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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Japan Nose Comedy

I was actually scanning the world wide interweeb thingy looking for something strange--and didn't find what I was looking for.

That in itself was strange because the Japanese do a lot of weird stuff, and I thought for sure there would be someone doing it, but for my friend Vincent - sorry man - I couldn't find it anywhere.

That said, or not said, because I still hold out hope that I will find what I am looking for, I did come across something strange.

It's Japanese all right, and while it is also strange, it's funny ha-ha, rather than funny-strange. Cute almost. Which given the Japanese propensity for all things cute nearly made me puke.

But having reflexed that gag, what I found is still worth sharing.

Some gaijin recorded a Japanese comedy act from his television and placed it on YouTube, describing Japan Nose Comedy.

Using cutouts, he... well... just watch the clip. It's pretty inventive.

I also thought that the drawings he used were pretty good, too. Think he did it himself? Who knows.

I'm unsure who this comedian is, but he does make me wonder how he came up with the act. While I am unsure if it is original, I've not seen anything like it before.

About all I can do with my large nose is have my tongue touch the tip of it. And, despite having a somewhat large nose (compared to the average Japanese person), my trick has more to do with the length of my tongue.

Many people (women) around the world know what I am talking about. Others... you know my name, look up me number.

By the way... because I utilize a c-pap machine to combat (successfully) my sleep apnea, I wear a mask that covers my mouth and nose. For the record, my mask is a medium. Who would have foretold that?

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Hojojutsu

I have my secret skills with rope and binding, but it seems as though the Japanese have me and the Boy Scouts beat all to hell.

Hojojutsu, is supposed to be an way of binding, done in a way so as to become its own martial art.  

I saw a blog written about Hojojutsu, and rather than put my own unique skill on it, I think I will instead direct you to the site where it was admirably put together.  

Please check out the Lingualift blog HERE. It is written by Holly Daffurn.

Ahhh, blogging. The ties that bind.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Canadian and Japanese Companies Form Energy Partnership

Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based AltaGas Ltd. and Japanese energy company Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd. have agreed to form a partnership to export liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Canada to Asia.

According to terms from the deal, each company will own 50 per cent of the enterprise to be called AltaGas Idemitsu Joint Venture Limited Partnership.

"We are excited to partner with Idemitsu, a global leader in the supply of energy, petroleum, lubricants and petrochemical products and services to the people of Japan. Idemitsu has a proud heritage of creating value for the benefit of Japan and the societies, consumers and communities in which they operate,” says AltGas chairman and chief executive officer David Cornhill.

The companies are looking to develop long-term natural gas supply and sales arrangements to meet the growing demand for natural gas in Asia, particularly Japan, Asia’s largest LNG consumer.

The joint venture will undertake feasibility study that will be completed in early 2014 for the development and construction of liquefaction facilities as part of the proposed exporting project.

Pacific Northern Gas Ltd., a wholly-owned AltaGas subsidiary, will provide the pipeline capacity required to transport natural gas to the liquefaction facility.

Following consultations with Canada's First Nations, and the completion of studies and various regulatory hurdles, the companies forecast exports ready to begin in 2017.

LPG exports will also be pursued, which would involve logistics, plant refrigeration and storage facilities. A feasibility study is to be completed this year, and with approvals in order, exporting could begin in 2016.

The two companies intend to extend the partnership to owning and operating other infrastructure assets for other energy businesses in North America.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Let Them Eat Dirt: A Restaurant Review

Everyone has a dirty little secret. Some of us share it (most of it) with the world, others keep it locked up in their brain fearing a Julian Assange has moved into the neighborhood (WikiLeaks founder). And still others don't care if you know all their dirt. In fact, they revel in it. Some love to hear dirt... but do people want to eat dirt?

Let's look at the French restaurant Ne Quittez Pas (translates in English to 'Please Don't Leave'), a place located in Tokyo, Japan that has a whole specialty course involving dirt as an ingredient.

No, there is no alternate definition for dirt, in this case. It's exactly what it sounds like. Dirt. As in the stuff you might walk on and be asked to scrape off your shoes before your mom lets you into the house.

Dirt.

Okay... maybe it's not just an ingredient one digs up in the backyard.

According to Torii Saeko (surname first), a representative of dirt manufacturer Protoleaf: "The dirt is called Kuro Tsuchi and it's volcanic ashes mixed with soil and plants from the Kanto District in Japan."

The Kanto district is that large swathe of area around Tokyo going up to Tochigi-ken (where there was a fair bit of radiation after the Fukushima-ken Dai-ichi nuclear accidents back in 2011). Other prefectures include Gunma-ken, Ibaraki-ken, Saitama-ken, Chiba-ken and Kanagawa-ken.

I think it's always good to know exactly where your dirt is coming from.

Torii adds, "It (the dirt mixture) has good bacteria, healthy minerals, and is natural and pure."

Can't argue with natural and pure. By the way, arsenic is also natural and pure, but it may not be good for you. It's always good to have someone else try the food or elements of the periodic table first.

According to Rocket News - a decent Japanese website - they sampled the wares at Ne Quittez Pas.

They say that while the dishes do look 'dirty', none tasted like dirt and were actually described as 'delicious' and 'divine'. Dead emperors were considered divine before the end of World War II, but if I ate one, would it still be delicious or sacrilegious?

Anyhow, they (Rocket News) sampled such dishes as:
  • potato starch and dirt soup;
  • salad with dirt dressing;
  • aspic made with oriental clams and a top layer of sediment;
  • dirt risotto with sauteed sea bass (see photo at the very top);
  • dirt gratin, and;
  • dirt ice cream.
What the hell is with the aspic? Where's the dirt? Sediment is not necessarily dirt, my friend! But, I suppose it's moot. Aspic? I hate that gelatin with food crap. Yuck.

Salad with Dirt Dressing. Someone make sure the leaves are washed, though.
But what about drinks, Rocket News? I'm sure Ne Quittiez Pas has plenty of drinks at their establishment, but none dirty. But that's okay - tell them to put your beverage in a dirty glass.

Rocket News says that the dirt they tasted had coffee grinds and palm fiber. Hopefully someone spit in the coffee grinds and had a monkey pee on the palm fiber. If you're going to go natural and pure, let's use all of Mother Nature.

While Protoleaf says their product is safe to eat - how do you know? How do you know what is really in your dirt? Could there be bits of glass (fused sand), toxins (I'm thinking arsenic) or rocks (like stones, but different). :)

Seriously folks, the restaurant and Protoleaf expect that by saying the dirt has good bacteria in it, that people will come running. The runs may be involved, but if you need bacteria (and we do), rather than lick a handrail at a train station, you could have a yogurt.

I've also heard that good bacteria is also in tempeh (not the one in Arizona), olives (not Popeye's girlfriend, but who really knows - guh-guh-guh-guh-guh-guh), pickles (Buddy's wife from the Dick Van Dyke TV show - why do I even know her name?!) or sauerkraut (too easy a joke). (I've got a million of 'em. Now... take my wife... please!)

And, if it's just dirt you want to eat, come to my house. It's filthy.

But if international dirt is more your thing, I'm sure its worth the drive, flight and walk and ambulance ride) to Ne Quittez Pas.
To wash down the meal - Dirt Ice Cream.
And, because it's been a while... I once ate at a French restaurant in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. My bosses at the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) took me there for my 26th birthday. They ordered the most expensive thing on the menu for me. They smiled evil-like as they did so and said they would tell me what it was after I ate it.

Okay, I'm gamey. I was served a tall glass of chilled tomato consomme with some whitish grey froth on top. Okayyyyyy. I purposely dug down past the white froth to get at the red chilled consomme. I dipped a spoon in and say 'Mmmmm" because I am a consummate consomme professional and already dislike the consistency of this.

Still, because it's my birthday and because I don't want to disappoint these Japanese gentlemen who have befriended me these past several months - and I want to be the best gaijin (foreigner) possible and not cause trouble - I ate it. Froth and all - in several gut-wrenching spoonfulls.

As I swallowed (gulped in fear, actually) quickly, and was finished, I leaned over towards Mr. Kanemaru (the one boss who could not speak much English - as Mr. Hanazaki the better English speaker was off getting us more beer).

Kanemaru-san smiled at me and said in perfect English: "Delicious?"

When did he learn to do that?

Crap. Be nice, Andrew: "Hai (yes)."

"Would you like another?" - again with the perfect English.

"Oh no... that was good. So... what was it?"

Using his Japanese to Englih dictionary, he painfully found each word and translated it for me: tomato... consomme (I had no idea what consomme was back then, to be honest)... and then I asked what the stuff was at the top... he smiled an evil smile and showed me - he had this page folded (heathen - you don't wreck books!)... and pointed with his nicotine-stained pointing finger to: 'sea turtle'. Was he mocking me?

"Honto (really?)" I asked.

"Yesss," he hissed.

Whew! I thought... and then he flipped to another folded page and pointed ominously.... nodding that I should look if I dare... but because I had no idea he was being ominous, I looked...'phlegm'. That's spit...

Say what?!

I looked again... "Honto (really)?" I asked again.

He nodded, as I turned green as the algae growing on the back of a... what... crap... sea turtle.

I slumped back into the chair and wondered why they hated me so. If they wanted a new assistant English teacher, just tell me - don't kill me.

And... then I wondered.

What if the chef ran out of sea turtle phlegm? Would he just cough up a lougie (heavy chunk of spit)? Who would know?

Ugh.

I never ate French food in Japan again. Except for French Fries, though I preferred to call them Freedom Fries after the panicky U.S coined 11 years later.

It was my birthday! Couldn't they have let me eat cake?!

Somewhere wondering which tastes worse (in my head): Dirt or sea turtle phlegm.
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Canada and Japan Discuss Free Trade

Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper and Japan's Abe Shinzo (surname first) say they will work together to create a free trade agreement between the two countries.

In a January 28, 2013 phone call to congratulate Abe on his recent election, Harper mentioned that enhancing bilateral trade and economic relations between Canada and Japan is important to the prosperity of both countries. They also discussed the potential for energy co-operation and matters of international security.

So… Canada's Stephen Harper is calling Abe now to congratulate him on becoming prime minister?! Abe was elected back on December 16, 2012, I think!

What the hell took him so long to call?! You win hockey's Stanley Cup - he calls immediately. Evidently, becoming the prime minister of Japan is not as important as sports in the squinty little eyes of Canada's leader).

Harper also offered his condolences to Abe and the families of Japanese nations who were killed after militants attacked a remote gas plant in Algeria earlier this month.

I think the media is spying on these two guys…

Harper’s conversation with Abe came just hours after Japan announced it was relaxing restrictions on imported beef from Canada and three other countries a decade after raising barriers amid the so-called mad cow disease scare.

Ah, so desu ne. Thanks for letting out cows back onto your dinner menu, Japan! We should now do business. We wouldn't do business with you before because you weren't willing to do business with us. And Canada is the third-largest exporter of beef in the world!

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said it will allow imports of beef from cows up to 30 months old, effective February 1, 2013. The previous standard was to ban imports of beef from animals older than 20 months.

The Canadian government estimates the potential market value of beef exports to Japan will rise to between $140 million (¥12.6 billion) and $150 million (¥13.5 billion) a year, about double what they have been.

Yeee-hah!

Canada gets some money and you gist our sick beef.

I'm kidding… Canadian beef rules - all else drools. 

Free Trade with Japan and Canada? Will that make my television purchases cheaper? How about my cars? How about air tickets so I can have all this beautiful Japanese women come and visit me (in secret, of course. Shhhhhh).

Time will tell… but really… what the hell was Canada's leader waiting on before calling and saying 'hi'?

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

New Movie Coming Up: Emperor

There's a new movie coming out on March 8, 2013 called Emperor about the days following the surrender of Japan ending World War II.

The flick - which actually premiered a few months ago in Toronto at the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) looks at life in Japan during early days of America's occupation of its defeated foe, with General Douglas MacArthur suddenly in charge.

Historically correct, the movie looks at MacArthur having General Bonner Fellers - an expert in Japanese culture - quietly determine if Japan's emperor Hirohito should be punished for war crimes or saved.

The main problem regarding Japan and its Emperor - see, it could also be MacArthur as the ruler of Japan - is that the Emperor up until this time was revered by the Japanese people as being divine.

The movie Emperor stars Tommy Lee Jones (Academy Award winner) as MacArthur, Matthew Fox (formerly starring in the television program Lost) as Fellers and Hatsune Eriko (surname first), a gorgeous Japanese actress who plays Aya, the foxy love interest to Fox.

Directed by Peter Webber, the one-hour and 38-minute Emperor also stars: Nishida Roshiyuki (surname first) as General Kajima; Momoi Kaori (surname first) as Kajima Mitsuko; and Colin Moy as General Richter.

Here's a trailer of Emperor for you:


Oh, and because you care, here are some figures on Hatsune Eriko (初音映莉子)
Birthdate: March 24, 1982;
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan;
Height: 170 centimeters (5'-7");
Blood Type: A
Education: Horikoshi High School
Hobbies: Shopping, reading, listening to music
Specialties: Distance running, volleyball and waking up early (??!!??!!).

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
Thank-you Matthew for the nod in my general direction.

Mascot Dancing Earns World Record For Japan

First off, I just want to state for the record that the Guinness World Records ain't what it used to be. I recall when you could flip it open and state in awe at the World's Heaviest Man, Tallest Woman or Shortest Person. And, if you were so inclined, you could see the man with the longest fingernails, longest hair,Siamese Twins - stuff that made you go, 'cool'.

And then there's this... what I like to call American Kabuki, or what the rest of the world knows it as 'mascots'.

The photo above - I have no idea where those two mascots are from - Mario and Luigi? Why is there a band-aid on the penis head?

Seems that this past Sunday, January 27, 2013, a bunch of Japanese mascots set a Guinness Record for most number of mascots performing a synchronized dance.

Oh, that the race of man could sink so low.

You can tell I am not at all down with this record.

There were a total of 141 people dressed up as a mascot - and, if you know who any of them are, please let me know so I can do additional mocking - and, setting the record were 134 of them who danced continuously and in unison for five minutes.

That was the gist. Continuously and In Unison. For FIVE minutes.

The American Kabuki - mascots - were the domain of sports teams. The Phillie Phanatic and the San Diego Chicken were perhaps the two most famous mascots in the history of sports - both in the National League of Major League Baseball.

Twenty years ago, there was even a Simpson's episode where Homer was called to the big leagues to be a baseball team mascot... but failed, as hick town antics failed to impress the high-falooting City dwellers.   

Anyhow, these Japanese mascots are known as yuru-kyara (it means 'loose characters) and danced to a descent enough musical tune - something called The Beard Dance - which sounds slightly dirty, now that I think of it... yes... I'm having a flashback... arms flailing from side to side... no wait... I'm just falling off my chair. Always keep the feet of your chair on the ground.

The Beard Dance is something done by The Drifters, a Japanese comedy-rock band (a part of me wants to say - is there any other? - but I have heard some good stuff via Marketing Japan!). Isn't there a 50s American doo-wop group called The Drifters? So much for Japanese originality!

Anyhow... 'loose characters' doing the beard dance? It sounds like a typical night out for old Andrew back in Japan and for quite few years afterwards here in Toronto. It's not so much 'dirty' as it is full of sexual innuendo. Even the word 'innuendo' is full of innuendo.

So... the mascots set the record on their third attempt. Whew! That's a lot of dirty dancing by these mascots in big, sweaty costumes. Is that vomit I smell?

Anyhow... once Japan discovered the cuteness factor that could be obtained via American Kabuki, it has taken over the genre. Excluding the government, Japan never does anything half-assed. That can't be right. I should have looked up some numbers, but I didn't feel like I had to.

Nowadays, Japan uses mascots to promote product brands (sure, McDonald's did it!), recycling (America had Woodsy Owl - Give a hoot! Don't Pollute! - obviously the campaign worked, if I can remember that and can hoot), tax collectors (uh... does it look like the Sheriff of Nottingham?), and even the Liberal Democratic Party is looking for one (I say it should look like a horses ass).

I have no idea how anyone can know this, but there are an estimated 1,000 yura-kyara in Japan.

Why Japan?

It's this love of cuteness that makes Russia and China want to club you over the head like a baby seal and steal your islands.

Oh well... here's a YouTube video of the Guinness World Record. I watched it twice to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.


Somewhere hooting for Alec Guinness - these aren't the mascots you are looking for,  
Andrew Joseph
PS: Special thanks, as always, to the beautiful Caroline for the heads off to the mascot story.
By the way... the very first story I ever wrote for the Toronto Star newspaper was a piece on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles meeting Domer (the Toronto Skydome Turtle). While the story sucked - mascots are not allowed to speak, so my interview with those pizza-eating adolescent martial-arts Chelonii was rather one-sided with me having to creatively ask and answer questions so they could nod 'yes' or 'no' or point to their nose with a bulbous finger - I did enjoy hitting on the moms who were at the event with their Little Monsters. My own Guinness Record for futility (ie more virgin than Jesus' mom) held strong and true for another few months until I got to Japan and came out of my shell.

Monday, January 28, 2013

LDP: A Different View From An Outsider

Wow... this blog has been taking a hit the past few days, as readership is down. WTF? Maybe I need more girlfriends?

Speaking of which, politics - bedfellows, and all that.

I've been hard on the Liberal Democratic Party - the leaders of Japan - recently. But let me play Devil's Advocate, and look at things from their side.

The LDP wants to increase its military presence to protect what it believes to be their islands in the southwest of Japan. To protect it from incursions by China who have now decided that Japan has too much on its plate to adequately look after these islands.

If America or some other country suddenly said - hey, Canada... those islands to the north... they are out of your jurisdiction and we think they belong to us, and we're sending ships to claim it... I would, as a Canadian, be pretty pissed down here in Toronto.

I would want my country to stand up to the bullying nation and make sure no one steps on us to take what belongs to us (some island I've never been to or even know what it does).

I would want my country to prove that it has the guts to not back down from a fight!

And... that's what the LDP is doing for Japan.

And so, I understand why it's being done. I think I even understand why China is doing this now.

You and I can love the LDP all we want, or we can hate the LDP all we want. This is going to play out, one way or the other. The US will become involved, or perhaps the United Nations. There will be political discussions, sanctions, possible conflicts. People may die.

But... if you believe that the land is yours, why wouldn't you want to protect it? If you give in... what's to stop China, or anyone else from stepping in and saying that another set of islands is theirs? If you show weakness, that weakness will be exploited. Again and again.

I may have a political science degree in international relations (does sleeping around count?), but I don't know how this conflict can be settled to avoid China getting a closer foothold to Japan...

But, at least this exercise has taught me that I should at least be fair in how I spew my venom.

And... I haven't even looked at China's side in all of this.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More Military For Dispute With China

Japan is set to boost the number of military personnel, Defence Minister Onodera Itsunori (surname first)  said on January 27, 2013, as the new government led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) tackles a territorial spat with China over East China Sea islets.

I assume that means more Japanese military personnel, and not U.S.

Yeesh,

Andrew Joseph

Howling Like The Japanese Wolf

Here's an interesting story about the boy who cried wolf - except that this time he is searching - for 40 years now - for a wolf long thought extinct in Japan.

For 40 years! Wow! While I am unsure if he has gathered any solid evidence to make his search more palpable, Yagi Hiroshi (surname first) is tenacious.

I mean the last official capture of one of these creatures was back in 1905 when hunters killed one in Higashi-Yoshino in Nara-ken (Nara Prefecture), and no one has seen one - not even the hairs of its chinny-chin-chin - in all that time.

So... what made Yagi think the Honshu Wolf (also known as the Japanese Wolf or Nihon Ōkami was still alive?

A howling he heard when he was 19-years-old in a beech wood forest on Mount Naeba, a volcano on the border of Nagano and Niigata prefectures in central Honshū, Japan situated about 200 kilometers from Tokyo.
Yagi Hiroshi

I think I am impressed by Yagi... because he has found something he truly believes in and is willing to dedicate his life to it.

The Japanese Wolf does not, in my opinion, look much like the typical wolf I think of, that are in the wilds of Canada or in the cartoons I adore. This Japanese wolf looks like a fox, as you can see from the Wikipedia image photographed by Momotarou2012

If you look at the photo of the taxidermied Japanese Wolf, it has a pointy face and a curled tail tip, and the black 'socks' that sure make it look fox-like. They are 35-inches (89-centimeters) long and about 12-inches (30-centimeters) high at the shoulder and are the smallest known sub-species of the Grey Wolf.

As an extinct species, the Japanese wolf is on the Japanese Red List of the Environment Ministry.

The Japanese Wolf population took its first major hit when a rabies outbreak decimated it in 1732.

Diet-wise, the creature ate animals larger than it like deer and wild boars, as well as rodents and rabbits - hares, actually, which made it something the local Japanese farmer actually appreciated because it helped reduce farm pests.

In fact, the Japanese Wolf is/was thought of kindly by many regions of farmers thanks to its ability to help control deer and boar and others which would eat their crops. So much so, that it was worshiped as a guardian god.

But, by the time the Meiji-era came about in 1868, the Japanese government said the Japanese wolf was a threat to livestock and ordered it exterminated as another pest. The Japanese people's expansion into the forest areas also so its habitat affected.

And so... by 1905, the last Japanese wolf was gone.

But, maybe there's a small enclave out there. That's what Yagi hopes for. It would be a shame to have to come to grips with yet another animal being wiped from the face of the Earth just to have us dumb humans put up another house.

So... in Yagi's travels, he decided to visit an area of Japan where there are a lot of shrines to the Japanese wolf... and then went searching.

And... back in October of 1996, Yagi this photograph below:

This wolf is alive and walking about. It doesn't have the exact markings of the wolf specimen in the photo at the top... but it's close.

A zootaxy expert (someone who classifies animals) has said that it "is possibly a surviving descendent of the Japanese wolf."

The image was taken in the Okuchichibu Mountains, a huge range of mountains that covers the western part of Tokyo, the western part of Saitama Prefecture, the southwestern part of Gunma Prefecture, the southeastern part of Nagano Prefecture, the northern part of Yamanashi Prefecture.

Here's a Japanese-language YOUTUBE Video.


Since then, Yagi says there are 10 or so sightings of a Japanese Wolf every year, but even he admits he must take such data with a grain of salt.

He still hasn't found definitive proof that the Japanese Wolf is still alive, but that photo and others he took during that outing in 1996 have at least given him - and us stupid humans - hope.

I'll take that for now.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Toyota and BMW Are Green Collaborating

The Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW Group are working together on next-generation batteries for green vehicles called lithium-air as their collaboration, first announced in late 2011, moves ahead in fuel cells, sports vehicles and other fields.

But both sides said January 24, 2013 that their partnership will not involve a capital alliance while spanning a wide range of technologies for green vehicles.

So... it's not about the green... it's about the green.

The Japanese and German automakers aim to complete a fuel-cell vehicle system by 2020, and a concept for a mid-size sports vehicle by the end of this year.

They will also work together on developing lightweight technologies such as composites, which will help make cars greener.

First up, for the combo is to create a lithium-air battery - not a lithium-ion battery like what has downed the fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jets.

No, the lithium-air battery will simply be much more powerful than the lithium-ion batteries currently (no pun intended) used in electric vehicles. (Okay, maybe a little pun.)

Of course, the technology has not yet been created, but in theory it must be more powerful than the lithium-ion battery which severally limits the range a vehicle may travel. Not to mention the speed, which I won't. Slllllllooooooooowwwwww.

Toyota and BMW are not alone in trying to develop this technology, but the plan is to have the battery's energy-making process come from the oxygen in the air.

Breathe, damn you! Breathe! It's aliiiiivve!

BMW AG board member Herbert Diess says cooperating with Toyota makes sense, saying the cooperation will help both companies boost competitiveness in new technologies.
“We really share the same vision,” says Diess.

Toyota vice-chairman Uchiyamada Takeshi (surname first) feels that the team-up will mean faster development.

Uchiyamada says both companies share a corporate culture and they have built trust over the past year when an agreement to work on technologies together was signed in June of 2012.

France's PSA Peugeot Citroen and General Motors Co. of the U.S. also have a deal to share in the purchase of parts and services to cut costs.

Toyota already has a joint venture with Peugeot Citroen.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, what with everyone eating popcorn in bed, but so to do automakers. Especially in the backseat.

Will the Toyota-BMW partnership pay dividends? Perhaps.

BMW has a reputation for designing and building sportier, popular vehicles, while Toyota is known for innovation and excellent engineering. Of course, Toyota sometimes has a reputation for producing dull vehicles.

What will be the result of this unholy union? Let's check back in a few months and see what the ultrasound shows.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
Schematic of lithium-air battery from www.treehugger.com.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Toshiba Partners With GE To Create A Power Generation Force

GE's FlexEfficiency 60 Combined-Cycle Power Plant. PHOTO: GE

Two of the world’s largest, most wealthy conglomerates have agreed to join forces and develop select combined-cycle power generation projects around the world.

Indeed, corporate giants GE (General Electric) and Toshiba Corp. have signed a MOU (memorandum of understanding)to explore the formation of a strategic joint venture for the development of next-generation combined-cycle power projects with higher levels of thermal efficiency.

GE, with a market capitalization of $232.38 billion, and Toshiba, with its $1.61 trillion market cap, have cooperated in gas turbine combined-cycle power generation systems since 1982.

The two monoliths won a contract in 2012 to supply FlexEfficiency technology to Chubu Electric Power’s Nishi Nagoya Thermal Power Plant in Japan. This jointly configured system can achieve the world’s highest thermal efficiency of 62 per cent in peak conditions.

Combined-cycle power generation systems achieve very high fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions as compared to conventional thermal power plants by capturing the exhaust heat from a gas turbine to produce steam that drives a steam turbine and generates more electricity.

GE’s FlexEfficiency technology portfolio harnesses natural gas and enables greater use of renewable energy.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Japanese Lithium-Ion Battery At Heart of Boeing's 787 Problems


Boeing has been having issues with its new 787 Dreamliner passenger jet lately - most of which can be shrugged off as birthing pains for the plane - but a recent battery fire aboard a jet has fueled overall concern—especially after Japan ordered a grounding of all 787 planes.

Luckily, the fire occurred aboard the 787 while it was on the tarmac of Logan International Airport in Boston. No one was hurt during the small but intense fire that was only 20 centimeters in width.

For a look at the 787 incidents that led to the grounding, click HERE.

The culprit for the fire is a lithium-ion battery - you can read about that and see a photo of the burned out battery HERE.

The Japan Transport and Safety Board, along with the U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) have been looking into possible causes for the lithium-ion battery fire, and while they still don't know what caused it, they do know one thing that did NOT cause it.

After a battery used to power many electrical systems overheated aboard an All Nippon Airways (ANA) 787 Dreamliner earlier this month, they noticed there was a quick and sudden drop in voltage. They suspected that it was overcharged.

Turns out, those suspicions were not validated.

Japan Transport Safety Board chairman Goto Norihiro (surname first) says that the plane's data recorder showed the main battery did not exceed its maximum voltage.

The highest voltage recorded for this battery was 31 volts—below the 32 volt limit. So

Okay… so... the easiest solution is not the answer.

The lithium-ion battery is not generally utilized in aircraft, and the hopes for Japanese company GS Yuasa who manufacture the battery have taken a beating with the recent debacle. You can read about that HERE.

All 50 of the 787 Dreamliners delivered globally by Boeing have been been grounded, with Boeing holding back on further deliveries until the electrical battery problem is resolved.

Next up, the FAA and Safety Board will look at the 787's auxiliary battery to compare its data with the damaged one. They are also using JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) for help, looking into the inner workings of the burnt battery via CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) scans to create a 3D image of the inside of the battery. 

Lastly, the schematic drawing of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger jet comes from www.flightglobal.com.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Record High Trade Deficit in 2012

Here's a great BBC News story about Japan's record high trade deficit in 2012.


HERE.

It's the second year in a row that the trade deficit has gone down in Japan which has caused major concern for the country after 30 consecutive years of trade surplus.

Chief factors include lower trade with Europe and China.

Causes - squabbles with China over some islands and Europe... I'm still guessing that everyone is wary about buying Japanese products for fear of getting contaminated.

Also... a lot of businesses in Japan were affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and near nuclear meltdowns, and so production was lower.

With bans on products from Japan due to radiation contamination - Japan suffered. As well... with a damaged infrastructure after the disasters, Japan is spending a lot of money it doesn't have to get the country (northeastern part) fixed up...

And... with a worldwide recession - people are buying less.But Japan needs more. Deficit.


Ugh... I'll be back to normal with articles in a day. I've been playing too much Epic Mickey 2 on the Play Station 3. You're welcome Sony. Easy game to play with tough challenges! Sound like Japanese economics.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Japanese Government Says Hurry Up And Die Old People!


All I can say, Japan, is that you voted these idiots into power.

Aso Taro (surname first), Japan's finance minister and deputy minister sure doesn't like old people, even though he is 72-years-old himself.

Aso (pronounced pretty close to "asshole") said this past Monday, January 21, 2013, that if he has his way, he, himself, would refuse end-of-life care because he would 'feel bad' knowing that he was being a leech on the government's back.

"I don't need that kind of care," says Abe, mentioning that he has written instructions for his family to not provide him with any life-prolonging medical treatment.

That's noble, but why deprive others of something good just because he's rich enough not to need the help?

Showing complete disregard for the fact that Japan is an aging nation - and thus possesses millions of senior citizen voters, Aso used the term 'tube people' to refer to the elderly who can't feed themselves and must rely on nutrition fed to them via a tube in a healthcare facility.

According to data from Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry, Aso says he is "well aware that it costs several tens of millions of yen" a month to treat a single patient in the final stages of life. (¥10 million = ~Cdn/US $112,000).

Aso is with the Liberal Democratic Party which was elected into power weeks ago.

Again… Japan… you helped put people like this into power. People with no compassion or common decency.

I understand Aso's point - too much money spent unwisely - but cutting social services is not the way. Especially when you want to build up a war machine army but having Japan's constitution changed to allow it to build up a military again (since the end of WWII, Japan has not been allowed to have its own military - just a special defense force for humanitarian services).

But really, you Aso… you just called the senior citizens… the ones who helped build Japan into a dominant world power… a drain on Japan's finances.

What a heartless bastard.

Here's the best part: Aso says Japan's aged should be allowed to "hurry up and die" to relieve pressure on the state to pay for their medical care.

"Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. I would wake up feeling increasingly bad knowing that (treatment) was all being paid for by the government," says Abe during a national council meeting on social security reforms. "The problem won't be solved unless you let them hurry up and die."

Do you get the feeling Aso is going to start visiting hospitals to personally place his Napoleonic foot on the breathing tubes of the elderly?
Aso hates you sick, old people and wants you to help save Japan money by dying now. Now, dammit!
But, why stop there? Why not form your own euthanasia clinic (like Belgium has - state sponsored) and start knocking off anyone who doesn't want to live.

How about young people with cancer - any type of cancer - even the curable ones - just so Japan can save a few bucks of government money?


Or, perhaps death camps! Got a sick kid? Let's kill him!


In a wheelchair? How could you ever be a contributing member of society? You can't! Not in a wheelchair!

Riiii-iiight.

Let me mention three letters: F-D-R. Former U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He may have died months before the end of WWII, but he was the commander-in-chief of the U.S. forces that helped kick Japan's ass (along with the rest of the Allies, of course!).

The photo at the very top - that's FDR's chair (photo found at the US National Park Service website.


Seriously, though… where does it stop, Aso?

Now… while Aso's comments were directed to the aged in Japan, about 1/4 of Japan's population of 128 million is in the senior citizen bracket. And… the last time I checked, the Liberal Democratic Party (it sounds like an oxymoron) hasn't revoked the voting privileges of that population segment yet.

And, with fewer children on the way, Japan's population is expected to get older and older, with feeble grasp of 40 per cent of the population within the next 50 years. Of course, Abe, thanks to his deal with dark forces will be 122-years-old.

Liberal Democratic Party leader and current Japanese king prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) must be a bit concerned. Abe was Japan's prime minister for about one-year in 2007, but was forced to resign thanks to his chosen cabinet ministers screwing up.

As for Aso, the old man who looks pretty good for his age, I must admit, but he did try to soften his comments a bit a few hours later: "I said what I personally believe, not what the end-of-life medical care system should be. It is important that you be able spend the final days of your life peacefully."

Important yes, but just know that Aso hates you.

"I see people aged 67 or 68 at class reunions who dodder around and are constantly going to the doctor," he said back in 2008 when HE was prime minister. "Why should I have to pay for people who just eat and drink and make no effort? I walk every day and do other things, but I'm paying more in taxes."

What? The rich have to pay taxes? Man… you screwed up, Japan. The rich don't pay taxes - not if you are doing it 'correctly' - nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

Here's a brief list of Aso's previous comments:
  • 2008, as prime minister: called 'doddering' pensioners tax burdens who should take better care of their health.
  • tube people.
  • sick should hurry up and die.
  • Japanese doctors lack common sense.
  • made a joke about Alzheimer patients.
  • poor men are unfit for marriage. 
  • wants Japan to be a successful country where the 'richest Jews would want to live'.
  • called the opposition party Nazi-like.
  • thought Japan's rule in Taiwan was cool.
  • as foreign minister said that because U.S. diplomats had blonde hair and blue eyes they would never be trusted in Middle East peace talks.
You know… this guys says a lot of interesting stuff. And yet, he keeps getting elected into positions of power. How the hell does that happen?

Can't buy me love, but it does help with the quality of life. Aso is one of the richest politicians in Japan.

Some of that fortune came about from a coal mine business his family ran during World War II when it forced 100s of Allied POWs (prisoner-of-war) to work. Wasn't that against the Geneva Convention?

Of course, Aso doesn't talk about the war in that way, because Japan never hurt anyone and no one can prove otherwise because all witnesses were killed. I'm making that part up, but seriously, he doesn't talk about any wrong-doings of Japan during the war.

Later, that business became Aso Cement, and he himself was company president between 1973 - 1979.

Aso's political lineage, despite his shoot-off-the-mouth and fend-off-questions-later approach, is solid. He grandfather was Yoshida Shigeru, a former post-WWII prime minister.

I've never said this before, but I hope Aso gets a taste of his own medicine (or doesn't get any medicine), and hope he gets some very painful and slow-moving, incurable illness. Painful being the operative (but not operative) word.

And yet… Japan… is this what you had in mind when you elected the Liberal Democratic Party into office? Again? It didn't work before, why would it work now?
I'm glad I was in Japan 20 years ago and not now. The place is beginning to scare me.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Japanese Company Made Battery That Caused Boeing 787 Fire

Geez, is a Japanese company the heart of Boeing's problems?

Recent trouble with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner passenger jet - specifically its lithium-ion battery catching fire led to Japan grounding its fleet of 787 planes.

But... who makes the lithium-ion battery? Say hello to GS Yuasa Corp. which hoped its huge sale to Boeing would allow it to make its first profit from that style of battery.

You can see a YouTube Japanese-language news video of GS Yuasa seeing a big drop in its stock prices recently:


Meanwhile, Japan's Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) traveled to GS Yuasa's head office to discuss the lithium-ion battery in question.

You can see a photo of the burnt battery on one of my blog's HERE.

As well... you can read the full story of the FAA and Japanese government question GS Yuasa in a Japan Times story: HERE.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Mosaic At Kaneda Minami Chu Gakko

The photo here is one I took in 1993 of a new pained tile mosaic situated on the wall of Kaneda Minami Chu Gakko (Kaneda South Junior High School) in their new library in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

It's huge! It was actually painted by students at the school.

At that time, Kandea Minami was being rebuilt, as the previous building was just too old... and not quite air-tight. This school was fantastic - warm in the winter and with looks of huge windows in the summer so students weren't affected too badly by the extremes of the weather.

It was at this school that I got a chance to drive a mini excavator and dig up dirt to make a track for athletics - it was being created by the teachers!

Yes... the teachers in their spare time were putting the finishing touches on the school - running heavy machinery!

The area was full of farmer families - and rich ones, so the farmers helped foot the bill for the new school.

And, just so we all know, the kids there were super friendly, always treating their foreign teacher (me) with tremendous respect. They were good students too - smart, charming and witty - and to me, it spoke volumes for the future of Japan.. kids who are now adults in their 30s.

I hope they do themselves proud.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
   

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sumo Legend Taiho Is Dead

Sad news indeed, super-legend Taiho, the grandest grand champion (Yokozuna) of sumo has passed away on January 19, 2013 at the age of 72.

Taiho won a record 32 tournaments in the 1960s - a record that still stands today.

He stood tall in an era of sumo untainted by scandal and proved his championship mettle again and again with his style and class.

For a full story, click HERE.

You can also see a video below showing some of his battles. That second one was awesome - he looked like he was toast a few times only to pull one out of nowhere for the win!



Andrew Joseph


 

Students Forced To Drink Acid As Punishment

I've seen and heard of some ridiculous punishments forced by teachers onto students in my day from all over the world, but this one in Japan takes the proverbial cake.

A junior high school teacher with the Gamagori Board of Education in Gamagōri-shi, a city in Aichi-ken (Aichi Prefecture), is reported to have forced two third-year students to drink diluted hydrochloric acid in his science class late last year as a punishment for their failed experiment.

Hydrochloric acid (see photo to the left) is a strong corrosive - but it is found in the human stomach. One of the key uses of hydrochloric acid is to remove rust from iron ore and steel before further processing. Of course, the proper concentration of acid is required...

Read the full story HERE from The Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Holy smokes! Can't we just fail the class? That's what happened to me in Chemistry back in high school.I was lousy in chemistry - never studied in school - and was never punished in any way except with a failure to pass the course meaning I still needed to acquire another credit for my high school diploma.

The stupidest punishment I ever received in school was for the time I skipped a week of school after having had enough of bullying. Caught on my birthday, my punishment (as if I hadn't been punished enough from bullying by students) was to be suspended from school for a week.

So... let's see... I skip school for a week, and to stop that from happening again I get to miss ANOTHER week of school? Cool!

Idiots.

My friend Rob and I once got caught for not going to a school assembly. As punishment from the vice-principal, we were told to each pick up a garbage bag's worth of trash from around the school. Bordering a highway, there was a lot of trash. We picked it up quickly and left the trash bags on the desk of the vice-principal (he was out of the office) and left. It was never mentioned again - except by Rob and myself marveling at our audacity to leave the bags on top of his desk piled with work.

You can tell... I wasn't really bad. And neither were those two Japanese junior high school kids. Drinking a corrosive!

Yes, the teacher mixed the concoction perfectly - but he might not have. He's a junior high school science teacher - not a Nobel Prize winning chemist!

This teachers deserves some serious punishment himself, but I leave that up to the powers that be to determine what. At least a new job placement in another city.

As for me - what did I learn from my punishment? Teachers are idiots sometimes, I suppose. You all know I was a teacher for three years in various junior high schools in Japan. I also taught piano and clarinet after journalism school, and 'taught' or coached women's soccer for eight years. I've also been teaching readers via this blog coming up to four years.

Luckily for me, I also grew a 30 centimeters (12-inches) taller, developed a more in-your-face attitude (since tempered) and stood up for myself so as to not be bullied again.

I can't even imagine what these poor kids in Japan are going through.

But... if you are reading this... it gets better. And telling someone about the abuse is the right thing to do.

Oh... The photo above is from Wikipedia, courtesy of http://woelen.homescience.net/science/index.html. It shows a 30 percent solution of hydrochloric acid.

The acid the kids were forced to drink was a 35 percent solution.

Industrial-grade solution consists of 30-34 percent - higher solutions evaporate quicker.

Household cleaners and such using hydrochloric acid tend to contain between 10-12 per cent solutions.

Hydrochloric acid is used in the production of heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, and as a Table II precursor, is listed under the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Those kids had a pretty strong solution to imbibe...

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Economist Looks At China and Japan Relations

Here's an article from my friend Em who saw it on-line published on January 19, 2012 from their recent print magazine edition of The Economist.

It pretty much reiterates my feelings about the Senkaku Islands (Japanese) or the Diaoyu Islands (China) conflict and how the whole thing could destabilize Asia.

My op-ed article on that topic is HERE where I take on Japan thinking about changing its constitution to ensure it gets its own military and the right to call for military conscription. Feel free to read my sarcastic take on the situation, should you be so inclined, but really, since you've all read my long-winded thoughts, go ahead and read The Economist, one of the finest magazines on the planet - HERE.

Sorry, I'm a little low on wind today, but if you'd heard me earlier yesterday, I wasn't short on it as I seem to have got some bad mojo from a baconater. Must be getting old.


Cheers
Andrew Joseph
 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tokyo Skytree And the View From On High

After a recent post about a chunk of snow/ice falling from the Tokyo Skytree and plowing through the roof of a local (read about that HERE), I was reminded of a tweet sent to me last month by my good friend Matthew Hall.

That's it above.

The photo is of the Skytree and its enormous shadow, taken on April 7, 2012 by one of DigitalGlobe's orbiting satellites. DigitalGlobe is a leading global provider of commercial, high-resolution, world imagery products and services. Click HERE for their website.

What strikes me about the photo is the fact that it is right in the midst of the city... there's buildings and homes and businesses all around the darn thing.

Here in Toronto, he have the CN Tower which for decades was the tallest free-standing structure in the world. When it was built, there were buildings around it of course, but none that were beside it like is evident in the Skytree picture.

How would you like to live or work in the shadow of the Skytree tower? Having it blot out the sun for a while everyday?

It's pretty effing huge, isn't it? It's the second-tallest free-standing structure in the world at 634 meters (2,080-feet) in height (trailing the Burj Khalifa in Dubai at 829.8-meters/2,722-feet). It's shadow extends for blocks and blocks and blocks.

I can see why Godzilla 'likes' Tokyo. Photo by Atomark.
Anyhow... for reference purposes, here's a shot of the Toronto skyline featuring the 553-meter (1,815-feet)  CN Tower.
Toronto Skyline - photo by Francis Fogliani.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Friday, January 18, 2013

Another Former MLB All-Star Joins Japanese Baseball

It's no surprise that many MLB (Major League Baseball) players join the Japanese professional baseball circuits for one last payday, but it is interesting to see the number of former All-Stars arrive looking for yen.

Pitcher Vincente Padilla, 35, who was an All-Star with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2002, has signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Japan's Pacific League.

Last year, the right-handed free-agent relief pitcher tossed in 56 games for the Boston Red Sox going 4W-1L and a 4.50 ERA (earned run average).

Padilla will earn $3.25-million with the Hawks.

In his MLB All-Star season of 2002, Padilla was a starting pitcher for the Phillies going 14W-11L with a 3.28 ERA.  

His career record is 108W-91L with a 4.32 ERA.

Padilla joins former Chicago Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair on the Hawks, who signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million in November 2012.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Skytree Snow Smashes House

Skytree, Japan's  broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Tokyo and the tallest structure in Japan at 634.0 meters (2,080 feet), is a menace to residents in the area.

The tallest tower in the world (and the second-tallest structure in the world) had some snow on it after snow on after the recent nasty storm swept through this weekend.

That snow turned to ice and broke off the tower on Tuesday, January 15, 2013, plummeting some 100 meters south and crashed through the roof of a house leaving a 30-centimeter hole covering a veranda.

No one was hurt, thank goodness.

Tokyo Skytree officials placed some 60 security guards around the tower warning passersby of possible danger from falling ice.

Although the Skytree only opened up in May of 2012, last winter there were four other incidents of falling ice crashing through homes and commercial buildings.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NTSB releases picture of charred 787 battery box


Japan Airlines will now be serving dinner - burned lithium-ion battery.

The United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a photograph of the lithium-ion battery that caught fire on a JAL (Japan Airlines) Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet at Boston's Logan International Airport.

The 42.3 centimeter (19-inch)-long, 25.9 centimeter  (10.2-inch) high lithium-ion battery feeds the jet's auxilliary power unit. After smoking - and the passengers were told to depart - the battery exploded, igniting a small (20-centimeter) area that was described as being 'intense'.

The fire caused severe damage to the aft electrical compartment where it was stored. 

The battery is part of an investigation by the U.S. (Federal Aviation Administration), France and Japan.

The NTSB says the battery has been X-Rayed and compared to an undamaged battery for analysis. It is being sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, DC for further inspection.  
  

Other components, like the battery's charger and the burnt wire bundles, are also expected to be examined to determine how the battery malfunctioned.

As of January 16, 2013, after an incident with another 787 Dreamliner jet (see story HERE) Japan has grounded its entire fleet belonging to JAL and ANA (All Nippon Airways). Despite the battery incident last week, JAL continued to fly the Boeing jets shrugging it off as mere 'growing pains'.

The battery fire on-board the plane was also interesting. While the fire was contained by spraying a non-reactive agent called Halotron, fire and rescue crew say it was difficult to put out the fire because it was difficult to get access to the area where the battery was situated.

"They reported experiencing difficulty accessing the battery for removal during extinguishing efforts," the NTSB says.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Japan Grounds Boeing 787 Dreamliner Jets


Wow… Japan has halted all flights of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Wednesday, December 16, 2013 after an ANA (All Nippon Airways) flight was forced to perform an emergency landing.

Full story HERE.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
Thanks to Matthew for the heads up!



Japan Visits America And Canada - Photo



My favorite picture of my very good friend Matthew and his family taken by myself at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Made-in-America Matthew (far right), with his wife, Takako (squatting), holding onto their daughter Michelle (Miki) who is 2-years-old, I'm guessing, with Takako's step-mom Kiyoko Kurita standing beside Matthew, and her father Yukitomo Kurita on the far left.

On that visit to Niagara Falls, Matthew and I ventured off by ourselves and found a Star Trek exhibit. The exhibit was not very busy that day, for some reason, so I hopped over a barrier and sat down in the real Captain's Command Chair from the original Star Trek series. The mock-up of the bridge was scene... and I have to admit it was a thrill!

Ahhh. Good times, Matthew!

How long ago was this photo taken? Michelle graduated from high school last Spring and is now participating in some post-secondary education.

I feel old. Though, since I have a seven-year-old son now, I probably don't feel as old as Matthew.

I'm lying. That kid tires me out.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tokyo Blizzard Not So Bad - Relatively Speaking

The recent media coverage of the snowstorm hitting a large chunk of Japan is a little bit 'loose;.

There certainly is a lot of snow blanketing much of the country. But, not all areas are being hit with the same amount of ferocity.

The confusion arises because the media refers to Tokyo as a central hub, and then notes other areas as thought they are close by - "north of Tokyo". Sure... but how far north of Tokyo?

The big storm that swept Japan this past weekend dropped a whole eight centimeters (3.1 inches) of snow onto central Tokyo. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the city averages about four inches of snow per year.

Fuji TV says this was central Tokyo's heaviest snowfall in seven years.

Okay... so bad for Tokyo... but not really, right?

Yokohama, which is 29 kilometers (18 miles) southwest of Tokyo got 12.7 centimeters (five inches) of snow - its largest accumulation in 12 years.

Okay... so bad for Yokohama... but not really, right?

Sendai in the northern part of Japan, but still on the main island, it got 20.3 centimeters (eight inches) of snow.

The mountains of Yamanashi, west of Tokyo, got 40.6 centimeters (16 inches). Okay... how far west of Tokyo? The news stories never tell. Regardless, it's 100 kilometers between the capital of Kofu in Yamanashi and Tokyo. As well, one expects more snow in the mountains, what with the higher elevations and all.

Some 3,400 travelers spent the night at Tokyo's Narita International Airport after 71 flights were cancelled, though by Tuesday, January 15, 2013, operations returned to normal with a few delays.

One man died due to a motorcycle accident in Ibaraki Prefecture - if there was snow on the ground and he was riding his motorcycle, that's just god thinning the herd.

One person died while clearing snow in Nagano Prefecture - heart attack, I presume. So weather-related, not caused by the weather.

As well, NHK, a Japanese television network says that 1,569 people were injured in car accidents and falls on slick pavement.

Does anyone wonder how NHK has such results? There were more people hurt than reported.

"Uh.... yeah, NHK... I was walking down the street and I slipped and I fell on my hip-pu (ass)... who can I sue?"

Does everyone who falls call up the media to brag?

Seriously...why provide an 'exact number'? It's just a bloody estimate!

Anyhow... so... yes... big bad storm blew across parts of Japan.

Yes... Tokyo got snow. Yes, other areas got hit worse, but are probably better equipped to handle such inclement weather.

Yes... media coverage has been spotty, offering half-baked coverage - which is strange considering the number of people in Tokyo who could actually provide news or information via Twitter or text messaging et al.

So... I guess I was right to rail on Tokyo a bit with my previous blog. It's just a little bit of snow. It's nothing. Sorry the holiday was a bit wet - but what the hell do you expect when you have the holiday in January?! Though... I suppose the young adults in Okinawa didn't have much of a problem with snow. Mmmmm, tropics...

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Tokyo Hit With Blizzard

Well, well... Tokyo gets hit with its first snowfall of the season - a whole 7 centimeters (2.7 inches) on Monday, January 14, 2013, and now has disrupted air flights and delayed trains.

To this, I have to laugh.

My Canadian neighbors to the east of Toronto - in Newfoundland - are just now digging out of a blizzard that hit last Friday, with winds at 110 kilometers per hour, power outtages, with 47 centimeters of snow in St. John's. Parts of the Avalon Peninsula received anywhere from 25 to 55 centimeters of snow by the afternoon, with higher amounts likely in some areas, Environment Canada said.

Now that's a snow storm. Tokyo - that's just some guy with a bit of dandruff.

Of course - Toronto, where I sit right now - It was 9C on Sunday. There is now snow on the ground anymore.

According to Japan's Meteorological Agency, the snow that sprinkled on Tokyo arrived six days earlier than in 2012, and also 11 days later the average. 

I find it shocking that such a light dusting of snow has caused even a 10 minute delay of the Shinkansen bullet trains, as I saw those things never arrive anything but on time in the three years there - less once for a F5 typhoon that caused a 30-minute delay and a full-page apology in the newspapers. Of course... that was 20 years ago. Maybe Japan is getting soft.

ANA (All Nippon Airways) cancelled 116 domestic flights as of 2PM Local Time - putting 24,000 passengers back into the already crowded airport.  

JAL (Japan Airlines) cancelled 193 domestic flights, affecting 31,000 passengers.

Tokyo... it's called snowplows. Surely you have those at Narita Airport. Surely you have the capability to de-ice wings.

Yeesh.

Look.. I used to laugh at places like Florida having to close down after 5-centimeters (2-inches) of snow - but Florida isn't really a place where snow is expected to hit.

Tokyo, however...

Oh well... I suspect that along with the snow, some nasty winds also hit Tokyo, as some ares of the Kanto and Koshin regions (the mountainous areas) are expecting up to 50 centimeters of snow.

Now that's a snow storm.

Okay... I've been giving it to Tokyo a bit here - but that's only because I live in do-inaka (the boondocks) when in Japan.

I am giving it to Tokyo because the panic began just as the snowstorm started. The real snowstorm is just ramping up. A lot of snow is expected to fall on Tokyo.

In fact, as of 8PM Local Time, at least 400 people in Tokyo and nearby prefectures have sustained snow-related injuries, according to public broadcaster NHK.

I will assume that to be traffic accidents and the odd slip and fall.

About 675 flights were cancelled - mainly at Tokyo's Haneda Airport - where two of the four runways have been closed while they work hard to remove the snow.

The East Japan Railway Company also suspended all train service on two of its lines between Tokyo and neighboring prefectures.

And, parts of the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway network - linking Tokyo and neighboring prefectures were also closed.

It looks like this is a good time to be a hotel owner, as thousands of businessmen will probably be stuck downtown... although... it was a national holiday... Coming of Age Day, in which the Japanese youth celebrate their turning 20-years-of age this year.

Here's a YouTube video of what's going on in Tokyo.

As you can see from the video, what is the worst is the damn music blaring from speakers trying to make the people in the winter mood. They don't need the help. It's snowing.

Actually, as you can see from the cars - they are bloody tiny! There's little clearance for the undercarriage to pass over the snow. As well, I wonder just how many have snow or all-weather tires, and are instead relying on summer tires.

It looks bad in some places, not so bad in others... but really... if you don't have to be out - stay home.

Damn Japan and its necessity to work.

Good luck, folks!

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
The top photo was photographed spectacularly by Yuya Shino / Reuters 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Japan Wants A Military And Conscription?

Recently, Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) says he wants the right to make war again.

Perhaps I am over-simplifying things, and then again, perhaps I am not.

Abe wants to alter the wording of Article 9 of its constitution. What that means is that he wants to change the wording within to state that 'war is a sovereign right of the nation.'

You may recall that after World War II, Japan's constitution was essentially written by the U.S. At that time Japan okayed the fact that it didn't want to make war again.

It was definitely the act of a nation that had its collective ass kicked by the Allies in WWII - especially with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs.

Hell, who could blame them?

Essentially, this is why Japan doesn't have a proper military.

But Abe is a known nationalist. He's currently trying to rewrite an apology Japan (barely) offered to women who were abducted and forced to act as sex slaves for the military during WWII.

And now... he wants to add in that Japan has the right to military self-defense.

Now, taken as a simple statement, Abe seems to be saying 'enough is enough'. It's the 21st century. Why are we being governed by a constitution written 67 years ago by our conquerors. 'We are not the enemy anymore. We are allies of the U.S.'.

That's all true. And, it doesn't seem right that Japan should have a constitution shoved in its face, regardless if it has been a constitution that has seemingly worked wonders for the country these past decades.

After all, Japan does possess a 'self-defense readiness force' and has ably supplied money, equipment and personnel whenever its aid has been requested.

So why is the rest of the world pissed off at Abe?

Well, a draft of the revised constitution by Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party recently voted into power by Japan shows the country wants some bi-iiiig changes.

For example, the Parliament can declare a military emergency... at which point in time the Cabinet decrees have the force of law.

As well, it wants to remove the ban on conscription to the military. It wants the right to call men and women to duty.

And there's more. The revised constitution wants to change Article 97. That article currently provides :

"fundamental human rights … guaranteed to the people of Japan are fruits of the age-old struggle of man to be free; they … are conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate.”

The revision? The removal of that principle.

Abe wants to add in a clause that limits civil liberties:
"a citizen may not abuse his rights and freedoms. He should be aware of his responsibility and obligation to the community and exercise his rights in a way that does not conflict with the public interest and public order."

But the worst revision revolves around the freedom of speech and the freedom of association:

Citizens would not be allowed their freedom of speech or association "for the purpose of harming the public interest and public order."

In other words, "Shut-up, you stupid Japanese citizens. I, the great and powerful Oz (insert Abe) can only speak if the Japanese government (insert Abe) agree with what you are saying."

Well, Japan. You voted Abe and the nationalistic pride motif into office. How does a militarized Japan grab you? How about tyrannical?

Germany did the same sort of thing with a crazy little wall-paper hanger a few years back, and everybody loves Hitler.

Of course... these are just proposed changes to the Japanese way of life (and death). It still has to pass the muster by achieving a two-third majority from the upper and lower houses of parliament and then, if successful, you, the people (insert Abe) get to vote on it.

Abe wants to remove some of those barriers to achieving his goal of power... but that hasn't happened yet.

Would Japan want what Abe is selling?

Recently enough the country has virtually stopped its dependency on energy generated by nuclear power. That doesn't sound like a Hawk nation.

In fact, a recent poll in Japan says 32 percent wanted versus 53 percent opposed, to a change in Article 9’s commitment to peace.

That speaks volumes. People in Japan wanted a change from the political 'leadership' that failed miserably to adequately deal with the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear problems. Sure... vote the buggers out. We need new blood.

But Japan didn't quite get new blood. Instead, it gets an older retread of Abe who was Japan's prime minister back in 2006. After a year of listening to similar rhetoric from Abe, he was out of power.

Japan... get some real new blood. It's obvious you want a leader and a political party to lead you back to prosperity... but guys... how many prime ministers have their been in the past six years? Seven.

Japan has had seven prime ministers in the past six years.

I get the feeling that it's soon going to be eight in seven years.

Japan... do you really want a revised constitution from Abe okaying the right to military conscription? Do you want your sons and daughters marching off to war against China over some islands you have never been to?

And the right to have a military? Isn't the U.S. doing a great job for you? They are.

Do you feel it is right to build up a military when your economy sucks? I thought Japan was broke? How will it buy some military planes? Holy crap! Will Mitsubishi start building planes again? Honda has a jet now. What about Suzuki? Can it make some pastel-colored tanks? You're welcome. 

Oh wait... a great way to raise up the economic might of a country is to become involved in a war. If you choose to go down that path, do what the USA did and pick countries a lot smaller than you - Grenada. That's all I'm saying. Grenada.

(Okay, I'm not done). There's a Time-Life series of 24 books detailing the Invasion of Grenada by the US. Twenty-four volumes. One for each hour it took to win the war. Joke over.

What would Japan do? China? Russia? I would start smaller. It could increase book sales (Joke over, this time for sure.) 

Regardless... the revisions to the Japanese Constitution hasn't come to pass yet. And perhaps it never will.

If you think that having a constitution written by the U.S. is bad... all of you Japanese women should recall that if it wasn't for an American woman, Japanese women would have few rights at all. Vote accordingly.

You have to admit, though, that old Rising Sun flag was cool.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Japanese Singer Composes Song For 2013 Golden Globes

Usually when I talk about golden globes, I am talking about something completely different.

Despite that, hopefully you will still enjoy learning about Japan's presence at the 70th Annual Golden Globes Show on Sunday, January 13, 2013.

Why, whatever do you mean, Sir?
Don't call me 'sir'. In my country, that is a big insult.

The Golden Globes Show celebrates film and television excellence - both domestic and foreign - as chosen by the 93-member Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).

So... what do I have to say about Japan?

Well, meet Japan's Hayashi Yoshiki (surname first), the gentleman who wrote the opening musical theme song for this year's Golden Globes.

If you are a fan of the Japanese music scene, you might already be aware that Hayashi is the leader of the 'metal' group 'X'. Which I have always assumed meant 'ecks' as in the letter, but just now thought it could be the Roman Numeral '10'. Probably the former.

So... would you like to know the meaning of the words and song? Someone must, otherwise there wouldn't be an interview with Hayashi asking him for his opinion.

You can get the scoop by watching the YouTube video below. 

Thanks to Matthew for the heads up on this story!

Cheers
Andrew Joseph