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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Shame Is The New Black

The photo above is shocking - maybe.

If you are an artist, especially one of those so-called avant-garde artists, your entire raison d'être is to shock the audience.

If that is the case, to me it's no longer about art and wanting to create from within, it's all about ego, and the need to screw with the viewer.

If that's art, I'll take pistachio. Hmm… in my head that sounded wittier rather than so old-fashioned.

MMM… pistachio.

So… is the concept of seeing a Japanese woman all bound up in a sheet unable to move turn you on?

Okay, I have to admit I think it moved just a little…

What is shocking to me is not the fact that there is a so-called art project where two male artists use a bound woman as a paintbrush to paint Japanese calligraphy with her hair dipped in black ink…

No…

The shocking aspect is that there was a woman out there who thought that maybe "yes… this seems like a perfect way for me to earn some money to show my parents that all those years of taking jazz dance classes were worth it."

Or something like that.

I have no idea what the point of the following is, but... for Japanese calligraphy (書道, shodō), an artist will use India ink to create Chinese-based letters... it hardly sounds Japanese at all. I guess to make it Japanese, one needs to use Japanese as an artistic medium... in this case the artists are using a Japanese as a brush. She's a medium... or maybe a small...     

So… what could these artists be painting?

I think it could be this highly ironic word - 恥 (pronounced kaki), which is Japanese for shame.

How much do you think the human paint brush was paid to have a couple of 'ar-teests' place their sweaty little hands all over her body?

Yes… I do too think like this. Every guy is a perv. And, if they say they aren't, they are also a liar.

I'm not, obviously, because I would tell you if I was.

As for when this photo was taken and who the artists are - no clue. That's not the point. It IS an interesting photo, though, and a keen insight into the mind of an artist(s) and his tool.  

Somewhere painting myself into a corner,
Andrew Joseph  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Social Media - WTF

Proof positive that social media is a fickle whore can be found in a tale of two blogs.

My blog: Japan—It's A Wonderful Rife and one article in particular on the blog called Maia Does Japan.

I am NOT slagging Maia and her blog. I actually enjoy it.

I am not even questioning her postings. It's her blog - do as you will…

I am, however, questioning the collective intelligence of people who frequent the Internet - no… not you, dear reader. I love you. It's those other so-called people.

On November 16, 2014, Mai posted an animated gif file showing a steaming bowl of… nabe stew?

That same day I posted a story about the Japanese baseball All-Stars no-hitting the MLB counterparts.

My article had 109 total hits.

Mai's animated GIF has 104 LIKES - from people liking the damn animated gif… that just shows steam coming up off the bowl…

http://maiadoesjapan.com/post/102834544542#notes

People were commenting on it and reflaging it… like seriously - WTF???!!!!

If you have a blog about food - sure… I can see why you MIGHT feel the need to reblog an animated gif of a steaming bowl of Japanese stew… whatever yanks your crank… Nowhere, by the way does Maia actually state what the food is supposed to be, whether she is eating something like this herself, or… hell… she wrote nothing… just posted a teaming pile of stew…

Now… if you are into anime… which is animation… I could see why you might express some interest in a steaming bowl of Japanese stew that is in 1-second animated gif file… no wait… no I can't.

The art is wonderful, but it's hardly earth-effing chattering. WTF people???!!!

What is wrong with the world when an innocuous posting of a bowl of effing Japanese stew gets 104 LIKES (and counting)… and say one I wrote a few days ago on the dangers of kerosene heaters has 35 hits… one listed as "interesting Japanese photo" has over 459 hits - posted five days ago.

Seriously… WTF??!!!

Perhaps I have a smarter reader who enjoys getting the full story on any given topic I write about.

Perhaps I also have a lot of people clicking on my my blog because they are looking for photos of Japanese Schoolgirl Prostitutes (HERE), with some 11,500+ hits and counting.

Or maybe it's guys looking for advice on How to Date Japanese Women (101,000+ hits and counting)… so at least here it's advice people must be looking for.

Maybe my advice sucked… but no one has said so… I do have 80 comments on that one - many, of course are my responses back to the commenters…

Hey - at least with some of my blogs, people are looking for porn or something substantial - advice or information o r even to be entertained…

Again… I'm not knocking Maia - though I wonder if posting a dumb one-second video file was her smart way of getting traffic, just as I smartly created headlines that horny internet surfers would find intriguing.

Mea culpa. But what about Maia culpa? It's okay, she doesn't need to respond - it wasn't asked with any malice or need to know…

As I said.. I'm just amazed at the traffic garnered for a stupid video flash file no longer than one-second… how can anyone look at that and think - oh yeah… that's awesome… I have to show it to more people.

How can anyone who looks at her post think this is worth sharing?

WTF is wrong with people?

It's a wonderful file to see… but I'm pretty sure I don't know anyone who wants or needs to have me forward it to them.

I don't care if only four people read a blog I wrote (okay, I do, actually) - and I'm not jealous of any success achieved by any other blog writer for any great or innocuous blog they might create - more power to you. I am envious, but not jealous.

But… it's when I see proof of the… what… stupidity?… immaturity, maybe, of the Internet audience… well… I truly fear for the continued forward momentum of the human race.

It was a one-second file showing an animated bowl of steaming Japanese stew.

How is THAT important?

Okay… it need not be important… but… how is that even remotely offing interesting to anyone with even an ounce of grey matter.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh.

That is an a-ha moment as opposed to me moaning….. Aside from that a-ha moment, the rest of this article is how I moan in a blog.

Kanpai - go read this review on the book Sake Confidential (from Stone Bridge Press) and have a drink on me,
Andrew Joseph

Why I Hate US Thanksgiving

You might be wondering why I didn't have anything special written about the U.S. Thanksgiving this past Thursday... let's just say the only time I - a Canadian - ever tried to celebrate it, it soured me just a little.

Sometimes this blog doesn't have to be about Japan.

Here's one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen on scripted television. It's probably the most fun I've ever had with American Thanksgiving. It's from the under-appreciated WKRP In Cincinnati show.



My other top choices (non-holiday-related) are:
I Love Lucy: The chocolate assembly line
I Love Lucy: mirror gag with Groucho Marx
SNL (Saturday Night Live): John Belushi as the Incredible Hulk
SNL: Eddie Murphy's Hot Tub

You can look'em up if you want... there are just so many damn country restrictions on videos that it would tick me off if anyone was unable to view a link I provided.

There have been other great scripted scenes, of course, but those above are my favorites. There are plenty of unscripted ones, but that's neither here nor there in this case.

How about you? What is the funniest scripted scene on TV that you've seen?

Okay... so you want a Japan reference... I dislike American Thanksgiving because... back when I was in Japan, I tried to make American Thanksgiving (different from Canadian Thanksgiving - celebrated one month earlier when crops are actually being harvested) dinner for my girlfriend Ashely.

Ash is an American, and while we were both assistant English teachers in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken.

Although we had only met a few months earlier when we both arrived as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, we had been a couple pretty much all that time.

Planning the surprise Thanksgiving dinner for about two weeks, I had enlisted my Board of Education office to help me:
  1. find a turkey;
  2. find an oven that could cook such a bird;
  3. keep quiet about the whole thing.

Everything went off without a hitch - we had to have the turkey cooked in a huge oven in a restaurant in Yaita, a town 20 minutes south and west of Ohtawara.

Ashley was scheduled to show up at my apartment on Friday after work... except that she didn't.

That's the exception to "went off without a hitch".

I saw her the night before - telling her I would take her out to celebrate Thanksgiving - which from what I understand, is more of a big deal in the US than it is in Canada - mostly because we don't have that whole 'saved by the Native Americans' story in Canada.

Ashley said "sure", gave me a kiss and rode off into the night - for some reason, I did not ride my bicycle back to her place with her. It might have been her suggestion. It just didn't happen that night.

So... there I am... turkey, fixin's veggies... old booze...and there I am... a jive turkey all dressed up and no one to blow me - er, a kiss.

I made call after call to her place - worried that she might have caught some trouble - eventually getting on my bicycle and riding the 30 minutes to her place in the dark looking to see if I could spot her on the side of the road... praying she wasn't killed by an erratic driver...

I knocked on her door for a long time - she liked to take a nap after work... or anytime she could, actually... but no answer.

Can you imagine if she WAS dead? People would be wondering why I didn't ride back wit her to her place - didn't I do it every other time? Didn't we break up a month earlier? Didn't I sleep with two other women during that three-day long break-up? No, she didn't know about it? Yes, I suppose she could have found out. Well, yeah I'm pretty sure she would have been upset about it. No... we didn't have an argument about me sleeping around because I wasn't sleeping around since we weren't a couple.

The evidence is starting to mount...

So why would I spend ¥40,000 on a dinner for us? Why would I get my Board of Education office involved? What do you mean to deflect evidence against me? What evidence!?

I don't know why I didn't give any of the turkey to Matthew! No, It wasn't poisoned! At least I assume it wasn't. No, I'm not being funny. I just meant that since I didn't cook it, anyone could have poisoned it. No, that doesn't mean the turkey was poisoned!

As you can see, I have quite the active imagination, and also apparently think Japanese cops are caricatures of cops from a bad Monty Python episode.

Okay... so... The next day arrives and I haven't slept much. No Ashley on Saturday - still freaked out... I ride the path to her place again looking for her... I actually knocked on Jeanne's door (Jeanne is Canadian on JET who lives in an apartment in Ashley's building) to ask her if she's seen Ashley... nope... in fact... Ashley's bicycle isn't parked in its designated spot.

I'm freaked out... and continue my slow patrol back and forth along the paths looking for Ashley's now bloated body wedged under a patch of rice stalks...

Now... you might be asking yourself - why didn't I go to the police or something?

Well... I did the next best thing.

I called my bosses at the Board of Education office.

I told them that Ashley never showed up for our dinner date on Friday, and that I was very worried. Hanazaki-san was worried because I was worried, and promised to track down and contact her boss (a different boss structure because I was a junior high school teacher and Ashley was senior high school teacher).

Still nothing... but Hanazaki-san said that Ashley's boss was aware of the situation.

Sunday - all day long... nothing... no more information... nothing...

If Ashley's bosses were concerned, they never let me know. Same with Hanazaki... everyone was playing their cards close to the vest.

Me? I got to panic and freak out.

Finally... Sunday night at 9PM, she calls me up and says 'hi, how was your weekend?'

She's home.

Apparently, some other Americans called her up either later on Thursday evening or at school on Friday - asking her to join them for Thanksgiving celebrations down in the Tochigi-ken capital of Utsunomiya.

She did... forgot we had plans... never saw fit to let me know what she was doing.

I hung up the phone not telling her what I had done for her... went to the fridge and threw the whole effing thing out into the garbage without ever having a single effing taste.

I should have saved it for Matthew - and he bitched at me for that - but in all honesty, I was upset and pissed off... and well... you know... how would you like to think the world of someone enough to create a thanksgiving dinner for them - having to get it cooked in another effing town because there were no ovens big enough to handle the bird... and then just be ignored.

If it makes any of you feel better, when I next saw Ashley I calmly told her what I had done for her.

She felt bad, I'm sure... but you know what... I felt worse.

It cost me about $400 (¥40,000), too.

I assume her boss finally contacted Ashley... but no one mentioned it to me.

Perhaps Ashley was scolded by her boss for being irresponsible in not telling anyone where she was going - let me tell you... back in those days, and perhaps even now - those bosses of individual JETs... most of them really care about you and your welfare, not to mention their own job security.

I could then see how Ashley would hate me for getting her boss involved... and her boss perhaps now demanding Ashley tell her about her every move... and Ashley hating that, because what young woman wants to have to tell mom and dad everything? That's why many people leave home in the first place, right?

Well... nothing more was mentioned of this debacle between Ashley and I.

No... I am not Ashley's keeper, but as her boyfriend, shouldn't you at least let me know what's going on?

Anyhow... Ashley going out to visit friends... I want you to know I'm not stupid and immediately though she was cheating on me. I'm not saying she did, but I was now insecure enough to immediately think it.

And that... that is why I hate US Thanksgiving.

And that was 24 effing years ago... so apparently it still bothers me.

Enjoy your leftovers,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, November 28, 2014

Sapporo Wants To Host 2026 Winter Olympics

Yep - the headline is correct. Sapporo, that wonderful city up in the northern Japanese island of  Hokkaido has announced via its mayor, that it wants to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Cool… Sapporo was the fist Japanese city to host the Winter Olympics back in 1972 so it can be done.

There's just one little problem… there are serious doubts that the JOC (pronounced 'Joke', but is actually the Japanese Olympic Committee) is even going to put in a bid to host these olympics.

According to Sapporo mayor Ueda Fumio (surname first), local residents and those in the rest of the Hokkaido cities and towns are behind the supposed Y404.5 billion (US/Cdn $3.44 billion) bid.

"Hosting the Olympic Games will lead Sapporo to a new stage and be a step forward to create the future of Hokkaido," states Ueda. "An atmosphere to proceed to the dream is being nurtured among citizens."

I assume Ueda, when he mentions "the dream" is not referring to some Miyazaki anime flick, and instead means "the dream of hosting the Olympics".

Ueda wasn't kidding about the local support - which is strange because usually mayors tend to open their mouth as though they actually know what the majority of people want, but really they are only catering to themselves and what they HOPE everyone wants. It's not their fault... not everyone gets asked. And if they did, not everyone would venture an opinion.

Back in October of 2014, the Sapporo city government revealed that a survey shows that 66.7 percent of residents were either "in favor" or "fairly in favor" of the bid.

Of course… one needs to know just how many people actually responded to such a question to get a proper gauge of what the people  REALLY think… unfortunately, that number wasn't available - at least not in any of the reports I saw.

But is this just the case of a mayor wanting to leave his mark? Probably, but Ueda DOES also have additional support, as the Sapporo Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also that Mayor Ueda bid on the Olympic Games.

The JOC has until sometime in 2016 to decide whether or not it should place an official bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics - so there is time. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) would not, however, announcing the winning bid until 2019.

I'll let you know then, okay?

Why wouldn't the JOC want to prepare a bid on behalf of the very genii (exciteable/energetic) Sapporo crowd?

Well… there are concerns that not only is Japan already hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, but other Asian nations are also heavily involved in the Olympics… fearing that the already heavy Asian domination would cause the IOC to look elsewhere - even if Sapporo was the best choice.

What's going on?

Well, there are the: 
  • 2018 Winter Olympics -  Pyeongchang, South Korea;
  • 2020 Summer Olympics - Tokyo, Japan;
  • Remaining bidders for the 2022 Winter Olympics are: Almaty, Kazakhstan; and Beijing, China.
That's a lot of eastern participation.

While I won't even pretend to know anything about what the IOC prefers as a money-making scheme, the Olympics do play out quite heavily with advertising dollars and the North American market…. and there there is 14-15 hour time difference between the Olympics and its major viewing/advertising market.

That's just an opinion, and I could be way off on that. Obviously the IOC likes which ever country presents the best bribe to it. Allegedly. I have no idea how these sort of decisions are actually made. I do know, however, that I can be bought.

Anyhow… we'll have to see where this all leads… the IOC, amid complaints from the four European bids that dropped out of the 2022 Winter Olympic bidding citing cost overruns… has said that they will soon reveal plans to make bidding cheaper, easier and more attractive for future potential hosts.

That should mean the cheapskate nations from North American and Europe can try to bid again.

Now… does any of that concern you? No… not having bids from European or North American cities… that's cool… I just mean that there was concern that the bidding process was too damn expensive.

Really? What the hell is involved in a pissing, I mean Olympic bidding competition? How much payola is too much payola?

I think the REAL story is in finding that out. Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

And Andrew has just run himself over,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Empire Strikes Out In Japan

I know… you are looking at the photo above and going - WTF is the context for such a thing?

It's Japan. 'nuff said.

If you ant some play-by-play, let's just say the Protocol droid C-3PO has been called out watching a third strike whizz by far outside the legal definition of a strike zone as set out by the Galactic baseball senate council of 362236. It figures.

It is quite possible that the droid has a viable quibble with the umpire, so after originally being one of the good guys, has gone over to dark side, serving the Sith - otherwise known as the Yomiuri Giants (in Japan) or the New York Yankees (everywhere else).

What is interesting about the entire pitch sequence, however, is that C-3PO wanted to swing at each pitched thrown by Jed El Duque Skywalker… but the droid claims he was being mind-controlled… a preposterous excuse considering his computer brain can not be controlled.

Although not seen in this image, El Duque did gesture to C-3PO with his thumb and index finger in a near semi-circle, implying that the third strike was a close one.

Whatever the case, El Duque's fastball, which he calls the "Death Star" was simply too much for the first openly-gay baseball droid.

What?…  He's not gay?

You're kidding…

Really? I mean… what are the odds he wasn't gay?

What? Approximately 3,720 to one!

Never tell me the odds!

Anyhow… I am unsure exactly why this promotional event occurred at a Japanese baseball game… but I assume it has something to do with Star Wars.

Okay… d'uh… maybe it had something to do with the release of the DVD in Japan?

Or… maybe it was May 4th, and someone decided to do a tie-in… you know, May the 4th be with you… 

Ah… Stars Wars: The Fandom Menace.

Awesome photo, though…
Andrew Jar-Jar Joseph
PS: It's not a new photo... at least early 2011 or earlier... if anyone knows the exact context of this photo, please let me know. 

Killing Time In Japan

Someone recently asked me if things in Japan became a bit more routine for me AFTER my first year.

Yes, to a certain degree.

I was certainly more comfortable with the Japanese language, and while not enough for me to carry on a conversation with any one off the street, I certainly could talk either swell enough English or passable Japanese to get my face slapped nine out of 10 times in a bar.

But, that tenth time - that's magic, folks.

Like most people, whether you mean to or not, one falls into a routine.

In my second year of teaching junior high school English to the then seven junior high schools in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken as a part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I still had my own desk in every teacher's office, still had my own desk at the Board of Education office that I visited every Friday to 'make reports' on my week and to write letters home and to write Wonderful Rife columns and other short stories on the computer they gave (this was between 1990-1993, and the Internet was not yet a part of everyone's daily life.)

I would work anywhere from one to four classes a day - occasionally five, but that might be my revisionist history at work...

I would eat lunch with the kids, play with them after lunch, chat with them while they did clean-up, participate in whatever club activity I felt like for never more than 60 minutes after school...

I NEVER did English club activities - except maybe to help kids with a speech or two for a prefecture-wide competition. I did, baseball, judo, kendo (Japanese fencing), softball, soccer (I coached community women's soccer with my pal Rob Jones, and coached the Humber College women's soccer team - I have a Harley Hawk to prove it!, music (I can play all brass, woodwinds and keyboards - and taught clarinet and piano back in Toronto to help pay my way through Humber College's journalism program before being chosen to go to Japan), and occasionally art... my extreme weak point... though I was probably equally inept at basketball and volleyball.

I would go home then ride out to the store and buy a prepared dinner and a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola - unless a full shop was required...

If it was Monday, I had to eat quickly. I might watch Sherlock Holmes on TV in English on my stereo TV for stereo broadcast programs, and then ride out to my adult teaching class that would go from 7-9PM... then I'd go to a video store and maybe rent a movie to watch for the evening... then read a book and crash at 1AM. Laundry and vacuuming would be done somewhere in there.

I'd get up every morning at 7AM, by the way.

Tuesday... the same - except maybe Ashley would come over and we'd eat the leftover chili con carne I made over the weekend that I would have already shared with her or Matthew.
We'd watch a movie - perhaps a video tape sent to me by my folks in Toronto, or her folks in Augusta, Ga.

Or, if Ashley and I were on the outs, I might go out after 9PM to the 4C bar and have a drink and wait for Japanese people to come up and talk to me. I'd talk, laugh, and if possible tray and get the woman to come back to my place. It wasn't that difficult, to be honest. And that's with ME and my Grade 1 or less Japanese language skills.

Before going to the bar, laundry and vacuuming would be done.

Wednesday night - regardless if Ashley and I were on the outs, she'd come over, we'd go to Mosburger for dinner and then wait for my boss Kanemaru-san to take us to our kyudo (Japanese archery) lesson that he and a master would give us for free.

If we were NOT on the outs, after archery Ashley might come up and we'd fool around - I always had to make the first move. Then I would ride my bicycle with her to her town 30 minutes ride northwest to see her home, and then ride back... laundry and vacuuming might be done.

Does anyone else see a pattern with regards to my laundry and vacuuming?

My place was grand central station - so I kept it spotless, 90% of the time.

Thursday night... unless Ashley came over - usually not - I might spend a lot of time on the phone with other AETs (assistant English teachers) in my prefecture or outside - my favorite always being Kristine South, a sassy, sexy American of Japanese descent that I thought (and still do) think is one of those all time beauties... we'd flirt - oftimes those talks would border on one-handed phone sex - but despite that we never managed to hook up. The now hopefully happily-married (and mom) Kristine recently told me that 'yeah, I would have slept with you' at least makes the world feel a bit more in sync.

Most of my phone calls were to check up on people in their first year on the programme, however... so I played telephone psychologist - and by merely being on the other end of the phone, they did the same for me.

Friday night - that's the weekend, baby. By this time, Matthew had a girlfriend - now married to her and having two lovely kids! - so I didn't see him as much as either of us would have liked, but Matthew still made the time and effort to come over and see me - he was and is a very good friend.

If Matthew wasn't around, Ashley and I might do dinner - I'm buying all the time - because I would offer - because I was vagina-starved sucker - and then we'd go out to the 4C, where if I could get enough drinks into her we could go back and spend several sweaty hours on that poor couch or under the queen-sized bed I had.

If no Ashely because it was that time of the month and we were on the OUTs - I never broke up with her once, by the way - I was just a sucker with no self-esteem. I would eat a prepared Japanese meal and then go out to the 4C.

I think the Japanese figured out my schedule quite quickly and would show up for as much as the hunk New Zealand bartender (Mark) who worked there as they did to either practice their English on with me, or for the women to chat me up to sleep with me - and I was always in a bit of a competition with Mark, because although he was way better looking than me, I didn't have his work schedule and could leave the bar at 9:45 with a woman knowing she and I had an hour of sack time together before she would have to towel off and head home to make her curfew. At least on the weekends, it might be a midnight curfew for the single, Japanese women.

Mark- he had to work long past those curfews, but was able to get any woman who didn't have a curfew.

I was also blessed with having an apartment a mere three minute drunken stagger from the 4C and the rest of entertainment district.

Saturday - I would sleep in... If no Ashley, I only made eggs, bacon baked beans for one... If I was lucky enough to have a Japanese woman spend the night, she got my breakfast, and then we might have more sex, showers and a unspoken promise to maybe do this again whenever she wanted.

I did have the occasionally booty call presented to me, but more often than not, the single, young women of Ohtawara-shi would take turns chatting me and having sex at my place.

Really. Ashely once came over in the morning (we weren't a couple then) and smiled saying she could smell sex all over the apartment -which meant that if she was spending the day with me as a friend, we would probably have sex that night.

She trusted me, so I was her booty call. I didn't mind... she was every bit as good as I was.

I might do some some laundry and vacuuming, probably some grocery shopping... eat in or eat out... hit the bars, give free English lessons to middle-aged Japanese salarymen who would buy me drinks, then talk with the local yakuza boss who would "buy" me a whiskey and ask about his delinquent junior high school student son and how much I liked Japan, or maybe a curious young woman would come over to... well.. you know... I don't even know their names... I mean... I must have... I always took great pains (at the time) to pronounce everyone's name properly...

... but it was pretty obvious that everybody was using everybody to get what they wanted. At least no one was being hurt by this, so I have no problem with the system as it existed.

The point being, that I was a very approachable fellow.

I always had a smile on my face - and that was even before I became a male lesbian. I had arrived in Japan nearly 26-years-old, and a virgin.

Back in Toronto, I was too shy to talk to a woman.

After one complete year in Japan, I might still have been too shy to talk to women - at least make the first conversational fragment (still am), but I have no problem after that.

Despite Japan being a country where the Japanese are all supposed to be shy and too involved in themselves, i didn't find that at all... especially in a bar.

Alcohol + 2 people = Conversation lubrication.

Everyone talks - even if it's a slowly sipped beer or a slowly sipped soda water - being in a bar seems to loosen the inhibitions on everyone. I've done that - because you can't be ON all the time.

I don't mean to imply one MUST drink booze - I said 'soda water', but drinking together is part of the whole bonding process for the Japanese in Japan. Hell... people everywhere, I think (though you can bond over many other things, of course).

In Japan... the Japanese go out with co-workers to bond as a team. For the gaijin (outsider/foreigner), you HAVE to participate in the reindeer games, dear Rudolph... not only do you have to drink along with the Japanese with whatever they are drinking - you have to do them one better and drink more.

You are the outsider in Japanese culture, and in order to belong, or at least fit in better, you have top destroy the Japanese perception of the gaijin.

I was lousy at destroying the Japanese perception that all gaijin men want to boink Japanese women - BUT I will say this... whenever I was asked if like Japanese women, I would say sure.. but I also like German, women.. French women... blah-blah-blah... that I don't care where they are from as long as they are nice people.

I would get a lot of nods from my students and teachers who would translate that for me... I meant it.

I slept with a lot of JET women as well as Japanese women. I was an equal opportunity male lesbian.

To say anything else would be to shoot yourself in the foot, and limit one's opportunities... I still dislike doing that.

Anyhow... the point is... study your ass off all you like while you are in Japan... do it on SaturDAY and SunDAY... but fer crying out loud, go out and be seen by your local community.

Every day someone in my city would see me crying in front of the ATM as I tried to decode the kanji, or appearing dazed in the grocery store as tried to figure out if I image on the carton I was purchasing was chocolate milk, green tea or bull testicles.

I would be seen at the book store/video game rental shop... at the sports shop purchasing packs of Japanese baseball or soccer cards... at the video game shop buying the latest game for myself... out with my gaijin friends on our bicycles having lunch or dinner or teasing our students... talking to the neighbors and sharing a glass of sake... waving to the women across the street as I hung my underwear up on the laundry line as they did the same at their house - or raising an eyebrow when I would hand a pair of women's underwear causing the men across the street to volunteer to help their wife hang laundry for the first time ever....

Maybe I'd even ride my bicycle around the city and do some sight seeing... maybe I won't get lost this time... fail...

Whatever... even when I relaxed and read a book, I would perch myself on my balcony ledge and sit in plain view of my city, my home, my community and say "hello" whenever I would be spotted!

I hid in plain sight.

Now... no one can be on every day all the time, so obviously there were days when I would go home, unplug the phone and hide from everyone for a few hours to recharge my batteries - but the next day or two latter... those undercover blues would fade in vibrancy, and I would be back to being myself.

You don't have to do any of what I just said, of course... but for me, it was how I not only survived Japan, but had a wonderful life in Japan.

I don't know about you, but I don't think mine was such a bad rut to fall into.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Junior High School Girls Riding A Japanese Train

I don't see anything wrong with this photo.

All Japanese junior high school girls look like this.

Well… maybe not the one wearing white stockings/panty hose.

That's a guy! Only a guy would be too lazy to shave his legs and go out in public wearing a junior high school girl costume.

Okay - kidding... there are many oddities abound in this photo. Let's begin...

Odd is the fact that there are so many girls from different schools sitting beside each other in the train—that would never happen.

Also, what is even more odd, is that there is no Japanese man attempting to molest any of the girls by rubbing themselves on them...

Does anyone else find it odd that some 70 years years after WWII when Japan seemed to hate the round-eyes of its enemies (I'm not talking about China or other Asian nations at this time)... but that anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comic books) almost all characters lack the Asian eyes and instead have the uber big eyes?

It's not to make themselves less Asian, though... it's to make the characters even cuter. It's that whole phenomenon of a baby having eyes too large for the size of its baby head... the head will eventually grow into those eyes... but then we become less cute...

Maybe the oddest thing about the whole photo, is that it's a relatively empty train. It's relatively as lonely as the last samurai in a country that loves its warlike past - though that fond remembrance is poignant only when it's not considered to be warlike - though this might just be a simple old gaijin minority report on Japanese selfawareness.

Having lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken for three years, in my honest opinion, the most bizarre aspect of the photo is the fact that the sun is shinning.

Whenever I traveled in Japan the sun never seemed to shine. In fact, whenever I traveled it seemed to rain - hence my affectionate (cursed) nickname given to me by the Japanese - Ame Otoko.

While just saying that name could also imply "Candy Man", pronounced exactly the same but using different written kanji (Chinese style pictograph lettering), Ame Otoko becomes "Rain Man"... yeah, definitely Rain Man. Yeah. Uh-oh-uh-oh.

When he pours, he reigns,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Congratulations if you saw the multiple Tom Cruise movie references in this blog. A couple went in easier that others... that's what she said.
PPS: I am unsure if the people in the above photo are into cosplay or not.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Staying Warm Or Staying Alive

Who would ever have thought that during the cold months in Japan one could be faced with the dire decision of whether to stay warm or to stay alive? Should one mean the other can't happen?

Only in Japan, baby… and maybe other Asian countries… but this is a blog about Japan, so I at least feel slightly qualified to write about this stuff.

On Monday I listened to the recorded What The Funday, a fantastic show on Japan's premiere rock and roll station Radio Baka that my friend Mike Rogers works at. You can read about his blog Marketing Japan HERE

Within the show, a reporter discussed a recent Japanese survey involving the use of heaters, noting that house fires caused by stoves/heaters increase during the winter months.I would assume that was because that was when they would be used, but what the hell do I know.

Respondents were asked which form of heater was the biggest cause of such house fires:  

  • 80% of survey respondents say that kerosene stoves were the cause;
  • 4% say it was electric stoves topped the list…
That leaves 16% unaccounted on the report… which leads me to wonder if it could be the wonderful kotatsu. That's just a guess... the report did not mention the missing 16 per cent.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department, there is a large number of fires actually caused by electric stoves - but I assume that to mean electric heaters. Still, no number was actually given…

Basically, the survey shows that most people didn't know that electric heaters were pretty dangerous in their own right.

So basically Japan, don't place anything flammable atop an electric heater - even if that item has signage indicating it is inflammable.

Inflammable means the same as flammable. I don't get it either. English - what a language.

Of course… in Japan, 可燃性の or Kanen-sei no is the way to say flammable. It's just that people who have an electric stove heater don't seem to know what the word means.

When I lived in Japan, I was scared spitless with my electric water heater (that I had to turn on to get hot water) - why was there a tube attached to the heater just hanging there leading to the floor behind my washer/dryer? That's it in the photo above.

I even asked my building superintendent - he didn't know, but was reluctant to touch it. It stayed the way it was for my entire three-year stay.

I never touched that tube. Ever. I'm still alive.

As far as actual heat generating heaters go… At one time, I had three options.

I had a kotatsu… an electric table that allows one to slide a quilt in-between the heater and the table top to trap the heat under it where gaijin and nihonjin alike may huddle to keep warm from sometime in November through March - unless you live in one of those tropical temperate zones like Okinawa, in which case watch out for poisonous snakes.

I have no idea if that quilt was flame retardant - I never caught fire - so I assume it was…

I also had a kerosene heater… I was instructed to leave a door open an inch or two… that door was my heavy sliding glass door at the base of my living room - where I spent most of my waking hours either having sex or trying to convince some poor female human waif to have sex - but it led to the north facing balcony… where the cold winds would waft down at about 1,000 kilometers an hour from the snow-capped mountains maybe 15 kilometers in the near distance - so it was a chilly wind.

In fact… simply by having the door open, it actually made the apartment colder than what the kerosene heater could do to heat it up. So… unless I sat on the kerosene heater, there was no way I could keep warm.

The first night I used it - with the warning from my Japanese bosses to keep the door open to allow fresh air in to avoid the kerosene gases emitted from killing me… I slept a chilly night… waking up in the morning to chip ice from the top of my aquarium so that I could feed my goldfish. Really.

That next night… screw the open-door policy… I closed my door… and in an effort to hopefully not die, I closed my bedroom sliding paper doors…

Stupid, in hindsight. I could have and should have died. I did not, because the gods apparently love a fool, but detest an idiot.

I told my bosses what I had done, and they were completely aghast! Their idiotic gaijin no sensei (foreign teacher) was going to commit hara kiri (ritualistic suicide).

I guess they must have liked me… because later that night the bosses came over with the building superintendent to look at one of my walls… left, came back with another worker holding a large wall-mounted air-conditioner/heater that would once it was created, vent to a hole behind the machine.

To everyone else who has ever lived at 307 Zuiko Haitsu after me - you are welcome.

I now had electric power A/C in the summer and a powerful heater in the winter… good enough to heat the whole three-bedroom LDK (living room-dining room-kitchen)… though admittedly, not the far away bathroom. At least the toilet seat was air-padded so it wasn't too much of a shock in the cold. Little shrinkage.

And to get such a gift from my office, I only had to try and accidentally (on-purpose, apparently) try and kill myself.

The system works.

Again… I did not really try to kill myself… I had hoped (successfully) that the paper door to my bedroom would allow the heat to come through but would keep out the bad stuff as I tried to avoid asphyxiation.

As you should all be aware, kerosene heaters consume oxygen as they burn.

If they are operated in a small room or in an inadequately ventilated area, oxygen in the air could be reduced to a dangerous level.

Reduced oxygen supply could lead to incomplete combustion of fuel and the production of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas which in sufficient concentrations can kill you, which is just like being dead.

I made my choice… not freezing to death versus asphyxiation.

The thing I had hoped was that the kerosene heater was placed in a very large room - which the LDK area was - especially by Japanese standards.

I'm just saying… I got lucky.

Don't be stupid. Either don't use the damn kerosene heater or make sure you have proper ventilation available.

Do as I say, not as I did.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, November 24, 2014

3D Fish Painting

Prepare to have your mind blown - like 'Ka-POW!!!!'

I pretty much spent the day writing a couple of articles for work, and to quote my friend Vincent who sent me this story, I certainly could use a cleansing of the palette - though I think he meant it because of the horrifying photo I posted yesterday.

Meet Fukahori Riusuke (surname first), a Japanese artist from Kanagawa-ken, Japan who creates, as the headline suggests, 3D Fish Painting.

Watch... and Ka-POW!!!


He paints the fish on the bottom of a bowl, adds resin and Ka-Pow!!! 

I've got a pair of goldfish now (Creamsicle and Licorice). They don't come when I call them, however.

I got my first when I was just three years old... it died when I was 17... growing from one-inch-long to over 10-inches... at least with the 3D Painted version I could have saved a fortune in goldfish food.

I also could have saved myself a lot of heartache when I had to give away the goldfish I had to the special education kids at Wakakusa Chu Gakko (Wakakusa Junior High School) in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. I would expect they would be dead by now. The fish, that is.

With Fukahori, the fish live forever.   

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Not-So Cute Photo Of Japan

In the photo above we have a Japanese man dressed up as a woman.

I have no problem with that.

Love and do as you will - to quote St. Augustine.

However, I do take great umbrage over his/her decision to wear such cutie, young girl pink clothes complete with gloves, when he is obviously far too old to pull it off without looking as he/she looks - ridiculous.

Seriously… WTF is up with the shoes!!!

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
There - I believe this is my shortest post ever.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fastfood Racism In Japan

First off… the photo above - this isn't a new photo. I don't know WHEN it was taken, suffice to say that it was taken in front of a fast-food establishment in Japan.

Okay… is it just me but is this whole scene big-time risque with its racism?

First off… the image shows Colonel Harland Sanders - the founder of KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken).

I enjoy the KFC products, though the wait time (such as at Etobicoke near Kipling Station) seems rather long to me.

Colonel Sanders wasn't a real Colonel in military and I never met the man to know if he is an actual gentleman or not - let's say he is… he was a practicing lawyer in Little Rock, Arkansas, however.

He was recommissioned as a Kentucky colonel in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Wetherby, Sanders began to dress the part, growing a goatee and wearing a black frock coat (later switching to a white suit), a string tie, and referring to himself as "Colonel"

Now - back to the photo... that statue in front of the Japan-based KFC shop is interesting.

Yeah - all of the KFC shops in Japan have a Colonel Sanders statue out front as a kind of mascot.

No, I don't think there is anything overly weird about dressing the plastic(?) statue up in a Japanese yukata (a male light kimono). It's just THIS shop, but what the heck.

I don't believe the pattern ON the yukata is very flattering because yes, I do feel more than qualified to discuss men's fashion in Japan - seeing as how every damn day in Japan I dressed better than damn near ever person I ever met.

It does need to be hemmed, however.

But… that's not the problem.

It's the fact that the Colonel appears to be holding a watermelon.

Problemo:
  • Problem #1: There are far too many watermelon seeds on that fake watermelon.
  • Problem #2: Does KFC actually sell watermelons? In Canada and the U.S. I'm pretty sure they don't… granted I haven't been to a KFC facility in a few weeks. Still - bait and switch… an illegal practice retailers should be wary of.
  • Problem #3: That watermelon is racist.
Yeah, I know a watermelon can't be 'racist' per se… it was written as such for effect.

There is a stereotype that all Black people love fried chicken. I think most people in this world who eat meat and who eat fried foods like fried chicken.  Regardless of color.

There is also a stereotype that all Black people love watermelon. I think most people in this world who enjoy spitting seeds enjoy the sugary, watery goodness of a watermelon.  Regardless of color.

But… there have been many a time I have walked into a Popeyes (fried chicken place) or a KFC place here in Toronto and seen myself as the only non-Black person there. And I tend to live in a pretty White neighborhood (not by choice - it is what it is). Coincidence? Probably. But stereotypes are always based on some sort of fact or physical evidence.

Regarding watermelons… oh god… back in 1947 when Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers made his debut - the abuse he took….

According to Willie Weinbaum, producer of ESPN's ``Breaking the Line: Jackie Robinson's Legacy - Dodgers infielder Eddie Miksis told him of the abuse heaped on Robinson from the Philadelphia Phillies' dugout.

"[Miksis] talked about how the Phillies used to bring watermelon, chicken and pork chops into the dugout to taunt Jackie Robinson," Weinbaum said.

Porkchops? Never heard that one… aside from the vegetarians and maybe the Muslims and Jews (see you DO have much in common!) I think everybody enjoys eating porkchops - regardless of color… then again… I am chronaly-challenged when it comes to this aspect of racism.

So… having a 'white' guy who sells fried chicken holding up a watermelon - doesn't that sound completely… oh… racist?

It's not like Japan hasn't fallen into that trap before - what with there being recent examples of musicians wearing blackface paint… ala Al Jolson.

Time to call your Mammy, KFC Japan and make sure you don't allow your corporate image to be sullied by either ignorant pranksters, or by ignorant store branch managers.

By the way... in 1965 Sanders moved to Mississauga, Ontario, Canada to oversee his Canadian franchises and continued to collect franchise and appearance fees both in Canada and in the U.S. He stayed there until 1980.

So... I'm pretty sure I did see the real Colonel once or twice in my misspent youth.

Oh yeah... and as far as Japan, Colonel Sanders and baseball go... read this article I wrote HERE.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, November 21, 2014

Interesting Japanese Photo

What's wrong with this picture?

No... there is nothing showing anything 'upskirt'. I'm no dirty old man. Or so I claim.

Anyhow, the girls are all wisely keeping their legs crossed or pressed together.

Skirts all seem to be of a regulation length - I have no idea, actually as my pleas to volunteer at the local high school were met with derision and catcalls by my Board of Education office that seemed to me to be overly protective of their assistant English teacher.

Well... perhaps it's the fact that these Japanese high school girls are all flashing the 'peace sign', or for
any of you older folks - the "Vee" for 'Victory over Japan' sign circa WWII.

The Japanese don't apparently know of the whole WWII thing, or if they do, they choose to ignore it.(owtch).

Naw - that's not it.

Could it be that some of the students are carrying plastic bags? No - nothing wrong with that... how about the fact that one of them clearly has two school bags? No... nothing wrong with that... I mean there is, but in this case - not really.

Look closer - not harder, because that might just be too gross for this blog.

I also love that there is no reaction in the far background... like it's no big deal to see something like this on a daily basis in Japan.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Slow As A Turtle Taxi Service

The taxi stopped with a jerk and I got out.

Have you ever got into a taxi - anywhere in the world - and you were sure that the driver was going slow on purpose to try and milk a few extra coins out of you?

It happens sometimes, but my very good friend Doug is a hack (a taxi driver now working alongside Uber in Toronto and a fellow writer) and I can tell you that there are people out there who will treat you fairly and honestly and will get you to the place on time - and safely without having to break any land speed records in the process.

The same is true in Japan.

The drivers there can be insane buggers who will break every known driving law to speedily get you to your destination, but despite getting into many cab in many a country I will say that without a doubt - car to car - Japanese taxis at least the ones I took were always spotlessly clean.

The cars there - and I'm talking 20 years ago, had automatic car door openers for you when you got in and had to get out. The fact that the door could also be automatically closed was a bonus.

As well, taxi drivers in japan all wore ultra white and clean gloves - which not only kept things clean for the next shift driver, but also shows the customer/fare that they put on white kid gloves to transport you…

Now lest you think that the driver never leaves the sanctity of his driver's seat, when they spot you with luggage, they hop out of the car and that automatic trunk opener goes to work as they lift your luggage in and out as required. White gloves very evidently at work.

The other thing that is cool about taxi rides in Japan is that that the driver does not expect or want a tip. There is no tipping for personal services in Japan.

You pay for a ride or a meal - and that's it.

Now, having placed the Japanese taxi driver up upon an ivory pedestal - just what the heck could I say next that would make it seem even better?

Well… as mentioned, some Japanese cab drivers can drive excessively quick, brake heavily, weave in and out of traffic and can sometimes provide the rider with a ride that can be quite hairy - it's probably a good thing I was hammered out of my gourd and horny with whatever woman I was with whenever I got into a cab in Japan - invariably in Tokyo or Osaka - the two big cities.

So… imagine my surprise when I learned about a Japanese taxi service that relishes in its leisurely pace in such a matter that it dares call itself tah-toe ta-ku-she.

Okay, that's the Japanese katakana phonetic pronunciation for Turtle Taxi, a Japanese taxi service that with a big green turtle logo on it actually has a button in the back seat area that a rider can press informing the driver to slow down.

Again, I'm not saying the Turtle Taxi drivers are driving too fast, but rather the 'turtle slow' button can be pushed if the rider really does wan to take their time before arriving at their destination.

Being a man and a man who has, in the past, driven excessively quick (though no swerving in and out of traffic - ever!), I have no idea why anyone would want to take a slow ride.

I like to get where I'm going so I can hate where I'm at.

But according to a wonderful article by writer Laura Secorun Palet in the on-line magazine OZY, a mother traveling with a sleeping child may not want a taxi ride to flush with sudden stops and starts - and neither would someone attempting to apply make-up to their unnaturally pale facial areas (I'm an ardent supporter of make-up minimalism - I don't want to be in the boudoir licking someone's face and tasting 'foundation').

For Turtle Taxi, the company likes that they can save fuel by driving slower.

Anyhow, read the OZY article: Turtle Taxi: Bye-Bye, Fast Lane: HERE

My only critique is the use of a comma in the headline… not a fan of stuff like that in a headline. The colon is fine. Always have your colon checked regularly.

If you are looking for a taxi in Japan, why not try Turtle Taxi. Website HERE.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cool Japanese White Van Kaido Racer

It can't be just me, but regardless of the fact that someone think the Japanese van pictured above is weird enough to be part of a 'Japan is weird' website - I think it's effing cool!

Obviously the person who thought it was weird has never seen a hot rod before.

The van is typically Japanese - white in color.

While it is slowly changing, one could pretty much look to a road anywhere in Japan and spot 95% of the vehicles as white.

I once asked a Japanese fellow who had a souped up car - jacked up rear, excessive dials inside and outside of the car, an under-body lighting system (back in 1990), and a chopped top with a powerful non-factory tuned engine: and he told me, while I sat in his white car with excessively large and loud speakers with a heavy base that made the high-pitched Japanese singer sound almost normal, that the Japanese believe the color white is a representation of 'purity', and the Japanese want to be 'pure'.

Sure. There's nothing wrong with looking pure in a hot rod.

Of course, the Japanese call these excessively altered body vehicles: Kaido… or Kaido Racer… which is cool enough seeing as how the Japanese word for 'road' is 'kaido', as in Tokaido, as an example.

So… a weird Japanese thing? Well… I've seen some Japanese kaido race cars - and yeah, they are effing weird-looking… but this one... this white van… it's like something out of Batman or maybe Metropolis (no, not Superman's city - the one in the 1927 movie!), with its dynamic sculpting. You know… like what the Chrysler Building looks like (my favorite building that LEGO needs to make a model of!).


Granted this white van is limited as to where it can travel. Unless those upper fins can be lowered, I'm thinking it might not make it under many a bridge.

It's also a wide vehicle, well, wide for those so-called goat paths that the Japanese call roads in rural Japan and in the inner city… but it looks cool enough to me to drive on the highways.

I bet it gets great mileage, too. Not.

One thing that isn't mentioned is just what the view is staring at the butt of the white van... does it resemble some sort of anime/manga character, or is it just a Japanese white van? 

I place the odds at 50:50 each way. It is Japan, after all.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2014 Suzuki All-Star Series: MLB Vs Samurai Japan

Perhaps it was "jet-lag" after all.


The MLB All-Stars are actually scheduled to play a total of seven games in Japan - it gets weird here.

1) Game 1 - or 1st Exhibition Game. On November 11, 2014, the MLB All-Star team played a joint team of Hanshin Tigers/Yomiuri Giants team - in an exhibition game at Hanshin Koshien Stadium - a game won 8-7 by the MLBers.

Hmmm… what happened to the jet-lag?

I should note that this game was also considered the Japanese Professional Baseball 80th Anniversary game. This game has no bearing on the 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series.

2) Game 2, or Game 1 of the 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series was played November 12, 2014 at Kyocera Dome Osaka, with the Japanese emerging victorious 2-0. This is the first game of the official 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series. Japan leads the series 1-0.

3) Game 3, or Game 2 of the 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series was played November 14, 2014 at Tokyo Dome, between the Samurai Japan and MLB All-Stars. Japan won 8-4. Japan leads the series 2-0.

4) Game 4, or Game 3 of the 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series was played November 15, 2014 at Tokyo Dome, between the Samurai Japan and MLB All-Stars. Japan won 4-0. It was a no-hitter for the Samurai Japan. Japan leads the series 3-0.

5) Game 5, or Game 4 of the 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series was played November 16, 2014 at Tokyo Dome, between the Samurai Japan and MLB All-Stars. MLB won 6-1. Japan leads the series 3-1.

6) Game 6, or Game 5 of the 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series was played November 18, 2014 at Tokyo Dome, between the Samurai Japan and MLB All-Stars. MLB won again! WTF Japan? MLB 3 - Japan 1. Japan leads the series 3-2.

7) Game 7, or 2nd Exhibition Game… to be played at Okinawa Cellular Stadium in Naha on November 20, 2014. It's still the Samurai Japan Japan versus MLB All-Stars… unlike that first exhibition game… but this one IS an exhibition. It does not count in the over all battle for the 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series… which, if you were keeping track, the MLB All-Stars have already lost… in fact… they lost it after the first three games of the series…

Sigh.

(L-R): Los Angeles Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig; Boston Red Sox (boo!) manager John Farrell, 2B Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners; and Mariners P Iwakuma Hisashi (surname first) took part in the 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series welcome party ceremony.
Hmmm...you can tell from the caption above that I seem to have some distaste for the Boston Red Sox. As a Toronto sports fan, perhaps it would help if you knew that I have a lot of distaste for all Boston teams (New England Patriots and Celtics and Bruins and Red Sox). You guys need to trade Babe Ruth again. And Bobby Orr.

Anyhow… the series did have some interesting rules: 28-man roster, Designated Hitter allowed; four umpires - two from MLB, to from NPB (Japan).

Pitcher use limitations:
A pitcher may not throw more than 80 pitches per game. However, if the pitcher exceeds the limits while facing a batter, he (or she) is able to complete the batter's plate appearance. If a pitcher throws more than 50 pitches, he (I know there's no she) must have four days of rest before being able to throw in another game. If a pitcher throws more than 30 pitches or throws for two consecutive games, he must have one day of rest before being able to throw in another game. This rule does not apply for the anniversary game or the exhibition game - and pitchers are available to blow their arms out as required.

Extra Innings: If the game is tied after the 10th inning, the game will go into a tiebreak in which the inning will begin with runners on first and second base.

Okay... this sounds cool....

The next batter up continuing from the previous inning shall bat and the two preceding batters from the previous inning will be on first and second. The game will end as a draw if both teams are tied after the 12th inning (the prize money will be halved). The anniversary game and exhibition game will not go into extra innings and end as a draw if tied after the 9th inning. That means it's nine-inning or bust for those two games.

Ball used: Rawlings Baseball - the same as the one used in the 2013 WBC. Leftovers? Or is it the same tattered ball?

The Rawlings baseballs are a safe bet... a far better choice than the Japanese balls - see HERE for an article on Japan's recent baseball scandal! And HERE for another! It's about baseBALLS! 

During the anniversary game on November 11, while the joint team of Hanshin Tigers/Yomiuri Giants are fielding, the official NPB ball was used. But apparently not while the Japanese were hitting. I'm unsure if that was just a misinterpretation of the original Japanese... perhaps this official NPB ball was used for the entire game.

Total prize money: ¥100-million (US$856,000 or domo arigato, Japan) - which is divided up as ¥50-million (US$428,000) to the winner of the series and ¥10 million (US$85,000) to the winner of each game between game 1 to game 5).

Ahhh… so it was worthwhile for MLB to have won the past two games. They got ¥20-million for their two wins. That's about $171,000 - when divided up between the 28 players - that's $6,1000 (¥712,756.90)
each - which pays for a night out with the prostitutes - plus sake! Good sake! - Oh yeah… we might have to divide that amongst the coaches… and maybe the umpires… do they get a cut? Nobody ever invites the bench coach out for booze and prostitutes.

Kidding. I'm sure everyone gets all the prostitutes they want.

Kidding.

Anyhow… the 2014 Suzuki All-Star Series marks the first time since 2006 that MLB players have played in Japan. It is also the 36th time a team of MLB players has toured Japan dating back to 1908. I'm pretty sure there aren't any of the original Japanese prostitutes left alive from that tour… but it is Japan where there are a lot of centurions.

Sorry… kidding… Hopefully everyone had a great time in Japan - and everyone donated the money to charity. Hopefully. Hey… it's not like the salaries were in 1908.

Check your listings if you get MLB.TV or MLB Network - you can at least see the last game.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Japanese Actor Ken Takakura Dead At 83

Japanese movie actor Takakura Ken (surname first) has died at the age of 83 of lymphoma at a hospital in Tokyo on Nov 10, 2014 - meaning it took bloody eight days for us to find out.

Where are the Japanese paparazzi when you want them? Probably trying to shoot up someone's skirt.

Born as Oda Goichi on February 16, 1931 in Kita-Kyushu-shi in Japan, Takakura would probably most familiar to western audiences as the gruff coach of the Dragons baseball team in the Tom Sellick movie, Mr. Baseball.

Other western movies he might be familiar from include: Too Late the Hero (1970); The Yakuza (1975); and Black Rain (1989).

Of course, that is all just a drop in the bucket, as Takakura made a total of 205 screen appearances - his last coming in Dearest (2012).

Takakura was given the Order of Culture by Emperor Akihito in 2013 for his contribution to Japan’s arts.

Standing an imposing 1.9-meters (5'-10¾") tall  - which is my height (I stand above you all - bwa-ha-ha-ha) (LOL!), Takakura was known as the Clint Eastwood of Japan thanks to his brooding but honorable characterization he world bring to his roles.
The Drifting Avenger - 1968.
He came by this swagger honestly, as he grew up in post-WWII Fukuoka, watching the yakuza battle each other for territory and the (still) lucrative black market and racketeering industries of the underworld.

Takakura got his start as an actor in 1955, when after graduating from Meiji University in Tokyo, he heard there was an audition over at Toei Film Company, and decided to check it out.

Does anyone else think that sometimes it really was easier to get discovered in the 'old days'?

He got the role, debuting in the flick Denko Karate Uchi (Lightning Karate Blow) in 1956.

Just as America had experienced a BOOM in gangster flicks back in the 1930s when the mobster ruled the real news thanks to the hardships of the Depression, so too did Japan experience a BOOM in yakuza flicks in the 1960s, as it experienced hardships of post WWII.

Takakura's forte was being such a person who saw Japan before the yakuza era, and during its early stages and as such his characters played off both sides… a tough guy with a conscience.

Hell… you can see that even in Mr. Baseball!   
Ken Takakura in Mr. Baseball. I wouldn't mess with him.
If you think that Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller in 1986 was the beginning of the anti-hero… or maybe Wolverine in the late 1970s… Japan was already doing it in the movies… and Takakura exploited that when he played an ex-convict anti-hero in the 1965 flick Abashiri Bangaichi.

In the ensuing 11 years when he left Toei Films in 1976, he had appeared in over 180 films. Ho-ly Smokes that's a lot of celluloid!

I've seen him in plenty of movies and TV commercials and… well… he will be missed. Fortunately, in my opinion, he lives on and on and on in movies.

The king is dead. Long live the king.
Andrew Joseph

Sake Confidential - A Book Review

This is actually a book review for a book I enjoyed very much.

I'm the type of guy/gaijin/foreigner (regardless of country) who likes to immerse himself in information.

I have done and continue to do the same with regards to Japan, somehow without learning much of its language I have managed to pick up quite a bit of its history, social customs and well… lots of other stuff.

I have managed to sip at the table of learning, drowning whatever real or imagined sorrows I had at my local bar in Japan, often toasting with Japanese locals… pretty much just enjoying life.

(Sorry Vince)

One of the easiest ways to enjoy one's self in Japan - and by that I mean immersing oneself in Japanese culture - is to share a beverage with a like-minded Nihonjin, regards of their adult age or sex. 

I'm not talking about o-cha (green tea), though that is a huge part of Japanese culture, but rather I am talking about alcohol.

While the Japanese like to think of themselves as being internationally cultured when they have some fine whiskey straight up, or perhaps consider themselves fun-loving when they imbibe huge quantities of beer, when they truly want to show off or impress, especially to an honored guest - let's say you and I - that is when they break out the sake - fermented rice wine, if I may be so common.

Prior to leaving Toronto for one (soon to be three years) in Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, my father warned me about the power of sake (pronounced 'sah-kay'), noting that it went down like water but had the kick of a tsunami.

I first met sake at my first coming-out party in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken - the place I called home - during a festival in early August… when it was hot and very humid - still in the mid 30C-range by 10PM.

A shunga "pornographic" ukiyo-e sake set of mine.

I was parched. When a local sake salesman saw we walking by towed by my Board of Education bosses, he proudly offered up his wares to the city's new assistant English teacher.

I sipped the glass of sake at first. Mmmmm. Warm, flavorful, fruity-even, and very aromatic - alcohol was what I smelled… but I couldn't determine anything more than that.

It tasted like nothing I had ever tasted before…

Sake… this isn't booze… to me sake was my first real exposure to Japanese culture.

Encouraged by all the Japanese men around me watching me pussyfoot around this miniature Japanese atomic bomb - they began chanting "Iki! Iki!" while miming the chug-chug hand gesture - so I downed it in one gulp. Yeah… I can open up the throat… a skill on a heterosexual man that only lends itself to drinking.

The Japanese men were impressed, as I tapped the upturned glass a few times to ensure I had every single drop of the clear liquid ambrosia.

Junmai Ginjo - some of the good stuff I enjoy drinking!

Cheers - and Kanpai abounded! As did another 15 glasses. My dad was wrong. It was sweet and did not pack the kick of a mule. Or maybe I had truly inherited my alcoholic uncle's genes and could out drink a sailor. Or maybe - just maybe - it was hot, and I was thirsty. Whatever. I only got a small buzz… my comrades who had initially joined me were staggering around drunk off their gourd.

Japanese culture. Nothing brings people together better than drinking (unless you are drinking while watching sports with rival fans).

That was my first experience with sake.

I suppose it could be used for sauces, but this is a lacquered sake sipping set of cups. Mine.

Another memorable time was when I won a sake drinking contest (tied really), where the Japanese JET leader and I powered down 47 glasses of sake apiece - two others passed out some 30+ glasses earlier.

Since then, I have actually been able to taste sake - much like that first sip I had on my lips… you never forget your first taste on your lips…

I could now sense the thickness or thinness… different smells, colors and even tastes in my sake… but I'm not so cultured that I could actually tell you what all those flavors or smells were.

In fact… all I knew about sake was that it was fermented rice… and I didn't even know what that meant.

My Mashiko pottery sake set. The  cups have never been used - because I tend to drink more than what each cup holds.
 I assumed it had standard Japanese fermented rice flavor. Rice tastes like rice… what's the big deal.

And then I read the most eye-opening book on Japanese culture (IE alcohol) that I have ever read: Sake Confidential, a "beyond the basics guide to Understanding, Tasting, Selection & Enjoyment' of sake.

Written by John Gauntner, and published by the fine folks over at Stone Bridge Press (who sent me a copy to review), I learned more about my favorite alcohol-based drink in three hours than in the previous 25 years of imbibing.

Sake Confidential - where have you been half my life?

Gauntner writes in a simple manner - as though he is talking just to you… I try to do the same.

I used to live two floors up from a sake shop, and when I stopped in to say hello every day, I would always marvel at the fantastic selection of sake bottles perched above and behind the shopkeeper.

I probably could have learned a lot from him about sake, but he spoke NO English, and I spoke next to NO Japanese. We always tried to communicate with each other (the fault is mine… I'm in Japan, and he was a WWII Japanese war vet)… but what always brought us closer was when he would close down the shop for the evening and drink with me.

He bade his wife to bring out Japanese nibble food, while he cracked open a bottle of three of the good sake… and for him, it wasn't the clear stuff… it was cloudy, and I didn't even know if it was expensive or not, but it tasted great!

Junmai sake - another pottery set of mine.

But now thanks to Sake Confidential, I have learned more about Japanese culture than I even knew existed.

Actually.. I knew it existed… I just thought it was information that wouldn't be privy to a non-Japanese!

What I found surprising, is that the whole industry of sake brewing doesn't appear to be very profitable! Breweries that make money have other businesses that do make money…

I also learned that there are very important distinctions between sake - two main ones, but it still allows for a thousand or more different flavors of sake. Who knew?

I also learned about how various ingredients and processes affect a sake's flavor, aroma and quality.

Rice. I really didn't know anything about rice - and now I do and want to learn more. I just thought that there was Japanese rice and that was it. Ignorant ol' me.

How the rice is milled, the yeast types, how the yeast is manipulated… temperature, storage… I didn't know sake could go bad in my cabinet! Apparently it does! I guess I should get rid of that bottle that's been open for six months or more… I just thought that alcohol would kill anything… Who knew?

Grades of sake?! Who knew?

What I did (past tense) know about sake could fit into a thimble. But no longer! Thanks to Sake Confidential - I know.

For anyone who is interested in learning all of sake's secrets; how the industry really works, as well as some history, well… let me just heartily recommend Sake Confidential (from Stone Bridge Press).

Now… Sake Confidential does use Japanese words, but author and sake connoisseur Gauntner does provide initial great explanations for each word.

There's even a glossary.

But that's where my complaint comes in - the glossary is at the back of the book, tucked between the last chapter and the Index. I never saw it until I finished the book!

I know sommmmme Japanese, but not a lot. I just wish I had found the glossary earlier.

Stone Bridge Press - I know the glossary is first listed in the Table of Contents page, but I didn't look at it. I'm unsure how many people do. Many, I suppose, so take my complaint with a grain of rice.

Me - why do I need the table of contents - I'm reading the book in order regardless of what you or the author has planned for me.

Still… for every Japanese-related book, I would humbly suggest a Glossary placed before Chapter 1. People will find it and use it. It's like the old Perry Mason books I used to read from Triangle (from the 30s and 40s)… a list of players in advance of the story. One knew it was there and could easily refer to it when confused about who which character was.

Issue Number 2 - and not a major one, I think. The author has included some sake labels within the chapters, and provides descriptions of what each of those sake's taste like.

Great, I suppose, because the Japanese brand name is given in English… but what I would have liked was perhaps arrows or something with English descriptions of what exactly the KANJI was on the label - to better help know just what we are looking for on the shelf.

It's a minor complaint(s), but hopefully my suggestions of correction are at least valid for the next printing.

Yet another sake cup I own. Geez,  do you think I like sake?
 To Michael of Stone Bridge Press - I understand why you believed this to be a great book.

Perhaps you do understand that I am the type of person who likes to know everything about a topic.

In my opinion, blogs, articles and news stories that only present part of the story are a waste of everyone's time. Give me as much information as possible. It's why you will rarely every get a short article from me.

I spend hours and hours researching an article that maybe only 100 people will read because I don't have the phrase "big boobs" in it - but whatever… I'd rather have someone - even one person read my blog for a full story - knowing I did it right.

I certainly hope many more of you loyal readers will consider purchasing the book - visit Stone Bridge Press for ordering of this and other great books on Japan: www.stonebridge.com.

Thanks to John Gauntner and his wonderful Sake Confidential book, I now know everything one gaijin could possibly know about the world of sake - at least on paper.

Now all I have to do is go and sample some quality sake. Thanks to Sake Confidential, I'm pretty sure I at least know what to look for.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, November 17, 2014

Marvel Comics Crossover with Japanese Manga


I took this from the weekly SCOOP! newsletter, my choice for keeping up-to-date on things relating to comic books, anime, movie monsters, auctions, conventions - heck, the collectibles market on everything I collect - except tobacco cards (c'mon guys, help me out). You can check it out at http://scoop.diamondgalleries.com.

When Marvel Comics announced that they would be doing an official crossover with the Japanese manga (comic book) Attack on Titan there were two main reactions: excited and confused. The former group of people has been waiting on the edge of their seats ever since, while the latter is probably still wondering “what is Attack on Titan”?

The post-apocalyptic fantasy manga began serialization in September of 2009 and follows the story of Eren Jaeger, his adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman, and their friend Armin Arlert. 

About 100 years prior to the start of the story, giant humanoid creatures called Titans appeared and devoured humans without reason, nearly wiping out humanity entirely. The Titans are generally anywhere between 3-15 meters tall and are almost always masculine in appearance, though they lack reproductive organs. They attack and eat humans on sight and the only way to kill one is by attacking the weak spot at the nape of their necks.

Humanity resigned themselves to living within massive circular walls. Three walls create three districts: Wall Maria, Wall Rose, and Wall Shina. 

The story begins when a giant, 200-foot tall Titan (known as the “Colossal Titan”), along with another unique “Armored” Titan, appear and break through a part of Wall Maria, allowing their smaller brethren to totally invade and destroy the human settlement.

Eren, Mikasa and Armin enlist in the Survey Corps, a branch of the military dedicated to fighting and destroying the Titans in an effort to reclaim the territory lost in the Wall Maria attack. When Eren appears to have a unique and dangerous ability, he becomes the key to humanity’s hope in their fight against the Titan threat.

Attack on Titan has become an incredible success, with multiple manga spin-offs (Before the Fall, Junior High, and No Regrets), light novels, video games, and an anime. 

The first season of the anime (animated cartoon) concluded in 2013, though the English dubbed version currently airs on the Cartoon Network in the U.S.. 

A miniseries based on the No Regrets manga will be released between December 2014 and April 2015, and a series of films is in production that will recap the first season.

The Avengers might be the World’s Mightiest Heroes (the Avengers by Marvel Comics), but they’re going to have a tall challenge ahead of them when they take on Attack on Titan’s monsters in the upcoming crossover.

Bravo Scoop! But the image above shows Spider-Man... and even though he was first offered membership back in 1966 (turned it down) and was part of the New Avengers Volume 1, I'm pretty sure he isn't an Avenger - at this point in time. 

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph