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Monday, March 31, 2014

Who is Tanaka Masashiro?

If you are a baseball fan, you know that Japan's Tanaka Masahiro has joined the New York Yankees following a 2013 in Japan's baseball league with an astounding record of 24-0 and an ERA (earned run average) of a miniscule 1.27.

He signed a seven-year, $155 million deal.

But for all of the articles I have ever read on Tanaka, only one has actually captured the flavor of Japan, while offering me a full background on the Japanese phenom.

Please check out this New York Times article for the full scoop HERE.

To the article's writer Barry Bearak - Bravo!

The same goes to Edward Linsmier who took the awesome photo above for The New York Times.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Akebono The Cop

First... Happy birthday to my good friend Rob, who thanks to his many letters from Toronto to me in Japan, encouraged me to write and to write often. It was for his birthday present some 22 years ago that I first decided to write him a short story every day in lieu of a boring letter. I decided that at the beginning of March, and after three boring letters, I started the short stories until the 31st of March, his actual birthday.

It was a short story a day that sometime evolved into three short stories a day in what I can only describe as the most prolific and inventive time of my life as a writer. I still have all of those stories... and slowly, since there is little market for short stories, I'll publish them here even though their only link to Japan may be that they were written there. Jappy birthday, Rob!

Ha. That was a typo... but I suppose it fits.

Today's blog, to celebrate that milestone event is the publication of one of those stories... one known as Akebono The Cop. It's a strange story, and one, like all my tales, was written without a plot in mind. I just start writing and things pop out of my head and onto the paper (in this case). It's why I love to write... I'm always surprised with how my story will start, ebb, flow and end.

This is from one of my collections of short stories... a comedic collection I call Dust Bunnies Of The Mind. The other is Brain Methylal, which contains more serious, dramatic writings.

Akebono The Cop is about former sumo wrestler Yokozuna Akebono, who was not yet a Yokozuna (top rank in the sport that one gets elected to) when I wrote this... but I knew he would be one day. I was write and right. Akebono (photo above) is the first foreigner to become a Yokozuna in the illustrious history of the sport becoming so in January of 1993 about nine months before I left Japan.

His rise afforded me a bit of bragging rights amongst the Japanese men, as I always said he could do it. Musashimaru, too... another foreigner (originally Fiamalu Penitani from American Samoa - 235 kg (518lb) and 1.92 meter (6'-3.5") was my favorite from the moment I first saw him throw salt around the ring... and I knew he had the look of a champion. He made me correct.  He was the second foreign-born Yokozuna. I met him once when he was not yet a Grand Champion and chatted with him for a while, telling him I thought he would one day be Yokozuna. He laughed, called me 'bra', which I assume is slang for 'brother', or that he wanted me to go and find a bra for him. It was nippy that morning. He had a great big smile when out in public and was a very funny guy, but man did he have a great stony game face when it came time to wrestle.  
A retired Taknohana.
Akebono is actually Chad Rowan, and was born in Waimānalo, Hawai, U.S. Before becoming Yokozuna, Akebono's claim to fame was that he was one of the tallest (and heaviest) o-sumo ever, coming in at 2.03 meters (6'-8") and at his heaviest, 233 kilograms (514 lbs). For the story, I had Akebono grow taller... or I just screwed up on his actual height, relying on Japanese people to provide his physical details since the Internet wasn't yet ready for prime time.

Akebono The Cop also stars real life Japanese sumo brothers Takanohana and (briefly) Wakanohana... with both brothers also rising to Yokozuna eventually. I knew Takanohana would, but had my doubts about his slightly less-talented brother and am glad he proved me wrong. Takanohana, by the way, was the Japanese heartthrob sumo wrestler in his sporting days... women thought him very good-looking (despite his bulk) and the men loved his athleticism. Since retiring... holy crap... the women were right.

Anyhow... because of the Japanese love-affair with the brothers, in this story I decided to make Takanohana slightly addled... making him think he was the character Uncle Charlie from the popular American television show My Three Sons that ran from 1960-1972.
Uncle Charlie from My Three Sons.
I have no idea why I made Takanohana into that character... and no... I was not doing drugs or suffering from any sort of mental illness save creativity. Okay... it was my prejudice against the pretty-boy Japanese sumo wrestler over the gaijin wrestlers.


AKEBONO THE COP
pushed out by andrew joseph

First the left arm is pushed forward. Then, while it is brought back to its point of origin, the right arm is thrust forward. The process is repeated again and again. Rhyme without reason quickly becomes poetry in motion.

The cars in one direction quickly apply their brakes in accordance with his hand signals. The cars perpendicular to the others begin their forward motion. Akebono the police officer is on duty. To protect and to swerve.

Some time in the not too distant future, the everyday madness of reality has transmogrified into a never-ending chaotic nightmare. In a time when heroes were desperately required, the Japan Sumo Association, amid much bravado, quietly ambled to the forefront to help return a semblance of normality. And why not? After all, they were partially responsible.

It all began a few years ago in the early part of this decade (the 1990s). A young man from the small town of Ogawa in the Japanese province of Tochigi, arrived on the sumo scene. The meteoric rise of the young star in the celestial sphere of sumo was heralded as the second coming of sport's greatest fighter, Chiyonofuji.

Tournament after tournament, the young sumotori (sumo wrestler) garnered respect and acclaim. By the time he had turned 18-years-old, he had become the youngest person ever to hold sumo's highest rank - Yokozuna. Yama Yama Yama was his name (yama means "mountain").

In case you are unaware of some of the intricacies of sumo, we'll take a time-out to fill you in. Sumo is Japan's national sport. It is a wrestling match that takes place with in a circle of clay. The object of the sport is to cause your opponent to either leave the circle or to have a piece of his body - other than his feet - touch the ground. Every two months, there is a 15 day tournament.

Prior to every match, the two combatants will purify the ring by tossing salt onto the clay surface. There is also prayer to the gods and other types of psyching up.

Sumotori (sumo wrestlers) are ranked going into every basho (tournament). The highest ranked sumotori are called Yokozuna. They are elected to this position for life after winning two basho in a row, or having a superior three tournament record. Next in rank is the Ozeki class. Following the Ozeki are Sekiwake, and Komusubi. Although there are no restrictions to the number of wrestlers who can be in these top four ranks, it is often limited to under six. After this group come the rank and file sumotori, the Maegashira.

During the November 1994 tournament, Yama Yama Yama was tied with another Yokozuna, Akebono, at 11 wins apiece, heading into the twelfth day. Yama Yama Yama's opponent that day was Komusubi-ranked, Tochinowaka.

After all of the purifying of the ring had been accomplished, the two sumotori lowered their head, dropped their fists to the ground and exploded towards each other. Yama Yama Yama never knew what hit him, although apparently everyone else did. Tochinowaka's head had smashed against the young Yokozuna's and cracked it wide open.

Yama Yama Yama's stay in the hospital lasted the entire basho, but he was up and around for the January '95 tournament in Tokyo. There were reports that Yama Yama Yama had changed during his brief hospitalization, but none were prepared for what they saw during the tournament.

The viciousness exhibited by Yama Yama Yama was unparalleled in the sport of sumo or ice hockey. He was severely reprimanded by the Japan Sumo Association after his third successive match caused the withdrawal of a sumotori.

On the fourth day, Yama Yama Yama went up against fellow Yokozuna, Takanohana. Immediately after the tachiai (where they first touch the ground immediately before the ensuing fight), Yama Yama Yama leaped for Takanohana's arm and began chewing on it. While he bit him, he screamed how he needed "more chanko" (chanko is the stew a sumotori eats each and everyday). The destruction to Takanohana's arm continued unabated for about 20 more seconds until the referee was finally able to separate the teeth from the flesh.

Needless to say, Yama Yama Yama was quickly forced to retire as Yokozuna and from sumo. In an accelerated process, the Japan Sumo Association tried to cut his hair (the topknot that would symbolically mean his retirement was official.) However, when the old and decrepit members of the JSA arrived at his stable the next day, Yama Yama Yama had disappeared.

No one had heard a thing about Yama Yama Yama for over a year until he suddenly appeared at a Tokyo fish market in his sumo outfit with six other former sumo fighters. They quickly bulldozed everyone out of their way, hijacked the fresh shipment of fish and left. These hit-and-runs, by whom the media has dubbed the "Yama Yama Yama's" because of the newsmen's lack of imagination, continued unabated for several months. Besides stealing seafood, the Yama Yama Yama's began robbing all poultry, meat and vegetable foods. The final straw was when they began taking supplies of rice.

Rice, to the average Japanese, has been ingrained upon the national psyche, to be indispensable. The panic that ensued triggered such chaos that the media began calling it the Great Chaos. Like I said... a lack of imagination.

The Japanese people, faced with the prospect of buying American rice or starving, began to slowly wither away.

The United States of America, deciding two years earlier to become an agrarian rice economy, had hedged all of their bets that the Japanese would buy their product. The collapse of the American system of democracy occurred rapidly and without a problem.

The only thing left for the average Japanese family to eat were fattening, little sweets with bean paste in them, as apparently the Yama Yama Yama's did not care for the stuff.

Families began buying large quantities of the bean paste in the hopes that their youth might grow large enough to join the Yama Yama Yama's. At least then - it was reasoned - they would be able to live a normal life. Honour and self-respect were thrown out the proverbial paper window when it came to survival. (Eating American rice was also the Japanese equivalent of hara kiri - ritualistic suicide). Getting a chance to eat normal food, albeit chanko, was better than nothing.

The ranks of the Yama Yama Yama's swelled to enormous proportions.

Finally, five years later, the JSA admitted to some culpability for the Great Chaos saying, "The situation was regrettable." They decided to combat the problem of lawlessness in their own manner with the formation of the Sumo Patrol. Now wherever crime appeared, the Sumo Patrol would be there to waddle over and fight it.

Akebono sat cross-legged in his personally-designed apartment where his head only barely scraped the ceiling. At 2.4 meters, he was the tallest sumotori ever. He smiled as he listened to his favorite group on his headphones. The rock and roll group, Beck, had become more popular than sex during the Great Chaos and thus were to blame for the fall in the world's population.

There was one song in particular that he like because it mentioned his name. He had a mini-disc made where the song "St. Lawrence River" is continually looped.

He sang out loud, "... and I swim on the forest, and I walk my dog Rover. I'm Akebono the Cop, come and smell all my clover..." The rest of the song was incomprehensible. Still, he liked how the song talked about the eternal struggle of the common man to overcome the flames of destruction. And bean paste.

He got up, undressed, and put on his purple sumo garb and a navy blue hat, and walked downstairs to the beya below (beya is the term used to describe a stable where a group of sumotori work out).

There, in the stable, the rest of the Sumo Patrol practiced slapping their hands against wooden poles and throwing each other onto the clay surface of the doyo (fighting ring).

Seeing their leader, Ozeki Terrao, Ozeki Kotonishiki and Ozeki Wakanohana quickly called the men to gather around in a phalanx.

Akebono looked grimly into the face of Sekiwake Mainoumi and Komusubi Kabajin and grimaced. The rest of the men were lower level wrestlers, too numerous in their mediocrity to mention by name. The only plus they had going for them was that they fought on the side of law and order. It still pained Akebono to remember his best friend and fellow Hawaiian Musashimaru's defection to the Yama Yama Yama's.

His reverie was interrupted by former Yokozuna Takanohana who ambled out and shouted at the boys to come and see the TV news and to eat their chanko before it got too cold. Takanohana was never quite the same after Yama Yama Yama mauled his arm. His brother Wakanohana's subsequent betrothal to his former fiance, actress Rie Miyazawa, didn't help his mental stability either. Takanohana had gone from being one of sumo's best fighting tacticians to a man similar in life to Uncle Charlie from the old TV show, My Three Sons. He was a good cook, though.

Like a herd of elephants (not quite, as a herd of elephants does not quite weigh as much as a beya of sumotori), they stampeded over to the dining area and began stuffing chanko and beer down their throats. Akebono was already on his third bowl of stew when Uncle Charlie... er, Takanohana cleared his throat. "Huaaarrrrcccch. Bakayaro! (Stupid idiots) I said there was food for you, but the important thing I meant for you to pay attention to was the news on the television!"

Every single eye lifted itself up from the food to stare at Uncle... er, Uncle Takanohana. The eyes then shifted over to Akebono as he began to stand.

"Food is important, also," said Akebono.

The eyes shifted over to Takanohana

"Yes, but at this time, the television is more important," said Takanohana.

The eyes moved back to the super cop, Akebono.

"Very well, we shall watch the television news," said Akebono.

The eyes lobbed back to Takanohana.

"Well, not now, you idiots! You missed the news that was on!" exclaimed Takanohana.

All of the eyes grimaced as they diverted their eyes downwards, but towards Akebono.

"If it is important enough for us to know, it will be on again soon enough," reasoned Akebono as he motioned for the rest of the Sumo Patrol to stop looking at the ground and to eat their food.

Akebono and Takanohana looked at each other for a few seconds, remembering the good old days, when a situation like this would have been a prelude for an excellent match. Now they diverted their mouth's attention to their chanko and their ears to the ramblings of the television.

Several hours later, the NHK news came back on. After spending 25 minutes showing footage of the royal princess and her husband waving at a crowd of well-wishers, NHK broke for commercial. When they came back, the final three minutes were devoted to world news and to a further Yama Yama Yama atrocity.

The Sumo Patrol was riveted to the screen watching the Princess and her husband, but were bored with the world news. When the Yama Yama Yama story came on, only Akebono was awake to watch it.

The story detailed an invitation from Yama Yama Yama himself for Akebono and his troops to come and do battle with the Yama Yama Yama's. The winner would be allowed to assume total control of Japan's sake (traditional rice wine) and thus Japan. The report then went on to state that the Sumo Patrol had not responded in time to the challenge. Apparently, Akebono and the Sumo Patrol were supposed to have responded by charging over to Tokyo's sumo dome to do battle with the Yama Yama Yama's at 9PM, but no sign of them was noted by the television media. They called it the Great No-Show. Imagination. Not.

Screaming in shock and embarrassment, Akebono woke his troops as he ran to the telephone. Unfortunately the only phone in the stable was a pay phone and Akebono's sumo outfit did not allow room for change. After much bullying of the lower wrestlers, a ten yen piece was quickly procured. Akebono began dialing.

He stopped as he realized he had no idea whom he should be calling.

"What's the matter ya knucklehead?" snarled a crusty Takanohana. "Don't you know who you're supposed to call? Of course you don't! That's the matter with kids these days. Here ya go Chip. I wrote the number of the Yama Yama Yama hotline, so we can make arrangements to kick their butt!"

Akebono smiled, bowed deeply and took the slip of paper from Takanohana. He briefly wondered why Taka sounded like an old man... and who the hell was Chip?

Akebono dialed the number and waited the appropriate 17 rings before it was finally answered.

"Hello?" said a disembodied voice through Akebono's telephone.

"Hello. Could I speak to Yama Yama Yama, please?" asked Akebono.

"Whom shall I say is calling?"

"Akebono."

"The Akebono?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Just one moment please. I'll see if he's in..."

There is a yelp and a scream of "Konoyaro!" (Translated, it means "You... you guy, you" - hey, it's a stronger insult in Japanese) This was followed by a gruff, "Give me that phone." The new disembodied voice on the other end was not quite as sweet, "Hello?"

"Hello?"

"Is this Akebono?"

"Yes."

"Why hello. This is Yama Yama Yama. How are you?"

"I'm fine, thank-you. How are you?" asked Akebono.

"Fine, thank-you."

"...," said Akebono.

"...," said Yama Yama Yama.

"So.... I'm sorry about not being able to meet your deadline."

"Yes, well, I assumed it was because you did not like being ordered around. What Yokozuna would?" asked Yama Yama Yama.

"Oh, no. It's just that we were too busy eating to watch the news," answered Akebono.

Because Yama Yama Yama realized that eating is part of a sumotori's work, he had to silently respect his adversary. He had to respect the Japanese tradition of placing work above all else.

"Well," began Yama Yama Yama, "I had originally invited your sumo patrol to come and do battle with my gang. That has now changed. I now wish to satisfy my male ego and do personal battle with you, and you alone, at the Tokyo Sumo Palace."

"Where the Emperor is?"

"No, where the other palace is," snarled Yama Yama Yama as he began to wonder which of the two was truly mad.

"When?"

"How about noon tomorrow?"

"Done."

Hanging up the phone, Akebono turned and strode past his fellow wrestlers.

"Where ya going, Chip?" sneered Uncle Takanohana.

"I'm going to the gym... to prepare for tomorrow. You are all ordered to join me if you wish. Come."

The next morning, a sweaty, muscular Akebono toweled himself off, coughed, and waited for his breakfast. He then put on his yukata (light male kimono) and went down to the Tokyo subway station. He was alone.

After six train changes, and a 40-minute ride, Akebono was at the Tokyo Sumo Palace - where the Emperor doesn't live. He walked slowly with exacted deliberance... (is that a word?)...  uh, he took his time because the Japanese train system was so efficient that he arrived two minutes early for his confrontation with Yama Yama Yama.

He walked into the palatial palace, and disrobed (he was wearing his sumo garb - unlike that unfortunate incident when he visited that girl's high school in Osaka). He walked over to the ring. There, on the opposite side, Yama Yama Yama sat cross-legged with his arms folded neatly across his massive hairless chest.

Not a word was spoken.

Yama Yama Yama tried to stand up but fell down a few times, as his legs had apparently fallen asleep. True to his station in life, Yama Yama Yama did not cry out in pain - not even when the searing needle pain permeated his legs.

Akebono waited patiently on the outside rim of the doyo. When Yama Yama Yama had regained the feeling in his legs, both he and Akebono bowed and entered the clay ring. Almost magically, an old brightly coloured Japanese man appeared beside them (he's the referee). In a high-pitched voice, he first butchered Akebono's name and then Yama Yama Yama's. Ah, tradition.

Akebono and Yama Yama Yama did their stretches, stomps, claps and purification ceremonies to the satisfaction of the rainbow umpire. They went back to their respective corners, toweled off, adjusted themselves (the sumo uniform had a nasty way of lodging itself in the nastiest of crevices), and grabbed a handful of salt.

Tossing the salt into the ring, both slapped their own faces, slapped their belts, and licked at their fingers, as the salt always found a way to stick to sweaty palms. And those nasty crevices.

Crouching and facing each other in the center of the ring, the two combatants prepared to do battle to wrest control of the Japanese economy and thus the world's. They stared fiercely at each other, and lowered their fists to the ground.

"P-KOWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!"

Yama Yama Yama's body slammed hard against Akebono's and then slid lifelessly down onto the clay.

"Eh?" asked Akebono as he slapped the bleeding form of his opponent.

"Ya damn fool kids!" yelled Takanohana. A smoking gun waved uneasily in his hand as he ambled over to Akebono. "Oh, I tell ya, Chip, your father would've killed me if I let you fight that bully. I almost didn't make here in time, because of my damn war wound. Did I ever tell you how I was shot by the Japanese in the Philippines? Anyhow, now that I've killed that bully, maybe we can all go home and act like a family again. Whaddya say, Chip?"

"Unn," said Akebono.

"Good. How'd you like me to make some oatmeal for dinner?"

As our heroes walked back to the train station, it should be noted that Akebono (and uncle Ch... Takanohana) did indeed stop the threat of Yama Yama Yama and restore Japan's food sources, and thus Japanese dominance throughout the world. The United States of America's fortune did not rise with Japan's rising sun. As mentioned previously, America had changed to an agrarian society with a big lean towards rice. The Japanese still wouldn't buy rice that wasn't grown in Japan... even if it was exactly the same as Japanese rice and cost less. Ah. Tradition.

The End

I was probably inspired to create this story after putting two and two together and noting that sumo arm movements are quite similar to a traffic cop's.

There are plenty of true Japanisms in this story... the rice, telephone protocol, trains, sumo stuff, My Three Sons, the media, love of Japanese royalty, sitting cross-legged, telephone conversations... it was basically my way of pointing out some of the silly stuff about Japan. It IS interesting to note that I put my favorite wrestler, Musashimaru, over onto the bad guys, and that addled or not the real hero was Uncle Charlie, I mean Takanohana... and again, while I respected him, he was never my favorite wrestler... I suppose it was Japan's respect for him that I made him the crazy guy with a gun who saved the day...

The ending also points out two things, which I'll point out for those of you not as familiar with Japan as I once was... the sumo association has been weak and ineffectual for a while... was recently accused of match fixing that almost destroyed Japan's national sport... and while it is finally cleaned up... who the heck knows... it was like steroids in baseball or a strike in hockey... deadly to the sport.

The other important thing was Uncle Charlie's weapon of choice. Sumo, despite being very entertaining to me, always seemed to have it in for the foreigner wrestler... and though that wasn't the case after Akebono became champ, I still never trusted them... and so, sumo could never save Japan. I picked the one weapon that Japan hates - guns. Despite the movies, guns in Japan are a rarity.The police do have guns now (pistols)... but I never saw one back in the 1990s.

Anyhow... I hope you found it amusing. I love the stilted, heavy-handed conversations from everyone except the crazy Takanohana who thought he was an American! I actually laughed out loud when I re-read this story ... I had not read it in 20+ years. The ending surprised me as much as it probably did when my fingers starting typing out the letters back then.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Man Who Introduced Baseball To Japan

Baseball season has already begun in 2014.

It's a sport loved by millions around the world--especially in the U.S. and Japan.

In fact, it's the 80th anniversary of the major league Nippon Professional Baseball League. 

There have been many in Canada who claim that the Great White North actually introduced the game of baseball to the Americans via a sport called Rounders, but truthfully, until American Abner Doubleday wrote down the rules for the game, all the rest was conjecture and not real baseball as we pretty much know it today.

Let's just call it America's past time. Canada can still lay claim to having invented basketball, though not hockey (ice), no matter how much we want to believe it.

Anyhow... there have been many books and article written about how US military servicemen helped popularize the game of baseball in Japan, what with the impressionable Japanese interested in all things foreign after a mere 250+ years of isolationist foreign policy between the 1600s and 1850s. 

But... my pal Matthew sent me an article that detailed one person's claim that her family back in 1871 actually introduced baseball to Japan.... a gentleman named Horace Wilson.

If the name doesn't jump out and slap a triple into the corner, well, don't worry, you aren't alone. It seems the only people who knew about old Horace Wilson and his baseball teachings were Wilson's current family and the Japanese...

I'm going to direct you history and baseball fans to a blog written by Horace Wilson's relative, a young woman named Theo Balcomb, who has written about this great piece of family history and Japanese baseball history in a blog on the NPR (US National Public Radio) website. You can even listen to the story there.

I should comment that she writes that her relative did not mention teaching the Japanese baseball in any letters back home, but truthfully, playing a game with some of your students... how often do we refer to that in OUR letters to our families? Never... because it's no big deal.

But... to the Japanese... who must have made not of it and accepted this story as part of its own baseball lore... it is a big deal.

Read Theo's story: HERE

The photo above, that is Horace Wilson - a cropped image taken from a family portrait, currently in the possession of Abigal Sanborn.

I do thin k it's interesting that the military uniform he is wearing is unbuttoned near the top... the hand would usually go inside there (think Napoleon's classic stance)... and in this case, for the portrait, while a sitting brother does have his hand in his coat, Horace is standing... which means he was probably  originally in a sitting pose (hand stuffed in) before they decided to change it at the last moment... and he forgot to do his buttons up.

When you go to Theo's blog on the NPR website, you'll see the full old portrait there.

For a bit more background, check out the Wikipedia entry on Horace Wilson... it tells you when the first official Japanese baseball team was formed: HERE


Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Japanese Fairy Tales: The Happy Hunter And The Skillful Fisher

I've been reading Aesop's Fables this past week... tales involving animals in the place of man to provide lessons to the reader... moral tales to make one smarter.

I also read a few months past the Japanese Fairy Tales book, published in 1908 by translator and editor Yei Theodora Ozaki.

The Japanese fairy tales are far, far longer and much more entertaining... as I hope you will find this story to be, though the social morals of Aesop's Fables aren't as prevalent, we do get a look inside the lifestyles of various segments of Japan's ancient workers:

 The Happy Hunter And The Skillful Fisher
Long, long ago Japan was governed by Hohodemi, the fourth Mikoto (or Augustness) in descent from the illustrious Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess. He was not only as handsome as his ancestress was beautiful, but he was also very strong and brave, and was famous for being the greatest hunter in the land. Because of his matchless skill as a hunter, he was called "Yama-sachi-hiko" or "The Happy Hunter of the Mountains."
His elder brother was a very skillful fisher, and as he far surpassed all rivals in fishing, he was named "Unii-sachi-hiko" or the "Skillful Fisher of the Sea." The brothers thus led happy lives, thoroughly enjoying their respective occupations, and the days passed quickly and pleasantly while each pursued his own way, the one hunting and the other fishing.
One day the Happy Hunter came to his brother, the Skillful Fisher, and said:
"Well, my brother, I see you go to the sea every day with your fishing rod in your hand, and when you return you come laden with fish. And as for me, it is my pleasure to take my bow and arrow and to hunt the wild animals up the mountains and down in the valleys. For a long time we have each followed our favorite occupation, so that now we must both be tired, you of your fishing and I of my hunting. Would it not be wise for us to make a change? Will you try hunting in the mountains and I will go and fish in the sea?"
The Skillful Fisher listened in silence to his brother, and for a moment was thoughtful, but at last he answered:
"O yes, why not? Your idea is not a bad one at all. Give me your bow and arrow and I will set out at once for the mountains and hunt for game."
So the matter was settled by this talk, and the two brothers each started out to try the other's occupation, little dreaming of all that would happen. It was very unwise of them, for the Happy Hunter knew nothing of fishing, and the Skillful Fisher, who was bad tempered, knew as much about hunting.
The Happy Hunter took his brother's much-prized fishing hook and rod and went down to the seashore and sat down on the rocks. He baited his hook and then threw it into the sea clumsily. He sat and gazed at the little float bobbing up and down in the water, and longed for a good fish to come and be caught. Every time the buoy moved a little he pulled up his rod, but there was never a fish at the end of it, only the hook and the bait. If he had known how to fish properly he would have been able to catch plenty of fish, but although he was the greatest hunter in the land he could not help being the most bungling fisher.
The whole day passed in this way, while he sat on the rocks holding the fishing rod and waiting in vain for his luck to turn. At last the day began to darken, and the evening came; still he had caught not a single fish. Drawing up his line for the last time before going home, he found that he had lost his hook without even knowing when he had dropped it.
He now began to feel extremely anxious, for he knew that his brother would be angry at his having lost his hook, for, it being his only one, he valued it above all other things. The Happy Hunter now set to work to look among the rocks and on the sand for the lost hook, and while he was searching to and fro, his brother, the Skillful Fisher, arrived on the scene. He had failed to find any game while hunting that day, and was not only in a bad temper, but looked fearfully cross. When he saw the Happy Hunter searching about on the shore he knew that something must have gone wrong, so he said at once:
"What are you doing, my brother?"
The Happy Hunter went forward timidly, for he feared his brother's anger, and said:
"Oh, my brother, I have indeed done badly."
"What is the matter?—what have you done?" asked the elder brother impatiently.
"I have lost your precious fishing hook—"
While he was still speaking his brother stopped him, and cried out fiercely:
"Lost my hook! It is just what I expected. For this reason, when you first proposed your plan of changing over our occupations I was really against it, but you seemed to wish it so much that I gave in and allowed you to do as you wished. The mistake of our trying unfamiliar tasks is soon seen! And you have done badly. I will not return you your bow and arrow till you have found my hook. Look to it that you find it and return it to me quickly."
The Happy Hunter felt that he was to blame for all that had come to pass, and bore his brother's scornful scolding with humility and patience. He hunted everywhere for the hook most diligently, but it was nowhere to be found. He was at last obliged to give up all hope of finding it. He then went home, and in desperation broke his beloved sword into pieces and made five hundred hooks out of it.
He took these to his angry brother and offered them to him, asking his forgiveness, and begging him to accept them in the place of the one he had lost for him. It was useless; his brother would not listen to him, much less grant his request.
The Happy Hunter then made another five hundred hooks, and again took them to his brother, beseeching him to pardon him.
"Though you make a million hooks," said the Skillful Fisher, shaking his head, "they are of no use to me. I cannot forgive you unless you bring me back my own hook."
Nothing would appease the anger of the Skillful Fisher, for he had a bad disposition, and had always hated his brother because of his virtues, and now with the excuse of the lost fishing hook he planned to kill him and to usurp his place as ruler of Japan. The Happy Hunter knew all this full well, but he could say nothing, for being the younger he owed his elder brother obedience; so he returned to the seashore and once more began to look for the missing hook. He was much cast down, for he had lost all hope of ever finding his brother's hook now. While he stood on the beach, lost in perplexity and wondering what he had best do next, an old man suddenly appeared carrying a stick in his hand. The Happy Hunter afterwards remembered that he did not see from whence the old man came, neither did he know how he was there—he happened to look up and saw the old man coming towards him.
"You are Hohodemi, the Augustness, sometimes called the Happy Hunter, are you not?" asked the old man. "What are you doing alone in such a place?"
"Yes, I am he," answered the unhappy young man. "Unfortunately, while fishing I lost my brother's precious fishing hook. I have hunted this shore all over, but alas! I cannot find it, and I am very troubled, for my brother won't forgive me till I restore it to him. But who are you?"
"My name is Shiwozuchino Okina, and I live near by on this shore. I am sorry to hear what misfortune has befallen you. You must indeed be anxious. But if I tell you what I think, the hook is nowhere here—it is either at the bottom of the sea or in the body of some fish who has swallowed it, and for this reason, though you spend your whole life in looking for it here, you will never find it."
"Then what can I do?" asked the distressed man.
"You had better go down to Ryn Gu and tell Ryn Jin, the Dragon King of the Sea, what your trouble is and ask him to find the hook for you. I think that would be the best way."
"Your idea is a splendid one," said the Happy Hunter, "but I fear I cannot get to the Sea King's realm, for I have always heard that it is situated at the bottom of the sea."
"Oh, there will be no difficulty about your getting there," said the old man; "I can soon make something for you to ride on through the sea."
"Thank you," said the Happy Hunter, "I shall be very grateful to you if you will be so kind."
The old man at once set to work, and soon made a basket and offered it to the Happy Hunter. He received it with joy, and taking it to the water, mounted it, and prepared to start. He bade good by to the kind old man who had helped him so much, and told him that he would certainly reward him as soon as he found his hook and could return to Japan without fear of his brother's anger. The old man pointed out the direction he must take, and told him how to reach the realm of Ryn Gu, and watched him ride out to sea on the basket, which resembled a small boat.
The Happy Hunter made all the haste he could, riding on the basket which had been given him by his friend. His queer boat seemed to go through the water of its own accord, and the distance was much shorter than he had expected, for in a few hours he caught sight of the gate and the roof of the Sea King's Palace. And what a large place it was, with its numberless sloping roofs and gables, its huge gateways, and its gray stone walls! He soon landed, and leaving his basket on the beach, he walked up to the large gateway. The pillars of the gate were made of beautiful red coral, and the gate itself was adorned with glittering gems of all kinds. Large katsura trees overshadowed it. Our hero had often heard of the wonders of the Sea King's Palace beneath the sea, but all the stories he had ever heard fell short of the reality which he now saw for the first time.
The Happy Hunter would have liked to enter the gate there and then, but he saw that it was fast closed, and also that there was no one about whom he could ask to open it for him, so he stopped to think what he should do. In the shade of the trees before the gate he noticed a well full of fresh spring water. Surely some one would come out to draw water from the well some time, he thought. Then he climbed into the tree overhanging the well, and seated himself to rest on one of the branches, and waited for what might happen. Ere long he saw the huge gate swing open, and two beautiful women came out. Now the Mikoto (Augustness) had always heard that Ryn Gu was the realm of the Dragon King under the Sea, and had naturally supposed that the place was inhabited by dragons and similar terrible creatures, so that when he saw these two lovely princesses, whose beauty would be rare even in the world from which he had just come, he was exceedingly surprised, and wondered what it could mean.
He said not a word, however, but silently gazed at them through the foliage of the trees, waiting to see what they would do. He saw that in their hands they carried golden buckets. Slowly and gracefully in their trailing garments they approached the well, standing in the shade of the katsura trees, and were about to draw water, all unknowing of the stranger who was watching them, for the Happy Hunter was quite hidden among the branches of the tree where he had posted himself.
As the two ladies leaned over the side of the well to let down their golden buckets, which they did every day in the year, they saw reflected in the deep still water the face of a handsome youth gazing at them from amidst the branches of the tree in whose shade they stood. Never before had they seen the face of mortal man; they were frightened, and drew back quickly with their golden buckets in their hands. Their curiosity, however, soon gave them courage, and they glanced timidly upwards to see the cause of the unusual reflection, and then they beheld the Happy Hunter sitting in the tree looking down at them with surprise and admiration. They gazed at him face to face, but their tongues were still with wonder and could not find a word to say to him.
When the Mikoto saw that he was discovered, he sprang down lightly from the tree and said:
"I am a traveler, and as I was very thirsty I came to the well in the hopes of quenching my thirst, but I could find no bucket with which to draw the water. So I climbed into the tree, much vexed, and waited for someone to come. Just at that moment, while I was thirstily and impatiently waiting, you noble ladies appeared, as if in answer to my great need. Therefore I pray you of your mercy give me some water to drink, for I am a thirsty traveler in a strange land."
His dignity and graciousness overruled their timidity, and bowing in silence they both once more approached the well, and letting down their golden buckets drew up some water and poured it into a jeweled cup and offered it to the stranger.
He received it from them with both hands, raising it to the height of his forehead in token of high respect and pleasure, and then drank the water quickly, for his thirst was great. When he had finished his long draught he set the cup down on the edge of the well, and drawing his short sword he cut off one of the strange curved jewels (magatama), a necklace of which hung round his neck and fell over his breast. He placed the jewel in the cup and returned it to them, and said, bowing deeply:
"This is a token of my thanks!"
The two ladies took the cup, and looking into it to see what he had put inside—for they did not yet know what it was—they gave a start of surprise, for there lay a beautiful gem at the bottom of the cup.
"No ordinary mortal would give away a jewel so freely. Will you not honor us by telling us who you are?" said the elder damsel.
"Certainly," said the Happy Hunter, "I am Hohodemi, the fourth Mikoto, also called in Japan, the Happy Hunter."
"Are you indeed Hohodemi, the grandson of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess?" asked the damsel who had spoken first. "I am the eldest daughter of Ryn Jin, the King of the Sea, and my name is Princess Tayotama."
"And," said the younger maiden, who at last found her tongue, "I am her sister, the Princess Tamayori."
"Are you indeed the daughters of Ryn Jin, the King of the Sea? I cannot tell you how glad I am to meet you," said the Happy Hunter. And without waiting for them to reply he went on:
"The other day I went fishing with my brother's hook and dropped it, how, I am sure I can't tell. As my brother prizes his fishing hook above all his other possessions, this is the greatest calamity that could have befallen me. Unless I find it again I can never hope to win my brother's forgiveness, for he is very angry at what I have done. I have searched for it many, many times, but I cannot find it, therefore I am much troubled. While I was hunting for the hook, in great distress, I met a wise old man, and he told me that the best thing I could do was to come to Ryn Gu, and to Ryn Jin, the Dragon King of the Sea, and ask him to help me. This kind old man also showed me how to come. Now you know how it is I am here and why. I want to ask Ryn Jin, if he knows where the lost hook is. Will you be so kind as to take me to your father? And do you think he will see me?" asked the Happy Hunter anxiously.
Princess Tayotama listened to this long story, and then said:
"Not only is it easy for you to see my father, but he will be much pleased to meet you. I am sure he will say that good fortune has befallen him, that so great and noble a man as you, the grandson of Amaterasu, should come down to the bottom of the sea." And then turning to her younger sister, she said:
"Do you not think so, Tamayori?"
"Yes, indeed," answered the Princess Tamayori, in her sweet voice. "As you say, we can know no greater honor than to welcome the Mikoto to our home."
"Then I ask you to be so kind as to lead the way," said the Happy Hunter.
"Condescend to enter, Mikoto (Augustness)," said both the sisters, and bowing low, they led him through the gate.
The younger Princess left her sister to take charge of the Happy Hunter, and going faster than they, she reached the Sea King's Palace first, and running quickly to her father's room, she told him of all that had happened to them at the gate, and that her sister was even now bringing the Augustness to him. The Dragon King of the Sea was much surprised at the news, for it was but seldom, perhaps only once in several hundred years, that the Sea King's Palace was visited by mortals.
Ryn Jin at once clapped his hands and summoned all his courtiers and the servants of the Palace, and the chief fish of the sea together, and solemnly told them that the grandson of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, was coming to the Palace, and that they must be very ceremonious and polite in serving the august visitor. He then ordered them all to the entrance of the Palace to welcome the Happy Hunter.
Ryn Jin then dressed himself in his robes of ceremony, and went out to welcome him. In a few moments the Princess Tayotama and the Happy Hunter reached the entrance, and the Sea King and his wife bowed to the ground and thanked him for the honor he did them in coming to see them. The Sea King then led the Happy Hunter to the guest room, and placing him in the uppermost seat, he bowed respectfully before him, and said:
"I am Ryn Jin, the Dragon King of the Sea, and this is my wife. Condescend to remember us forever!"
"Are you indeed Ryn Jin, the King of the Sea, of whom I have so often heard?" answered the Happy Hunter, saluting his host most ceremoniously. "I must apologize for all the trouble I am giving you by my unexpected visit." And he bowed again, and thanked the Sea King.
"You need not thank me," said Ryn Jin. "It is I who must thank you for coming. Although the Sea Palace is a poor place, as you see, I shall be highly honored if you will make us a long visit."
There was much gladness between the Sea King and the Happy Hunter, and they sat and talked for a long time. At last the Sea King clapped his hands, and then a huge retinue of fishes appeared, all robed in ceremonial garments, and bearing in their fins various trays on which all kinds of sea delicacies were served. A great feast was now spread before the King and his Royal guest. All the fishes-in-waiting were chosen from amongst the finest fish in the sea, so you can imagine what a wonderful array of sea creatures it was that waited upon the Happy Hunter that day. All in the Palace tried to do their best to please him and to show him that he was a much honored guest. During the long repast, which lasted for hours, Ryn Jin commanded his daughters to play some music, and the two Princesses came in and performed on the KOTO (the Japanese harp), and sang and danced in turns. The time passed so pleasantly that the Happy Hunter seemed to forget his trouble and why he had come at all to the Sea King's Realm, and he gave himself up to the enjoyment of this wonderful place, the land of fairy fishes! Who has ever heard of such a marvelous place? But the Mikoto soon remembered what had brought him to Ryn Gu, and said to his host:
"Perhaps your daughters have told you, King Ryn Jin, that I have come here to try and recover my brother's fishing hook, which I lost while fishing the other day. May I ask you to be so kind as to inquire of all your subjects if any of them have seen a fishing hook lost in the sea?"
"Certainly," said the obliging Sea King, "I will immediately summon them all here and ask them."
As soon as he had issued his command, the octopus, the cuttlefish, the bonito, the oxtail fish, the eel, the jelly fish, the shrimp, and the plaice, and many other fishes of all kinds came in and sat down before Ryn Jin their King, and arranged themselves and their fins in order. Then the Sea King said solemnly:
"Our visitor who is sitting before you all is the august grandson of Amaterasu. His name is Hohodemi, the fourth Augustness, and he is also called the Happy Hunter of the Mountains. While he was fishing the other day upon the shore of Japan, some one robbed him of his brother's fishing hook. He has come all this way down to the bottom of the sea to our Kingdom because he thought that one of you fishes may have taken the hook from him in mischievous play. If any of you have done so you must immediately return it, or if any of you know who the thief is you must at once tell us his name and where he is now."
All the fishes were taken by surprise when they heard these words, and could say nothing for some time. They sat looking at each other and at the Dragon King. At last the cuttlefish came forward and said:
"I think the TAI (the red bream) must be the thief who has stolen the hook!"
"Where is your proof?" asked the King.
"Since yesterday evening the TAI has not been able to eat anything, and he seems to be suffering from a bad throat! For this reason I think the hook may be in his throat. You had better send for him at once!"
All the fish agreed to this, and said:
"It is certainly strange that the TAI is the only fish who has not obeyed your summons. Will you send for him and inquire into the matter. Then our innocence will be proved."
"Yes," said the Sea King, "it is strange that the TAI has not come, for he ought to be the first to be here. Send for him at once!"
Without waiting for the King's order the cuttlefish had already started for the TAI'S dwelling, and he now returned, bringing the TAI with him. He led him before the King.
The TAI sat there looking frightened and ill. He certainly was in pain, for his usually red face was pale, and his eyes were nearly closed and looked but half their usual size.
"Answer, O TAI!" cried the Sea King, "why did you not come in answer to my summons today?"
"I have been ill since yesterday," answered the TAI; "that is why I could not come."
"Don't say another word!" cried out Ryn Jin angrily. "Your illness is the punishment of the gods for stealing the Mikoto's hook."
"It is only too true!" said the TAI; "the hook is still in my throat, and all my efforts to get it out have been useless. I can't eat, and I can scarcely breathe, and each moment I feel that it will choke me, and sometimes it gives me great pain. I had no intention of stealing the Mikoto's hook. I heedlessly snapped at the bait which I saw in the water, and the hook came off and stuck in my throat. So I hope you will pardon me."
The cuttlefish now came forward, and said to the King:
"What I said was right. You see the hook still sticks in the TAI'S throat. I hope to be able to pull it out in the presence of the Mikoto, and then we can return it to him safely!"
"O please make haste and pull it out!" cried the TAI, pitifully, for he felt the pains in his throat coming on again; "I do so want to return the hook to the Mikoto."
"All right, TAI SAN," said his friend the cuttlefish, and then opening the TAI'S mouth as wide as he could and putting one of his feelers down the TAI'S throat, he quickly and easily drew the hook out of the sufferer's large mouth. He then washed it and brought it to the King.
Ryn Jin took the hook from his subject, and then respectfully returned it to the Happy Hunter (the Mikoto or Augustness, the fishes called him), who was overjoyed at getting back his hook. He thanked Ryn Jin many times, his face beaming with gratitude, and said that he owed the happy ending of his quest to the Sea King's wise authority and kindness.
Ryn Jin now desired to punish the TAI, but the Happy Hunter begged him not to do so; since his lost hook was thus happily recovered he did not wish to make more trouble for the poor TAI. It was indeed the TAI who had taken the hook, but he had already suffered enough for his fault, if fault it could be called. What had been done was done in heedlessness and not by intention. The Happy Hunter said he blamed himself; if he had understood how to fish properly he would never have lost his hook, and therefore all this trouble had been caused in the first place by his trying to do something which he did not know how to do. So he begged the Sea King to forgive his subject.
Who could resist the pleading of so wise and compassionate a judge? Ryn Jin forgave his subject at once at the request of his august guest. The TAI was so glad that he shook his fins for joy, and he and all the other fish went out from the presence of their King, praising the virtues of the Happy Hunter.
Now that the hook was found the Happy Hunter had nothing to keep him in Ryn Gu, and he was anxious to get back to his own kingdom and to make peace with his angry brother, the Skillful Fisher; but the Sea King, who had learnt to love him and would fain have kept him as a son, begged him not to go so soon, but to make the Sea Palace his home as long as ever he liked. While the Happy Hunter was still hesitating, the two lovely Princesses, Tayotama and Tamayori, came, and with the sweetest of bows and voices joined with their father in pressing him to stay, so that without seeming ungracious he could not say them "Nay," and was obliged to stay on for some time.
Between the Sea Realm and the Earth there was no difference in the night of time, and the Happy Hunter found that three years went fleeting quickly by in this delightful land. The years pass swiftly when any one is truly happy. But though the wonders of that enchanted land seemed to be new every day, and though the Sea King's kindness seemed rather to increase than to grow less with time, the Happy Hunter grew more and more homesick as the days passed, and he could not repress a great anxiety to know what had happened to his home and his country and his brother while he had been away.
So at last he went to the Sea King and said:
"My stay with you here has been most happy and I am very grateful to you for all your kindness to me, but I govern Japan, and, delightful as this place is, I cannot absent myself forever from my country. I must also return the fishing hook to my brother and ask his forgiveness for having deprived him of it for so long. I am indeed very sorry to part from you, but this time it cannot be helped. With your gracious permission, I will take my leave to-day. I hope to make you another visit some day. Please give up the idea of my staying longer now."
King Ryn Jin was overcome with sorrow at the thought that he must lose his friend who had made a great diversion in the Palace of the Sea, and his tears fell fast as he answered:
"We are indeed very sorry to part with you, Mikoto, for we have enjoyed your stay with us very much. You have been a noble and honored guest and we have heartily made you welcome. I quite understand that as you govern Japan you ought to be there and not here, and that it is vain for us to try and keep you longer with us, much as we would like to have you stay. I hope you will not forget us. Strange circumstances have brought us together and I trust the friendship thus begun between the Land and the Sea will last and grow stronger than it has ever been before."
When the Sea King had finished speaking he turned to his two daughters and bade them bring him the two Tide-Jewels of the Sea. The two Princesses bowed low, rose and glided out of the hall. In a few minutes they returned, each one carrying in her hands a flashing gem which filled the room with light. As the Happy Hunter looked at them he wondered what they could be. The Sea King took them from his daughters and said to his guest:
"These two valuable talismans we have inherited from our ancestors from time immemorial. We now give them to you as a parting gift in token of our great affection for you. These two gems are called the nanjiu and the kanjiu."
The Happy Hunter bowed low to the ground and said:
"I can never thank you enough for all your kindness to me. And now will you add one more favor to the rest and tell me what these jewels are and what I am to do with them?"
"The nanjiu," answered the Sea King, "is also called the Jewel of the Flood Tide, and whoever holds it in his possession can command the sea to roll in and to flood the land at any time that he wills. The kanjiu is also called the Jewel of the Ebbing Tide, and this gem controls the sea and the waves thereof, and will cause even a tidal wave to recede."
Then Ryn Jin showed his friend how to use the talismans one by one and handed them to him. The Happy Hunter was very glad to have these two wonderful gems, the Jewel of the Flood Tide and the Jewel of the Ebbing Tide, to take back with him, for he felt that they would preserve him in case of danger from enemies at any time. After thanking his kind host again and again, he prepared to depart. The Sea King and the two Princesses, Tayotama and Tamayori, and all the inmates of the Palace, came out to say "Good-by," and before the sound of the last farewell had died away the Happy Hunter passed out from under the gateway, past the well of happy memory standing in the shade of the great KATSURA trees on his way to the beach.
Here he found, instead of the queer basket on which he had come to the Realm of Ryn Gu, a large crocodile waiting for him. Never had he seen such a huge creature. It measured eight fathoms in length from the tip of its tail to the end of its long mouth. The Sea King had ordered the monster to carry the Happy Hunter back to Japan. Like the wonderful basket which Shiwozuchino Okina had made, it could travel faster than any steamboat, and in this strange way, riding on the back of a crocodile, the Happy Hunter returned to his own land.
As soon as the crocodile landed him, the Happy Hunter hastened to tell the Skillful Fisher of his safe return. He then gave him back the fishing hook which had been found in the mouth of the TAI and which had been the cause of so much trouble between them. He earnestly begged his brother's forgiveness, telling him all that had happened to him in the Sea King's Palace and what wonderful adventures had led to the finding of the hook.
Now the Skillful Fisher had used the lost hook as an excuse for driving his brother out of the country. When his brother had left him that day three years ago, and had not returned, he had been very glad in his evil heart and had at once usurped his brother's place as ruler of the land, and had become powerful and rich. Now in the midst of enjoying what did not belong to him, and hoping that his brother might never return to claim his rights, quite unexpectedly there stood the Happy Hunter before him.
The Skillful Fisher feigned forgiveness, for he could make no more excuses for sending his brother away again, but in his heart he was very angry and hated his brother more and more, till at last he could no longer bear the sight of him day after day, and planned and watched for an opportunity to kill him.
One day when the Happy Hunter was walking in the rice fields his brother followed him with a dagger. The Happy Hunter knew that his brother was following him to kill him, and he felt that now, in this hour of great danger, was the time to use the Jewels of the Flow and Ebb of the Tide and prove whether what the Sea King had told him was true or not.
So he took out the Jewel of the Flood Tide from the bosom of his dress and raised it to his forehead. Instantly over the fields and over the farms the sea came rolling in wave upon wave till it reached the spot where his brother was standing. The Skillful Fisher stood amazed and terrified to see what was happening. In another minute he was struggling in the water and calling on his brother to save him from drowning.
The Happy Hunter had a kind heart and could not bear the sight of his brother's distress. He at once put back the Jewel of the Flood Tide and took out the Jewel of the Ebb Tide. No sooner did he hold it up as high as his forehead than the sea ran back and back, and ere long the tossing rolling floods had vanished, and the farms and fields and dry land appeared as before.
The Skillful Fisher was very frightened at the peril of death in which he had stood, and was greatly impressed by the wonderful things he had seen his brother do. He learned now that he was making a fatal mistake to set himself against his brother, younger than he thought he was,for he now had become so powerful that the sea would flow in and the tide ebb at his word of command. So he humbled himself before the Happy Hunter and asked him to forgive him all the wrong he had done him. The Skillful Fisher promised to restore his brother to his rights and also swore that though the Happy Hunter was the younger brother and owed him allegiance by right of birth, that he, the Skillful Fisher, would exalt him as his superior and bow before him as Lord of all Japan.
Then the Happy Hunter said that he would forgive his brother if he would throw into the receding tide all his evil ways. The Skillful Fisher promised and there was peace between the two brothers. From this time he kept his word and became a good man and a kind brother.
The Happy Hunter now ruled his Kingdom without being disturbed by family strife, and there was peace in Japan for a long, long time. Above all the treasures in his house he prized the wonderful Jewels of the Flow and Ebb of the Tide which had been given him by Ryn Jin, the Dragon King of the Sea.
This is the congratulatory ending of the Happy Hunter and the Skillful Fisher.

THE END

You know... these type of adventures used to happen to me all the time when I was in Japan. Every time I lost something I would go and visit one of the Japanese gods and implore him (always a him) to help me get it back.

For the help, I would teach them English conversation, and they in turn would also pimp out their sexy daughters to me.

In fact, I once got my hands on those two lucky gems mentioned in this story: Jewels of the Flow (blue gem) and Ebb of the Tide (yellow gem)... that's them in the photo up above. That fat red one is a star ruby that stops earthquakes. I purchased that one in Malaysia.

For size reference, I added a standard LEGO block - also so you know it is my stuff.

Okay... not really.. but certainly those are real topaz gems given to me by a very kind Japanese science teacher over at Chikasono Chu Hakko (Chikasono Junior High School) in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan (the ruby is one I purchased in Malaysia).

But... no... he did not let me go out with his daughter... but he did also present me with a bunch of dinosaur fossils, millions upon millions of years old (see HERE). It was just friendship. And that's key in this Japanese Fairy Tale.

Still... it's a pity those Jewels in the fairy tale are only a fairy tale. They sure could have come in handy during any of those awful tsunami that occasionally swamp parts of Japan.

For the record, the trees mentioned in the story are native to China and Japan and are called カツラ, 桂 (katsura) or Cercidiphyllum japonicum. They are huge trees and grow between 10-45 meters high in height (32.8 - 147.6 feet) with a trunk diameter of no more than 2.0 meters (6.5 feet). So they are indeed huge.

And yeah... I know it's a crappy photo of my gems. I have a great camera that isn't good with close-ups of small objects.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, March 29, 2014

WW II American Comics Versus Japan - 3

The above is the cover for Marvel Mystery Comics #31, cover dated May 1942, but perhaps hit the newstands a month earlier. It is published by Timely Comics, the forerunner to Marvel Comics.

As you can see, this cover by Al Gabriele shows a flaming superhero who goes by the name of The Human Torch. This is NOT the same Human Torch that appears in Marvel's The Fantastic Four.

This Human Torch isn't even human... he's a synthetic android in the form of man who becomes enflamed when exposed to oxygen.

You've seen him before if you caught the first big-budget Captain America movie a few years ago... created by Professor Phineas Horton, you can see - very briefly - an advert at the World's Fair visited by a still puny Steve Rogers. It's one of those Easter Eggs comic book nerds like myself love (Watch Arrow on television nowadays, and you'll see upwards of five such Easter Eggs per episode - if you know what your are listening for).  
The Human Torch cameo in the first Captain America movie.
Anyhow, along with the Human Torch and Captain America, The Human Torch was part of Timely Comics triumvirate of classic heroes - all of whom led the way against the World War II fight against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Propaganda for the kids.

In the cover above, the most striking feature I see is that the Japanese enemy are all drawn exactly alike... a swipe at the old racist stereotype that the Orientals (Chinese, Japanese Koreans et al) all look the same.

As well, the visage on the face is that of a howling, ugly creature... another unique way of vilifying the enemy so that the western youth understand that the enemy is ugly. Propaganda, of course.

Tied up to a gun on the Japanese boat is the captive superhero teen sidekick named Toro... a mutant boy with the same flaming powers as the strangely named android Human Torch. I have always wondered what happened to Toro in the years after the war, as he never seemed to make it into Marvel Comics as a big deal. Back in the 1940s, however, the teen sidekick was a very popular story key, after the introduction of Robin to Batman.

But look at poor Toro... make a move the Japanese don't like and their canon will blow a hole in the tied up, helpless young boy. Who would do such an evil thing to a young American boy? The evil Japs, that's who. Propaganda. It's why all Americans should want the Japanese to die... before they kill the youth of today.

This issue contains quite afew stories, though not all of them are related to World War II and the Japanese. I'm just going to mention the ones that are related, though.

The main story, "Scuttle The Japs" was written and penciled by Carl Burgos involves the Human Torch and Toro hearing that after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, that the Japanese are sending bombers to attack San Francisco. The destroy all the bombers, but one, following it to a Japanese battleship  where they destroy the plane and then attack the ship.

Fighting off some sailors, the Human Torch sends Toro down to the hull of the ship while he clashes with the rest of the crew including their leader, Japanese Admiral Nodope. This isn't as racist a name as I expected. No dope, implies he he smart.

Later the heroes attack the Japanese forces and free some captive American soldiers. Admiral Nodope tries to stop them to no avail.

Before leading the American soldiers to a ship, the Human Torch leaves a huge flaming "V" for victory saying 'that a free people will always fight for freedom.'

The second story is by Bill Everett, the creator of the Sub-Mariner, who leads the underwater star in a tale called "The Case Of The Jilted Japs". Subby leads members of his own peoples against the Japanese forces in the Pacific, battling Japanese ships and bombers.

A third tale, this time by a young Stan Lee (if you don't know who that is... well... he essentially created the Marvel Universe as we know it today) who is perhaps just 21 years of age at the time this story saw print. (Real name is Stan Leiber, by the way). His tale is "The Plague Of The Jelly Men" and involves a Japanese zeppelin dropping a biological weapon known as the Jelly Man that eats everything in its path. Not one of his best, but it sure sounds a lot like The Blob that would make it in movie theaters 15 years later. Does someone owe Stan a tip of the hat? This story was penciled by Vince Alascia and inked by David Walters.

Lastly, in "Cargo of Death" penciled by Al Fagaly (no other credits available) starring The Angel... a non-super powered hero who wore the superhero garb a la Batman. After spotting a huge fire in California that is apparently a signal to spies. Clues lead him to a funeral parlor and after he attends a funeral for a fallen American soldier he is surprised when a Japanese soldier spy pops out. Nazi's are using coffins to smuggle in Japanese spies!

After almost being buried alive himself, The Angel escapes and captures all the Japanese spies.

With the heat of Pearl Harbor fresh in American minds, comic books were quick to jump on the bandwagon. I'll continue presenting a look at some American propaganda via comic books versus Japan of World War II.

Again... it's not to point any fingers... merely a chance to point out some history... and perhaps also to show why some of the older generation still harbor some distrust or hatred for Japan. 

Factual data for this blog entry was spotted on Marvel Wikia, a very good historical resource for this kind of stuff.    

Timely Comics, by the way, was heavily, heavily involved in the US patriotic propaganda of World War II.
Fawcett Comics (Captain Marvel) did get involved a bit, but DC Comics pretty much stayed out of it. Having said that, next week I'll look at DC Comics (National Periodical Publications)...

Sorry Marvel... I was a DC boy first... though now it's 1A and 1B.

Cheers    
Andrew Joseph

Friday, March 28, 2014

Japanese Doll Shoots Fire From Its Ass?

Now… if I may be so bold, if you're like me, you enjoy smoking' pussies… but of course it has to be the right kind, as no one wants to see a cat with throat cancer or anyone with a scorching case of herpes.

Depending on one's fetish… you may also want to own or want to avoid Fanny Flambeaux.

Fanny Flambeaux is a doll similar in stature to the standard Barbie doll… but bustiness and curves aside, that is where the similarities end… and I do mean end.

The Fanny Flambeaux doll is part of something called the Smokin' Pussies gang. Who are these girls and how did they get together? I suppose we can blame the Internet and Japan.

Yeah… Japan, because aside from the whole smoking pussies joke thing, why else would I be writing about it here?

Sent to me by a personable, friendly freak who is quite hot herself, I was shocked, stunned and not less than a little amazed by what I saw on the following video on YOU TUBE. Go ahead… I'll still be here:

I'll be honest… I'm still unconvinced that this isn't just a one off joke. Why would I say this? Because this product has supposedly been available for over a year and there is only a single video showing it  work.

If this was a real, readily available toy doll with a flame thrower up its lady parts, I'm pretty sure every guy with a smoke alarm hardwired into his parent's basement would want one and would be filming several of these dolls firing off blue angels in some sort of perverted frat boy harmony. No offense to perverts.

The only thing that lends Big Clive - the amicable Scotsman in the video - major credence, is that he drops the bomb that it is made by a company in Japan.

"Of course it is!" we all exclaim as we slap our collective forehead!

Something offering wacky and crazy and dangerously arson-like coming from Japan? Sure… makes sense. You don't even question it or blink and eye.

Anyhow… Big Clive does come clean… this doll is just the brainchild of a clever guy with the wherewithal to bore out the asshole of a toy doll to stuff in a birthday cake "ice fountain" indoor firework.

And… he does tell you how—if you are a big boy or girl 18-years-of-age or older (to cover his ass for legal reasons) how make one of these Flaming dolls yourself.

Here's what he wrote:

Since I've now been asked several times if it's a real product I have to confess that the product in the video was actually made from a few different items all sourced from Poundland. The good news is that if you are a big boy or girl (18 or older) you can own an actual Poundland Fanny Flambeaux doll by making it from the following Poundland items:-
You do this ENTIRELY at your own risk. Doll may explode in flames. (Yay!)
A "Dress to impress" doll,
Birthday cake "ice fountains" to insert up the dolls (widened) botty,
A barbecue style gas lighter to light it with,
A pack of 6" by 4" photo paper to make a new label and glossy instruction guide.


I love it!

Thanks to Wonder Woman for the heads-up on face-down!

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Kool Black Packaging From Japan

Coming from Canada where the very few things available in a vending machine were soda pops and chocolate bars and other snack items, walking into Japan and seeing vending machines offering me everything under the rising sun, was a bit of a shock.

You could purchase: porno magazines, comic books, panties, flowers, ice cream, booze, cigarettes (not seen as such since the mid-1970s), foods, bags of rice, and far too many other things to list, about the ONLY thing I never saw was a vending machine selling chocolate bars! 

While I only ever used a vending machine to purchase the odd can of Coca-Cola, a bottle of Spanish wine, a few disposable cameras, film, a bottle of sake and Pokari Sweat… by far the best thing and strangest thing was getting coffee… in a can.

Available already heated or non-heated within a vending machine, companies like Coca-Cola offered Georgia Coffee that was very sweet, while UCC also offered one that was probably closer to a real rich coffee.

Anyhow… take a look at the creative packaging seen above… it combines the new KOOL 8 cigarette brand with the UCC Black coffee, because the marketers have done their research and know a lot of people around the world enjoy a smoke and a coffee…

… of course, a bowel movement usually occurs after an early morning smoke, but I'm sure that's not just me… yeah, yeah… I'm almost down to zero smokes a day…

I really do love the black on black packaging to promote these two products (a gift-pack, if you will)… it's a bit difficult to see, but there's something about it that draws the consumer in to make them have a closer look.

It might be the electric colors on the pack of smokes… or the brilliant gold color on the can of coffee… whatever… it works.

Simple embossed paperboard container with housing for the UCC Black coffee at the base and the Kool 8 above it, with an open window to see the coffee and a secure opening at the top to easily remove the package of cigarettes.

I'm not sure why, but this gift pack made its way to my work office—I do write for the packaging industry—but it wasn't sent to me.

So… thanks, UCC and Kool for nothing.

Reverse of the Kool 8 and UCC Black coffee giftbox.

I like the packaging, though.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Death Row Justice In Japan?

Published by CNN comes a disturbing story about a Japanese man who has been on Death Row for nearly 48 years for a quadruple (4x) murder, was actually released from prison after DNA evidence suggests case evidence may have been tampered with.

Forty-seven effing years of being innocent and locked up in a Japanese jail with a death sentence hanging over his head!

Click HERE to read the CNN article written by Elliot C. McLaughlin and published on March 27, 2014.

Pitiful on so many levels.
Andrew Joseph

 

Japanese Know-it-all - A Joke

Here's a joke sent to me this morning… I've changed the 'original' ending to make it more understandable to more people. I'll also offer an explanation at the end, just in case… and then you can have a laugh, one way or the other.

Let's begin in a typical Canadian school in the City of Toronto… oh… let's say Grade 9.

The teacher said, "Let's begin by reviewing some History. Who said 'Give me Liberty, or give me Death'?"
She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Akio, a bright foreign exchange student from Japan, who had his hand up: "Patrick Henry, 1775," he said.
"Very good! Who said, 'Government of the People, by the People, for the People, shall not perish from the Earth'?"
Again, no response except from Akio: "Abraham Lincoln, 1863."
"Excellent!" said the teacher continuing. "Let's try one a bit more difficult. Who said, 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country'?"
Once again, Akio's was the only hand in the air and he said: "John F. Kennedy, 1961."
The teacher snapped at the class, "Class, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Akio isn't from this country and he knows more about our history than you do."
She heard a loud whisper: "F**k the Japs."
"Who said that? I want to know right now!" she angrily demanded.
Akio put his hand up, "General MacArthur, 1945."
At that point, a student in the back said, "I'm gonna puke."
The teacher glares around and asks, "All right! Now who said that?"
Again, Akio says, "George Bush to the Japanese Prime Minister, 1991."
Now furious, another student yells, "Oh yeah? Suck this!"
Akio jumps out of his chair waving his hand and shouts to the teacher, "Bill Clinton, to Monica Lewinsky, 1997!"
Now with almost mob hysteria someone said, "You little bastich! If you say anything else, I'll kill you!"
Akio frantically yells at the top of his voice, "Michael Jackson to the children testifying against him, 2004."
That's when the teacher fainted.
As the class gathered around the teacher on the floor, someone said, "Oh nuts!! We're screwed!"
Akio said quietly, "The City of Toronto, if Rob Ford gets re-elected as mayor."
Akio should get out of the hospital in a couple of days.

Bwa-ha-ha-ha!
If it's not that funny to you, insert your favorite crappy politician in as the punchline. I chose Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford because he's been in the news - globally - for almost the entire past year owing to his admitting smoking crack cocaine with some disreputable city voters of the gang-banger variety while being secretly video recorded after denying he did such a thing for months (the video was up for public sale at one time) , public intoxication a few times, drunk and raving about killing someone while being secretly video recorded, using racial slurs, possible misuse of funds to finance a high school football team he coaches in his spare time, his commenting about his innocence of cheating on his wife by implying he enjoys performing cunnilingus on his wife, so why would he stray, associating with drug dealers, denying he knows the drug dealer and then admitting he does as a friend only and not as a business associate, appearances on American TV talk shows and newscasts.... and far too many incidents to list. He has had his mayoral powers stripped from him meaning he's a figurehead Mayor without any real power. Allegedly.

I will say that I have met Mayor Rob Ford in a professional capacity and I found him to be quite approachable, engaging and personable. I've also seen him walking about the soccer pitches where I coached last summer dressed in a suit and tie in the height of the Toronto summer shaking hands and talking to people and having his picture taken with smiles all around.

That said, he's running again for the office of Mayor of Toronto and is one of the front-runners.

And Japan thinks it has political problems... at least they have Akio.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamster

Sometimes you see something and you just go WTF? and can't stop laughing.

This is one of those times.

Back in the mid-1980s when I collected a copy of every single comic book produced (or so it seemed), I picked up one called Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters. Why? Because it was a first issue. Plus, it was a parody of a parody, as it parodied the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The TMNT were originally created as a parody of the comics industry's most popular genre's at the time: teenagers (Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, New Mutants); mutants (X-Men, Wolverine); ninja or at least the martial arts or things related to Japan (Ronin, Daredevil, Wolverine, Batman); turtles... though perhaps funny animals would be a better description (Donald Duck, Captain Carrot, Cerebus the Aardvark).

The Hamsters... it was a parody of a parody... if one parody worked, surely another would too.

I missed out on the first issue of TMNT, but I wasn't going to miss out on the hype with the Hamsters. I know I also bought one called Samurai Penguins.

Although reasonably funny,ARBH did not make it out of the 1980s, while TMNT obviously has found second and third life's with a recent cartoon series and a series of LEGO sets, which were cool but over-priced in my estimation...

Anyhow... that doll picture above... I have NO IDEA if it was meant to be one of the ARBH, but it certainly could be.

We see what looks like a hamster in a black yukata (male kimono) with a pair of samurai swords (katana) strapped to his back, but a set of nunchaku (ヌンチャク) or "nunchuks" as they are typical called, firmly gripped in the rodent's right paw.

The nunchaku is a traditional martial arts weapon from Okinawa, Japan consisting of two sticks connected at one end by a short chain or rope, and when handled properly, are a very painful weapon for the target. As well, if you weren't very adept at handling a pair of nunchuks, it would be a very painful weapon for the wielder... as I'm sure we've all seen someone smack themselves in the face or testicles.

Fortunately, this stuffed doll of a hamster is quite adept at handling his nunchaku.

What... you think I'm goofing around? Watch the video below that I shot myself at work.

video

Effing hilarious, right? Especially with the background music Kung Fu Lightning by Carl Douglas!

Now... I know that Kung Fu is not a Japanese martial art, so the music doesn't quite fit the genre of the samurai sword-carrying ninja with the nunchaku... but it works.

This toy was made by Gemmy Industries inc. of Irving, Texas...the same folks who, in 1999, brought us Billy Bass the singing mounted fish crooning Take Me To The River and Don't Worry, Be Happy.

I'm not sure how expensive this is because the model is apparently discontinued, but for similar hamster animatronics, prices were around $50 (¥5000) apiece on e-Bay.

Cheers,
Andrew

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Japanese Comic Book About Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Kageyama Yuri (surname first) has written up a story for The Associated Press concerning the hardships of working at the pain in the ass of working at the crippled Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima-ken, Japan. The story is about the creation of a comic book called iF created by Tatsuta Kazuto (surname first). Read on... 

No comic book joke, Japanese manga depicts everyday hardships at Fukushima nuclear plant 
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
By Yuri Kageyama

TOKYO _ First off, no one who works at Japan's wrecked nuclear power plant calls it Fukushima Dai-ichi, comic-book artist Kazuto Tatsuta says in his book about his time on the job. It's ichi efu, or 1F.

It's not ``hell on earth,'' but a life filled with a careful routine to protect against radiation. A good part of the day is spent putting on and taking off protective layer after layer: hazmat suits, gloves, boots and filtered masks. Even bus and van interiors are covered in plastic.

Workers say they will lose their jobs if they talk to reporters and their bosses find out. That makes Tatsuta's manga, ``1F: The Labor Diary Of Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant,'' a rare look at the nuclear plant that suffered three meltdowns after the 2011 tsunami, and will take decades to decommission.

Tatsuta worked at the plant from June to December 2012 in part because he was struggling as a manga artist, but ``1F'' is his biggest success yet.

The opening episode won a newcomer award and was published last year in Morning, a weekly manga magazine with a circulation of 300,000. The first several episodes are coming out as a book next month, and publisher Kodansha Ltd. plans on turning ``1F'' into a series.

Tatsuta said "1F'' is not about taking sides on the debate over nuclear power, but simply a story of what it's like to work there.

"I just want to keep a record for history. I want to record what life was like, what I experienced,'' he told The Associated Press in his studio outside Tokyo this week.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the utility that runs Fukushima Dai-ichi, rarely provides media access to the inner workings of the plant, except for orchestrated press tours.

Tatsuta is a pen name. The 49-year-old artist asked that his real name not be used for fear of being barred from working at the plant in the future.

He said the job is surprisingly similar to other construction work, which also carries its risks, such as flying sparks and crashing walls.

``I never felt I was in physical danger. You can't see radiation,'' he said.

Tatsuta's story, complete with drawings of shattered reactor buildings, brings to life everyday details _ how gloves get drenched with sweat, or how annoyingly itchy a nose can get behind the mask.

Laughter and camaraderie fill the rest area, where drinks and food are plentiful but there are no flushing toilets. In one telling scene, an elderly worker says: ``This is like going to war.'' Drawings show the daily routine, different kinds of masks, the layout of the grounds.

After Tatsuta had to quit when his radiation exposure neared the annual legal limit of 20 millisieverts, he decided to put down what he had undergone in manga. Almost every profession: baseball player, 'salaryman'', samurai and chef has been depicted in manga, exemplified in acclaimed works such as Osamu Tezuka's "Astro Boy'' and Oscar-winning Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away.'' But no manga had ever depicted the life of the nuclear worker.

Tatsuta stressed he doesn't want to glorify them but insisted they deserve to get paid more. The work starts at about 8,000 yen ($80) a day, although it goes up to 20,000 ($200) a day for the most dangerous tasks.

TEPCO declined to comment on the book.
"It's just manga,'' says spokesman Koichiro Shiraki, who has read the work.