I shot at the real target tonight, I'm very excited.

I want to call up Ashley and tell her, but I don't really want her to know for some reason. Maybe it's because I want to catch up to her skill level and surpass her first.

As well... even though we are not back having sex, I don't really want her around. I guess I want my space, too.

Somewhere pulling a rabbit out of my hat,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Mamas And The Papas : CASS 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Crawling King Snake

So... after doing a small bit of research, I thought I'd introduce you to a Japanese snake called the Habu. It's a venomous pit viper (Trimeresurus flavoviridis) that is found solely in the south western Ryukyu Islands of Japan which includes Okinawa and the Amami Islands.

With no sub-species, this is a deadly reptile that grows to be about 5-feet (1.52 meters - though one specimen was found to be 7.5-feet (2.29 meters). The snake is also one of the few pit vipers that is oviparous--it lays eggs, up to 18 in mid-summer that hatch after a five or six week incubation period. The hatchlings are 25 centimeters (10 inches) long and have the same colouration pattern as an adult.

The Habu is also known as the Okinawa habu, and has a color pattern varying between a light olive green and brown colour overlaid with dark green or brownish patches. These patches sometimes have a yellow edge and or yellow spots that fuse to make it look wavy.

It's colouration seems perfectly apt for hiding in the local trees, though it seems to prefer anything from the palm forest to the cultivated fields to old tombs or caves.

The venom of the snake is very toxic, but there is only a 3% fatality rate... of course, when bitten, fast medical treatment plays a factor in those numbers. Between 6-8% of bite victims do suffer a permanent disability.

On the Amami islands two out of every 1,000 people has suffered from a snakebite from the Habu Viper.  

So, why did I decide to write up about this snake today?

As you may know, the Japanese like to drink alcohol - just like a lot of countries. But, they use the Habu Viper to create a liqour called awamori called Habu sake (though it's not really a sake: sake = rice wine ). Now, when I first heard about that, I thought oh god, they're going to use the venom in the drink, to create a thrill, just like the whole dare-you-to-eat it poison fugu puffer fish delicacy---which to me tasted like fish. Extreme tastebuds, I do not possess.

But no. the whole snake is used in the drink's fermentation process and is sold in glass bottles that--depending on what you consider to be luck--may or may not have the body of the snake in it.  

The awamori alcohol is mixed with honey, herbs and the snake. Why add a snake? Apparently the Habu Viper is known by the locals as having medicinal properties.

Ahhh, the slick marketing of the Japanese! The Habu sake when drunk is good for back pain and arthritis. I'm guessing it may have something to do with the venom in the snake... and it does, as the venom dissolves in the alcohol and releases a bunch of amino acids that someone has said is good for you. 

How do you get the snake to go into the bottle? Once captured, they chill the snake by putting it on ice, which dulls its senses. Then you drain it of blood and sew it up.

Apparently the snake will wake up, die from lack of blood, but will hopefully die in the attack position, which is what habu sake distillers want when they place the snake into an ethanol vat to preserve it.

The snake is left to soak for four weeks, and then moved into a vat mixed with 59 per cent alcohol for 40 days before being placed into a vat of 35 per cent awamori.

There you go. Now YOU have the recipe. Why not give it a try this weekend - just in time for the summer!

So, why did I decide to write up about this snake today?

This time I'll answer my own question. If you read that little blurb up above about me, the writer, you might notice that I like aviation. I was reading up on my favourite plane... the Lockheed SR-71Blackbird . I had a model of it back in the very early 1970s, and was pleased as punch to learn that the new X-Men were flying one back in Giant Sized X-Men #1, which revamped the whole team for Marvel Comics.

Anyhow... another nickname for the SR-71 is the Habu Viper.

Somewhere my lips are numb,
Andrew Joseph 
Today's blog title is by The Doors: HISSSS

Lost Woman

It's Thursday, July 16, 1991. I'm an assistant English (AET) teacher on the Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Programme here in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) in Japan.
It's raining. The alarm goes off at 7:05AM but I don't emerge from my bedroom until 7:30AM. I'm exhausted. It can't be physical. It must be emotional or mental.
I decide to walk to work - why have rain splash up from the rear back tire and hit me on the bum?
My boss, Hanazaki-san, at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) tells me: "And-ryu- sensei (Andrew teacher), You have many, many holidays. Please take them.
No problem on my part, but I tell him I think I have about five days left. He corrects me saying its 15. Wow. That's a lot.
So... starting tomorrow, I'm on holiday.
Also... the month of August is a total holiday. All paid!! Yay! There is no school in August... Japanese students get one month's summer holidays (In Canada and the U.S., it's two months--three if you are in elementary school).
I have an AET meeting for JET representatives today down in Utsunomiya-shi (Utsunomiya City - the capital of Tochigi-ken)--because I'm the Editor of The Tatami Times newsletter, I have to participate. Apparently the Tochigi-ken JET has gone into the toilet in a the past few months after a new president was elected--Susan St. Cyr.
My other boss, Kanemaru-san, will drive down there and hopefully he'll be able to stop off and see his daughter there in university... I wonder if she knows my stalker, psycho-chick hotstuff ex-girlfriend Junko? It's such a small world, that I bet they are best friends.
I need to find out at this meeting if I can still be the Editor of the newsletter and not be an JET member... if not, I'll probably relinquish the position.
Arriving in Utsunomiya on time at 3:30--thanks to Kanemaru-san--I head over to the meeting place... but no one shows up. I am so pissed off.
I hang around until 4:30PM and then head home.
I call a few other AETs and find out that Susan had canceled the meeting because her office wouldn't give her the day off. She knew this before! Why wasn't I informed?! I am so ticked off! Women!!!
Trying to relax, I wonder if Ashley will come over tonight. She has another enkai (party) tonight.
She does come over, of course. Drunk and horny. And I'm completely sober.
We give each other massages and then I jump her and we go at it like a mongoose and a cobra snake, except instead of death, we are entangled in sex.
At 2AM, we ride our bicycles back to her place--to make sure she gets home safely. She needs to have different clothes for work tomorrow, after all.
She's a little wobbly on her bicycle... either from the enkai or from me.

Somewhere feeling a bit more relaxed,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by the James Gang: RIFF

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hooked On A Feeling


It's Monday, July 15, 1991, Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.
I had a great week-end.
Not only did I buy a small motorcycle, but my ex-girlfriend Ashley and I hooked up for a steamy session of, well... sex. It was mutually rewarding and all of my plotting for the past month finally paid off - and how!
Today, while drained of energy and fluids, I've taken off from work.
I'm going Ayu fishing.
I'm up at 7AM and quickly get ready. Nakamura-san - my barber - comes over in his uncle's white car and we drive off to the Ohtawara fire station. It's a volunteers outfit, and I believe Nakamura-san volunteers. Regardless, we pick up some fireman's boots for me (they have to be extra large, because my 30 centimetre feet are three centimetres larger than the standard men's shoe size here in Japan.
We head out to the Naka-gawa (Middle River) here in Ohtawara. There, we buy some live ayu to use as bait as the fish are very territorial and will attack anything that doesn't belong in the area.
We travel along a road that to me resembles Africa (I've never been there, but if I had, I imagine it would look like that): the roads are pocked with holes and water hazards surrounded by lush foliage.
The green breaks suddenly into an open space and we turn down towards the river.
It's a cool and cloudy day, and all I can see of the sky are over-hanging clouds.
I put on my hip boots (knee-highs?), rain slicker and a long-sleeved shirt to protect myself against insects and wade into the river. It's cool but relaxing.
There are also another eight anglers in there.
Nakamura's uncle sets up my rod for me. It's nine-meters long. Really. He ties a lead to it and then the line. It's equal in length to the rod. At the end of the rod is the hook. We take an Ayu and insert a nose ring through its nostrils and a small hook below its dorsal fin (the main one atop its back). A three-pronged hook flows behind its tail.
An Ayu is supposed to attack the bait and hook itself on the three-pronged hook.
I cast and place the bait fish in the water and hold the rod up and let the current take it downstream and then lower the rod. You have to keep the line tight so the bait fish doesn't try and hide under the rocks. You also have to pull from the left and right or against the current.
By noon, my bait is exhausted. I eat lunch and let my bait rest. I've caught nothing, but I've learned a lot.
Nakamura's uncle has caught two and Nakamura-san has caught one Ayu. Even back home I never could catch fish. But who cares? It's fun!
After lunch we move to the Hoki-gawa (Broom River) and fish again. We also bought new bait.
Uncle says its a bad day for fishing as the water is too rough and its too cool out. He say he usually catches 30 to 35 fish! I don't feel so bad.
I have fun and wade out to the middle of the river. The water hits the top of my boots, but it doesn't matter as I'm already soaked. It seems that there is a zipper on my fireman's boots - so it's not water-proof.

We pack up and leave by 5:30PM, and arrive home at 6PM. It's like clock-work in this country... which is why I mention the time so often in these blogs.
After a shower (I smell like bait!), I make some dinner and watch television--a bacon, lettuce and cheese sandwich and a Coca-Cola--and watch some television. There's a baseball game on, so I get a good idea of what the announcers are actually talking about - as I know the sport pretty darn well.
I go to my extra-curricular English class I teach and give them a test describing parts of the human body. It's not a formal class, and the point is to learn and have fun learning.
Back home, my friend Naoko phones and tells me that Takako (Matthew's girlfriend) and Mrs. Narita (one of my cougar students at night school) have told Naoko that I am taking Shoko to a dance on Saturday night.
Rumours - or were they plotting something on my behalf.
Shoko is a very attractive, shy woman who is in my night school class. I do like her a lot, but her English isn't very good. But she is very pretty and she does like me, so I'm sure we could figure out a way to communicate.
Anyway, Naoko is shocked. She and Shoko are very good friends and she didn't know we were going out.
I tell Naoko that I'm not taking Shoko - that it's news to me!
And then it hits me. Last Tuesday while I was getting a back massage from Ashley (part of my seduction plan), Takakao had called and told me I should ask out Shoko. I said I would.
Apparently, I had forgotten about that until earlier this afternoon, and promised myself I would ask her out later tonight at class.
But I didn't. I didn't feel like it... but I did edge around whether or not Shoko would be there--but Shoko said she was busy anyways and wouldn't be attending.
I suppose I was a little mad a Takako and Mrs. Narita for gossiping - but to be honest, they were just trying to be helpful, and how could I be angry at that? I'm just glad that Shoko didn't hear about it before hand.

Ashley calls after I hang-up and acts rather non-chalantly about the past week-end... even kind of snobby... like it was no big deal. What the hell is wrong with women? Or me?

I'm pissed off and go to bed at 12AM.

Somewhere using the wrong bait,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by B.J. Thomas: BAIT

Namco Delays Video Game Due To Tsunami Reference

I guess it's not always about the almighty yen for money.

With Japan still feeling the effects of the tsunami and earthquake that hit the country on March 11, 2011, video game manufacturer Namco Bandai has delayed the release of one of its games that makes light of tsunami and earthquakes.

Namco Bandai is the producer of the One Piece video game series, and action-adventure platform 3D fighting game that first appeared in 2000.

The latest installation of the series: One Piece Unlimited Cruise SP was originally slated to hit the stores on April 7, 2011, but it has been delayed for the foreseeable future.

In the game, one of the characters--Edward 'Whitebeard' Newgate--can gain the power to summon earthquakes and tsunami when he eats a fruit called Gura Gura no Mi that turns him into "Quake Man" allowing him to cause earthquakes or vibrations.  

Intended for the Nindento 3DS, Namco Bandai has ordered retailers to destroy any and all promotional materials related to the game, including a special DVD featuring a trailer.

The game will eventually be released, though Namco Bandai has gone on record as stating that the earthquake/tsunami attack will not be removed from the game.

Showing that some people have no class, some fans of the video game series are saying that Namco Bandai is being overly sensitive, and that they should release the game now.

Some fans need to get a life.

If you would like to see a trailer of the video game, click HERE.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Another blog will appear here in 12 hours - I had already typed it out and left it at work! D'uh! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Sendai Earthquake 2011

As you may already know, the 9.0 Magnitude earthquake on March 11, 2011 off the coast of Sendai-shi (Sendai City), Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture) shifted enough mass to make the Earth actually spin a bit faster--0.0000000003 of a second, making our year that much shorter. Essentially, it means a day is now 1.8 microseconds shorter. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second--keep in mind that it takes 350,000 microseconds to blink. 

As previously described in a blog post here, the spinning is similar to what an ice figure skater does: As one moves the arms closer to the body, it moves the mas closer to the axis about which one rotates... you get faster as you bring the arms in closer. 

Earthquakes do the same thing. The stronger the earthquake, the more the Earth is deformed, and the greater its effect on the rotation.

It's been calculated that there was a 6.7-inch (17.0180 centimeter) shift in the axis of the Earth (the planet's balance point), which is about two-times as much as what was caused by the earthquake under the Indian Ocean in 2004 and in Chile in 2010.

The Earth has a NORTH-SOUTH axis that runs through the North and South poles. Our planet's mass balances around the figure axis which is about 33-feet (10.0584 meters) off the north-south axis.

It's not a very big shift, but it does affect the way we go about our space flights. Even a tiny change like this will affect the angle at which a spacecraft leaves Earth, which could affect the guidance across 10s of millions of miles (16 millions of kilometers)... which is important if you are trying to aim your spaceship to go to the moon... if you don't calculate correctly, you could miss it all together.

By the way... the 2004 earthquake actually slowed the Earth's spin (making the year a little bit longer), so the 2011 Sendai quake evened things up. Don't worry, you won't be late for work unless you want to be late for work.

As for Japan, the earthquake moved the big main island of Honshu a distance of 7.9-feet (2.40792 meters) east, making it closer to the U.S., and farther away from Europe and Asia.

The Pacific continental plate continues to slide under the North American plate, which causes tension. When the tension was released the land moved up and east, which is what actually caused the earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the shifting of the Japanese island of Honshu.

During the earthquake, the ocean floor moved up 130-feet (39.6240 meters) and slipped over an area 185-miles (297.729 kilometers) long (this was the shifting of the plate--plate tectonics) and 90-miles (144.841 kilometers) wide.

This movement caused a movement of water (about 16,000 feet (4,876.80 meters) of water) upwards, generating the tsunami--two actually, as one moved east towards the U.S. and the other west to Japan.

According to scientists, in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, the tsunami was moving as fast as a commercial jet airliner, which is about 180 miles per hour (300 kilometers per hour). The tsunami wave actually slowed down, however, as it approached the coast of Japan, but the slope of the continental shelf raised the tsunami's maximum height to 121-feet (36.8808 meters) a little more than 80 miles (128.748 kilometers) away before hitting Japan.  

Now go and amaze your friends with what you know.

From various files.
Andrew Joseph

See See Rider

The telephone rings at 8AM. It's that kid from Nozaki Chu Gakko (Nozaki Junior High School). He's mentally-challenged--he got my phone number from my predecessor and likes to call me at all odd hours of the day and night. He drives me crazy, but what can I do? I don't think he has many friends and he likes me. To have him stopped would take away one of his pleasures in life, and I'm not going to do that.
I grin and bear the 10-minutes we talk.... he speaks in broken Japanese and can only say "Her-ro". I have no idea what he says the rest of the time, and when I think he's asked a question I either answer "Hai (yes)" or "Iie (No)", which usually makes him laugh.
I go back to bed and lie down with Ashley's head on my chest.
The phone rings again at 9AM. This time it's Nakamura-san... my barber... he and I are going Ayu fishing tomorrow, and he's just reminding me.
Ashely and I continue to lie in bed talking about everything and nothing. It's very pleasant and relaxing for both of us.
We separately go to the bathroom and miraculously come back with Aqua Fresh minty breath.
She's lying on the bed as I return.
I jump on top of her and immediately her face lights up, like 'what took you so long?'
We have sex or make love - whatever you prefer - for an hour. We are both dripping with sweat when we're done. It was awesome... and when it was over, she thanked me.
She... thanked... me.
I guess I did a good job. After showering together, I make us breakfast and then watch the movie A Nightmare On Elm Street and a few other videos interspersed with some light kissing.
When Dan Brudos comes over at 4PM, Ashley says hello and tells him she has to go. Dan seems a bit surprised to see her with me, but despite the look, says nothing about it. He's married to another AET (assistant English teacher) here on the Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Programme, but they are going home in a week or so after spending a year here.
Dan is selling me his 40 CC motorcycle. I haven't talked it over with my office or with anyone... I just want it.
It scares the crap out of me. I've never ridden a motorcycle before... never even sat on one... and never before ever wanted to ride one. But I thought this will be a cool way for me to get around the country by myself, with my only worries about getting hit by a car or getting lost--two things I've had happen to me often.
In 20 quick minutes, Dan shows me how to ride the thing. It has a clutch to change gears! Damn it! I can't drive a shift on a car, and now I have to drive one on a motorcycle?
As I sit on it for the first time ever in the parking lot of my apartment building, I slowly start up... but I gun the gas too much and it goes off into a wheelie while I hold onto the handle bars and my feet planted firmly on the ground. I can't make the engine stop, as it's trying to pull away from me, and I grip the handlebars and the gas even tighter. I nearly put myself and the motorcycle through the plate glass window of the superintendent's office! But Dan helps he out by pulling it down and removing my rigid fingers from the throttle.
I ride it slowly around the block once and don't stall it or fall off or kill anyone. I even stop at at a stop sign and use the turn signal. Dan waited for me at the parking area probably waiting for the CRASH sound, but I do okay. I did stall it once, however, and I think I might be able to actually survive.
Satisfied, I show Dan around my apartment and he whistles in surprise at how large it is saying it's twice as large as the one he and his wife share.
Paying Dan Y35,000 (about $350 Cdn/US), I walk with Dan to the nearby bus stop, chat a bit and say our final good-byes.
I will surely miss him and his wife Anita. I wish Ashley and I could be like them, but only fairies can make wishes come true, I guess. And I don't believe in fairies.
I go back into my apartment to rest, re-heat the tacos from last night's dinner and watch some television.
I phone my friend John from Toronto who is coming for a visit soon and then go to bed.
My bedroom is just permeated with the smell of sex.
It smells great.

Somewhere dreaming of riding across the country,
Andrew Joseph 
Today's blog title is by The Animals. POPPAWHEELIE