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Monday, September 30, 2013

Japanese Cargo Ship Collision

On Friday, September 27, 2013, two cargo ships collided just south of Tokyo, killing five.

The Japanese-registered Eifuku Maru Number 18 capsized after it crashed with the Sierra Leone-registered Jia Hui about 11 kilometers west of Izu Oshima island, according to Japanese Coast Guard spokesman Terakado Yoshiyuki (surname first).

The coast guard sent patrol boats and helicopters to search for the crew. Five bodies were found inside the capsized boat late in the afternoon, but one crew member was still considered missing.

The Jia Hui’s 12 Chinese and one Malay crew were unharmed, and were being questioned aboard the ship about what had happened.

The 498-tonne Eifuku Maru was travelling from Nagoya, central Japan, to Ichikawa, east of Tokyo. The 2,962-tonne Jia Hui was headed from Kawasaki, Japan, to Busan, South Korea.

Rock Songs With Japan-related Topics

Being a guy who like his rock and roll and his rock and roll chicks (okay… that was back in the day… Saturday, I think), I was curious about how many rock and roll songs there were about Japan or the Japanese.

I wracked my brain - or what's left of it, and came up with a few… anyone else care to add to it? Just keep in mind that it's not about Japanese rock groups—it's about all things Japanese.


Sushi Girl - Tubes
Don't Worry Kyoko - Yoko Ono
Turning Japanese - The Vapors
Japanese Girl - Metro Station
Godzilla - Blue Öyster Cult
Tokyo Storm Warning - Elvis Costello
Mr. Roboto - Styx
Tokyo - A Flock Of Seagulls
Enola Gay - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD)
My Woman From Tokyo - Deep Purple
Left Hand Suzuki Method - Gorillaz
Doesn't Remind Me - Audioslave

And sort of like pop-rock:
Harajuku Girls - Gwen Stefani
Tokyo - Bruce Cockburn

I still think Gwen is hot, but I only put Cockburn in here because my wife insisted - especially if I was to include OMD... which I admit was filler for this list. Hell... aside from Start Me Up, I don't think Elvis Costello did anything akin to rock and roll... filler.

I admit I wanted a bigger list... but... the heart wants what the heart wants.

Anyhow... that's all I could think of.

Does anyone else have any other bands and songs to add to the list?

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
PS: And yes... the image above is of Japanese rocks...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Sumo Hockey Goalie?

I saw my first hockey game in person at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto on November 13, 1971, sitting in the last row Grey seats watching the Toronto Maple Leafs tie the Vancouver Canucks 2-2… I think. I do remember that you were allowed to smoke then (not me, I was a child… however…) and that the smoke from the entire building rose up and coalesced in my lungs. I also recall feeling like a man the first time I urinated in the trough… a large marble trough for multiple people to pee into at the same time.

I've been a hockey fan for a long time and although I had tried a few times as a youth to skate - I never learned. Then, two years ago, I bought a pair of skates to go skating with my son who had already learned at the age of 4... but something happened to me... it was like all of those years of watching people skate in hockey games... my body learned how to skate - and skate well through osmosis... I was flying through the air and skating circles around my wife and son... I could skate. And I learned how from paying close attention to hockey games on TV. All true.

Anyhow, I have long wondered why ice hockey teams have never used a really, large man to block the net as a goaltender to keep the puck out.

I mean… I figured… with all the equipment on… nothing would go in, right?

For reference, I had looked at professional lacrosse goalies who have goalies wearing over-sized equipment to block more of the net… guys with super-sized shoulder pads that then require someone to wear team jerseys that are 60-70 inches (152.4-177.8 centimeters) at the chest .

They look huge! But… the lacrosse goalies still let goals in. So... size was a factor in keeping the ball out, but the lacrosse goalies weren't big enough. Lacrosse is awesome, by the way!

Hell… I am not a small guy… though I used to be one. I was under 100 pounds (45.36 kilograms) going into high school and was 5'-0" (1.52 meters) tall.. but with big floppy feet on that frame, I knew I would get bigger… and so now… after normal teenaged growth compacted into a few months, I got taller… and then a few years of working out heavily at the gym produced decent enough results and I turned a compact 36-inch (91.44 centimeters) chest into a 48-inch (121.92 centimeters) chest.

Wearing a hockey jersey… I wear an XXL (extra-extra large) and I fill it out—I look like I'm wearing shoulder pads, but I'm not.… in fact… here's the thing… I'm bigger than a lot of hockey goalies - from the past.

I recall a goalie named Turk Broda (he was chubby-looking, and probably liked turkey)… but a news article detailed how huge he was and mentioned his 44-inch chest. Geez. And yet… here's a guy who had a 2.53 career goals against average… better than most goalies playing nowadays with bigger and better equipment.

Scorers et al have also upped their skill levels— they must have—because there is certainly less of the net open when a fully-equipped goalie is in place…

But… what if you used a really, really fat guy… like a sumo wrestler… and placed him in net? Would he stop more goals?

(Okay… I know sumo wrestlers have a lot of muscle under the belt… and the fat is just extra weight to make themselves more difficult to lift up or be pushed by the opponent… there is no need for you ovum (I wrote o-zumo (the honorific way of writing sumo—damn you Auto-Correct on Text Edit!) to stampede me with letters of protest.)

So... I found a scientific video: Sports Science on YOU TUBE that answers my sports question… will a large sumo wrestler dressed in hockey goalie gear be able to stop pucks better than a smaller and more agile regular hockey goaltender?

The results surprised me. Of course, being a goalie, myself, as a tiny kid, I can say that on the goalie used, he had the goalie pads on the wrong legs… but truthfully, it didn't make a difference to the results.

And yeah… this really has little to do with Japan, but it was while in Japan while watching a professional Japanese hockey league game back in 1991, that I first pondered the possible plus side of a sumo goaltender.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, September 28, 2013

US Navy Swim Team Does Underwater Iwo Jima Photo Op

I'll be brief like a yellow polka-dot bikini…

I'm sure most of you know exactly what I mean when I mention the iconic flag raising of US soldiers at Iwo Jima, Japan.

It's one of those iconic photographic images - the planting of the stars &; stripes on Mount Suribachi—taken by Joe Rosenthal.

There are statues and other memorials representing this image (See HERE), but you have to like the effort put in by the US Naval Academy men's swim team on September 25, 2013.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, September 27, 2013

Matango - Attack Of The Mushroom People

As a kid and adult, I have had a love affair with the Japanese monster movie, led of course, by Godzilla, Gamara and my personal favorite, Mothra. I used to watch Ultraman on television and even the old Astroboy cartoons… in fact, my exposure to Japan by the time I was 10, was probably quite high. I didn't realize that.

I did hate most Japanimation cartoons from the 1970s, though… but I was exposed to them.

Along with the Kaiju Eiga (monster movies) mentioned above—many created by the legendary Toho Studios, I also saw Japanese science-fiction movies.

Until recently (hours ago) I didn't know that Toho was also responsible for them—four of them—that were made in the late 1950s-early '60s but were shown on Canadian television via nearby American television channels on Saturday afternoons starting at 1PM. I know this, because all the cartoons were done by that time. With a total of 12 VHF channels plus two, and maybe a third blurry channel on UHF, television programming was limited in the 1970s.

You kids nowadays are spoiled. Some of you need a spanking. When did I get old? If you are old and enjoy spanking, please call...

Anyhow, meanwhile back at the blog:


These science-fiction flicks from Toho are often called the "Mutant Series", because like the monsters, there was some radioactive or radiation sidestory at play. Radiation in that era, was the best way to create a mutant. Ask Marvel Comics and Spider-Man, The Hulk, Fantastic Four... but strangely enough, not the X-Men, who were born with mutated genes rather than genes that underwent a mutation.

Hell… if you think about it… there was a fair bit of radiation in the Earth's atmosphere during the age of the reptiles, which led to fast mutation over generations and furthering of the dinosaur species… and eventually the human species.

As mentioned, there are four great flicks in the Mutant Series:
  • 1958, The H-Man (Bijo to Ekitainingen, 美女と液体人間 - Beauty and Liquid Men) by Godzilla director Honda Ishiro (surname first);
  • 1960, The Human Vapor (Gasu Ningen Dai-Ichigo, ガス人間第一号 - Gas Human #1), also by Honda;
  • 1960, Secret Of The Telegian (Denso Ningen, 電送人間 - The Teleporting Man), by Fukuda Jan (surname first);
  • 1963, Matango (Matango, マタンゴ - also known as Matango, Fungus of Terror and Attack of the Mushroom People) by Honda, with special effects created by Tsuburaya Eiji.
Matango… I never saw this one on television… but I did rent it once back in the very young days of videotape.

As a 12-year-old, I saw my first VCR at a comic store run by Captain George (Captain George's Memory Lane) in Toronto. I recall seeing 1930s black and white Popeye cartoons… and until the recent advent of computer technology with animation, I think it was the best series of cartoons made (art-wise) ever.

I purchased my first VCR when I was 14—it cost $527—and I paid for it myself in cash. I can still recall the exact price, because I am still in sticker shock. If I could find a VCR now, I'm sure I could buy a good one for $40. Spoiled kids! No... I do not care to explain how I got $527... except that I earned it the hard way... a quarter at a time (see HERE, for what I really mean).

While the first things I taped were some old Twilight Zone shows, I also got my hand on my first porno enabling me to gain a well-developed right forearm. Use the left when you want it to feel like someone else.

After visiting a brand new video store—they rented VCRs out to people as well, but you needed to leave major credit card information—I was attracted to the Japanese monster movies section (there were six movies), and then said what the heck… Matango - Attack Of The Mushroom People sounds like something I might enjoy.

I was being facetious… sarcastic and flippant.

Boy, was I wrong… this was a very good movie.

The plot (all names are surname first): 

In Tokyo, a man visits another man in a psychiatric ward, and tells him that even though this might sound crazy, it really happened:

Aboard a yacht, a group of merrymakers go out to sea. The group includes:
  • boat owner Kasai Masafumi (played by Tsuchiya Yoshio); 
  • college professor Murai Kenji (Kubo Akira); 
  • professor's girlfriend Soma Akiko (Yashiro Miki); 
  • club singer Sekiguchi Mami (Mizuno Kumi) - because if one hot chick is a good idea - two is even better!; 
  • writer Yoshida Etsuro (Tachikawa Hiroshi);
  • Skipper Sakuda Naoyuki (Koizumi Hiroshi);
  • and his little buddy and first mate Koyama Senzo (Sahara Kenji - who was once the male lead in Rodan).
Gilligan's Island - Japanese monster movie style!
If you think it sort of sounds like the gang of Gilligan's Island - that's what I thought, too. But I thought it first. Should I tell you that I once went to a Gilligan's Island costume party and won first prize for my rendition of the Japanese soldier? Okay... well... that's pretty much what happened.

Now… we don't know where they are going or when they are supposed to return, but I'm guessing it was just a three-hour tour out at sea and back - but (I love it), the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew - well.. in this case the weather smashes the hell out of the boat and leaves them helplessly adrift until…

the ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle…

The castaways are tired, hungry and mostly completely useless with their situation.

And yet... there is something ominous about the island... something horrible... though the bigger monsters on the island, may just be the castaways.

"We have met the enemy, and he is us." - Pogo Possum.

That little four-color 'possum... or since this is about Japan, 'o-possum' sure knew what he was talking about. 

Happy? Scared? Happy to be scared? Scared to be happy?
After walking around the island… and finding no food or water… they come across a plot of land that looks cultivated: ponds of fresh rainwater, and mushrooms as far as the eye can see.

Now… instead of it being the Professor, it's the Skipper who warns everyone to not eat the mushrooms because they could be poisonous. Thanks, professor...

Later, on their walkabout the Castaways see a ship wrecked on the shore of this uncharted desert isle (sorry… it just slips out… so put it back in, baby). The inside is covered with a fungus and mold - probably similar to whatever it is that I am allergic to in my house… but they notice that they can kill the fungus with a strong bleach cleaner… so they get to work.

Now here comes the typical morality play…

They think the boat was involved in nuclear testing, and that the irradiated waters around the island have caused mutations of things, including the mushrooms.

I'm unsure if it is typical or atypical to have a morality play about nuclear testing... 

Food begins to run out… but they do have seaweed and potatoes that they found…

Birds and fish and turtles seem to want to avoid coming near the isle…so that's off the menu.

Kasai (rich boat owner) doesn't seem all that interested in leaving the island, but enjoys stealing food from the group…

Yoshida (writer) is now moody and eats the island mushrooms…

Kasai is attacked by some sort of ugly, deformed man with a big hat…
Mushrooms will screw with your brain, man...
Kasai and Yoshida fight for Mami's (entertainer) affections… but Yoshida has clearly gone nuts from the mushrooms and pulls a gun… but is overcome and locked away.

In order to survive whatever is going on, the Skipper says they should leave the island—but no one listens —so he goes off on his own… not even accompanied by the First Mate.

Mami frees Yoshida… and while trying to take over the ship, Mami kills the First Mate. Skiiiiiiii-perrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Professor Kenji and Akiko (the Mary Ann of the group) regain control and force Mami and Yoshida off the ship.

Kasai the yacht owner goes back to his yacht and discovers that the Skipper has left behind a suicide note saying he feels responsible for the deaths within the group (and rather than stick around to help anyone else) so he has lept overboard drowned. Selfish bastard.

On the way back to the boat, Kasai discovers that being rich will get you the girl, as Mami entices him to go into the forest with her.

I'm not sure when exactly, but certainly as he is being swarmed by a swathe of mushroom people, Kasai figures out that anyone who eats a mushroom will turn into a fun guy fungus creature…
I would eat that...
Feeling aggressive or horny, the mushroom people attack Professor Kenji and his girlfriend Akiko… with Akiko taken away… but Kenji loves her… and is the heroic hero and must therefore do heroic heroful deeds (it's in the Hero's Manual - I'll show it to you one day)… so he tracks her down… but only after, it seems, that she has been force-feed mushrooms.

Akiko, Mami, Yoshida and Kasai are now under the influence of the 'shrooms. Professor Kenji is not.

Being heroic still, Kenji tries to rescue Akiko… but is overwhelmed by the mushroom people and is forced to flee like some sort of fleeing unheroic hero.

He gets onto the yacht, which is now seaworthy, and escapes the island.

In the classic twist at the end… he is rescued… but he wonders… should he have stayed on the island with Akiko? He thinks out loud that it wouldn't have made a difference if he had turned into a monster. Then he slowly turns towards the audience, and we see that Professor Kenji the unheroic dude is now covered in mushroom growths, and he continues, 'that even then… he would have been happier there with his love.'

As the movie fades to black with a view of Tokyo at night, Kenji says 'that humans are not much different than the mushroom people'.

And that's where Honda blew it! We don't need the moralizing cow manure! Mushroom people are nothing like the humans. They aren't all drug-addled psychopaths…It makes my head hurt to hear such a stupid line. I need an Asprin.

And… do we humans really want to be sautéed? No! They should have ended it one line earlier!!! Stupid writers… they never know when to shut up! I mean when I'm told to shut up, I shut up. I'm not one that has to keep talking. Some fellas just have to keep their mouths flapping, but not me! I was brought up right. My pa used to tell me "shut up" and I'd shut up! I wouldn't say nothing! One time, darn-near starved to death -

(turns to look at the reader through the computer screen)

 - wouldn't tell him I was hungry for mushrooms.

Here's a trailer from You Tube:
Anyhow folks, Matango - Attack of the Mushroom People is one monster movie I won't pan.

Yeah the effects will look cheesy when compared to what's new in 2013, but re-adjust your brain… think as though it is 1963 and Andrew hasn't been born yet… and enjoy a creepy flick.

Unless I spoiled it for you…. sorry?

Yes... you could buy a Matango, Mushroom person on a glowing tricycle... why do I want one? I'm sick.
Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Elevator Girl Kanji

Have you ever created your own word?

I have—but mostly through me gersplitzing (fumbling) my way through the English language.

I even created my own adage: "Desperation breeds tiny monsters."

The kanji image you see above... I did NOT create it, but a friend of a friend did. It has been sitting in my wallet longer than some condoms I used to carry around in my early 20s before I discovered Japan and women discovered me.

The kanji is 'elevator girl'.

In Japanese department stores—especially the big ones—young Japanese women are hired as elevator girls to press the button on the elevator to get you to whatever floor you are going to.

They do so wearing a uniform, white gloves, and possess the highest most squeaky voice you will ever hear. I wonder if a high voice in Japan is a way of deference... which is why a Yakuza (mob) boss will growl... ?

Actually... the elevator girl possesses a high, melodic voice... in Japan, like many countries, a high voice implies femininity. Perhaps it also means servitude...

Come into my box... and we shall move up and down...

"Second floor... Lox, clocks, bagels and socks... mind your step, please.... Third floor... flippers, clippers, bedroom slippers... mind your step, please."

Anyhow... I have been been uplifted many times by Japanese elevator girls... who don't seem to have a kanji to describe their job... as they are simply called 'erebata garu' in sucky phonetic katakana Japanese.

So... my friend of a friend created a kanji to elevate these young professionals into the lexicon of Japanese society.

The kanji symbol on the left is 'girl', while the one on the right is a combination of the two kanji for 'up and down' placed over each other... Up and down... like how an elevator travels.

I think it's brilliant.

Do any of YOU have any made-up kanji you want to share?

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Auto-Correct Pisses Me Off

Can I just say how much I hate my computer writing programs guessing the word I am writing and filling in the blanks for me?

Effing Auto-Correct!

On my Canada Luvs Japan article published yesterday... I wrote the phrase "big hug and a leg lift"... or rather that's what I tried to write... but Auto-Correct wrecks my damn joke and creates its own joke to make me look stoopid.

It put down instead: "big lug and a leg life".

Really?!

That would be funny if it didn't make me look stupid...

Let me tell you... when I am called stupid or made out to look stupid... my temper rises to a fever pitch... and I go squirrely. All of a sudden, I grab my nuts and try to cross the road without looking.

I didn't write that! Stupid Auto-Correct!

Jeers,
Andrew Joseph.
"Jeers"? - that was a typo.

Japanese Hate Haters

Okay… not really… but on Sunday, September 22, 2013, about 2,000 people rallied at Tokyo's Shinjuku train station to speak out and sometimes chant out that they are against the racist actions of some Japanese against Koreans living in Japan.

Koreans have been living in Japan for decades and decades and have been the whipping boy for Japanese racism. It's not like they have done anything wrong… these Koreans have just been living and working and trying to live life in Japan.

But… there is still a somewhat large and vocal faction of Japanese folk who don't like the Japanese and want them to get the hell out and go back to their own country.

Thankfully, not all of Japan is like that.

At the weekend demonstration, accompanied by a brass band and dancers, the anti-hate protestors carried signs reading: "We oppose hate speech" and "Let’s get along", while chanting "Stop discrimination, let’s live together."

Yoshino Hisashi (surname first), 45, says: "I don’t want to live in a city in which there is racism. There’s no other way to stamp it out other than each and every one of us making an effort to stop discriminating."

Wow… that's awesome. He's not even talking about racism against Koreans, but racism in general.

But… back to the Koreans...

If you were to talk to the average Japanese person, I would bet that even if they preferred Japanese products over Korean ones, they wouldn't have any racist thoughts to the Koreans.

Last April 2013, there was a hate rally, with hundreds of Japanese protesting their anti-Korean views carrying signs like: "Go Back To Korea!"… all the while calling the Koreans cockroaches. (The image above was taken during that event.)

Now… before you condemn Japan, note that there was also an equal number of protestors there who were protesting the hate protest.  They chanted vociferously: "You are the shame of this country!" "You’re the ones who need to go home!" "Get back to the Internet where you belong!"

Bravo. But... seeing as how I am on the Internet like you, I am unsure how to take that insult.

Koreans have been influencing Japan since at least 300BC. Buddhism, Japan's main religion originated in India, traveled across Asia through China and Korea and ended up in Japan.

There are the Zainichi Koreas—a term that implies long-term Korean residents of Japan who came during Japan's Imperial Rule in the early 20th century.

For example. With the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910, Japan annexed Korea. Keep in mind that there was already a 1905 Japan-Korea Treaty whereby Korea was a protectorate nation under Japan… and the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1907 in which Korea was deprived of the administration of internal affairs.

The Treaty of 1910 had eight articles, the first being: "His Majesty the Emperor of Korea makes the complete and permanent cession to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan of all rights of sovereignty over the whole of Korea".

Does anyone believe this was a voluntary thing? No.

Anyhow… the Japanese confiscated land and … well, damn near everything they wanted… the Koreans, in order to survive traveled to Japan to seek employment, because there was little going on back home. These are the Zainichi Koreans.

Of course, Japan says that their colonization of Korea helped kickstart their economy, and that the wave of Koreans looking for work in Japan was voluntary and had nothing to do with the fact that the Korea economy was in the dumps.

During a soccer match in Seoul, South Korean supporters raised a banner referring to Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule over Korea: "There is no future for a race oblivious to history." This apparently upset the Japanese.

Want more? Japan conscripted Koreans into their war effort - oft times using them as comfort women (sex toys) for Japanese soldiers, or were worked to death as laborers (Click HERE for a story)

About 5,400,000 Koreans were conscripted, though ONLY around 670,000 were taken to mainland Japan to work, and while treated better than those from other countries, 60,000 are guesstimated to have died between 1939-1945.

After the war, Japan became a tad more sympathetic, as there was a wave of Korean refugees caught in the middle of the Korean War in the 1950s.

Gee… who could have caused such a great divide in Korean nationalism? Anyone? Japan? Anyone? Japan? Of course… Korea played a large hand in its own current state of affairs.

During the 1980s, another wave of Koreans landed in Japan, which was undergoing a very hot economy.

Anyhow… with Japan's defeat at the end of World War 2, Koreans could reclaim their citizenship… even those living and working in Japan… sort of…

Japan only formally abandoned its claim to Korea on April 28, 1952 when the San Francisco Peace Treaty was passed, and Allied occupation of Japan was ended. But… when that happened.. the Zainichi Koreans lost their Japanese nationality.

Now… in 1965, with a Treaty on Basic Relations with South Korea, and Zainichi Koreas who chose not to apply for South Korean citizenship kept their Chosen-seki (Chosen is the old Japanese name for Korea)… but the Chosen-seki did not give the Zainichi Koreans citizenship to any nation.

Cockroaches… they don't belong in Japan. Or anywhere.

That's not my mindset, of course… but now you can see where it comes from.

But… like many immigrants who come to another country, the Zainichi Koreans have recently begun to assimilate themselves into Japanese culture… speaking Japanese, going to Japanese schools and work, marrying Japanese…

And here we sit… Koreans living and working in Japan are being persecuted by a handful of racist Japanese. The Koreans, on the face of it, have been taking it up the ass in a non-pleasant way for decades.

I haven't even talked about the Korean massacre in the days AFTER the Kanto Earthquake when warmongers set up false rumors suggesting Zainichi Koreans were looting and pillaging. Many Japanese went wilding, and killed anywhere between 6,000-10,000 Koreans. Official Japanese reports suggest only 231 Koreans were killed.

The truth, regardless of the number, is still an appalling number of deaths.

And yet… some Japanese have a racist hate-on against Koreans. Ridiculous.

Thank goodness there are also people out there now who are protesting the hatred.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stupid Blogger

I hate it... a story I had written for publication at 12:01 EST Wednesday morning was accidentally published sometime on Monday evening... meaning I had to write another story... which I don't mind doing... but it takes up a couple of hours of my time.

That's what happened with "Just Wondering" being published hours before "Japan's Stupidest Criminals".

Oh well...

Tune in a few hours for another tale from the dorkside, Japan Hates Haters.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Canada Luvs Japan


In this outstanding Associated Press/Canadian Press photo, we see Abe Akie (surname first), wife of Japan Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) giving a big hug and a leg lift to Laureen Harper, the wife of Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In my opinion, both leader's wives are major babes. Awesome legs, eh?

The foursome are greeting each other outside Canada's Parliament building in the nation's capital of Ottawa on Tuesday, September 24, 2013.

What you don't see is Laureen giving Akie's bum a light squeeze.

I'm not sure what these four have planned for later on tonight, but I now have an excellent visual and know what I'll be doing soon enough.   

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
Just kidding about the bum grab, by the way. A guy can dream about solving all the world's problems, right?

Japan's Stupidest Criminals

You know… just because people are smart enough to know how to break the law, it doesn't mean they are smart enough to get away with it.

Usually, when commissioning a crime, your typical bad guy has to watch out for imaginary people like Batman or Spider-man. But they aren't usually found in Japan.

As such… when you are a criminal… you pretty much just have to watch out for the cops.

And… it is therefore in your best interests to not contact the police while performing an illegal activity.

Let's take a look at Japan's current stupidest criminals.

It was reported that sometime last week, Japanese police in Osaka arrested six pornography dealers after they mailed their porno catalogs to the Osaka police chief's house by mistake.

Hidaka Toshiharu (surname first), 27, and a five other men were arrested by the Osaka Police Department and charged with the intent to sell obscene materials in Osaka.

For your information, showing penetration or the touching of sexual organs is prohibited in Japanese pornography. In magazines, a big black dot is placed over such images, or in movies, it is digitally blurred, like this:
This is either a pornographic image of woman being double-penetrated or a painting by noted cubist Paul Klee.

Hell... between 1990-1992, I had no idea Japanese porno videos were obscured because I always got mine unscrambled through my Japanese friends - fellow teachers and bar buddies. When I received one that was scrambled in 1993, I was confused and not less than a little disappointed.

And yes... even though I was getting enough sex to satisfy the U.S. seventh fleet (the one present in Asia), I was a normal guy (sort of) and had my own little porno collection that I sometimes watched with various girlfriends and by myself.

If a guy tells you he doesn't masturbate, he's lying, very religious or 10-years-old. 

Anyhow...   


Our six pornographers had been sending out catalogs - lists - of their illegal Japanese Adult Video DVDs… and here's where they became stupid…

Rather than mailing out the catalogs to a known subscriber base, they were sending out the catalogs, by mail, to random male customers. I'll repeat that... random mailings...

Now… one mistake could be deadly… but these idiots actually sent three sets of the same catalog to the Osaka Chief of Police.

Could it get any worse? Sure! These are currently Japan's stupidest criminals, after all!

When the police raided Hidaka's sticky office in Osaka, they found and seized around 280,000 uncensored pornographic DVDs. As well, police also found about 7,000 erectile dysfunction pills.
Get your heart-on!

Why would anyone want pills that can cause erectile dysfunction?

What? … Oh…

Still… erectile dysfunction pills and porno movies?

Just how bad are these Japanese A-V's (adult-videos)?

And… just because it sounds stupid… the Osaka Police Department says it suspects that the pills found at Hidaka's office may have been obtained illegally.

Japan—It's A Wonderful Rife hopes so. Because if 7,000 pills was a prescription, then I suspect that the pornography charges are the least of the head pornographer's problems.

Still… in prison, Hidaka may enjoy all the anal sex he can handle. And he won't even need his pills.

And coming to the end of this blog… it was also reported that all six of our dastardly criminal masterminds have admitted their guilt to the police.

Now... whose lawyer do I talk to about getting a catalog?

Jeers
Andrew Joseph

Monday, September 23, 2013

Just Wondering... Tattoos

I was sitting around looking at my friends walk past my desk here at work... tattoos everywhere... lots of flashy color... but, and I asked... none of them have any Chinese or Japanese kanji on themselves.

Yes... some of the women have fairies, butterflies and dolphins on themselves... stuff that would make me puke if I wasn't so intent on looking at them rather than their tattoos... but... no Japanese writing was present... trust me... I looked (and continue to look) long and hard for evidence to the contrary.

And yet... there are a whole mess of people - westerners - who have tattoos of Japanese kanji inked on their person.

Something that they think means "strength and passion"...

I always find the use of Japanese kanji intriguing, especially when I know that the people who tend to have such tattoos have never been to Japan and have no interest in going to Japan, but know that having Japanese kanji tattooed on themselves will look far cooler that using English.

After all... curious people will ask them what that kanji means... and a conversation is born.

But I was just wondering (hence the title of this here blog)... do rebellious Japanese youth go and get themselves inked with English words?

"Yeah, Kimiko-chan... that tattoo is the English word "horny"... in Japanese, it means 'heavy ambition'."

Or:

"Brad-kun, dude... my tattoo says "passion peachtree youth" which is English symbolic representation of Japanese tree of life."
"But Japan does not have a tree of life mythology."
"Don't be a hater, Brad-kun, dude."
So... what do you think? Do Japanese people innocently ink themselves with English they don't understand?
Proving you can't trust anyone, he wanted "Loyalty" and got "Noodles". I like Noodles. He's the lead guitarist from the punk rock group The Offspring, right? Noodles and Loyalty - ya gotta keep'em separated.

Is that possible? Sure... we do it with Japanese kanji.

And besides... since everybody loves stories of my past almost as much as I like bragging telling you about them... I recall one of the women I was trying to sleep with (Very little sleep would actually be involved. None, in fact.), who coyly asked me to explain the English writing on her shirt. English on anything is cool in Japan.

I had stared long and hard at her shirt, and then because I needed a closer look, I helped her remove it (and her bra accidentally). (I have very deft skills of stuff.)

Smiling at her large dark brown... eyes, I informed her it was not English, but Italian.

Horrors! Not English!? She was embarrassed.

Shocked and stunned, and not less than a little amazed, I comforted her a few times and ate a sandwich.

I promised I would go shopping with her to find a new shirt with real English words on it.

On the plus side, at least it wasn't a permanent tattoo.

I never saw her again. Or maybe I did. In my city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, there were so many shirts with bad English on them, and I was on a tight schedule.

And, on the truly plus side, I didn't have to go shopping with her.

And... it's a true story, though I may have become more sexually potent in my memory. Maybe.

Anyhow... if you are going to get a tattoo... and are enough of a wanker to get one in a language you know nothing about... make sure you learn something about what you want inked. There are enough books, magazines... and even this new thing called the Internet... you may have heard about it? To some effing research you lazy fug.

I write an essay a day in these blogs. You can spend five minutes looking up something that will be permanently marked on your skin.

Obviously... my cutting remarks aren't a swipe at those of you who got inked pre-Internet... marked with tattoos featuring ethnic images and or words in a language or mythos you know nothing about. Okay I am swiping.

For those of you who did do some research - bravo.

Cheers
Andrew

Current Events: Geothermal Energy in Japan

In this blog, I would like to take a look at the geothermal electrical power generation options for Japan.

I am not an expert on electrical power generation, though I do play one in my own mind. But… I do have an interest in interesting things and I am curiouser and curiouser than most. Anyhow... I'll try NOT to be so scientific here, because... this is a blog... and I'm trying to present as much factual information as I can. If I have made mistakes, please feel free to drop me a line, and I will correct them.

People who know of my views on electrical power generation in Japan know that I don't really have a problem with nuclear energy when it is done right. Japan did it right at one time, but failed to do proper safety checks and has, essentially, managed to kill the entire industry in their country.

Now... I currently live in Toronto, where some 60% of all of our electrical power production is provided via nuclear reactors. The rest is hydro-electric and wind and something else, probably methane from politician beer farts.

Until recently, Japan was receiving about 30% of its electrical power by way of controlled nuclear reactors.

But all that changed on March 11, 2011 when a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake triggered a powerful tsunami wave(s?) that battered and knocked out power to the Dai-Ichi nuclear facility in Fukushima-ken, causing two solid weeks of panic amongst the populace wondering if their country was going to be irradiated.

It was.

People were forced to evacuate their homes, businesses, schools, and being forced to leave behind pets, farm animals, belongings, etc.—turning once-thriving communities within a 20 kilometer radius of the Dai-ichi facility into ghost towns.

The fact that the very worst of the nuclear accident was over within two or three weeks, it still had not allayed Japan's well-founded fears of nuclear contamination, as the nuclear facility continued to belch out radioactive materials into the air, water and soil.

If we are to believe Japan Prime Minister Abe, the situation has now been controlled, meaning that after two years, no more radioactive material via water contamination is being spilled. Sure.

Throughout 2011 and 2012, people were monitoring the air they breathed, water they drank and the food they ate—and not just in Japan either, but in nervous neighboring countries as well, along with many countries that imported goods from Japan... people were nervous, and rightly so.

While the Dai-ichi reactors continued, as of early September 2013, to leak radioactive contaminated water into the surrounding ground and waters, much of Japan's populace—especially those in the northeast—aren't that interested in having the warming glow of nuclear reactors supply their electrical power generation.

Who wouldn't be gun shy—especially when the bullets fired are radioactive?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I'm dying of radiation poisoning.

By June of 2011, with Fukushima's nuclear issues dominating Japanese and global media, it was reported that some 80% of Japanese said they were now anti-nuclear (and also distrusted the government to provide them with accurate information).

And - as I mentioned, I am pro-nuclear power when done safely and not willy-nilly.

Which segues nicely back to Japan.

Willy-nilly.

The Japanese government had taken every single nuclear reactor off-line to ensure each was up to snuff safety-wise.

On May 25, 2012, the last of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors went off line, leaving it without nuclear power for the first time since 1970.

Since then, Japanese distrust of the nuclear industry now seems validated as many, many issues were discovered: safety features not followed, built on an earthquake fault, blah-blah-blah.

As of September of 2013, two of the 50 plants have come back on-line. And while country isn't suffering from blackouts or brownouts, what's a neon sign-fascinated country to do?

If we could all forget about nuclear power for the moment, Japan does have options.

While it has few natural power generating resources of its own—forget coal, oil, gas, hydro-electric dammit—but may be able to utilize: solar, wind, tidal and my personal favorite option for the country—geothermal.
Everybody loves geothermal hot springs!

Why geothermal in the Land of the rising sun? Why not solar?

Well… I've lived in Japan for a few years (I'm not there now), and, depending on where one is, it's a hot and humid place in the summer… but that sun always seemed to be covered by clouds.

That's a stupid reason for not opting for solar, but my thoughts regarding geothermal as a viable energy source is one that I think could be a global phenomenon—tapping the Earth's potential to supply energy.

Here's what David Suzuki, Canadian scientist, environmentalist, author, TV show host and board member of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation said while knocking nuclear power: "To import a very complex and difficult technology to boil water in the world’s most seismically active country when there is such vast geothermal potential strikes me as madness.”

We're all mad here

First things first... or perhaps, second things first. Japan is currently the sixth-largest producer of geothermal electricity in the world. Pretty good, right?

Yes and no. Unfortunately, the output still isn't very high in the grand scheme of electrical power generation.

Now first things first.

What is Geothermal Energy?
Geothermal energy is the heat contained within the Earth. There's a lot of it. Without going overly technical,
The Earth’s heat content is 1031 joules. I don't know what that means either. Repeating what I have seen written elsewhere in a scientific research paper, this heat within the Earth naturally flows to the surface by conduction at a rate of 44.2 terawatts (TW), and is replenished by radioactive decay at a rate of 30 TW…

That's 30TW produced and 44.2TW being released at the surface, so yes, the Earth is giving up heat faster than it creates it, so it is not a infinite resource.

But worry not. By the time the Earth stops producing this heat—which helps keep our planet alive and swell—every living creature will be long dead... or our ancestors or genetic mutations of who we used to be will be living in another part of this or some other galaxy or multiverse as part of someone's space zoo or ant farm.

And… to make things perfectly clear… any usage of geothermal power will not cause the Earth to cool down and die. Unless we use it all at once… and then - Kablooey, anyway.

Why Geothermal?
Japan has close to 200 volcanoes in the general vicinity. What? Did you not wonder why its part of the 'ring of fire'?

Ever sat in a hot spring? That's geothermal heat.

Now… picture a process whereby that heat is converted electricity - and presto. I assume it's heat to steam to turn turbines to create electricity. (I'm right, basically... see the very top image.)

Japan has 20 geothermal plants at 18 locations, with the majority of them in the Tohoku and Kyushu areas, putting forth 535.25MW of electricity, which again, is enough to make Japan the sixth-largest geothermal electricity producer on the planet.

In 2007, Japan had 535.2 MW of installed electric generating capacity, which is about about 5% of the world total.

Expanding geothermal power use would benefit turbine makers such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Toshiba Corp., both of which already supply equipment outside Japan.

Japan has actually been involved in geothermal power generation since 1925 when an experiment took place at Beppu-shi, Oita-ken (Oita Prefecture). Beppu is known as the place of the Seven Hells thanks to some wonderful geothermal geysers and pools of dazzling color.
Chinoike Jigoku also known as the "blood pond hell" in Beppu. It features a pond of hot, red water - red because of its iron content. Photo by Andrew Joseph.

The experiments, research and development were stopped by World War 2, but picked up again in 1947, with the Geological Survey of Japan began surveying and such to decide where geothermal power plants could be erected. Matsukawa, in 1966, became Japan's first real geothermal plant.

SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

Now... the thought is that since the Earth is still creating heat, that geothermal energy is renewable... and it is... along with being clean - IE no radioactive waste by-products. That's good.

What should Japan do? It doesn't have oil or gas... it's last nuclear reactor shut down while I was writing this... and the whole country sits atop a whole lot of geothermal areas waiting to be exploited. So Japan does have something it can use to generate power.

Did I say exploited?

Well... perhaps it could utilize its resources better.

Certainly the existing hot springs and bathing facilities must be protected when constructing new geothermal power generating plants... and costs for drilling and even exploration must come down for this to really be viable. That may mean development of new technologies.

So... why has geothermal energy development not been the hot topic as far as power generation goes?

Everyone talks about shutting down the nuclear reactors... but what is taking its place?

PROBLEMS? Well, most of these geothermal hot spots are in national parks - more than 80 percent, according to the Geothermal Research Society of Japan.

Rules set in the 1970s suspended construction of new geothermal power stations inside national parks except for six sites in operation or under construction at the time.
but earlier this year, the Japanese government said it was okay to try and develop geothermal power inside national parks.

For example, Geothermal company Marubeni is conducting a geological survey at the Daisetzuan National Park in Hokkaido, where it will study geological formations in the Shiramizusawa area.

It will take about one year (so maybe Spring of 2014) before they can decide if its worth their while to do a test drill.

And then… they will take a few years to properly survey the area to see if a geothermal plant can be built…

Marubeni is currently asking for permission for five surveys in four national parks.

Refiner company Idemitsu Kosan Co. is conducting a drilling survey in Akita-ken about now.

More Problems?
Well, people who own spas and hot spring inns and resorts are all hot and bothered that the appearance of a geothermal power generating plant will affect business by sucking away the same geothermal heat they need to warm the asses of pampered people (I loved being pampered, as opposed to Pamper-ed).

According to the Japan Spa Association, it says it recognizes that geothermal energy is an option, but is worried about its effect on the environment—the spa environment, I assume. It says that even now some Japanese hot springs have either run out or thinned out, or that there has been a drop in water temperature.

Valid concerns… BUT responsible geothermal power generation companies are just that - responsible. They won't build in an area where the heat could run out!Setting up a geothermal power generating facility is very expensive.

So… I've said how Japan is a player in the global geothermal market, but truthfully, in the grand scheme of power, Japan's geothermal numbers are a proverbial drop in the bucket relative to what it was achieving through nuclear power.

Japan has 539 megawatts of geothermal capacity in operation, about half the output of a typical atomic reactor. Only 4 megawatts of that capacity was added in the past decade, according to data from the government. This is capacity - how much it COULD produce, if it went full tilt.

But, it isn't going full tilt.
Matsukawa geothermal power station.

Japan is expected to put out about 23,000 MW of electricity generated from geothermal operations… which is about 0.2% of Japan's current electricity generation, according to guesstimates from the Geothermal Energy Association. (Globally, 11,228MW of electricity is produced in any given calendar year.)

Hey… want to hear something interesting? The last geothermal power generating plant built in Japan was back in 1999 on Hachijo Island, which lies about 287 kilometers south of Tokyo.

That's not weird, but this is: it is operated by Tokyo Electric Power COmpany (TEPCO) who are responsible for on-going mess of leaky radioactive materials in Fukushima.

I'll just leave things right there.

Japan needs to go to an alternative power generating source… but if TEPCO is involved, I might not be as thrilled.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Bad News Bears Go To Japan

I've been busy these past few days burning candles on both ends and along the sides, with deadline pressures at work, a side project I'll tell you about later, and writing these blogs.

Along the way, I've found some time to watch a few movies and TV shows with my son: Cars 2, The Simpson's and the focus of this blog: The Bad News Bears Go To Japan.

I should mention that all of those things we watched today all had elements of Japan in them, as Cars 2 had a race in Tokyo, Simpson's cracked a Godzilla joke, and the Bears... well...

Being a kid once, I watched the Bad News Bears at the movie theater when it first came out - starting in 1976 with The Bad News Bears, the 1977 Bad News Bears In Breaking Training and the 1978's The  Bad News Bears Go To Japan.

This trilogy is a kid's baseball set of flicks about a bunch of lovable losers who suck at baseball and life and somehow mange to lose and win at the same time.

While The Bears pulled a Rocky and lost the league championships in the first movie (they Lost??!!) starring Walter Mathau and Tatum O'Neal (sexy then when I was 12! and still sexy now as whatever age I am) and Jackie Earle Haley (excellent in The Human Target TV show!) - not to mention the grandson of Harpo Marx, Brett... they somehow were invited to participate next year in an exhibition game as the California Champs versus the Texas champs at the Houston Astrodome, then home of the then Houston Astros MLB baseball team.

Houston, when it first came into the National League, were known as the Houston Colt .45's - named after the gun (Texas...). But... when the Astrodome was built, and they moved into the first stadium to used artificial grass (astro turf), they changed their name to the Houston Astros because Houston was the place where American rockets were blasting off from.

Anyhow... this movie now starred William Devane as the manager and had Jimmy Baio (brother of Scott from the TV show Happy Days and Arrested Development), and had the whole remaining team come back. The movie is perhaps famous for their "Let Them Play!" chant which brought a tear to my eye. I said it was dust when asked what was going on by my son.

The winner of that game would earn a trip to Japan.. at least that's what the Astrodome sponsor Budweiser said.

But... when The Bad News Bears Go To Japan opens up... the kids are going to Japan to play the Japanese champs, but apparently aside from plane tickets, the team is expected to pay for their own hotel and food and other expenses. Budweiser... what happened? Didn't you want to shell out a few promotional bucks for THIS movie?

Luckily, the team hires new team manger Marvin Lazar played by acting legend Tony Curtis. Lazar is a hustler and a promoter and does do a decent enough job of looking after the kids.

Now... I would like to say that this was the movie that made me want to go to Japan as a 13-year-old, but until I saw the movie again a few hours ago, I had forgotten all about this miserable franchise-killing movie.

This was a movie series about kids overcoming adversity... and this third movie doesn't follow the same winning pattern at all. More on that in a few paragraphs...

While I enjoyed seeing the old shinkansen (bullet trains) run... views of Mt. Fuji, scenes of beautiful arched red bridges, women in kimono, pachinko parlors, Tokyo subway trains, ryokan (Japanese-style hotels), the tiny Japanese bathtubs...

I really got a kick out of watching Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki wrestle a bunch of kids and partake in a board and cinder block breaking karate exhibition. I met him in 1993... older, sure... but he still looked like he could kick some major ass. Even my well-toned, muscular one.


Okay... I also loved the time in the movie when the Japanese team with their lovable coach Shimizu (played by Wakayama Tomisaburo - surname first) appeared on a Japanese talent show on TV. He was horrible, but I recall even as a kid being impressed by the politeness of the Japanese audience... until I realized that what I thought was horrible, was actually considered good by the Japanese. What a strange country, I thought.

So... being a curious sort... I'm watching the movie and thing... who is this Japanese guy playing the coach? He looked familiar, but was that because my memory was confusing 35-yer-old recall with actual knowledge?

Well... it turns out that thanks to my rabid comic book collecting, and three-years in Japan and a few movies watched... I did know who Wakayama Tomisaburo was - he is the very famous Japanese movie actor who played the lead as Ittoh Ogami (surname first)... the ronin (masterless samurai) warrior in six Lone Wolf and Cub movies that were based on an amazing Japanese comic book series. I have a brief write-up on the series HERE.



I loved the English-language comic books so much before I even thought about going to Japan. And while in Japan, I bought 12 Japanese-language comic books... literally books, and while I couldn't read the dialogue, I still enjoyed the art...  And then... I got my hands on the movies at a video rental shop in my hometown of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken... and loved them! They were all in Japanese, but - WOW! this guy was fantastic in his role.

I heartily recommend you reading the comic books and watching the movies... but... I can't say the same for the Bad News Bears Go To Japan.

Along with the fact that half the kids from the first two movies weren't in this one, but the movie seemed like a comedy vehicle for a six-year-old Black kid named Mustapha Rahim, who was the brother of one of the ball players, but obviously not a player himself.

I suppose that in 1978 having cute Black kids in comedy roles was in vogue. Yeesh. (I'm talking 'bout Diff'rent Strokes, Willis!)

And yet... this movie was not about the kids... or even about baseball.. which is why it sucked. This movie was all about the moral fall and rise of the Bears manager (Curtis). Sure... you hire a big name actor and you think you need to use him... but they had Walter Matheau in the first movie and allowed to particpate enough in the movie without it being about him.

Still... far too much of this movie was spent following the exploits of Tony Curtis. I love Tony. Okay, I actually love and lust after his daughter Jamie Lee... but what a dog of a movie.

A kid's baseball movie that showed only bits of three games - neither of which showed a conclusion. Yuck.

How bad was this movie? The only image I could find showing the kids was one of Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley) talking to his Japanese girlfriend, Arika (played by a very cute Ishihara Hatsune - surname first)... and I found it on an automobile website, as the creator was obviously excited about the crappy 1974 Suzuki Fronte car in the background! I kid you not!



 
Stick with the first two Bad News Bears movies... watch the re-make of the first one starring Billy Bob Thornton if you must (my son very much preferred the original - he has good taste! Like his dad!)

So why am I writing about this movie? Let me ask you... since this movie was made in 1978, do you think any other Japan blogger has mentioned it... considering the internet has only really been around for about 20 years. Someone had to do it.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Look At Japan In 1898 - Revised

Where else are you going to get a look at an 1898 newspaper written, edited, published and printed by American sailors docked in the port of Yokohama? Just here.

Let's take a look at the January 31, 1898, Vol.1, No. 3 edition of The Bounding Billow newspaper… an eight-page broadsheet that was "published in the interests of American men-o'-warsmen" at intervals aboard the U.S.F.S. Olympia ship.

Let's take a look at page 6 of the paper (punctuation and spelling is reprinted by myself as it appears)…  it's entitled:

The "Billow's" Chat, With Our Friends at home.—Yokohama, Japan. 

We left Nagasaki, at 11 o'clock, Saturday morning January 15, for Yokohama, by watt of the Inland Sea. The weather during the passage was fair, though rather cold the last day and night. At about past ten the night the anchored in Simonoseki Straits, off the town of Simonoseki, at the entrance of the Inland Sea.
We got under weigh again at 6.55 next morning and proceeded up the Sea. At 10.35 the night of the 16th, we hove to, five miles from Kobe or (Hiogo) at the end of the Inland Sea and signalled for a boat to take our pilot. No boat coming we lowered a whale boat and sent him ashore. At 12.30 we went ahead again. At 2.30 the morning of the 18th, we anchored in the Gulf of Tokio until daylight, when we went into Yokohama Bay.
Yokohama is the largest treaty port in Japan. It is also practically the seaport for Tokio, the capital. It is situated on the eastern coast of the Island of Houdo, the largest Island of the Japanese Empire. The city has a population of about 140,000 about 2,000 of whom are European residents and 4,000 Chinese.
The climate is temperate and healthy but smallpox or typhoid occasionally break out. The principle summer resorts are Hommoku, about five miles from the city, and Kamakura, a very pretty and interesting town. Here can be seen the Buddhist Temple where sits the great "Diabutsu" the famous "God of Peace". This idol is one of the largest in the world. The following is a brief history of this colossal work:—In the year 737, A.D. the Emperor or "Mikado" Shonu, being a sincere devotee to Buddhism, caused numerous temples to be erected throughout Japan, a few of which are standing at the present day. Chief among these is the "Ko-to-ku-in" at Kamakura. In the grounds of this ancient fane stands the huge, bronze image of the great "Dai-butsu" (Buddha) which was cast in the year 1252, A.D. by the celebrated glyphic artist Ono Go-ro-yemon. The image was much injured by a tidal wave which swept over Kamakura in 1495. It is still in an excellent state of preservation despite the ravages of the elements.
It is about 50 ft. in height and 98 ft. in circumference; the length of the face is 8 and a half feet, the eyes, which are of pure gold, 4 ft., the ears 6 and a half feet and of the nose 3 ft 8 inches. The image sits in a squatting position. The distance from knee to knee is 36 feet, the breadth of the mouth is 3 feet 2 inches and the circumference of the thumb is over 3 feet.
In the centre of the forehead is a silver boss symbolizing the light flowing from the great Buddha, an idea somewhat similar to that expressed in our Scriptures—"I am the light of the World. This boss is 1 foot 3 inches in diameter and weighs 30 lbs.
There are a great many other places on interest too numerous to mention; but a visit to Yokohama or for that matter to Japan, would not be complete without trip to Fuji-yama the "Pride of Japan." This majestic mountain is 12,365* feet above the sea level. It is about sixty miles from the coast and on a clear day can be seen almost a hundred miles at sea. Fuji-yama is a volcano but has not been in eruption for many years. It is certainly a beautiful sight to see this grand mountain from the sea, the sun turning the snow-capped peak to silver, its rays reflected and multiplied seeming to send a shower of quivering radiance over the entire scene. Fuji-yama is a sight that once seen can never be forgotten.
The Pilgrims, a sect somewhat similar to our Evangelists, deem it their duty to climb to the crater once a year where they claim that they become purified. It is also said that the afflicted visit the peak of this stately mountain where they are cured of all their ills. But this of course is all superstition, and as we have never witnessed any such miracle we cannot vouch for its truth.
Yokohama was originally surrounded by canals which formed the bounds of the city, but it has grown so that it expands far beyond these limits. The European Settlement is in the eastern part of the town. The Missionaries and wealthier class of foreigners reside on Mandarin Bluff, a large hill overlooking the Gulf of Tokio and forming the eastern arm of the bay.
The harbor is protected by immense breakwaters enclosing a space of about 1,000 acres. The eastern breakwater extends from Honmoku Point for a distance of 5,389 ft. The northern one extends from Kanagawa Flats (just above the fort of that name) for a distance of 6,702 ft. toward the end of the eastern breakwater. The entrance is between these two ends and is 800 ft. wide. A lighthouse marks out each side of this entrance.
There are quite a number of theaters, and while Japanese drama would appear rather dry to us, the native audience is spellbound until the villain is beheaded by the hero. The only features wherein the Japanese theatre resembles ours are the "lemonade and peanuts" boy and ye inevitable "Gallery God." The galleries here however, are covered with wire nettings which prevent the "gods" from throwing peanut shells at the bald heads below.
----
*A curious thing about the height of Fuji-yama, is the fact that the thousands of feet correspond numerically with the months, and the hundreds with the days of the calendar year.


Okay… what an awesome description of some of the sites about Japan.
Some help: Houdo is Honshu, the main island of Japan.
'Fane'? Temple... but did the average sailor in 1898 know the word 'fane'? How stupid have we become in 115 years?
'Hove' = heaved
"Got under weigh again"... I assume it's the same as the word 'way'... but on the sea, a ship must weigh anchor to move... it seems grammatically correct to me.

However, Jeremy, a reader of this blog points out with much certainty the true origin of that phrase: "Got under weigh":

 "Got under weigh again". The spelling "weigh" is a mistake dating from the 17th or 18th century and has nothing to do with weighing anchor on a ship.
"Weigh" originally referred to finding how heavy something is but it also meant "to lift up".
But it was assumed by the seafarers and others of earlier times that there was a connection between "under way" and "under weigh" and this caused the error.
The expression came from the Dutch who were the top-notch European nautical traders of those days. [Digression: did you know that the word "dollar" was originally the Dutch word "thaler" which meant "valley". It referred to a valley in S Africa where a particularly high-quality silver ore was mined. The silver bullion from the valley became a preferred medium for international trade in the good old seafaring days. So when a trapper in the New World sold a load of pelts to a merchant captain from Europe, he was probably paid in thalers. Owing to the oddities of the Dutch language, " thaler" and "dollar" had approximately the same pronunciation. End of digression]
So why "under weigh"? The original Dutch sailor-talk was "Aan der weg". This meant "On the way" it had nothing to do with under nor did it refer to weighing or lifting an anchor. I think the mistake was partly caused by the oddities of the Dutch language. A 'g' in Dutch has a guttural pronunciation similar to the 'ch' in the Scots "loch" or the German "Ach!" In standard English this guttural sound does not exist in speech but remains in the written form. "Night" used to be pronounced "niCHt". In Scotland the guttural 'ch' was always used in some dialects and the Scots saying "It's a braw briCHt moonlit niCHt the niCHt" still lives on as a well-worn(out) joke.
So it was assumed than since "under way" started out as "Aan der weg" the guttural which disappeared in English was the same one as in "weigh". It wasn't, so "under way" is the only correct spelling.
HOWEVER . . . Since so many writers made this mistake, "under weigh" gained authority from usage and as with any linguistic criterion, usage usually wins in the end.


Thanks, Jeremy!

The best part of the whole article - for me, is the description of the Peanut Gallery tossing nuts down onto the people below. How very human.

I also like how you can see that the American writer was spelling using British and Canadian-style spellings... which is, of course "French". Shhh. "Centre" and "Theatre." Do you prefer Tokyo or Tokio? The three-syllable pronunciation of To-ki-o has always confused me.

I love the population breakdowns, the description of the Buddha statue in Kamakura (which I have seen up close and personal)... but I am confused about this whole Fuji-yama thing... it must have been some mountain that existed long before I got to Japan, because in three years there, I never saw it once.

The newspaper offers a great outsiders view of life in Japan... and I have a few more articles from this wonderful ship's paper to share with you. I actually have to re-type the articles out word-for-word... so I try and space these self-made assignments out so that I don't go insane in the membrane (insane in the brain).

Lastly but not leastly, this article was sent to me by my friend Vinnie... or Vinnie... or maybe it's just Vince. Vincent? Thanks, brother.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph
PS: The photo above was taken by me in 1992 or so. NOT 1898.

Friday, September 20, 2013

America's Got Japanese Talent - Revised

Okay... I like watching television. I watch a lot of sports - mostly hockey and baseball - which is good because the schedules rarely collide thanks to ineptness of the teams I follow. I also watch detective shows (Elementary, Hawaii 5-0, NCIS, CSI)  and supernatural ones (Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Under The Dome and Sleepy Hollow).

I also watch a buttload of shows on Netflix - unabashed plug, that a girlfriend told me about - and get it through my Sony PlayStation 3. Also a plug... I'll get a PS4 soon enough. The Wire. Kingdom. Red Dwarf. Arrested Development. Mad Men. Breaking Bad.

I also play videogames... I'm on Year 2020 in my MLB The Show 2013 game... and do some car racing games, all the LEGO ones, and am looking forward to getting Diablo III after playing the first two on my PC maybe 10 years ago.

I've watched a few reality shows... but generally feel that my own reality is effing bizarre enough that I don't need anyone else's so-called life interfering with my reality.

I also do a little bit of writing, spend time with my wife and son (coached his soccer team this summer and I think all the kids had as much fun as I did - god... baseball coach next year?), build LEGO, and read a book a week. I think I even squeeze in a few hours sleep.

Now... because I have been forced to occupy my time - a man can only masturbate so much - it is possible that I have missed out on a few things on TV... though I don't see how, as I am also fully versed on The Looney Toons (brilliant!), Johnny Test, SpongeBob Squarepants, Scooby Doo - Mystery Inc., Monsters Vs Aliens, Legends of Chima, Ninjago, Dragons - Riders of Berk, and Kung-Fu Panda - Legends of Awesomeness, which is one of the funniest programs I have ever seen.

As such... I haven't watched American Idol or America's Got Talent, Survivor, or crap like Big Brother. I am a Gleek, however.

Because I am busy... I missed out on the recent appearance by Japanese dancer Kenichi Ebina (surname LAST), who recently appeared on America's Got Talent... dancing as though he was within a video game.

It's extremely well choreographed and I enjoyed it thoroughly. He gives a bit of an autobiography (in English), and he seems like a real nice person. He's a helluva dancer, too. I saw him perform a couple of moves that looked like the film was in reverse... wow.

Plucked from YouTube - Enjoy:

Oh yeah... he won this year's event.

Cheers

Andrew "I'm bored" Joseph

1955 Ad About Japan's Iron & Steel Industry

Y'know... I thought it would be cool to show an ad from a 1955 Japanese newspaper, Nippon Times, for a Japanese iron and steel company.

The ad itself is pretty blah... no cool graphics or punchy copy... it's simple, straight and to the point... which is what one would expect of a company that makes steel.

But I just wondered to myself just why a Japanese steel manufacturer would need to advertise itself in a foreign-language newspaper. For foreign purchases, I guess... but who are these guys? 

As a courtesy, I thought I would get a bit of information on the company that made the ad—Yawata Iron & Steel Co., Ltd.—just to see if it still exists.

It does... as part of something else... but then I realized that that historically speaking, it played a large role in the industrialization of Japan.

Crap. More research... more writing. Y'know... one day I won't be so damn curious. I'm apparently anal retentive in that I like to know as much as possible about everything. In my head, that will allow me to be able to converse with anyone, from all walks of life, about anything.

So... let's get smart together:

Yawata Steel Works was formed in 1901... and in 1970, the then-named Yawata Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. merged with Fuji Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. to form the Nippon Steel Corporation, a Tokyo-headquartered conglomerate that is one of the largest steel corporations in the world.

Back in 1901, Yawata was a Japanese government business (like the post office) that was actually a non-physical (no building) entity formed back in 1896 and was known as the Imperial Japanese Government Steel Works, and, when constructed, would be located in Yawata, which is now a part of Kitakyūshū in northern Kyushu, Japan. While it was a government industry, several privately-owned steel making companies were founded.

So... why did Japan need to have a government-run steel producer?

Thanks to the newly discovered U.S. influence after Japan opened up its borders to the global community, the Japanese government (during the so-called Meiji restoration) sought to be like the rest of the world, and underwent its own industrial revolution.

Japan wanted to be modern, and wanted a western-style factory manufacturing steel and steel products to help lead it to the promised land. It really liked the locomotive Commodore Perry brought with him from the U.S., to impress upon the Japanese that the Americans were technologically advanced (and to show that the Japanese should trade with them to become technologically advanced, too).

The Yawata construction—thanks to the Western influence—introduced a reverberatory-style of furnace that would replace the Japanese-style tatara system.

A reverberatory furnace isolates the materials processed from contact with the fuel, but not from contact with the combustion gases. D'uh.

The traditional Japanese tatara system of smelting is one of those things now that people look on with fond respect as the ancient and best way to make steel... because this was the smelting method used to create katana swords for the samurai warrior class... and those buggers can have steel folded onto itself (I'm guessing) hundreds of times... but... to make steel the old way, it involves a clay vessel known as the tatara. When the vessel is dried and fired and a fire lit under it, iron sand is added and then layered with softpine charcoal... This is continued for 72 hours or more and can involve a minimum of four people to work to convert the iron to steel... a labor of love, to be sure, but not a method to mass produce anything.

A pair of bellows flank a tatara system.
So why Yawata? Money, I'm sure... but to make the steel, the factory needed coal (to create fire), water, able workforce and transportation. It also had to be safe from earthquakes... but then again, what didn't? The Yawata site in the village of Yahata (now present-day Kitakyushu) was also chosen because it was close to Japan's most productive coal area - the Chikuho field.

Hey... in case you needed to know... steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. Mostly iron. Other elements can be added to change the characteristics of the steel. It has been made for thousands of years, but became a refined industry about 400 years ago.

What's the difference between the 1896 and 1901 dates I gave? One was when the idea started... and the 1901 date is when the Higashida Blast Furnace No. 1 was ignited... turning Japan into more of a modern megalith... when it could actually begin to make steel in huge quantities... for things like... warships... warplanes... submarines... weapons... whatever... that wasn't the original thought behind it all. It was to become more Western than the West.

As a steel mill... it was a success... with three planned expansions, new blast furnaces and factories to build more steel products... infrastructure like the Kawachi Reservoir was created... new products requiring steel were invented which helped increase production of steel... people had money to spend, and now had steel to create products of their own... new industries were created... and it all helped create a modern Japan... a warring Japan, too, but truthfully, Japan would have been an aggressive warring country no matter what. Steel gave it an edge.

By the 1920s, there were 30,000 workers at all of the Yawata enterprises... with over 100 blast furnaces, steel making mills, roll mills, repair shops, railway shops and other mills...

Although each mill was forced to follow primitive production control and accounting requirements imposed upon them by the top management, the way they ran their business was left up to the mill managers. Hire and fire whom they liked...

With World War 1 on, Japan helped control the Pacific waterways with the good guys, and as such many Japanese men went off to do their part.

The Great War (WWI) caused a shortage of workers at the steel mill, and conversely the war meant more of a need for steel. It meant lots of work... with crappy pay... and a couple of labor strikes in February of 1920, whereby labor reforms were established along with an increase in worker pay and saw demands for better working conditions.

Yawata Steel Works. Photo from www.blog.kyushu-heritage.jp
Built in 1899, this red-brick building (above)  was the command center of Yawata Steel Works, housing the director’s and consultant engineer’s offices and other central offices. It was the head office for Yawata Steel Works until 1922. According to the Nippon Times ad at the very top, in 1955 its headquarters was in Tokyo.


The Smithy (image directly above) was designed by the German firm Gutehoffnungshütte (Bless you!), which also provided the steel for construction when it as built in 1900.

Equipped with a 350 ton hydraulic press–extremely large for that time–it was built to forge iron and steel equipment needed for the construction of the steel mill. It is a steel-frame structure with a ridge length of 55 meters, a span of 15 meters, and an eaves height of 7.4 meters. Today it serves as the archives holding data on the history of the Yawata Steel Works.

Nowadays, the entity known as the Nippon Steel Corporation is still going strong... but back in the early 1980s... when things weren't... the company sought to diversify.

How, you hopefully ask? By going in to the mushroom business.

How does a steel manufacturer go about growing mushrooms? Well, it's actually quite brilliant. The furnaces give off a lot of heat, so Nippon Steel would take the excess heat and use it to heat greenhouses where they had decided to grow mushrooms.

That's actually smart and shows some green initiative.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph