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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Video Of Ohtawara

I would like to share with you a site I found on Ohtawara-shi - Ohtawara City - in Tochigi-ken, Japan. Between 1990 and 1993 it was my home.

While a lot has changed in the past 20 years, a lot has remained the same. For that, the city can thank Mayor Senbo, who was mayor there when I was there... with whom I used to have lunch with every once in a while and who every time would ask me if I could use chopsticks.

Of course I could. My boss Hanazaki-san at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) office taught me my first day on the job using two pencils. While I did eventually develop my own unique style, I could not only keep up with the Japanese in chopstick speed, I could surpass them.

I still use chopsticks with every Chinese or Japanese meal I eat - which is surprisingly quite often... and when I do, I always think of Hanazaki-san who was the age I am now and the ever-young-looking Mayor Senbo and his great wit.

The video below (and a whole lot of others right there on this same site) was shot in 2009, so I can only hope he is still mayor. I'm sure my good friend Matthew Hall who married local girl Takako Kurita would know. Her dad was long a city councilman in town.

OHTAWARA

Check out Video number 8! Look at all of the Indians! The city has the Asian Rural Institute up north where visitors come to learn Japanese methods of farming. And no... I only understand one work spoken in that video: ucha... which means "I understand"... but of course, I do not.   

By the way... in the video, the city insists on spelling the name as Otawara, but it is a long O sound, which is why I always insisted they spell it with an Oh. Bloody politicians... as soon as the best gaijin they ever had working for them left, they reverted. technically, Matthew worked in the outskirts of Ohtawara, though I believe all of his schools and the surrounding towns have since been incorporated into Ohtawara.

They did, however get it right on all of their websites! While I had nothing to do with the video or websites, I like to think it was my insistence on the proper spelling that enabled the city - though not the funny mayor - to get it right! You can see what I mean: HERE. If you Google Ohtawara, and see this site... try asking it to translate it for you. If I was there, there would be a proper English website. And I would have done it for free. But don't hold me to that now. I'm not there any more unfortunately. 

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph     
  

 

My Girlfriend's Back

It's December 11, 1991 and it's 7AM. I've been up for about 15 minutes and am just about to shave.

I had been waxing non-poetically about Junko... my secret girlfriend who enjoys my sexual company but doesn't want to be my girlfriend.

If I had known 16 months ago in Toronto that life in Japan would be simple and fun, I would have laughed in your face - it's an alien culture,  I don't speak the language, and I sure as hell don't know how to cook, clean, do laundry. I've also dated a few women, but I haven't been able to convince any to sleep with me.

And then arrived here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan back in August of 1990. While the culture of Japan is different, it's hardly alien, and I enjoy discovering things every day. I'm working on the language thing, but I'm not very good at it. I know how to do laundry, clean, shop and can cook a few meals - enough to satisfy my hunger pangs anyway.

Women - I've been in like Flint. It's been ridiculous. Can this many people in Japan either find me attractive or interesting? I have no clue, what it is. But I better get the getting while the getting is good.

Which brings me back to Junko. I'd suggest the refresher course written HERE to bring you up-to-date.

I'm not in love with Junko, but I do really like her. I'm not in love with anyone. Maybe not even myself. I have no idea what I'm thinking these days. It makes for interesting times, to be sure.

Ding-dong!!

I wonder for half a second who on Earth it could be, as I quietly sneak up to my peep-hole on the front door... but before actually looking through, I smell it. Apple blossoms.

It's Junko. I smile inwardly and outwardly, and I swear a part of my twitched involuntarily in excitement at meeting her again and again. (Did I spell that correctly? Note to self - check later before publishing)

How strong must that shampoo of hers be if I can smell it through my metal front door and paper-thin walls?

It's like ambrosia... and I feed hungrily at her altar.

She's sexy and stylish... a sharp dresser when I get to see her with her clothes on... which is not now, as I have just let her into my place less than 10 seconds ago, and she has already stripped down to total nekkidness and has her arms and legs wrapped around my erect posture as she thrusts her tongue maniacally into my mouth probing my thoughts like a Japanese porno cartoon tentacle.

I'm only human (mostly), and a heterosexual man, so I do what any guy would do in my place - I break our lips apart and ask: "What are you doing here?"

(Oy vey! 2012 Andrew, who has his own female issues, can't believe 1991 Andrew is such a schmuck).

Just so you know, having been a virgin until I was nearly 26-years-of-age, I have a very muscular right forearm, that may or may not have been developed from years of playing the accordion. I have dreamed about doing all of the nasty things Junko have done previously. No strings attached, through the occasional rope has been. Not my idea, but have always enjoyed going with the flow... however....

Stunned by Junko's stunned look, I repeat myself: "What are you doing here?

"It's Wednesday, and you are supposed to be at school (Junko is student at the University of Utsunomiya and wants to be either an English teacher, a porno queen or a housewife).

I'm confused/concerned - and apparently pragmatic - and want to make sure she doesn't give up school to be with me. We can do both.

"I'm taking the day off to be with you," she smiles with soft supple lips and dark brown eyes. If you never seen eyes dance ballet, I highly recommend it. Graceful, elegant. Leaping... basically, it's breathtaking. I've never seen a ballet, however, a hot friend did show me a clip once, so I do believe that qualifies me as an expert.

Now maybe I've been screwed around by women - and not in a good way - but while I certainly do believe Junko, I wonder about her timing. It doesn't stop me from screwing her brains out. Twice. Before taking a break.

Whack! Smack! I beat myself up. Yet another woman is using me for sex and doesn't want me for a boyfriend! What is wrong with me? Nothing, obviously. So what is wrong with these women?

I suddenly remember that I was supposed to go in to Ohtawara Chu Gakko (Ohtawara Junior High School) and teach today. Crap! I'm two hours late! (I like to take my time).

I swear out loud and tell Junko: "I have to make a phone call!"

"Silly Andrew,"  she mews like a naughty kitten unwinding a ball of yarn. "I already called the kyoikuinkai (board of education) for you.

"I knew you would be busy as soon as I arrived."

"You-you did?," I stammered... or did I stutter?

She grinned like the Cheshire Cat.

If any of you have ever read Garfield, you would know just as I do, that you can never trust a smiling cat... even one that is lying there lying naked beside you all sweaty and sticky and trying to bite your right nipple.

"What did you tell them?"

"That I had come taken a day off from school and wanted to see you."

"..., " I thought to myself.

"They aren't coming to rescue you, Andrew."

"What?!"

"I mean, there's no need. I'm fine."

She certainly is, I think as I stir from my position and pull her on top of me... mostly to stop her from nipping at my nipple. Okay... I know all of the women I've been with seem to like this sort of abuse, but I can take it once or twice and then leave it.

After more physical abuse of epic proportion that once appeared in letter form in a 1996 edition of Penthouse, we took a break.

I was hungry, and man can not live on Junko food alone. 

Expecting Junko to either pull some food out of some magic bad I did not see her come into my apartment with, she blew my mind...

"Come... let's go out for lunch."

Whaaaaaa—aaaaaaaat????" I asked with my voice getting higher on the second syllable.

You might think a Japanese sex kitten might not get my speech pattern joke, but she grabbed by testicular sac in her right hand and squeezed.

To quote Roger Rabbit: "Look, stars! Ready when you are Raoul!!!"

My eyes eventually rolled back to the front of my face allowing me to emit a thankfully low guttural growl of pain.

"I know you are making a joke of me never wanting to go out with you in public... but, Andrew... I want to."

Not wanting to screw up this opportunity, I instead asked: "What changed your mind?"

No-no-no-no! Why ask anything. Just shut up! She still hasn't let go of your gonads!

Looking down, I could see that the inner dialogue voice from the last paragraph was correct, as pulled down and then squeezed again in a whole new level of pain.

Wow! I'm going to have to buy her a leather suit.   

Idiot! She's already naked! Why do you need to cover her up?

Fortunately, I'm always right, and I pushed all thoughts of covering up her magnificent body with anything but myself.

And so... not getting answer to my last question, and afraid my secret-girlfriend would go nuts if I asked again, I got dressed quickly so that I could watch Junko dress. She knows I like to do that (with her), and actually did not start until I was ready to watch.

I want you to know that I never actually verbally communicated that I enjoyed watching her get dressed - but she knew.

While not quite finishing each other's sentences, we were at least on the same page of the book.

So we got dressed... and went down the elevator of my apartment building and as I walked towards the downtown food and entertainment core that was a three-minute drunken stagger to the west of my apartment - she stopped me and said: "Let's take my car."

Thirty minutes later in Kuroiso-shi north of Ohtawara-shi, we parked, and went into a noodle shop where we were welcomed loudly, seated in a corner and quickly served.

I paid - afterall, she drove and I insist on purchasing the meal of our first outside date.

After we eat, we get back into her car and drive. She's on the right side of me (she's driving).  I turn and face her and snake a left hand up along her jeaned leg and rub her zippered area.

"Pull over somewhere," I instruct her.

"No," she says as she slaps my hand away playfully. "We'll be home soon."

And lo and behold, we were back at my apartment, where a rehydrated Andrew and Junko made complete asses of themselves for a few more hours.

Ah... it's great to be with Junko.

It's now 4PM when she says she has to go.

"It's 4PM. I have to go, Andrew," she says.

I already new that a sentence earlier, but I stood holding her in my arms trying to think of something clever to say to make her never want to leave me again.

"...," I said. Bloody brilliant.

"I love you, too, Andrew," kissed Junko as she turned on heel and opened the door.
"I'll see you when you least expect it."

She needn't have added that last sentence. I knew that already.

As the door closed, my telephone rang.

"Moshi-moshi," I intoned and bowed into the telephone. Man, I've been here too long.

" - "

"Ah! Konichiwa Hanazaki-san. Kyo-wa o-genki desu-ka?"

" - "

"Sugoi"

" - "

"Genki desu."

" - - - - - - - - - - - - - -,  - - - .  - -  -  -- - ---- --- -?"

"Eh, nani?"

"---- - - - - ---- - ---- ------ - -! - - - -  - - - - ------."

Oh crap.

Apparently Junko did NOT call my bosses to tell them I would not be going in to work.

Still on the phone, I slide open the door to my north balcony (I also have a western one), I step outside in my barefeet wearing just a pair of white underwear and peer down to where Junko had last parked.

She's there leaning on the hood of her car with the cool wind blowing her hair in a sexy fashion.

She waves up at me and quickly glides into her car and drives off with her right hand out the top of the window waving - she without a backwards glance. 

"Hanazaki-san? Junko desu."

"Dame daiyo!" my telephone screamed at me.

Somewhere I've been had,
Andrew Joseph
Should you require a translation of the Japanese conversation I spoke with Mr. Hanzaki, here you go:
"Cease your panic, I am here to answer the telephone in a friendly greeting sir or madame."

" - "

"Ah! Hello Mr. Hanazaki. How are you today?

" - "

"Excellent!"

" - "

"I'm fine."

" - - - - - - - - - - - - - -,  - - - .  - -  -  -- - ---- --- -?"

"Huh? What?"

"---- - - - - ---- - ---- ------ - -! - - - -  - - - - ------."

and then...
"Mr. Hanazaki... It was Junko."

"Nooooo.... wa-ayyyy."

Today's blog title is inspired by The Angels who sing: My Boyfriend's Back for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

There's Something About Junko

The problem with Junko, is she is never around as much as I want, now that I want her around.

It's Wednesday, December 11, 1991 today, but months ago, I had my own private little stalker. We met at Ohtawara Junior High School where I was teaching that week as an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme.

I didn't have a girlfriend that week, so I was looking to fill a void... and then along came Junko.

Fresh from the University of Utsunomiya, Junko was studying to be an English teacher and was at my school as part of a week-long internship.

Gorgeous and sassy, brilliant and sexy, Junko immediately hit on me as I hit on her, much to the chagrin of every man - single of otherwise - who wanted to have a go at her. Yeah... she was that hot looking.

She also spoke English perfectly and did so effortlessly.

She came over that night and spent the night, and pretty much every night after that... a one week fling with a beautiful, young Japanese woman... that's all it was supposed to be... but Junko had other ideas... I have no idea what they were, but it involved her not going back to school and instead following me around to my next school, hiding in the parking lot and waiting for me to leave for home, watching who came and went from my apartment and when it was clear, would ring the doorbell looking for a marathon of sex and debauchery.

Now... for a guy who was a mere year earlier wondering if he would ever lose his virginity, Junko was a dream... she didn't want a relationship... she only wanted sex. Oh, and sex. And even more sex. And let's not forget about sex. Still, chafing was not possible, and the only soreness I felt was later the next afternoon when it became obvious that yet another day with sleep was not a good thing - despite the prospect with a Japanese babe who looked like she could make in the porno industry as a star.

After a couple of weeks of non-stop sex at night, my sleep-deprived brain thought there was something wrong with the body, and figured all of us needed a break.

Stupid sleep-deprived brain, screamed my weenis. We're getting and giving majorly deprived sexual relations with a mega-hot babe who doesn't want anything from us except for our salty secretions - and we were going to toss those out anyway.

But, being sleep-deprived, the brain had no idea what it was doing, and hallucinated that it was not feeling well and that it should get some of the local OBOE (my work - the Ohtawara Board of Education) to help get this girl off his ass (an interesting position somehow involving both of us being on top).

A teacher friend of his made a few calls, and later that night, they spirited Junko away.

Sleep-deprived brain of Andrew slept... and dreamed of hot sex with Junko.

Months later, Junko was long since back at school in Utsunomiya (the capital of Tochigi-ken), when her vagina and Andrew's penis sought each other out in a crowded university lecture hall. Like bloodhounds, the met. Like star-crossed lovers. Like a pizza delivery boy needing payment for the pie from the hot young chick lying naked on a blanket by a swimming pool that cost more than any pizza delivery boy ever made in his career. They were back as an item.

Despite screwing each others brains out in an empty university classroom (and getting caught - but who cares - look what I can do!), she told Andrew that she now had a boyfriend - a young Japanese kid - and that was that.

That was that apparently meant she would not stalk me again, but would on occasion make 40-minute car trip up from Utsunomiya to Ohtawara to visit my wang - but not me.

Just like before, she never wanted to go out in public with me - and no it wasn't an issue of shame - she just knew that any Japanese woman known to be dating a foreigner - especially this foreigner - would have to be sleeping with him. And despite the fact that when Junko was around, sleep was not part of the equation, she didn't want to come across looking like a slut.

Hmm... so I guess shame was a part of it. Or all of it. Plus, she did have a boyfriend...

I wanted her to be my girlfriend, and told her to dump him for me... but she hemmed and hawed in that traditional Japanese way of stalling that actually means 'no', but I am far to polite to ever utter the word 'no', so let me string you along with the promise of a possibility, even though by me doing so we are both aware that I am telling you 'no', so I am still being impolite to you, and I am so sorry I should commit seppuku.

Okay, I may be going a little over-board there. She knew I was not going to live in Japan forever, so why waste time dumping a Japanese guy will always be here for her.

Silly Junko. I would have stayed in Japan for you... but the sleep-deprivation did not allow me to realize that I should have said something to that effect.

Oh well... even though I don't have a girlfriend, or a friend-with-benefits, I still have a secret girlfriend.

... only she's not around when I need...

'Ding-dong!!!'

Somewhere hoping to be dehydrated,
Andrew Joseph

Defining Japan

When I was recently asked to describe one Japanese item that could possibly define the country, I froze. I wasn't allowed to offer flags or anthems... just a single item that would be uniquely Japanese.

How do I do that?

As a Canadian, it could be ice hockey (though we just call it 'hockey'), maple syrup, Anne of Green Gables, salmon... but a lot of countries have what we have, and most people probably have not read Anne of Green Gables to even mention it as being Canadian. Hmmm... maybe the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police)... our national police force... the Mounties... but would a person in the Ukraine look at a Mountie and say - Canada? Maybe... maybe not.  

The truth is, no one thing can define a country, no matter how hard one tries... though I suppose a cedar tree could describe Lebanon, a bald eagle the U.S., and maybe a beaver for Canada. Everybody loves beaver. But, when I see these beautiful examples of nature, I also realize that it's just nature and don't think country. Though I might think kangaroo and Australia.

There are many things in Japan that fascinate me - hence this blog. Things that on the surface appear to be singular to Japan, but are not: kimono; rice; chopsticks... are still defining elements by the Japanese themselves.

How many times have you heard a Japanese person describe, in English, hashi (chopsticks), as Japanese chopsticks? Japanese rice? Japanese kimono. You might think it's because they want you to know it's a Japanese product and that they are proud of their culture, but there are Korean kimono, Chinese chopsticks and Indian rice.

So... how to best describe Japan?

Geisha, perhaps... everyone seems to know that geisha are all over Japan... but truthfully, I only saw one, maybe two in three years there... while a fine representative, the geisha are hardly widespread enough to be representative of a country. And besides... while people might know what a geisha looks like, they have a misconceived notion of what a geisha is. Read HERE for more information.

Mt. Fuji? Much as I hate to admit it, probably. I never saw the damn so-called symbol of Japan in three whole years of trying. I'm not convinced it even exists. But let's suppose it does... would someone - anyone - in another country look at a photo of Mt. Fuji, and know it was a Japanese mountain? No.

Food! Everybody wants to eat food - especially those that don't have any - but we are able to define things as Italian food, French cuisine, Greek food, Indian food, Chinese food (not the stuff from the take-out joint!), Japanese food et al, right?

Food helps define a country! Some of them, anyways.

While there are many great Canadian foods - Cod Tongue, Poutine, Butter Tarts or Sugar Pie - Most Canadians would be hard-pressed to define them as being Canadian.

Thanks to some great Chevrolet commercials, hot dogs and apple pie are ingrained in the American psyche.I kid, but Americans do know all about how American those foods are - despite the fact that Canadians love'em too.

So, what do you like Japanese food?

Pardon my syntax, but my first year junior high students all learned the English phrase: "What (blank) do you like?", but some of them get the word placement wrong. This is not a knock on my teaching skills, but is a phenomenon known to exist across the whole country. Sometimes they figure it out, and sometimes they do not.

What Japanese food best defines Japan? Sushi, of course!

That's raw fish, right?

Uh, no. There might be raw fish in sushi, but it's not a necessity. It could have egg or vegetables as the focal point of the sushi. Cooked vinegared rice (shari) and other ingredients (neta) are the two defining elements of sushi.    

Here's a blog I wrote back in 2010 describing some of the various styles of sushi: SUSHI

Some people would say rice defines the Japanese way of life for the Japanese - perhaps once upon a time, but that time is long since past. Besides... all Asian nations, I believe, use rice as a staple. China, and India... there's 2.5 billion people right there!

Want more proof? Look at the kanji for rice: 米 (bei)

Now look at the kanji for the U.S of A: 米 (bei)
America is the rice nation? Sounds like a bit of miscommunication occurred during that first meeting of countries. Hardly looks like a Japanese definer.

That's why I am going to say that sushi is the global definer of Japan.  

That's just my own opinion, but I would love to hear yours: What one thing defines Japan?

Other examples could be:
Godzilla (still Japan's biggest international star)
Earthquakes
Tsunami (no one uses the word tidal wave any more because it is incorrect)
Volcanoes
TEPCO (owners of the nuclear plant in Fukushima)
Tokyo (but I'm betting the rest of the country disagrees)
 Mt. Fuji
Getting atomic bombs dropped on them
Manga (comic books)
Anime (animation)
Hentai (sexual artwork)
Umeboshi (sour plum)
Ukuiyo-e (the dreaming world)
Sumo (wrestling)
Gaijin (foreigners)
Shinkansen (bullet train)
The Hokusai wave (36 Views of Mt. Fuji Ukiyo-e - the image at the very top)
Cherry blossoms
Inane television showing people getting hit in the nuts
Sake (fermented Japanese rice wine)
Architecture (roofs, in particular)
Ninja
Samurai
Geisha
Shogun
Automobiles
Electronics
Pottery
Haiku (poetry)
Torii (temple gates)
Jo (castles)
Ji (temples)
Kimono 
The people (Nihonjin)

I know there are more, but I would like to hear what you think.    

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
PS: And that whole raw fish thing... well, raw fish, heck raw meat, that is the awesome delicacy known as sashimi. It melts in your mouth, and is also delicious!

Monday, February 27, 2012

LEGO: Dragon Battle

Another week, another miniature LEGO diorama. Yes, I am 47-years-old, and yes, I like building things with LEGO. No, I never played with them as a child, and yes, I purchase them under the pretense of doing so solely for my six-year-old son, Hudson.

While this one, lucky number seven, will probably be my last diorama for a while, I did have a lot of fun over the past four nights putting it together.

And, should you so desire, please check out my other LEGO dioramas:
LEGO DIORAMA 1
LEGO DIORAMA 2
LEGO DIORAMA 3
LEGO DIORAMA 4
LEGO DIORAMA 5
LEGO DIORAMA 6

Welcome to my vision of a fantastic dragon battle in feudal Japan.

To say the creation process has a mind of its own would be obvious. I build LEGO much the same way I write. I have no idea what I am going to do until it is done, despite any ill-conceived plans.

Originally supposed to be some as as yet imagined vista that was going to include a meeting area with a delicate water garden with flower petals in it, the diorama instead turned into a scene of mayhem with a dragon (ryu) attacking a temple (ji). Perhaps it had something to do with 2012 being the Year of The Dragon, of which I happen to be one. The fact that my name in Japanese is: An-do-ryu (peaceful-leader-dragon) had nothing to do with why I chose to build this scene, but might explain why I had a LEGO dragon lying around the house to begin with. 

Four minifig (miniature figurine) LEGO warriors (one dead) battle a dragon as it thrusts its head through a torii (temple gate).

The dragon in his fury at having been chained up for so long, has after breaking free gone after anyone and anything, alighting from the sky into a temple courtyard. His fearsome head through the gate, he attacks the poor warriors, knocking one to the side killing him instantly as another ducks backwards. Its heavily muscled wing smashes part of a tree while razor-sharp claws pull down part of the torii narrowly missing its attackers. Continuing his assault, the dragon thrashes its massive head at a small bell tower throwing it up into the air... but does it see the white ninja leaping from atop the flying debris with a mace in his hand? 

With all my photos, by clicking on them, they should expand to its full size.


This diorama is 14-inches x 11-inches and 8-inches high, flowing over thanks to the dragon's wings and claws from a standard LEGO blue base of 10-inches x 10inches. The minifigs, excluding the ninja which came with the dragon in a LEGO Ninjago set, were all purchased via various sellers on E-bay, buying heads, torso and legs separately to give each the same but different look. The torri was part of a Ninjago game card holder, the tree cobbled together from various sellers, the bell from some parts given to my son by my 18 year-old cousin, Marc Sands, a couple of years ago, the 'garden' and its walls are all from a 1,000-piece bag of black LEGO I bought in bulk from E-bay two years ago just for this project (yeah! like I plan ahead!). Other sundry items purchased from the LEGO Store at Sherway Gardens in Toronto. You should check out a story on their great customer service HERE

Diorama constructed and photographed by Andrew Joseph (still me!)

Gaijin

What is a gaijin?

According to the dictionary, this Japanese word translates to "outsider", "alien" or "non-Japanese".

I am all three. I am a gaijin.

And yet, to the visitor to Japan, the term gaijin has come to mean something disrespectful... a hurtful term that smacks of racism. 

Have you ever looked at yourself in a mirror? I mean really looked at yourself - hard - and contemplated all your strong points, all your flaws?

That's what being in Japan did for me.

Via my very own looking glass, I peered at myself and the world of Japan as though I had entered some sort of Wonderland. While wholly similar to the land I called home - Toronto, Canada - Ohtawara-shi, Japan in Tochigi-ken was a mixed up world filled with awe, excitement, confusion and adventure.

I was born in London, England. My parents are from India. I spent my first three years of existence in England, before we moved to Toronto... where I lived in peace, harmony and veiled and sometimes not-so veiled bigotry for 22 years more.

Sure... lots of people have immigrated from one country to another - maybe even you - but with an ancestry some would consider a third-world nation in India, to a first-world country in Canada, I was an immigrant. An outsider. A brown-faced boy who only wanted to be a boy.

Wishing upon a star did not help.

To fit in, I tried to learn as much about my country as possible - and by my country, I mean Canada. I am not a hyphen Canadian. I just wanted to fit in. But being brown-skinned meant also being thick-skinned, as people older than me always saw fault with the way I looked. Different.

I didn't speak with an accent (I lost my Cockney Brit accent weeks after landing in Toronto), I only spoke English, I didn't eat anything foreign - too damn hot!, and knew nothing of my culture. Yeah... thank you for allowing me to fit in. And yet... I never did.

I learned more about hockey (ice hockey) than any of my contemporaries, but never learned how to skate owing to either a fear of failure or a lack of proper direction - my parents couldn't teach me. I learned the rules, the stats, the history - and even now I will go head-to-head against anyone on sheer knowledge of hockey history.

And still... I could be looked upon and seen as different. Too dark. Too foreign.

I was a gaijin in my own country.

When I applied to the JET Programme to teach English in Japan, I was told that the Japanese could sometimes be a tad racist towards foreign people. How would I handle that?

I smiled and said, the same way I handle it here in Canada. Turn the other cheek. Understanding. Education.

As stupid as it sounds, but even 20 years ago many people in Toronto had never had anything but a friend of the same color. As such, naivety of cultures existed. The fact that my culture was the same as their white Canadian culture was a source of much confusion.

He looks darker, but man - he acts and talks and eats and plays just like us. He even knows more about hockey (and baseball) than us.

Arriving in Japan, I had lived at home for all 25 years of my life... spoiled by parents who did everything for me. While I did pay for my own education, they did present me endless opportunities to excel - or perhaps just to find myself. Accordion and piano lessons, soccer, judo... I did them. But, if you think about it... those four things still makes one an outsider in Canada. The piano less so, though. Everything else - that was so foreign.

In Japan, after a period of acclimatization, I would on occasion venture forth from my hobbit burrow and look around town. Ohtawara was a town of about 50,000 people... and no matter where I went, people would stop, stare, point and occasional utter a profane profanity: Gaijin!

I was being called a foreigner... even an outsider, by the Japanese.

I was home.

I never considered being called a gaijin a bad thing - at least not in Japan. I was an outsider. While it is true I did want to try and blend in, I knew, much like in Toronto that I never could completely. Such is life.

Hell... even if I went back to mother India where I have never been and except for being of Indian heritage I really know nothing of the place, I would also be a foreigner. They would spot me a mile a way and know I wasn't from around there.

It doesn't bother me at all. It even makes me feel kind of special. Exotic, even. Japan, India, England, Canada. A man of the world.

I hope I don't sound down or disappointed. I'm not. While I can never truly blend in, I can fit in. And there, I think, I have.

Just like in Canada, the people of Japan have accepted me for who I am. A gaijin, sure... but more importantly to those who know me, I am Andrew.

And, more importantly, I know who I am.

I am Andrew Joseph. 

I've stepped on through a looking glass and am living in Wonderland. At least in my version of it, there is no Jabberwocky.

Gaijin? Sure I am.

And, should you be called a gaijin and discover it bothers you, let me offer a little advice. Words have power when you give it power. Or... sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Life Inside Japan's Dead Zone

Here's a story from my old newspaper the Toronto Star, published today, February 25, 2012 about people in the Dead Zone who have refused to leave.

ZONE

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

Every once in a while someone asks why I am in Japan. Sometimes that question is worded nicely and I provide a non-retaliatory answer.

I'm going to take you back to 1989 - my second year of journalism school at Humber College in Toronto. While many in my class are university grads looking for some sort of career that a university degree in philosophy, political science or history simply can not guarantee, others are right out of high school. Despite the differing levels in education and age, we are all fairly driven individuals who want to go into journalism as newspaper reporters, television anchors or news jockeys on the radio. Magazine writing if we have to... and blogging - the Internet as we know it had not yet been invented.

In a future blog, I will explain how I actually got into Humber College, but for now, let me introduce you all to one Stephanie Lovie.

When I first met her in 1988, I walked into a newspaper journalism class, spied my two new friends Scott Bujeya and John Hobel, sat near them and began chatting - stopping slack-jawed as a vision of loveliness glided into the room with angels dropping rose petals over her as the long version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly played over the school's loudspeakers.

Standing 5'-6", 135lbs of solidness, hair bobbed in a light brown color, sexy, slinky, six freckles on her nose and her face, a smile that could melt butter with two canines that poked out giving her a feline appearance.
Her legs - oh my... she was a figure skater in her youth and had thighs as muscular and as large as my own - and even today in 2012, mine look mighty - and small tight calves.  All in all, a sexy little cat woman. Meow.

Intelligent, charming, sometimes bitchy and she liked me.

All in all, a perfect recipe for a virginal Andrew looking to get off the snide.... or just to get off.

One day in 1989 - that aforementioned second year at Humber, I'm driving her home along the 401 Highway and onto Highway 427 - just before the exit to my house. Today, I'm dropping her off at the subway nearby - though I would have dropped her home in downtown Toronto if I didn't have a couple of piano lessons to teach.

Yup... I supplemented my school income by teaching piano to seven kids, and baby-sitting six of them when required. Not that type of baby-sitting I wanted with Stephanie in my car, but a guy's gotta do what he's gotta do.

I'm wearing a shirt she picked out for me at a fancy men's shop... damn thing cost me $150, but when the woman you want to be your girlfriend suggests something like that, you hang the cost. It was a fine looking shirt. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, she and I were still only friends. We'd kissed a few times, gone to dinner a few more, but it never went beyond that. Sucked.  


In my white 1986 Mazda 323, she sudden;y pipes in that she is thinking of applying to go to Japan.

What? Where the hell did that come from? 

So, I ask her why.

She tells me that she has always wanted to go there since she was a little girl... her parents, when they were alive, had read her a book on the magical land, and she has, since then, thought of the place as a real dream come true.

Hunh.

She told me about something called JET and how they would select her to go and teach English there.

JET? All I could think of was the musical West Side Story. "What's JET?"

The Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme, she told me in a hurried breath... as I drove past the highway exit explaining that I would catch the next exit instead.

Afforded the extra minute of time, I learned that via this program, one could get hired on to teach a school for a year up to three years...

All I heard was JET Programme and her telling me she wanted to go as my thoughts raced to me applying and spending a magical year with Stephanie in Japan. 

So... apparently I had two weeks left to apply for this JET thing. I told my parents about it after I finished my music teaching - my mom, ever the helpful soul, said she would look it up for me tomorrow at work.   

The next evening, my mother had been over to the Japanese Embassy in Toronto and had picked up the necessary forms for me... I carefully filled them out, got some transcripts over the next week, and mailed everything off.

Stephanie was quite candid in talking to me more about the JET Programme and about her love of Japan over the next several weeks... but, in the same week that Stephanie was hired on full time at the The Brampton Times daily newspaper where we were both interning on Thursday and Friday's... I got a letter informing me I had an interview.

I also was told by the Toronto Star summer internship program that I also had an interview... one day after the other. 

Needless to say, a full-time job with a newspaper is what was important to her, as I continued with journalism school, my internship - seeing her there full time was very frustrating for me and actually got me fired from there a couple of weeks later... I was the first intern from our school to ever get fired from his internship, by the way...but it didn't matter.

As they told me they were letting me go, I told them it was okay. I had just been hired on to work at the Toronto Star and also got hired on by the JET Programme. I said both loud enough so Stephanie could hear it as I walked out the door. That smug look she had turned into a scowl as I grinned at her knowing that losing my internship or not being hired on full-time was really no big deal for me.

Stephanie, by the way, was the one who said she was going to apply for the Toronto Star internship, and I thought okay, I'll try too - just to be with her.

So, yes... I got both jobs I only wanted because I thought it would get me closer to Stephanie, but instead, I got both jobs I really didn't want that drove me farther away from her.

My loss of virginity would have to wait.

The Brampton Times, by the way, after being in business for over 100 years folded about three weeks after Stephanie was hired. 

Once again... my life took a strange turn thanks to a woman.  

And I wouldn't have it any other way.
     

Oh... I did write about her briefly here, a couple of years ago - long before most of you began reading about the rise and decline of a Canadian Gaijin in Japan: HERE.


Somewhere thanking Stephanie for the heads up,
Andrew Joseph
That photo up above? That's the exit I took to gain that extra minute of conversation with Stephanie to learn about the JET Programme.
Maybe someday I'll tell you more about how I got to Japan by telling you how I got into the Humber College Journalism program. It's a damn fine school, by the way.
Today's blog title is by Iron Butterfly, and was originally known as: In The Garden of Eden, but the religious connotation was a little much, so they changed it to the nonsensical title we all know and love. I love this album!Check out The Simpson's version below it, too!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Japan's Electricity Usage

Here's a link showing Japan's overall power usage for the month of January 2012, notable because since 2005, it has fallen to its lowest rate by a very large margin to just 10.3%.

I HAVE THE POWER

Cheers

Andrew Joseph & Ma
tthew Hall

Piece Of My Heart

This is the third part of of my long day, Tuesday, December 10, 1991 where I lost my way, found my way and, well... you'll see.

The first part involved me ranting about women - something I understand upset a few people... including myself, as I locked away my brain and exposed myself to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. It was all about me lamenting life with women here in Japan, and how you can still get what you want and not be happy. RAVING MAD. I've tried to re-read it a few times, since I posted it, but I stop before I finish. Don't read it. I think I come across looking like a dick. I wrote it because that was the way I felt at the time. Messed up.

The second part involved me successfully going out on my own about town to get a key made. THE KEY. This one is fun. Read it. I've re-read it, and I think I'm feeling a little less like a gaijin (outsider), and more like a gaijin (foreigner). Yes...  I wrote that correctly. The word gaijin actually means outsider, and the work gaikokujin and its slang version gaijin means foreigner.  

This is part three.

I'm now home in my apartment here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. I've been home for a couple of hours after spending the afternoon getting drunk with an old man who made a duplicate key for my apartment - 307 Zuiko Haitsu.

It's probably the fourth such duplicate made of my one house key - none of which I actually went out to have made... always someone from my Ohtawara Board of Education (OBOE) office went out and did that for me. but after 16 months of sitting on my ass and having people do things for me, I decided I would do something for me by myself.

I have a great feeling of satisfaction for having got that key made, and the ensuing fun afterwards. At least this time, the key will be given to a Japanese person... a local and good friend, Nakamura Munaio (surname first), who also doubles as my barber/hairstylist. I love my hair. He's a hairstylist.
   
The other three duplicate keys were all given to my girlfriend at the time, Ashley. A new one was always required after I would request my key back after she would break-up with me because of her own insecurities, and I would always throw it away while standing in front of her in some meaningless but appropriate gesture.One probably sits amongst the railway ties at Nikko train station - another at Utsunomiya station, and a third probably hit a nearby neighbor's balcony stationed opposite my apartment.

I'm sucking on a nice cold glass of Coca-Cola huddled under my kotatsu (a low heated table with a quilt to keep you warm in the poorly insulated Japanese houses and apartment buildings), with my back up against the front of my divan.

I recently gave away my kerosene heater to Mr. Hanazaki, my OBOE boss. I don't want it and would rather freeze to death than die from inhaling kerosene fumes or from having to keep a door open to thin out the kerosene fumes. I hate the wind in the winter.

As I watch a rented video of the Silence of the Lambs--a movie adaption of a great serial killer novel , the doorbell rings.

It's Ashley. She still has a key to this apartment... but I broke up with her despite her having broken up with me months earlier. It's complicated. Or immature. Toe-may-toe, Toe-mah-toe depending on which way the wind blows.

In my head, I had expected her to bring over a box of all of the stuff she had borrowed from me and to give me back my key.

But no.

She does return a solitary book of mine (title long since forgotten - sorry... go have a bag of popcorn and stop calling me names), but has also come to lend me a book of hers that she thinks I might like. She wants it back when I'm done, however.

It's the book entitled '69' by Murakami Ryu (surname first). Hmmm. A peace offering.

I'm not rude. Or at least I don't mean or want to be. I invite her in, once more into the abyss.

As we sit side by side on top of the couch with the television off, we chat about fascinating things I cared enough to not remember. I still wasn't a writer yet.

Uh... you kids should stop reading now.

She does capture my attention when she tells me off a dream she had about a large penis that looked just like the pulsating, throbbing, tentacle-like ones in the Japanese anime. (Not sure what that is? You can look to the right, but it's still not it, as I'm trying to keep things sort of clean).

Ashley says this huge groping penis was pulsating beside her while she stood at a bus stop.

Not sure what type of penis she was describing, I try to solve the mystery by showing her some of the uncut illegal Japanese and American porno video tapes I have acquired. I know none of them will have a huge anime penis moving about like a disembodied tentacle, but she doesn't seem to mind.

She asks questions about porn and about sex. Me, the virgin until she popped my cherry some 16 months ago, provides the answers. She looks stunned. I have no idea why. I've been doing this sort of stuff to her since we met.

So... why ask questions... unless you are trying to make nice-nice?

She continues to watch. She excites me more than the porno does. I know because I'm not watching the porno.

I know she knows that it's been a hard days night (keeping it clean), but just in case, I tell her I've been working like a dog on his bone.

Not sure if I need to unveil my latest work of art to the audience, I decide to wait awhile longer.

Instead, I pull out all the stops and perform a classic ploy of mine that I use here for the first time: I ask Ashley if my hands are cold.

She has to touch them to give an answer. Apparently my hands are not cold, and she allows herself to hold on to for warmth. Hmmm.
  
I let go, get up and get us more Coke to drink, place our glasses on the kotatsu's table top and then scrunch under the kotatsu I had turned on earlier to get warmer. I take off my pants, which makes me colder, but I figure not for long.

Asking Ashley to join me, I watch as she hesitates just a fraction too long before saying okay. She tells me she knows I am pantless and panting, but allows me to take care of the business at hand myself. She just holds my hand.

I'm an animal now, and lean in and kiss her and lick her fingers, hands, neck and face. She's not holding back, either. Despite her hesitation. Soon enough, she's naked too... and we're going to town in the same manner as that book I mentioned previously, but needing to catch her breath she gets a grip on the situation and ends things spasmodically for me.

All over, she sits there stunned at what has over come her. Grabbing a box of tissue, we use up a half box just to clean up the spilled frothy coke.

Lying there a while, we talk about meaningless stuff I am too bored to remember, as all of the blood has stopped flowing to my brain for some reason. But I notice we never mention last Friday.

We dress, and I ride her home... on our bicycles, back along the dark unlighted streets, through the lonely, cold roads that seem to meander aimlessly through rice field after rice field, an old dry and rustling corn field and more rice fields.

Arriving at her door 30 minutes later in Nishinasuno-machi, we peck at each others lips in a clumsy good night manner as smile at each other in acknowledgement that we are far too tired and embarrassed about that spilled drink earlier... though she does mention how my apartment always seems to be permeated with the smell of sex.

I don't mention that its not always hers, but she knows I have slept with countless other women since our multiple, multiple break-ups. Though like a blood-sucking vampire and his victims, I have kept count.

I slowly wander home with the winter wind blowing like a hurricane in my face - forcing me back into reality... wondering just what the hell I was thinking or not thinking this evening.

I was free. I had escaped my fetters. The old ball and chain. And then I allowed myself to get caught - caught up in the moment again.

It was never my intention to have anything to do with Ashley again. Did she mean to give me a book called '69'? Did I read something more into that title? Did I judge a book by its cover? She hesitated dammit! That meant she wasn't sure if she wanted in or out, and instead took both... though, sexually, that never happened... now going on for several months.

Back home, I toss away the used tissues, pull out the book she wants back and read a few pages, pausing to wish upon a falling star that I was stronger in my resolve.   

Welcome to the beginning of the end of this chapter of my life.

Somewhere it's a weak day for
Andrew Joseph
Tomorrow... different day, and different crap.
Today's blog title is by the Janis Joplin led Big Brother And The Holding Company. I had thought about doing the title/song 1969 by the Iggy Stooge (now Iggy Pop) led Stooges, but 20 years later, maybe this is a song that fits Ashley's hidden thoughts better. Man... Janis was such a beautiful and powerful singer. 
 

Tsunami Debris Map

Presented for your approval are a pair of stories on the debris washed out to sea by the March 11, 2011 tsunami that smashed the northeast coast of Japan after being spawned by a devastating 9.0 Magnitude earthquake.

The first story is from BBC News that was pointed our way by good friend Matthew Hall. This story looks at where the debris is now. It's a very interesting piece and can be found here: DEBRIS

As a follow up, because I haven't written enough, here's an article I found from California Fire News that shows a map where it is thought the tsunami the debris will hit the U.S left coast in 2016.... uh... that's the image at the top, but the full story can be found here: FUTURE DEBRIS


Cheers
Andrew Joseph & Matthew Hall

Friday, February 24, 2012

Japanese TV Is Stupid Funny

Below is a great video of some stupid Japanese television. It's funny. That's the main thing.

It's strange because no food is involved. Damn near every show in Japan excluding the ever-popular samurai drama, sports or the news revolved around food. I may have to do a report on it one day.

What I don't understand about a lot of Japanese television --and why it is still so popular--is why they like to dress people up in costumes.

Matthew and I were often coerced to dress up in hilarious costumes - it wasn't meant to embarrass us or anything like that - it was just a way for us to fit in. You see, it's not like we brought our own stupid costumes... the Japanese people we visited had boxes of costumes, wigs and props already at their home.

Perhaps it was all some bizarre sex-thing, but despite a lot of available porn, the average Japanese person doesn't really share a lot of that with the gaijin (foreigners). By that I mean, fetishes are probably kept secret.

That means that these costumes were purely for amusement.

Check out this video... it has a tilted floor and four individuals who have to try and navigate across it while 'dusting it' with a rag. Check out what happens to the loser... or better yet, check out what costumes the two women doling out the punishment are wearing! It's damn funny, but I'll be damned if I can figure out just WHY the costumes are being worn.

Could it just be for fun and have no other meaning than that?

Here's the video clip: 
JAPANESE TV

Don't worry that it's all in Japanese... I never did, and yet I understood the pure comedy of it all.

Onagaishimasu... that means 'please go ahead'.

And no... Misteru Suparukaru in the image above has nothing to do with the video - but I loved this Simpson's episode, so what the heck!

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Daijobu-da

Ah... Matthew my friend has delivered unto us a wonderful montage of video shorts from the demented mind of Shimura Ken (photo above), my favorite Japanese comedian who helped me learn a bit of Japanese and enabled me to do some jokes in Japanese for adults and students alike.

The fact that I had a pony-tail during most of my stay, as did Shimura Ken at the time - though sadly not in this video - allowed me to play the fool, gain acceptance with the locals as someone into the same things they were - comedy!

This was from his Daijobu-da show, that I think was on Wednesday nights at 9PM back in the early 1990s.

Fantastic stuff, and I know you will enjoy this video. Daijobu-da (which is what the funny faces say) is a hick way of saying 'it's okay'... 'da' being the qualifier that made it rube-like.

DAIJOBU-DA

Andrew Joseph & Matthew Hall 

Prank Video #1

My good buddy Matthew Hall has been inundating me with some cool stuff lately - and I'm going to get off my butt and present them ALL to you!

Here's a great video clip from Just For Laughs Gags entitled Funniest Japanese Girls Prank: VIDEO

Enjoy!

Andrew Joseph & Matthew Hall

Teenage Beer Drinking Party

Here's the basics:
Who: Andrew Joseph
What: Assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme
Where: Ohtawara City, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
When: December 10, 199
Why: Because we like you.

I'm going to do something stupid today:

I'm at Ohtawara Junior High School this week.  

I'm impressed with myself that I can, if I want to, walk up to anyone here in this school or this city, and just talk to them. It may be broken Japanese or broken English, but pretty much anyone can understand just what it is I am saying, even if they are unable to be understood by myself - but I'm trying! Words, gestures, a dictionary if we are desperate.

People are able to communicate! It's bloody amazing what happens when one tries. I'm finally trying!

I only have one class today, as a second class in period 4 is canceled. Again, classes are short, and no one is telling me why. It's okay... sometimes it's best not to know everything even though that goes against every fiber in my being. As such, I get to leave early, though the Japanese teachers are still there until 5PM or 6PM or later depending if they are married and simply don't wish to be home around their nagging wife.

At 1:30PM, I leave school and go find a place to get my house key cut - surprisingly, for a guy with limited Japanese language skills and an innate ability to get lost simply by exiting his apartment, I had no problem in finding a small shop. The large key handing outside the shop was a good clue, I suppose. And communicating my needs to the ancient store owner whose shop doubled as the front living room of his    place - well, it was a key shop. I smiled, bowed, received a bow in return, smiled and said onagai shimasu ('please go ahead' or 'please do this for me') handed him the key and waited three minutes as he searched for the right base key and then two minutes to make the key.

When he held up two fingers, I figured he meant ¥200 (~US/Cdn $2.50) and not ¥2,000 (~US/Cdn $25), but handed him a ¥1,000 yen bill, and then pretended to muck about my wallet - just in case I was wrong about the amount.

When he didn't wait for more money and began rummaging about for change, I knew it really was ¥200 and quickly said: "chotto matte, kudasai (Just a moment, please)" and dug out a couple of one hundred yen coins.

More reckless bowing ensued where we cracked our heads against each other - we stood, looked at each other and burst out laughing while rubbing our noggin's.

Calling loudly to his wife she came racing out with a large bottle of Asahi Super Dry beer and two small glasses, and the two of us (wife went back into the kitchen to dig up some snacks!) then had a jolly time drinking and talking in my broken Japlish and his Japanese.

By the time we were done an hour and three beers and a couple of Japanese apples later, I bowed, put my arm around him and gave him a tipsy hug - which was returned - and left.

I love the hospitality of the simple Japanese business folk doing business in small-town Japan. Yeah, he sale - probably his first of the day, made ¥200 and then spend ¥1,000 (~US/Cdn $12.50)feeding and drinking with me. That's a loss of ¥800 (~US/Cdn $10) - hardly a king's ransom, but maybe it was a lot of money to them.

Despite me being aware of the generosity right away, I've been here long enough to know you don't just give someone extra money to cover the expenses (unless you are out with good friends!). No TIPS (To Insure Prompt Service), either.

While I hope I did not eat them out of house and home, Japanese pride is fierce! No one would ever know if they were hungry. They suffer in silence.

But I don't think these two were suffering or going to suffer - except from a mild hangover headache - the man was maybe 90 years old and was maybe 5-feet tall and 100 pounds.   

I don't know his name, and I never saw him again, but he knew me.

I did take his meishi (business card - written in Japanese) to give to Hanazaki-san (one of two fantastic bosses) at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) office, my employers.

I want to make sure these people get a deep bow from me and the bosses for being so kind to me...

As an added bonus, the shop keeper will have a funny story to tell about the day he smashed open the head of the local gaijin (foreigner) and then got drunk with him.

I stagger onto my bicycle and ride over to Nakamura's hair salon and give the key to Munaio, as he'll be looking after my apartment - aquarium and plants - while I am away in Singapore over the Christmas break.

Afterwards, I go shopping at Iseya, stop by the Books Time video store and rent a couple of movies before stopping off at a small hanko (specialty shop that manufactures plastic and stone stamps that the Japanese use for official signature purposes)... I want something special... I'll show you what happened here in another blog.

I then go home.

(No... there isn't anything remotely stupid about my actions today. I promised you that, didn't I?

Tomorrow... I admit I am delaying writing it out again... it's not that I am afraid of it... I just don't know how to present it to you considering I originally used a slew of colorful language, and removal of it may make understanding the story a tad less understandable or worse in my opinion, less interesting.)

Somewhere going local,
Andrew Joseph 
Today's blog title is by Teenage Head, Canada's premiere punk band. I love these guys and have seen them rock out a few small clubs back in the days before going to Japan.  Enjoy the music!


LEGO: Sumo Battle

Here's another LEGO diorama fresh from the fertile mind of Andrew Joseph... so fertile you can smell the manure! (Is that a better joke than: "... so fertile you can get pregnant just by looking at it"?)

Anyhow... here is my LEGO sumo ring, complete with clay (made my own play-dough with food coloring), ring from the Ninja-go set, two sumo wrestlers from the LEGO Minifig Series 3 (which also had a samurai warrior). Man... LEGO loves Japanese culture (old school) almost as much as I do!

I also made a Gyoji (a sumo referee), gave him a fan used to point to the match winner and to act as a tray to provide the winner with his match winnings. Dammit all... I even found a wild pattern I liked and made a uniform and hat for him. I know the hat is not standard, and neither is the color, but I wanted him to stand out a bit and add some flavor to the diorama that food coloring could not duplicate.

I am also quite proud of the fact that there are footprints all around the ring from this particular match.

Who's going to win? I'm betting on the fat one! Oops... I shouldn't have said 'bet'.

Other diorama's made by myself can be found below:

LEGO DIORAMA 1
LEGO DIORAMA 2
LEGO DIORAMA 3
LEGO DIORAMA 4
LEGO DIORAMA 5

Anyhow... the Gyoji is shouting: "nokotta nokotta!" (You're still in it! You're still in it!). Enjoy:

LEGO diorama built and photographed by Andrew Joseph - that's me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Been Down So Long

Do you know what's better than not having a woman who doesn't want to be your boyfriend or sleep with you?

Me either.

I've had one of those for months now, and the stress I felt while we were together would have broken me a long time ago if I realized I was stressed.

Do you know what sucks? It's having a woman who wants to sleep with you, but only does so on her terms. Why does that suck? Because it's selfish. I've also had one of those for months now.

Do you know what I want?

It's simple.

To feel like I am wanted. That I matter. And yet, here again, I sit with my pen and paper and jot stupid notes like this into my diary that I will never read again. I hope.

I've been down a lot lately. More than up, unfortunately. 

It's Tuesday, December 10th and it's 1991 and I'm living (sort of) in a small city called Ohtawara in the prefecture of Tochigi in Japan.

I've been pretending that nothing bothers me, but in truth, everything bothers me. Every single damn thing. About women.

I'm an assistant English teacher here, team-teaching with a Japanese teacher of English at seven junior high schools in the city.  I love the people around me. I do. I love seeing the kids and talking to them. I love being a small part of the lives of these kids - even for a fleeting moment - and wonder if one day they will think of me fondly. I really do think like this.

I just want to matter. 

Do you know what I want? I want to be able to communicate. In all of my so-called 'relationships' (you can tell I'm not pleased, as I used 'quote marks' and said 'so-called'), I have not had any problem in communicating my feelings or what I want from a friend or a girlfriend. And, to some degree, neither have they - initially. 

It's when things progress, or the rules change, so too do people. Some people handle change and roll with whatever life throws at them. Others need to formulate a plan of action or a plan of inaction while never really knowing just what the hell they actually want from life.

How can you make plans to do something if you have no idea what it is you want to do? You can't.

Sometimes, it's just best to let the chips fall where they may. That sucks, though.  I wish I had more control - any control... but I don't.


But I still know what I want. I'm still searching for it. You can tell I'm a communicative type of person. Do you know what I want? I want someone who can communicate with me. It didn't have to be all physical as it was with my secret girlfriend, Junko. It didn't have to be so intellectual as it was with my ex-friends-with-benefits Ashley.

I want a combination of both with the added benefit of emotional support. Someone to tell me I'm doing all right or there-there, things will look brighter tomorrow. I know they will... but sometimes it's just nice to hear someone else tell you stuff you already know.

Do you know why relationships fail? It's not because one person loves another more than the other - as Ashley tried to explain to me a few days ago - it's because people are unable to communicate effectively. That's just my own opinion, and right or wrong, at least I have one. 

How do you communicate with someone suffering with mental illness or a social anxiety disorder if they always have their guard up? I'm not saying you shouldn't try - by all means try. But it takes two to tango. Two to dance that beautiful dance of love. If one isn't pulling their weight, the tango suffers. And that would be such a shame for such a beautiful dance that everyone wishes they could do and do well, but so few are able to achieve.

I don't know how to dance, but I can dance well enough.

So... why am I so sad?

Because I'm going to do something stupid...

Somewhere I wander in communicado,
Andrew Joseph
Relax... I'm not a suicidal kind of guy. Never enters the equation. But, a lack of suicidal tendencies still does not mean I am level-headed. Never claimed to be anybody except myself. I think, however, that sometimes it sucks to be me. I should write that down.
Today's blog is by The Doors:

Radiation From Fukushima Still Spreading and Still Hot

Here's an article about how far radiation from Fukushima's Dai-ichi (Big One) nuclear power generating facility has spread after the events of March 11, 2011 caused several near meltdowns at the plant.

It's an Associated Press article written by Brian Skoloff and Malcolm Ritter. In it, we discover that radiation up to 1,000 times higher than the expected norm has been detected as far away as 643 kilometers (400 miles) away from the nuclear reactor.

HERE

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Statue Of An Old Man

I wanted to share with you a cool photo, mostly because I am behind the eight-ball at work and am doing homework now. Pay writing takes precedent over play writing, unfortunately.

Two photos...  the one above, which shows a small old man statue that was about 12-inches (30 centimeters) high. I believe it was taken in Kamakura, japan... about 31 kilometers west of Tokyo. I'm unsure. It was a rainy day - because when the ame otoko (rain man) (that's me!) travels, it always rains. I was with my good friend Matthew who should have known better. We were close enough to see the mythical Mt. Fuji... but the crappy weather made sure I never saw it.Snow, rain, cloud, volcanic ash, Godzilla attack... Mt. Fuji remained as elusive as a blue sky in Japan.

The photo below - is the same photo. It's the untouched version of the one above. It is black and white photograph processed as though it was color film. I wish I could take credit for the sheer awesomeness of this ancient looking photo - but no... it was because of the two sexy redheaded Japanese girls at the film department of Iseya who were to busy chatting me up to properly check off the right boxes on my film.

Hmmmm... sounds like a date, ladies.

Anyhow... which version looks better to you? Call me daft, but I like the original version, as the screwed up processing makes it look as though there was a mist caused by the rain all around - which there was - and makes it look, I don't know.. mystical. Mysticism.... I love the isms, and their off-shoots. 

Photographed by Andrew Joseph using the lost art form of camera film photography and his 50mm Minolta XG-se camera bought in the early 1980s. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hotel California

Proof that Japan has become to feel like home to me can be found in the way I went about my day.

It's Monday, December 9, 1991 here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. Today feels like a day of awakening for me. 

I feel like I am home because I am not in Canada, and have accepted my place as a gaijin (foreigner) here in Japan. I feel like a complete foreigner... but only Japan has the balls to accept me as one.

Despite being on my own - IE, no girlfriend, or secret girlfriend (she seems to have taken a sabbatical from me - despite us having so much in common sexually... or at least liking each other a helluva lot), or any other prospects on the horizon - I had a good weekend.

I do have a damn fine headache from a lack of sleep, however. I have no idea why I am not sleeping, but I am sure that despite being a rock and pretending all is well, I know that I am pretending. I want what I want, and I know what I want. This time, anyways. I'm just unsure how to get what I want. Sounds confusing, I know. Trying having that mantra rip through your head constantly.

After a hellish 15-minute bike ride through the cold and breezy sleeping rice fields to Ohtawara Junior High School (the largest of the seven schools I teach at), I have two classes in the morning. Fortunately, they are shorter than usual, and school is actually over at 1:30PM.

I then walked over to the post office next door to the school and found out you can't mail booze back to Toronto - sorry, John! Who knew? Apparently everyone but John and myself.

I then go shopping over to Iseya for a new toilet seat cover (by the way... my toilet seat was heated!), and then over to Books Time to rent more videos. I think I have watched well over 100 movies from that place in the past 16 months. Sad, but true.

I am really tired but I still manage to watch a great horror movie: Chinese Ghost Story, as well as a few episodes of Miami Vice sent from back home. I love that TV show... I guess I'm nostalgic for the good old days of something I was never a part of... the drug wars in Florida.

At the night school I teach at, I ask my hair dresser Nakamura Munaio (surname first) to take care of my apartment for me when I head out to Singapore on December 22 with James Dalton, from Stoney Creek, Ontario who has a fantastic sense of humor. I think we amuse each other to all ends of the spectrum.

There's no night school class next week as I'm supposed to take part in some JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme seminar in nearby Gunma-ken (Gunma Prefecture). Just stab me with your steely knife now!

I say my farewells to my adult night class, wishing them all a happy new year, as I won't see them until after that - and they all look kind of sad.

I don't feel to bad about not being here at New Year's, as I did spend it here last year (with Matthew) - unlike most JETs who jet off from Japan to all parts not Japan the first chance they get. In the 16 months, this is my second trip outside of Japan's boundaries - after a stellar journey to Thailand where I played the excited meat in a Thai sandwich. Yes... the poor little Toronto boy who was 26 years old and still a virgin because no one in his damn country thought he was handsome enough, went to Thailand and was picked up by two women  - at different times, and who when each found out that he was 'dating' both, decided a threesome was in order.

Whatever. I don't expect anything to happen in Singapore, except for some fun adventures. 

Back home, I do a little ikebana (Japanese flower arranging). I do actually spend some time making it just so, but I have no idea for whom I am doing it for, except myself. Mmmm, there's a sweet smell of some sort of flower rising up through the air.

Today I received letters from back home - from Doug McIntosh, my mentor who drove me in a cab once when I worked for the Toronto Star newspaper 17 months earlier; from John Hobel, a buddy from my journalism class at Humber College; and Mrs. Kirkland, the sweet old woman (since deceased) whose lawn I used to mow every week and driveway I would shovel of snow. 

I chat with Amanda Goodsell for about an hour - all about life, the universe and everything while I eat my popcorn alone in my house.

Alone with my friends, none of whom are here with me in my Hotel Ohtawara. I can check out anytime I like... but I'm sure I will never leave completely.

Somewhere being a gaijin,
Andrew Joseph
Just for Mike, here's The Eagles sing my blog title for me:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Take It Easy

It's Sunday, December 8, 1991 here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

I get up early enough at 8AM - make myself some eggs and bacon and juice and head out with my 50mm camera to snap more photos around town. Despite it being December and cold, there's little snow in this town. It snowed last year, but I haven't seen more than a few flakes this year. Present company excluded, of course.

Instead of tidying up - because no one is coming over - I head out to Matthew's place a five minute bike-ride away. You might think that with me tidying up my place nearly every night that my place might be neater than Matthew's - but no! That place is spotless, and still manages to put my place to shame. Hell... I vacuum every couple of days, too!

We ride out over town shopping for electronic goods... stuff for my stereo-TV hook-up, so I can give myself some surround sound. I had purchased a nice stereo for myself in Akihabara (Tokyo) last year. Not sure if this totally Japanese stereo will work back in Toronto whenever I decide to leave, but whatever.

Getting what Matthew says I need, we head over to Iseya for film stuff and then over to Kanseki to purchase some foam for me to block off the space under a few doors to keep the cold winter draft out.

Dropping stuff at my place, we then ride out to another electronics store in Nishinasuno-machi for something for Matthew's needs. On the way back, however, we spy a video game arcade and play some coin-ops for a very long time, much to the chagrin of many a student walking into the place... probably shocked to see adults liking video games, as most adults tend to prefer pachinko.

Next we ride over to the KFC (then only known as Kentucky Fried Chicken) in Nishinasuno and get my cholesterol levels up nice and greasy. This stuff is good! Good thing it will never ever affect me (until 10 years later!).

Matthew rode back to my place, helped me hook up the TV-Stereo and then when we were sure it worked - he left.

Almost to the second after he left, the phone rang. It was Catherine from the UK... who while a very nice person still managed to bore me for nearly 40 minutes, as I deflected her attempts to psycho-analyze me and to come over for a rendezvous.

I cleaned up my apartment (again) until I felt it was close enough to Matthew's levels of cleanliness and then watched the video Farewell to the King before I got ready for sleep.

My parents called at 12:30AM to talk - though I honestly don't recall about what - probably just checking to see if I was still alive and not suicidal. I've been down, but never that bad.

I go to bed, but wake up at around 4AM unable to go back to sleep - but I still feel like I had a great day.

Somewhere doing the simple things,
Andrew Joseph     
Today's blog title is by The Eagles. I know it was a dull day, but I actually got a chance to look around town without having to worry about a girl for a change. Thanks, Matthew.