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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Listen To The Music

It's August 24, 1991 - a Saturday here in sunny Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

I've been in a bad mood for a long time now, with only a few days in Thailand to alleviate it (thank you ladies!). I also picked up the runs there, and it's been 12 days and I'm still feeling dehydrated, tired and poopy.

As such, I get up bright and early (for me) at 9AM and go over to Maniwa-san's pharmacy to get myself some medicine. Maniwa-san is about 60-years-old, reminds me of Yoda actually, but without the sage wisdom. Instead, he's a leecherous old man with a wicked sense of humour and I like him and he me.

He's part of the Ohtawara International Friendship Association. It always seems strange to me that a small city of 50,000 would have such an association... I mean, how many internationals are there here? Apparently quite a few, thanks to an elite industrial sector that often has people come from sister companies to work in Japan. As well, there's also the Asian Rural Institute where farmers learn Japanese farming techniques. There are also a few New Zealanders and Aussies who come and work the always bustling bar scene. Apparently nothing attracts a crowd like a gaijin (foreigner).

In my 13 months here, I've not come across any hate crimes or crap like that. Sure people call us gaijin (which doesn't really mean foreigner, but rather 'outsider'), which is a bit insulting... but the Japanese don't really mean it that way.

Heck... they call us gaijin-san.... Mister Foreigner. Sure, other Japanese folks correct them from time to time, but even by 1991-standards, foreigners are a bit of a sensation... an anomaly here in small towns and cities throughout Japan... less so in the major metropolises like Osaka, Kobe or Tokyo.

For many people in Ohtawara, the only foreigners they have ever seen are in the movies and on television, so when they see one up close and personal walking by or riding  by, they stop, point, stare and say: "Hora! Gaijin-da (Look! A Foreigner!)"

Whatever. Some foreigners here get up in arms about this. It bothers them that they are being singled out for being different.

To them I say: Get over it. It's why you are here. To internationalize. Teaching English may be our job title (for some), but it is secondary to just getting people to realize you are no different from them. We love, we hate, we laugh, we cry. We work, we play, we drink, we sleep. There are always going to be differences, but when people have never seen a foreigner before—it's okay for there to be some staring or excitement.

I know that when I would enter a school for the first time—especially a primary school (Grades 1-6), I would be elevated to Rock n' Roll superstar status!  I'd be posing for photos, shaking hands, being touched and signing autographs. It's completely overwhelming, but just think... I was the first foreigner these kids had ever seen in person. You really want to make a good impression so as not to screw things up for any others who come after. You don't want to sour anyone's opinion.

By the way... there are people—gaijin who fled the scene when Japan was hit hard by the triple threat of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation. I'm not going to judge them—that's for others to do. However, a new term was coined: flyjin. There was also one coined for those who stayed: fryjin... owing to the fact that they would be cooked should Japan suffer a nuclear holocaust.

For a fun-filled rant, I would direct you to my buddy Mike in Tokyo to read his blog:
HERE.

Myself... how did I handle being a gaijin in Japan? How could I stand people calling me names or staring at me? Well, while not so much of a problem or concern for me in 2011, growing up in Toronto, the city had more than its fair share of racists. I'm brown-skinned. I'm of Indian descent (the sub-content). That made me thick-skinned. At least in Japan, I never detected any malice in the words of people. I wish I could have said the same about Canada.

All I could do about racism in my own country was smile and try to ignore it, and not let it bother me. It was the same in Japan. If you think that people are calling you an outsider, why let it bother you. Technically speaking, you are one.

I am an outsider in Canada, too. But I am Canadian. And I will fight for that right.

Japan? I am an outsider. But I'm there to educate them in more than English.

In India... I've never been there, but I would imagine everyone would know that I am not a real Indian... that I am an outsider.

Where do I fit in? Globally. To those who hate being called a gaijin:  Suck it up. There are worse things to go through. Try to educate people as to why you feel the term is offensive. They are Japanese... not baka (stupid).

Huh... I guess I got a little bit off track there. Let's end this now, and get back to August 24th, 1991 tomorrow.

Somewhere,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog is by The Doobie Brothers: GOTTAGETAMESSAGE

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Beat Goes On/ Switching To Glide

When I decided to do this blog about my life in Japan, I knew I was going to lay out the good as well as the bad about myself. I was going to show myself as an adventurous young man learning about love, life, Japan and himself. That part about learning about myself, is also the bad.

It's Friday, August 23, 1991. I'm living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan - having moved here to teach English on the JET (Japan Exchange &Teaching) Programme nearly 13 months ago. I'm nearly 27 years old (in a few months). I love Japan. It's also my first time away from home. I lost my virginity here. I'm slept with a lot of women here... and I aim to place a few more notches in the bedpost before I'm done. I've slept with a few Japanese women, but also women from Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, Thailand... and more that I'm too lazy to think about at the moment of this writing, suffice to say that I loved everyone of them at the time I was with them.

Ashley has arrived back in Japan a couple of days ago after going home to the U.S. for a vacation. Ashley is currently my friend-with-benefits, though we were boyfriend/girlfriend for much of our first year in Japan. We lived near each other (so does my friend Matthew, but I never slept with him), had way different personalities... I had one, she did not, but she did like me when no woman back in Canada seemed to like me in that way. It's too bad that familiarity breeds contempt.

While I saw her when she arrived back in her nearby town of Nishinasuno-machi (Nishinasuno Town), I haven't seen or heard from her since. I knew she would be jet-lagged, and the day before she arrived (I think), I stocked her fridge for her with with some of her favourite foodstuffs and drinks. I am nothing if not polite.. okay, maybe I'm not polite, but I am considerate... or maybe I'm somewhere in-between. Maybe. I don't know. Have you ever really psycho-analyzes yourself and then tried to justify your good points even though you know that your bad points contradict them? Welcome to this blog. Welcome to my mind - ignore the echo.

I go to Ashleys at 10AM (she called and invited me bright and early at 9AM), and stay until 1PM. We watch her favourite movie The Princess Bride. I had never seen it before, but I havce to admit I really, really liked it.

She watches as she does her laundry, but seems even more distant towards me. More so confusing considering how passionate we were just before she left here a few weeks back... I was just getting into this friends-with-benefits thing, too!

Sure she's heavier since returning, but she's still cute - and my was the sex good. At least it was for me. I only have her eyes rolling back into her head to make me think she enjoyed herself too. 

She gives me a couple of presents... a My Little Pony doll because I once mentioned that I wanted: "... a
car, a house, a pony..." and she gives me a can of Southern Dirt.

I'm still pissed off that when my mom and my friend John came, that no one gave me anything neat... like comic books. It's my friggin' major hobby, and I haven't seen a new comic book in 13 months... except for the 10 or so that Kristine sent me. She knew! She cared!

From Ashley I got a toy pony and some dirt? What sort of crap is that?!

I don't even want to talk to her now. I fall asleep listening to a tape of her favourite comic - Steven Wright. He's dull, but morosely funny. But my mood won't let me enjoy it or anything right now.

She wakes me up at 1PM so that she can go get her haircut. Who leaves America to come to Japan to get their haircut by people for whom English is a completely foreign tongue! Especially in a small town like Nishinasuno-machi?! Whatever.

On purpose, I leave her gifts at her place. It's crap. I ride part-way to her hair salon before parting towards Ohtawara-shi. We didn't talk much on the bicycle ride, and we didn't talk much at her place. I was excited to see her, and she was obviously not excited to see me.

I spend the rest of the afternoon perched atop my western balcony reading reading Sherlock Holmes - I guess he's not the only one looking for a clue.

Matthew calls later at night and we go out to the 4C for a beer... but sorry, buddy! I'm in a crappy mood. I still have dysentery, but I can't blame that for how I feel. Crappy. And she never thanked me for the food and drinks I left for her!

Somewhere never starting a land war in Asia,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Kings - I love this SONG! An excellent Canadian band!
PS: "Never start a land war in Asia" is my favourite line from The Princess Bride. Peter Falk, who is in that movie, died this past week. R.I.P Columbo!
PPS: So... 20 years later... I re-read this blog entry for the first time since I originally wrote it ... and man, I was such a suck. The crappy presents? They weren't crappy... at least not to the eyes of a now 46-year-old man. Ashley tried to make me happy by giving me at least one of the things I always wanted. It was a joke, sure, but it shows that she was listening. And the can of Southern Dirt. Stupid present sure, but at least I would always have a little bit of Ashley's hometown with me. No wonder she was done... I showed zero enthusiasm or respect for her and her gifts! It's a wonder I ever got laid! Days later, Ashley dropped my presents off. I, the ignorant prick, threw them out a few days later. While I still would have preferred someone bring me some comic books in English - like Kristine, who mailed to me some on a couple of occasions - Ashley at least listened to my dreams (joke though it was - as I was parroting what a spoiled rich teenaged girl might say), and tried to provide me with something that was uniquely Ashley. And this is me 20 years later... having gone through many a female relationship with people who don't seem to listen to me, who don't seem to know what I'm about, who I am... after re-reading this blog, it was obvious that who I was back in 1991 was a greedy, whiny bastard.  And I blew it.
PPPS: So... having read that... are you still with me? It gets better. Life/Rife, I mean. At least my mom will be back from her trip out West in Japan tomorrow. I should probably be nicer and start showing her a good time... that I have grown up... even if it's just a little bit. Ahhhh crap. I guess pride goeth before the fall. That's from The Bible: Proverbs 16... and I'm no longer a religious person, but it's worth remembering. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm So Tired

I'm going to combine two days today....  mostly because, well...

It's Wednesday, August 21, 1991 here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. Today, is the first time I've been alone in about a month or more.

I've always been a bit of a loner. Sure I enjoy company, but I also like being able to just be by myself... you know, to just be.

The past 13 months here in Japan have been hectic. I've had a girlfriend or 12 since first arriving, drunk more booze than I had ever done in my first 25-1/2 years, eaten a lot of strange, but wonderful foods, and have had the time of my life. I've had girlfriends, stalkers, uninvited visitors, visitors, strange phone calls, learned how to cook, clean, do laundry and iron.

Of course, today being the first time I've been alone in so long, I'm still sick... I picked up the runs while in Thailand. Never ever have an drink (of Coke) containing ice cubes. Sure... perhaps do so at a good hotel or restaurant, but I had mine up near the Burma border in a small podunk of a village. Mistake.

That was eight days ago. I am still sick, but just not so bad. Perhaps it's because I'm not eating.

I do a load of laundry (the medicine for my mind), do some rough drafts of It's A Wonderful Rife for the Tochigi-ken JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme monthly newsletter I am the editor for (The Tatami Times) - I haven't written in a while, and it makes me feel antsy.

Pretty cool huh? I feel antsy because I haven't written, while a mere three years ago, the thought of being a writer/journalist was the farthest thing from my mind. Japan? I never thought about that until a year and a half a go. Never knew I wanted to work or live or even visit there. Strange old world we live in, eh?

I laze around all day long hoping that Mathew or Ashley will phone. Ashley is my ex, and current friend-with-benefits. She arrived back in Japan yesterday evening (she's jet-lagged, I'm sure) (I wonder if she realizes I stocked her fridge for her so she'd have food and drink when she got back, realizing that she'd be too tired to go out shopping? Probably not.)

Matthew calls at 3PM, and we small talk. Despite being a loner, it's good to hear other people's voices - and Matthew has been a god-send for me. Considering the other people on JET who hate each other and never do anything with each other even though they live in the same town or city, I really lucked in.

I go to sleep for a few hours and ignore Kanemaru-san's frantic ringing of my doorbell at 6PM when he comes to take me to kyudo (Japanese archery) practice. I love Kanemaru-san. He's my boss at the Ohtawara Board of Education, but I really don't like kyudo. I just don't want to disappoint him by quitting.. but at least I have an excuse this evening... I'm sick.

And what is with the Japanese ability to not understand that someone is unavailable.... I mean ringing the doorbell 30 times? It's a 3-bedroom apartment... if I don't get to you after four rings, I'm either not home, having sex or dead! And the telephone... a gaijin (foreigner) will call and hang-up after seven rings or so... a Nihonjin (Japanese person) will let it ring 20 or 30 times. Granted, they are correct - I am home, but maybe I don't want to be bothered. When I do get calls I ignore, it's because I am sick or boinking a woman—two excellent reasons not to answer the door or telephone. I've never been sick of boinking a woman, though with Kristine here the last few days, I was actually to sick to boink.

Man... I had it all planned out! Right to when she left for home, I had Ashley back. Stupid ice cubes.

The dysentery is taking its toll. I feel lighter, but not skinnier. My stomach is puffing out. I could be a poster boy for starving kids.

I sit and watch videos late into the night while feeling sorry for myself.

Twenty years later, I would just say to 1991 Andrew... "You idiot! You're in Japan!  You've had more sex in 13 months than some people have in a lifetime! Plus a three-way! Plus sex with a stalker! Do you know who has sex with a stalker? A man does! Men are idiots. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself and enjoy the day! You're in Japan and the opportunity may never come your way again!"

Of course, my yelling at 1991 Andrew doesn't change the fact that he still has some growing up to do.

It's Thursday, August 22, 1991.

I get up and do some of my puzzle of The Tower of Babel... a 5000 piece one that is being more difficult to do than the one I did of the Universe (all black with little white splotches for stars).

I wish someone would call. You'll notice I don't call anyone. Idiot.

Teh pills Kristine gave me a couple of days ago are only partially working. That means they aren't. As such, I threaten myself into going into work and ask to be taken in to a doctor. But I don't. It's not just a Japanese doctor thing. I never like doctors - period.

"Well, Andrew... what seems to be wrong?
"I don't know. Isn't that your job?"

Here with a language barrier, it's worse. Not only do doctors smoke in hospitals - what is this the 1950s? - but every medicine I have ever received from a hospital comes in a waxy envelope the size of a disposable razor blade... do people in 2011 still know what a disposable razor blade is? HERE.

No one calls, and I don't call anyone. It's literally the first time since arriving in Japan that I don't talk to another human being. I did yell at the dog across the street to shut up - I even yelled it in Japanese! - but he ignored me.

And what about Ashley? Is she still jetlagged? Doesn't she want to see me? What about thanking me for the food? It's okay... Y10,000 (Cdn/US $100) of food is no big deal. That was sarcasm. How do you write sarcasm in print? Italics?

Somewhere with too much time on my hands,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Beatles: I told you I could do them for every mood!: NOZZZZZZZ

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mai oh My - Manga

Okay...here's something a little bit different for today.

Most of you know all about my passion for comic books. I have over 30,000 of them, from super-heroes, anthropomorphic ducks and mice, teenagers and other jugheads, love, mystery, and the ones I put out once a year.

As you know, the Japanese are well-know for their comic book work, called manga. Personally, I don't like manga... they tend to make the eyes far too large... too Western-looking. It's almost like every Japanese comic book character has to look Westernized because it seems as though the Japanese are ashamed of their own eyes.

I said "seems".

I'm sure it has something to do with creating a cute character. But, when more serious manga were created, they simply continued the tradition.... much like how cartoon characters (aka anime) all have four fingers (that's including the thumb) on each hand, or how they have the middle name "J" or "the". Heck... look at the Simpsons... four fingers per, and Homer's middle name is "Jay".

In manga, however, not all comic book series are created equal. There are some that stand out for me... perhaps it is because they shunned the whole large-eyed look. One is the classic Lone Wolf & Cub (which you can read about HERE). And the other for me is: Mai The Psychic Girl. Okay... the title sounded kind of stupid when I first saw the book, an American version first released by Eclipse International back in 1988, but the artwork was stunning. For someone who had grown up with the block figures and square-jawed heroes of the 1960s and 70s, it was a breath of fresh air.

Oh sure... I was spoiled by many great comic book artists while growing up like Carl Barks (the good Duck artist), Neal Adams (Green Lantern and Batman books are the measuring stick for the character some 35 + 40 years later), John Tottleben & Stephen Bissette (Swamp Thing... see below for a lovely drawing I had done for myself by Tottleben), Wally Wood (EC stories in the 1950s), Hal Foster (Prince Valiant in the 1930s), Jim Starlin (Captain Marvel and Warlock), Bill Sienkiewicz (Moon Knight), John Byrne (X-Men), Barry Windsor-Smith (Conan), Dave Sim (Cerebus the Aardvark) and so, so, so many more, but it always seemed so far and few between.

Despite being a writer, when I picked up a comic book, I needed to be grabbed visually immediately. Those people above and many more did it for me. But manga... I always hated Japanimation (anime), as it looked too cutey, so I guess I was always predisposed to also dislike manga.

But I'm always up for trying new things.

Three years before the idea of going to Japan ever entered my lead... thank you Stefanie Lovie!... I found Lone Wolf & Cub, and Mai The Psychic Girl.

Mai () is written by Kudō Kazuya and drawn by Ikegami Ryoichi (surnames first!). Originally printed in 1985-86 in the Weekly Shonen Sunday comic (it's half the size of a phone book! And weekly! And full of 10+ other comics series! And it's NOT published on Sunday - it's Wednesday!), it's published by  Shogakukan Productions Co., Ltd..

Kuju Mai (surname first) is a 14-year-old Japanese girl with very strong psychic skills, and is being chased after by an organization called the Wisdom Alliance, who not surprisingly think they are best suited to rule the world.

Sounds hokey, right? But it works. Comic books are fantasy... you are meant to suspend your so-called sciences and realities. It is escapism.

The Wisdom Alliance has four other psychic kids and wants Mai badly enough that it hires the Kaieda Intelligence Agency.... and the chase goes on.

Now Mai must leave her normal junior high school life behind and go on the run, using her psychic powers that doesn't have full control of, in order to stay out of the clutches of the Wisdom Alliance.
While very popular in Japan, there were other books perhaps better known there... so why bring it to the West as one of the first examples of mange available to the mainstream comic book buying public?

For the reasons I mentioned above. It was chosen because it was neither too Japanese or too American. Foreign enough but still considered familiar, and familiar enough to not be considered foreign.  

Mai The Psychic Girl was one of the chief reasons why manga helped win the West. Perhaps she used some of her gnarly powers on us.

Should you wish to give it a read, try THIS site I found. Personally, I prefer the tactile feel of paper in my hands over the Internet any day... but if I can get at least one of you interested in trying out a comic book, I'm helping out my hobby.

Somewhere reading a comic book with my mind,
Andrew Joseph
PS: The scan above is one of the comic from my collection.
PPS: And, if you see Mai in the cover above... yes, that is what Japanese school girls (Junior & High School) wear. Sailor Moon (ugh!) wears a sailor suit, and so does Mai.
PPPS: Swamp Thing & Abby (DC Comics) drawn by John Tottleben when he visited Toronto back in the 1980s for the author, Andrew Joseph. It's too darn big for my scanner... but at least you can see a bit of where I put this blog together.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

No Woman No Cry

It's Tuesday, August 20, 1991. Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. It's raining.

I'm still sick with dysentery. The one woman for whom I would gladly kill a yak for her supper—Kristine South—is leaving my place at noon. While she probably has no clue as to how much I adored her, she did like me, (and in fact admitted as much to me last year—2010—saying she would have slept with me back in Japan).

Great. Tell me now after we are both married to other people! It is pretty funny, and hey, at least I know in 2011 that I wouldn't have been shot down in 1991 if I had tried to make a move. My move pretty much involves me getting closer, touching arms and legs (with arms or legs) and seeing whether or not the other person moves away. Then you look into their eyes, and lean forward for the kiss.

At least that is what I would do if I ever had to make a play for a woman. Here in Japan, I never did. The women all made plays for me. Kristine hasn't, but I think that is because I'm sick.

I walk with Kristine out to the nearby bus stop. We hug (best hug ever, as of 1991), and say our good-byes. I'm pretty sure I leaned forward and down (Kristine is maybe about 5'-3"... maybe), and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

By the way... she looked really hot in the rain.

A hug and a kiss on the cheek... memories to last a lifetime... especially if I write this down in a diary or something and then 20 years later put it in a blog, whatever that is.

My buddy Matthew comes over at 3PM, and we watch some videos each of us has had sent over. Matthew, Kristine and I are one of the 1,500 assistant English teachers living in Japan and who work with the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme. Matthew happens to live in my town... Kristine some 500 kilometers further. That distance is really a pain in the butt... almost as much as my dysentery.

At 5:30PM, we walk over to Matsuri restaurant for dinner - but the place is closed. Too bad, I was going to buy him dinner, because, as fate would have it, I'm feeling better. I guess the medicine Kristine got me did the trick. Just not fast enough.

So, we head over to our favourite fast food restaurant, Mosburger. You know, I haven't seen Matthew since August 5th when we were in Tochigi-ken's capital city of Utsunomiya giving a speech together on How To Survive In Japan. I then took off for Thailand. Nailed a couple of beautiful Thai babes (one at a time for days, and then together). Came back with my mom in tow... spent time with her, my friend John (also from Toronto) who all came for a visit (though John left yesterday) ... and there's a new woman, Karen, who wants to be my girlfriend.

Karen, from North Bay, Canada, is also on the JET Programme, having arrived less than a month ago.

And then there is Ashley. She's from Augusta, Georgia, and was my girlfriend for pretty much the entire first year. We broke up and got back together so many times that we eventually became friends-with-benefits.

Ashley had been visiting home these past few weeks... but she's back in Japan as she calls my place at 6PM and asks me to met her at Nishinasuno-eki (Nishinasuno train station) at 7PM.

It's really raining hard now as I ride my bicycle out to her place, where I pick up her bike and ride both over to the train station. If it is at all possible for it to rain harder, it does. I am literally soaked through and through.

Ashley arrives at 8:30PM. An hour and a half late. I figure she just missed the trains, because Japanese trains are never late! Really. Who cares about the lateness... at least Ashley's back.

She looks tired, and she's put on some weight. Okay, she looks really fat. It's a good thing she's pretty... but what the hell?! Her weight gain was striking... but she was still a sight for these sore eyes. I guess I still love her... and want more than a friend with benefits. I think.

I help her move her stuff to her apartment in Nishinasuno-machi (Nishinasuno Town). I stay for five minutes (because she's really jet-lagged), give her a peck on the lips and leave.

I ride home in the rain... its let up a a bit, but it has gotten colder.

I try to go to sleep at 10PM, but I'm restless... more so when Matthew calls at midnight.

Somewhere weaving a tangled web,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Bob Marley & The Wailers: NOCRY

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Don't Like Mondays

So... I finally have the girl of my dreams over at my apartment. She's looking even more spectacular than I recall... it's been a couple of months since I saw her last... why is she getting better looking?!

I'm 26-years-old. Single. I'm tall, reasonably good-looking, in shape. I'm a Canadian, born in London, England of Indian parents (dot, not the feather), and I'm living in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan. And I'm horny. And she—Kristine South—likes me too. In fact,  she has come 500 kilometres from the west to visit me and see the sites of nearby Nikko-shi (home of the 3 wise monkeys).

We're both AETs (assistant English teachers) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme)... it's August 19, 1991... a Monday.

Oh... and I'm sick as a dog, compliments of dysentery. Not exactly a sickness that makes a beautiful young woman want to hang around you... hormones be damned.

Despite spending last night at my place, we spent it in separate rooms. I know what I was thinking when Kristine asked if she could use my place as a base... I was going to pitch a tent for her.

But... the best laid (unlaid) plans of mice and Andrew often go awry. It's why I usually never make plans and try to go with the flow. Who knew that would imply going to the toilet eight times a  day for six days? 

Feeling my pain from a goodly distance, Kristine got up bright and early and went out to get me some medication. Kristine has only been in Japan as long as myself (almost 13 months), but she speaks Japanese quite well. She may have the advantage of being half Japanese and half American, but she's also quite smart. Smarter than she looks.... that sounds like an insult. Just remember, however, that she is drop-dead gorgeous... so I'm paying her quite the compliment as far as her sexy brains.

I sure would like to suck on her intelligence. 

The medicine helps a little bit... at least my toilet frequency is now every two three hours instead of every two. Small victories, eh.

Kristine leaves my place at noon to go to Nikko. I would have loved to have joined her... and gone to Nikko as well, but doodie calls.

So instead of walking along the ancient temples and shrines of Nikko arm in arm with the woman of my dreams, I instead sit on my balcony (west one), and soak up some sun rays in the hopes of getting that wonderful copper tan I get.

But... when it comes to me and the sun, I never seem to win... at least not here in Japan. The clouds come rolling in - but it does not rain. So, I go back inside and sit around watching a video I had rented (It Happened One Night), a fantastic 1934 romantic comedy with Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, that was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay). Considering my mood, health and Kristine, I probably shouldn't have watched that one.

Kristine's ex-boyfriend Rory calls me up from Tokyo to tell me that the U.S.S.R's General Secretary of the Communist Party (ie: the leader of the country) Mikhail Gorbachev had been overthrown. Holy smokes!

As well, there's also a hurricane brewing.

Hmm, I hope my mom will be okay. She's here visiting, and is currently on the road out in western Japan... by herself. I don't know how she does it. I get lost crossing the road.

Kristine comes back, tells me all about her wonderful trip, and on any other night I would have taken her out and got us both dinner and drinks... but today, I'm just not very good company. I don't like Mondays.

Sorry Kristine.

Somewhere sitting alone on his throne,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog is by the Boomtown Rats: TELLMEWHY

Friday, June 24, 2011

Feeling Alright

I'm back... sorry for the interruption.

It's Sunday, August 18, 1991. And I have recently begun my second-year of my wonderful rifde here in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan.

Today is an eventful day, as I say good-bye to one guest, and welcome another.

My mom has been visiting from Toronto, as has my friend John.

My mom is out of my apartment at 5:30AM (apparently there IS a 5:30 in the morning... who knew?) to go on a trip to Kyoto out west.

John? He's heading home today. We leave my place at noon. It's super hot (37 Celsius), and if I thought hos bags were heavy when he arrived (he brought me a 12-pack of beer bottles), it's incredibly heavy now after souvenir hunting these past few weeks.

I'm still sick from dysentery (picked up in Thailand last week - at least I hope it's dysentery, as I had carnal relations with two beautiful 21-year-old Thai women... usually one at a time, but before I left both at the same time), and I'm feeling very weak from all of that wiping of my butt. As such... I'm not in the best of moods... not that it matters, as I haven't been in a good mood for a few weeks (Thai sex excepted).

John and I have a non-eventful ride to Tokyo's airport, Narita, arriving at 4PM. As we are shopping for crap souvenirs, I run into Brian, an American who works in Ohtawara for an electrical firm (he's on a real exchange). He's there to see off his brother - and I agree to meet up with him around here at 5PM. Small world, eh?

I dump John at 5PM. I slap him on the back and tell him to "look after that job-thing first" and then say
"See-ya" and leave. I'm not sure who goes on a vacation half-way around the world when they are out of work, but that's my John.

Speaking of john's... I need to go to the toilet, but I know if I open up the floodgates, it will never stop. Instead, I have intense intestinal control. 

Guess who I am meeting? Kristine South.

That's right... the awesome American girl of Japanese descent who has been the object of many a real-life fantasy. She lives in Shiga-ken (Shiga Prefecture) some 500 kilometres away... kind of where my mom is heading today.

I don't know if it's a Florence Nightingale thing, but on my first night in Japan, Kristine saved my life. I looked left to cross a large street in Tokyo, instead of right. She pulled me back from certain death... so I guess we all have Kristine to thank (or blame) for this blog. Yay!

Kristine is gorgeous. But that's not even her strong point. It's her kindness, generosity, intelligence and sense of humour all tied for number one. That's how much I like and respect her. It means that though I do want to sleep with her (and I think she with me), I don't think I'm good enough for her. To be honest... with her, it was never about a one-night stand. I wanted a relationship.

Now Kristine doesn't know that. She thinks I'm playing hard to get. It might even surprise her in 2011, as she is know to read this blog every once in awhile. But, she did say that I always seemed to have a woman on the go... and she wasn't impressed with my taste in women. Though she did not meet the Thai girls, I'd have to say she might be correct. It's why I don't think I am good enough for her.

Still... she is coming over for a visit!

Did I mention I am sick?

I'm supposed to meet her at Ueno-eki (Ueno train station) in Tokyo at 6PM. The phone message I left on Rory's machine was for her to meet me at the Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket machine. I forgot, or didn't know, that there were two of them spread quite far apart.

By the way.. Rory is an ex of Kristine's... and I like him, as we seem to be quite similar... so maybe Kristine and I could be an item... if only she didn't live 500 kilometres away!

Anyhow, Brian and I are late. We arrive at 6:30PM... and hang around the ticket machines until 7PM, and then leave. We go to a McDonald's for dinner... and all I can think about besides not pooping my pants is that Kristine and I just aren't destined to be together... like two ships sailing past another in the night.

The McDonald's - I have a McTerriaki burger - lasts five minutes in my stomach. Did you know that McDonald's toilets are the same messy experience all over the world? At least that one was after I got through with it. Oh my gawd!

We then head for home. I am so sick and depressed now, it's not even funny.

We we are talking on the train, I notice Kristine walk by on the platform. I run out and yell for her to get on!

Hugs and a kiss on the cheek... and major apologies by myself.

See? I told you she was smart! She was going to get on the train and make her way to my place. She had my address and phone number and was going to stay in Ohtawara even if I wasn't there! And then give me grief later! What a woman!

Kristine and I take a taxi back to my place - Brian a taxi back to his. He doesn't really live that close by, and I suspect he figured Kristine and I could do with a bit of privacy.

Kristine - back at my place - is now fully aware that I am even more sick than I suspect... so after we talk for a few hours, we crash for the night. I don't want her to get sick... so we spend it in separate bedrooms.

Figures.

By the way... you may have heard me whine about how I haven't had a day to myself in weeks, and how it was killing me? Well... this was one night when I wish I had closer company.

The gods are conspiring against me...

Somewhere I have until Tuesday to get better,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Joe Cocker: REDCROSS

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Teijin's Tochigi Plant Back To Normal

(Sorry folks... I'm at a trade show doing some glad-handing and man-o-man am I beat. I'll be back to normal in time for Friday. Meanwhile... here's some Tochigi-ken news)  

Teijin DuPont Films Limited's Utsunomiya-shi (Utsunomiya City) factory in Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan, has returned to full-scale production, three months after it had suspended PET (polyethylene terephthalate aka plastic) film production following the 9.0 Magnitude that shook Japan on March 12, 2011. It had resumed partial operation on April 30.

Another Teijin plant in Ibaraki-ken (Ibaraki Prefecture)was back to full steam in late March, and now all Teijin Group facilities nationwide are now operating on a normal basis.
Based in Tokyo and Osaka, Teijin is a global technology-driven group operating in eight main fields: aramid fibers, carbon fibers & composites, polyester fibers, plastics, films, medical & pharmaceuticals, fiber products marketing and IT businesses. Teijin Limited is the holding company for the Teijin Group. The Group consists of 150 companies and 17,542 employees worldwide, and enjoyed consolidated sales of ¥815.7-billion (Cdn/US$ 9.8-billion) in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2011.

The Group offered no word on what the twin disasters might mean to its bottom line for the current fiscal year.


Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Godzilla

The one and only Godzilla
Japan is home to The Good; The Bad; And The Ugly, and has imported them out to the rest of the world so that we can enjoy what the Nihonjin (Japanese) enjoy.

The Good: the standard Japanese cuisine that you and I could get at a restaurant in our respective countries. Also, automobiles and electronics!  Depending on your point of view, there is also anime (animation) and manga (comic books).

The Bad: things that are so cute that it makes me want to barf. Things like Hello Kitty! I mean, I suppose if I was an eight-year-old girl, that would be cool... or if I was sleeping with a woman who liked it, that would be cool... but I'm not either of the two above mentioned examples.

The Ugly: Monster movies. I guess I love ugly, because I love Japanese monster movies! Did you know that the Japanese word Kaiju (怪獣) means 'strange beast', but when translated to English, it essentially means 'monster'.

Unless you've been living under a rock, the most famous Japanese kaiju is Godzilla. Godzilla is actually spelled and pronounced: Gojira( ゴジラ), with perhaps the next most famous being the classic Mothra (giant moth), Rodan (famous sculptor* or the more famous bird-like critter), Gamera (giant flying turtle) and King Ghidorah (the three-headed monstrosity).There's also Anguirius!

Godzilla has crushed Tokyo and saved Tokyo, and saved the world. Gamera seems to like kids and has saved the planet numerous times.

Here for your viewing pleasure is a list of Japanese monsters from both movie and television. As far as I can tell, I have tried to give you their Japanese name and the year of their birth to the viewing public.

Hey... I had some time today.

Monsters: 

Agon (1968);
Akuma-Kun {aka Devil Boy} (1966);
Anguirus (1959);
Appurushîdo (2004);
Baragon (1965);
Barugon (1966);
Biollante (1989);
Dagora, the Space Monster (1965);
Dai Majin {Great Majin} (1966);
Demekingu (2009);Destroyah (1995);
Doreijuu (2000);Ebirah, (1968);
Futo (1977);
Gabara (1959);
Gaira (1966);
Gamera (1965);
Ganime (1970);Gappa (1967);
Gehara (2009);
Gezora (1970);
Ghidrah (1964);
Giant Condor (1968);
Gigan (1972);
Girara( 1967);
Godzilla (1954);
Godzilla Jr. (1967);
Goliath (1972);
Gorosaurus (1968);
Guilala (2007);
Guiron (1969);
Gyaos (1967);
Hedorah {aka Smog Monster}(1971);
Ika resuraa (2004);
Iris (1999);
Juiger (aka Monster X) (1970);
Kairyu Daikessen {Froggo and Droggo}(1966);
Kamacurus (1968);
Kameba (1970);
King Ghidorah (1991);
Kujira gami {aka The Killer Whale} (1962);
Kumonga (1968);
Legion (1996);
Manda (1968);
Megalon (1973);
Mechagodzilla (1974);
Megaguira (2000);
Minilla (1968);
Monster Zero (1970);
Mothra (1964);
Negadon (2005);
Nezulla The Rat Monster (2002);
Ogre of Mount Oe (1960);
Orga (1999);
Raiga (2009);
Reigo (2008);
Rodan (1956);
Sanda (1966);
Space Godzilla (1994);
Sûpâ robot Maha Baron (1975);
Tekkouki Mikazuki (2000);
Varan (1959);
Viras (1968);
Wasei Kingu Kongu {aka Japanese King Kong} (1933);
Zigra (1971);
Zoon (1973);

For those of you who like the pure good guys... here are some space policemen from the Ultraman series... oh, and for the record Ultraman and Urutoraman are the same.... Urutoraman is how the Japanese pronounce Ultraman:
Ultraman (1966);
Urutora Q (1990);
Urutoraman Teiga (1998);
Urutoraman Daina (1998);
Urutoraman Gaia (1999);
Urutoraman Kosumosu (2001);
Ultraman Cosmos (2003);
Ultraman Justice (2003);
Urutoraman Mebiusu (2006);
Urutora kyôdai (Ultra) (2006);
Urutorasebun Ekkusu (2007);
Urutoraman Zero (2010).
Gates of Hell - Rodin

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title id by the Blue Oyster Cult: OHNO!
PS: * Rodan is the Kaiju (monster); Rodin (Auguste) is the sculptor of classic art like The Thinker and The Kiss and The Gates of Hell (photo below taken by myself in Ueno Park, Tokyo.
PPS: Back to the regular life and times of yer idiotic traveler tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nuclear Plant Not Prepared

Despite a disaster drill held a week before the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was ill-prepared, according to a new report.

After the twin disasters hit the area around the plant, it affected the workings of the Dai-ichi facility in Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture), causing it to spew radiation into the air and nearly suffer a meltdown.

The report, released on June 18 by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) noted that the plant was so ill-prepared that plant workers had bring protective gear and an emergency manual from far away buildings and also had to borrow equipment from a contractor already on-site.

The data is based on interviews with plant workers and plant data, showing just how desperate the plant workers were to control the plant. as they worked with unfamiliar equipment while fearing for their life from radiation exposure.

The earthquake and tsunami knocked out the plant's power and thus cooling systems needed to keep the nuclear reactors from melting down. As a result, three nuclear reactors suffered partial meltdowns and emitted several explosions each.

TEPCO has also been severely criticized for not acting quick enough to vent gases or adding sea water as a possible solution to keep the nuclear cores cool. A consideration was that adding sea water would permanently corrode and render the reactor useless - so there were financial concerns.




In a related story, see here for how the Tama Zoo in Tokyo prepared for a possible earthquake that came six days later. HERE

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me & My Monkey

It's not all about the sex. It's just mostly about the sex. This blog is mostly about the part that is not about the part that is mostly about sex. I get it, even if I'm not getting it today.

It's Saturday, August 17, 1991. I'm living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. My mom has come to visit from Toronto. Karen, who is newly arrived in Japan  (three weeks), wants to be my friend before we embark on sex.

She and I are assistant English teachers on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme. I'm on my second year here. I've also just come off a break-up with my girlfriend Ashley of Augusta, Georgia, and subsequent friends-with-benefits equation. It's sex without the hang-ups of ... well, everything.

I recently returned from Thailand where I was lucky enough to have become the boy toy for two hot-hot-hot Thai women who are 21, work at the hotel I stayed at, and were cool with me dating the other girl. Dating should have been in "quotes". My last night there involved a Thai sandwich, that was both filling and satisfying, but has left me wanting more... and that doesn't seem to be something I can pick-up here in Japan. But... never say die.

And here's Karen who wants to slow thing down so that we can have a relationship before we have sex. She obviously doesn't know who the heck she is dealing with. 

My mom and Karen went to the famed historical city of Nikko together yesterday. Nikko is famous for its "Three Wise Monkeys"... you know the ones: "Hear No Evil; See No Evil; Speak No Evil".

There should be a fourth one: "Touch No Evil, with the monkey grabbing his groin area. Matthew actually got me a statuette of the Four Wise Monkeys... and I'll be damned if I know where it is. Probably got taken out in the house fire a few years back.

Karen rather than going back to her apartment two towns south when the trip was over, came back to my place. She and my mom talked. I think I just touched myself while remembering Thailand.

Anyhow... at 8:30AM, Karen comes bounding into my room and jumps atop me, puts her arms around me, kisses me good morning, waiting until something pops up between us before hopping off. Damn... now more monkey business for me later.

She wants me to get up and fix her some tea and toast. I'm exhausted both physically and mentally. I haven't been alone in weeks and I've had dysentery.

By this time, my mom is up and sees Karen following out of my bedroom, arches an eyebrow, but doesn't say anything. I don't even bother trying to correct her mistake, as she already thinks I slept with all of the female staff at our hotel in Thailand, and that I probably got the stewardesses pregnant on our return flight home.

Why tell my mom she's wrong? besides, she knows that even if I was doing what she suspects I am doing, that I would be smart enough to use all of the condoms she sent me.

I am.. but if the past week in Thailand has taught me anything, one can never have enough boxes of condoms.

Because  I seem to have misplaced my bicycle key (to unlock it), I call up my boss, Kanemaru-san, at the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE). He comes over, and I introduce him to everyone. He raises an eye at Karen and then looks at me... like 'what the hell are you doing?!' I shrug my shoulders back at him as if to ask 'What the hell am I doing?!' We then take my bicycle over to one of the 347 bicycle repair shops that are apparently all located on a single laneway called Bicycle Repairshop Street.

I'm making that up, but it's not really that outlandish. I just have no idea what any of the streets are, as there are no street signs denoting it.

We leave my bike there - as they will apparently either create a new key or put a new lock on, and then drop it  off at my place tomorrow. 

Back at my apartment one hour later, Karen and my mom are sewing pillow cases for my sofa. You've got to be kidding me? It's almost the last straw. If it wasn't for Karen's awesome sweater puppets, I would've blown a seal... and then got angry when the seal wouldn't call me the next day.

I hate this! I appreciate the gesture, but I don't want to feel obligated to anyone I'm trying to boink.

I head out onto my western balcony for some fresh air, and to read Sherlock Holmes, as Karen, my mom, and now local girl (and only friend) Naoko plot out the details of my mom's trip out to the western part of Japan. Holy crap... my mom is going to see more of Japan than I ever will!

Why am I not going with her? Oh yeah... I'm 'busy' and have no money.

Karen wants to go with my mom (please god, no), but I don't think she realizes just how expensive it really is.

At 4PM, I take a bicycle trip out to Ashley's place to water her plants while she is away in the U.S. No, my bicycle is not yet back, however, I borrowed Ashley's bicycle for Karen to ride a few days ago... lucky... so at least I have something  - a girl's bike - to make the 20-minute trip (by bike) to Nishinasuno-machi (Nishinasuno Town).

Of course, pretty much every single one of my students in seven junior high schools happens to be out that afternoon, and sees me riding a girl's bicycle. Most laugh their head off, while others gasp as they know it's Ashley-sensei (Ashley teacher's) bike - and what happened to her.

The all-seeing Eye of Agamotto, which sees all and knows all, only watches my life. Perhaps it's because Ashley lives in Nishinasuno (northwest of Ohtawara), that people don't seem to know much about her life... or perhaps it's because she doesn't tell everybody everything. Whatever... she told me, so therefore, everyone should already know everything about her!

You know... I warned Ashley many, many, many times to never make a writer angry.  See? I told you not to make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry (or apparently when I'm not angry).

Unlike my friend John who left my fridge empty for me when I came back from Thailand, I restock Ashley's fridge with some bare necessities, as she is returning on Tuesday.

Back home, my mom's reservations for tomorrow's Shinkansen train ride out west, and for her hotels... they are all set. Karen has indeed found the financial waters at tad too deep and has correctly decided to get out.

Naoko drives Karen to the train station so she can go back to Yaita-shi. That leaves just me and my mom... and she's in the bedroom packing for tomorrow. I enjoy the quiet for exactly 30 minutes... that's when John arrives back at my place.

I make him, Naoko and my mom a super hot chili dinner. It makes them all sweat, but at least no one bitches about the heat. I don't eat because I know the food won't stay in me. One, if you'll pardon the pun, solid week of dysentery.

John's trip to Fuji-san was a partial success. He apparently got down to Tokyo without a hitch, but then got on another train that went east instead of west. By the time he discovered the mistake and actually got to Mt. Fuji (I don't believe it actually exists), there were no buses going up to Level 5 (a place where most people actually start the climb so as to not tire themselves out too much when trying to reach the summit. 

So... he either had six-hour hike or the option of a taxi. He took the taxi. I don't blame him... but how much did that cost?! The cab driver gave him a walking stick with all of the levels he would have physically climbed if he hadn't taken a car. The stick, actually contained a few more levels and had a stamp for the peak.

Still, John made it all the way up to Level 8 - and then crashed. He awoke cold and hungry, but did get some really good pictures. That's what he said. I never actually saw the photos... more proof that there is no actual Mt. Fuji. You can read my explanation for this HERE.

Anyhow... everybody loved my chili... especially my mom, who had no idea that I could cook. I can't. This was pretty much the only thing I can make.

after John packed and got ready for his flight back home tomorrow, he and went out for four beers apiece at the 4C bar. We run into another local gaijin (foreigner), Kevin... and both he and John chide me for being too quiet. Hell... I'm sick. And tired.

Am I loud enough for you boys now?

Somewhere touching my monkey,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Beatles: COMEON 
PS: I was actually quite impressed with John for trying to climb this imaginary mountain. He did good.
PPS: The image above is NOT the one Matthew gave me... his was a white plastic and maybe about 4 inches high per monkey. I can still picture it perfectly.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Where No Man Has Gone Before

It's Friday, August 16, 1991... I'm up at 8AM and feeling sick from dysentery--I can't stop going to the toilet! I'm living in the small city of Ohtawara, Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan... and have just started my second year here.

My mom is visiting from Toronto, as is my friend, John. I haven't had much time to myself--and that's something I think I really desire... even if its for a couple of hours alone every night, just to get my thoughts in order so that I can survive another day. I'm not depressed or anything... at least not clinically... I just need space. Star Trek got it right. Space is the final frontier.

I'm here in Japan to seek out a new life (for myself), a new world, and a new civilization. To boldly go (or to be grammatically correct), to go boldly where no gaijin (foreigner/outsider) has gone before. Trouble is... I don't feel like Captain Kirk in charge of my own spaceship. I feel more like that poor sucker in the red suit who knows he's going to die when beamed down onto a new alien planet.

That's what dysentery feels like. Plus my butt hurts from the lousy thin toilet paper here in Japan. I try to buy the two- or three-ply stuff, but it just seems too thin! When will someone invent toilet paper extra thick in the middle so your thumb doesn't break through and get crap all over it?!

Ahhh, but I digress.

I'm too sick to go with my mom, Karen (the girl who would be my girlfriend), Naoko (the girl my mom wants to play matchmaker with having met plenty of eligible bachelors on her sojourns around Japan) and Mr. Suzuki (the president of the Ohtawara International Friendship Association).

John leaves at noon to go and climb Mt. Fuji (Fuji-san). I still think that is a waste of time. I don't believe it exists. I've traveled by it five or six times and have never seen it. I've also climbed nearby Mt. Nasu (Nasu Yama) and used the telescope to supposedly view Mt. Fuji... and every single time there is some sort of weather thing obscuring what the Japanese say is Mt. Fuji. Fog. Clouds. Rain. Snow. Godzilla. It's just never been visible for me.

As John leaves, I get up out of bed  - free at last!!! - and fix myself up. Kanemaru-san (Mr. Kanemaru), my boss at the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE) calls and asks me to come to work in the afternoon, as there is some heavy busines they need to discuss with me.

I'm on vacation, but what the heck. It's only a five minute bicycle ride away from where I live at 307 Zuiko Haitsu in downtown Ohtawara. It's the tallest building in the City, and is also supposed to be the most luxurious. I don't know about that, but my apartment certainly is large... three bedrooms, LDK, full bathroom, washer/dryer, and a pair of balconies... one to the west and one to the north. The north is lived in by Mothra-sized spiders that come out as it gets dark. Ick. I hate spiders.

So... at the OBOE, the earth-shattering work they need from me, is to hanko (sign) a single document. That's it. Whatever. I know it couldn't wait, and it's not like I was doing anything important. At least they all know I'm sick, as I have always told everyone exactly how I am.
"Kyo-wa, ogenki desuka? (Today, how are you?)"
"Ma-ma desu (So-so)."

Then the dictionaries come out and everyone determines what's wrong with me. Trust me... in this country where you don't know the language, system or anything, it's best not to keep too many secrets. Not like I can anyway. There is some sort of grave vine network in place in Ohtawara that lets the populace know where I am and with whom; what I am wearing, eating, drinking, purchasing or whatever.

I know this sounds stupid, considering I like being alone sometimes, but it's nice that the whole city seems to have taken a shine to me, and seems to be looking out for my best interests when it's obvious I don't do that for myself, what with being a recently deflowered virgin and current idiot.

At 6PM, my mom arrives back from Nikko... oh, and look who she brought back with her... Karen.

Karen and my mom are best buddies now, and enjoy the camaraderie. Me... I love my mom, but even back in Toronto, I sat alone in my room in the basement and watched Star Trek by myself (see THIS video).

Karen wants to spend the night. Schmoozing with my mom. They chat until 11PM when my mom finally packs it in.

Karen, with her head in my lap wants to know if I expect anything tonight. She says she'd like to be my friend first.

So, who the heck said anything otherwise? I just want sex. Not with my mom in the place, of course. My apartment is big - just not that big!

Karen says that sex can wait until later.

What? I have not said anything about sex... but there are certain expectations. I just nod my head and say okay. I certainly wasn't expecting her this evening, and I wasn't expecting anything tonight. I do have dysentery, afterall.
 
Karen sleeps in the living room on my couch. My mom is in my room on my queen-sized bed, and I'm sleeping in John's room, which is a bloody mess.

Somewhere beyond my rim of the star-light,
Andrew Joseph
Blog title is by Alexander Courage who wrote the theme song to Star Trek: WARPFACTOR.
Here are the original words to the song that were not used - written by show creator Gene Roddenberry. Sorry Gene... it sucks.



Beyond
The rim of the star-light
My love
Is wand'ring in star-flight
I know
He'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love,
Strange love a star woman teaches.
I know
His journey ends never
His star trek
Will go on forever.
But tell him
While he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Get back

Crap. First off.... Happy Father's day.

Second... sorry for being late with the blog.

Third... sorry... I screwed up, and skipped ahead a day. Thanks to all who pointed that out. Okay... no one did. I caught the mistake myself.

Fourth... I had a few rum & cokes... then I realized I forgot to blog, and that I skipped a day. When it rains it pours. I hope my typing is up to speed.

Here is the missing day. It's Wednesday, August 14, 1991. Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

Karen... the new kid on the Tochigi-ken (Toichigi Prefecture) block calls early and says she'd like to come over.

Karen and I met a week ago when she first arrived in Japan. She's a young, attractive redhead with big boobs, pale white skin, freckles, a couple of pounds overweight, funny, articulate, intelligent... so what's wrong with her? She seems to have a lot of baggage. That's just my opinion, though. While she likes me (a lot!!), she wants to slow things down so we can have a proper relationship.

To be honest - and this isn't fair to her - I don't want a relationship. I do... just not with her. I want sex. Sex would be good. But what I really want is a relationship with my current friend-with-benefits, Ashley... who also happens to be my ex-girlfriend here in Japan.

She broke things off with me claiming I was suffocating her. Maybe. All I know is she was over at my place five times a week. Maybe she liked to eat my food. She was able to save enough money to go back home to Augusta, Georgia a couple of weeks ago, while I had to rely on my mom to buy me a ticket to Thailand, where I met her last week before heading back here to Japan (with mom in tow) two days ago. Someone is being used.

Life is complicated here in Japan. In Thailand, I was banging two Thai women at different points in the day... and on the last day there, both at the same time. Okay... that's physically impossible, but you know what I mean. There was no jealousy at all. No complications... just sex without the hang-up of emotional baggage.

Oh... did I mention my friend John has flown over from Toronto to spend some time in Japan? Sure I have a 3-bedroom place... but man... I need my space, baby. I'm a loner. Always been, probably always will be. I need my own downtime. My very good friends back in Toronto, Nigel, Rob, Kevin... they know this and are smart enough not to constantly call me. I still love them all - even when I'm incommunicado (hint, hint)... sometimes, I'm just tired, over-worked or simply down on myself and need time to think. I wish I could be that social guy... you know the one who wears the mask here in Japan pretending to be the social butterfly... but I'm not. I'm a pretty damn fine actor when I have to be.

Japan kills me sometimes. Slowly by degrees.

No wait. Scratch that. Japan is fine. It's uplifting and exciting and I learn something new every day. I kill myself a little every day. I'm just a tad too introspective for my own good. I'll have to do something about that one day. Maybe soon. Maybe I should just throw caution to the wind and let the chips fall where they may.

Maybe the threesome thing in Japan taught me that I should just say 'screw this' and have some fun! I owe it to myself. We all do, don't we? Why should I always have to be responsible?

The answer to that one is actually quite easy. Prior to arriving in Japan... I wasn't responsible. At all. Japan has forced me to grow up. But it comes with a price. I'm conflicted. I mean I had to grow up literally overnight. I didn't get to grow into it. I moved from Toronto to Ohtawara, and had the opportunity to re-invent myself.

Why didn't I reinvent myself into someone cool? Probably because I didn't realize the reinventing was going on while I was reinventing. I was just rolling with the punches and trying to survive being a stranger in a strange land.

Holy crap... I'm getting maudlin here. Damn rum and cokes.

Anyhow... Karen. She calls and wants to come over... so, like a good little obedient sheep, I ride over to Ashley's place in Nishinasuno-machi (Nishinasuno Town) and then take her bicycle over to the station. Yes... I have her bicycle key. This way, Karen can ride Ashley's bike from Nishinasuno-eki (two stops north of her town in Yaita-shi), over to my city of Ohatawara.

Karen doesn't know about Ashley and our current or previous relationship...

Karen is waiting for me on the wrong side of the train station... and it takes me 20 minutes to notice.

We ride back slowly to my apartment. Chatting, occasionally holding hands, having a good time like couples are supposed to in the television commercials. What the heck am I doing?

Karen and my mom get along like long lost friends! Cripes! They just sit on the couch together and talk and talk and talk.

My mom, Lynda, to her credit, knows I was a whore in Thailand, and that I am sleeping with Ashley and apparently half the female population of Ohtawara... but doesn't say anything untoward to Karen. She really likes her. Could I be mistaken about Karen? I mean, if my mom likes here... shouldn't I? I do... but I'm conflicted!

I make a lot of tea and toast. My mom likes tea, and Karen is sick. Did I mention they were knitting together? Fawk! Who does that? Someone is is trying to ingratiate herself in with my mom, I suppose.

I ride back with Karen to the train station at 6PM. I miss another back doctor appointment - its been four weeks! I am stiffer than a 13-year-old in a whore house!

Suzuki Tokunori (a local farmer and head of the Ohtawara International Friendship Association) calls and invites myself, John and Mom... and the new people, like Karen, to travel with him to the historical city of Nikko on Friday. That should be fun.

While I have been to Nikko some 10 times now... it would be nice to have a tour guide who spoke English to teach me everything about this wonderful old town. Suzuki-san is a really fun and nice man.

However... at this point in time, I am really sick after contracting dysentery from my recent trip to Thailand. I haven't been able to keep anything in me for a couple of days now.

Somewhere my life is in the crapper,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by The Beatles. I like listening to The Beatles whenever I'm down or confused... like today. It's like they have a song about every single one of my emotions. I could easily use a Beatles song for every single day of my life here in Japan. JOJO.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Towns Hit by Tsunami Still Digging Out

Now over three months since the March 11, 2011 9.0 Magnitude earthquake triggered a huge tsunami that devastated the north east coast of Japan, over 90,000 people remain displaced, living in shelters.

The death toll is a confirmed 15,413 as of June 11, 2011, with about 13 per cent or 2,000 bodies still unidentified.  According to the National Police Agency, another 8,069 people remain are still officially missing. 

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry recently stated that 28,280 temporary housing units for survivors had been completed in Iwate-ken, Miyagi-ken, Fukushima-ken, Ibaraki-ken, Chiba-ken, Nagano-ken and Tochigi-ken ('ken' means 'prefecture'). But 12,028 of these units were occupied as of June 15, 2011, mostly due to an inconvenient location. A total of 52,500 units are expected to be built by mid-August. 

As of May 11, 2011, 117,000 people were living in shelters--that number has dropped by 27,000 to 90,109 as of June 11.

Electricity had been restored to most afflicted areas, though some 57,900 homes in Iwate-ken, Miyagi-ken and Fukushima-ken still do not have running water.

The Environment Ministry estimated 23.92 million metric tonnes (or 23,920 million kilograms or 52,735 million pounds) of debris were initially left these prefectures, with just 22 per cent removed. 

In Ishinomaki, Miyagi-ken, the city that had the most debris dumped on it by the tsunami, only seven per  cent had been cleared. 

And, like in any disaster, financial aid has been forthcoming.The Japan Red Cross Society and three other organizations had received donations of about ¥250 billion ($2.95 billion). About ¥82.3 billion (~US/Cdn $1 billion) of this had been passed on to Tokyo, Hokkaido and 13 prefectures affected by the disaster but only ¥37 billion (~ US/Cdn $453 million) had reached survivors.

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

Angry White Boy Polka

It's Thursday, August 15, 1991 and I'm living (barely) in Ohtawara-shi (City of Ohtawara), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan.

I am sick.. with dysentery... courtesy of some ice in my drink up in Burma (Myanmar), a few days ago when I was there and in Thailand with my mom.

My mom, who has accompanied me back to Japan, is now off visiting Sendai (yes, one of the areas devastated by the March 11, 2011 tsunami) with my friend John (also visiting from Toronto). Great. Leave me alone.

I find time off the toilet to do some laundry and some more shopping for food. I also head out to the local video store and rent a couple of movies before lazing around my apartment.

When I head downstairs from my third-floor apartment in the centre of town, the old man who runs the convenience/sake shop directly below me on the ground floor offers me a beer.

What the heck? I'm here in Japan to internationalize... and it's free beer.

His 30-year-old son starts pouring out glasses of beer for all three of us. Man! I haven't eaten anything all day thanks to the dysentery, as I'm afraid I might poop my pants... but still... free beer.

We talk slowly, because the old man speaks zero English, and his son, just a little. My Japanese language skills are only slightly better than my French, which as a Canadian for whom French is one of our two official languages, is pitifully bad.

Still, I find out the old man was a sergeant in the Philippines during WWII. He was part of the occupancy forces. He also said that after that, he was a POW (Prisoner of War) for six months after being captured on some tiny island nearby when the Allies came to liberate the Philippines.

He said he was actually glad to be captured, because constant Allied bombing had left him and his platoon without proper clothing or much food.

Then the old man goes and gets some sake (rice wine) and begins pouring out boxes (?) for us. I guess they didn't want to spend good money on sake in a bottle.

Still, I don't have the type of pallet to know good sake from bad sake... if I don't go blind, it was good. We also eat a lot of chips. And... best of all... I don't feel like going to the toilet!

At about 9:30PM (4 hours after we started drinking) John and my mom intrude. I guess they heard me laughing and came around to see what was the matter.

I'm having a great time with my Japanese friends! I'm laughing my head off and now my mom and John want to know why. I want to say it's because I'm finally by myself.

The old man fed these two something that he called sake residue, as well as some cognac - and both get drunk quickly.

My mom then makes some snide comment about me not being able to speak Japanese! John quickly intercepts me and tells me not to be mad at her, because it was him who told her that. I appreciate his honesty, but you bastard! Just leave me alone!

Finally, by 10:30PM after the store was supposed to close, the gaijin (foreigner) contingent from Canada leave.

I'm glad they got to see me having fun with the locals... but when we go upstairs, I explode at my mom... I swear my head off and tell her to mind her own business... blah-blah-blah, Ginger... of course, she's passed out unconscious on the bed... too much booze, I guess.

Lucky I guess.... for both of us.

I don't hate my mom... I just need some space... and I finally got some, and then had it cramped up again.

Anyhow... I'll have to find out more about the old man's days in the army soon.

Oh yeah... I can't find the key to unlock my bicycle, so all of my travels have been on foot.

Somewhere alone in a crowded room,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Weird Al Yankovic: ACCORDION
The image above is from Gary Larson's Far Side comic strip... and is one of all-time favourites!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Welcome to Cool Japan

Forget hot or not, Japan wants you to consider it cool.

I hadn't heard about this initiative, but back in early January 2011, the Japanese government—specifically the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (aka METI)—has implemented a new business strategy called 'Cool Japan' in an effort to promote the export of some of its culture.

Cultural items to be promoted, include: animation, fashion and food. Some of the initiatives undertaken feature limited-time satellite shops introducing Japanese sake (rice wine) and foods in partnership with local distributors to help stimulate Japanese exports for small and medium-sized manufacturers, as well as arts and crafts persons to reach a Japan goal of ¥13-trillion (U.S./Cdn $160,000,000) in exports by 2020.

Cool Japan will use Japanese products, that it believes the world finds cool, like animation, movies and food products, and use them to drive global business and garner increased tourist traffic in Japan.

METI actually established the Cool Japan strategy back in June of 2010. It will eventually be headed by  a Creative Industry Councilor later this year, which will in turn integrate all departments engaged in the fashion and content business.

A total of ¥1.4 billion (U.S./Cdn $1.4 million) has been allocated for the strategy in 2011 alone, and will be used in 10 selected businesses with selected target country/region.

The 10 selected businesses are:
Asia: 
  • Business & Food: Introduce Japanese food and culture and sell goods, alcohol beverages, food and more. 
  •  Housing: Sell housing, environmentally-friendly electronics, furniture, et al.
China:
  • Fashion & Household Goods: Collaborate with shopping malls targeting the rich folk.
  • Content: Leverage Japan & China by co-hosting events such as of movies.

Southeast Asia:
  • Japan Regional Traditional Products: Branding of Japan regional traditional goods.
  • Fashion, Household Goods: Export Harajuku Brand targeting the young.
India:
  • Fashion: Collaborate with local fashion media.
U.S.:
  • Food: Establish Japanese food and alcoholic drinks.
  • Content: Export content leveraging animation and 3D technologies to Hollywood.
Brazil:
  • Content, Consumer Electronics: Proliferate televisions and One Seg mobiles (it's television broadcasting for mobiles) leveraging animation at the timing of FIFA and Olympics.

Where the heck is Canada, the U.K., Australia et al? Obviously, Japan is shooting for the larger populated countries and areas first... and then will attempt to conquer the world later.

The Cool Japan strategy is composed of designers and creators, and small- and mid-sized companies who might have a difficult time starting a venture overseas due to a lack of funds or know-how.

METI wants to take such business owners and match them with overseas business owners to develop an export industry.

The strategy hopes to:
 - Increase Japanese exports. METI estimates worldwide market size of fashion, food and content in 2020 will be ¥932 trillion (U.S./Cdn $932 million), and wants to achieve a market share of 1.4 per cent, equalling ¥13 billion (U.S./Cdn $13 million).
 - Enhance Japan's image abroad. It wants to do what the U.K did under its Cool Britannia ( a nice pun on the old Rule Britannia song) strategy in the 1990s, and South Korea's plan regarding the promoting of its lifestyle through movies and TV dramas to Asian countries, that led to an increase in exports of its consumer electronics and clothing.

While not directly related to the Cool Japan strategy, I have found, for your edification, a website promoting Cool Japan, that takesd the views and opinions of gaijin (foreigners) who are experiencing their first six months or less in Japan, promoting what they find cool about the country. Have a lookie-loo: HERE.

Somewhere chilling - why is the A/C so cold?!,
Andrew Joseph

Restaurant Offers Mystery Cans

I'm pretty sure that in most 1st world countries like Canada and the U.S., UK, Australia and New Zelana, what Japan is doing is illegal.

Not Japan as a whole, but rather one restaurant that is playing Russian roulette featuring tin bullets.

Sabanoyu is a restaurant in Kyodo in the Setagaya district of Tokyo. It is offering up cans of food salvaged from the earthquake and tsunami.

So... life is like a box of chocolates... ya never know what you're gonna get inside - to quote Forest Gump, except this isn't a movie.

Sabanoyu is selling canned foods with the labels washed away - or dented - picked from the debris of the Kinoya Ishinomaki Suisan cannery in Ishinomaki, Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture), which was once a landmark with its 10.8-meter water tank painted to look like a giant can of stewed whale.

The cannery was crushed like it was being recycled when the tsunami hit following the 9.0 Magnitude earthquake - now known as the Great East Japan Earthquake - on March 11, 2011.

"The cannery helped us bring life back to this neighborhood, and now it's our turn to help them," says Suda Yasunari (family name first), a comedy writer, community organizer and owner of Sabanoyu.

The neighborhood's link to the cannery goes back nearly two years, when Suda enlisted its help in revitalizing the old shopping street. Like many other traditional neighborhood centers, Kyodo was turning into a ghost town, as customers were drawn away by the opening of megastores and chain restaurants along a trunk road nearby.

To grab the local's attention, Suda created a neighborhood-wide miniature painting contest - on cans provided by Kinoya Ishinomaki Suisan. Several restaurants got hooked on the taste, and started offering canned fish in their dishes turning the neighborhood into a stop for curious diners.

"I ate a lot of canned fish when I was young, especially mackerel, because my mother didn't have much money," explains Suda. "It's always been my favorite fish, because it's the fish of the masses." The name of his restaurant, which also serves as a public stage, means "mackerel bathhouse."

The neighborhood was holding its second can painting exhibition when the tsunami hit Ishinomaki. Soon after, Suda collected relief supplies from his friends and neighbors and headed with two light trucks up to Miyagi-ken. On the return trip he stopped the trucks at the flooded Kinoya cannery and loaded up with muddied cans.

The cans were scubbed clean by neighbors and feature in such dishes as 'in-the-can souffle' and 'mackerel hamburger'. However, since the cans are without labels, they can not be legally sold... so instead a Y300 ($3.00) donation gets a can.

(Writer's Note: Personally, I like this donation-thing. When I wanted to by a Shunga (a pornographic ukiyo-e/ woodblock print), I was told that technically, it was illegal to sell them... but if I wanted to trade for it, it would be acceptable. I traded Y30,000 ($300) for one. It's an original from over 150 years ago.)  

At the end of April, 2011, Suda opened Kinoya Cafe, in the trendier Shimokitazawa neighborhood nearby.
In the kitchen of Kinoya Cafe, Matsutomo Michihito (surname first), a product developer for Kinoya Ishinomaki Suisan, works after moving in with relatives in Tokyo after the disaster. The cannery company is still in business, says Matsutomo, and is keeping its workers on the payroll until the government-assisted leave pay is cut-off at the start of next year.
"I'm here trying to develop new products that we can put out from a contracted factory, so that we have something once we run out of our last stock of about 30,000 cans," Matsutomo says.

However, Matsumoto spends most of his time at the Kinoya Cafe trying to identify the contents of the unlabeled cans.

"I can tell what's inside if I can make out the product code, but for some of these, there's nothing left," says Matsutomo, so they get a question mark.

"A lot of people pass by here and are very curious. When I explain what I'm doing they'll take home a can or two as a show of support, and I am grateful. But when they come back later and say, 'Oh, it was delicious, do you have more?' It's the best feeling, but I could almost cry."

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph
PS: The image of the canned mackerel above... that has nothing to do with the story... I just happened to like the label - and the odd brand name... Geisha.

Johnny Carson Theme Song

With apologies to novelist Charles Dickens... this blog is about Great Expectations. 

It's Tuesday, August 13, 1991. After meeting my mom in Thailand (she flew in from Toronto), and spending a few days there, we are now back in my town! Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan.

Despite the raunchy sexual time I had with a pair of Thai women, it's still good to be back home - and that's what Ohtawara is to me. Home.

My friend John - also from Toronto - has spent the past week here in Japan by himself or hanging out with his friend Barb, who is apparently living in Tokyo. I have no idea who she is or what she does. The brief meeting I had with her left no indelible mark on my life except to think that she's a twit. I think I meant to put an 'a' in there, instead of an "'i".

John is apparently out seeing the country, and he left no food or drink in my place (except for a couple of eggs and tea) before departing.

So the first thing I have to do today is go shopping for food at Iseya. With my mom, Lynda, as she wants to see what a Japanese supermarket looks like. I hate to say, folks... but it looks like any other supermarket in the world. Brightly lit, lot of aisles and food placed in places you'd never expect to find it.

My temper with John is growing to legendary proportions. I guess it's because he's come here with expectations for me. He expects me to be fluent in Japanese; to be able to know where every place is in Japan; how to get to every place in Japan; and even know my way around Tokyo. Remember... this is 1991. No World Wide Web yet. Heck... I've only been down to Tokyo maybe five or six times myself.

He expects me to do this, do that... and I hate it when people expect me to do anything... that's when I rebel.

Before we go out, I do laundry for my mom - which I think blows her mind, as she has never seen me do laundry... as I always expected her to do it for me back before I left home.

Still, despite it being MY place... my mom insists on cooking dinner for us. Old habits, I suppose... but I appreciate a touch of home cooking.

Just as she finishes cooking the meal and we are about to sit down to eat - Here's Johnny at my doorstep.

I am not amused. My mood is rather sharp the rest of the evening.

Great expectations. I hate'em.

Somewhere expecting a headache,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is the theme song to The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. The show's instrumental theme is a rearrangement of the the Paul Anka song called 'Toot Sweet'.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Japan Jumps For Joy

Japan has been awarded the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships, three months after it relinquished the 2011 event following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disasters.

The International Skating Union said on June 14 that the 2014 world championships will be held either in in Tokyo or nearby Saitama-ken (Saitama Prefecture)to the north.

The 2011 figure skating world championships were to be held in Tokyo in late March, but it ceded responsibility following the twin disasters and nuclear crisis in Fukushima-ken (Fukushima Prefecture), as it realized there was no way it could fiscally hold the event—and wasn't sure anyone from around the world would want to come. The event was subsequently held in Moscow, Russia.

Files by Andrew Joseph

Back In The Saddle

Airports... I hate'em.

I've been in Thailand and Tokyo without my sunglasses for an entire week now. People who know me realize that's not something I am happy with. It was probably because when I left Japan it was raining.

Thailand while drizzling rain, was quite bright.

I've worn sunglasses atop my face since I switched from photo-grey sunglasses (that get darker when the sun gets brighter) to wearing contact lenses when I was 17.

But, even without sunglasses, I met and 'dated' two Thai women with looks that would make anyone's head spin in amazement. Amazement that they were with me, I suppose. Hey.... I have a very large... what's that "p-word"? Oh yeah... personality. Plus I'm hung like a donkey. I'm kidding. I'm such an ass.

Mom and I get a chauffeur-driven limo ride from our Bangkok hotel to the airport.

I should mention that there were quite a few young ladies there at the hotel to see me off. Waving and giggling. Boon-mee and Tookta were there too. It was quite the nice send-off. I didn't know the other women, but I did recognize most as being staff from the hotel.

I'm just going to assume they didn't provide a send-off like this to everyone. It even made my mom wonder aloud to me if I had actually slept with all of those women. I wish... but I didn't have enough time or condoms or fluid in the five days here.

Despite me meeting my mom here in Bangkok, it did not get in my way at all, sexually. I should point out that I was supposed to go to Thailand in December with Ashley... but after she broke up with me, our plans went down the toilet. After we got back together again six days later, all of the flights were miraculously booked up... so WE were out of luck.

Ashley, however, had made arrangements to go to Thailand with some of the other female assistant English teachers from the Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme. It's probably why I hate quite a few of them. They got Ashley a ticket.

On the negative side... I didn't get to go anywhere last winter...

On the plus side... I stayed and experienced Christmas and New Year's Eve and Day in Japan! Awesome! HERE have a read. I spent it with Matthew - my most excellent friend from Binghamton, who lives in my hometown of Ohtawra-shi in Japan. Plus his boss, Suzuki-sensei (Suzuki teacher) and my friend Kanemaru-san (Mr. Kanemaru) and his family. Kanemaru-san is one of my bosses with the Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE).

On the plus + plus side... I went to Thailand and hung out with two sexually-charged young women who showed me and themselves the time of their lives! I sure as heck would not have experienced that if I was with Ashley... at least I don't think so. Hmmm.

On the plane, we experience some wicked turbulence. The food is still plane food - crap. And the movie? It's the same one I saw coming to Thailand! L.A. Story (?!) At least I see the title this time!

At Japan's Narita Airport, it's now 7PM. At Japan Customs, they confiscate my Thai sword. It's not like it's sharp! Why confiscate it? I can buy a longer and more dangerous Japanese sword here! Jerks. No one can speak English.

Apparently I can pick it up within six months when I leave the country... but I'm not leaving! No one understands that! Oh well... the police have it now. Forget about the fact that I actually carried it with me on my carry-on luggage on the plane! Man.. things were different then, eh?

Customs searches my Mom's stuff and confiscate my passport for an hour, before finally giving it back and letting us go on our way. Who knew a sword was a dangerous weapon? I'm such an idiot sometimes.

We grab a Skyliner back to Ueno-eki (Ueno train station) in downtown Tokyo. It's now pouring rain.

We catch the second-last Shinkansen (bullet train) up to Nasushiobara-eki (Nasushiobara train station). Unfortunately, we have to go two stops south on the local train line to get to Nishiansuno-machi (Nishinasuno Town)... before catching a bus to my city of Ohtawara.

Unfortunately, at Nasushiobara, there are no more local trains going that evening, so we take a long and expensive taxi ride back to my apartment. We arrive at 11:30PM.

My mom cooks up a few eggs for us, but unfortunately... I now have dysentery, courtesy of a few ice cubes in my Coke in Thailand. I guess it could have been worse... it could have been hepatitis!

Somewhere, the King of Ohtawara is back on his throne,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Aerosmith: I'M BAAACCCCK!!