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Friday, August 31, 2012

Manga Museum Opens In Kitakyushu

A manga (comic book) museum has opened in Kitakyushu-shi (Kitakushu City), Fukuoka-ken (Fukuoka Prefecture), Japan with a library boasting some 50,000 titles, with a strong focus on artists from the city.

Situated on the fifth and sixth floors of Aru Aru City near JR (Japan Rail) Kokura Station, the
Kitakyushu Manga Museum opened its doors to the public on August 3, 2012.

The city is looking to attract tourists (manga enthusiasts, obviously) - not just from Japan, but from around the world. Good luck with that.

Kitakyushu boasts some 50 reasonably well-known manga creators including Matsumoto Leiji (surname first) who drew 'Galaxy Express 999', and Hojo Tsukasa (surname first), writer of 'City Hunter'.

Is it any wonder that Matsumoto is the museum's creator? You'll see museum staff dressed as Maetel (Galaxy Express 999) waiting to greet you.

If you have any concept of what I just wrote, then this is geek heaven for you.

Me? I'm a geek, too, but manga is not my bag. I have over American/Canadian 30,000 comic books (close to museum-size, apparently) - but very little is for manga, as aside from a few books, I do not care for the art style, though sometimes a story-line will wow me to forget my dislike of the cutie-pie large-eyes that tend to dominate Japanese manga, like Mai the Psychic Girl or Astro Boy.

Akira and Lone Wolf & Cub avoid the large-eyed look altogether and are the most compelling stories I have ever read... and I even bought the original Japanese books that I couldn't read because I respected the stories so much.  

The museum's deputy curator Okada Mitsuji says: "We have selected old classics and out-of-print books in addition to currently popular works."

In the Japan Times article HERE, you can see people handling the manga. I thought this was a museum?!

Is it a museum or a library? This is only the museum's first months? What the heck will these books look like after a year? Two years? Replacing worn out-of-print manga is a bitch and an unnecessary expense.

Scan the books and sell and e-version of them - check with the publisher's and creators of course... and share the profits. 

Entrance costs are ¥400 ($5 Cdn/US) for adults, ¥200 for junior high and high school students and ¥100 for elementary school students. Uh... you can do the math for the other yen conversions, right geek?

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Candid Photos of Godzilla

You have to visit this site HERE for some very candid photos of my main lizard... Godzilla. Why does that sound dirty? Know what I mean? Nudge-nudge-wink-wink.

I love the shot of Godzilla playfully placed his heavily taloned claw on the bare shoulder of the pretty young starlet who probably had to get busy with the King of the Monsters later that evening after the photo shoot.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Gal Power

The first time I heard of Gal(s) was this afternoon, and the media that brought it to my attention offered a YouTube video of a Gal group from the near past called Yamamba.

I played about 30 seconds of it and was shocked - as these women were doing everything in their power, it seemed to me, to make themselves look stupidly unattractive.

But then I went to the actual news report - this one coming from BBC News, and I read and saw more of what the Gals were about.

There was even a short video (beware - Japanese Pop music is present) showing an attractive young mom doing her make-up and altering her fashion to become a Gal. See the BBC article and video HERE.

You know what? She looked great.

It leads me think just how sad it must be for women in Japan that simple act of applying make-up and some hip fashion sense is a reason for the media to stand up and take notice.

Some background.

Gal would be pronounced gyaru... which is a Katakana-Japanese way of saying 'girl'... just trust me.. is is the way the language works in Japan...

Apparently back in the mid1990s, some young women got it into their head that need not have to look like the typical Japanese female stereotype... no matter how much I enjoy that stereotype, I was always quite vocal in expression my wish that one day my students would be able to simple be... be themselves... and dress the way they want to dress... and be who they want to be... taking the better aspects of western civilization, while still hoping they maintain honor, dignity and respect.

The Look:

Gals  - regardless of the era, have over the past 20 years looked, acted and spoken in a manner that spits in the face of Japanese sensibilities. That's kewl.

We've had them too in the West. Flappers, Dames, Hippies, Valley Girls, Goths, (Grunge chicks are the same - to me - as Hippies, only there seems to be a whole lot less 'save the Earth' with the Grungie ones).

But... in Japan... the look revolves around young women wearing short skirts, massive heels and having big eyes. I have no idea what is wrong with this look.

Until you actually see how one crew, the Yamamda went a tad extreme.Ugh.


If you were to look at Gal power in the mid-90s, you might have though that these women are stupid, because they look ridiculous.

But, despite creating a look that seems extreme when set beside the prim and boring Japanese woman stereotype, Gals had guts. They had guts to stand up and say - "look at me". How wonderful is that? It's awesome.

Personally - that's how I feel, even though I don't like the look they created for themselves... but now in 2012, with the Gal movement still marching along, I saw these women and was impressed.

Although no where near as 'out there' as the Gals from the 1990s, the 21st century Gals - who look completely normal to me - are still considered 'out there' by Japan.

But at least the advertising community is realizing that there is a sub-movement of Gals who are married... young women with disposable income who want to look as hot as they did when they were young and single.

Known as Gal Mamas, they look and seem to think pretty normally - by Western standards... at least if you look at the photo below. I have no idea what she sounds like, but if dressing up, having some make-up on and feeling and looking pretty is a crime, then Gal Mamas are guilty.

Awazu Haruna(surname first) is a Gal mama - who looks pretty and fashionable.
Gal Mamas, like the Gals, like nice things. Show-offy type stuff. Look at the photo at the very top of this blog... I'm guessing that those may actually be Pa Gals... half girls is the definition, although they look a whole lotta hot stuff to me... girls who don't go all out crazy like the Gals... like in the Yamamba video above.

For any of you westernized women out there, Gals like fashion. They like shoes. They like bling. Probably very similar to you. Except Gals also want their eyes to look bigger... a bit more western... it's almost like they want to look less Japanese.

I can understand the need to stand out, but some Gals are - heavens to Betsy - daring to change their eye color with contact lenses. Big whoop. The whole female species does stuff like that all the time. Perfume to mask the pheromones. Eye shadow, mascara, false eyelashes, color nails, hair coloring... and if you want to go further, pierced ears, tattoos... all ways women (and men) change their appearance to either fit in, or to stand-out.

Brian help us all. Women who want to be individuals and with the disposable income to pull it off.

I mean... is there anything wrong with that?

The average woman in Japan tends to have clothes which are boring in my opinion. Yes, some have better fashion sense than others, but it seems as though as soon as they get married or hit the age of 30, they all dress more staid:

At least the shoes are nice...
According to Dentsu, the largest advertising agency in Japan, about 12 per cent of all women aged 18-34 are Gals.

I know that even the Japanese women I dated - despite the bondage sex or the wild animal sex, with them wearing some pretty hot lingerie for me - when they were at work, I really had to work hard to get hard... if you know what I mean. They dressed down. On purpose. So as not to stand out.

Japan has a famous saying: The nail that stands up - gets hammered down. It's why when I see some weird Japanese fashion or women dressing up in a way that's not traditional, I stand up (at attention) and applaud their balls. No... I should rephrase that... not 'balls'. Ugh. Rather, I applaud their courage for being an individual. Not a Japanese Gal... but a woman.

Having said that, apparently Gals do talk in a manner I don't really find all that attractive. But ya gotta start somewhere.   

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Japanese and American Astronauts Space Walk - LIVE

Here's a feed showing Japanese and American astronauts doing a spacewalk to do some minor repairs on the ISS - International Space Station

WALKIES

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Gojira - The Band

Just because.. here's a French speed metal band named Gojira... which, if you've been paying attention here, is how the Japanese say: Godzilla. The song is called From The Sky.


Despite the nice album cover, it's loud. Bloody loud.

I love the double bass on the drums. I have no ide how the drummer can keep it up. You know what I mean.  
Cheers
Andrew Joseph 

Japanese Invade North America! War Declared On Invasive Species!

Sounds pretty ominous, huh? It is to some folks, but despite my own concerns, I wonder if it is something to get too concerned about...

According to the latest environmental worries, several species of plant and marine animal have traversed the Pacific Ocean — but aren't there as part of some planned vacation. These travelers are looking to stay.

Holy immigration!

The story actually has a sad cause - the March 11, 2011 9.0 Magnitude earthquake and subsequent massive tsunami that along with people and animals uprooted a lot of debris from Japan and sent it drifting across the Pacific Ocean towards the left coast of the United States of America (and all parts in between).

It is guesstimated by people who like to guesstimate that about 1.5 million tons of debris are on the move, including: houses, cars, ships and even a dock or two, and they are not alone.

Apparently hitchhikers in the form of barnacles (aside from diego.a, does any reader here know what a barnacle looks like?), plankton, shellfish (mussels and clams) and algae are crossing the pond... a fact that has local scientists wondering if these invasive species could disrupt (IE wipe-out) marine eco-systems.  

A 165-tonne dock from Misawa, Japan - encrusted with barnacles - landed near Newport, Oregon, USA in June of 2012.

According to concerned, but unnamed US marine biologists mumbling to the media, 'several non-native species of starfish and algae appear to have survived its 5,000-mile journey.'

I'm going to step out on a limb and say, yes... there is a chance that these invasive creatures and plants could wipe out native ecosystems.

But here's something I don't get. Surely this isn't the first such instance of a tsunami carrying plant and animal life to another location... surely it has happened before?

And so what if this IS the FIRST time it has ever happened? Let me be harsh for a moment. Earthquakes causing tsunami is a natural-occurring event.

Therefore, a tsunami moving wildlife from Point A to Point B and all parts in between... well... that's a natural-occurring event also.

Should we be concerned that native habitats could be compromised and that some creatures could die out? Absolutely.

But, if you believe in Darwinism... this is all part of evolution - a kind of 'survival of the fittest' (I know Darwin talked of 'natural selection', but both kind of mean the same thing). Why should we get involved?

See that photo at the very top of a Sea Gull eating a starfish? Exactly. Survival of the fittest.

Oil spills, pollution, development... these are things that are not Mother Nature natural. 

Yes, the tsunami has caused a large number of species to invade the west coast of North America... and hitching a ride on a man-made object or not, we did not cause   the problem...


A 20-foot Japanese boat covered in barnacles washed ashore in Washington State, USA.

People can argue that these creatures would not have been able to cross if man had not provided the vehicle (via a car, dock, building, tickets on a boat), but who's to say that it wouldn't have come over anyway via fallen trees et al?

I'm just putting that out there as a thought. Of course we don't want to cause the sudden extinction of any creature, so obviously things need to be done to ensure these invasive species do not get a stranglehold out west.

Hey... let me also toss this out there... is it even remotely possible that some of the stronger earthquakes to hit Japan in the 1920s (Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923) or 1930s (1933 Sanriku Earthquake) could have disrupted the food chain which could have affected the food available to the Japanese River Otter? Yes, that critter ate damn near everything, but along with over-development of land and hunting, maybe its food supply was also affected.

Anyhow... invasive species are a pain. In Canada we have zebra mussels and scores of non-native plants choking out our native ones. Australia has Cane Toads from South and Central America, Australia also has a Japanese starfish that is decimating its scallop population.

As for California... San Francisco Bay is probably the most invaded place on the coast, with invading species almost completely displacing native species. There are almost 164 invasive species in San Francisco alone - mostly due to the shipping hubs that are the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California... where the species commonly invade.

So... if a place like San Francisco Bay is already invaded by non-native species... if these 'Japanese' species invaded, would it really be that be a big of a deal?

How do you stop the invasion? You don't... unless the U.S. populace or wildlife suddenly develops a taste for Japanese food ... then you'd probably over-fish it to extinction in the area.

It's worth a shot, because there is no government plan in affect to do anything about it - even if they could.

My plan to eat it into extinction could work. Algae, barnacles and plankton. Eat them up, yum. Fight the invaders! Eat a barnacle!

Cheers
Andrew Joseph  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Planting Rice in 1904

This past Tuesday, August 28, 2012, my wife and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. While things have been truly rocky for the past three years, we had a very nice night.

We had Japanese food (me with my rare una don - eel on rice) and some barbequed ikka (squid), she with a beef bento box with some mackerel sushi and tempura, miso soup and salad.

I bought her some expensive Canadian chocolates, she... she outdid herself... purchasing a set of bakelite Stori-view glasses and film... it's like a version of Viewmaster... plus a set of comedic magic lantern sterographic photo cards from 1908) with one additional card - seen above.

From the Notes of Travel, No. 8, copyright, 1904 by Underwood & Underwood, this is card #74 entitled: Ploughing flooded ground for rice-planting--north from main highway at Uji, near Kyoto, Japan.

Really. How cool is that?

Combining my love of history with my love of things Japanese with my love for knowledge and love for new hobbies - all in one 7.0-inch wide  x 3.5-inch high photo card.

For your edification, here is what the back of that card says:

This is the way the farmer begins working for a new crop of Japan's "staff of life". The ground must be made into soft mud, so this field is surrounded with a lower ridge like that you see yonder converting it into a sort of pan with low sides. Water was let into it from an irrigation canal a few weeks ago and the ground was thoroughly soaked. Now this peasant has harnessed his bull and is stirring up the muddy surface, turning under the stubble of the old crop and opening the soil to sun and air. The seed rice is sown in beds and will be transplanted in this field only after the delicate green shoots are a foot or more high. The flooding will be repeated at intervals during the growing season, for rice, you remember, is really an aquatic grass; the kind largely grown flourish best in water or soft mud. Only when the harvest is near will the ground be allowed to dry. the stalks are cut by hand with a sickle, men and women working together both in the reaping and threshing which follows.  The grain is the main food of the people hereabouts and the straw is all thriftily put to use, It makes mats like those you see yonder protecting choice tea-plants from the over-ardent sun; it makes thatched roofs for the farmhouses and sheds.
That large building at the end of the field is a tea store-house. Notice the ventilators up under the eaves of the tiled roof. This region is famous all over Europe and the East for the fine quality of the teas raised by small farmers. One kind, called "Jewelled Dew" brings eight dollars a pound. It is all picked carefully by hand, usually by women and young girls, and the curing is done over pans of charcoal.
The blue-and-white cotton towel or kerchief tied over that man's head is the customary wear of Japanese farmers when about to work.

Pretty interesting stuff, eh?

Since I lived in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan, I learned a bit about rice farming, as the city name literally translates to 'big-rice field-field'. There are a lot of rice fields in Ohtawara. A lot lot.

I can tell you that as of 1993 - 89 years after this stereographic card was made, aside from the use of a bull, rice farming techniques had not changed at all... and even now, I am unsure if farmers use a bull or not to till the ground.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph


 

Japan River Otter Declared Extinct

Well... here's some sad news... Japan's River Otter was officially declared extinct on August 28, 2012 by the Ministry of the Environment.

Known as Lutra lutra whiteleyi (日本川獺 Nihon-kawauso), the Japanese River Otter had not been sighted since 1979. 

A nocturnal mammal, the adult otter was 65 - 80 centimeters (25 - 31 inches) long, with a long tail measuring 45 - 50 centimeters (17 - 20 inches) and possessing a thick, dark brown fur that made it a target for hunters. 

While the exact cause of the Japanese River Otter's demise is not known, it was quite plentiful throughout Japan until the 1930s when numbers rapidly declined. Industrial evolution for land development, pollutants, over-hunting are all being blamed with a big nod towards human industry being thought of as the chief culprit.

Foraging for food after dark, the otter eat lots of fish, shrimps, crabs, eels, beetles, sweet potatoes and watermelons.

It had multiple nests (homes) under rocks and bushes, and would visit a different one every few days. Territorial, it would mark its 16-kilometer (10-mile) diameter area with feces droppings every few miles. It would also apparently urinate in an area to show that it was courting a female.

It's the urine and feces, however which causes Machida Yoshiko (surname first), a professor emeritus at Kochi University, to believe that the otter may still be alive.

Although no one has seen a Japanese River Otter since 1979 in Niyodagawa (Niyodo River) near Susaki-shi (Susaki City), Kochi-ken (Kochi Prefecture)—see You Tube video below—he says there was a confirmed case of otter poop back in 1999.


"There was a case of otter droppings being confirmed in 1999. I think it is possible that they still exist, and I want to continue my investigations," he offers.

In fact, back in December of 1991, the prefectural government of Kochi-ken and Japan's environment agency searched Kochi-ken and not only found otter fur, but found three otter footprints and 10 poo samples. They did analyze the hair, and it did indeed come from a Japanese River Otter.
So visual proof of an otter or not, it appears as though the Japanese River Otter still existed at least into 1991. No sh!t. And that's the straight poop.  So Professor Machida may have a point.  

More poop was found in 1994 - along with the urine. Hoping to capture the otter on film, Kochi-ken's government set-up an infra-red camera (just a single one) in the area, but aside from some tanuki raccoon dogs - nothing.  That was for a six month-period between October 1994 - April 1995.

But do you really need visual proof to know it is extinct? I've never been to Australia or seen Australia, but I'm pretty sure it exists because there is other physical proof. I once saw an Australian woman urinate after we performed some courting ritual. 

Pee-pee jokes aside, and extinct or not, it's a crying shame this poor creature (and others on the Endangered list) even got to this point.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Zombie Cola

Okay... you've seen the photo... complete with a McDonald's logo on it advertising a drink only a zombie or perhaps a ghoul could love.

Flesh drink.

Very funny... but is it real? No one is saying, one way or the other... in fact, this photo is being spread around with the implication that it's the real thing.   

Now... while it is true that the Japanese often screw up the 'L' and 'R' (there is no 'L' in the Japanese alphabets), we are talking about McDonald's Japan. This is a frickin' big company... and despite that logo with the golden arches on it... have you ever seen a drink dispenser at McDonald's that looked like this one?

I haven't. It's why I have my doubts as to its veracity.

It's cheap. It's plastic. It's orange. It has some Japanese written on it. It serves one drink. Maybe it serves skin milk, but why put it in an orange container then? 

It's someone with a crappy plastic dispenser and the ability to utilize PhotoShop.

So... while I use this image to create a blog (and to some extent capitalize on it), you should always be careful about what's real and not real on the Internet.

Of course, I could be wrong about the photo...

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hotel Parking Lot's 10 Meter Plunge

I admit to not being the best backer-upper in the world, but I've never hit anyone or anything with my car.

I'm certainly not as troubled as these poor folks who were in a car that plunged 10 meters from the parking lot of a Tokyo hotel injuring three. Full story from the Japan Times HERE.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph


LEGO: Godzilla

Sometimes bigger isn't always better. I thought I would try building a miniature LEGO scene, involving a few miniature scale versions of buildings and a normal-sized minifig (mini figurine) of Godzilla stomping through it.

The entire diorama is: 5-inches (12.7 centimeters)  long by 2.5-inches (6.35 centimeters) deep and 3.5-inches (8.89 centimeters) high at the tallest point of one of the buildings.

The main reason for this is that I like LEGO and I like Godzilla and if I was to make a LEGO-scale city and Godzilla it would not only take weeks to build a city - and hope like heck I have enough scale pieces (I don't) and then try and create a LEGO monster-sized Godzilla.

While I am sure there are plenty of LEGO enthusiasts out there who have a large number of dark green LEGO pieces to build his scaly hide, I do not. I am also sure I lack the patience to build a replica that looks enough like the mythical monster - so I got small.

Using a LEGO minifig from Series 5 of the mystery packs - featuring a man in a lizard suit costume, I built a version of Tokyo on fire. No... the buildings are not representative of actual buildings, but I did decide to toss in a toppling tower awash in flames.

I added a few other flaming buildings and voila... Oh yeah... I also added a blue flame to the mouth of the Godzilla creature - which was a pain in the butt to add, as it just wasn't wide enough... but if you force it, it works.

As an added bonus, behind the rampaging king of the monsters, there are four squashed cars (three of them white!), demoslished and buildings on fire. There is a tiny red temple in the scene that is as of yet untouched by his radioactive reptilian royal highness.

I purposely tries to take a photo or two that shows the eyes of the actor in the Godzilla suit. 

I tried to blow some smoke onto the scene, but it wouldn't take in the photo. I need a faster shuttered camera. I did monkey-around with the colors quite a bit to create a city awash in smoke and fire.

Whatever... hope it amuses you.

Click HERE for views of my other large-scale LEGO dioramas. Including the blog it takes you to, there's a link at the very bottom for the other dioramas.   

Godzilla knocks down a tower after stomping several white cars flat.
Look into Godzilla's (and the guy in the suit's) eyes - he loves his work!
Mayhem!
Thanks to a - a phosphorous bomb - from Japan's Defense Force, everything looks blurry.
My son has recommended another diorama for me to build... so more in a few weeks!

Cheers
Andrew Joseph


Holy Crap! Pit Stop Fuels Motorcycle

Say what you want about Japan, it takes a lot of crap for its inventions, but sometimes they work!

TOTO, considered one of Japan's top bottom toilet manufacturers has created an eco-friendly motorcycle that runs on poop.

Everybody poops. No sh!t, eh. And everybody (not really) wants environmentally-friendly vehicles to drive around, so one TOTO has built the first 250cc motorcycle - Neo, a three-wheeler, in fact - that runs on excrement, that it hopes will flush away the competition.

Check out the photo above showing TOTO employee Matsuyama Akikio (surname first) demonstrating the Neo (photo by AP/Koji Sasahara). Despite having a toilet seat as the seat for a rider, the rider is not expected to eat bowls of chilli to power the bike!

Nope... it takes a special kind of poop to power the bike, as the Neo's engine is powered from a biofuel made from livestock excrement (fertilized, purified and compressed) and and household wastewater that actually comes from two different locales: Kobe-shi out west and Shika-oi town up north in Hokkaido.

Originally when talk of this bike surfaced back in September of 2011, it was thought that human waste would be used as a biofuel. It is... just not the excrement. 

So, in fact, the toilet seat is just part of the schtick - made to ensure we all know it's a toilet motorcycle - it's just there for show. In fact... the whole motorcyle was built to show off TOTO's environmental responsibilities, with the company stating it is not involved in any biofuel or motorcycle manufacturing business. 

Though Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife assumes it takes a special type of rider to proudly show that he's riding a porta-potty.

Here's a You Tube ad showing the bike.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Japan Wins Little League World Series

The Toronto Star has a decent enough article on Japan (Tokyo) defeating the USA (Tennessee) in the 2012 Little League World Series by a score of 12-2.

Read up on it HERE.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Hello Kitty Mega Blocks

I admit it. I like Hello Kitty. It's not something I am going to go out of my way to actually search for new collectibles, but every once in a while I will purchase something that seems so out of character for myself that it amuses me.

I'm a big, nasty son of a bitch who looks like a man who likes women - a lot. And I do. I also have that kid's side: goofy, lovable, troublemaker who like cartoons and peanut M&M's. I am also have that feminine side that has me constantly squeezing my own breasts, but really, I also have a soft spot for a few girlie things.

Well... one girlie thing, actually. Yes.. Hello Kitty... but being a tough guy, no one gives me any grief over it knowing that my acerbic wit will cut them down no contest. It would be like a battle of wits against an unarmed opponent. That and the fact I have no problem getting in an old-fashioned dust-up, gladly taking two to get one in.

Or that's all bullcrap. I have a Hello Kitty ruler. A Hello Kitty Pez dispenser that doubles as a key chain for my SAAB (may it rust it pieces) and now Hello Kitty Mega Blocks.

Manufactured by Mega Brands Inc. of Montreal, Canada, this small seven-piece Mega Blocks building set is the exact same shape and size as LEGO - but these guys have some cool licenses, like Hello Kitty, World of Warcraft, Halo, Smurfs and the Power Rangers.

Although the reverse of the package shows a total of four different Hello Kitty vistas: Birthday, Beach (Sailor), Bakery, Rainy Day, I  did see a fifth one: Music, where she had a trumpet in her hand. How a cat with no mouth can buzz into a trumpet, I'll never know, but I suppose she's magic.

I did do some further research and noticed there is also: Math, Gymnastics, Cheerleader, Graduation, and more... larger sets, like her house, the library, etc.  

I obviously purchased Birthday on the recommendation of my son, as the balloon was something we figured we could further use in our LEGO creations. In the photo at the very top, I also added the birthday package made of LEGO, because it's a birthday party, and while it's good to have balloons and cake, you really should have presents!

Fun stuff for $4.99 even though only the over-sized head is the only thing that really moves on the Hello Kitty minifigure.

Cheers,
Andrew 'don't judge me' Joseph  

Tastes Like A Double-ended Dildo


Just watch the commercial.

I have no idea what to say to this.

Andrew Joseph

Donkey Kong Jenga

I haven't been cool in years - if ever.

So you would think that being nerdy and uncool I would have been informed of a combination of games that, I, a nerd, would find enjoyable.

So... imagine my surprise when I went to Toys R Us with  my son to purchase some Pokemon cards (for him, not me, although I suppose I could be nerdy enough to buy my own pack), when I spied a 'board' game that made me go: WTF?!

I was looking for (and purchased) the game of Mousetrap, something I had wanted since the 1970s... and now with my son in tow, I don't feel too nerdy to buy it.

Anyhow... there on the games shelves at the store I once worked for... the board game wall was my section - I alphabetized it - in those days, companies did not pay for premium store shelve visibility - or if they did, I wasn't aware of that as I did my own thing over the ensuing weeks...

uh... there on the games shelves where I once worked was something called Donkey Kong Jenga. Really? WTF?

I picked it up, glanced at in shock and dismay and wondered just how the hell it played and wondered still who the hell would want to play it. I may be a nerd, but I've still found time to play a lot of sports and satisfy a lot of women (so I hear)...

Background time:
Donkey Kong: video game created in 1991 by Nintendo. One of the most popular video games ever, that spawned a LEGO diorama from myself some 31 years later (HERE) and that whole Mario video game stuff you might have heard of. In the Donkey Kong game, you maneuver Mario up a partially constructed building (three different boards) to try and rescue "Princess" from a large ape who has taken her (a la King Kong). He rolls barrels down at you to try and halt your progress while you tr and either get to the top or knock out struts to cause the building to collapse. You can win, but you start up again with the first board having to rescue her again. 

In Jenga, a game created in 1983, players take turns removing blocks from a wooden tower and re-stacking them, with the loser being the one who causes the tower to collapse. No one wins, but one person loses. 

Fast-forward to 2008 (or re-wind to 2008 if you are reading this in 2012 or later... an if you are reading this earlier, let's meet, as you have obviously conquered time travel and I want to invest!)... and Jenga (manufactured by Parker Brothers, a division of Hasbro) has been married to Donkey Kong.

That's what that photo up above is: Donkey Kong Jenga.

The game consists of four Mario characters (your player pieces), one Donkey Kong and Pauline (formerly Princess) piece to perch atop the construct, 54 blocks (now called girders) which have holes in them so your Mario can climb, one spinner and one plastic block stacker for easy building.  

Nerd history fact: 
Pauline is actually Mario's first girlfriend from the Nintendo Donkey Kong video game. It was only when he went into Nintendo MarioWorld home video game that he met Princess 'Toadstool' Peach.

In Donkey Kong Jenga, you win by getting your Mario piece to the top of the tower first to save the Princess. However, should the tower collapse before anyone reaches the top, the highest Mario at the time of topple wins. Unless, of course, that Mario caused the tower to topple, in which case the second highest Mario wins.

Nerd history fact 2: 
In the original Donkey Kong video game, it would ask the player : How High Can You Get?

I've seen guys get pretty high as they played this game. Sometimes it was hashish, sometimes LSD, other times marijuana.

I admit that I did not buy this game. My wife is not interested in board games unless it is Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit, with me only having a chance in Scrabble, as I tend to get lost in geography and social media crap, believe it or not. I did enjoy playing Mousetrap, however. I waited 40+ years to lose my first ever game of it to my son. We played two more games, this time with the prize being television time. I won both times - that means 60 fewer minutes of kid's shows. I relented, of course, what with not wanting to encourage gambling/betting, or being a mean old fuddy-duddy. Also, I really wanted to watch the cartoons.


Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Simpson's: Japanese Couch Gag

I was watching a re-run of the 500th episode of The Simpson's television show this afternoon with my son. At the beginning of the show where they usually do a skit called 'The Couch Gag", this time they showed off all of the couch gags - snippets, some lasting no more than half-a second or so it appeared.

My son asked me to slow it down and watch it frame by frame, as he wanted to see the LEGO version of the Simpson's - which I admit to wanting to see as well.

So... we watched frame by frame every single one of these gags - or rather their 'punch line', when I suddenly saw one where Homer was dressed up as Ultraman!

A bit of research shows that this episode was from either 2008 and 2009. I did say 'a bit' of research.

For those of you who need to know: 
Homer: 
Ultraman (ウルトラマン Urutoraman) a live-action Japanese television show that began in 1966.

Marge: 
Swan Jun, ((科学忍者隊ガッチャマン Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman) from the anime Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (also known as Gatchaman, G-Force or Battle of the Planets).

Bart:  
Astro Boy(鉄腕アトム Tetsuwan Atomu, lit. "Iron Arm Atom") was first a Japanese manga (comic book) from 1952 and a anime (cartoon) in 1963.


Lisa:
Sailor Moon (美少女戦士セーラームーン,  Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon, officially translated Pretty Soldier Sailormoon) was a Japanese comic book (1991) and then an animated cartoon series (1992). 


Maggie:
Pikachu, an electric mouse from the animated show called Pokemon ポケモン which was changed from the Poketto Monsutā (ポケットモンスター  or Pocket Monsters)
 
Now, the title of this You Tube clip calls it 'Simpsons Anime Sofa', but I wonder.  As mentioned, Homer's Ultraman was a live-action show. I know... I watched it (reruns) back in 1971. I still have vivid memories of my friend Umberto and I pretending we were Ultraman and a monster fighting each other on his family's front porch.

When ever I needed a laugh at one of the seven junior high schools I taught at in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, I would either sing the theme song to Ultraman-7 or do a pose from the original Ultraman show:
Always got a laugh, because my nose is much bigger than Ultraman's.

A final note... the Japanese writing on the bench/couch the Simpson's sit on says:   シンプソンズ, which translates to Shinpusonzu, which is how the Japanese would say Simpson's. Mt. Fuji, is of course, in the background. That's how you really know The Simpson's are in Japan.

Thank-you Simpson's for the memories.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia

For that geek who needs to know everything about everything (sounds like me!), the good folks over at Dark Horse Comics (I love Dark Horse!) have partnered up with Nintendo to produce a book - a collection of everything you need to know about The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia.

Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife assumes it doesn't offer clues on how to defeat each game, but it does come chock full of never-before-seen concept art, the full history of Hyrule (the place is made-up, so we will assume the history is, too), the official chronology of the games, and much more!

There's even an introduction by Miyamoto Shigeru (surname first) who created the Zelda video game series, along with Donkey Kong,  and other great games, and apparently the whole Wii thing.

For those of you who love Miyamoto's genius, you should know that the whole The Legend of Zelda games was inspired by his childhood exploration of the hills near his home in the town of Sonobe, in Kyoto-ken, Japan. He used to wander about the forests, secluded lakes, caves and rural villages - in fact, he has said one of his best experiences was when he discovered a cave entrance in the middle of the woods. 

After some hesitation - hesitation is good! There could be bats or bears or vampires! - he entered and wandered about with a lantern. Maybe they mean flashlight. Maybe.

And that's what Zelda is all about... exploration... adventure... discovery... each game a miniature garden for the player to escape into.

I've played The Ocharina Of Time (the only Zelda game I've played, in fact), and it was bloody fantastic. I can't even recall if I beat it... I think I reached a point and the 100 hours spent made my brain crumble.

Anyhow... Zelda is the name of the princess the hero Link is trying to help. Miyamoto decided on the name after once hearing that F. Scot Fitzgerald (Great Gatsby writer amongst others) was married to a Zelda. Miyamoto felt that the name was both 'pleasant and significant'.


The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia book contains lots of information about the history of Link’s adventures from the creators themselves! As a bonus, The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia includes an exclusive comic by the foremost creator of The Legend of Zelda manga—Akira Himekawa.

According to Wikipedia, as of December 2011, The Legend of Zelda franchise has sold 67.93 million copies since the release of the first game, with the original game - the Legend of Zelda being the fourth-best selling NES game of all time.

The Legend of Zelda franchise was also the inaugural recipient of Spike TV's first ever Video Game Hall of Fame award. I can't believe I actually watched the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards and know this fact.

More information on the book can be found HERE

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Cheeky Toyota Ad Turning Heads

Check out the Toyota car ad for the 2012 Auris, aka Corolla.

Go ahead and watch it...  I'll continue after...


Pretty ballsy, eh?

Topless woman in the ad - small-breasted, but she looks hot, right?

Only she's a he.

Meet Stav Strashko, a 19-year-old model who happens to be transgender. His face looks decidedly feminine, eh?

What does being transgender mean? I'll be damned if I can figure it out even after reading the explanation, but whatever. To each his or her own. TRANSGENDER.

It's funny - read some of the comments under the video and people are disgusted by a man who acts and looks like a woman. Why? In this case I think it's because they got fooled by Toyota... and while I have no problems with the ad or Stav, people don't like to be made a fool of.

Anyhow, just like with any car, it's what's under the hood that counts. It's a friggin' Corolla/Auris. It's a bottom-of-the-line car which doesn't have a bottom half as nice as Stav. Or me, for that matter. I didn't spend all those years playing soccer and spending 12-15 hours a week at a gym to not have a great hatchback.

Whatever. It's a good shocking ad that will make you wonder just what the hell the ad was actually for. You'll pay attention the second time.

My only problem with the ad is that the shock value is so high that people aren't paying any attention to the car. Then again... it's a Corolla/Auris. Maybe that's a good thing.

I've owned two top-of-the-line Toyota Camry wagons - and once had to rent a Corolla. It was like driving a kid's peddle car in comparison. Not impressed.    

However, should you be curious (not bi-curious, though that's okay, too), check out Stav's website HERE.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, August 23, 2012

LEGO: Donkey Kong


When the Nintendo stand-up coin-up video game of Donkey Kong first hit the arcades in 1981, I was there.

Like a bad hotel I was throwing away good dollars for poor quarters. Dropping away $0.25 of my life away for first five, 10, then 30-minutes of pleasure. It was addictive. I had a monkey on my back.

A few weeks later it came around to my local convenience store - yes, many convenience stores in Canada featured one or two stand-up coin-op video games - rotated in and out every couple of months depending on popularity.


It was a popular game in my neck of the woods... as I taught many of the other kids the old quarter on a string technique to fish for free credits... or simply got so good that I would often have to walk away after an hour of playing on a single credit, and having 98 others in the machine - selling them to some kid for a 'discount'. It helped finance my comic book purchases. It's why the game only lasted three months at 'my' store.
I know... the resemblance is uncanny to MY version!

Anyhow... Donkey Kong is one of the most popular video game series of all-time, featuring a large gorilla called 'Donkey Kong', created by Miyamoto Shigeru (surname first). IN this game that first introduced us to Mario (Luigi first appeared in Donkey Kong III, I believe), a carpenter - or at least a construction worker in red overalls who looked Italian to everyone who played the game.  The name 'Mario' also lent some credence to that fact.

In this game,  there are three separate boards... in each you climb steel girders and ladders to get to the top to try and rescue a woman kidnapped by a large gorilla (think King Kong), all the while avoiding certain death by the fast-rolling barrels propelled down at you by the ape.

Every once in a while (no more than two per board, I believe), a hammer would appear, which you could grab to smash the barrels (but not the moving flames!)... otherwise you had to jump the barrels or climb up ladders to avoid them, all the while keeping in mind that the barrels could sudden;y change their direction along the downward sloping girders and move down a ladder at you. 

At the third and final board, you are at the top of the building, and you have to remove the steel struts all over the place to cause the building to collapse upon itself. You get the girl, but then you get to do it all over again.

Donkey Kong... ever wonder how they came up with the weird-ass name for the game?

Apparently the Japanese born and bred Miyamoto mistakenly thought that the English word "donkey" was equivalent to "stupid" and that the name Donkey Kong would also mean Stupid Ape (ala King Kong) to the American/Canadian audiences.

When Miyamoto was up in front of the folks at Nintendo of America, they laughed their donkey asses off... and yet the name stuck. Miyamoto is now considered to be the guy who made Nintendo the power that it is. No one knows what happened to those donkey Americans who laughed at him in 1981.

Baka Kongu.

Baka, by the way, means 'stupid'. Kongu = Kong. Maybe next time you want to create something using English,  talk to a respected or respectable English source. A professor, a native speaker, or a junior high school student taught by me!

Anyhow, to celebrate my boredom, last night while driving home an idea hit me like a barrel of monkeys.

Hey! A Barrel of Monkeys! Now I get why that donkey ape is tossing barrels down at the Italian-American gentleman! Seriously! Just NOW! Thirty-one years later!!

I decided to create a LEGO diorama using a Japanese motif. Instead of a construction site, I used the temple atop the small mountain I built a few months ago. I had a LEGO minifig of a man inside a gorilla suit, and a Geisha minifig to act as the femme fatale, all I needed was a Japanese version of Mario whom I now call Suzuki-san.

Strange as it sounds, the most fun for me was trying to create an over-sized hammed for Suzuki-san to use as a bonus pick-up to help smash barrels.


Anyhow... enjoy the game: 

Meet Suzuki-san. Just that. No other name is offered. He is Japanese. You wouldn't understand, gaijin-san.

Donkey monkey! Your empty barrels of pain will not stop the great Suzuki-san. I jump for joy at your pain and suffering. Ha-ha-haaaa!

Kuso yarou... tell my wife, Suzuki-san (no first name given), that I respect the way she pays the household bills.

Stop. . . Hammer time! Go with the flow. It is said that if you can't groove to this,
then you probably are dead...

Sumimasen, Kongu-san. Please to release honorable boss man's attractive daughter from your damn dirty ape hands.

You escape my grasp! Now I shall have to work more overtime. Thank you for that opportunity, Kongu-san!
Baka Kongu beats his chest in triumph at having caused more work for his Japanese compatriot while getting off scott-free to...

... to sleep with the pretty Japanese girl. Oh my god-do! Baku Kongu is a gaijin! Hora! Gaijin-da!

For a look at my other 11 dioramas, click HERE and then click away on the attached links.


Hand-cuffed together, we can see the real reason why DK wanted the Japanese babe! It was a gaijin (foreigner) in a monkey suit! Baka-da!

Cheers

Andrew Joseph

Japanese Junior High School Students Biggest Bullies

Perhaps that headline should be amended to read: ... Japanese junior high school students biggest bullies to get caught.The photo shows a different type of bull-y.

According to figures released earlier this month by the National Police Agency, 80 per cent of all of the students charged with bullying AT school in the first half of 2012, were junior high school students.

A total of 125 students - primary, junior and high-school - were charged, which is an increase by 38 of the 87 charged from 2011 figures for the same period of January through June.

These numbers are for students actually taken into police custody, arrested, or given warnings by the police:

Primary School (Grades 1-6):         9 students;
Junior High School (Grades 7-9):    103 students;
High School (Grades 10-12):         13 students.

While figures given did not reflect gender, of all students involved, 118 were categorized by police as bullies; 7 were classified as victims taking revenge.

Other facts based on this data:
61 students (51.7%) were charged on suspicion of inflicting injury;
19 students were charged with extortion or blackmail;
16 students charged with assault;
7 students charged with forced sexual contact.

Of the 47 prefectures, Akita-ken had the most offenders, the better police enforcement, or better luck at getting kids to admit they are being bullied.

I'm actually surprised that these overall numbers are not higher. As with any instances of bullying, it's what you don't see is what's disturbing.

I was bullied through high school. My parents had no clue. Other students did. Some participated, others ignored it. Teachers must have seen it, but chose to look blindly away. And so it continued. Until I got big enough to stand-up for myself. And thus by opposing, end them.

And how bad would it have been had I lived somewhere where weapons were readily available? I wasn't violent then, but I sure wanted to kill every single last person who taunted me.

What is worse? Doing the bullying or not doing something about it? In my opinion - very little. Shared guilt by association and disassociation.

I'm not naive enough to suggest that bullying did not exist while I was a junior high school English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan back in the early 1990s. I may legitimately not have seen it.

Trust me. As someone who has been bullied, and has the confidence and attitude and the physical strength to do something about it, I would have stepped in. But I never saw it.

I do know that all seven of my schools selected classroom leaders who were expected and trusted by the teachers and fellow students to keep everyone on the up and up... to ensure that everyone behaves the way they are expected to behave... though I believe that failed miserably at one school - Kaneda Kita Chu - though there were enough great students there to have some hope, as I frequently saw quiet kids 'lose it' and tell the troublemakers to behave. It was sad but inspiring.

Being bullied... changes you. For the worse, for the better and sometimes for both. For every kid that gets bullied and then seeks his or her revenge - a part of me wants to shout with glee.

But I don't and I can't. Violence begets violence. Forgive but don't forget. And move-on. You can be damn sure that any person who has bullied or wronged another - they rarely ever go back and think about what they have done. The victims... they tend to wallow in their own misery until they do something about it... whether that means revenge, therapy, forgiveness, forgetting about it and living or death, or other things that people do to cope ...

Only 125 charges, huh? You have to start somewhere, I suppose.

The fact that the middle school kids were the chief culprits is also little surprise. Hormones. Just becoming teenagers. Everything's crazy. That's not an excuse for their behavior, just something to keep in mind should you worry that the Japanese junior high school system is going down the Western-style toilet.

It's not. Kids are bombarded with violent images all the time - more so with things readily available and more available - with the Internet, social media, television, movies, manga et al. It's immaturity. Some kids are just better able to control themselves than others. That doesn't excuse their behavior, though.

Oh... and for my friends in Tochigi-ken... they were ranked 34th in trouble-makers.

You can see a Japanese-language You Tube video below that shows the ranking of each of the 47 prefectures.



Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Your Ass Is Grass And I'm The Lawnmower

I've always wanted to say that.

In real life, situations where you can say that and not look like a complete douche bag are extremely rare. It's funny the first time you hear about it, though.

I must be one stupid glutton for punishment. After writing so many nice things about Honda, then getting snubbed, and then getting an apology, I thought I would just stay away from the company... but dammit! They make some damn interesting items.

Take, for example, their new robot that mows lawns... or rather their new robotic lawnmower.  

Meet Miimo. If you look at the photo... Miimo is NOT the humanoid looking one. It's the one that looks like a robotic vaccum cleaner. 

I'm not even so sure what is so original about this robotic lawn boy. I've seen similar looking ones previously.... in fact, I saw one recently on Storage Wars that did such a poor job of cutting the grass at a cemetery, the owner borrowed an excavator and ran it over until it was unrecognizable.   

Anyhow... the Honda Motor Co. finally has its first product for the home packed with its prized robotics technology—a sensor-equipped lawn mower.

Targeting 4,000 units per year, Miimo goes on sale next year in Europe, where spacious lawns are often enclosed by gates.

To be sold between 2100 - 2500 (¥240,000 or ~Cdn $3,000), Miimo looks similar in design to iRobot Corp.’s Roomba vacuum cleaner - although Miimo is supposed to be able to continuously shaves about three millimeters (0.12 inches) off the grass as it manoeuvers about the lawn.

And no... it won't be able to break any Greecian urns (What's a Greecian urn? In that economy - not much!), nor will it wander off. It will recharge itself so you don't have too. It also won't get you a beer, so we are unsure why you need this.

By the way... that humanoid robot? That's Asimo... another useless toy 'bot. Oh well... perhaps when Skynet is activated, silly little toy robots will be coming terminating killing  'bots who really will turn your ass to mulch.

In the mean time... my own electrical lawnmower gave up the ghost this past weekend... and not only can I not afford to get a new one, get it fixed or buy a robotic lawnmower, I can't even pay some snot-nosed punk to cut the grass for me.

What's more annoying is that I used to cut everyone's lawn in this neighborhood, and was the oldest teenager on the block well into my 30s.  People used to pay me in pie, cookies or simple thanks, which was enough to sustain me back then.

Hee... Asimo... and the grass cutting-cutting robot. Ass-e-mo...  

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

LEGO: Gaijin Take Over The Japanese Dance Club

I guess I create LEGO dioramas when I'm stressed - which I appear to be lately. I show no other outward signs - except being snappish at home.

I have no idea why I create what I create... sometimes the medium presents the answers... On Saturday last, I picked up a bunch of transparent blue round bits of LEGO - for no other reason than transparent pieces are a tough one to find... and electric blue like the ones I bought.... well, I had never seen that color before. I also bought a bunch of bubblegum pink bricks, but haven't done anything with them yet. Along with that, I bought some transparent purple cones. Just because I had never seen those colors before. 

When I was a kid, it was yellow, red, blue, black and white. And, I never played with LEGO. My escape then was sports (playing), music (playing brass woodwinds and keyboards), television, comic books and when it became available, video games.  

Now it's sports (watching), television, music (listening) and LEGO. Oh yeah, and writing. Women, too, I suppose.

Anyhow... I just started putting together the pieces without any plan... and then decided to build a transparent wall. Then I decided to either make a church or a bar. Then I thought about making the floor transparent... because I thought making stained glass patterns of the Stations of the Cross to be insane... and then I remembered I had a singer and guitarist minifig.

Then it was a bar.

That's what the photos are. But how to make it so I can show it off in this blog? It should have something Japanese about it. And then I remembered that no matter what Japan is... there are a butt-load of foreigners there. Gaijin.

It seems that whenever a bunch of gaigin (foreigners) gather anywhere in Japan... they take it over. It's not that the foreigners go to Japan to hang-out with other foreigners. We don't. Ask Noboko or Junko. Ask Matthew who married Takako. We don't just go there for the sex (though that was pretty good). We go there/Japan to better ourselves. The successful ones do better themselves.

Whether it's guys like Peter Able who questions himself about why he's not a good enough teacher - the point is, he questions himself and tries to get better. By questioning, he betters himself.

I always had a lot of questions about Japan, and as such, I bettered myself. Japan helped me grow up. You might question that considering I love watching cartoons, reading comic books and building LEGO... but it all help me be more creative... because I watch, extrapolate and apply.

I've had about 25 comic book stories published, and written nearly 1,400 blogs about Japan, and another 100+ from the other two blogs I write less frequently, plus the 200 or so magazine articles I have written, 1,000 pieces I have posted on the web for work, 200 odd stories for my brief jaunt as a newspaper reporter, and the 200+ short stories I have written.

I like to create. I need to create. Even when stressed, I realize that my best outlet is to create. I write all day. I write these blogs... so sometimes I need another outlet. That's where LEGO comes in, because you can only masturbate so many times.

Which brings me to this current LEGO creation. Sometimes in Japan... when you are a gaijin, you just need to hang out with a bunch of other gaijin and let loose.

This diorama is a small example of what happens when gaijin get together in downtown Tokyo or Osaka or Utsunomiya or wherever. They take over the place.

If Pink Floyd would forgive me, I would call this diorama: Several Species Of Small Furry Gaijin Gathered Together In A Bar And Grooving With A Brick. But they wouldn't.

If you know Pink Floyd, you would know that song from the Ummagumma album - it has always been one of my favorite ways to listen and relieve stress. If you collect records, you want the version with the GIGI poster leaning against the wall above the band's name.     

Anyhow... here's a list of some of the other LEGO dioramas I have built...
LEGO DIORAMA 1
LEGO DIORAMA 2
LEGO DIORAMA 3
LEGO DIORAMA 4
LEGO DIORAMA 5
LEGO DIORAMA 6
LEGO DIORAMA 7
LEGO DIORAMA 8
LEGO DIORAMA 9
LEGO DIORAMA 10

And here's a look at what happens when gaijin take over a Japanese dance club... a whole lotta ummagumma:
I have no idea why the waiter is in a gorilla suit delivering a pie...
There's always a drunk sailor trying to get a lei...
Cool Japanese bar staff; women dancing with their skirts coming down - paaaarrrrrtttyyy!
I always enjoyed a Kamikaze! It went down quickly. Plus an ostrich leg for a snack.
Mike Rogers of The Rotters is singing... and everybody dances because they don't understand he hates them. Kidding.
Some idiot always tries to pay the bar tab with American money.
Hope you all enjoyed the show. Visit Marketing Japan for a look at what Mike Rogers is up to lately. And come back here again to see what other stuff I can come up with to entertain us all.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
PS: Of course, as Mike reminded me months ago... it's my damn blog and I can post whatever I want to post. Thanks, buddy!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Unagi - A Slippery Eel In Decline

Perhaps my favorite Japanese food is eel - unagi eel (freshwater eel).

I eat it in the kabayaki style which involves the eel (it's a fish) split down the back or belly, gutted, boned, butterflied and then cut into four-inch long sections, skewered, dipped in a heavenly sweet soy sauce and then grilled.  It's then served in a bowl of steaming white Japanese rice.

If you listen to the Japanese, eating eel is good for the getting up of the old penis. I think people say that for any food which is long like a penis, but who knows... I've never had a problem, and I eat a lot of eel.

In fact, once a week, I eat eel sushi for lunch and I must admit to staring at the women at work a lot... though, come to think of it, I do that on days when I don't eat eel, too.

My love of eel, notwithstanding, I recently came across an article in the Japan Times (August 2, 2012) that discussed how eel eating seems to be on the decline in Japan.

Yikes! Could that mean that men aren't getting it up? Could it mean a decline in the birth rate in Japan? That's probably already happening, but let's not blame the lack of eel.

Restaurants in Japan used to serve wild eel a lot, but the costs started going up about 10 years ago, and the quality became hit and miss. About five years ago, Izumoya, a very well-known eel restaurant in Tokyo's Nihonbashi area stopped serving it. What? An eel restaurant not serving eel? They had been since 1946, but rest assured you can still get eel there - the farmed variety.

I have had farmed salmon... and let me tell you, its flavor is vastly less superior than the wild version. In Japan, I had a 20-lb farmed Rainbow Trout that my friend Dr. Michael Hutchison (Hi Michael!) gave me when she showed me around the facility in Nikko, Tochigi-ken, Japan. Tasty... but still not as flavorful as the wild fish.

So... of course... I am worried that thanks to costs, people are not getting as tasty an unagi as they should be getting.     

Japan consumes about 70 percent of the global eel catch.

All over Japan,  about 50 other eel restaurants have closed up shop - in 2012, alone! It's the high cost of the eel that is being blamed - that and the fact that sales are down owing to the reluctance of the Japanese consumer not wanting to pay higher prices.

The article notes that the according to the Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, wholesale eel prices averaged ¥4,718 per kilogram in June 2012 - which is NOT even the peak season for eating eel. This price is nearly 40 per cent higher than it was in 2011.

Why have the prices increased so much? 

That's because it appears as though the number of wild adult and juvenile eels is shrinking.   

According to Seafood Watch, a sustainable seafood advisory group, they have recommended not eating eel to preserve the population. 

The shrinking of the eel population is not new. It's been going on for the past 50 year - take for example the European eel which has seen a decline in its numbers by 80 per cent since the 1960s.
Japanese eel

How many of you are aware that in the United Kingdom 700 years ago, eel was so common a fish that it was used in pies sold on the cheap to whomever had a copper. In fact, a 2009 report noted that the eel population in the famous Thames River in London showed a drop off of 98 percent in the five years previous. The European eel and flounders were the first species to re-colonize the Thames after being considered "biologically dead" in the 1960s.

It can't be simply overfishing. There must be something else.

Wild eels live up to 22 years... and only spawn just before they die...

According to a Wikipedia entry, 90 per cent of freshwater eel consumed in the U.S. is farm-raised but is not bred in captivity. Rather young eels are collected from the wild and then raised in various enclosures.  Unfortunately, this also has a downside, as eels farmed in this manner live in en farmed in open net pens which allow parasites, waste products and diseases to flow directly back into wild eel habitat, further threatening wild populations. Wikipedia also notes that freshwater eels are carnivores (meat eaters) and are fed other wild-caught fish, the quality of which can affect current eel farming practices.

So... with eel stock down, nay, depleted, the US government is considering listing the American eels as an endangered species - which is already in effect in Europe.

This will further drive up the price of eel in Japan. 

Did you know?

U.S. eels are farmed in China and South Korea for shipment to Japan, which also imports them from other countries to supplement domestic supply.

Japan imported 323 kilograms of glass eels (juvenile eels)  from the US, Madagascar, the Philippines and Indonesia in the first five months of 2012, according to Japan's Finance Ministry. 

I'll be honest... that doesn't sound like a huge number. Consider, if you, will that in 1961, a peak year of eel catch in Japan, fishermen caught nearly 3,400 tons of mature eels, and has shrunk down to 200 tons in recent years. A total of 332 kg is small fry.

Reports from fishing industry officials in Japan say that the eel problem is due to supply and consumption. 

The Japan Times says: Eel stocks are being exhausted in the absence of effective regulations and oversight, as well as the lack of cross-border cooperation in managing stocks. The problem is being compounded on the demand side by changing consumption patterns in Japan, which consumes about 70 percent of the global eel catch.

Of all the eels consumed in Japan nowadays, only 0.5 percent are wild, with the rest - 99.5 per cent coming from farms in Japan and abroad. 

But even abroad, as pointed out, eel supply is down. 

The global catch of glass eels (juvenile eels) going to farms is less than 10 tons in 2010 and 2022 - which  is down from the high of 232 tons in 1963. That's a dramatic downswing, with the 2012 catch expected to be even less than last year. 

What's being done? Right now, the East Asia Eel Resource Consortium of China, South Korea and Japan have proposed that hunting of grown eels in rivers and coastal regions be restricted.

That's a great start, but who will uphold these restrictions?

Getting an eel fishing license is considered as easy as giving money away in Japan, and who will stop the eel poachers? I'm guessing that as the price of eel goes up, poachers will be out trying to make a buck.
 

The eel consortium also wants juvenile eel fishing to come under control of the State, so that they can measure eel populations.

This past June, Japan's Fisheries Agency has called for emergency measures to protect mature eels with eggs and to create access for glass eels to move upstream to lay eggs.

Again... who will enforce this? And how?  

All of this means trouble not only for the eel restaurants or the consumers like myself who love to eat eel, but for the sea creature itself. 

Are we overfishing the eel? The numbers taken in say no. Or... have we over-fished them these past 50 years causing the current decline in the population? Perhaps. Or is there something happening with their environment, either man-made or natural? That has yet to be determined. Of course, the frog population is also down. So too is the bee population. Globally.  
 
Regardless... there's probably been a reason why my eel sushi is at such a high price this past summer - and now I know. I've been willing to pay for it, but if the consumption of eel was no longer allowed, while I would miss it, I would survive. 

That means I believe we need to halt the supply. Re-educate the industries and people involved to hunt and process something else. I don't need to eat something that is on the endangered list... in fact, I fear I may have eaten my last eel as it is... except for that one in my freezer. It gave its life so I could have one last meal of a very tasty meat. 

I know.. I'm all over the place with this. I've never eaten an animal that could be considered an endangered species before. I sure don't want to be part of its extinction. 

Files by Andrew Joseph