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Friday, October 31, 2014

Pokemon Goes Dark

It's Halloween as I type this, so to me, I'm still in time to celebrate the hellish event with a bit of Japanese news.

I'm a Pokemon fan - not enough to want to play the card game or to purchase the merchandise or even play the video game (I have a Sony PS3 and the games are only on Nintendo systems) - but, I do enjoy the television anime and when I did have a few bucks to burn, did purchase some of the comic books.

I might have to dig up a few bones, however, to purchase the latest incarnation of Pokemon, a decidedly dark version as imagined by Ito Junji (surname first) a writer and artist of Japanese manga (comic books) since the 1990s.

Ito (伊藤 潤二) was born on July 31, 1963

Ito has what can only be described as possessing a 'flair' for surreal and oft-disturbing horror stories… so seeing the cute Pokemon pocket monsters go all hellish… well… I think I gotta catch'em all.

I mean - check out that evil-looking Pokemon eyeing that little girl with bad intent! That's just so wrong on so many levels that I just have to read the damn manga!

Ito has previously become renowned for such manga as Uzumaki ( a three-volume set bout a town obsessed with something called spirals), Tomie (a series chronicling an immortal girl who drives her stricken admirers to madness), and Gyo, a two-volume story where fish are controlled by a death stench.

Tomie worm by Ito Junji. Not a Pokemon.
Yeah - look at the art from Tomie immediately above - it's like he's channeling hell itself for inspiration!

The new Pokemon series is part of a larger project called Kowapoke - don't have a cow, man - and is a Halloween-styled focus on the Pokemon website that features comics and art of the “ghost-type” creatures. While much of this art is light-hearted and cute, Ito’s is, by contrast, highly disturbing.

The Kowapoke website is in Japanese, but is generally easy to explore. Ito’s work can be found HERE

If anyone wants to buy me a shirt for Christmas - I'm an XL… which is actually quite small for the usual comic book collector.

Thugs and hisses,
Andrew "Litwick (ヒトモシ Hitomoshi)" Joseph

Japanese Kit Kat Taste Test

Well.. I just did one video in my last entry - why not another.

For those of us stuck in anyplace NOT Japan, we are quite limited in our Kit Kat chocolate selections... with chocolate, dark chocolate... I think there's an orange flavor... but that's about it.

In Japan... there are over 200 flavor varieties. 200!!!!

Here's a video that gives some of these flavors to Americans who are not experienced with Japan - and then films their reactions.

Anyhow, thanks to Julien for the heads up! 

Have a nice light snack!


Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, October 30, 2014

OK Go Music Video Filmed With Drone


From my friend Emily, comes the following music video from the group OK Go - featuring their song: I Won't Let You Down.

OK Go is an American alternative rock band originally from Chicago, Illinois, US of A., but are now based in Los Angeles, California. The band is composed of Damian Kulash (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Nordwind (bass guitar and vocals), Dan Konopka (drums and percussion) and Andy Ross (guitar, keyboards and vocals).

So why do we care here on Japan—It's A Wonderful Rife?

Besides the interesting beat (I really do prefer less dance and more driving rock chords in my music), there is a Japanese element to the song and video.

Plus... it's kinda a catchy tune.

And they used a special-built drone to film the while video in ONE take - although they did do 44 takes, completing the whole routine 11 times... but still... this version was their best take... and it is one continuous shot.

And they use Honda's new car, the UNI-CUB

Oh yeah... OK Go are also apparently friends with the video's director - the Japanese dude named Morihiro Harano.


Okay... I have to admit the song has grown on me after a couple of listens...  It won't let you down.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Scandals Rock Prime Minister's World

As a fairly normal guy, in my more happy horny days of my youth, I have spent an evening in a strip club and promptly thrown away hundreds of dollars on booze and strippers - I believe my high was $1400 where I'm pretty sure I bought someone thigh-high red boots.

I'm not bragging about that. It is what it is and I had a good time while the good times lasted. Do I wish I had the money now? You betcha. It sure seems like a stupid waste of time - but oh! the stories I could tell!

Still, I am sure there are better ways I could spend that money if I still had it nowadays… but I doubt I would still have it. I spend what I have to enjoy life.

Money - unless it is spent, is just some colored pieces of paper in one's wallet or purse. I use a wallet.

Anyhow… here's the thing… when I spent my money out at the aforementioned clubs several times a week (how out of control was I after my mother died and I left the love of my life behind in another country?), it was my money spent for entertainment purposes. I see it now as the price of growing up.

I ate the cost.

Can you imagine if you or I had dared to ask for a receipt from such an establishment so that I could invoice it back at work for tax purposes or to get money back from petty cash as the cost of doing business?

Well… as silly as it might sound to some of you, despite it being 2014 many a legitimate business deal has been brokered between executives while a naked woman gyrated inches from their noses.

That kind of thing is certainly frowned upon in my current industry, but I have a friend involved in the finance world - and invoicing such dark and skanky retreats is common practice.

But that's finance. It has it's own moral values.

Money makes the world go round. Money is the root of evil. Therefore the world is evil.

I've vocally quoted that for decades.

Politics has its own moral values, as well… and despite me living in Toronto where the most recent former mayor liked to smoke crack cocaine, spew racist dialogue and utter inappropriate sexist comments as easily as breathing… the political clime does have a moral code.

With great power comes great responsibility - or so Peter Parker, the spectacular Spider-Man was told via that great communicator Stan "The Man" Lee… but when it comes to politics, if you're going to do something shady or naughty, regardless of great responsibility—don't get caught.

Which leads us to the hapless-looking fellow pictured above.

That is Miyazawa Yoichi (surname first), Japan's federal minister of industry - a very important position.

Apparently members of his staff had gone out partying at a Japanese sex bar.

Okay, fine… whatever. They even paid their bill.

That's not the issue… though being a sex bar, it is highly probable that there was 'issue'.

No… it seems that the happy, horny government workers—NOT Miyazawa - he wasn't there—they paid the bill using monies from the office.

No… they did not use the government credit card.

No… they did not raid the government's small change drawer.

No… they paid for it themselves with their own money.

So what is the problem? Where's the government scandal?

Uh… they tried to invoice it back to the government claiming usage of a sex bar as though their visit was government business.

Someone's getting screwed by this government business… but despite the embarrassment, this is hardly the type of act to take down a politico or a government.

How much was the bill at the sex bar? It was a measly 18,230 ($170).

wow (yes, lower-case). That's it? I can tell you that there probably wasn't any sex involved - unless it was a really cheap and disgusting place... in which case.. eww. Have some class. Have some dignity. Have some penicillin.

The report notes that the invoice wasn't from one person - it was from multiple people, and that the 18,320 was them combined cost for all of them.

It might have just been the entrance fee or the cost of the necessary drinks as entrance fee.

Of course… whose to say that they didn't purchase any sexual favors with their own money? No one is giving you a receipt for that! Okay… maybe Holland or Reno where it's legal. But if they did, they didn't try and invoice that to the government.

The whole embarrassing thing is that they went into a sex bar.

Is that so embarrassing?

Well… yeah… the place could be owned by a Yakuza clan… do you want the Yakuza working with members of the government?  

Anyhow… Miyazawa, as you can see from the photo above - he ain't happy. But, he should be okay, job-wise… even though his predecessor Obuchi Yuko (surname first) stepped down over claims she misspent political funds.

So… Miyazawa… he only JUST arrived on the job as of Tuesday, October 21, 2014. Welcome! Here's your scandal. Please move to the back of the line.

And further… the whole visit to a sex bar thing occurred back in September of 2010.

But for Japan prime minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) this is the THIRD political scandal to hit him - even though HE only came to power in December of 2012.

Like Miyazawa, Abe has inherited a scandal through no fault of their own…. though he did put Obuchi into the position of Trade minister.

Yes, one scandal was Obuchi's alleged misspending, the other is the sex bar stuff that happened four years ago - but all things that have only come to light this week.

The third scandalous event involves Japan's justice minister Matsushima Midori - another woman (what is it about women and politics? Ha! Plenty!) who resigned her position after opponents allege she tried to buy votes - IE misspent money.

Here's the thing regarding Abe… it's the first major problem for him since he came to power nearly two years ago. His two years in power is actually quite impressive for Japan, consider that before him Prime Ministers entered and exited office as easily as government workers in a sex bar. I'm here - I'm gone.

But the real shame, of course, is that he has lost two high profile FEMALE ministers - a serious blow to his promise to raise the profile of women working in Japan.

There's your role models, women…

The Obuchi resignation as Trade minister is particularly galling to Abe, as that area of government has been in charge of Japan's energy sector… yes… that part of the government that is looking after public safety at nuclear power plants - with currently all 48 of the existing ones still shut down following the near multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Dai-Ichi facility in Fukushima-ken.

Recently, Japan's federal government has been pushing to restart the nuclear plants that have passed the muster and are considered safe and following all the rules and regulations - at least that's the news as reported to Abe by the minister of Trade.

How do you trust the government to do the right thing when they have been forced to resign over misappropriation of monies and wrongly invoicing (and we assume getting monies back) for time spent at a Japanese sex club?

You can't.

That's the scandalous part of this whole bad couple of weeks for Abe and the government of Japan.

Dim your lights. The party appears to be over.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above is Industry minister Miyazawa Yoichi - Photograph: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images
PPS: Want some cool female role models? Check out this article at Ozy: HERE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Japan Movies: Hercules Defeats All Comers

I know... the image above seems to have nothing to do with Hercules... despite the effort required for gentleman in the photo to prop up the legs of the very sexy Japanese woman... who may or may not be playing the role of a high school student.

Here's a an interesting tidbit from the shhh-quiet darkness of Japanese movie-goers—manga adaptation Kinyori Renai (aka Close Range Love) beats Hercules on admissions, but loses on revenue.

So… despite the fact that Hercules (starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) opened on top of the Japanese box office with $1.32 million (¥143 million) from 72,000 admissions and 653 screens this weekend, Japanese manga adaptation romance Kinkyori Renai took home $1.03 million (¥112 million) for second place, but was number uno in terms of admissions, with 91,400 - which is important, because in Japan… that is how they really rank a movie—how many people go to see it, rather than how much money it takes in.

It's like how The Avengers sold 50 million tickets and made $380-million… in JUST the first FOUR weeks in JUST the U.S. of A.

Compare that how in 1939, the great classic movie Gone With The Wind took in $221 million.

Cool… so The Avengers is a better movie? Not in the strict sense of the word 'better". So more people went to see The Avengers… no… not really. I think more people 'died' in Gone With The Wind.

Gone With The Wind was in theaters for four years, 60 million tickets sold… and when you compare the $506 million it made in 1939-1943… adjust it to 2014's inflation… and now you have some $3.3 billion.

So… adjust for the higher 3D ticket prices for Hercules (which opened in the U.S. back in July of 2014) and bigger proportion of adult tickets sold, versus the younger audience for Kinkyori Renai... and it's obvious that more people saw Kinkyori Renai than Hercules.

Not the whips and chains Herc! Not the whips and chains!
What the heck is Kinkyori Renai? As far as I can tell it is about a female genius in everything but English… after insulting her English teacher - and he hearing it, she starts getting private lessons from him… which is actually far less nefarious than it sounds.

Except... from the image above - it certainly looks nefarious. That female student - that's as good a reason as any to not offer private lessons - to avoid possible jail time.

I wouldn't give private English lessons to any female under the age of 21 - especially since I taught junior high - probably better to be safer rather than sorry… but apparently the Kinkyori Renai series is for the teens. (Actually... definitely NOT 'probably'.)

I am unsure how anyone could create an on-going comic book/manga - let alone a movie out of such a topic, so I assume that despite the limited descriptions of the manga/anime, I'll bet there's a whole lot more stuff going on.

Denzel Washington's The Equalizer (opened in the US at the end of September 2014) taking the third spot with $722,000 (¥78 million) from only 183 screens.

Further down the Japanese box-office chart, Grace of Monaco, the Grace Kelly biopic starring Nicole Kidman, fell to sixth after opening in the third spot last weekend.

Stand by Me Doraemon dropped to the 10th spot after nearly three months that saw it earn $74 million (¥8 billion) in Japan. The Takashi Yamazaki-directed 3D CG installment of the long-running manga, TV series and theatrical franchise is due for release in an unprecedented 59 overseas territories.

Cool… I've not seen Doraemon in English, but I always did enjoy attaching his antics on Japanese TV back in the early 1990s. I taught myself how to speak colloquial Japanese from watching Japanese cartoons.

Unfortunately, most of my sentence structure involved me, at the end of a sentence, hitting my conversationalist with a fish with X's over its eyes.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Japanese Town Rebuffed For Blabbing About WWII Sins

Japan has always wanted to bury the truth regarding its negative actions and inaction's during those dark days of WWII and earlier if you are one of those southeast Asian countries Japan was being a prick with.

Here in a link to The New York Times is the story how how Japan literally buried the truth about some nasty business that went on in a small fishing village... and now - even in 2014 the residents of that particular village are coming under fire from some factions in Japan who call them traitors for bringing to light these 70 year old crimes...

Imagine... trying to do the right thing... and trying to erect a monument admitting one's own guilt and to honor the dead... and being lambasted as a traitor for it.

Granted... not everyone in Japan feels this way - and I doubt if even half the people think this way... but the problem remains that the one's who do feel anger at those causing Japan to look weak and blabbing state secrets have big mouths themselves.

Kettle. Pot. Pot. Kettle. Black.

It's a sad state of affairs when one gets chastised publicly for doing the right thing. It's wrong when the Mayor has to intervene and admit defeat in order to protect the town's economy.

It's wrong that the bullies get to win. Yeah, yeah... you Japanese are tired of being told that you must apologize for all the bad mojo you caused in a war that ENDED nearly 70 years ago. I get that.

But the problem is, is that is another crime you got away with and never apologized for.

What should the global community do? Accept a blanket apology for everything? Okay... then confess to the global community all of the evil that was wrought in the name of the Emperor - and then apologize with one blanket statement.

The global community might or might not accept that apology, but at least you can say you apologized for everything.

The problem is that after 70 years plus... memories of what was done and to whom it was done to have been dulled by age or voided by death of those who knew the secrets.

But when they are discovered, it doesn't excuse a country from getting off its ass and saying they are sorry for the actions of its citizens. What great hurt does that cause anyone who has confidence in themselves?

Ah... perhaps Japan has no confidence in itself and fights to project itself as a big, bad samurai with a sharp, pokey sword.

Shut your damn whining, Japan. Apologize when it has come to light you have screwed up and be grown-up enough to move on and ensure the sins of the father and grandfather do not rear its collective ugly head again.

While I suppose Japan notes wryly that very few people alive today played an active part in the evil crap - so why can't we just move past all of the fussin'-and-a-fightin'.

Perhaps because English translations of Japanese apologies always see to denote Japanese 'regret,' rather than a better word that might mean 'sorrow'. It's a far more powerful word. 

Aha... so what exactly am I talking about? You should read that New York Times article now!

Click HERE to read about how Japan seems to still have some difficulty in doing the right thing.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image above was taken from The New York Times article written by Martin Fackler. The photograph is by Ko Sasaki for The New York Times.

Mental Health In Japan


A 2008 study by Japan's Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor found that 24 per cent of Japanese people had suffered from some kind of mental health problem.

That's one in five people.

Another report found that one in five adults had considered killing themselves, with actual suicide rates at 51 per 100,000 people — twice as high as the U.S. and three times that of the UK.

Makes one not want to be Japanese.

For those of you who do think you suffer from a mental health issue - don't worry... the stigma isn't as strong as it used to be just six years ago when that initial report came out!

Look around your office or classroom... and know you aren't alone.

In my workplace, I know of at least six people who have confided in me that they suffer from depression... and who knows how many more out there at my place have it or something else.

I don't - believe it or not - but I am understanding of it. Amongst many family members who suffer from it are a cousin, uncle, aunt and even a grandmother. Any others would just be a guess, but I think there might be a couple more.

Having said all that, please go and talk to either a doctor or licensed professional or professional service about your concerns.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ultima Japanese Manga

I was one of those kids who was early into the concept of playing video games at home - sometime in the late 70s and early 1980s.

While I do recall playing such text adventure video games like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it was really when video came into vogue that video games became 'real'.

While my favorite game from the early days was the Seven Cities of Cibola - a large floppy diskette game where one had to go and placate or eliminate the new world natives in order to garner as much gold et al as possible - I think in today's terms it would be considered politically incorrect - it was when the RPG (role-playing game) adventure games started coming out that I was super hooked.

Although relatively late to the imaginative and highly complex game of Dungeons & Dragons back in 1979, my nerdiness was complete when I was able to play video games of a similar ilk… I finished my first one in 20 hours… but was in seventh heaven - where the dead natives go - when I first encountered Lord British and the world of Ultima.That's a screen shot of the first game above from 1980, though admittedly, I only joined the party in 1983 with Ultima III, which was when the games really got good.

Let's just say it was Dungeons and Dragons in a video game, and let's just say it was terribly fun and let's just say I never studied at school anymore… I won't say because of it, because I was, as a youngster simply a lazy little basturd. That spelling is correct.

Along with living in my parent's basement, watching reruns of Star Trek, playing D&D and later AD&D (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons), I was a rock and roll/punk rock record-purchasing demon who also bought virtually every single comic book published in the 1980s, and have every single video game system made at that time, as well as a hi-tech computer with modem and tablet et al… I was wired to the future in ways you can't imagine.

I dreamed of electronic sheep and read about Johnny Mnemonic before Blade Runner and er, Johnny Mnemonic became films about Utopian dystopia.

Johnny Mnemonic, which featured many scenes shot in Toronto and Montreal, was premiered in Japan on April 15, 1995 before anywhere else in the world.

So.. I'm just saying that I was incredibly tapped in to the future back in the 1980s, and it was obvious why I was still a virgin.

Come the 1990s and so come I.

Nowadays, I don't even have a cellphone (they can track you, you know - just kidding, I don't care about that… I just don't have a need for a cell phone. Call me at work or at home).

Conversely, no longer being a techno geek, I can get laid anytime I like. I just don't want to, he says as his nose grows longer.

But back to Ultima. I played maybe five or six versions of the computer video game, with each successive game becoming longer and harder (that's what she said) and replete with better graphics and gameplay (that's what I say).

As mentioned, I also collect comic books - I'm stuck at around 35,000 not being able to continue the now expensive hobby these past two years, but imagine if I knew that there were actually comic books published regarding the Ultima video game storyline?! If there was porn involved back in 1988, I would have been all over it, which could ruin the pages, but you know what I mean.

Here's the kicker, though. It wasn't just a comic book form of Ultima… it was a manga version of Ultima - Japanese comic books … which you pretty much figured out if you see the pictures around this blog.

Circa 1988-89 when Pony Canyon/FCI was publishing Japanese editions of the Ultima video games, Japanese book publisher JICC released four full-length manga series loosely inspired by the games' stories - basically Ultima III and Ultima IV. (Anybody familiar with Japanese comics will understand what 'loosely' means in this context).

In addition to these, Ultima also appeared in short stories and comics in a variety of different Japanese magazines due to the wild popularity of Japanese-flavored western fantasy in Japan in the late 80's and early 90's, a popularity that was largely inspired by Ultima and Wizardry.

The comic book/manga versions are presented below - just covers, unfortunately:  


JICC No. 1: Ultima: The Terror of Exodus
 (ウルティマ ~ エクソダスの恐怖 ); When the dark god of evil, Exodus, arises once more in the realm of Sosaria, it resurrects the evil magicians Mondain and Minax and with their aide threatens to plunge the land into eternal darkness.
It's up to the four chosen "Dragon Warriors" of prophecy to defeat it: Genji, a futuristic space explorer; Aida, a peaceful, animal-loving cleric; Lennon, a paranoid and often disgruntled bard who seems a lot like John Lennon; and Bigelow, a mechanized robot with a capacity for human emotion.
Created by artist Tanaka Seiji (surname first), it was published on Ausust 15, 1988 and sold for ¥880 (now about US $8.13) and provides a loosely retelling of the events contained within the video game Ultima III.



JICC No. 2: Ultima: Quest of the Avatar (ウルティマ ~ クエスト オブ アバタール);

A young paladin, Deane goes on a quest to discover what has become of his older brother, the druid Shiva, who embarked on the quest of the Avatar some years ago.
Along the way he meets a variety of new friends and eventually comes to learn the truth about who he is and what he is fated to become.
Created by artist Tanaka Yuko (surname first), it was published on August 29, 1988 for ¥900 (~ now about US $8.32) , retelling the events of the video game Ultima IV.


JICC No. 3: Ultima: The Fall of Magincia
 (ウルティマ ~ マジンシアの滅亡); Britannia's seas are being ravaged by monsters under the command of the sorcerer Vitor, head of Magincia's merchants.
The young pirate captain Susadora and his gang - accompanied by Rani Sentri, captain of Britannia's special forces - are commanded by Lord British to find arms strong enough to stop Vitor, as well as discover a mysterious truth about Susadora himself.
Created by artist Watanabe Hiroyuki (surname first), it was published on December 15, 1990 selling for ¥980 (now about US $9.05).


JICC No. 4: Ultima: The Maze of Schwarzschild
 (ウルテイマ ~ シュワルツシルドの迷宮);  Aida and Lennon have resurfaced in Genji's outer-space "homeworld," under new identities as caretakers of a space station. But so have Mondain and Minax - as scientists who have discovered the remnants of Exodus trapped within an asteroid and seek a way to unseal the dark god.
The hero Genji is shown on the front cover, with Aida, Lennon and Bigelow on the back.
Created by Tanaka Seiji (surname first), it was published on November 15, 1991 and sold for ¥980 (now about US $9.05).

The art in all of these manga is of the typical Japanese style art - see:
.. and the stories are less than stellar - certainly not up to par as to what the video games were...

Still, a part of me wishes he had seen this back in his sacrificial virgin days and that he could have read it. Now... if you can find one, just know that there is an APP for translating Japanese language via a quick scan, into English and perhaps a few other languages. 

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Simpsons Do Japan - II

The Simpsons take on Japanese 'culture' yet again, this time during the October 19, 2014 episode - their so-called Halloween episode, the Treehouse of Horror XXV (25)... for those of you who still don't know your Roman Numerals - for shame!

I had meant to post this last weekend, but I got tied up - unfortunately just the busy kind. That's my shame.

The routine shows the Simpsons in various formats, including coming face-to-face with themselves as they originally appeared back in the 1980s on the Tracey Ullman Show - I love that show... but my favorite episode from that original run was Bart trying to catch a football thrown by his dad so the whole family could all go out for ice cream. Yeah... I was into the Simpsons before they had their own TV show.

Anyhow... on this more modern episode, the Simpson family also meets themselves in another format - this one all Japanese, with Maggie as Pikachu from Pokemon, Lisa as Mikasa from Attack on Titan, Bart as Naruto from Naruto, Homer as Zoro from One Piece, Marge as Matsumoto from Bleach, and even their pooch Santa’s Little Helper as Haku from Miyazaki Hayao's Spirited Away - which I give special mention to for C & S. 

I'll admit that I was initially reluctant to even post this story originally because while I recognized Bart and Maggie, I wasn't hep enough to know the others. And that's where Scoop came in. It's a weekly e-newsletter on the comic book, cartoon, anime industry... heck... anything related to collectibles... and one damn fine read... one of the few e-newsletters I read top to bottom.

That was my unabashed plug, true believers for Scoop, where the magic of comics come alive. Check'em out and sign up for an e-newsletter if you are so inclined: www.scoop.diamondgalleries.com. Tell Mr. Vaughn just who recommended the site. That would be ME.

Oh... by the by... these fine folks (Mr. Vaughn, actually) ... a few years ago... sent me a free comic book... it was an Uncle Scrooge free comic book day comic that was a special version put out by the Baltimore Ravens. I have team loyalty, too even though I know which team Mr. Vaughn likes best. I am talking about football. 

Anyhow, after the Japanese anime Simpsons version, they panned across other versions, including Adventure Time - love that show!!!, with Finn, Jake, Fionna, Ice King and Princess Bubblegum, then South Park (I used to love this show... then Chef left and so did I - yeah-yeah, you can suck on my chocolate salty balls - still one of my favorite songs... I bough the CD!), Archer (saw one episode and thought it was great, but it's usually on when I do my late-night writing), and Despicable Me - which I liked, but thought the second movie was over-rated. There was also a LEGO Simpsons family... and two others which I could not identify - but maybe you can!

I'm sure there will be more Japan mentions in the Simpsons - and maybe next time I'll try and mention things earlier.

You can see what you missed - BELOW:

Cheers
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Japan Wants You To Have More Sex


Japan is old, ancient even… in its culture, and unfortunately, in age of its population, so much so that the concept of 'depopulation' is an actual fear and now part of the country's battle to stop the age-old fear of death by old age.

No one wants to die… at least not most people - and so Japan is setting up dialogue and committees to address the problem.

Short of performing a Logan's Run Carousel solution (killing people when they reach a certain age) or perhaps NOT having people feel they need to work so much that they are too tired to have sex, the Japanese government is looking at how its own economic policies can play a part in at the very least maintaining its current population.

The government plan is actually based on a report it received in May of 2014 from a government-appointed panel

Now, perhaps this is just me, because I am an immigrant to Canada - like about 99% of the people here - but it seems to me that Japan could quite easily fix its aging population problem (which is compounded by fewer people having kids), by simply opening up its borders to increase immigration and making it easier for those immigrants to become citizens.

But… that's not what Japan is doing. Nope… the Japanese government wants to stick its collective nose into Japan's boudoir… its bedroom… and see if it can boost the country's fertility rate… oh yeah… and to also start-up some other measures that might stave of Japan's pubic hairs from greying. 

The Deciding The Future panel (known as the Sentakususru Mirai - which no matter how you describe it, it just sounds wrong in English), was appointed under some cabinet’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, releasing an interim report in May saying that in 50 years some 40 per cent of the country will be older than 65-years of age.

Granted I'll be close to 100 by then, but I'm pretty sure Japanese women my age aren't going to be as attractive to me then, what with me being all decomposing and all.

As well, the report suggests that the population could fall by one-third… drop by 33 per cent, meaning that there will be a real fight for adult diapers with plenty of rambling talk about how much better things were in the old days.

The report goes on to suggest that even if the country's fertility rate was to INCREASE to a stabilizing 2.07 kids per couple by the year 2030, the population would still drop to around 100-million… dropping even lower after that before stabilizing eventually at around 2090. It's around 127,650,000 per 2012 numbers.

An older population base will also mean that unless Japan starts to better utilize women (of any age) and employable senior citizens in the workforce… there will be a real shortage of Japanese labor.

Prime Minister Abe, who is quite often about the now, but still seems to want to do the right thing for the future, knows that if there isn't a stable and growing Japanese labor force, that alone could hinder his plans for a Japanese recovery into super domination.

In fact… a shrinking Japanese economy would become more susceptible to pressures from foreign financial markets and increasingly incapable of curtailing the effects of short-term market fluctuations.

Oh yeah… more old people… more social welfare monies to be paid out.

A shrinking economy could start a complete downward spiral of Japan's fortunes from which it might not be able to recover for a very long time.

What to do, what to do? I believe in Canada back in the early 20th century there were rewards programs for parents who had multiple children…. maybe Japan could try something like that… pay the Japanese to procreate. Fug… I'd do it. I know I'd certainly like to practice more.

The report says that the need is to “ensure a prosperous environment for the young and consecutive generations so they can marry and raise children.” To accomplish this, the panel stresses the goal of maintaining the population at around 100 million over the next 50 years.

The report says Japan must apply MORE resources to increasing the birth rate.

The report highlighted five areas where reform efforts need to be directed.

1) Create an environment conducive to raising children.
Ideally, the average number of children per couple should be 2.4, but currently this stands at 1.7. Policies to create an environment favorable to raising children, such as gradated increases in birth, child-rearing, and education subsidies for couples with three or more children, should be advanced to bring the fertility rate back up to the 2.0 range. These subsidy increases should rely on the current generation of taxpayers instead of passing the cost on to later generations.

I think that means that everyone is going to pay you to have more sex as long as you take off that condom and don't use any kind of birth control.

2. Ensure long-term growth by opening the economy and creating new value through innovation.
Keeping economic growth and development steady at the current levels is key to maintaining quality of life… but don't we all want more? I want more. I want more than what I have, that's for sure.

I'm not sure what this means: "Advancing open and flexible institutional reforms will reinvigorate industry and corporations, while removing domestic barriers will allow Japan to enjoy the fruits of global growth and development by building a reservoir of human, material, monetary, and information resources."

"Okay… it's now… nearly 2015… I want people… to go out… there… and start innovating. … Come on… hurry up! We're on… a tight…  deadline! Innovate people innovate," screams honest Abe while tympani drums beat out a slow four-four time rhythm. 

WTF? That, my friends, is government bullsh!t that says what it wants but offers no real plan of how to achieve it. Advancing open and flexible institutional reforms? Explain that please?!

No wait… are you saying what I think you are saying? That maybe Japan needs to remove the huge pickle from up its ass and get foreign workers in?

I'm not talking JET Programme or hunky New Zealand bartenders, or whatever you are  - no… I'm talking about having more gaijin brainiacs in… maybe those with the skills to create the next robots working alongside the Japanese worker!Maybe even having gaijin bosses if applicable.

It means getting rid of the adage I just made up, but seems to be a real philosophy: "You don't have to be Japanese to work around here, but it helps!" Just take the best players available - regardless of country of origin!

*Gasp*  - or if you are Japanese, please feel free to suck a lot of air in between your teeth - it means having a less homogenous society - but look, it's Japan…we should learn to speak your language if we are going to live there (says the guy who learned enough to survive three years and get laid often).

3. Structure society so all people can reach their potential, regardless of age or gender.
If you just read the header, it sounds like - I'm six-years old, and I want to be a dinosaur doctor… or a rock star. Age does matter… as does gender. From what I understand, female triceratops really dislike male doctors, claiming they are too horny.  I know…pot…  kettle… black.

Just kidding there… this stuff is so effing dry that if I don't release every little while  - you know what I mean - I'd go crazier.

Basically, the report  says that either the government needs to mandate something or companies need to do it themselves, but Japan needs to become the type of country where there is balance between work and home life.

Whoa. That is radical. You mean you can leave after working an eight-hour shift? That you don't HAVE to stay as long as the boss does (you know he's asleep in his closed-door office, right?)… and then you don't have to go out drinking with the co-workers… you can go home… relax… watch some TV (realize that every show is food-related)… hang out with the kid… help put the kid to bed after screaming at them for being so annoying… and then screw the brains out of your spouse…. no condom, though… Japan needs pregnant women.

In my mind, by having the, oh, let's say husband home early, there can be more of a sharing of home tasks… of cooking, cleaning, laundry… and hell… maybe the wife can then get a job during the day. Heck… the kids are at school and at club anyways… 

So yeah… men and women can be in the workforce at the same time… oh, how I dream of that. Nine effing years… I'll just say that I used to be upper middle-class. But now…

Japan… just think… with two incomes coming in… you can enjoy your leisure time that much more!

It's weird, huh… one paying job… two people tired… no time for real fun.
Two paying jobs… shared familial responsibilities… more time for real fun. Brilliant panel report…

Make companies pay overtime. Or, since everyone is a "Salary Man" and get's paid the same regardless of how many hours of work are put in - let people (salary dudes and dudettes) know that Japanese tradition has killed Japanese procreation. To quote my favorite line (and yours) from The Bad News Bears: In Breaking Training: "Let them play! Let them play!" 

The report suggests that there must also be some sort of way for the older people to find some employment - to make an active an productive part of society.

What… like Walmart greeters? Let me tell you… I have NEVER been greeted upon entry into Walmart. I have been greeted every time I walk into a LEGO store in Toronto.

Still… I know what the report means. Between the ages of 65 and 68, my grandfather worked as a security guard at what were then ritzy apartment buildings. Those buildings - just like Gotham City - are now pretty… ugly. My grandfather had a heart attack and then retired... which isn't helpful to Japan or Canada which still paid social security out to him for another 20 years... but with more old people working you get more family income... and if they do die at work... well... the government saves a few bucks. I know - heartless bastard... but, it's reality. 

4. Strategic promotion of regional strengths
The report means find new ways to promote agriculture and tourism… to create local employment hubs… to which I say say… whaaaaaa?

I'm pretty sure that looking for new ways to promote Japan's tourism and agriculture has always been high on Japan's list… not counting WWII when it preferred its people to visit other countries or the three hundred years it sheltered itself from outsider influence.

Agriculture? What? Promote agriculture? Come in and see our many rice fields?

I know that in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, there's an Asian Institute where they taught Japanese rice farming techniques to folks from various east Asian countries. I think the part about needing a wet monsoon season falls on deaf ears to the folks from Afghanistan, however.

Okay... maybe Japan could start growing its own marijuana or poppy plants for opium et al.  

Basically, this whole section (#4) is bullcrap of the highest degree.  

It says that regional urban centers need to be the focus of concentrated government service programs and efforts to revitalize economic activity - which means they need to find ways to stop the country bumpkins from wanting to go to the see the bright lights, big city.

You know that you want to see the city… that the allure is strong, but what about your mother and father? Who will help them harvest the rice? You stare at the mirror and wonder if anyone else knows that the book Bright Lights, Big City was written in the second-person.

Anyhow, the report says it would be very helpful if not every single effing job was placed in Osaka or Tokyo.

But… I'm pretty sure that many a company has already moved or expanded its facilities to the do inaka (rural areas), creating a dough inaka. I know many an automobile manufacturer and many an electronics firm have factories and offices out in the smaller towns and cities… 

What does the report suggest? It doesn't. It just says what you need to do without telling you how to do it.

"Three-four-six-eight-everybody innovate! Goooooo team!"   

5. Create a secure social base
Efforts must be made to create a specific Japanese brand through promoting the unique traditions and culture, as well as an aesthetic sense and values that are products of the country’s distinct historical landscape. Japan can remain an influential and active player on the international stage by contributing to global efforts and rule making.

That's what the report says. Really.

Apparently the people on the committee that wrote the report have never been to Japan.

There are Japanese bridges, Japanese wristwatches, Japanese chopsticks, Japanese kimono… everything is turning Japanese, I really think so.

Make people drink more sake? Everyone should wear kimino? How do you create an industry? Do we need to create MORE Hello Kitty brands? More Nintendo? More Sony? More Pokemon? They really ant the world to catch'em all.

In fact, I would wager, if I had a yen to bet, that Japan's promoting of itself… of its traditions and culture are what has gotten the country in this fug-less situation in the first place.

It's time to be proud of being Japanese - okay, I get that. I'm proud to be a good Catholic boy and a great Canadian man. Okay… Catholic by accident, but Canadian by choice. I don't have to live here, but I choose to because I love it.

It's okay to love the culture and tradition and history of your country. It's okay. Just don't think that your sh!t smells better than everyone else's sh!t. That's how feelings of superiority arise and that's when countries, imperialistically-speaking, go nutsy (sic).

Look… this whole report is a lot of interesting stuff, that really makes you think… but so does the whole Harry Potter book series… knowing that it's a whole lot of made-up hocus-pocus.

Basically, if Japan takes ONE single thing away from the whole report… it's that IF the country isn't keen on allowing greater immigration and creating easier ways for immigrants to become Japanese citizens…. THEN… it really does need to look at halting the population decline but creating financial incentives for families with at least three on a leash.

In fact… along with financial incentives to have a minimum of three kids - regardless of kiddie gender - the Japanese government needs to make sure the families can afford to properly bring-up the kids… that no kid suffers because some Japanese mom and dad are keen to whip out the Japanese pride.

Pay as you play. Pay as they grow up - RIGHT through the end of school days… stopping payments when the kids are 18 is crap… parents can't afford university - at least not everyone can… and despite genetics, one can't assume a scholarship will pay for everything - so the government needs to find a way to ensure no kid is left behind that is capable of succeeding in university.

As well… Japan really needs to mandate some proper work environment legislation.

No one may work more than 10 hours on any given shift, unless it's the police, medical or firemen who can work a maximum of 12 hour-shifts. Or whatever… you can decide on the exact timing.

Hell… three eight-hour shifts means three times the employees needed for police, medical and fire.

Who pays? Tax companies more… cities… citizens. I don't know… At least I'm making suggestions… I would need to have a complete understanding of Japanese economics to have an honest answer rather than just an honest opinion.

The point is… allow people to work eight hours and to be able to go home without fear of recrimination from fellow employees or employers who might consider them lazy!

"There's no law that says Japanese workers must work 16 hours a day."

True… but it's the Japanese culture of bullying - oh it exists - that frowns upon individuals who don't work as hard as the boss who... trust me… is either asleep or working hard counting all the money he has made by his employees providing him will all that FREE labor.

Even though I was a gaijin in Japan… I worked my eight hours at school or the board of education office and then I said good night and left for home.

In Japan, when one leaves work before others, they say - and I mean everyone says this: "Osakini (shitsureishimasu)" , which translates in English to: “I am being rude doing this before you.”

I even said it. I said it because I initially felt bad that I was leaving before everyone… because I wanted nothing more than to fit in. (That's not true - I wanted nothing more than to go home and relax and, if I could, have sex with or without a woman.)

Yes... even I felt bad for leaving before my still-working comrades.

And THAT is why everyone in Japan works late. "The nail that stands up gets hammered down."

There's nothing completely wrong with that Japanese adage. But there are times when it doesn't work.

Japan needs to figure out when it does and doesn't work. Then go home and start making babies.

Somewhere on a panel,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Japanese Giant Centipede

There are few creatures I am actually afraid of.

Snakes, I don't care for, but have touched and held and had draped over my shoulders. Spiders… I like the amazing and spectacular Spider-man, but hate the actual eight-legged arachnid. While I don't have arachnophobia, I detest them simply because every time I am bitten by one, I get a very nasty reaction ranging from a swelling of a finger or hand, to near-death of flesh as the poison worked its way through my veins. Just hate the bastards.

I also really dislike centipedes (and millipedes).

Basically, I think I hate creatures that naturally lack legs or have more than six.

When I was a teenager, in the basement of my current house I once spied a centipede the length and width of my shoe… I should know, because that's what I used to beat it into submission, by which I mean death.

That puppy was around 11-inches long and perhaps thanks to the viciousness of my assault, I left a stain on the wall for a few months until we all became sickened by it and replaced the wood paneling with drywall. So, something good came from its death.

My basement is a wet basement, which means it is damp… and there are always plenty of critters hiding when I cautiously flick on the lights.

Never seen a cockroach - except in Japan and Thailand… oh… my… god… Thailand… the walls moved…

And while I did see horrible flying and hissing cockroaches in a Japanese ryokan (Japanese-style inn) that Ashley and I once stayed in, I only ever saw two cockroaches in my apartment - one, the day I moved in - it probably thought the place had become abandoned, and upon arriving back in Ohtawara-shi after I went back to Toronto for a two-week vacation… both crawlies paid for their impunity with their lives.

By the way… after that experience at a ryokan, I only ever stayed at good, western-style hotels whenever I traveled about in Japan.

While I did have some of the largest and most ugly-looking spiders I had ever seen live on my apartment's northern balcony (never the western one), not once did I ever see a centipede.

I suppose it's because while I may have turned over a new leaf while in Japan, it was only literally and not physically.

Out of sight, out of mind - it works so well in the bug world, doesn't it Caroline? Who's kidding whom… brave girl that she is that does me the honor of reading this blog, I doubt she would have been able to get past the initial (and only) photograph above.

So… even though I'm afraid I may have lost a reader, let's continue on and take a look at the Japanese centipede… well, one of them anyways.

Man… I hate this topic.

Centipedes in Japanese, are known as Mukade (百足) or the omukade (if we provide it with an honorific).

There are two species of Japan centipede that are of the nasty variety... the Scolopendra subspinipes japonica and the Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans. The Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans is known as the Japanese Giant Centipede... and because I only discovered this centipede was a Japanese one after I write everything below, this blog will instead focus on the obviously Japanese one: the Scolopendra subspinipes japonica.

Okay... let me rephrase all that... there is a lot of conflict in the bug world about what centipede is which. Scientists can tell, but to be honest, I haven't been able to find a clear answer as to what the differences are.

If a centipede scientist wishes to contact me and reveal to me in clear language just what separates the mutilans from the japonica, I'll revise this at a later date will full accreditation. Gauntlet thrown.

In the mean time. Let's pretend that everything is the japonica version and that it is a giant fricking centipede and that I really have a dislike - not fear of bugs, whether they be anthropods or insects.  

The total number of scolopendra subspinipes infraspecies, include:
Scolopendra subspinipes dehaani
Scolopendra subspinipes fulgurans
Scolopendra subspinipes gastroforeata
Scolopendra subspinipes japonica
Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans
Scolopendra subspinipes piceoflava
Scolopendra subspinipes subspinipes
Scolopendra subspinipes cingulatoides

See... wouldn't you just assume that there was only one Japanese sub-species of centipede on that list? Fret not... the Giant isn't much different... and in fact, size and facts below apply to both. 

Before we continue... I should clarify that centipedes are NOT insects - they are arthropods, that is they have an exoskeleton (external skeleton), a segmented body and jointed appendages. Tomaytoe - tomahtoe.

These ugly buggers live all over the world: Antilles, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, India, Malaysia, Java, Borneo, Japan, Brazil, Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, Ryukyu Islands, Saipan, Sulawesi and more… or basically every place in Asia that I have had sex or thought about having sex. Mostly the latter.

With such a vast habitat, quite naturally they have many common names, such as: Chinese Red Head, Giant Centipede, Jungle Centipede, Orange Legged Centipede, Red Headed Centipede and Vietnamese Centipede.

I like redheads - strawberry is my favorite flavor after cinnamon (okay, not really, but why not in this case), but man… these buggies are too nasty to have a crush on, and instead I feel the need to crush upon.

The whole Scolopendra Subspinipes subspecies are known to have the WORST venom of all centipedes, with a bite that matches it in ouchiness.

I'm not sure how, but the centipede is apparently important to medical science - but it is also supposed to be the only centipede to have caused a human death, after one bit a seven-year-old Filipino girl, who died about 28 hours later.

In case you are wondering, all centipedes have venomous bites… your level of discomfort is matched by your level of allergy to it.

Last week while cleaning out the eaves troughs, a tiny orange one bit me on the inner right part of my right index finger causing a bit of minor swelling and a fair bit of itching. Spiders cause me more trouble. Then again… this was no Scolopendra subspinipes japonica.

Like the rest of the subspecies, the Scolopendra subspinipes japonica can grow up to 10-inches in length and live to seven to 10 years. Not if I'm around, of course.

Just like us Kafkaesque humans, they come in a wide range of colors, but most common are the ones that are brown to reddish brown with yellow to yellow-orange legs.

Like other centipedes, they are fast, but are considered to be aggressive - which is not what I want to hear.

Yeah, I know some of you collect bugs, but I like having sex with the opposite sex, so I have no interest in bugs. I know that was harsh.

Look… I have no problem with critters living in areas outside - but in my house or love hotel, I don't want to see them.

Here's the science-stuff:
Like other centipedes of Scolopendra genus, the subspinipes species has 21 body segments, with each segment having one pair of legs attached. That's 42 total legs… hardly the 100 one might expect from a creature incorrectly named centipede.

Want to know how disgusting this centipede is? It has a pair of modified legs (called forcipes) on its head, covered up by a flat shield that has a pair of antennae.

Look… I have a healthy appreciation for legs… especially if they connect to an ass… but despite me having legs on the brain, I don't think it cool that a centipede does.

These killer legs on the Scolopendra subspinipes like the japonica are indeed killers.
   
The forcipules actually has claws - sharp ones - that are connected to the centipede's venom glands - and as such are what the bug uses to kill things with.

While I may or may not be joking about an innate ability to breath through my ears (someone please love me) (there's an old joke about people being screwed up - feet smell and nose runs), these and all centipedes actually breathe through the openings located along the sides of their bodies.

Let's see… venomous… let's on the head… breathes through its sides… aggressive… creepy… crawly… fast… fugging bugs.

The breathing holes can be round or s-shaped and why that matters, I don't know. They also have crappy vision… I do, too, but I am attuned to bug movement and can only be surprised from behind.

So… like a centipede, I rely not on my eyes, but on touch and on chemoreceptors - the type that make you go 'wow'.

Want to know what it eats? Why not - you're here… basically, it will eat insects, spiders… sometimes mice, small reptiles and amphibians - like holy crap!!! Basically it will eat pretty much anything that is not longer than itself.

It attacks its victims with the prehensile legs at the very rear, then curves its head around to stick its jaw (with venom) in to bite and to hold. It holds it for as long as it takes for the venom to kill the victim - which isn't long, because it is a fast-acting venom.

If it has a fight on its hands, the centipede will coil its entire body around the victim, with its legs acting as anchors all around the victim's body - and then it injects the venom.  

What a nasty creature. I will kill all centipedes I see.

For reproduction, the Scolopendra subspinipes japonica males deposit capsules containing sperm into the spermathecae of the female. She fertilizes the eggs - anywhere between 50 to 80 eggs and lays them in a dark, safe area. She will then protect the eggs until they hatch - right up until their first molting.

These Scolopendra subspinipes japonica molt once a year, and will, unless I am around, reach adulthood in about three years - maybe four. Adults will continue to molt once a year throughout its life. 

So… what is in this Scolopendra subspinipes venom? Causing swelling, weakness and/or fever in humans, the venom contains serotonin, haemolytic phospholipase A, a cardiotoxic protein and a cytolysin.

And, because everyone thinks everything can be used in medicine - the Giant Centipede is used in traditional Japanese medicines as part of a cure for cuts and wounds. Not a cure... but a balm... an ointment. You know... to make it heal better... but I would wonder if it really is, or if its just a natural healing process.

Still, sometimes the old ways have incredible value, and I would not want to be accused of being ignorant  

Okay… that's enough… I'm sufficiently grossed out by this topic…. but be warned... I might have to revisit it one more time within the next few days unless talked out of it.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image is from http://www.martingoss.co.uk

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chicago Society Gals Throw Japanese Party

Proving that I have no clue how newspapers used to work 100 years before I first became a newspaper reporter comes this wonderful story from the May 3, 1895 edition of the Daily Inter Ocean, published in Chicago (a paper that ran between 1865-1914). In a  convoluted manner, I suppose it still lives on as the Chicago Tribune

On page eight… on what I suspect was the society page, we have an article describing some wacky rich White folk having themselves a Japanese-style wedding… done mostly for fun, rather than for any sort of functional reason - which is pretty cool, in my opinion.

Here it is… presented with one headline and four sub-headlines… which is the part about the old newspapers I simply don't understand.

If you see (brackets), it's me asking a question or making a point. The real newspaper article is in italics and in yellow - so you can just read the yellow bits and ignore my perhaps not-so-witty banter.

(For example, I don't understand why there are periods and commas in headlines!)

In Japanese Attire.
Novel Entertainment at the First Congregational Church.
Marriage a La Mikado.
Mrs. W.P. Rend, of Ashland Boulevard, Entertains.
Last of the Weekly Dinners at the Union League Club—Woodlawn Woman's Club—Notes.


(It's like the whole thing was sent via telegram: "In Japanese Attire Stop Novel Entertainment at the First Congregational Church Stop Marriage a La Mikado Stop Mrs. W.P. Rend...")

I also think it is interesting that this daily Chicago newspaper makes it a point of adding the party starter - Mrs. W.P. Rend - as well as her home address, as though we simply must know who she is. Aside from the fact that maybe we know who her husband is - Mr. W.P. Rend, the nameless Mrs. Rend is not ever again mentioned in the article!

Click HERE to check out a society page from 1891 courtesy of Google. I will note that she does appear to have a daughter named Minnie - who doesn't gain any attention from this article. 

She there in the headline just to lend it credence as a 'society story')

(Who were the Rends? Well... I do know that back in 1902: "It is reported that the Continental Coal Company of Pittsburg, recently organized for the purpose of engaging in the lake traffic in Ohio coal, yesterday completed negotiations for the purchase of the large holdings of W. P. Rend Co. of Chicago, the largest independent operators in the Hocking Valley." - so the Rends must have had some money - that and the fact that Ashland Boulevard in Chicago was a very rich neighborhood 100-plus years ago. Nowadays? It appears as though many of the old buildings have either been torn down or re-purposed into condominiums.)

(Okay… here's where the story begins)

There was but one prominent wedding sodomized in this great city yesterday (I'm pretty sure my Auto Correct altered it from 'solemnized' - maybe), and that one took place at the First Congregational Church, corner of Washington boulevard and Ann street. (Wow… choppy writing and non-capitalizing of the latter part of the street name.)
Interest centered in the affair because it was a Japanese ceremony and doubly note-worthy because it was only in fun.
It was an entertainment given by the Young Ladies Missionary Society Of The First Congregational Church
(I've been part of a one-person missionary society involving young women nee ladies), and called a Japanese tea in lieu of any other name.
This is an organization of young ladies, with some twenty members, of which the officers are: President, Miss Grace Busbey; vice president Miss Agnes Mead; secretary Miss Dora Eaton; treasurer, Miss Gwynne Price.

(Call me a busy bee, but I've eaten and drunk mead for a price.) (Seriously, is it really necessary to note that EACH one is a Miss? Not so seriously, then again, I suppose it helps the prospective bachelors who are utilizing the newspaper Society Pages like I used to use my hockey cards - "Fannie - need'em, Grace - need'em, Fanny - got'em, Cherry - got'em.")
For the sake of amusement the young people arranged a Japanese wedding ceremony.
The parlors were decorated with Japanese faces, parasols, umbrellas, and fans, and looked quite attractive.
(Wait… WTF? Japanese faces? That guy… he looks Japanese - cut off his face and hang it on the wall!)
The groom of the occasion was Eugene C. Fisher and the bride Miss Ruth Peabody. (Any joke I add here is not funny.)
The "midman," or "go-between," was a real Japanese gentleman, Mr. Yoschi Hirose (Who had no face… that's also no way to spell Yoshi).
A Japanese ceremony is conducted in silence (so I'll just shut up now). There is a wine-drinking ceremony that accompanies it (Merlot, please - oops… shhh, right), three flat wooden cups of different sizes, and as many saucers being used. each of the three personages drinks from all the cups.
That is practically the ceremony.
(I'm sure I could have used a drink when I got married. And after, too.) Of course all the young people interested in the affair wore Japanese gowns (I think they mean 'kimono' - though who really knows what goes on in these orgies of rich folk parties?) and added to the picturesque quality of the occasion.
The bride was attended by the Misses Franny Brinkworth and Florence Peabody as bridesmaids.
Later there was a Japanese illustration of receiving and calling.
In the receiving party were the—
Misses—
Mattie Cooke,       Elizabeth Brinkworth,
Fannie Roberts,  Cherry Zimmermann.

In the calling party were the—
Misses—
Fanny Brinkworth,       Grace Boughton,
Ruth Peabody,             Florence Peabody.

Every caller had to bow once for every member in the receiving party, so there were sixteen bows necessary on the part of the callers.
During the evening, there was  Japanese song by Mr. Hirose.


-30-

Okay… I tried to keep quiet… but failed miserably. I've been on a date where the woman was quiet - even though she was enjoying herself, while I was jabbering away like an excited chimp with a bag of peanuts. However, she started talking after I removed the gag. Just kidding about the gag. Anyhow, some people can endure the silence better than others who see it as being as awkward as (add joke later - something about how to keep people in suspense).

So… did you notice that there were at least two women named Fannie/Fanny in the party… two different spellings, of course. I wonder if they were ever the butt of someone's jokes?

And Cherry? Leaving the three jokes in my head, I'll just state that the only woman I every said hello to with that name was a redhead would dance for you for $20 a pop. I don't think it was her real name. I later saw her at another spandex ballet joint going by the name Amber - and now she was a blonde.

It appears that aside from the groom and the Japanese faceless singer, if there were other men there, they weren't worthy enough to mention.

Does the whole thing just sound like a great way for rich people to dress up in some cool clothing? I'm not against it, of course - I'd like to be rich enough to do fun stuff like that.

Does it seem like the writer of the article - unnamed, as far as I know - was trying to stretch the article out and lacked enough writing skills to draaaaaaaaagggggg out the story? I mean why else was it deemed important to explain to the reader how many times one had to bow over the course of the meet and greet?

They could have explained WHY they had to bow- that could have taken up a couple of lines, or if it was me a couple of day's worth of blogs…

The article was found courtesy of the www.readex.com, a damn fine reference library with newspapers and other ephemera that is older than Canada.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph
And nope - I have no idea why I have been writing like this lately.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Old Japanese Religious War Ceremony

Buried on Page 17, of the January 20, 1895 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper - yes, this is old news, but new to all of us - comes the following news article, found at the fantastic America's Historical Newspapers resource that has a true focus on newspapers from the 1690s and a couple of hundred years later…

Comes this tidbit. Since it is buried on Page 17… and the publishing date is 1895, we can assume that while Japan still presents some allure for western readers, the bloom on the chrysanthemum appears to have faded a little…

Thanks to Vinnie for the heads up - and please note that the newspaper was in the collection of Early American Newspapers via www.readex.com. Check'em out!

Hero Worship.
A Curious Japanese Ceremony Which Occurs Every Year

The Japanese have a curious ceremony once every year which surly must tend to fan the glow of patriotism, and may partially account for the magnificent enthusiasm they have fought for their Emperor in this war against China. At Tokio, for instance, on the sixth of every November, they hold the service in the temple of Kendan. The masses of troops and spectators form a dense crowd through the gardens and broad avenues of the temple and the neighboring streets and squares.
Little by little the officers fill the stairway of the temple, all in full dress, with the long coat held in by a silver belt like the German soldiers, and stiff little cap with a great white aigrette like the French. All the while the throb of funeral music beats its sad rhythm in our very pulses.
On a central platform raised one step above the other is the great mirror in its black frame of black wood, which is the emblem of Shintoism or ancestor worship, which is the true religion of Japan. To one side are great bags of rice and a barrel of cake or rice brandy for the repast of the dead. Large benches are run lengthwise up to the altar, which is inclosed by a curtain of clothe silver. The priests clad entirely in white with caps of woven black horse hair pass slowly to and fro. Only after three days of fasting and purification are they allowed to perform the service, and even then they must wear a triangular piece of cloth over their mouths lest their unholy breath should profane the viands sent by the Emperor and reserved for the dead alone.
A priest goes reverently to some little stools of white wood, on which lie the offerings of the Emperor, and gives the platters with a profound obeisance to another officiating priest, who raises them respectively the height of his forehead.  The cloth covering them is then taken off, and one sees arranged with that art which the Japanese understand so well, fish lying on beds of oranges, fruits and vegetables of all kinds surrounded by leaves and twigs of bamboo. Then a third priest takes them to the inner platform and a fourth arranges them on the benches before the altar. The table of the dead is spread. Then the generals descend to meet a chamberlain, who brings the homage which the Emperor prays and those who died in his defense. The high priest, clad in a long red toga, draws the roll reverently from its case. As it appears, all heads are bowed, for the young Mikado is a god and his message is divine. The high priest advances to the sacred mirror, claps his hands three times to attract the attention of the souls of the dead, first standing, then kneeling.  Three times he bows his head to the ground; then unrolling the message he reads it in a sing-song voice which runs through the entire gamut, and half the sounds are swallowed in his throat. Again he claps his hands and lays the sacred parchment on a tripod before the silver curtain. The music, which has been playing continuously, here sounds like a muffled groan. Then taking a branch of leaves, ties with the national colors, the high priest sets it up before the mystic mirror. The Secretaries of War and Marine each do the same, and the three branches symbolize the national grief. The music grows more marked, the bugles sound and all the troops present arms to the souls of their comrades dead for their duty.
I.M.


Interesting… I can't find a modern reference to this ceremony - or even an old reference… so I am unsure if such a thing still exists anymore in Japan… or was it merely a rare event that occurred during the battles Japan used to have with China… and is this ceremony we might see taken up yet again.

I hope not.

Still... if anyone out there has information on this Shinto ceremony and can tell me what it is called - please drop me a line.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

The Blog Is Late

Just a brief note of explanation... the blog entry for this date and time is delayed by nine hours. I actually wrote a blog at lunch yesterday - at work - and forgot to save it into this worksite for me to manipulate at home. Oops.

So... soon, my faithful readers... I shall continue with the minimum one-a-days.

Thank-you for your patience.

Cheers,
Andrew 'pallbearer' Joseph

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why Is It Hard For Japanese People to Live With Foreigners? It is?

So... you the foreigner have just moved in to an apartment or house in Japan... did you notice all of the For Sale signs pop up all around you?

Probably not - because it would be in Japanese, but basically, if you happened to see signage suddenly pressed down into the grass next door... sorry, pressed down into the small area where grass SHOULD be, perhaps that should be clue enough to realize that someone is moving.

Now, if you weren't already paranoid enough just by being in Japan - yes, they are talking about you... sometimes - now you have to wonder if the Japanese are moving simply because it is time to move, or because you moved in and "Kso! There goes the neighborhood!"

Or... just why is that after that family moved away when you moved in that the apartment still hasn't been rented? Didn't you hear that there is a dearth of living space in Japan, which is why, rather than build more affordable living quarters they tend to jack up the rent for everyone?

How can there be living spaces in japan that no one wants to move into?

Is it you, oh mighty foreigner? Do the Japanese simple hate to live next door to foreigners?

That is the crux of the forum question and responses going on over at Job Discussion Forums, the self-proclaimed: "The Internet's Meeting Place for ESL/EFL Students and Teachers from Around the World!" - see HERE

The main poster - from 2013 - Black Beer Man , a moniker which suggest they like dark beer, rather than that they are Black says: 

Have a look at this job posting for a real estate agent position. It says that Japanese people have extreme difficulty living in apartment buildings occupied with foreigners. https://jobs.gaijinpot.com/job/view/job_id/99173#.VEMQY_mUdPE

"Despite this need to coexist with foreigners, it is difficult for Japanese people to live with them in harmony due to anxiety caused by cultural differences and the language barrier. These obstacles make it harder to organize a society of coexistence for both Japanese and foreigners. (Company name omitted) JAPAN was established in order to solve these problems in terms of renting and settling into a new environment."

It goes on to say "...we hope to raise the language barrier between customer and landlord, thus creating a harmonious living environment, free of anxiety and fear."

Fear? Really? Is dealing with foreigners THAT stressful? I've heard the cultural differences and language barrier arguments before. However, considering the fact that Japanese people hardly ever speak to their Japanese neighbors, they are already not likely to speak to their foreign ones. Therefore, I think this argument is invalid. If problems with the foreign tenants do arise, there should be at least one employee at the real estate company that manages the apartment that can speak enough English. If an English speaker does not exist at the real estate company, maybe the foreigner's employer can help with the communication.

In many other countries, the native people do not want people from specific cultural groups living in their apartment buildings (like the French and Muslim people). However, it seems like the Japanese are not comfortable with foreigners of ANY kind.

What do you think? Why is this so?


Me again. Wow... an interesting poser of a question.

Do the Japanese really not want to live next door to a foreigner?

Now... granted I lived in Japan back in the early 1990s (1990-1993), so perhaps my thinking is outdated - that's my qualifier... but I don't think the Japanese have regressed into anxiety and fear of foreigners simply because 20 years have passed.

I personally never really talked much with the neighbors - except a greeting if we saw each other.

It's like now here in Toronto - I don't really interact with the neighbors. I say hi and all that crap, but I'm not BFF's with any of them.

I'm friendly but hardly friends.

I'm not saying that others aren't friends with their neighbors - good for you if you are... that's just not my bag. Despite the tell-all nature of this blog, I'm actually a pretty damn private person and rarely discuss what is REALLY going on in my head for fear of... well... fear. 

As a kid - in this very same neighborhood and house, I would spend time chatting with the neighbors  - who were all retired grandparents. I enjoyed talking to them, and since they were the ones who initiated the conversations with a "Hi Andrew" and a wave to come over, well... I learned a lot about them and the way things used to be in Toronto's suburbs and the city itself.

More importantly, I still remember what I was told. 

Still, despite the camaraderie shown me by the neighbors, I never participated in parties and stuff with them - they had their own grand kids et al. Family, you know.

This is sacrilegious, right? I mean everyone getting along...

I did end up (as an adult) carrying many of them out via coffin to their final resting place - an honor for me, to be sure. I certainly never received any monies or gifts in their last will & testament. Didn't expect it and wasn't disappointed.

As for Japan... I lived there for three years in a small city some 200 kilometers north of Tokyo... hardly an urban sprawl where foreigners (gaijin) were the norm. ... and yet... in that city of 50,000 people, there were some 50 foreigners or more living there at any given time.

That's just a guess, because other than meeting them rarely or hearing of them, I only knew maybe five - two friends (Matthew & Ashley) and the rest bartenders.  Ashley didn't live in my city, but did work in it. Jeanne, another AET lived in Ashley's nearby town and worked the outer areas as a junior high school teacher. Matthew and myself were junior high school teachers, Ashely - senior high school teacher.

While the three of us hung out together, we didn't act like idiots - certainly not in  a loud manner to constantly draw negative attention to ourselves.

Matthew an Ashley learned the Japanese language far better than I did - mostly through better effort and skill, while I... I just got by with their help and the patience of the Japanese people around me.

Straight up... while every day I could certainly hear the word  'gaijin' said in reference to me - gaijin literally means "outsider" more than "foreigner", I simply put it down to the fact that in most instances it was just a term the Japanese had grown up with, and even when it was used, rarely was there a negative vibe to it.

As for my living quarters... I lived in the lap of luxury: a three-bedroom LDK with two balconies in an apartment that was built not just for a Japanese family, but rather for a Japanese family with more money than most. So... perhaps I was insulated.

Matthew also lived in a very nice and tidy place, Ashley - not so much... but not once did we ever feel that we - the outsiders - were ever a cause of anxiety for the Japanese around us.       

I never thought that the Japanese might have some anxiety with living with me next door or near them—and to be honest, I refuse to believe that sort of thought process existed between us.

In my apartment building complex, it was just families going doing about whatever it is that families do. Regardless of their country of origin.

I certainly think there might be some Japanese people who wouldn't want to live next to foreigners - but that night be for the usual reasons - like we're a bunch of party animals and noisy.

But, that's just some people believing a stereotype - that while it may exist for realsies, isn't how most people live their life.

The whole question about gaijin and Japanese living together-quandary makes all the Japanese sound like they are xenophobic.

In my city... we had an international friendship society... where's the xenophobia?

I think people who respond to forums - or rather are active participants - have strong feelings, but those are personal feelings and certainly shouldn't be taken to represent everyone. 

I think in some instances people don't want to live next door to people of other cultures. How many white people wanted to live in Harlem in the 1960s or 70s? Few, if any. It was fear of the unknown. It could have been racism - from both sides.

I think that if the real estate folks were to have asked their prospective clients why they didn't want to live next to a foreigner they would soften the blow by talking of such bull-crap excuses such as anxiety over having to talk (let's say) English.

They don't have to talk anything except Japanese in Japan. If I wanted to communicate with my neighbors - I would speak Japanese to make them feel more at ease.

But really... people don't talk to their neighbors much anymore.

For those that worry about stuff like that, there could be a perception that having a foreigner in the neighborhood could bring down property values - but that would be racist... and I am sure those people exist, but I doubt that that in 2014 it is a anything but a 'minority' voice.

Lastly... for those of you who point to Japan's immigration policy as BS... or the fact that it is next to impossible to become a Japanese citizen... well... you are indeed correct.

But, if it was a completely lost cause for gaijin-love, then why allow anyone in? Why not simply close the doors to allowing any foreigner to work in Japan?  Why not go back to its isolationist policy from the 1600s-1850s?

Because it has progressed. It takes time.

Hell... look at the west. Racism from soccer fans in Spain. Washington Redskins team name debacle in the US. Why do we still allow the team name Edmonton Eskimoes in Canadian football? They are the Inuit - not Eskimo!

Canada still has enclaves in its cities - China towns, little Italy, little India... people of race an color congregating in their own little private Idaho... how much time have we had? Too much? Not enough?

Why can't we be friends? Why can't we be friends? Why can't we be friends? Why can't we be friends?

Somewhere wondering why I didn't just copy and paste that three times,
Andrew Joseph