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Monday, June 30, 2014

A Dirty Little Food Story - 1800s Japan


It's 83F or 23.3C in this computer room where I write this at 11:30 PM in Toronto. No air-conditioning will do that. I shudder to go upstairs and sleep where I know it is 10 F hotter (34C), and I'm wondering just who I pissed off in a previous life to have to sweat so much this late in the evening.

It was hotter this afternoon when it took me two hours to cut the grass and when I came in to afterwards to take a shower it took me a few minutes to peel the soaked tee-shirt off myself.

Six hours later I can still squeeze my perspiration from the shirt. I know... ick.

I mean... it's so hot that I wouldn't even feel like having sex if it were offered. That's how you know it's hot.

Ugh.. what's worse is that my stupid new cat - a 7-year-old already named Daphne - decided to hop up on the computer table just now and rub herself all over me... and because I am slick, her hair is now stuck all over me. Stupid love-starved cat.

Anyhow, I was researching another story when I came across the following... it has the following English translation under this image.Again... I don't even know if it is correct - but I like it.

Kuchi-tori (serving foods to mouth)
"Dear, listen, I say open your mouth.
In order not to get your hands dirty,
you see, it looks so funny
everyone opens his mouth
so wide when I say that.
They look like
sparrow kids waiting foods."
"Ha, ha, ha, not a
sparrow's kid - but a
girl like you that is what
I want to eat.
What do you think of it,
instead of serving foods to my mouth?"

To me, the implication is that this is the English translation to the messy Japanese writing from the pre-1868 ukiyo-e (no dark purple color used, which was all the rage at that time)... but I can not find any evidence of this particular ukiyo-e or the poem being what it purports to be.

I have no idea who drew the rather comical artwork - the hanko stamps denoting artist and publisher aren't apparent.

Why do I say it's comedic?

Simple... the art depicts the faux pas of someone being fed via chopsticks food - definitely a no-no in Japanese society.

And... despite the cannibalistic comment of the man saying that he wants to eat the beautiful girl feeding him akin to a momma sparrow bird, he is instead propositioning her for sex via some cunning lingual word play.

I have fixed the grammar and changed a word or two in to a better English equivalent, and have fixed the quotes to indicate first woman as the first speaker and the hungry, horny man as the second speaker.

I'm pretty sure that if you are with a Japanese woman who doesn't mind feeding you with her chopsticks, you can pretty much say whatever you want to her.

Now... in the woman's defense... I have NO evidence that she is eating any food herself, and that these chopsticks are the only one's visible in the image, thus she is merely feeding her guest.

Since that is apparently correct, the man's suggestive question does seem a bit out of line.

Yeah, yeah... I look at the scene, write, look at the scene again and write and look once more to see if I've missed anything else.

Bad man. Poor Japanese girl... providing the sexy service of feeding the male clientele... but we are left to wonder if she is ONLY feeding them food or sex, the food of life.

Somewhere starving for attention,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Prime Minister Abe's Revitalization Strategy 2014

Below is a link purporting to be Japan Prime Minister Abe's Revitalization Strategy to fix its economy, its human resources—including how to best utilize foreign workers—new industries, revitalization of small and medium businesses, and, of course, once revitalized, how to maintain the positives.

I do not have an economic degree, and I am not a citizen of Japan, but I have at least read the document, and like every political plan for economic revival it sound very promising and a great deal, but then again, I'm sure that's what the Native American Indians thought when they sold Manhattan.

It's a strategy - not an outline of what exactly he will he doing to attain the objectives... the key thing to note is that this is what Prime Minister Abe wants to do.

I'm not slagging him here... have an outline first and then figure out how you are going to achieve the goals. That's the tough part.

But at least here you can see what golden era he has in mind for Japan.

By the way... I'm still unsure why this document has been presented in English... perhaps Prime Minister Abe did it just for us.

Click HERE.
Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Description Of A Japanese State Funeral 1889


Despite me writing blogs on a computer and work related articles on a computer, I am very much a friend of the printed media, loving the tactile feel and smell of a book or magazine to the uncaring, nonsensual video screen.
Not only do I not have a personal hand-held device, I don't have a cell phone—and while I'm not proud of that fact, I'm not embarrassed by it either, as I see the value in it, but chose not to, at this juncture, to embrace it.
Even with this (smiley face emoticom implied), I still see the irony in promoting an on-line library for early American newspapers... but I also see - as I hope you do, as well, the importance of not letting the past slip away without learning anything from it.
So here! You don't have to sleep with it, just enjoy the passionate kiss of a library resource you can actually access to look things up from the comfort of your own digital device over at www.readex.com.
Praise be the word of Vince.

This blog is a lot of things - probably too many to try and pigeonhole as to what it really is, except that I call it a resource for all things Japan. I might occasionally judge as I would be judged, but generally speaking, I just try and offer the most complete information possible on whatever damn topic seems to be striking my fancy at that given moment in time.

Speaking of time, I had another reader contact me looking for information on his 130-year-old clock, who though I might be able to help him after writing a few blogs on Japan's rise to current automation, with one blog focusing in on Japan's rather odd, yet unique method of telling time.

basically, it was part of a series of sort of related articles I decided to undertake for no reason than I was curious to see what I would write that would look at calendars, clocks, animatronics, robotics, animation and thermonuclear meltdowns. I think I succeeded, because I had at least one person write in asking me for advice like I was some sort of guru.

If you have the time, you can read about the old-school Japanese way of telling time HERE.

And since we are looking back, let's look back at a newspaper article pretty much long forgotten by history, and written by someone long since dead for a newspaper long since sent to its resting place.

In spite of that less than exciting introduction, I can offer you a well-written look at a side of Japan most gaijin (foreigners) will never think about while in Japan or even after they go back home... and yet, it's as important a part of life for a Japanese as life itself.    

A Letter From Japan - 1889
From the Northern Christian Advocate of Syracuse, New York, dated March 21, 1889 comes a letter from Japan. Obs Quies of Viscount Mori.

I had no idea what "Obs Quies of Viscount Mori" meant so I decided to look it up:

I believe it is Latin for 'funeral arrangements of Viscount Mori'.

Who?

Try Viscount Mori Arinori (森 有礼, born August 23, 1847 – died February 12, 1889), who  was a Japanese statesman, diplomat and founder of Japan's modern educational system.

What is interesting is the date of his death… February 12, 1889… but this letter published in this newspaper is dated March 21, 1889.

Owing to the slow speed of news not traveling fast, it is very possible that news of the Viscount's death had not yet reached the U.S.

Here's what I ripped from Wikipedia on him: 

He was the first Japanese ambassador to the United States, from 1871-1873. During his stay in the United States, he became very interested in western methods of education and western social institutions. On his return to Japan, he organized the Meirokusha, Japan's first modern intellectual society.
Mori was a member of the Meiji Enlightenment movement, and advocated freedom of religion, secular education, equal rights for women (except for voting), international law, and most drastically, the abandonment of the Japanese language in favor of English.
In 1875, he established the Shoho Koshujo (Japan's first commercial college), the predecessor of Hitotsubashi University. Thereafter, he successively served as ambassador to Qing Dynasty China, Senior Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, ambassador to Great Britain, member of Sanjiin (legislative advisory council) and Education Ministry official.
He was recruited by Itō Hirobumi to join the first cabinet as Minister of Education and continued in the same post under the Kuroda administration from 1886 to 1889. During this period, he enacted the "Mori Reforms" of Japan's education system, which included six years of compulsory, co-educational schooling, and the creation of high schools for training of a select elite. Under his leadership, the central ministry took greater control over school curriculum and emphasized Neo-Confucian morality and national loyalty in the lower schools while allowing some intellectual freedom in higher education.
He has been denounced by post-World War II liberals as a reactionary who was responsible for Japanese elitist and statist educational system, while he was equally condemned by his contemporaries as a radical who imposed unwanted westernization on Japanese society at the expense of Japanese culture and tradition, for example. He advocated the use of English. He was also a known Christian.[1]
Mori was stabbed by an ultranationalist on the very day of promulgation of the Meiji Constitution in 1889, and died the next day. The assassin was outraged by Mori's alleged failure to follow religious protocol during his visit to Ise Shrine two years earlier; for example, Mori was said to have not removed his shoes before entering and pushed aside a sacred veil with a walking stick.

Wow - that is pretty damn bad.

I can understand not knowing the rules and making mistakes, but the Viscount was born a Buddhist and converted to Christianity. His failure to follow the respectful rules of the Buddhist traditions is a slap in face—but hardly worth murdering over.

Anyhow, here's what I assume to be the last letter of Japanese observances by a dead man walking on the green mile.

A Letter From Japan - 1889
From the Northern Christian Advocate of Syracuse, New York, dated March 21, 1889 comes a letter from Japan. Obs Quies of Viscount Mori. 
One week ago to-day, while the people of this land were celebrating Kigen Setsu (day upon which the first emperor took the throne, the present one being the 121st) and were rejoicing over the giving of the new constitution, Viscount Mori, Minister of Education, and one of the most progressive men in the cabinet, was assassinated in Tokyo. The reason has not yet been made known, but it is supposed that it was on account of his favoring Christianity, as he had publicly said that the very best foreign teachers to be obtained were Christians, and acting upon the convictions underlying, this statement he had opened the way for many Christian teachers to secure and occupy prominent positions in the government schools. Furthermore Mr. Mori was a Christian himself. Whether this was the real cause of his death or not is yet to early to say.
In recognition of his services and as a tribute to his memory all the government schools are closed for a week. In addition to this, memorial services are being held in various parts of the empire. thinking that an account of the service held here last Saturday will be of interest in far-off America, I write the following. Public exercises were held in the P.M. on the Taiso (gymnastic) grounds of the Shihan Gokko (Normal School).
There were thousand of students present, and those of each grade, as normal, military, medical, commercial, academic, preparatory etc., were dressed in the regulation uniforms and were thus easily distinguished. They were arranged in the form of a hollow square, one side open, were all armed with guns and some knapsacks, and when they drilled made a fine appearance, giving evidence that they had ben carefully trained. The gymnastic teacher is an important part of every school in this land, mission schools included.
The services were especially interesting. As already noted, the late minister was a Christian, but that did not make any difference on this occasion, as all services of this kind are Shinto in deference to its being the old established religion. And yet, while called a religion, Shintoism is rather a patriotic

rather than a religious institution. The new constitution, given to the people the day that Mr. Mori was assassinated, declares religious freedom, and thet there will be a great change in the near future is now generally believed.
At the open side of the square pieces of white paper and some straws were suspended from a rope which was attached to four corner posts. From other posts small but very neat banners were floating. Within the inclosure there was a temporary table, high and narrow, upon which various kinds of Japanese food were displayed,—fish, lobsters, vegetables, rice cakes etc., the latter, called mochi, predominating. vases of bamboo containing paper flowers also stood upon this table. The priests, who were also the musicians, about a dozen in number, sat and stood, dressed in white flowing robes and wore hats made of something resembling hair cloth. The whole outfit was much like the Corean dress, and like it resembles the ancient Chinese costume. The musical instruments were wind rather than string and were of various patterns and sounds, but the music on the whole was quite entertaining, possibly however because of its novelty.
At the appointed hour the chief pries (judging from his dress), facing the offerings of food and with his back to the schools, read from a manuscript and then offered prayer, all the time clapping his hands and bowing reverently. Others followed in similar services, until one approached and waved before the table from right to left a large branch of Sakaki (the Cleryera japonica, sacred tree of the Shinto). This was covered with slips of white paper. At the same time a servant brought from an adjoining inclosure a quantity of smaller branches of the same kind and filled with paper in the same way. Representatives of the various schools then stepped up and read tributes to the memory to the great statesman, and then deposited one of the sprigs on a small stand in front of the one containing the articles of food. Thus in turn all the officials and teachers paid respects, only a few of them, however, reading. The service was simple, and yet the scene was quite brilliant. All the officers and teachers, and students as well, were dressed in regulation suits made after foreign style.
When this part of the service was concluded four trumpeters approached and played, or bugled, on foreign instruments as the various schools marched up in companies and gave the military salute. They made a very fine appearance. Take it all in, the service while very odd was quite interesting and one which we shall long remember.
This P/M/ the various mission schools of the city met in the chapel of our Cobleigh Seminary, so far as it would accommodate them, and united in services of a different character. I will give the program and you may note the contrast. One of the speakers is principal of the Commercial School of this city.
1. Singing, Japanese,
2. Scripture reading, Psa xc,
3. Prayer,
4. Singing, Japanese,
5. Circumstances of Mr. Mori's death, Mr. Matsuda Jokiehi,
6. Mr. Mori's life and work, Mr. Ikai Asajiro,
7. Singing, English,
8. Mr. Mori's attitude toward Christianity, Rev. J.C. Davison,
9. Singing, English,
10. A foreigner's view of Mr. Mori's life and work, Mr. H.V.S. Peeke,
11. Doxology and benediction.

Nagasaki, Japan, Feb. 18, 1889.


Point 2 above - that's Psalm 90, contained below for the hell of it:

King James Version (KJV)

1 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

13 Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.    


Interesting stuff, eh? We get a bit of flavor of what a Japanese state funeral is like, plus you also learned a bit more about Japan's volatile early years of the Meiji restoration after centuries of closed door foreign policy and rule by a warlord shogunate.

And you got even more evidence that I can turn a simple story into something sooooo much longer (and better).

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, June 27, 2014

Japanese Baseball Player Kawasaki Provides Personality

Just because I am a Toronto Blue Jays baseball fan and I write a little bit about Japan, you might think that this particular blog is a no-brainer.

A Japanese ball-player playing for the Blue Jays - but that's not WHY I have made Kawasaki Munenori the focus of a few of my blogs.

It's to show off his wonderful sense of humor... something that seems to be all too rare in the Japanese ball player we see here in North America.

Look at that photo above... yes, he just won the game, but everyone on the team loves this guy.

Everyone who comes over from Japan seems to possess a dour, serious look, and rarely do they ever connect personally with the fans outside of their baseball talents.

And then there is Kawasaki, who like his motorcycle name tends to 'let the good times roll' - that's an old advertising slogan which would probably tell you I'm older than the average AKB48 girl band fan. (By the way... I am probably NOT older than the average male AKB48 fan, whom I suspect in Japan may have a thing for young Japanese women who look like they are 16. Not my bag.)

Kawasaki is not an everyday major leaguer for the Blue Jays - in fact, if it were not for injuries, he would be down in Triple A right now (though I think he should consider going to a National League team who could use his talents more at a big league level).

But, unlike other current Japanese MLB stars pitcher Tanaka Masahiro (surname first) or outfielder Suzuki Ichiro (surname first) both of the New York Yankees (they also have pitcher Kuroda Hiroki (surname first) - but I don't know what he is like personality-wise), Kawasaki has personality, shows his personality and has been speaking English and Spanish, whenever he can in order to better fit in.

Suzuki, despite being one of the best hitters in all of baseball for years and years and having lived in Seattle and New York for a total of 14 years, he still conducts all interviews with a Japanese translator.

I also don't understand why he is the ONLY person in North American baseball who has his FIRST name on the back of his jersey. Either it's a mistake that has been allowed to continue, or its his ONLY way of being on a first-name basis for ball fans. Yes... Ichiro is on the back of his jersey... it should read Suzuki. The Yankees, however, tend NOT to have their names on their uniforms as a form of baseball tradition. But Suzuki was like this with the previous team, the Seattle Mariners.

"Ka-wa-sa-ki! Ka-wa-sa-ki!" My eight-year-old son and the crowds at the Blue Jays games chant his name this way. He is a beloved player for his effort and smiling visage, even if not for his talent - which is still better than many players in the game today.

Want some information on his exploits in Japan - click HERE

So... check out the SportsNet video below showing the affable Kawasaki first mimicking Blue Jays teammate Melky Cabrera watching a pitch blow by him, then his still somewhat stiff running gait... and then watch him purposely mock sports announcer Jamie Thomas and the Connect crew.

His accent is so effing thick, but you get the gist!


What is stunning to me, by the way, is that Kawasaki idolizes Suzuki and has for his career... and while he is not in the same 'league' as Suzuki as a hitting machine even though he tries to emulate him, Kawasaki is far above him showing off his love for the game, his team mates and the fans.

I'm not saying Suzuki isn't all those things, I'm just saying he does not express himself or have his translator express himself in a manner that an eight-year-old remembers best from a ball game.

And, to be fair, in 2001, Suzuki's first year in North America, he was: an All-Star; Rookie of the Year; Batting Champ, Stolen Base Champ, American League MVP, Silver Slugger and Golden Glove winner... the Golden Glove implies he is the best at his position defensively. In 2004 he had 262 hits in one season becoming the Major League record holder - breaking a record that had stood for 84 years. That's a helluva ball player.

Still, he's no Mister Personality, perhaps choosing to let his bat do TOO much of the talking.

"Thank you very much. My name is Munenori Kawasaki, I come from Japan, I am Japaneeeeese. My teammates gave me an opportunity, so I wanted to do something about it."

That was Kawasaki (he said it just that way!) giving his first post-game interview on May 26, 2013... a game my son Hudson were at, where Kawasaki was the spark plug and the hero in the Blue Jays win.

Ka-wa-sa-ki! Ka-wa-sa-ki!

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Japanese Food Primer - Circa 1885

From the annals of time - and we all know how painful that is - or so I hear - comes an interesting news item from appropriately named Grand Forks Daily Herald of February 4, 1885, discussing the still new and still fascinating concept of Japanese food to its North Dakota audience.

This article was obviously written by someone who is a food writer… and if they were alive today, they would be very fricking old, but if the joints still worked, they would be snapping photos of each bit of food with a digital camera, doing the exact same write-up with a fantastic description and blogging about it, using Twitter or Facebook to get the message across.

I apparently have a Facebook account, but I don't recall setting one up for myself. I have one for this blog, but after one year and five friends I see it's not as rewarding as a personal account.

It is rewarding, right? I'm not sure what I get out of it… more readers or more followers. I'd rather have more readers who are actively seeking out information or perky photos than mere followers - which… I actually have—70 followers of this blog and 1,800-2,200 readers a day… though I know most are just trolling this blog for the perky photos I have posted up all over the place.I did have 3,800 yesterday... most looking for information about Tomino's Hell - the poem that will kill you. No, I don't know why.

Sigh. It's a good thing I don't do anything to be liked. Who's kidding who… that why I do anything. 

Anyhow… below is a food review where by the writer goes to great pains to provide the would-be diner key Japanese words of description - so that he (or she, though the writer expects it to be a he) may order it properly from a Japanese restaurant.

I do think I have eaten all of what is described in the article…

Keep in mind that the world of Japan had only been opened up to the world some 20 years earlier, so while Japan was no longer as weirdly fresh as it was earlier on to the rest of the world, it still was fresh enough to warrant a snippet on its strange and wonderful cuisine.

Contained on the last page of the four-page daily missive, It is simply entitled: 

Japanese  Food  
Lifting the little saucer-shaped ;acquire cover from the soup, and taking advantage of the concession to European prejudices the Commissioners have made in providing spoons, instead of obliging him to drink his soup like tea from the bowl, the adventurous diner-out will find that he has before him a savory compound called on the card mishoshiru. This is made, as the root-word denotes, from miso, a fermented mixture of soy, beans, wheat and salt. Having disposed of this, he will then, if his appetite is good and his taste gastronomically catholic, attack with pleasurable surprise the many little plats on his tray. With these he will wisely play, turning for relief from the white sweetened haricot beans mixed with kawatake (a kind of mushroom grown in the shadows of rocky boulders), and the delicious lobster pudding or cold omlette and other trifles including under the head of kuchitori, to the hachimono, which may happen to be a piece of plump sole stewed in soy. Then for a change he may, with a pair of wooden chopsticks which are laid before him on a bamboo tray, divert himself with trying to pick out of a small china cup, made without a handle, the brown soy colored beans and strips of kikurage, or ear-shaped mushrooms.
Boiled rice is served in a separate bowl. Another substantial dish, wanmori, consists of meat or fish and vegetables, possibly, for instance a piece of fresh salmon and a slice of vegetable marrow with pieces of a soaked fu, a kind of biscuit made from glutinous part of wheat flour. The gravy in which these pieces de resistance are floating is thickened with a transparent starchy substance, obtained from the root of a climbing plant (Pueraria Thunbergiana), called by the Japanese kudzu. For salad there are thin slices of cucumber flavored with scraped shreds of dried bonito, a fish much in favor on the Pacific coasts; the cucumber being dressed with vinegar and sugar, but without oil. One other relish must be noticed, the sliced root of burdock salted and preserved in miso. A sweet kind of sake, described as Japanese wine, is the proper beverage at the mall, which is prepared by cooks from Japan, and served just as it would be in a restaurant in Tokio and without any addition of European dishes.

I made the mistake of trying to go through my lunch hour writing this - hoping to forgo lunch to continue my weight loss… but… reading what I wrote gave me thought for food.

This newspaper was researched via www.readex.com - an outstanding Early American newspaper resource - recommended by Vinnie. Cheers!

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

LEGO Model - My Neighbor Totoro

This one is for a friend of mine - or maybe she isn't, who the fug knows. I think she is, so I suppose that is what matters - or else I wouldn't be showing this photo.

This is a LEGO model of the cast of My Neighbor Totoro, the wonderful Japanese animated film created by Miyazaki Hayao (surname first). The model was built by Iain Heath, and can be found over at www.rebrick.lego.com.

I saw this movie back around 1993 when I visited my friends, The Hutchison family - who had come over to Japan, to live in Nikko-shi, Tochigi-ken, where the wife taught English on the JET Programme, the husband worked as a scientist with Japanese fish - Rainbow Trout, amongst others, and three kids who were, I think, under the age of seven - one still a jabbering toddler...

Tamala... she was five-years-old, going on 30, and she, more than anyone else seemed to enjoy the My Neighbor Totoro, and made me watch it during a homestay (overnight visit)... and all I can say is - thanks.

Oh my god... 21 years later, she's still not as old as I was when I first saw this movie.

Oh well, at least the LEGO helps keep me young.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Japanese Ball Player Learning English And Spanish With Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays had recently recalled Kawasaki Munenori (surname first) who back in 2013 achieved cult-like status when he came up from Triple A to the big leagues and played well... but really cementing his status as a fan favorite when he came out and tried to give a post-game interview speech in English using some hand written notes.

While the accent was thick, and the words often difficult to discern, there was no mistaking the man's enthusiasm nor that wide smile that made everyone want to ride the Kawasaki motorcade!

Resigned over the winter, Kawasaki knew he would be starting the 2014 season in Buffalo, with the Bisons, Toronto's Triple A affiliate.

Yes, Buffalo... you are Toronto's minor league hangout. Owtch. Lovely city, though. Plenty of fires via arson. But lovely people. Friendly, too.  Don't hurt me.

Anyhow, Kawasaki - whose wife gave birth to their first son in Toronto last year - has taken it upon himself to learn how to better express himself in English, and in Spanish!

Why Spanish? Because there are a lot of Spanish-speaking ball players in the Toronto organization... including Dominican players: Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Juan Francisco and Melky Cabrera... and on occasion, Moises Sierra and Esmil Rogers.

Even though I lived in Japan and am certainly used to the Japanese accent when speaking English, Kawasaki is still difficult for me to understand perfectly - but whatever - at least he's trying.

He probably speaks better English now after a year than I did Japanese after three years.

Kawasaki is currently back up with the Blue Jays playing Second Base... and while he is still flashing the leather on defence, his batting seems to be better...

Below is YOUTUBE video posted by Rogers SportsNet of an interview with Kawasaki Munenori.


Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

LEGO Model - Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

This is kind of cool - but here is the Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima-ken, Japan - made out of LEGO!

I found this over at www.rebrick.lego.com - and it shows the plant pre-disaster - so there are no radioactive vibes pouring off the model.

The model is NOT huge. It's done on a standard 32 x 32 blue base plate - okay - that's a guess as to its size, but it is obviously made in the microscale, as you can see that the single trees situated in the back are the soft green blades that are about one-inch in height.

I'm impressed over the originality of this model.

Why build it? Why not!

Anyhow... I'm a LEGO fan and I was searching photos on-line to see what type of model I could build with my spare 1-million LEGO bricks and the week I have to myself as the family goes on vacation for the week leaving me home alone.

Boo-hoo!

Ha-ha!

That's my vacation - though I suppose there's no rest for the wicked, as I will, of course, continue with the daily-plus blogs.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Tomiko Silk Mill Named World Heritage Site

Well, well… somehow in this blog I will cross-reference the United Nations and boobs and not seem completely pervy. I hope.

Japan's Tomioka Silk Mill and related sites have become one of the latest sites to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. Japan lobbies quite hard every year to have several of its sites added to the list.

Image above is of the interior of the Tomioka Silk Mill workshop from yellow bird woodstock from JAPAN - 富岡製糸場・繰糸場 - found on Wikipedia.

UNESCO is one of those acronyms we all know, but I bet few actually know what the letters stand for - so here you go: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization… and, like the name suggests, it is a special agency of the United Nations.

The Tomioka Silk Mill complex was built and operated by Japan's Meiji government in 1872 in the city of Tomioka, Gunma-ken, situated about 100 kilometers northwest of Tokyo.

This mill, using machinery imported from France is considered to be Japan's foray into the industrial revolution, as a way to modernize its traditional silk production after centuries of closed door socio-economic policies.


It helped turn Japan into one of the leading global exporters of silk.

The Tomioka Silk Mill site itself is made up of four areas, each a part of the production of raw silk:
1) production of cocoons in an experimental farm;
2) a  cold storage facility for silkworm eggs; 
3) reeling of cocoons and spinning of raw silk in a mill, and;
4) a school for the dissemination of sericulture (silk farming) knowledge.

Silk farming is the raising of actual silk worms and 'milking' them for their silk production.

Okay, okay… here's how it works:
  • get a silk moth… it lays thousands of eggs;
  • when the larvae hatch, the silk farmers will feed them mulberry leaves (only this leaf);
  • the silk worm weaves a silk net to hold itself;
  • it swings its head in the form of a figure eight;
This silk solidifies when it comes into contact with air. The silk worm will then begin the process of cocooning itself in its silk, a process that can take up to three days. Each cocoon will contain about 1.6-kilometers (one-mile) of silk filament.

Now… despite that one-mile of silk contained as the cocoon, each cocoon only really has a small amount of usable silk for the farmers.

Basically, about 5,500 silk worms can form about one-kilogram (2.2-lbs) of usable raw silk.

This usable raw silk is actually found from undamaged cocoons whereby each is brushed to find the outside end of the filament.

These silk filaments are then wound upon a reel - a reel that can hold about 914-meters (1,000 yards).

Still known as raw silk, these filaments are wound to create silk thread… one thread is made up of 48 silk filaments.

Traveling from Japan to Thailand for a vacation, I actually had pair of black raw silk pants, two silk shirts (green with threads of red silk and blue with threads of red silk) and a red silk dress jacket made from me, based on my custom suggestions… all for the equivalent of $40 Cdn ( ¥3,800), back in the early 1990s.

Never purchase a red silk jacket unless you want people to think you are working at a restaurant as a valet.


Between its inception in 1978, through 2013, 981 natural and cultural sites around the world have been inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. And now we have the 2014 global list (see HERE).

While I won't bore you with the process of countries trying to get things ONTO the list, I will tell you that each site up for consideration MUST meet at least one of 10 specific UNESCO criteria.
The Tomioka site actually met two of the criteria, points ii and iv.

The criteria, found on the UNESCO website (HERE), consists of:
Selection criteria
(i) to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
(ii) to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
(iii) to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
(iv) to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
(v) to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
(vi) to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
(vii) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
(viii) to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
(ix) to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
(x) to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

UNESCO will release the names of a few more World Heritage Sites over the next few days.

And… because you know you are curious, here's a list of all the other places designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan:

Cultural
  • Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area (1993);
  • Himeji-jo (1993);
  • Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) (1994);
  • Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama (1995);
  • Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) (1996);
  • Itsukushima Shinto Shrine (1996);
  • Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara (1998);
  • Shrines and Temples of Nikko (1999);
  • Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu (2000);
  • Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (2004);
  • Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape (2007);
  • Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land (2011);
  • Mt. Fuji, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration (2013);
  • Tomioka Silk Mill and Related Sites (2014)
Natural
  • Shirakami-Sanchi (1993);
  • Yakushima (1993);
  • Shiretoko (2005);
  • Ogasawara Islands (2011)
Although relatively close by to where I lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, I, unfortunately, did not visit this Tomioka facility, nor did I even hear of the damn place until a few months ago when I knew it was up for consideration to the UNESCO list.

The most interesting thing I had learned about Gunma-ken prior to this, was the fact that the prefecture was ranked #10 in all of Japan for the average size boobs of its women.

Yes… I have a list - and it's an official list - HERE.

So yeah… visit Gunma-ken for the sites and the sights.

As for silkworm farming - I really though people physically massaged the worm to cause it to emit the silk - akin to "milking" a snake for its venom. Seriously... I thought you needed tiny little gentle hands.

I also learned that the silk worm larvae dies during the harvesting of silk from the cocoon. Now I'm not so enamored by silk.

If I only I knew all this before. You lucky, lucky readers, you.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
Image of the interior of the Tomioka Silk Mill workshop from
yellow bird woodstock from JAPAN - 富岡製糸場・繰糸場
- found on Wikipedia.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Real Boutique Luxury Shinkansen Train

From my bud, Matthew, comes the attached article - about a DESIGNED, but not built interior for a luxury shinkansen bullet train.

It is designed by Japanese designer Okuyama Ken - who also created the interiors for the new W7 and E7 bullet trains that are set to debut on the new Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線) line sometime in early 2015.


Talk about being timely! You can read about the real W7/E7 shinkansen train HERE - an article I wrote and posted at midnight of June 23, 2014. 

Anyhow, the article Matthew found, it actually was published a week earlier on June 17, 2014 HERE on the Tokyo Weekender magazine site.

Thanks, Matthew!

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Japan's New W7 & E7 Shinkansen Bullet Train

The West Japan Railway Co. decided to show off its new W7 Series Shinkansen train on June 22, 2014 at its train yard in Hakusan in Ishikawa-ken.

That's it in the photo above - though not from the open media day event.

Let's look at the W7... also known as the E7 EMU (electric multiple unit) - a designation that depends on whether it is owned by the West Japan Railway Company, or the East Japan Railway Company.

Perhaps the best way to note it is by the 7 Series.

This train, is based on the current E2 series of shinkansen - one known as the Nagano Shinkansen series, designed and built specifically to handle the mountainous areas of Japan - and the W7 will indeed replace the E2 for the soon to be completed extension of the Japanese high speed rail network of the current Nagano Shinkansen.

The soon-to-be completed section of the shinkansen network is to be called to Hokuriku Shinkansen (北陸新幹線), and when it is eventually completed, there will be a complete ringining of the main Honshu island of Japan.

This soon to be completed section of track known as the Hokuriku Shinkansen high-speed rail line will open next spring specifically between Nagano and Ishikawa’s Kanazawa - it will extend the existing Nagano Shinkansen Line.

I know it's a bit confusing, BUT:

The Hokuriku Shinkansesn will consist of 4 sections:

1) 1st section called the the Nagano Shinkansen, was opened on October 1, 1997 linking Takasaki and Nagano.

2) 2nd section - isn't quite complete, as it WILL link from Nagano to Kanazawa - scheduled top open on March 2015.

3) 3rd section - only recently begun construction of in 2012 - is supposed to be completed by 2025 - yes, in 11 more years. It will link from Kanazawa to Tsuruga.

4) 4th section - still being debated - will go from Tsuruga to Maibara or Kyoto or Osaka.



There other sections, however: 

5) 5th section - previously completed along the southern coast of Japan - is the Tokaido Shinkansen line, which will go from any of those three stations in point #4 to Tokyo.

6) 6th section - also previously completed as part of the Joetsu Shinkansen line, links from Tokyo up through the starting point of Takasaki.

7) Not related to this ring, but related to the whole train system, is the Tohoku Shinkansen line that runs along (essentially) along the east coast of Japan from Tokyo up to the top of the main Honshu island stopping at Aomori.

8) Not related still, the Akita Shinkansen line goes east west from Morioka to Akita.

9) Still unrelated, but what the hell, from the Osaka/Kyoto area out west to the west coast of Fukuoka, the Sanyo Shinkansen line runs.

There are a few more shinkansen lines... but really... for OUR PURPOSES today, we are talking about a loop around central Japan, and thus points #1-6 are key.

Got it? Good. It is a bit confusing, but hopefully, these maps will will help.

Back to the original story - about the unveiling of the new shinkansen bullet train that will be running on that 2nd section (point #2 above) - the W7 series.

The W7 trains have a TOP speed of 275-kph (170-mph), but...
  • it will run at a maximum speed of 260-kph (160-mph) on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line;
  • will run at 240-kph (150-mph) on the Joetsu Shinkansen tracks between Omiya and Takasaki;
  • and will run at 110-kph (70-mph) on the Tohoku Shinkansen tracks between Tokyo and Omiya;
  • for the steeper grades, the train can maintain increased power output to attain speeds of around 210-kph (130-mph).
The trains known as the Gran Class passenger cars (no, I did not forget the "D") is equipped with full active suspension, and the other cars are equipped with semi-active suspension. The active suspension uses separate actuators which can exert an independent force on the suspension to improve the riding characteristics. The drawbacks of this design are high cost, added complication/mass of the apparatus, and the need for rather frequent maintenance on some implementations.

From what I have read, this W7 shinkansen train will operate on electricity via an overhead catenary at 25 kV AC, 50/60Hz. (see below for more on this).

This new W7 train will actually begin test runs in August of 2014, on a section of track between Kanazawa and Kurobe-Unazukionesen on the Hokuriku Shinkansn line.


The trains look lovely... nice streamlined shape (d'uh) with blue and copper lines along the body.

The passenger train interior is more or less typical Japanese style, though I can state that there will be a 'gran-class' car with a red lacquer-like design that will contain seats wider than in other cars so fat cats can have extra space to place the same bento food boxes purchased like everyone else at the local train station.

The W7 trains (and E7 trains) will consist of 10 12-car sets - that's 120 vehicles - all on order.

The first W7 (and the one shown to the media) and known as W1 was actually delivered in April of 2014 from Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., with the second one (W2) arriving in May 2014 from Hitachi Ltd. (see below for more information)


The W7 (E7) design has the traditional Japanese stylings, mixed with futuristic stylings and was overseen by industrial designer Okuyama Kenichi (surname first) and by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Outside, the roof is sky blue in color; the body sides are ivory white with copper and sky blue lines.

Manufacture of the W7 series of trains is to be shared by:
  • Hitachi Ltd. (株式会社日立製作所 Kabushiki-gaisha Hitachi Seisakusho) at its facility in Kudamatsu, Yamaguchi-ken;
  • Kawasaki (川崎重工業株式会社 Kawasaki Jūkōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha) at its facility in Kobe; 
  • The Kinki Sharyo Co., Ltd. (近畿車輛株式会社 Kinki Sharyō Kabushiki-gaisha - an affiliate of the Kintetsu Corporation) in Osaka. 
Each train consists of two non-powered trailer end cars, with the remaining 10 cars being motored.

Car 1 - Trailer Car, can hold 50 people, has toilets;
Car 2 - Motored Car, can hold 100 people;
Car 3 - Motored Car, can hold 85 people, has toilets and phone;
Car 4 - Motored Car, can hold 100 people;
Car 5 - Motored Car, can hold 85 people, has toilets;
Car 6 - Motored Car, can hold 90 people;
Car 7 - Motored Car, can hold 58 people; with phone, wheelchair space and wheelchair accessible toilet;
Car 8 - Motored Car, can hold 100 people;
Car 9 - Motored Car, can hold 85 people; has toilets;
Car 10 - Motored Car, can hold 100 people;
Car 11 - Motored Car, can hold 85 people; wheelchair space and wheelchair accessible toilet;
Car 12 - Trailer Car, can hold 18 people, has toilets.

Car #11 - the Green Car, is the First Class passenger car, while Car #12 is the so-called Gran Class luxury car. The rest of the cars are considered Standard cars - you know, the type you and can ride in.

Standard cars are arranged, seating-wise as 3+2 abreast with a seat pitch of 1,040mm (41-inches).
Image from an E7 series - Standard car seating  - from www.hotdigitalnews.com

Green car seating is 2 + 2 abreast with a seat pitch of 1,160mm (46-inches).
Image from an E7 series - Green car seating  - from www.hotdigitalnews.com
Gran car seating is 2+1 abreast, with seat pitch of 1,300mm (51-inches).
Image from an E7 series - Gran class car seating  - from www.hotdigitalnews.com

Is it just me, but does it not look like it's a tight squeeze in the Gran Class for anyone with an ass decidedly NOT Japanese flat? I do like the separate arm rests so one does not have to come close to touching anyone else... except if they are walking by and you are unlucky enough to be in the aisle seat. 

There will be AC power outlets available in all three classes.

Lastly, cars # 3 and #7 on the exterior roof, will have a single-arm pantograph, which is an apparatus used to collect power via an overhead catenary wire, with the return current running through the track.

Well... that's all for now... lots of data for you that, as usual, was not all in one place, but with this blog, is now.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Relax, It's Only Japan

This is a public service message for those of you minutely planning your soon-to-be senses-shattering expedition to Japan.

Having been removed from my experience of living and working in Japan for over 20 years now, I can sit back in my uncomfortable computer chair at home or work and reflect back that I have indeed been lucky.

Yeah, yeah, I'm the lucky bastard who slept with plenty of women, had a great Board of Education office that treated me with respect and trust, pretty much great students to talk to, friendly folk in the international community who looked out for one another in the JET community, lots of great Japanese people in my city who also looked out for me, but were content to let me grow into the community as much as I dared…

but really… I'm talking about being lucky in that I simply got to go to Japan.

It was never a life's goal for me… I didn't even want to go to Japan… I just wanted to get laid by a particular woman… and when she didn't get in the program and I did, all I got was the cold shoulder instead of a reach around.

Perhaps it's because I had no expectations about Japan… no ambition about what Japan could mean to me prior to leaving Toronto, that I simply just went with the flow and enjoyed myself.

I can recall it like it was yesterday. but the night before I got on the plane to travel to Japan, my father said to me: "Just enjoy yourself and the opportunity. You'll never know if you'll get such an opportunity again."

Bravo.

We had discussed me being worried that leaving Toronto right now - just after I had graduated school and entered the Toronto Star newspaper as a reporter, that I might never get that opportunity again—but my father, unfazed said that "if it's meant to be, it's meant to be."

I had been panicking up until then, and admittedly I was still quite anxious until I was sitting down in the airplane that would take me over to Narita Airport in Tokyo… but the anxiety I felt after my father talked to me was actually just wonder at what I might expect… would people like me, would I like Japan, how the hell would I survive without any language skills, I'm not a teacher—they have no clue I failed Grade 12 English once, right?—I don't know a single, damn thing about the country except that it was bombed twice by atomic bombs in WW2, there were samurai, there are geisha, I should be careful with the rice wine that tastes like water but hits like a ton of bricks moments later, and Godzilla and Gamera, while popular to me, might not be that interesting to Japan.

Well… it turns out that Godzilla and Gamera were still popular enough that I could chat about it with my student and adult friends - though it was hardly a topic that came up more than twice in three years; sake tastes like sake and goes down like water and I can drink more of it than anyone else I ever met in Japan and never got sick or had a hangover; I only ever saw one women in geisha garb—maybe; samurai—one of my bosses, Kanemaru-san, was descended from a samurai family and people in town knew that and respected him for it, and while he never put on any airs, it was obvious to me that he respected his past with honor and dignity—as well as a pack of smokes, funny jokes and a kindness to me that can never be repaid.

And yeah, while I visited Nagasaki, I never got to Hiroshima (though my mother did in my second year), I actually got to befriend a Japanese man  - a Japanese Catholic priest!!! who was at that time merely a caring young man - who walked into Hiroshima the day after the blast to see if he could lend any help to the survivors.

Japan… can be ugly… but I didn't try and put myself in situations where that ugliness could rear its ugly head.

I lived in the farming city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken that has the Japanese people living in the big cities now referring to it as a hick town or as someplace they would never visit.

Good.

I actually felt sorry for all those people who were posted in big cities. Yes, they had more amenities available to them than those of us in a small city, town, village or, god help you, a hamlet, but I loved the fact that I could go anywhere and do anything and have people say hello and know who I was and wonder how I was doing because they really did want to know.

Even in Toronto, a large city of about 3-million or so, I live in the suburbs and can enjoy a quiet, mostly anonymous way of life… saying hello to the neighbors, but not expected to hang out with them.

It fit perfectly with me as a shy loner who was very private, but honest enough to answer anyone's question about just 'what was up'.

Japan was where I grew up, fell truly in love for the first time in my life, learned that things don't always go my way, and that I was one lucky Sonnuvabeeatch for having gone to Japan.

This is just a refresher blog to all of you prepping frantically for your trip to Japan.

Remember the motto of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: "Don't Panic".

Sometimes not being too forewarned is far more fun.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Two years later in September of 2016, I have finally re-read what I wrote and fixed the grammatical mistakes. Stuff happens, but that's no excuse for crappy writing. Sorry.
           
     

Saturday, June 21, 2014

American Comic Book Propaganda Versus Japan - 9

It's been a few weeks since we last looked at some World War II propaganda versus Japan in the form of American comic books.

I like history, I like comic books, I like Japan, I love criticizing things where necessary. Let's begin:

According to www.comicvine.com, this comic book, Bomber Comics #4 was published on February 2, 1945 by Gilberton Publications.

Of course, www.mycomicshop.com says it is December 1944, published by Elliot Publishing Co.

I'm going to say www.mycomicshop.com is more correct… because I actually looked this comic book up in my Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide - a must for anyone collecting comic books and because of the detailed articles and facts, a must for people who love history.

Upon the cover of Bomber Comics #4, we see the boyish wonder Wonder Boy bowling a strike, knocking those pinhead Axis enemies of peace-loving freedom fighters—(from left) Germany's Adolf Hitler, Japan's Tojo Hideki (surname first), and Italy's Benito Mussolini.

The cover also sports some hot babe showing plenty of knee and a cool cat, too macho for a shirt, named Kismet - The Man Of Fate watch the poor bowling form of Wonder Boy.

Okay… I'm not a great kegler, nor am I a drawing artist of any form, but damn… that's bad art.

By the way, Kismet - The Man of Fate is considered to be the first Muslim comic book hero - and I'm not even going to talk about the 21st century irony of having the poor guy parlay his heroic trade in a comic called Bomber Comics. Okay, I just did, but  please note that not every Muslim is a fricking terrorist. Very few are. I sometimes think that whenever you see a crowd of frantic Muslims chanting in the street and burning the flag of some satanic nation, that it is the same damn group of 20 people parading around to every scene that CNN shoots. I'm pretty sure most of the people in the Middle East have jobs and watch these scenes on TV with headless abandon. I meant 'heedless'.

Kismet, does have a superpower: he knows what is fated to be... having the ability to see ahead and anticipate what's coming next to give him the advantage... "Uh, no... I'm not going to be able to go with you guys into that secret mission in Hiroshima... no... no reason..."

The Japanese may indeed know of a Wonder Boy - I certainly did - but only the blonde Hitler-esque version of the jungle kid from the Sega Game Gear system - Wonder Boy (ワンダーボーイ Wandā Bōi), which I played back in 1986+ and probably have in a case somewhere in the bowels of my basement.

Anyhow... like most artists, comic cover artist H.C. Kiefer knows how to draw a pretty sexy woman, as you can above she is both laughing at Wonder Boy who thinks he has a shot at her, and at Kismet - The Man Of Fate not because he is wearing a fez on his head, but rather because every time he unfurls himself to bowl, she can see that he has accidentally tucked part of his cape into the back of his tights.

Apparently Kismet only sees ahead - not behind.

As for the babe - faith and gamorrah! - no one is sprinkling this pillar of global community salt! Her liberty is safe as the evil pins of tyranny are splattered across the deserted alleys of forever.

Okay… I'm a bit overboard there…

I think that the babe is Sally Benson, and she is the girlfriend of Wonder Boy. Wonder Boy, originally published by Quality Comics (now a part of DC Comics) was simply known as Wonder Boy - no alter ego. He is an alien who traveled to Earth in a spaceship (uh-huh), when his planet (Viro) was destroyed (uh-huh) after it collided with a star. Wow... that's so super, man.

Landing essentially in Chicago, Wonder Boy had the strength of 100 full-grown men, so I'm kind of surprised that with his strength he didn't pulverize the bowling pins with his toss.

So... is he a boy or a man? 'Cause that babe of a girlfriend is tres sexy for a non-adult in 1940-whatever. And Wonder Boy - don't let her pose so close to Kismet! Who knows what will happened when she catches a whiff of his manly musky scent? Well... I suppose Kismet knows.

Strike!
"I knew that was going to happen!"
"Shut-up, Kismet. Why do I hang out with you?"
"Indeed, Wonder Boy, why do you need to hang-out with anyone when you have the lovely Sally Benson here not wearing any underwear?"
"Did you use your foreskin powers to know that?"
"It's foresight powers, and - are you kidding?! Just look at her dress - all clingy on that hot white, teenage girl body."
"Aren't you a Muslim - should you even be talking like that?"
"Praise Allah!"

Okay - just having fun there - "Allāhu Akbar."

But WTF is up with Hitler's cap? Does he not look like he's some sort of Commodore of a yacht or maybe like Mister Howell on Gilligan's Island? Did Der Fuhrer ever wear a cap like that? White? Really? I suppose it's his white visor cap with insignia made of gold bullion and eagle in gold metal… but the white cap is hardly the one people would say was one Hitler was known for.

As for Tojo? The artist made him look like he just found out that he ate American rice and enjoyed it - I'll kill you for that!

Now… why is Mussolini on this cover? Even if we are to assume that this comic was published in December of 1944… I'm pretty sure that by September of 1943 (15 months earlier), Italy had surrendered… and that on October 13, 1943 (14 months earlier) Italy actually declared war on Germany!

So… WTF Bomber Comics? I can understand that the Allies are still pissed off and are fighting the Germans and the Japanese - but basta fazul - Italy is on your side now!

It's not even close… the two sources with the sparse information about this comic books both have it being published 14 to 16 months AFTER this historical flip-flop of epic proportions.

Hey! Whozza winning? We're on dat side!

I know, I know… I didn't really examine Japan very much in this blog - but that's because while the Allies always tended to make the Japanese look either comical in their bumbling or ogre-like in their animosity, the Japanese element in this comic book cover is pretty tame. Bowling...

Let's just call this comic book cover: Bowling for Scrip.

But… it is interesting to note the inaccuracies found both in the comic book artwork and the editing, but also in our web-based information available for your use.

I almost feel like I should wear a condom to protect myself from the shrapnel left behind from Bomber Comics, and from the virus of website inaccuracy.

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Friday, June 20, 2014

Noboko & Andrew: And Babe Makes Three

After yet another sweaty evening with Noboko, she left to make her 11PM curfew.

It's only minutes since she left, but my body yearns for her.

After some more personal contact, I get dressed and go down and get a bottle of coke, racing up at 11PM because I know Noboko will call as she always does for some quiet, love talk.

"Moshi-moshi, beautiful," I sigh into the phone.

"Eiiiii?" says the slightly familiar female voice on the other end. "How did you know it was me?"

I might have to write the word 'crap' here because I try to keep the swearing in this blog to a PG-13 level, but I can guarantee you, I was thinking triple F-bombs all the way, as every single muscle and my sphincter tightened to the point of strangulation.

"How was your evening?" Junko asks in her near-perfect English with a voice that could make honey so sweet a bee would become diabetic.

Every paranoid bone in my body (and I have quite a few) suddenly shifted causing every hair to stand up on the back of my neck…

Did she know I was sleeping with Noboko… was she spying on me again? Where the fug is she?

I stood up from my comfy chair and slowly peered out the glass sliding door to see if I could see her anywhere outside the apartment complex.

"Don't worry… I'm not outside."

Oh sh!t!!! She's inside my apartment!!!

"So… where are you?" I ask expecting the worse.

Junko was, until I met Noboko, the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on. The big differences between Junko and Noboko were in the level of sexual appetite… while Noboko could be freaky and let me do whatever I wanted, Junko's tastes were more fetish-like than freaky, hot sex, with lots of bondage, lots of spanking and lots of insertions… all of which I was quite happy to provide.

Sex was all pretty new to me physically, having only first experienced things when I arrived in Japan in 1990… but I had been doing a lot of one-handed reading of men's magazines for more than half my life, and actually read the articles to broaden my understanding of a world I was not (at that time) privy to.

Junko… she opened up my mind.

The only big problem was that while the sex was fantastic, Junko was jealous, and began following me everywhere, threatening to threaten every female who crossed my path.

Not only did she drop her three Japanese boyfriends when she met me (one to buy her things; one to take her to dinner; and one to sleep with), she sometimes bought me things, would bring dinner in to my place; and would spend many sleepless days and nights at my place in marathon sessions of sex and tantric sex and fetish sex that left me so tired I knew it wasn't healthy.

She even dropped out of university to follow me around.

I might be a horny bastard, but I wouldn't ask anyone to drop out of school for me, because I think that's very important.

Her constant demands for sex - and me being very weak-willed when it comes to sex - my lack of sleep, her threats, her curvy body, round butt and very nice boobs, and succulent lips confused me so.

I confided in my situation with a fellow JTE (Japanese teacher of English), who with help from my board of education fellows, picked her up and took her back to her mom's place and to hopefully get her some much needed psychological help... though I wonder if obsession is a psychological threat.

Of course it is. It's called stalking.

Anyhow... after several months, Junko is now back in my life, sounding as sweet as ever, and all I can think about beside her near instantaneous wetness, is that she's going to hurt Noboko to get her out of the way to have me all to herself again.

I should note, however, that Junko did not mind having an FFM three-way, but only if she was the dominant female in my life. While I don't know if Noboko would have been into that sort of stuff - probably, because she trusted me, she did know about Junko and would not have trusted her.

Noboko knew about Junko, because I told her, and I did so loving the fact that I was in love with Noboko.

So... Junko on the other end of the phone.

Was she outside? Had she already intercepted Noboko and was holding her tied up in the trunk of her car? Was that why Noboko hadn't called? Where Junko was concerned, anything was possible. Oh yeah... Junko called exactly at 11PM when Noboko was supposed to have called - I don't have call-waiting.

A very small part of my brain wondered if I could date Junko while still dating Noboko, but I cared too deeply for Noboko to actually consider that more than a fantasy. I was happy and sexually exhausted with Noboko... I was just exhausted—physically and emotionally—with Junko.

"I'm home," she smiles sweetly through the telephone.

Is she lying? Where is she, I think as I jut my head up again to peer out the door...

"I'm not in front of your building," she says.

What the fug is it with the Japanese women in my life and their effing mind-reading abilities?!

"So, how are you?" she continues, but before I can answer, she says, "I just wanted to say sorry for my behavior.... I was... chotto crazy desu kedo ( a little crazy, though). "

You could have knocked me over with a feather... but despite how things had ended, I don't like it when other people put themselves down, and told her she wasn't crazy... probably just excited about a lot of new things going on....

If I knew any better at that time, I would have said that Junko had experienced a hyper-sexual episode of manic behavior... I never saw the depression, so I can't say she was bi-polar....

We chat some more, she apologizes again and again, I tell her she has nothing to apologize for, thinking that I hardly helped by being her willing partner in crime... and then she asks if I'm seeing someone.

"Andrew," she coos in her near-perfect English, "are you seeing anyone right now?"

I know that tone... and I know that if I could still get it up after that wonderful evening with Noboko just some 45 minutes ago, I might have said something else.

Instead, I said I simply said "Yes, I am."

To her credit, Junko did not pry and did not beg.

While I liked it when she begged... she simply said, "Me, too."

Fugging hell!!!

I immediately became jealous, and wanted to know who, what, where, when, why and if she wanted to spend the weekend locked in my apartment...

But, I, too, almost without emotion, simply said, "I'm glad."

Continuing, I add: "I'm expecting her call. Feel free to call if you want to talk or are feeling out of control again."

"Why, so we can fug?" she asks.

That wasn't what I implied, but now that she mentioned it - no! Noboko!

"No, so we can talk."

"Good night, Andrew. I love you," her voice rings out holding its melodic air in my ear as the dial tone begins to drone.

Thankfully, she didn't give me time to respond... I'm not sure what I would have said.

As I hang up the phone, it rings.

"Hello, beautiful," I say.

"I'm sorry, my father was talking to me about work, it's why I couldn't call earlier."

"It's okay, Noboko... do you want to talk now, or are you tired?"

She mutters some Japanese at me that sounds like whining, and it probably is, but she says 'yes', she is tired.

"Good night, An-do-ryu-kun (she can say my name in the proper English way, but she knows I like it when she uses the Japanese girlfriend variant of it). I love you."

"I love you, too, Noboko."

And, like typical lovers, each one waits for the other to hang-up first... both of us hearing the other's breath kilometers away.

Being sort of romantic back then... I should have just quoted some Shakespeare or Alice In Wonderland or Dylan Thomas and gone gently into that good night (or do not)... but I gotta be me.

"I can still taste you on my fingers."

"Bayakyarao (stupid idiot!)" she laughs and hangs up.

So, is romance dead? No... it's just a little bit mixed up.

It's no wonder she used to call me a diamond in the rough.

I took it (at the time) to mean I wasn't as refined as a diamond, but now in 2014 I can also see that it means I'm not as perfect as a diamond... that I'm still just a lump of coal feeling a little bit of pressure.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
The image above is from a website I found with a whole bunch of interesting Japanese record singles:
http://www.geocities.co.jp/MusicStar-Guitar/8403/japansingle.html
The image features the duo of  Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and the singles: "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight?" and "The Ambushers".
These two boys also wrote songs for Paul Revere and the Raiders (I'm Not Your Stepping Stone) and for The Leaves (Words), both of which were hits for The Monkees in 1967. I have always like Stepping Stone. Anyhow, without knowing what these two songs are like on this Japanese 45-single, I just thought the titles seemed appropriate - especially since it's a Japanese print.  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Noboko & Andrew: The Key Secret

So… here's another entry from the infrequent entries that are about my life in Japan.

To be honest, it was at this time of my life in Japan that I stopped keeping a diary... probably because I was so tired from teaching junior high, saying lots of good byes, teaching lots of private lessons and making lots of money, and dating Noboko.

Since I do not have a diary, I'm going from memory on events - but fortunately, I can recall things from 25 years ago far easier than know what I had for lunch yesterday.

As for things such as dialogue... well... believe it or don't, I have a very good aptitude for this, and recall most memory strings... especially if I consider it important... but I often need to sit down and concentrate on the event - or not concentrate on it - and presto, out it flows like a faucet turned on high.

Still... who knows... I'm getting older, so it's possible I'm recalling things as I want them to be.

There... that's my disclaimer... the facts of the events are real... and I'm reasonably certain about the dialogue. And for the record, there are a few women whose kisses are embedded in my mind, which makes recall very easy for me.

It's spring of 1993, and my one true girlfriend Noboko (I've changed the spelling of her name here) has spent another sweaty evening in my air-conditioned apartment, now fully-dressed, smiling sweetly as she steps up on her tippy-toes to kiss me good night at 10:30PM.

She has to make a 10-kilometer drive north from my apartment in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken to her parent's place in Kuroiso.

Although she an I are close in age at 28 and less, she has been living with her parents since moving from the Kobe-Osaka area a few months earlier to take a teaching position in my city.

It's her first gig as a junior high school English teacher, and when she started in April of this year she was very serious about things, perhaps aware that being an older than usual first-time teacher, being a woman of marrying age, and being a beautiful woman of marrying age put her behind the 8-ball, so to speak, with having a lot more to prove to the elder statesmen that run the school and the school board.

I had fallen in lust or love with her at first sight, and made an ass of myself writing a love-haiku poem mere minutes aft my first glimpse of her took my breath away.

She was probably used to having guys hit on her, but from what I learned later, I was the first gaijin (foreign) guy to do so, as she had typically never put herself in such a situation before.

With me having to work with her, she was trapped… and so, she resolved NOT to give in to my horny, but incredible sweet attempts to chat her up.

But a strange thing happened on the way to the Penthouse forum… pretty much damn near all of the students in her various English classes decided that since their very pretty teacher was still single, she needed to go out with me.

Why they did that on their own initiative boggles my mind to this day some 21 years later, but I thank them for it. They must have thought that my good humor also translated into good looks, but while I thought I was okay looking, I knew that Noboko was out of my league.

Flash forward a month or so, and Noboko is coming over to my well-to-do three-bedroom apartment - sneaking in so no one can see her … students from other schools are everywhere!… and making kissy-face and other parts in my general direction. That means we were sleeping together - often and with great results.

Dropping down from her toes (she's a shade over 5-feet tall) after what seemed like an hour-long probing kiss, she looks radiant with that 'we just had sex' afterglow, while her face is crestfallen that she must once again sneak out of my apartment and head back to her parents house…

In Japan, while everyone knows that everyone is having sex (this was 1993… I have no idea what happened to the Japanese sex drive after I left - but it is apparently low - and no, I'm not taking credit/responsibility for it, even if I did do my part to keep it up. You know what I mean.), it's still not proper for Japanese people to be caught having it when not married.

Love hotels charge by the evening or by the hour. I've used them, but never like being rushed and will gladly pay the premium to relax afterwards.

So… to keep up appearances that nook is a good little girl and isn't screwing the ever-loving horny brains out of one of the local gaijin AETs (assistant English teachers) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, she has to drive her sub-compact toy car back home - and not miss her 11PM curfew.

Despite our groans of mutual protestation, she opens the heavy steel door to leave…

"Chotto matte, kudasai," I say to her in one of those few Japanese phrases I actually can say properly and at the correct time… I run back to find my pants in the bedroom and discover they are lying under the couch in the living room… dig out something and jog lithely back to her at the front door.

"Here," I say, dropping the small present into her hand.

She glances at it as I needlessly continue: "You've already got the key to my heart. Now here's the key to my apartment."

I'd like to think I said something like that, but I didn't. I can't recall exactly because I'm pretty sure the blood flow still was peaking in my underwear.

"It's the key to my place. Feel free to drop by any time and stay even if I'm not here."

That sounds like something I might have said as I know I tried to snake my hand up her dress and down the backside of her panties to play around.

That definitely sounds like me now… but if it was, she would have let me continue for a few seconds before snaking away, knowing she had a curfew.

Now this… this I do remember… with a very evil grin dancing in her sexy, brown eyes, she put her mouth around my fingers and somehow managed to suck them dry.

Sha-winnnnng.

With that, she turned and quickly stepped into her two-inch high heels, opened the door, peered out to make sure the coast was clear and left down the side stairs to the right.

Are you kidding me??!!

You're leaving me like this?

Taking my cue from Kung Fu Panda, I had the furious five in a kung-fu grip and after less than a minute of me slumped against the hall wall, I was done.

For now.

I washed up - sort of - got dressed and went down to see if the variety store two stories below my apartment was still open.

It should have been closed at 9PM, but the old man was puttering around there and saw me stomp down past the side door where earlier Noboko must have slunk past hiding our relationship.

I was getting used to having no one know about us (except for a few of the other AETs I chatted with - all guys, at this point in time).

Even though the old man proprietor couldn't speak a lick of English, he smiled as he pulled a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola out of the cooler for me (my usual), and said (an admittedly, I am paraphrasing him): "An-do-ryu-sensei garufriendo (girlfriend) wa berry secushi desu."

I took that to mean: "Andrew teacher (that's me)'s girlfriend is very sexy."

I looked at him and laughed loudly.

The only secret I know is that there are no secrets in Japan. Shhh… Don't tell anyone that.

"Hai… so desu. (yes… she is.)"

"Sensei-desu ka? Is she a teacher?)"

I laugh again and say "Hai, so desu, ne. (Yup.)"

"No-chu?"

Okay… I know that No-chu is the slang way people in this city say "Nozaki Chu Gakko" (Nozaki Junior High School)… so how the hell did he know that?

I nod my head.

I swear, he says the one and only English word I ever heard him speak: "Secret."

"Hai, domo. (Thanks)," I mutter as I bow deeply to the old man who was in his late 70s or early 80s. 

I know he liked that.

To me, it was showing respect on multiple levels: Me as a foreigner to a Japanese person. A youngish man to my senior. Me thanking him for his future discretion.

I know that it's not often that people who frequent shops provide a legitimate, respectful bow to the shopkeeper or clerk. They say thanks and good night, but it's rarely with any meaning.

I don't think that's merely a Japanese thing, however, as I see that sort of stuff happening all the time here in Canada in 2014. Me? I don't think there's anything wrong in being polite and talking to anyone and treating them like a real person.

With my big sweaty bottle of Coke in my hands, I leap back up the two flights of stairs, two at a time... and then remember that the shopkeeper actually lives in the apartment directly below mine with his wife and 30-year-old son.

Oh… yeah… I wonder if they could hear all of the action going on in my apartment these past three years.

Oh well.. who cares? C'est la vie. That's life.

As I enter my apartment, the phone begins to ring.

I know it's Noboko, because it's exactly 11PM and she must be at her parent's house.

I don't have to run to the phone, because in Japan the caller will let it ring 17 or 18 times before determining that there is no one home or busy.

But, I'm not Japanese, so I run to the phone - still with my shoes on, in a major Japanese faux pas. Canadian, eh.

"Moshi-moshi, beautiful," I sigh into the phone.

"Eiiiii?" says the slightly familiar female voice on the other end. "How did you know it was me?"

Oh crap… it's Junko, my emotionally unbalanced, sex-crazed, very sexy ex-girlfriend that I had a restraining order against known as bondage.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph