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Monday, December 31, 2012

Famous American Actresses Born In Japan - Updated

A few nights ago, I was watching a movie called Hush... Hush Sweet Charlotte with my wife. It starred Bette Davis, Agnes Moorehead and Olivia de Havilland (left in photo above).

So... imagine my surprise when I discovered that Ms. de Havilland was actually born in Tokyo, Japan on July 1, 1916... and is still alive and kicking. Hunh... I guess being in Japan tends to give one a nice long life.


In fact, her sister Joan Fontaine (right in photo above), who was also born in Tokyo on October 22, 1917 is also still alive and kicking. (Editor's Note: Joan passed away on December 15, 2013, aged 96 found hacked to pieces across several neighborhood driveways ... sorry, damn Auto Correct... of natural causes.)

The two sisters are Academy Award winners for Best Actress:
  • Olivia as Josephine 'Jody' Norris in To Each His Own in 1946 and as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress in 1949;
  • Joan as Lina McLaidlaw Aysgarth in Suspicion in 1941.
They are the last surviving leading ladies from Hollywood of the 1930s. And... they apparently don't like each other very much.

But here's the interesting story about how Hollywood owes a great debt of thanks to Japan.

The sisters were born from Lilian (lived to be 88 @ 1886 - 1975) and Walter de Havilland (lasted to 95 @ 1872 - 1968) - so I guess there may be something to the whole 'genes' theory. Anyhow... dear old dad was a patent attorney in Japan and he... well... he may have been a great dad, but not a great husband as he was caught by his wife using the sexual services of geisha.

I guess those services from lower level geisha may have cost extra than the geisha who only sing and play the shamisan.

Anyhow... the parents separated in 1919 and mom took the kids with her back to Great Britain (mom and dad were British). However, because young Joan was anemic at that time, a doctor suggested she might get better care in the U.S.

And so... thanks to the promiscuity of a horny English man in Japan and the then inadequate healthcare system in Great Britain, the world got two excellent actresses in Hollywood.

Yes... Joan's health did improve after going to the U.S.

Oh... and the de Havilland name... if it sounds familiar, it's because it is also famous in the aviation industry... yup... the girl's father's cousin was none other than Sir Geoffrey de Havilland (1882-1965), an aviation pioneer (Go and check out my new blog on Pioneers Of Aviation that I started this past week) who formed the de Havilland Aircraft Company that built the famous Mosquito bomber that was used against Germany and later against the Japanese in World War II. The company was purchased by Hawker Siddeley Company in 1960 when de Havilland gave up control.

Man... I wish I had some popcorn to watch this movie.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Say Hello To My Little Friend

On a different note...

When I lived in Japan, it was the first time since I turned three-years-old that I did not have a dog beside me.

For my three years in Japan - no dog. It drove me nuts. I filled the loneliness with a string of sexual romps with girlfriends and fiances and even (shudder) women whose names I no longer recall. And through it all... I would have traded it all for the company of a dog. Okay... no, I wouldn't have. But I do love my dogs.

I would have got a dog as a pet while in Japan, but I was always on the go in Japan and was never sure if it would be fair to the creature... so I tried to put the thought out of mind... to forget... so I drank and picked up women. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

Here in Toronto, Canada as I write this, my dog Buster is approaching 11-years-of-age. He's a Chocolate Labrador. He's a pain in the ass and either the stupidest dog I've ever known, or the smartest. That's his mugshot up above.

Check out this true story I wrote on him HERE at Storylane. Apparently I have 1,674 followers who dig my short stories. Yeah... I write a lot.

Anyhow... an interlude from Japan, because Buster is going to die soon enough, and I am praying he dies before I have to take him in and have him put down.

I'm writing this in the early hours of December 30, 2012... and he's already puked once before I could get him out, and has gone out into the cold snow at least 7 times in the past two hours. When he was healthier, he would never leave the couch after 9PM when I'd give him a treat...

But today... man... he has me worried. He's not in pain... but after spending 10 minutes outside, he scratches at the door to come in... and then he sits... staring at nothing... refusing to lie down... then getting up and walking about.... I really should have cut his nails... I can hear then on the hardwood floors... he's walking around... now nothing.... but... I just opened the door and he's just sitting there in the dark staring at me... it freaks me out...

Figuring it's his way of saying good-bye... I do the same by giving him a treat (it's his fourth one since 9PM!!!!)... he went away to eat it... and how he's back out side the door where I write this... could he be playing me? It's 2AM... why doesn't he just go and sleep on the couch? He's... he just puked a little... I let him out a again... I don't want to put him down... He just scratched to be let in... he runs in... sits... and stares... I yell at him to go and sleep, praying it's not the last thing I ever say to him.... he's lying asleep on the floor, not the couch.

He's driving me nuts. I don't know what he wants.... Man... don't you die on me yet, Buster. I hope he's asleep.

Andrew Joseph

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Mystery Of The Lost Shinkansen

Y'know... after the March 11, 2011 disaster hit Japan, I had heard rumors of a Shinkansen (bullet train) having been lost when the tsunami hit.

For example, here's an actual report from that time period... the name of the newspaper is unimportant, at this time:
NOBIRU, Japan — A high-speed bullet passenger train with an unknown number of people aboard was unaccounted for Friday in tsunami-hit coastal Japan, according to Kyodo News.
The East Japan Railway Co. train was running near Nobiru Station on the Senseki Line connecting Sendai to Ishinomaki when a massive quake hit, triggering a 10-meter (33-foot) tsunami, the report said. A large number of tourists [One report put the number of missing at 400 — LD] are feared drowned after the bullet train was believed to be caught in the tsunami.
Now... this is what I had heard back on March 12, 2011... but I admit that at that time I was - as I'm sure most people were  - bombarded by media overflow on the whole earthquake and tsunami news... so much so that I admit that I lost track of this story. No pun intended.

Now... while there are reports - confirmed - that some of the commuter trains were hit, I thought it unlikely that a shinkansen train could actually be hit by a tsunami.

From what I recalled, shinkansen bullet trains in the north part of Japan are not run alongside the coast. In fact... it's pretty much done in the middle of the land...

Yes... the Shinkansen line does run up past Sendai (which was rocked hard)... but it's not that close to the coast. Of course... a small section of track heading up to Sendai from Tokyo does loop close to the sea, and it was amongst the hardest hit areas... so it was possible that a Shinkansen was hit by a tsunami.

Intercity trains in the area do tend to follow the coast a bit more closely and the odds were in favor of at least one being hit....

But... despite reports to the contrary, only yesterday did I discover that no shinkansen was hit. That's good, because it means at least 400 people less were hurt or killed.

Now... I present this story just to show how rumors and other unsubstantiated tales can often create a mess when news is presented.

It wasn't until March 19, 2011 when a story was written and probably buried under the rest of the horror stories out there - so I obviously missed it.

The story discussed the rumors of a number of trains having gone missing... possibly swept out to sea... but admits that no one could state with any veracity that the story was true or not true.

But... didn't anyone ask the East Japan Railway Company (EJRC) is the story was true? Maybe. But maybe they themselves didn't know if it were true or not considering communications were a mess. Or... maybe the media was less interested in the story if no one actually died... as seems the case.

While the EJRC admits that several trains were swept from the tracks - holy crap! - they did state before the tsunami hit, they had evacuated the train of its passengers and crew.

As well, the EJRC says none of its bullet trains were hot by the tsunami.

Do you ever wonder how rumors get started?

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Taking The Easy Way Out

Well... this is the 730th blog of 2012 for me, and boy are my arms tired.

My goal for the year was to average two blogs a day... and I have done it - unless my math is completely screwy. It's also my 1,620th blog on this site.

And... rather than produce a blog of meaning about Japan, I'm taking the easy way out and creating one that talks about me.

For example... a week ago I created an entirely new type of blog because evidently I don't do enough writing.

The new blog is called Pioneers of Aviation (www.av8rblog.wordpress.com), and is my attempt at creating the definitive history of man triumphing over air.

Those of you who have been around for a while reading these Japan-related blogs, have surely noticed that I write more than a few entries on aviation. (Yes, we have noticed, but don't call us Shirley). Yes, all have dealt with Japan, but you can tell I spend more than my fair share of time on them... and I think I've done a pretty decent job.

And... while women and comic books are usually a helluva lot more interesting to me, I already do a blog on how to survive women - it's there at the side of this blog under favorites - and while I am now hard at work penning a short tale for a comic book company in the UK... or is it the USA? - I am no longer a comic book fiend, as economics have regrettably curtailed that habit of some 50 books a month to about two a month whenever it is I actually visit the store every few months. Oh... how the mighty have fallen.

And so... I write about something I have little to no knowledge about - aviation.

Sounds stupid, eh? One should only write about what one knows. Apparently that's one of the so-called rules of writing. Total BS of course, as people have been writing fiction and science fiction for some time now.

But... I'm not the type to make up tales. I actually have a healthy respect for history... which was why I originally wanted to create Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife... to reveal my own personal history... but, Japan has it's own history, and if there's one thing I enjoy more than talking about myself, it's learning about others and other things.

So I research the hell out of things. I do my best to write short little tales, but dammit, after researching, I often find minutiae to be fascinating and constantly add it in. The more I learn, the more I write, because I like to share.

If you and I met, I would probably regale you with some stupid detail you have never heard before. Sad but true. I did it yesterday evening at a party, having two other husbands caught near me as I spun tale after tale after tale - and listened to their tales... thank goodness they shared, else I would have grown bored and left to find their wives... hey... waitaminute!

And so... a blog about the history of flight.

Because I like to do things differently, one might expect such a blog to begin with the Wright Brothers... nope... I have them planned at around the 50th entry (lots to research and I have pages of notes I need to shorten... instead, I am basing the whole thing on several sets of tobacco collector cards from 1910.

Strange, huh? But a set from 1910 - just a few years after the Wright Brothers took flight might actually have more obscure knowledge tacked on to it than you might think. And it does. It also contains mystery.

Stuff I have never heard off, and I doubt history makes much mention of again. Stuff that has already set my curious mind racing.

I have already presented one story based on the cards, and another that should have been. And... with each card I examine closely for more historical details, the more I get to delve into musty and dusty books and old newspapers at the library. Holy crap! You'd think I was getting paid to do this. But no... like this Japan blog, it's a labor of love... or at least yet another way to quench the insatiable thirst for knowledge I have.

Won't someone drag me out of this despicable quest for knowledge?

No? Okay... then at least join me and the other three visitors who have read the Pioneers of Aviation blog and soothe my savage brow.

Anyhow... after the next days Rifes... I promise to get back to more diary of a wimpy gaijin stuff, and do more news stories with my opinion tossed in, and do more historical papers on stuff no one wants to read about, provide you with notes on places and things to do in Japan, and more articles about sexy Japanese women.

And... if you really want to help out a writer who's down on his luck, you could pen an article or send in a photo with a Japanese locale... Most of the 1000s of photos I have, I... well... pretty much forgot to write down where the hell I took them, and so I often have no idea what it is I am looking at. Apparently 20 years ago, the writer was good at keeping copious notes on his life, but forgot to do the same with his photos.


Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Paint A Train Contest

Want to decorate a train?

Some lucky person will have a chance to design the paint scheme of the trains that will be running a new train starting March 16, 2013.

Owned by the Tokyu Railway, the new line will run from Tokyo to the metro Fukutoshin subway line in Yokohama.

But... anyone has a few more days left to send in their own designs for the train's paint scheme.

All you have to do is go to www.paint-train.jp and use the tools there to create and paint a design  - with colors - onto a train car mock-up!

But you have to hurry! Your stupid blogger sat on this for a couple of weeks - the deadline is December 31, 2012.

So... enough talk. Get to work.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Too Little - Too Late: Mascot Teaches Kids How To Avoid Radiation

In an effort to instruct children how to avoid radiation, Japan has come up with a bird mascot. It's a bird mascot based on the local Fukushima Narcissus Flycatcher.

Holy smokes, I first thought.

But then... why not? Young kids need something fun to latch onto. Why should it always be the parents and schools that have all the fun. Why not have the kids get some basics from a mascot?

And so... Japan has begun printing leaflets with a large yellow bird (not the one from Sesame Street) telling kids how to avoid the bad radiation.

Of course... this is nearly two years after the fact.

Still... Kibitan, the bird mascot means well... in the handouts, Kibitan warns kids to stay away from dangerous areas like pools and ditches, where radioactive materials like Cesium could have accumulated after the Dai-ichi nuclear reactor spewed radioactive materials into the water, air and ground when it nearly achieved total nuclear meltdown on a few occasions after March 11, 2011.

Hopefully... by the end of December 2012, these pools and ditches have been decontaminated. No? Oh.

As well, Kibitan tells the kids to ensure they wash up really well after coming in from outside... less they track in any of those dirty, unwanted radioactive elements.

Well... I'm glad the bird is the word here in Fukushima. Whatever would the kids have done without you? How about what they have been doing for the past 21 months? Surviving or getting radiation poisoning... sometimes both.

Last week Japan admitted it had 'under-reported' its measured radiation levels at some 675 locations.

Under-reported? You mean 'lied'?

There is nothing to see here. Keep moving away from the scene of the accident. Pay no attention to the man behind the smokescreen.

Who the hell is 'under-reporting'? To avoid a general panic, the Japanese government has continued to put its population at further risk.

According to a report done by the Fukushima Medical University and released in April of 2012, and updated in July, 36 per cent of the kids in Fukushima have enlarged thyroids and coule be prone to cancer.

See? Nothing to worry about. They said "could be" prone to cancer. I'm being sarcastic, of course.

Hey Kibitan... do you have any advice for the kids at risk of cancer? Will washing their hands help now?

The study by the Fukushima Medical University tested 38,000 kids.

That's a large study.

It found that 13,000 had cysts or nodules as large as five millimeters.

When that tidbit of information was released, doctors called Japan's reaction to the radiation problem as medically irresponsible.

So... to help be more responsible, the kids should listen to the mascot, Kibitan.

Oh... my... effing... god.

I can only hope that the children in the study are getting treatment, and that the rest are being monitored.

Perhaps the Japanese government could refrain from covering up vital information and could instead be more forthcoming with the truthful facts... as it happens.

A mascot? Welcome to 2012 Kabuki.

Andrew Joseph
The photo above was given out on November 9, 2012 showing kids hugging Kibitan on October 14, 2012 in Fukushima. Hopefully they washed their hands afterward. We wouldn't want them getting Avian Bird Flu on top of their cancer.

World's Oldest Man

Japan is once again home to the world's oldest man.

I must admit I was confused by the fact that it wasn't already the current record holder...

Here's the full story HERE.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

The Mitsubishi Sword Stroke

Check out this bad boy Japanese plane.

This is the Mitsubishi J8M Shusui ( 三菱 J8M 秋水 - literally 'Autumn Water', but poetically was meant to mean 'Sword Stroke') that was to have been a single-seat rocket-powered interceptor for Japan in World War II.

According to those in the know, in 1943 Japan purchased the manufacturing rights to Germany's Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet rocket powered plane. Yes... despite being "Allies" as part of the Evil Axis, Japan had to purchase the plans for this plane.

Just so you know, the Me 163 Komet was a fast bastard. Designed in 1938, prototypes were flown in 1941 by Germany, with it reaching the then world-record air-speed of 1,000 kilometers per hour (620 miles per hour).

Now that's fast! So you can tell Japan was pretty pumped about getting its hands on these plans.

While I am unsure about the total price paid, Japan did shell out 20,000,000 Reichsmarks (about US $4.2-million back in the 1940s) for the engine license... which would have been the larger sum.

The plan called for Japan to receive by 1944 (according to Wikipedia):
  • Complete blueprints of the Me 163B Komet and the HWK 509A engine;
  • One complete Komet; two sets of sub-assemblies and components;
  • Three complete HWK 509A engines;
  • Inform Japan of any improvements and developments of the Komet;
  • Allow the Japanese to study the manufacturing processes for both the Komet and the engine;
  • Allow the Japanese to study Luftwaffe operational procedures for the Komet.
Since this was in the days before e-mail and fax, Germany sent the plans to Japan by submarine. Two submarines, in fact... to ensure that the capture of one wouldn't be dangerous for the Axis.

En route to Kobe, Japan, via Japanese submarines: RO-501 and I-29, both were sunk.

RO-501 is rumored to have had the airframe, while I-29 had the engines and plans. D'oh!

So... what did Japan get? A Flight Manual.

Yes... a flight manual that was taken by Commander Iwaya Eiichi (surname first) who had traveled aboard the I-29, but had disembarked at Singapore before it had been sunk.

Why Germany couldn't send another submarine or two with the plans is beyond me, but Mitsubishi won the contract to built the J8M Shusui Sword Stroke (cool name!), and set about designing a plane that looked similar to the German one.

Looks-wise, they succeed quite well, as the Japanese plane looked quite similar to its German counterpart.

But internally...

They made several tests with an unpowered glider and then built seven (7) prototypes of the jet-propelled variety... with the first read for testing on July 7, 1945.

The test flight was a complete disaster as the rocket motor failed just after take-off destroying the plane and killing its pilot.

The pilot was Lt. Commander Inuzuka Toyohiko (surname first). After take-off, he climbed up at a 45-degree angle. At an altitude of 396 meters (1,300 feet), the engine cut out causing the plane to stall.

Give Inuzaka credit. He glided the plane back down, but unfortunately struck a small building at the edge of the runway causing the plane to explode into flames. Inuzaka died the next day.

Back to the drawing board, the war ended before a second test flight could be undertaken.

Specifications:
  • Engine: a single 1,500 kilogram (3,307 pound) thrust Toko Ro2 bifuel rocket motor;
  • Maximum speed proposed: 900 kilometers per hour (559 miles per hour) at an altitude of 10,000 meters (32,810 feet);
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 meters (39,370 feet);
  • Rocket endurance: 5-minutes and 30-seconds;
  • Wingspan: 9.5 meters (31-feet 2-inches);
  • Length: 6.05 meters (19-feet 10-inches;
  • Height: 2.7 meters (8-feet 10-inches);
  • Weight loaded: 3,885 kilograms (8,565 pounds);
  • Armament (proposed): one or two wing-mounted 30-mm (1.19-inch) cannons.
Cheers
Andrew Joseph

How To Politely Order A Beer

At the Gaijinpot website, I recently came across a blog offering a catchword phrase for the out and a bout gaijin (foreigner) to learn when traveling around the bars.

It asks the question, 'What do you order first when you visit a Japanese pub?'

Apparently, the catch phrase is: 'Toriaezu beeru!' which means 'Beer for now.'

The writer would have you believe that if one was to enter a crowded bar, you're not sure what you want to drink and you can't ask for a menu, this is what you say.

Toriaezu beeru.

Y'know... for that first round I might just say 'Beeru onagaishimasu.' Beer please. Just to be polite. Because I am polite.

Beer for now? Ugh. If you must say 'beer for now', at least say it politely: Toriaezu beeru onagaishimasu.

Now... the blog does offer some better tips You can see for yourself HERE - because who is going to a bar to drink by themselves?

I have... but that's because I wanted to be by myself... ergo if the bar was crowded, I would find one that wasn't crowded.

I guess ordering a 'beer for now' does imply that you will be drinking more - but to be honest, the waitress already knew that. You are a gaijin in a bar. By yourself... you have come to drink. And... if you came with others, you and the group will probably drink a lot or just the one round as you go off to wherever it is people go to have fun... so beer for now would not be appropriate in that case.

Whatever... just make sure you say please. Be a gaijin, but don't forget that gaijin can have manners.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Friday, December 28, 2012

Yotsuya Naitō Shinjuku

I wanted to share with you one of my most favorite ukiyo-e woodblock prints done by Ando Hiroshige.

Welcome to Yotsuya Naitō Shinjuku (New Station at Yotsuya) done in 1857. This is print number 86 of Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views Of Edo (Meishi Edo Hyakkei in Japanese). Edo was the old name for Japan's capital city of Tokyo.

The viewpoint is about one meter off the ground, where the most eye-catching view is the horses legs!

But what a view. Look at how the horses are shod! No metal horseshoes for them! No! They get straw shoes!

And check out the knotted horsetail... if it wasn't knotted, we might not have a view at all.

And what's that under the horse... those round bits? It's apparently horse crap. High art, indeed.

And... while critics in Japan and Europe deemed the scene vulgar, it's obvious they missed the whole point. They looked at the scene and questioned its hygiene. Poo on the ground? Ugh.

But really... Naitō Shinjuku which was near the Yotsuya Gate to Edo was originally supposed to be a designated area for prostitution when it was founded in 1698.

At that time, it was the first station stop along the Kōshū Highway for travelers leaving the strict confines of Edo, and who wouldn't want to blow off some steam.

Anyhow... Hiroshige may have known even in 1857 that the prostitutes at this station were described as being "flowers blooming in the horse droppings of Yotsuya."

While I am unsure about the state of prostitution in the area in 1857, either Hiroshige tipped his hat to its current state, or to its 160-year-old description.

Of course, it could simply have been a nod to the fact that here at these stalls one could purchase the then-expensive human and horse poo for farming fertilizers as one left Edo for the rest of Japan, IE the farmlands...

In fact... if you were to actually look at the trail of excrement - all five balls - you might think them a tad small to have been plopped out of a horse... and considering Hiroshige's attention to detail with the horse shoes... why would he make a mistake regarding horse dung? Afterall, even if the size is wrong, shouldn't there be some grass or other matter poking out?

Could the excrement have come from the groom leading the two horses? Could it have been present before the caravan passed over it? The excrement is kind of green...

Sinjuku was created from land owned by the Naito clan back in 1698, hence the name of the area (and print). It was, as a Station of rest along the highway, a horse stop. Then, as in the now of 1857, one had to watch their step in Shinjuku.

Can you believe that I am spending so much time talking about excrement?

Well... we are talking about art, after all. And Shinjuku which is currently a major commercial and administrative center that is also home to the busiest train station in the world and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. If you catch my drift.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

U.S. Sailors Sue TEPCO

That headline kind of says it.

U.S. sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan who were offloading humanitarian supplies to towns affected by radiation contamination after the March 11 disasters hit the northeastern past of Japan are indeed suing TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany) who own the Dai-ichi nuclear power facility.

Claiming they were exposed to radiation contamination while doing their duty, a group of eight sailors have taken the unprecedented action.

The full story can be found on the Stars And Stripes U.S. military website HERE.

As an aside, General Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf , Retired, has passed away at the age of 78.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Amanohashidate - One Of The Three Most Scenic Places In Japan


Here is a photo from my personal collection from 1930s Japan. This is a winter scene of Amanohashidate (天橋立), known as one of the best three most scenic vistas in all of Japan.

Japan likes to provide lists for its people detailing the top three things for people to go and visit. Like the scenic vistas, it also does castles, waterfalls, places to buy salami. I'm kidding about one of those things.

Anyhow, this area is famous for the 3.5 kilometer long sandbar in the middle of the photo that is covered with about 7,000 pine trees. It is located in Miyazu Bay in Kyoto.

Of course, I never saw it while I was in Japan, even though I visited Kyoto twice with different women. Of course, I never got laid by either woman while I was in Kyoto with them. Apparently I never got laid in Japan while I was on vacation. Now I am unsure if I ever want to go and visit Amanohashidate.

It is beautiful, though.

Anyhow, Amanohashidate is known as the Bridge To Heaven because it looks as though it is floating in the sky - towards heaven - if you look at it from the right perspective.

So... what is the right perspective?

Well... from up high - like about where the photograph was taken from, you are supposed to turn your back to the sandbar and then bend forward and peer at it through your legs. Now the sandbar looks like a bridge to the heavens.

For real.

Kind of makes you wonder just who the hell came up with that one and how much did they have to drink at that moment?

But it works...
>
For your viewing pleasure, here is a fantastic ukiyo-e drawn by master artist Utagawa Hiroshige I of the  Amanohashidate sandbar. The scene is from 1837, one hundred years earlier than the photo above. 

And... just because you must be curious to see what it looks like now... here's a winter shot. It certainly looks a lot more built up nowadays. I like my photo better.


Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thunderbirds Creator Gerry Anderson Has Died

This blog is in honor of Gerry Anderson who died this past Wednesday.

Gerry was the creator of The Thunderbirds television show that was not only hugely popular for me as a kid, but when I was in Japan back between 1990-1993 was hugely popular there... I know, because I used to amuse my students by pretending to be a marionette for them - just like the cast of the Thunderbirds were/are.

Gerry died at age 83 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and was the main mover behind a number of puppet series commissioned by Lew Grade's Independent Television Corporation. They made the company a fortune from the space age: perhaps the best known was Thunderbirds (1965-66), and among the others were Fireball XL5 (1962-63), Stingray (1964) and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68).

Anderson embarked on Thunderbirds in 1964. For Grade, international sales – particularly into the US market – were a key concern. So Thunderbirds focused on the Tracy brothers, with first names borrowed from the US astronauts Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Gordon Cooper. Enormously popular in its time, the series is still being repeated today.

For me... it was Alan Tracy's girlfriend Tin-Tin (Malaysian for 'Sweet') that made the show. I was in love with that beautiful puppet and named my first dog - a blue roan cocker spaniel after her.

Of course... try telling the Japanese junior high school students about Tin-Tin... there is no Ti alphabet in Japanese, so they substitute the Chi sound, making her Chin-Chin... a slang way to say penis. Yes... I was in love with a puppet named 'penis'. Let the hilarity ensue.

In Japan, Tin-Tin is known ans Min-Min.

As well, in the photo above, you can see the model kit I bought in Japan and built and painted there. The model sits on a shelf about four feet to my left as I write this, with the original box for it a couple of feet higher on a shelf filled with the paints I bought to paint it - long since dry, but I'm too sentimental to throw it out. Besides... it still holds other parts of the model, too small to display.

Ahhhh Gerry... thank-you for your gift. This child smiles in your honor.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Mutations From Fukushima A Cause For Concern?

There have been recent reports from Japan about mutations in the animal world in and around the Fukushima nuclear reactor that spewed radioactive elements into the water, air and ground.

Things like a few butterflies with mutated body parts and fish carrying excessive amounts of radiation.

Before I start on those stories, rightly or wrongly, let me just point out that who we are as a species (unless you are a Creationist, of course - you may want to skip this story), is because we are mutants. Every single living thing on this planet has mutated from something else.

Having said that, it's usually because nature has dictated a shift in the way the order or status quo needed to be.

Having said that, usually a mutation in a species is weak and dies off quickly... but sometimes, as is evidenced by every person looking at this blog, a mutation is an advantage.

This past summer, researchers in Japan say they have discovered evidence to suggest radiation from the Dai-ichi power plant in Fukushima is directly responsible for mutated variations in butterflies, featuring: stunted wings, badly developed eyes, disfigured antennae, and variations in color patterns.

You can see in the image above, a healthy adult pale blue butterfly (top) and a mutated one with small wings (below)

Otaki Joji (surname first), the lead researcher from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa was involved in collecting 144 adult pale blue butterflies from 10 locations throughout Japan - including Fukushima.

While expecting the insects to have been spared any mutation owing to their overall resistance to radiation, the team of researchers was surprised to discover that 12% of the 144 collected samples had mutations, with areas having higher levels of radiation having butterflies with more mutant features.

Published in the Scientific Reports, the researchers note: "We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to this species."

Not content with a single generation of mutations, the researchers have observed the mutations continuing in subsequent generations.

Otaki's team breed the mutated pale blue butterflies in their laboratories and found even more mutations that were not present in the previous generation. 

In fact, six months after collecting their initial samples, Otaki and company say that the butterflies from the Fukushima area are continuing to mutate twice as fast as those found just two months after the accident. This means the butterfly mutations are increasing with the next generations...

The believe that the higher rate of mutations in the Fukushima butterfly samples is due to the insect's larvae eating contaminated leaves... causing the mutations... and then passing down the mutations to subsequent generations.

Otaki and the researchers ponder that if resilient creatures such as insects are being affected by radiation, then surely other species or possibly animals are as well. "It's pretty clear something has gone wrong with the ecosystem."

That's a pretty bold step. I'm not saying that TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany own the Dai-ichi power plant) are to be congratulated for jump-starting the next stage of evolution. Far from it.

But... have the butterfly mutations harmed the butterfly? Does it have a shorter lifespan? We are only talking 12% of the initial butterflies collected... but did all of them produced subsequent generations of mutated butterflies? Are we looking at Mothra 2.0?

Are birds getting sick after eating these mutated butterflies? Is ingesting mutated butterfly 'meat' causing mutations within the animals that eat them? Is the pale blue butterfly species in danger of being wiped out? Disfigured eyes? Okay... but has it developed sonar?

I know I'm getting stupid there... but has something clearly gone wrong with the ecosystem as Otaki stated?

Look... I am sure that radiation is bad in nature... except that nature is bombarded by radiation all the time. Excessive amounts in the past have caused evolution (except in Pokemon which apparently have to battle to gain the next step)... I see that Otaki and crew have found many BAD mutations... have they found any GOOD ones?

We use radiation to cure ourselves (nuclear medicine). We bathe in it daily (solar)? We cook our food with it (microwaves). Hell... in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, not everyone died despite being bathed in excessive amounts of radiation. I personally know of a man who walked into Nagasaki a few days after the bomb had exploded to look after those needing help... and there he was nearly 50 years later hale and healthy.

I know that bombs dropped on those two cities clearly upset the ecosystem... and yet... you can go there now and feel safe and secure.

Of course... I also knew a few British sailors who were spectators on ships watching nuclear bombs go off in the 1950s... they all died of cancer... though it took nearly 30 years to kill them. Was it the radiation? Was it just crap luck and genetics?

What I'm trying to say is that while we can all agree that the Dai-ichi radioactive spewing was bad... is it a complete screw up of the ecosystem? Or, will Mother Nature endure somehow?

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Haiku For December 26, 2012

A Haiku for today

Cool in Toronto
Now I think about Japan
Writing this haiku

Basho I ain't.
Cheers
Andrew Joseph
Should it take 11 seconds to write a haiku?

Japanese Television Killing Japan Internationally

Taken out of context, the above photo would make the Japanese look like a bunch of idiots.

However... when I found this image on the Internet, it wasn't taken out of context because it does indeed make the Japanese look like a bunch of idiots.

Welcome to stupid Japanese television crap.

Look... I have a great sense of humor. I really do. Ask me, I'll tell ya.

When I lived in Japan, there was a lot of interesting stuff on television. It wasn't good, but it was interesting. It was like it was an eye into Japanese cultural myths. Myths like the one that said the Japanese were a bunch of stiff guys in suits with no sense of humor.

Obviously you need a sense of humor to appreciate the humor of taking a pantyhose and draping it over the head of a very attractive Japanese woman and pulling it tight around her to make her look ugly.

It is funny... for a second... and then it's quite sad. These type of sophomoric funnies are actually things a kid might do. So... are the Japanese childish people?

No. But Japanese television sure is.This is what the world sees. Make it stop. Let's see some real comedy.

Where are you Shimura Ken? You made me laugh with real comedy.

We need fewer Japanese shows with stupid comedy and more with real comedy. I leave that up to the networks and beg them to create something with more intelligence. It is possible.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Math In Japanese Poetry

I like Prime numbers.

A prime number is a natural number that is greater than one (1) that has no positive dividers other than itself or the number 1.

For example... the number 47. Those of you who know me realize that whenever I write a fictional story or comic book, I toss in the number 47 somewhere.

There are two reasons for it. One... when I played soccer, there where ever only two numbers I ever had. The number 7 on my jersey for 11 years, and the number 4 for one. That is a fact.

The other reason is that Matthew Hall, a way back when we were neighbors in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan loaned me some Arthur C. Clarke science-fiction novels: Rendezvous With Rama, Rama II, The Garden of Rama, and Rama Revealed.

Clarke is perhaps best known for his 2001: A Space Odyssey short story that eventually morphed into 2010, 2061 and 3001 - all excellent novels. All you need to know is that the usual solar system throughout the galaxies have binary star systems - two suns. This is supposed to be a fact. Now... along with our sun, Sol, we also have gas giants (brown dwarf stars) that lack the fuel to ignite, namely Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. 'nuff said.

But... in these books that Matthew lent me, the discussion of Prime Numbers is very important. For some reason this resonated with me from then on. In my writing.

I know... Matthew has no idea that it was he who first led me astray in adding a prime number into my stories... into every single short story I ever wrote (not the blogs!) - and that was some 147 of them. Give or take.

Heck... I once tried to write a story for my friend Rob without adding the number 47... and it felt wrong... so I decided to count every 47th word in the story (the story even ended on a 47th word! completely by chance - or was it?!) and what I came up with was a secret message that made complete sense to me, but perhaps not so much to anyone else... really... why would you count words in a story? Why the hell did I?

Symmetry, perhaps. Symmetry in my own warped mind. Heck... I watch TV shows all the time and the number 47 pops up. Just last week when the boss took myself and others out to lunch, I laughed as the coat check number I was given was 47. Really. I made a big deal of it with them, but they all thought I was crazy. Crazy like a fox!

So... aside from that Japanese relationship of a book lent to me in Japan by a fellow AET (assistant English teacher) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme... and how it influenced my writing style... of what possible reason would I even mention it now?

How about Japan's use of the Prime Number? How about in its poetry? How about in Haiku?

Think about it... A series of Prime Numbers begins with: 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97...

What's this got to do with Haiku?

Well... a Japanese Haiku poem contains three lines (3).

A Haiku's three lines consist of a line made up of 5 syllables, then 7 syllables and lastly 5 syllables.  

Three, five, seven... all Prime Numbers.

Want more? Add up the number of syllables: 5+7+5 = 17. Another Prime Number.

Tanka poems are 5, 7, 5, 7 and 7 syllables... add them up... 31. Another Prime Number.

Katuata poems are 5, 7, 7 syllables... add them up... 19. Another Prime Number.

Want a scary Prime Number Haiku?

Five in the first line
Seven in the second line
Five in the last line


So is there a link between Haiku and Prime Numbers that the Japanese found appealing, or is it another coincidence? 

Of course, a real Japanese Haiku should contain a 'season' word, like snow, or summer or rebirth (spring) and there should be an element of emotion (surprise, elation, realization). Although the Senryu form of Haiku does away with the whole 'season' thing and focuses more on human nature and emotions rather than the natural world.

Just like music, poetry is based on mathematics...which is strange since I can play all brass, woodwinds and keyboards and can write poetry, but failed Grade 9 math twice, Grade 10, 11 and 12 math once each. That's five failures in math for me. Five is a Prime Number.

So... should you listen to a guy that failed math five times in high school (but actually passed a math class in university) or should you listen to the guy that showed you how Prime Numbers seem to be a part of the nature of Japanese poetry?

By the way... in a Japanese Haiku, the syllable is actually known as onji, a 'sound symbol', but each syllable is actually called an 'on'.

The 5 and 7 numbers are thought to be a part of Taoism... Taoist numerology... which is also seen in Japan's 7-5-3 (Shichi-Go-San) Children's Festival and the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan.

There were also originally (Originally? What does that mean?) five main Japanese festivals back in the old days:
  1. First month, first day = Kochōhai (小朝拝), New Year Celebration, together with the seventh day after the New Year known as Jinjitsu (人日) or Nanakusa no sekku 七草の節句 (feast of seven herbs);
  2. Third month, third day = Kyokusui no en (曲水の宴), Drinking Around a Rolling Stream;
  3. Fifth month, fifth day = Tango no sekku (端午の節句) or Boys’ Festival;
  4. Seventh month, seventh day = Kikkouden (乞功奠) or Tanabata (七夕) Festival;
  5. Ninth month, ninth day = Chōyō no en (重陽の宴) or Feast of Chrysanthemums.
After Japan changed its lunisolar calendar system to adopt the solar calendar back in 1873, some of these festival dates were altered... but those dates above were the original ones. You can read about the lunisolar calendar HERE.

All Prime Numbers (except for the first, but it is part of that whole divisible by itself and the number 1 thing).

So... was ancient Japan stuck on Prime Numbers?

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Japanese Commercials

Hi there,

Here's a bunch of Japanese commercials to amuse you. Some of them are self-explanatory, others I go WTF?! - like the very last one... MapleStory.

The Intel one is interesting only because I don't see any Japanese actors in it. As well, I am intrigued by the number of video game commercials for games I know I will never see here in North America.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Nature In Action - 1930s Photograph

Here's another photograph taken from the photo album I purchased 20 years ago in Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. These photographs are from the 1930s, and are, as far as I know, all original... you can see the silver tincture in the photos. Most of the photos have the original owner of the album scratching in the description of the place in a white marker... complete with age fading...

The photograph above is another scene taken from the island of Enoshima with Mount Fuji perched in the background.

Enoshima (江の島) is an island about four (4) kilometers in circumference.. and is part of the city of Fujisawa near Mt. Fuji.

I'm a sucker for taking photos just like this, with an object - usually a tree branch perched close by and over the main part of the photo... I think it became my 'thing' for a while...

I love the rolling waves crashing against the rocks... and the fact that Mt. Fuji is awash in the background and barely visible, and the tree branch is slightly out of focus... it just lends a sense of reality to the photo - in stead of today where one can take a digital photo and know instantly whether or not it was any good.

This poor photographer wasn't so lucky, in that the focus was a bit off, but decided it was worth keeping, I bet, just because it shows a wave crashing against the rocks on the left spraying water up high in an epic moment. It's nature all over the place. grass, sand, trees, waves, water and one old man mountain.

Merry Christmas,
Andrew Joseph

It's Christmas 2012!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

It's 12:01 AM on December 25, 2012 as this is being published, and I realize that for many of you around the world, the day is almost done. As such, I hope everyone had a great day, regardless of your beliefs.

I just want to take the time to give a special should out to a few of you who have my 2012 most enjoyable.

Thanks to Caroline, Cathy L., Cathy D., Morgana, and cuz. Rachel, and my wife Colette, if not for reading this blog, but for at least looking out for stories for me to publish or to research and get a chance to learn more about a plethora of things I would never have thought about in a million years.

As well, thanks to Matthew, Mike R., Jimbo, Ryu, Peter A., Michael P., who have taken the time to help me out with words of advice and story ideas.

And... I'm probably omitting a few people. So... let's add in new and old friends like Rob J., Doug. M, Nigel, Kevin, new buddy Rik in the Middle East, Paul in the UK, Matt. P, Mike O., my son Hudson who is amazed by what I show him on here, Steve in the US, and really, all of you who write in with cryptic comments and words of advice or critical thoughts and curious questions - I love it.

Michael H in Australia... and old friend Charlie who recently contacted me via LinkedIn, and Kristine S. who is busy with her newborn kid, and Jim P. also in Oz... you guys have always been my friend. 

It's kind of bizarre to think that when I started, my goal was to do maybe 100 of these blogs and then move onto another topic. While I didn't keep track of my readership that first year starting in July of 2009, it's safe to say I never broke 300 hits a month - for all 59 of the blogs I created.

It's kind of weird to continue writing something like this, though I am 19 years removed from Japan... but the place still holds me in its thrall as a sense of wonder. There is no longing about opportunities missed, or anything like that. No. But for me, I try to honor Japan - to say thanks in helping me grow up - by doing this blog.

Heck... even back in February of 2011, we only had 1,419 total hits for the month. Excellent... to know that once a month I was finally able to break a thousand readers... it made me happy.

Since then, I get that number of hits on a soft day, all the way up to peak days of 2,593 this past December 19. And while I am sure the majority of hits are looking for something specific, it's nice to know that GOOGLE thinks I am a good place to recommend people to when they are searching for specifics on Japan. Heck... this month, I'll break 52,000 hits, if I'm lucky. In one month. It pales in comparison to some other blogs, but that's cool.

I know that when I am finally done writing about Japan, I will be proud of the entire body of work, knowing that for anyone wanting a good read on the country or on certain aspects of it historically, I will not have led anyone astray with false information (though, it is true mistakes are always possible, and are gladly corrected with help from you all). Heck... my dad ripped me after the first ever blog pointing out that I had made a few grammatical errors. I still make those, of course. Not on purpose, but they are present.

So... as another year approaches... I am still after one more thing for 2012... and that's to actually have posted 730 blogs for the year. That would imply that I have posted an average of two stories per day. Two per day on Google +, Facebook and Twitter.

Yes, Virginia, Japan - It's A Wonder Rife has a Facebook page... that has a total of five followers (including good friend Andrew J. Hall, who passed away this summer). It's stuff like that... that keeps me humble.

Anyhow... thank you for reading... we have one more week until the beginning of 2013... so let's be safe and healthy... because well... you all make me complete.

Oh... and Matthew and his wife Takako, and kids Michelle and Alex... I hope my family can come down for a visit one summer day. Really... I don't snore anymore. 

Happy Ho-Ho's,
Andrew Joseph
PS: That photo above was from my first Christmas in Japan back in 1990 - spent with Matthew, believe it or not, who helped save my Christmas spirit.  
      
  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Enoshima - Night View

Here's another photograph taken from the photo album I purchased 20 years ago in Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. These photographs are from the 1930s, and are, as far as I know, all original... you can see the silver tincture in the photos. Most of the photos have the original owner of the album scratching in the description of the place in a white marker... complete with age fading...

The photograph above is a night scene of the island of Enoshima (江の島), an island about four (4) kilometers in circumference.. and is part of the city of Fujisawa near Mt. Fuji.

You can see the linking 600 meter-long pathway to it that has since added a bridge to make it more accessible for tourists... and includes train line for you to get to. Just not back in the 1930s.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

View Of Mount Fuji From Enoshima

Over the next few days, I am going to present some photography taken from the photo album I purchased 20 years ago in Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. These photographs are from the 1930s, and are, as far as I know, all original... you can see the silver tincture in the photos.

The photograph above is taken from Enoshima of the epic Mount Fuji mountain in the background across the crashing waves.

Enoshima (江の島) is an island about four (4) kilometers in circumference..and is part of the city of Fujisawa.

It is linked to the mainland by a 600-meter long bridge, and is accessible, amongst other modes, by train.

Enoshima was purchased by British merchant Samuel Cocking through his Japanese wife from the Japanese government back in 1880. He developed a beautiful botanical gardens, which remains to this day a tourist attraction with some 500,000 visitors yearly. 

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Godzilla Christmas Tree - Updated

Geez! Don't let your kids see this!

Hell... it's mine!!!!

Andrew Joseph

I published this pic last year - but it's one of my favorite entries, so to speak, that I couldn't let the year pass without it seeing the light of day once again.

I have no idea where this smoke exhaling Godzilla-shaped Christmas tree was in place, but I can only hope it was in Japan... at least the folks in the top corner lead me to believe it to be true.

Although this photo was indeed popular worldwide, Caroline was the one who sent me a link to it. And now, for reasons only know to the gods of the Internet, whenever my blog opens up, the original entry back on December 9, 2011 is the first thing I see.

Strange, isn't it? It almost makes me want to throw open the doors and go Caroling down the street. Y'know, I once had a girlfriend who called me Godzilla... it may have been my radioactive breath or the fact that I enjoyed thrashing tanks with my tail. Whatever.

I just wanted to say thanks to all of you people who have made my life a living hell with this blog by encouraging me.

To you all - and I'm going to be politically incorrect here - Merry Christmas and thanks for being a part of my life and my rife.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph 
PS: I'm still doing three-a-day blogs until the end of the year. So, keep on reading.  


Spider-Man J

One of the nice things about being a comic book reader is the fact that there are millions of comic books out there that I have never read, and so finding something interesting isn't really that hard.

Because of economic constraints, I have been forced to not buy as many comics as I would like these past couple of years... a real struggle for me, let me tell you.

Back before I was married, I could easily spend $100 a week on comics and be happy reading away. Now... I go out to the comic shop maybe once ever two months and pick up a couple of titles: All Star Western and Green Lantern.

But before... holy crap... it was everything Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and a whole mess of independents...

I mean... at one time or another, I have owned Cerebus - complete run of 300, Amazing Spider-man #1 (and a complete run from #88 - my first ever comic book purchased new through #600), Fantastic Four #2, Avengers #1-300, Conan - complete run, X-Men #2 - 300, Batman #200-400 ... just to name a few of the 30,000 comic books I own.

I have well over 700 Richie Rich comics, 1,000 Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge and other duck comics, several hundred Archie comics... you name it, I have it.

I have tried my hand at a few of Japan's comics, and aside from an Americanized version of Astro Boy, Marvel and Dark Horse Godzilla, Mai The Psychic Girl, Lone Wolf & Cub I have always found them wanting.

When in Japan, I hated the Japanese style of comic book art... silly. I could never understand the need to take Japanese characters and give them overly large eyes... it was as though the Japanese were afraid of the way their own eyes looked, and so created this fantasy land where Japanese characters looked super cute with their over-sized eyes... and that's what Japanese animation and manga style artwork is all about... (at least on the surface). Lone Wolf and Cub taught me that not all Japanese artists felt the need to make their characters look kid-like.

And then I cam across Spider-man J... and make no doubt about it... Spider-man is hyphenated.

Anyhow... this one: Spider-man J is Spider-man Japan, created by a Japanese writer/artist who has set the Spider-man mythos in a whole new light.

Written and illustrated in glorious black and white by Yamanaka Akira (surname first), he gives spidey a manga look.

I bought it just because it had the Japanese connection - figuring I could slam it here in this blog. But, dammit... his (Akira's) version rocks.

Originally published in Japan in Comic Bom Bom between November 9, 2004 to May 11, 2005, Spider-Man J (スパイダーマンJ) is not the Spider-man I grew up with (come to think of it, the Spider-man published now by Marvel isn't the Spider-man I grew up with either, thanks to retro-origins et al).

Our hero is a Japanese 15-year-old boy named Sho Amano (天野翔) who has what is described as 'paranormal abilities of a spider'. I'm not sure what that means, as I came aboard a few stories in with the English version pictured above - Japanese Daze - the second digest of comics translated to English (the kid is once again called Peter Parker, screwing up the whole international flavor).

Y'know... aside from the whole 'eye' thing, I quite like Japanese art. As well, I like the fact that Japanese manga has a lot of action in it. I've read Batman and Spidey books where it's just talk-talk-talk, with so much angst in it you just want to puke.

I used to read comic books to escape from the suckiness of being a kid... but the angst, man... ugh. It's why Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge and Prince Valiant comics rock... It's full of adventure... stuff that is missing from comics nowadays... I'm reading my son Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge bedtime stories originally created in the 1940s and '50s by the best writer and artist out there, Carl Barks (though Hal Foster is a close second for his Prince Valiant!)

But... in Spider-Man J... while again there is the lack of adventure, there is a but load of action delivered in a fashion that the Japanese love and create so well.

Let me just say that, although not critically received here in North America, Spider-Man J was alright in my books. I even read a Marvel version of Spider-man (years ago) done by creators from India... it rocked. I think it's kind of cool to see how different cultures would create a version of Spider-man for themselves.

It still contains recognizable characters such as the Fantastic Four's The Thing and the villainous Dr. Doom, but the other characters are new and original and totally Japanese!

So... if you can... contact your local comic book shop and ask them if they have books # 1and #2 (Japanese Knights and Japanese Daze), two digest comics that are a bit off the regular fare, but quite an enjoyable read nonetheless.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Japan's Pulls Out Its Peacekeepers From Golan Heights

Citing increased trouble in Syria's Golan Heights, Japan is pulling out its peacekeeping force, according to Japan's chief cabinet secretary Fujimura Osamu (surname first).

The Golan Heights are occupied by Israel, and while Japan's peacekeepers have been active in helping keep the peace in the area since 1974, Japan thinks it is now getting too dangerous in the area for the 50-man unit under United Nations control.

The unit will return back to Japan within one month's time.

As an aside, the whole Middle East debacle and it's constant wars of aggression and hate are an incredible look at just how stupid human beings can be. These people have been fighting for thousands of years over a hunk of rock that nobody in their right mind should want - except that it belongs to 'them'. Whoever 'them' is.

It doesn't even matter who is right or wrong anymore. It's just a simple matter of hate for the other. Sad, really. It's so sad that people around the world simply shrug their shoulders and shake their collective head... what, the Middle east thing? Still? Whatever.

I feel sorry for the regular people who are constantly under strife, who will never know a normal life. How normal a life is it to toss a rock at a tank?

Sitting here in my warm house in the middle of a Canadian December, my biggest problem is wondering just why my dishwasher has sprung a leak... not wondering if someone next door is going to launch a rocket at someone else. How effing sad a life is that?

Andrew Joseph

Pre-World War II Combat Army Photo

This is a photo from pre-WWII (World War 2). It is of a platoon of the Japanese Army, and after discussions with a few Japanese junior high school history teachers, all seemed to agree that this combat unit was dressed before a possible invasion of China.

This is a photograph from a photo album I purchased at a garage sale in Utsunomiya-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan back in the early 1990s. If I was to judge other photos in the album - photos that showed some automobiles, I'm apt to say that this is from the mid-1930s, contrary to one history teacher who seemed to think it was from the Taisho-jidai of 1912 - 1926... but it's simply too early in my estimation.

If any military experts out there can give me a better date by examining the rifles carried, the manner of dress... I would be appreciative.

The unit is dressed rather warmly, however... gloves on the officers and woolen hats... perhaps this is part of an attack on Siberia which did occur in 1918... the photo because of its size does seem out of place in the rest of the photo album...

About the only other thing I know, is that the photo was taken by Yamato Studio... with that printed in English, and an additional ya-ma-to written in Katakana, of all alphabets. The studio name et al is embossed on the print on the bottom right corner.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph  


What Do Japanese Women Sound Like In Bed?

A few weeks back, I received, a personal question regarding this blog... or more specifically what do Japanese women sound like in bed...

The letter was from a Japanese-American woman.

She pondered, after viewing a few Japanese pornographic videos just why it is that the Japanese actresses seem to sound as though they are in pain while they are having sex.

She adds that she herself has had a few American male friends who have dated Japanese women, but lacked the 'courage' to ask about this, and wondered if this was something that men are intrigued by.

Wow. Great question... and only one I can give an opinion to, as opposed to a definite answer.

First off, for the record, I did write back to her right away and provide my opinion... which is what I am going to do now.

So... for those of you who may never have seen a Japanese porn movie - bravo, but these ones bore me.

I've seen a few, and my writer-friend is correct! The women in these movies all sound like they are in pain while they have sex.

Now... since I was actually lucky enough to have had sex with a few Japanese women before seeing Japanese porn, I had no preconceived notions about sex.

That, by the way, is a big negative about porn. Preconceived notions are erected, as well as impossible, ideals to live up to.

People tend to think that porno movies are merely an extension of real life... and to a certain degree, I will agree with that. But for the most part, the porn and the adult video industry caters to fantasy.

It caters to what it believes the average man or woman wants, and tries to deliver it.

This is where the whole 'itai-itai-iku-iku' thing comes from in Japanese porn. That's my own phrasing in Japanese, but it translates into: 'ow-ow-I'm cumming-I'm cumming'.

Of the 20+ Japanese women I was lucky enough to have slept with in my three years in Japan (not including any AETs or CIRs on the JET (Japan exchange & Teaching) Programme, or tourists), not a single one of them moaned as though they were in pain, but did moan in 'enjoyment' before 'iku-iku-ing'. Well... some of them did... I was still learning.

Ergo... based on an admittedly small sample size (I tried to get a larger sampling - I really did), I hypothesize that the average Japanese woman not involved in the porn industry does not moan during sex.

Now... you pundits may laughingly suggest that my bed partners did not moan in pain because I am not hugely endowed. Sure. I'm not Johnny Wad, or Long Dong Silver et al... but in a comparison to what the male actors in these movies have, I'm in the ball park, if not carrying a bigger bat. How do I know? I pressed it up against my TV. Okay, really... it's a visual thing... comparing the club to the hand to the vase beside the bed... you can get a good guess.

So... if I am at around the same size as these actors... and they not super large... why didn't my Japanese women sound like the ones in the videos? Because in real life, they don't.

It's my opinion that the women in porn videos are instructed to act subservient. To act like it hurts because the men watching it who are getting off to this want to believe that they are hugely endowed and when he (the viewer) is fantasizing about doing the actress, he wants to hear that he is hurting her with his penis.

I think the male viewers want to hear the woman being screwed like she's being hurt.

Is this a Japanese male thing, or is this what the Japanese adult video thinking it's what the men want?

Probably a bit of both.

I do think the average Japanese man likes to think he is in charge, whether in the boardroom or the bedroom. There's that feeling of power.

Why that revolves around 'hurting' a woman during sex - I have no idea. A lot of things revolving around sex involve a power struggle. I know plenty of women who love it when they are spanked, and would love to flip it and suddenly take control, become the Dom... to make the man beg and howl for more...

Maybe in Japan, however, because the sexual liberation of women is still in its infancy (my opinion) - women do not come close to equality in the male-dominated Japan - that the male-controlled adult video industry thinks the women should be ultra subservient to the men.

Hell... have you seen these videos? Most of the time it involves a man interfering with a woman (bordering on rape) to have sex with them... in most of the flicks I saw (past tense), the men wanted sex more than the woman and weren't taking 'no' for an answer... and when sex was initiated, itai-itai (ow-ow) would be moaned from the woman at the big strong, virile Japanese man with the huge penis slamming into her.

It's all fantasy. The guy watching the flick is supposed to fantasize that he is the male actor pounding the woman. He wants to believe he is something he isn't, and the actress moans that he is hurting her with his sexual prowess.

I mean... for gosh sakes... how many of the porn videos revolve in a woman dressed up as a high school student (a la the sailor moon school uniform?) - plenty. If you crack open a men's magazine... how many of the women are dressed in their old high school uniform? Most. It's a Lolita complex... and Japanese men utilize it as part of the fantasy (I hope it's only fantasy!). And the same hold true about the moaning in pain during sex in an adult video.

As an aside... my fiance tried to be the typical Japanese subservient woman in our daily life... picking up my clothes, trying to do the dishes, laundry et al... but she was just stopping by my house... I, as a foreigner, appreciated her efforts but did not need her to do this on my behalf.  And I told her so. I could hear the exhale of breath (Whew!), as she, just like me, had a job and sure as hell didn't need to do my laundry (as well as hers at her place). I didn't need to date the maid, though if she wanted to wear fishnets and dress up as the maid, that would be hot.

That's just my two yen's worth. The Japanese porn industry caters to its own market, just as every other country's adult video market caters to theirs.

So... my female writer-friend... it's my opinion that the Japanese porn industry has the women moan like they are hurting from the sex because that is a turn-on to Japanese men... but, the average Japanese woman does not moan like that, because unless you are hung like a mule, the man isn't hurting anyone for real.

This was a great question. Thank you for taking the time to ask me for my advice, and thank you for reading the blog.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Japandroids

Well, well... will wonders never cease... my wife who never reads my writing gave me a lead on a possible story, asking me if I have ever heard of the Japandroids.

WTF are the Japandroids? She had no clue, which means I have to find out, just to see if she happened to coin a new term or if there really is something called Japandroids.

Turns out the Japandroids are a Canadian rock and roll duo from Vancouver, British Columbia, consisting of David Prowse and Brian King.

Now... some of you geeks are wondering aloud to yourself as you brush of the crumbs of pork rinds from your 20 year old 'Han Shot First' t-shirts... David Prowse... wasn't he the guy who played Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies? Yes... David Prose did play the body of Darth Vader (but not the face and definitely not the voice!)... but this is NOT the same David Prowse.

Formed in 2006, Japandroids got noticed after their first album Post-Nothing in 2009. Anyhow... these guys are rock... sorta punkish...

Here... have a listen to them: The House That Heaven Built.

If it doesn't work... just Google them on YouTube...

The name Japandroids came from two other band name ideas: Japanese Scream (from Prowse) and Pleasure Droids (from King).

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Japan's Belly Button Festival

A Belly Button Festival in Japan? Sure... why not? But it's not just to celebrate the umbilical cord remnant to your momma-san... no... this Hokkaido festival celebrates the central point of the huge Japanese island to the north!

A way back in July of 1969, in the city of Furano, Hokkaido-ken, its citizens drew up a charter stating that Furano was the central point of all Hokkaido - which it apparently is.

And... since the belly button or navel is considered the central point of the human body, the citizens of Furano have designated their city the belly button of Japan.

In what must be a unique way to create tourism for its city, Furano quickly developed the Hokkaido Heso Matsuri (literally the Hokkaido Bellybutton Festival).

Now, we've missed the 2012 Hokkaido Heso Matsuri - it was in July - but let's talk about it now so you can plan accordingly for 2013... after all, even if you live in Japan, most of the readers of Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife probably don't live in Hokkaido. I could be wrong, of course... it's just a logical guess of who my readers might be.

The matsuri (Festival) was the brainchild of three locals: (surname first) Kurigama Shuho, Yokoh Eijiro and Morita Tohachi, who combined with folks in the Suzuran shopping district who wanted something totally unique to draw the folks

What they came up with was stomach art dance!

What's that? Take a look at the photo up above! Or the one below!

But... who the hell wanted to do that? Well, for that first matsuri, they managed to convince 11 young people to do it... and the rest was history!    

It's awesome!

What gets painted on? Well... anything from superheroes, to women to kabuki faces... the point is that the expressions change as you dance about. Ideally.

I could never do this unless I was making a bear face on my torso - what with me being a manly man covered in hair. It's also why I have never got a tattoo... where the hell would I put it? I do have a spot on my back that is shaped like Albania where there is no hair, however. Strange... I thought Albanians were hairy. I'm of Indian extraction... we're hairy... because that's important when you are from a country that routinely gets to be 40C.

Anyhow, my son said he wants a tattoo of his face done on his face so he would always look young. Sorry... that ain't happening... he did, however think that painting his torso up with a funny face was cool. He would so do the Heso Matsuri... but I would have to do it with him.

Y'know... 12 years ago before my wife spoiled my figure... I had/have the 48-inch chest... and then had a 32-inch waist... I would have done it... now... the face would be puffy with a four-day growth of beard!

Okay... enough self-deprecation... still, on the Furano website (HERE) - which is a little behind, having stopped listing data in 2011 (but does have great info) - they describe the application of the artwork - and show off some great images... implying that even I could make a perfect participant in the matsuri:
First, you paint your whole stomach with a white pigment from chest to a few centimeters below the navel.
Then apply powder over the whole body.

Paint the mouth, eyes and nose with black. On everybody's stomach, the bellybutton should be the "mouth".

Nice Kabuki face! Decorate the face with red, blue, yellow, pink, etc. Finish subtle tones with hands and cloth, and you're done!

Pretty cool. My only concern is whether the skin can still breath after the application of all of these paints - but whatever... I'm sure the participants will be too smashed on booze to care while the matsuri is on.

Every year, nowadays, some 4000 dancers participate - up from the 11 in its initial year, eh? - with some 70,000 tourists, making this the premier summer festival in Hokkaido.

Anyhow... should you wish to check out the festival, allow me to redirect you to the Furano Tourism website: HERE (they don't have information for the 2013 festival up yet... but knowing that the previous festivals have been weekend affairs and is always the last weekend of July, the festival for 2013 should be on July 27 and 28. 

YOU can participate in the drunken belly button dance - and if you do... drop me a line and let me know how it goes. Regardless... everyone should make Hokkaido a part of their destination when visiting Japan. From what my pal Matthew has told me - it's beautiful.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Asian Turf War In The U.S.

Thanks to Matthew Hall for the alert!

Warning! There's an Asian turf war in South Park, Colorado!

Click HERE to get the full scoop.

As a heads up... there is nothing to download ONTO your computer... hopefully you won't find any country restrictions - but please let me know if you do!

Holy crap, that video is racist and full of stereotyping, and we'll all go to hell because it's funny... but despite it all, the important thing to take from it is the fact that UNDER all of the stuff that makes you cringe, there's a lesson or two to be learned.


Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Friday, December 21, 2012

Neatest Raker

You have to like this photograph.

I found this at www.twitpic.com/beqemz.

I like this picture, but I question its authenticity.

Now... not only do we see a smiling Japanese guard, but we see some of the neatest raking I have ever seen... or do we?

Yeah, yeah... a lovely star and a lovely heart made out of leaves... but what about the leaves he has dumped over to the left?!

Hoping we wouldn't see his half-assed job! Whose grandfather is that? They should hang their head in shame.

Just kidding around... but I'll tell you... the whole thing seems contrived... it's autumn - the photo was first posted one month ago - and the leaves have fallen... but that crappy old broom... there's no way he gets such perfect shapes from that... the leaf colors contain two shades of yellow and that's it... and there is no wind during the entire time an old man spends raking the leaves into these two shapes. And look at the perfectly straight angle on the heart's top... everyone knows it should be convex... and yet... the rays on the star are rounded...

It's possible... highly unlikely.. but possible.

Perhaps the old man has no idea how mankind's representation of a star or a heart should really look. A star is round and flaming, and a heart is bulgy and full of blood, muscle and a bit of fat.

I'm just saying that it looks less staged and more 'adjusted'.

Maybe I have too little faith. It's probably because I didn't get my Christmas wish last year. Maybe this time. I've tried to be naughty, but instead remained good. 

Oh well... I think I just feel guilty because I didn't rake a single leaf this Fall. It'll protect the grass by providing insulation and will become the best fertilizer in the Spring. I hope. Crap. Maybe I should have hired the old guard.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

We Survived!


This is a message from the Emergency Broadcasting Service know as your humble blogger. If this had been a real emergency, you could all have kissed your ass good-bye.. I mean... why would you be on this website looking for help? Or any website? It would already be too late. An EMF pulse would take out the electronics... aliens would take out the radio stations... and the Gods would come down from their mountainous homes and would shoot all the lawyers and bloggers because we would serve little purpose in a world where there are no stenographers or computer keyboards.

And yet... some bloggers know so much... if you are viewing this, we have survived the end of the Mayan Calendar, and I get to enjoy the remaining 19 days off before I have to go back in to work on January 8, 2013.

I know, I know... lucky bugger... then again... I barely took a day off this past year... certainly zero sick days for the third year in a row.

I get to spend it at home... wondering why I encouraged my seven-year-old son to believe that Santa Claus still exists... the problem with that is I now have to buy him twice the number of presents... one from me... and one from Santa... (his birthday was two weeks ago, as well)... and my son dreams big, and I'll be damned if I'll dash his dreams.

I think I spent so much on my son because I secretly hoped the Mayans were correct and that the end of the world would actually occur on December 21, 2012. Then I wouldn't have to pay off my credit card bills.

It also means I have to go out today and get something for the wife. Nertz.

Cheers. And Happy December 21, 2012... the first day of the rest of your life... if you are a Mayan.

Oh! And... If I was completely wrong and the end of the world did happen... well... at least I won't be around to hear you say "I told you so, Andrew." Come to think of it, you won't be around to say it. Win-win.
Andrew Joseph
That's the Mayan Calendar in the photo above. If it looks to you like an Aztec Calendar, you are correct. The Mayans took their calendar from the Aztecs.