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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Blue-Eyed Salaryman - Book Review

I just finished reading The Blue Eyed Salaryman, a book written by a gaijin born in Ireland named Niall Murtagh who not only decided to work in Japan, he completed his PhD there and then went to work for a host of Japanese multinational corporations - though in the book, he lumps his experiences together as though it all happened at Mitsubishi.

Firstly, this is one fascinating book! It was lent to me by my buddy Vince - and I promise to get all these books back to him when I am done!

The book provides a firsthand look inside life at a Japanese corporation - a deep look, in fact at the Japanese business culture that shows why Japan is either, depending on one's point of view, a superstar in the workplace, or a dinosaur waiting for the meteor to crash down and spill up an explosion of dirt and dust to slowly choke out the life-giving sunshine and cause extinction of life as it was known in Japan.

Really... if you want to know what life in Japan is like for a Japanese person... hmm... well... I'm not sure if this book does it, but it's pretty close.

What it does actually spell out for the reader is a look at how Japanese businesses are run - poorly, I think - as the standard thinking of the Japanese is revealed to be: Why should we change anything... we have always done things this way.

I found that to be a time-honored tradition in Japan, as it often feels that change for the sake of change - or even for the sake of improvement - is not something to be undertaken lightly or even at all.

Murtagh is a very good writer, and enough said about that.

The descriptors on the book's cover indicate that Midweek, BBC Radio 4 called it "Astonishing", which it is.

The Sunday Telegraph called it "Fascinating", which it is.

The Daily Mail called it "Hilarious" - which it isn't. I'm pretty sure I have a reasonable grip on hilarity... and I would have thought the Brits would have to... but they don't.

I have to recall that the Brits think that Monty Python's Flying Circus is the funniest thing ever made on television. But consider if you will, that there were 45 episodes on the telly. There sure as hell were not 45 skits in total that one could rhyme off as funny.

Sure, there was the Blanch Mange, Dinsdale, Twit of the Year, Dead Parrot, Lumberjack, Beethoven, the Cheese Shop, Nudge-Nudge, Can't say my B's, G'day Bruce, Spanish Inquisition, and the Ministry of Silly Walks... but I'll be damned if there were maybe 20 skits that made me crack a smile. So maybe the Brits don't know hilarious as much as one would think.

Now... I do think that the movies were all boffo... but the word 'hilarious' means something more than merely cracking a smile. It means smacked in the face with a salmon, knee-slapping spit my coke out of my nose funny.

The Blue Eyed Salaryman is not that. Not even close. But... it is a damn fine book with some very, very dry keen insights about life as a gaijin pretending to be a salaryman.


Sorry Niall Murtagh and any other foreigner living in Japan... as you no doubt have all discovered... no matter what and no matter how hard you try, one can never become Japanese... which is really what the book is all about.

Now the author doesn't really try to become Japanese - as he is forever thumbing his nose at Japanese culture simply by asking 'why' to a number of situations... so in my opinion, despite marrying a Japanese wife and having a couple of kids born in Japan... three of the four members of his family are forever gaijin.

I'm not saying Muratgh's situation isn't correct... it is... but I am also saying that his situation isn't that unique.

Here in Toronto, Canada - the supposed melting pot at the self-proclaimed center of the universe - not being a white citizen or a white citizen without a Canadian accent (French or English)... well... people sometimes look at you sideways... wondering how I can have a voice devoid of an accent... talk about hockey like I invented it (I didn't, but I know more about its history than the average Canadian - baseball, too, if any Americans are reading this!). And my surname or even my first name... holy crap... no... it is my real name... I didn't change it... and neither did my parents Ron or Lynda change theirs after emigrating from India.

But... I know not everyone isn't like that... I have friends at work who just see me as Andrew and don't see the color of my skin.

Maybe it's changing, though... Canada has been a hotspot for immigration for people from EVERY possible corner of the world for 50 years-plus now. My son Hudson has a white mother... and has a beige complexion... yet no one at his school seems intent on pointing out the color of his skin. My son hasn't experienced racism yet - and I hope he never does.

But Canada has 50 years on Japan... more even.

Japan doesn't really have immigration. And no immigrant can become a Japanese citizen... you can, but outside of a retired sumo wrestler, I can't think of any gaijin who actually became a nihonjin.

And that is why Japan will fail.

Though it isn't stated outright in The Blue Eyed Salaryman, Japan's inability to change... and to accept change is why it will continue a slow freefall in the world's... well... internationalization.

Hilarity or lack of hilarity aside, for those of you with aspirations of traveling to Japan to soak up its culture as a teacher or barkeeper or hostess, if you want a pretty good look at the business culture of Japan, you MUST read The Blue Eyed Salaryman by Niall Murtagh.

I lived in Japan for a mere three-years plus and I didn't know 99% of the stuff Niall Murtagh writes about. Though on the other hand, when it comes to being a gaijin in Japan and Niall's relevant writings on that topic, I probably could have written 100% of it from my own personal experiences.

My copy was published by Profile Books Ltd. of www.profilebooks.com, in case you'd like to purchase a copy for yourself. I know you can also use Amazon, because they have it, too.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Noboko & Andrew - Love Is A Battlefield

Nothing is resolved between myself and Noboko as far as I am concerned, but apparently the same can't be said for Noboko relative to our relationship.

I think she thinks that we should just enjoy the two months I have left in the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme and not tell her dad about us.

I think we need to tell everyone everything because that's what I would do... only it's not just me.

I ask Noboko a few days after we get back together after our first argument if I can have dinner at her parent's house again.

Noboko is no one's dummy... well... maybe her father's... but she tells me quite plainly that there is no way in hell that I am coming over again, so I can forget all about spilling the beans to him.

I had to try. There was no suave way to get another invite to her parent's place... not after that argument.

I'm completely befuddled... I don't know what to do... her old man is the boss of the northern section of Toichigi-ken's junior high school principals... which means he has some clout in the whole Japanese educational system.

She seems to think that if his daughter was found to be dating the local Ohtawara-shi junior high school teacher, it would bring shame upon him.

The thinking here is that it would mean his daughter is a slut.

No Japanese woman dating a gaijin (foreigner/outsider) would just be dating him... there would be sex involved... and apparently that whole sex before marriage thing is completely frowned upon in Japan.

It is frowned upon, and yes, everyone would be correct in surmising she and I were having sex... I mean dammit... she's hot. Forget about the fact that I fell in love with her at first sight... she is smoking. And man, the sex was awesome!

Now... here's the thing... while Japan does frown upon the whole sex before marriage thing... and probably scowls a lot more when a gaijin male is involved... damn near everybody in Japan has been involved in pre-marital sex.

In fact, a large majority of Japanese males are also involved in marital sex with a female who is not their spouse.

Japan loves sex.

There are live hotels all over the damn place... and even in a sleepy little city like Ohtawara-shi, I think there were maybe three or four love hotels catering to the sexual libido of a horny population.

Love hotels come in many flavors, but the main concept is that one can rent a room by the evening or for a two hour period - which is just enough time for most people to get their freak on.

Yes... you can rent a hotel room for two hours... have sex... and still have your girlfriend or mistress back in time for whatever curfew her father has placed upon her.

Many love hotels, as I am sure you are aware, also have theme rooms: rooms decorated in a theme such as the Hello Kitty sex room with pink walls and cat masks; the Samurai sex room with armor and swords; Star Wars sex room with plastic light sabers and masks; Tarzan sex room with swinging vines... or they simply just have romantic rooms with hot tubs, heart-shaped beds, S&M rooms with chains dangling from the ceiling for body parts to be strapped into.

I went into one with Ashley - my former American JET girlfriend... but we just wanted a place to crash after wandering around Tokyo one evening doing a mess of shopping. We had a round bed which I fell off of, because dammit, I was looking for sex without all the angles, and not a bed built as such.

My favorite love hotel chain establishment is the Go-Go-Go. Go is the Japanese word for 'five', but the owners are obviously familiar with the English phrase of "go-go-go" in reference to giving it to her hard and fast with people chanting away.

So... everyone in Japan pretty much has pre-marital sex... and does so at a love hotel.

So... I can see Noboko's concern that should her father realize she and I are together, that she and I are doing it - and since he would know I am a JET teacher, I would have my own place.

Her dad, prior to having me over for dinner a month ago already knew of me. Apparently most of the upper echelon of Tochigi-ken's educational personnel know of me.

It's not because I'm a fantastic assistant English teacher (AET) - because I'm not. But it is because I am quite a popular AET with the students - regardless of what anyone else says.

I was told by Noboko's dada that the students really seem to like me as a person... that my sense of humor has made it quite easy for everyone to want to learn to do better in English class. While the desire to learn English is there - I am unsure if it has translated into better English scores for my students.... but Noboko's dad said they at least wanted to learn English more than they wanted to learn any other class.

So Noboko's dad respects me, right?

Not quite. He says I have quite the reputation for being a joker.

That's bad. While the Japanese love to laugh, when one's daughter is involved, a serious salary man would be best served... and when one's job involves a serious position such as education, having a bunch of nails standing up having a good time laughing and telling jokes to the gaijin AET is not what Japan needs.

He didn't say it, but I know what he was inferring. That's when the two of us got drunk and I made him laugh.

No one out-drinks me in Japan... not unless I don't want to drink.

So... I understand Noboko's concerns, and I discuss all of this with her, but "Aren't we assuming the worst of your father?"

"Maybe," I continue, "maybe he is concerned about you, but really all he wants is for you to be happy."

"Mm. Perhaps," Noboko says while sucking air through her teeth, a sure sign she doesn't believe what she is semi-agreeing to. "Can we kiss now?"

Damn... she knows I can't resist that... she's going to change the subject by "making" me have sex with her.

While we certainly had our go-go-go moments lasting longer than two hours, she did not go-go-go from my apartment.

I don't know how she is going to explain this to anyone, but Noboko spends the Thursday night at my apartment sleeping naked beside me in my queen-sized bed.

We both have work to go to in the morning... and when we finally go to sleep, I am already making plans to call in sick on Friday seeing as how I only have to spend the day in the Board of Education office.

Noboko, however, is awake before I am and has had a shower, and is dressing in clothes she had hidden in a bag she had brought over.

I ask her what she will tell her father about not coming home last night.

"I won't tell him anything, because he won't dare ask for fear of knowing the truth," is what I am thinking.

"I have no idea what I will tell him... perhaps he won't even know I wasn't home because he is at a conference in Utsunomiya-shi last night," Noboko reveals.

"Okay... but what about your mom... what will you tell her?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"Nothing. She knows you and I are together."

You could have knocked me down with a feather.

Noboko leans over a kisses me, grabs my crotch, smiles wickedly, and goes to her school to teach.

I wonder how she parked her car overnight in the parking lot below without anyone complaining...

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, December 29, 2014

Noboko & Andrew - Say Nothing With Flowers

I call up Noboko 30 minutes after she storms out of my apartment. She doesn't pick up the phone.

So I call again every five minutes... she still doesn't pick up the phone.

In fact she doesn't seem to want to pick up the phone for the next five days... and doesn't... but there is that tell-tale knock on my door at 8PM on Thursday evening...

It's Noboko... and she has a bouquet of flowers - probably given to her by some admirer, I think... because that's what a rebuffed guy always thinks.

Of course she went out ans wasted the money on flowers for me, but I know it's the thought that counts.

But what is the thought?

In the interim of her not calling or answering my telephone pleas, my father had called me to tell me that my mother was very sick and that I should be prepared to come home soon. Despite my obvious questions, I'm just told that she is sick - never mind what - just sick and it looks bad.

I'm confused... just a year earlier a very healthy mom came to visit me in Japan and had the time of her life here with everyone treating her like a queen. But I suppose, when it comes to health, sh!t happens.

I dislike not knowing... well... anything. My father treated me like the child he supposed I was, but dammit, I'm 28-years-old, living in a foreign country, teaching English in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken for nearly three years now... I live by myself, and know how to look after myself quite well thank you. The woman I want to marry seems to be in a bit of disagreement about how we should live our life together, but despite appearances, I'll handle whatever life throws at me.

I don't tell Noboko about my father's cryptic phone call, because I'm not one to play the pity card... I mean I am, but I don't see why it should be played now.

If I'm going to spend my life with someone, it has to be all cards on the table... nothing hidden. I suppose I was naive then, because it seems that relationships are built on secrets. For better or mostly worse.

I ask Noboko what she wants to do about us.

She says she doesn't know... which I suppose I expected, but wished to any and all gods listening that it wasn't so.

Noboko is afraid of upsetting the apple cart that is her father's life. She fears that if he learns his darling and only daughter is in love with a gaijin that he would step in and end it.

Noboko says that would end it right now, and we wouldn't have the next two months together before my contract to teach is up and I have to go home to Toronto.

So... is that it? Love the one your with for however long the two of us have? How fugging stupid is that?

I suppose I'll find out.

Because I'm not giving up on us.

Next... I want to have dinner at her parent's place again.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph       

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Noboko & Andrew - Worst Threesome Ever

At this point in time in my life, I really want to marry Noboko... I mean I did from the moment I first laid eyes on her at school here she taught English, but now... even more so.

I almost look at it like it's a competition. Matthew is going to marry Takako, a sassy, intelligent and beautiful woman whose dad is a local politician here in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken... and Jeff, he's married a woman down in Sano-shi, Tochigi-ken... my two best male buds in Japan - and both of them set for life.

Me... I'm the one who had the girlfriend almost from day one... I've slept with more women than I had any right of sleeping me... and yet, until Noboko, I couldn't find that one... that one person I would gladly stop hounding women for... someone I wanted to hound for the rest of my life.

I was first with the girlfriend, and last with the Japanese girlfriend... and I don't want to be the last of the Three Musketeers who couldn't find a Japanese wife... but at least that won't happen.

What I should have done, was to ask either of those two - Jeff and or Matthew - just how difficult or easy it was to have their woman's father find out about the two of them.

But I'm a man. Despite an inability to use power tools, I do have a love of sports and women... but there is no way in hell I would ever ask another guy for advice about women... not even Japanese women.

The main thing is that no man wants to appear to be weak even if he is.

The other is that Matthew... well... his wife-to-be is hardly what I would call weak. Takako was and is very strong-willed, and even if her father wasn't such a brilliant nice guy - he is - Takako, I think, wouldn't give a crap and would have married Matthew regardless. That photo above... that's a very brave Takako from earlier this month holding an extremely large Hello Kitty doll. I don't know who or what impresses me more.

Jeff... Jeff surprised me. Here's a guy who hates Japanese food - loathes it! - and he's marrying a Japanese woman and is prepared to live his life in Japan. The thing is, his wife is very strong-willed also... with a no bull-crap attitude.

Noboko... my Noboko gives off this impression that she is tough as nails... and she is... able to ably fend off all the unwanted advances from all the men around her - trust me... every single Japanese guy that saw her wanted her... and she was having none of that.

But... as strong as she was, her weakness was her father... a loyalty and obedience to her father that I found shocking, impressive and completely disheartening.

In the past, I have been out with a woman who was very religious - and more power to you if YOU are... but as a man who has read The Bible, The Koran, The Torah... the teachings of Buddha... just because... I'm not an overly religious man. As such... with that very religious woman as my girlfriend, I knew I would always be second best.... and I can tell you that now, as back then, no man enjoys being second-best to any other man.

And here we are.

I love Noboko. Noboko loves me. Noboko loves her father. Hell, I love my father, but when it comes to love, I don't need anyone's opinion or anyone physically getting in my way.

I would give up my family for that perfect woman, and... and... and I suppose it was naive of myself to believe that a woman would be willing to do that for me.

It's weeks after I essentially proposed marriage to Noboko... and while that thought of spending the rest of my life with her scared me not at all, I am unsure if Noboko understood that... my contract with the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme is up in a couple of months, and I'm going home to Toronto... but I'd rather not.

I mean, I'll go home, but if I have someone to come back to, I will come back... but I'm only coming back for a woman who will be my wife... and if I have to spend the rest of my life in Japan doing some sort of stupid job like teaching English to kids or to adults, then I would do it knowing that no matter how much I hated my job it would be worth it to be with the one I love.

I would have given up everything... everything to achieve everything.

So... I tell Noboko that I love her and want to marry her.

"I know," she says.

I usually run through every possible scenario of rebuttal or conversation a person could have - when it's important - I spend hours, if not days doing that... and yet I didn't expect such a casual, off the wall remark as "I know."

It screwed me up completely, because in every scenario, this opening gambit of mine involved her saying she loves me and wants to marry me, too.

Internally flustered, but not showing it on the outside - I rarely do - I tell Noboko that I want to spend the rest of my life with her, and if that means living it here in Japan, then that's what I would do.

"But," I suggest, "since your English-language skills are through the proverbial roof, you could also come and live with me in Canada."

"I know," she says.

Didn't see that coming, and as such, I have to continue winging it like other people do.

"Look," I blubber out, "if you will come with me to Canada for a vacation when my contract is up - and you tell your parents what is going on between you and I - then when the vacation is over, I will come back with you to Japan and we'll get married and I'll get a job... and we'll have kids and live happily ever after."

She doesn't say anything for a while... just kind of stares off into space.

"I can't," she says finally. "My father..."

"Your father?!" I explode. "Who cares about your father?!"

"I do!"

"Don't you love me? Huh? Well, do you?"

She's crying now. "Of course I love you, but you don't understand... and that's why I can't marry you..."

She gets up after sticking that katana sword through my heart, quickly slips on her shoes and races out my front door.

I think I shout her name... but I may have whispered it with my dying breath.

She loves me, but I don't understand... and that's why she can't marry me... no... that's what she said... I got it.

I have no idea what the hell this means... but I know I am extremely frustrated... so I pour myself a Coke and drink it.

I haven't had a drink since I was with Noboko, and I don't see the need to have one now...

Of course I know what she means. She is afraid to tell her parents she is in love with me, and as such there is no way in hell we can ever be a married couple here in Japan or anywhere else in the world.

I thought I had a lot of baggage when I came over to Japan - both physically and emotionally - but apparently I ain't got nothing on Noboko.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Noboko & Andrew: Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy

Okay... back to Noboko and myself. I've just purchased an expensive (for me) blue sapphire ring with diamond chips on 18K yellow gold ring and a pair of matching earrings... I called it my pre-engagement ring, and when I gave it to her yesterday - the jewelery, that is - she laughed as she put it on and told me the next ring better be diamonds, implying she wants me to get her an engagement ring so we can be husband and wife eventually.

That thought doesn't scare me in the least.

Noboko is funny, sweet, a tiger in the sack, beautiful, intelligent and all mine. Except that she also belongs to Japan and her father.

She is still afraid to tell her parents that I want to marry her and she wants to marry me... as far as everyone is concerned, she and I are just friends, with no hanky-panky involved.

But that's just dumb.

The neighbors down in apartment 207, also own the sake shop directly below.When they see an uber-attractive young Japanese woman silently slink up the stairs past the side of the shop, the obvious thing to do is watch her pretty legs as they disappear around the corner of the rounded stairway... noting that the tippy-tappy of her heels suddenly stops a mere one floor above their apartment.

They can hear her tapping, gently rapping at my chamber door like some raven... and they can hear my big steel door slide outwards in opening, hearing it close with a gentle bang.

But that's all they can hear.

I live in an atypical Japanese apartment. The floors are cement and are thick. I can rarely hear the neighbors walk above me, and aside from my loud music that I play on the weekends, I doubt the neighbors can hear any screams of passion uttered from Noboko's pouty lips - nor from any of the other women who have been my dates over the years.

I live in a sound-proof box... but of course, I'm a gaijin.

It means people are always watching to see who I am with or who is entering my abode and who exits it several hours later. It doesn't bother me, but I can see how my living in a goldfish bowl can be quite unnerving for those visiting it.

I want to be with Noboko now and forever. I want to be her husband and I want her to be my wife.

I think Noboko would like nothing more than to be with me, too, but the ever present omnipresence of her father is something we have to deal with.

I don't think he thinks he's a problem, but Noboko does... fearing what his reaction will be.... fearing what her engagement to a gaijin would mean to his career (not all that much, I fear, but she fears...).

The next few days of our life goes swiftly by... nothing stands out one way or the other... it's just all bliss and happiness as Noboko drifts over to my apartment everyday after work... we eat together... we talk... but not about the future... we just talk... sometimes we kiss... maybe we make love... always we are touching each other with a part of our body... just sitting on the couch, she drapes herself atop me and I lose control of the blood flow to my brain.

We just are.

Next blog about us... I have to screw things up. Man I hate writing about this time in my life... actually, I hate writing about the past so much...

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Message From The Grave From My Mother

Let's try something different today. Let's look at a message from my mother, Lynda, who was apparently very sick while I was in Japan, and with the help of my father kept it all hidden away from myself for fear of upsetting little ol sensitive me.

I should, however, state that once my father did call me during my third year on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme - sometime in late June of 1993 and tell me I should get ready to come home because my mother was in the hospital - but no amount of probing would get me any answers as to why.

A few days ago while rummaging through the boxes in the basement, I came across a message from my mother to people who might be considering donating money to a charity. It's a message that is both brave and a little sickening to myself, only because I hate knowing my mother was suffering while I was out screwing the world in Japan. Isn't hindsight effing wonderful?

My breathing was laboured, my heart was pounding in my chest, my voice was weak and I had a nasty cough. I lost my appetite and all I wanted to do was lie down and lose myself in eternal sleep.

This was in the spring of 1993. I thought I was having a bad case of allergies. When irregular heartbeat persisted, I was forced to go to my doctor. Stress test and Thalium tests were undertaken and I was prescribed nitroglycerine for angina. Rapid heartbeats continued and I was feeling progressively worse. After taking a few steps I wanted to lie down. I continued to show up for work, not missing an hour or a day. I read up on angina and felt my illness had not been diagnosed properly. The stress (or treadmill) test alone could have killed me.

I put off seeing a specialist because I wanted to give the angina a chance to react to the medication.

On June 12, 1993, feeling very weak and desperate to to get help, I went to teh hospital. The EKG, Echogram, MUGA, Chest and lung X-rays confirmed that my heart had enlarged due to fluid buildup, and there were patches on my lungs. The cardiologist informed me that I had contracted a virus that affected my heart and lungs, that could cause heart failure and collapse of the lungs. They were not absolutely certain of the cause, and tried different medications. The diagnosis was congestive heart failure or cardiac myopathy.

After a 2-month stay in the hospital, I had to have an angiogram. This procedure is like heart surgery, but conducted via a thin piece of wire which is inserted into the heart. At the conclusion of this procedure, I was informed that it may not be a virus, but instead a rare disease called sarcoidosis (pronounced Sar-coy-dough-sis). Very little research has been done on sarcoidosis. Until recently, I knew very little about the disease. One small brochure was given to me by the Lung Association a few weeks ago, and this is what I learned.

Sarcoidosis is a chronic condition that may affect any part of the body. It is an inflammation of the nodules of the involved tissues. Lungs, lymph, nodes, eyes, skin, liver and spleen are mainly involved.

the cause of sarcoidosis is still unknown. Evidence points to an as yet unidentified environmental agent that the body reacts to. Viruses are involved but definite proof is lacking.

Sarcoidosis is not a malignant disease nor is it contagious. Anyone can get sarcoidosis but it is more common in women than men.

Since it is not known what causes sarcoidosis, there is no way to prevent its occurrence. Some day, through research, it may be possible to expand knowledge, and find prevention and cure.

I have never given much thought to research behind any disease. Now that I am afflicted by an as yet incurable disease, I am determined to do my share to raise money for research and make the public more aware of this disease.

I have lived through a distressing experience and have every intention of handling work and health-related stress in a positive manner.

When Federated Health campaigns roll around next year, or when you are approached by a health organization for a donation, remember that doctors and specialists don't know everything about a disease and they continue to experiment with different medications. You may not reap the benefits of research, but a family member, a friend, or someone you know, may benefit from research.

Research is our only hope to understand the silent killer diseases.

May you keep healthy.

My mother died about a year after writing this.... a year after I returned home from Japan

I had no idea how sick she was when I got back, suffice to say she was in the hospital for a week after my return, and was just having some simple procedure - some woman thing, I was told - and would be out soon enough.

My mother was out soon enough, and for all intents and purposes she seemed quite healthy to me over the next year until she had that fatal heart attack a few feet away from where I write these blogs - my current computer room, back then, was my bedroom.

Let me tell you... to be roused from a deep sleep by my father's scream when he found her lifeless body on the couch... I lost two parents that day, as I would swear my father's soul was ripped from his body.

While it took the fire department mere minutes to arrive at our house to perform CPR without any luck, they continued for 40 minutes until an ambulance finally dragged its ass to the door. Government cutbacks.

They worked on my mother for 30 seconds and lo and behold - got a heartbeat... but dammit... that was 40 minutes of NO heartbeat... and who knows how long it was before my father found her 'asleep' on the couch.

The next week was the worst of my life. While my mother was essentially brain dead that Saturday morning, the doctors wanted to see if there was a chance she might come out of it after the brain swelling went down.

I only visited once at the hospital as I had just started a new job and needed to keep up appearances... but that one time... I watched every 30 seconds or so as an electrical charge raced from her brain to jerk her body in a powerful spasm. It was horrible... though perhaps no more horrible than watching some church friends of her brother's wife come in and pray for Satan to leave her body.

My mother was a saint. There was no evil that needed to leave her... but I did scream at those people for the misplaced prayers to get the fug out of her hospital room.

Late on the next Wednesday evening, with my father beside her, they essentially pulled the plug, removing the life support, and my mother died.

Depending on one's viewpoint, my mother died on September 14, or on the 15th when the death certificate was actually signed... the latter being Noboko's birthday.

What I find particularly galling about discovering my mother's plea a few days ago, was that NO ONE would tell me why she was sick in the first place.

After my mother died, the less said about her passing, the better it seemed to be for my soul-rendered father... so I never brought it up much. I would talk about her to anyone who was forced to listen... about her coming to visit me in Japan... and it would make me smile... knowing that at least during my second year in Japan, her first born son had finally figured out how to grow up.

But sarcoidosis? My mother died from the first guess that House made with every illness on every single television episode? I used to laugh at that guess, knowing only that it was always NEVER sarcoidosis.

Turns out, for once, if he had seen my mother, he would have been correct.

It's been over 20 years now since my mother died, and I am typing this out on the 26th of December my parent's wedding anniversary... it would have been their 51st.

And all I know is that for the first time since she died, I finally have some bloody closure.

Anyhow... I thought my mother deserved to write something in this blog... she did after all encourage me to be a writer.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: That image above... that's the damn brochure they gave my mother to explain her unexplainable disease.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas! Happy Ho-Ho's!

There's no need to read a blog today - thanks for stopping by. Go.

Sigh... okay...

Thanks to all my friends and readers (same thing) who have stopped by for a visit this past year.

Thanks to Rob, Matthew, Vince, Hudson, Caroline and all you anonymous people for giving me a purpose in life. Thanks also to Michael P at work for all the encouragement and topics and translations. Thanks to Julien who has supplied me with so many fun topics these past few months. Thanks to Emily for odd topic, too.

Thanks also to Michael Hutchison and his wonderful family for being a part of my time in Japan and my time on this blog. I'm so glad to hear from you! 

I haven't been sick for a few days now, saw my father for the first time this year on Monday, still have money left over... though my son still has more money than I...

Merry Christmas... we'll be back onto our regularly scheduled blog in 24 hours.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Tree Sap In Japan

So... how does a Canadian guy living on his own for the first time ever make his new Japanese home look more Christmas-like?

You get a Christmas tree, of course.

It's December of 1990 and I'm in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, and I'm part of the second wave of gaijin (foreigners) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme - yes, I'm that old, or you're just that immature, punk.

It's around 40F, which to any Canadian not in Vancouver, British Columbia, it's not cold. Yeah, it dips well below freezing during the night, and more than once I've had to chip the ice from the surface of my goldfish aquarium so that I could feed the buggers thanks to the fact that there doesn't seem to be any insulation in my apartment.

In fact, I was told that the Japanese actually construct their buildings to 'breathe'... to allow air in and out owing to the awesome humidity the country experiences for eight months of the year in most of the areas... though perhaps not as much in the northern climes.

Whatever. The cold doesn't really affect me.

I need a Christmas tree. So, the first thought I have is to ride my bicycle to some out of the way forested area on the outskirts of the city and chop one down myself.

Several problems with that: I don't know just how illegal that might be and I don't want to be arrested. Carrying a tree on a bicycle seems dangerous. I don't have an axe or a saw, and I don't know where to get either, and don't really want to purchase the tools anyway.

I'm pretty sure I haven't seen any Boy Scouts on lots selling Christmas trees... 99% of the Japanese are Buddhist, so why would they have Christmas trees.

Ieseya... my local department store... they might have saws! That's where I shop for food, purchase film for my camera, have the film developed, purchase flowers for my apartment to cover up the sex or chili con carne fart smells...

I ride over on my bicycle... spying beside the flowers exactly what I am looking for... no quite, but close enough... a small two-foot high coniferous tree in a white plastic planter... and only ¥3500 (US$35).

I ride home with it, leave it outside on my balcony and go back out for another ride... to that small shop Ashley showed me a week earlier... the strange one that sells a lot of Christmas items like cards and Russian nesting dolls (I bought several cards and apparently several Russian dolls)... but this time... I was going to buy some decorations for my Christmas tree.

There weren't many baubles, but there were enough... and all were attachable to my tree with a colorful wire wrap like bread used to have... I also purchased some fabric that I would use as a base for it all... it kind of reminded me of Linus' security blanket.

I bought the only candle they seemed to have - why did it have to be pink? It looks like... well... not mine... but...

I dragged it all home, put it together - and with a few cards added from family and friends back in Toronto, I managed to create a little Christmas heaven in the land of the Buddhists.

I have no idea why it was so important to me, but it was. I also thought that Matthew and Ashley might appreciate the gesture as well... to show Ashley I wasn't completely angry with her for making me stay in Japan this holiday, while she jetted off to Thailand without me... to show Matthew, that if the two of us were going to stay in Japan this winter, it could at least look a little like winter.

Two days before Christmas, it snowed... like about 30 centimeters (12 inches) - it was beautiful.... Matthew and I were tossing snowballs around in front of my building...

One day before Christmas, it all melted... like you'd never even believe it had snowed the day before...

Being away from family and friends for the first time ever... having my girlfriend jet off for places unknown without me... I really did feel abandoned a bit...

But... at least I had that Christmas tree... and my good buddy Matthew.

I'll leave off on my first Christmas in Japan for now... and I'll come back on New Year's Eve with more on Matthew, who once again made sure I didn't crawl into those dark thoughts within my brain, and made me see what Japan does during the holidays.

New blogs on some other stuff I haven't written coming up until that time.

Kanpai, Matthew!
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Kanji Of The Year

There are only two things true in life: death and taxes.

I once wrote a short story about the last man on Earth being harassed by the Eternal Revenue Service, so I can dig it.

So can Japan, as it has chosen the kanji character of zei - 税 - which means tax, as the word that best represents Japan for the year 2014.

The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation is an organization in Kyoto that in an effort to promote kanji, asks the citizens of Japan to vote on word that sums up the year for the Japanese.

First... do you really need to have a foundation to promote kanji? What are you guys - Sesame Street? Do people not know what letters are? 

"Today's program is brought to you by the letter seven. Yes... the letter seven."

Whatever...

Out of 167,613 submissions, 8,679 voters selected zei.

Mori Seihan (surname first), the head priest at the Kyomizudera temple in Kyoto, presented the kanji of the year in front of a large crowd, not by merely telling everyone the word, but by drawing it with an over-sized calligraphy brush featuring bristles the size of a standard bowling pin, drawing the kanji symbol zei on a huge piece of Japanese paper known as washi.

Check out the photo above... good luck trying to write it.

Hey - check out all the drips from this guy's calligraphy (in Japan it's called shodo). Pretty sloppy - even for a Buddhist priest. Drawing upright like that must be very 'taxing' for the poor priest.

Why zei?

Japan has an increase in the sales tax, beginning on April 1, 2014... and there was tremendous media coverage on that, plus the possibility that sales tax might be increased again in order to feed Japan's coffers by hitting the common people in the already tight pocketbook.

Welcome to a slice of global reality, Japan.

Us Canadians can't figure out why we have so much tax on our gasoline... it's like 48% or something like that... we have so much oil and gas, but Canadians pay so much as to be on par with a lot of other non-gas/oil countries. I think we also have a combined provincial and federal sales tax of 13% in Ontario, but poor Quebec is nailed with a 14.975% tax and Prince Edward Island has 14, and Nova Scotia the leading 15%. Alberta, the rich province with all the oil has 0% provincial and a 4% total tax.

I'd move to Alberta but then I'd have to put up with the Calgary Flames or (shudder) the Edmonton Oilers hockey teams.

Japan's sales tax moved from 5% to 8% in April, but it is expected to move all the way up to 10% in October of 2015. Yer breaking my effing heart.

Boo-hoo.

According to The Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation, the second-most popular kanji character was 熱, meaning fever, a reference to the sporting passion that gripped Japan this year with the Sochi Olympics, World Cup soccer and the success of Nishikori Kei (surname first) on the tennis court. Fever also referred to the Ebola outbreak.

Number three was 嘘, which means lie and refers to all of the political scandals and the claims of a stem cell researcher.

If number two and three are supposed to represent your country, they would have been pretty damn
lame.

The Sochi Olympics were the Winter Olympics held in Russia, and Japan did okay. Japan didn't win the World Cup of soccer and your tennis player performed well, but is hardly dominant enough to be anything more than an afterthought on the world stage. Japan was hardly number one in sports in 2014. Wishful thinking. Next.

Political scandals... you have those every single effing year, Japan. You should be more concerned about the scandals you haven't discovered yet. A politician lying? No! D'uh. How can you tell a politician is lying? Their lips are moving. Why be surprised about a political scandal? That's just being naive.

As for the female scientist who faked her stem cell research? Scandalous, but surely there was something Japan was more proud of?

How about perseverance? Why accentuate a negative? Okay, you aren't always trying to do that as the suggestion of 'fever' might suggest.

How about stagnation? Like in your economy? Like in your nuclear energy program? Like in your country being considered a technical world power? Like in your constant failure in the Miss Universe pageant?

No... tax via zei is a damn fine word... it just means that despite all of your complaining, Japan's citizens are finally going to have to pay proper sales taxes like most other countries in the world.

Your sense of entitlement is over. Time to pay the piper.

For a list of the Kanji of the Year words since 1995, click HERE.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ghost Of Christmas Past

While digging around the basement this afternoon (Sunday), I came across a few items of interest in a box I hadn't looked in a few years - trust me... with 35,000 comic books, I have a lot of boxes, not all of them filled with comics.

Inside an envelope was the Christmas greeting I sent my folks back in December of 1990 - careful preserved by my mother, while not in anticipation for this blog, but kept in anticipation that it would be a useful reminder someday of a long ago day... which when I read the card was kind of spooky: Christmas Message - just for you.

I purchased this Christmas card in a small white stucco shop a few minutes from my apartment. Actually, Ashley had found it and had dragged me out to see this place that was close to the Ohtawara-shi boy's high school where she taught.

The shop had many items from around the world in it, but mostly it sold trinkets of the type that would impress young women - plastic jewelery done up to look pretty... perfumes, brushes, make-up stuff... cute posters... stuff like that, that made me wonder why Ashley wanted me to accompany her here, until she pointed out the selection of Christmas cards they had there.

Here we are in a small city of 50,000 people in Japan, some 100 kilometers north of Tokyo in a place most people in Japan would never consider visiting because the city's name literally means 'big - rice field - field' and I have a shop selling not only Christmas cards, but Christmas cards written in English.

Here's what I spied 25 years later on the back of the Christmas card, in white type, written in English: "Printed in Japan".

All I can think, is that some where out there, someone - a gaijin/foreigner - was hand-making Christmas cards and selling them to Japanese shops, who sold them for ¥300 (about US$3) - the price was also printed on the back of the card.

The shop also had numerous other Christmassy things, and I ended up purchasing a set of Russian nesting dolls (now lost in a fire a few years ago), and a few holiday decorations that I would use to recreate my own Christmas in Japan, seeing as how I would spending it in Japan.

A month or so earlier, Ashley and I had a tremendous breakup - all I know is she wanted out, so what baby wants, baby gets, I was solo and started sleeping with every female I laid hands on... which amounted to two women, but that was pretty good considering it happened over two days in a row.

That story is well documented elsewhere, suffice to say that whatever plans Ashley and I had of going to Thailand together were no longer plans at all. By the time the blood flowed back into my brain, all attempts by myself to go somewhere on vacation were left blowing in the wind, while somehow Ashley managed to get in with a bunch of other female AETs (none of whom I wanted to sleep with - believe it or not) who ended up going to Thailand.

I was pissed, though in hindsight, I do believe that Matthew and I may have been the only two gaijin to have stayed in Japan over the holidays and thus got a unique experience missed by others. I saw Thailand later.

Anyhow... Ashley, at this time at the shop, was still feeling sheepish about screwing up everything for me and was trying to make nice.. was it working?

Let's look at what I wrote on the Christmas card back home:


 Dear Family
Although it doesn't really feel like Christmas here, just be aware I'm thinking of you always.
Your loving son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin,
Andrew
Dec. 5, 1990

It doesn't really feel like Christmas here...

Tomorrow I'll tell you what I did to try and make Japan feel a bit Christmassy for myself... as well as for Matthew and Ashley.

Today, by the way, would also be Ashley's birthday. I think. Unless it's tomorrow. Let's say it's today, but that's all I'm saying.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Inside The Heart Of Japan

It being Christmas time, and me not feeling very Christmassy these past few years - no, not quite bah, humbug or anything that bad, but I just feel out of sorts around this time of year.

Anyhow,let's take a look at one of the first books written about Japan by one of the very first JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme exchangers, one Bruce Feiler via his book Learning To Bow.

It was lent to me by my buddy Vince down south in the central part of North America... a book that purports to delve inside the Heart of Japan.

Feiler is one heck of a good writer. No one can deny that. Born a couple of weeks earlier than myself, he is the best-selling author of 12 books, including The Secrets of Happy Families, The Council of Dads, Walking the Bible, and Abraham, and one of only a handful of writers to have six consecutive New York Times nonfiction best-sellers in the last decade. He writes the This Life column in the Sunday New York Times and is also the writer/presenter of the PBS miniseries Walking the Bible and Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler (2014).

So, he's good.

Now, maybe it's the fact that he was there three years earlier than myself, and he was trying to write about the culture of Japan in a serious manner--all of which he succeeded in doing--but damn is it boring.

I have no idea how this book has been 'heralded as one of the funniest, liveliest and most insightful books ever written about the clash of cultures between America and Japan'.

It certainly is insightful, but maybe it's just me... a guy who also happened to live in a small rural Japanese town like him... but it sure seems like I had more fun out there. Real fun and not just fun for serious people.

Bruce seems to be a serious guy. Maybe that's the problem.

I went in, like him, completely open to the experience, but unlike him, my serious side is tempered with a completely stupid non-serious side that actually finds the Japanese to NOT be stiff and robotic... which is what I still seemed to get from Bruce even when he was trying to show them as being human.

Yes, every situation is different.

While Bruce begins his entry into the mystique of Japan through a ritual outdoor bath concocted by his Board of Education as a means of showing how these workaholic Japanese people let their hair down, to that I say phooey.

Do you want to know what MY guys did?

It's July... 1990... we're traveling back from Tokyo to Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken in a panel van. There are two seats - one for the driver, one for the passenger. I'm NOT the passenger. And neither are my two compatriots sliding around the back of the van.

Those two in the back with me are the two gentlemen who would be my bosses over the next few years... but not just my bosses... they would be my teachers, my friends, my confidantes.

So... while we are driving to my new home - I'm in the back of a van... unable to see what the fug is going on in the outside world... I have no idea what the sights are... I have no idea where I am going... I have no idea if my city is large, cosmopolitan or modern - in truth, it was not. But it was home.

Kanemaru-san... one of the two bosses, was sitting beside me sweating as much as I was in the back, though I was in a three-piece suit and tie. I sat on the edge of my luggage, while he and Hanzaki-san squatted on their haunches and slid around like a dog trying to stand up in a car. It is amusing... and I laughed at their misfortune... to which they laughed, too, as they understood the ridiculousness of the situation, language-barrier be damned.

Kanemaru-san, having enough of that, crawled towards me and sat on the edge of one of my four suitcases. I may never have been a Boy Scout, and I certainly would never be confused for one, but I do think their motto of 'always be prepared' is a good one.

Still, I was unprepared for what happened next.

Kanemaru-san pulled out a cigarette from a soft pack Golden Bat smokes lit it and sat beside me as he puffed smoke around us while he thumbed through a Japanese-English dictionary, pointing to a single word with a meaty finger.

I would say the English word out loud, and he would flip to the next word and the next and the next... some 30 words...

People... I wish I could share those 30 words, but I can't... lost in the haziness of both time and cigarette smoke... but I can share what those 30 words meant.

Kanemaru-san, word by word, told me a joke.

It wasn't the funniest joke I had ever heard, and if I recall correctly, it was one I already knew... but it was the funniest thing in the world to me.

Here we are... in a non-air-conditioned panel van with what I assume was the rest of Japan zooming by anonymously... and I'm with four Japanese men I just met... sliding around, unwittingly sharing a smoke.... and every stereotype I ever had of the Japanese was forever blown out my ass like so much smoke.

Why did I believe that the Japanese were these stiff formal folk? Screw that! Here were guys... guys then who are my age now... maybe younger even... and they wanted nothing more than to make me feel  comfortable by telling me a joke... to make me smile.

Learning to bow? Are you effing kidding me? Inside the heart of Japan?

Oh my god... No...

These Japanese liked to share a laugh. And we did.

You can read Bruce Feiler's book on Japan... and you can marvel at how he turns a phrase... and maybe everything that happened in Bruce's book actually happened... but damn it was boring.

Before my bosses picked me up, in my first night in Japan, I got lost with a bunch of Americans in Tokyo. I don't know what was scarier - being the lone Canadian, being attracted to one of the Americans and not telling her that, or being in a part of Tokyo where there was no neon light.

I was nearly hit by a car when I looked the wrong way while trying to cross the road... was pulled back at the last moment by that same woman I feel in love/lust with (Florence Nightingale thing, perhaps... but damn she was hot!) (That was Kristine, by the way).

I was also accosted by a Japanese transsexual... not accosted so much as propositioned...

We asked for directions from a Japanese businessman, who rather than point us in the correct direction led us back to our hotel... after a 40 minute hike...
  
... and that was the first three hours out in Japan!

Learning to bow isn't the be all and end all in Japan. It's a very small part of Japan and it's a very rote part of Japan, but despite my wife saying it's a clever title, it's not what Japan is about. It's not even what it's like to be a foreigner.

No... if you want to know what Japan is like, go there... and experience it for yourself.

If you get lucky like I did, or Matthew did, or numerous others, you'll hopefully find that the heart of Japan is its people.

Not the warriors, samurai, soldiers, geisha, ninja, politicians or whatever... it's the honest to gosh people who live in the city or in the small town... and hopefully you'll discover for yourself that true living is just living and being able to have a good time.

I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Bah... but no humbug.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph     



 

   
  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Oh Crap! My First Earthquake Experience

I'm still under the weather...five days into my first vacation of the year and I'm sick. It's no longer just the shivering alternating between the sweats like I'm in menopause, now my stomach is rejecting that which it holds dear - food.  At least it's not verbal diarrhea. That's what this blog is for, though I do need a blog roll.

Now that I still have your attention, let me reboot an old story here... one of my more famous incidences on the toilet that occurred while I was in Japan.

It was three weeks into my stay in Japan in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken... and I was sitting down on the air filled seat of the western-style toilet I had... Not everyone on the JET Programme was as lucky, though, many of us did not have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and have to turn more Japanese while squatting over a long porcelain Japanese john...

I was happily minding my own business when the whole world began to groan and creak and rattle and roll...

Oh crap! My first ever earthquake! And it's a doozy! It went on for about 30 seconds, or so it seemed as I wondered if the walls in the closet that was my toilet... it really was a WC (water closet) would collapse on me... and days later when the rescue workers would try and find my body they would note that while I had not crapped my pants, I actually saved myself that distinction by not having them any higher than my ankles.

Yeah... sitting on the toilet... trying to evacuate the bowels and then get creamed by a fallen wall during an earthquake. Not gonna be my epitaph.

Obviously I survived... and I think it was only a 4.8 Magnitude pisser... something most Japanese won't even fall out of bed over... but for me... whew!

That was 1990... and while I make light of it here and now, it really was frightening even though it was nothing rather harmful.... and so... I can't even begin to imagine what a real quake over a 6.0 would feel like or how scared I would have been.

I never had to go through that while I was there... just lucky, I guess. I saw Kobe a few times before it was flattened in 1995... and the same with Sendai before it got a big jolt of the tsunami after the March 11, 2011 quake...

My point is... I first wrote about this little experience of mine back in 2009 - when I first started this blog... too far removed from Kobe, and in advance of the next big one... so... sorry if it seems flippant.

I went through one other minor quake in Ohtawara a year later, that freaked me out again, but apparently no one else... and then after a visit to Kristine's old boyfriend's place in Tokyo (minus Kristine, as the lad and I had become very good friends), I discovered that Tokyo shakes at least once a day... it became no biggie.

In the ensuing 25 years in Toronto, we've had maybe three quakes we could feel... everyone around was all in a panic, but me... it was used to it enough where I barely reacted.    

Time has a way of changing one's view on things.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph 




Friday, December 19, 2014

Thank You Rob

This one is long over due.

Last month I celebrated a birthday of some infamy, glad I made it to such a high number, but not to pleased that it has happened so fast either.

Just one more day closer to death. Ah... but that's what life is anyways... we are born to die.

For such a milestone of an event, you might figure there would be much celebrating and the whole three cheers and a tiger for me (to quote from a Bugs Bunny cartoon far older than myself), but it was rather a low-key affair.

In keeping with it, I received a Ghostbusters LEGO kit (ghosts - death, WTF?!) from the wife and kid... and from my bud, RE Jones... a whole gaggle of stuff.

Rob and I have been friends since we were 14, or rather since he was 15 and I was 14... as the two youngest kids in our grade, where every bastard was going on 16. Rob is probably the ONLY person on this planet who could actually purchase comic books for me and have a pretty good shot at making it not only something I need, but something I want.

He did that with a plethora of Godzilla comic books - newish ones from IDW... which also led me to an ad which made me write about Machi Koro (HERE). He also bought me a Rocket Racoon t-shirt, he of the Guardians of The Galaxy, as Rob probably correctly surmised that I had enjoyed reading that comic book for years before it became a damn popular movie this year.

There were actually three comic books in the bunch from 1972 that I probably shouldn't already have, but I did... and that's cool because they are in far better shape than the reader copies I had that bought brand new. You know... it's the thought that counts.

Now... I have received plenty of well wishes from my friends for birthday greetings - from all over the world, in fact, which is really quite cool considering some of them I only know through this blog - but I will tell you for free, that getting older scares me, as I am now just four years shy of the age my mother died.

I tend to take after her.

While I have been off on vacation this week, and the ensuing weeks, I did go foraging down into the vaults below the main floor looking for some stuff to write about for this blog... old letters and such that I had kept for 20 years, but am no longer sure if I actually kept for 25 years, which is where I am now...

While digging around in a box, I found a typed story my mother had written... describing her illness about nine months before she died. I had no idea it existed, and I have no idea what to do with it. It just makes me sad... so I suppose I'll re-type it out here one day soon enough.

Anyhow... I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for the birthday wishes, and especially to Rob for his kind and thoughtful gift.

I've been meaning to call, but work kept getting in the way, and then this stupid cold. I haven't really been outside but once this week - and that was to bring in the garbage cans earlier this evening - two days late, as apparently I'm the only one who brings them in.

I'm still alternating between shivering with cold and sweating my nuts off, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are winning and so are the Toronto Raptors, so I guess I can put up with the minor discomfort.

How sick was I? Yesterday I didn't write a single word. First time that's happened in ages... yeah, yeah... sometimes I write these blogs in advance... in fact, I might be dead for a few days and still have articles being published by me from beyond the grave... or wherever they try and hide the body.


That's what's going on with me. No... I'm not dying. At least not physically.

And to Hudson - no, not my son, but another Canadian reader with that name... you queried on whether or not I had actually lost focus on what this blog might be about because I don't write about my life as much as I should.

It's possible... and that's why I have created two more stories about myself this week... but truthfully... I have long thought that this blog was about Japan... an Encyclopedia Japonica.... presenting interesting factoids about things people wouldn't normally seek out.

Granted there probably isn't any real reason for me to to present a story on something already out there in the mainstream news - you are right - but at the same point in time, I can't ignore it. It's why I write everyday... if there's something not to your (or mine) liking one day, maybe there will be the next.

The interesting thing for me when I write, is that I have ZERO idea what I am going to write about until it appears on screen.

Writing about just myself is okay, I suppose, but I would be bored. I already lived it once... now all I have are faded memories.

Japan is Japan. Love it or hate it. It's why I often show the good with the bad. When discussing Japan's wartime past in WWII and earlier in China - Japan was horrible. The fact that its apologies are not considered strong by those it is apologizing to means that perhaps Japan needs to find better ways to apologize.

Then... when you see what Japan had to endure after WWII... holy crap... I never knew... and I only really discovered this stuff when I came across something on NETFLIX... a mere mention... that got me searching for more... and creating a blog for you all HERE.

And that's what this blog is all about... it's a blog about discovery... you never know what you are going to find when open up another box.

Oh... and Rob... thanks again for making me a better creative writer.

Back when I was in Japan, to celebrate Rob's birthday back in Toronto, I decided that rather than write a letter every day, I would create a short story every weekday... so I did... sometimes two, sometimes three or four... which means that Rob was the beneficiary of being the first person to read my stuff... spelling mistakes and all.

That one month period... I have NEVER been so prolific before or after with the fiction.

More boxes coming,
Andrew Joseph

Noboko & Andrew: The Right Stuff

So... I had just purchased a pair of sapphire earrings and a sapphire ring with a couple of diamond chips in the 18-carat yellow gold setting... sort of as a pre-engagement ring for Noboko... to feel out if we should get married.

I only have three more months left on my third year on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, but if she will have me, I would spend the rest of my life any place in the world with her.

As mentioned many a time previously, Noboko is afraid to tell her parents anything about the true nature of our relationship. We certainly aren't dating, and she and I are just friends - though the students at the school where she teaches English know differently, as do my bosses at the Ohtawara Board of Education office, who have spied the beautiful Noboko at my side a few times outside of school - and because they asked me directly about it, I told them the truth, but told them it was a secret.

For them, I think they liked the fact that I was no longer chasing after all of the female JET participants, and had now found a real woman - a Japanese woman - meaning that maybe I would want to make Japan my home.

Believe it or not, but my Board of Education liked me, and really would have liked me to have spent the rest of my life in Japan - proving to everyone just how cool Japan was, but also, just how cool the city and my bosses were.

But really, I think they were just happy that I was happy, as they also knew about women as my kryptonite.

So.. after hiding the ring et al in my bedroom, and greeting the gorgeous Noboko at my front door, we sat down to eat the lunch she had brought for me.

I would swear it was something from her parent's house - where she was now living since moving back to the area after five years out of the family home in Tokyo and Osaka...

She was always bringing food over for us to eat - perhaps to show that she could look after me, but also to prevent the Japanese world from seeing us as a couple. It bothered me, but I did understand. But it still bothered me.

We got in her little Suzuki toy car and drove down to Utsunomiya-shi - parking write across the street from the jewelery shop I had made my purchases from.

I even got a wave from one of the shop's clerks outside the building who spied me and broke out into a big grin as she saw Noboko. I mimed a finger across my lips, meaning I hadn't sprung it on her yet, and got a smile back and a brisk walk back into the shop where I am sure she told everyone what had just transpired.

As far as I was concerned, there were no secrets in Japan.

We went to a movie theater, caught a flick, grabbed some dinner at an out of the way Japanese noodle place and made our way back to my apartment in Ohtawara-shi by around 7PM. I excused myself to my bedroom, and came back a moment later.

"I had a really good time with you today," I said perhaps a little too eagerly.

"Me, too," she smiled as she squeezed my hand on my crappy green couch.

"I want... uh... I would like... uhh," the fantastic oral skills of An-do-ryu sensei have left the building.

"Here," I said and thrust out first the box with the earrings.

She eyed it suspiciously, but eagerly opened it up, cooing with genuine excitement as she spied them and placed them up to her ears, asking "How do they look?"

"Try them on."

She went to the bathroom and came back with them on - with two tiny blue balls of light flashing on the sides of her face. Wow... I don't know if the earrings looked good on her not, but she looked great.

"Thank-you!" she exclaimed.

"Here," I said, as I thrust the box containing the sapphire ring at her. "This will complete the set for now."

As she opened up the box, removing the ribbon, I told her, "I love you and want to spend my life with you as husband and wife.

"This is just a token of my love for you... a promise that if you want, we will get engaged and then married."

I had to explain this one a couple of times... because she also had never heard of a pre-engagement ring - something I had just made-up.

Eventually she got it, though, smiling as she finally slipped the ring on her finger and it went onto her wedding finger... the one on her left hand... and I finally realized that despite my best intentions, I really should have got her a ring for any other finger BUT her wedding finger.

How the fug can she wear that out in public? I wasn't trying to force her hand that way... I just wanted to show her that I was serious about our relationship.

Oh crap... and then I realized that I had screwed up - sort of. In Japan, the wedding ring goes on the right hand... the finger next to the pinkie...

She looked at me and smiled and said, "Diamonds next - except next time we'll go shopping together."

There's more that happened that night, but it was just two people expressing their love for each other... except that this evening, she spent the night - ignoring any pre-determined father-imposed curfew.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
Photo above is of Noboko taken by me sometime when the leaves were changing color up on Mt. Nasu. Ooooh, spolier.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rules For Occupied Japan - Post WWII

World War II... where to start? Let's start at the end and see what happened to Japan at its conclusion - at least officially.

When Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces on May 8, 1945, what had once been a threesome of not much fun, was now down to just Japan versus the world.

After the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs first on Hiroshima on August 6 and then Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Despite the horrible losses to civilian life, Japan still did not want to surrender. In fact, it wasn't until a combination of realization came together, that Japan finally came around.
  • The Japanese realized that the Allies might do more bombings; 
  • were also considering an invasion of the main island;
  • saw the USSR declare war on Japan;
  • saw forces invade their holding in Manchuria.
It was all of this that made Japan finally decided to surrender on August 15, 1945 - six days after the second atomic bomb was dropped... that's how damn steadfast the Japanese were in their divine power to rule Asia... to never surrender... to follow the long dead samurai code of Bushido - the way of the warrior.

Granted not everyone pre-1868 was a samurai warrior, but by 1945 everyone in Japan seemed to channel that warrior spirit... not just the soldiers and officers, but the regular folks back home... the elderly, the women, and its children. You'll notice there's a lot of that self-same channeling going on NOW by the Japanese, as every single damn sports team is known as the Samurai

On August 15, after hearing the weak, high-pitched voice of its Emperor for the first time on the radio telling its citizens that Japan had surrendered, Japan was in shock.

Officially, the war did not end until the documents were signed aboard the deck of the American battleship USS Missouri on September 2,1945, ending the war.

The next day, with the Occupying Force now in place in Japan, it began issuing rules for Japan and its populace to follow.

Now... this Occupying Force was an Allied occupation of Japan, but make no mistake, this was an American undertaking, with all occupation forces composed of American personnel, except for a bit of participation by some British Commonwealth nations.

Everyone in Japan, however, was under the command of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), who was the United States General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, who was also the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, Pacific, and under the direct instruction of the American Government.       

The objectives of the Americans (and the Allies) were detailed via the document known as "The U.S. Initial Post-Surrender Policy For Japan" that was written up BEFORE Japan actually surrendered, in anticipation of such an event.

The document was a wartime cooperation among many U.S. government agencies for post-war policy, and was sent to SCAP on August 29, 1945 by the U.S. Government.

Basically, everything set out in these directives was to ensure that:
  • Japan would not become (again) troublesome to the U.S., or to the peace and security of the world;
  • To bring about the eventual establishment of a peaceful and responsible Japanese government that would support the objectives of the U.S., as reflected in the ideals and principles of the newly formed Charter of the United Nations.
  • The U.S wants this government to conform to the principles of democratic self-government. 
Over the next few years, SCAP created measures that would transform Japan from its military state to a peaceful, democratic one that would see: demobilization of armed forces, trial and punishment of war criminals, revision of the old constitution, demilitarization of industry, dissolution of zaibatsu (big economic combines), land reform, liberalization of political activities, emancipation of the labor movement, reform of  the education system, and elimination of militarists and ultranationalists from influential social circles throughout Japan.

This took the form of SCAPIN (Supreme Command for Allied Powers Instruction Note), which between September 3, 1945 and 1952 when the forces left, there were about 2,200 SCAPIN and 7,000 administrative SCAPIN referred to as SCAPIN-A.

SCAPIN had a large field of applicability, while the SCAPIN-A relates mostly to specific persons or companies.

Now... here's the thing... you would think that with such important rules and regulations being set down by the Occupying Forces, that there would be a complete record of all of them, but there isn't one... at least none that most academics seem to be able to get their hands on, let alone me. 

These  SCAPIN and SCAPIN-A are not found in your typical Japanese university libraries, but one can find a fair number of them in the National Diet Library in Tokyo, with 15 volumes of SCAPIN, and 18 volumes for the SCAPIN-A.

It should be noted that not all the exchanges between occupation and Japanese authorities took the form of SCAPIN or SCAPIN-A, with many memos not cataloged as SCAPIN, as well as directives addressed to agencies of the Japanese government by Eighth Army headquarters.

At the local level of each prefecture instructions were addressed by Corps or Division commanders (and may be also by Military Government teams) to prefectural authorities. These archives do not seem to be kept at the Japanese prefectural archives (which have mostly been created in the 1970s), and I don't believe anyone knows where all of these important SCAPIN have been archived.

Below are some of the directives set about by the U.S. Occupying force... to get Japan under its control:

September 2, 1945: SCAPIN 1
(not a direct quote)

The Japanese Government was directed to prohibit the manufacture and distribution of all arms, ammunitions and implements of war.
The Japanese Government should hold intact and in good condition pending further instructions from SCAP all factories, plants, shops, research institutions, laboratories, and testing stations connected with the production or use of any implements of war.
[Basically, the U.S. wanted to see if there was any cool experimental weaponry or science it could take for its own. The SCAPIN also directed the collection of all arms in the possession if Japanese civilians and to deliver them to occupation authorities. This did NOT include any swords.] 

September 3, 1945: SCAPIN 2
[excerpt]
  • The Japanese Imperial Government will place at the disposal of the occupation forces all local resources required for their use.
  • The Japanese Imperial Government will provide labor in quantities and with the training and skills and the time and place designated by the Supreme Commander or the Commanders of the Occupation Forces within their respective areas.
  • The Japanese Imperial Government will be prepared to furnish to the Occupation Forces all buildings suitable for and required by these forces. Requirements will include the following general categories: office buildings, hospitals, living quarters, warehousing and storage shops, transportation and communication installations.
  • Buildings will, insofar as possible, be of fireproof construction and equipped with running water, sewage disposal facilities, electricity.
September 4, 1945: SCAPIN 7
Subject: Funds for Occupation Forces [excerpt]

It is desired that your office [i.e. the Japanese government] place to the credit of the GHQ such sums as may be necessary for expenditures of the occupation forces. It is understood that the cost of printing, handling and distribution of these funds will be borne by the Imperial Japanese Government. [Signed] For the Supreme Commander, Harold Fair (Lt Colonel, AGD)

September 6, 1945: SCAPIN 8
Subject: Legal tender [excerpt].

It is desired that the Japanese Imperial Government place in effect immediately as a decree [that] ‘Supplemental Military Yen Currency marked “B” issued by Military Occupation Forces is legal tender in Japan. Penalties for the enforcement of this decree will be prescribed by the Japanese Government and submitted to this headquarters for approval. [Signed: For the Supreme Commander, Harold Fair (Lt Colonel, AGD)

September 7, 1945: SCAPIN 12
Addressed to the Chairman of the Military Commission in Yokohama [excerpt].

With reference to the request from the Japanese Imperial GHQ concerning the retention of swords by Japanese military personnel you are advised that if these swords are the personal property of these officers they may be retained. Swords which were issued by the government are government property and will be turned in with other weapons of war. [Signed:] For the Supreme Commander, R.K. Sutherland, Lieutenant General, US Army Chief of Staff

September 10, 1945: SCAPIN 16 
[excerpt].

The Japanese Imperial Government will issue the necessary orders to prevent dissemination of news through newspapers, radio broadcasting and other means of publication which disturbs public tranquility. The Supreme Commander will suspend any publication or radio station which does not comply.

September 12, 1945: SCAPIN 21
Subject: Use of supplemental yen (type “B”) [excerpt].

The Japanese Imperial Government has not yet complied with the memorandum of September 6, 1945 (SCAPIN 8) that supplemental yen (type “B”) be decreed legal tender in Japan. In the event that any further delay occurs the SCAP will take such action as he deems appropriate. It is further directed that the Japanese Government prohibit the giving or taking of US currency or any other foreign currency in any transaction.[Signed: For the Supreme Commander, Harold Fair (Lt Colonel, AGD)

September 12, 1945: SCAPIN 22
Subject: Japanese aircraft [excerpt].

It is desired to secure a number of Japanese aircraft for test and study by technicians of the US Armed forces.
[The rest of the SCAPIN provides practical details for the organization of test flights.]

September 13, 1945: SCAPIN 26
Subject: Protection of Allied property [excerpt].

The Imperial Japanese Government will preserve in good order all property owned or controlled in whole or in part by any national of any of the United Nations on December 7, 1941 and make a complete report to the Supreme Commander within one week.

September 19, 1945: SCAPIN 33
Subject: Press code for Japan

September 19, 1945: SCAPIN 34
Subject: Suspension of the newspaper Asahi Shimbun

September 19, 1945: SCAPIN 37
Subject: Suspension of the newspaper Nippon Times

September 22, 1945: SCAPIN 40
Subject: Apprehension of certain individuals [excerpt].

It is directed that you apprehend and deliver to the custody of the Commanding General, Eighth Army, General Nobuyuki and General Kenji Doihara.
[This is the first SCAPIN to direct the arrests of Japanese officers]

September 22, 1945: SCAPIN 47
[no subject] [excerpt].

The Japanese Imperial Government is hereby directed to comply with the requirements stated in this directive.
  • You are responsible for initiating and maintaining a firm control over wages and prices of essential commodities.
  • No production will be permitted of all types of aircraft including those designed for civilian use, and of all materials produced for incorporation into aircraft of any type. [Signed:] For the Supreme Commander, R.M. Levy, Colonel AGD
September 22, 1945: SCAPIN 43
Subject: Radio Code for Japan

September 25, 1945: SCAPIN 60
Subject: Provision of coal at Fusan, Korea [excerpt].

It is directed that necessary action be taken to institute at once measures that will insure monthly delivery at Fusan, Korea of 70,000 tons of coal for use in operating Korean railways. In order to secure earliest delivery at Fusan, you will consider diversion of ships with suitable cargo.

September 27, 1945: SCAPIN 67
Subject: Funds that may be brought into Japan by repatriated Japanese [excerpt].

Japanese Army and Navy personnel will be permitted to carry with them into Japan a maximum of 500 yen for commissioned officers, of 200 yen for non-commissioned officers or enlisted men and of 1,000 yen for civilians. All currency in excess of these limits will be taken up and delivered to this Headquarters. All jewelry will also be taken up. [Signed:] R.C. Kramer, Colonel , GSC, Chief Economic and Scientific Section

October 1, 1945: SCAPIN 80
Subject: Censorship of the mails [excerpt].

All postal communications are subject to censorship to the extent deemed advisable by the Supreme Allied Commander. [Signed:] For the Supreme Commander, Harold Fair, Lt Colonel AGD

October 1, 1945: SCAPIN 79
Subject: Confiscation of September 29 edition of Toyo Keizai Shimpo. [excerpt].

The Japanese Imperial Government will issue the necessary orders to effect the confiscation of all distributed copies of the September 29, 1945 issue of Toyo Keizai Shimpo. The confiscated copies will be submitted to the Civil Censorship Detachment, 6th floor, Radio Tokyo Building, for disposition.

October 2, 1945: SCAPIN 80
Subject: Supplies and services required by the Occupation Forces [excerpt].

[The instructions mentions 23 supplies and 19 services; the following list gives a few examples]. Construction materials, fuel (coal wood), textiles, furniture and office equipment, soap and candles, ice, special entertainment (music, dramatics, wrestling, etc.), repair of occupation installations, laundry and dry cleaning, shoe repairs, tailoring.

October 3, 1945: SCAPIN 91
Subject: Misconduct among occupation troops [excerpt].

Receipt is acknowledged of CLO no 54,55,77 dated September 27. [CLO stands for Central Liaison Office] and CLO no 107 dated September 29 concerning various instances of alleged misconduct of the part of American troops. In the instant cases there appears to be insufficient evidence to properly identify the alleged violators. To assist the occupation forces in controlling cases of alleged misconduct, it is desired (i) That such violations are reported immediately by the offended person or the Japanese Civil Police to the nearest Military Police. (ii) That a written report in duplicate, numbering each incident serially be furnished this Headquarters as soon as practicable after the incident giving time and date of incident, place, name and address of person allegedly offended, description of alleged misconduct, time and person to which initial report required in (i) was submitted.

[This SCAPIN was rescinded only on January 23, 1950. If this directive has been effectively implemented (which requires that Military Police did indeed registered the complaints in spite of the language barriers), it means that the records with the descriptions of such incidents should be available in Japanese and American archives.]

October 4, 1945: SCAPIN 93
Subject: Removal of restrictions on Political, Civil and Religious Liberties

[See image at top of article]

October 5, 1945: SCAPIN 95
Subject: Request for funds [excerpt].

In accordance with SCAPIN 7 dated September 4, 1945, it is requested that the Bank of Japan segregate and earmark for the use of occupation forces, the sum of 3 billion yens (about $200-million in 1945 value).

October 9, 1945: SCAPIN 110
Subject: Import of essential commodities.

Several requests have been received from the Central Liaison Committee for authorization to import commodities deemed to be essential for the maintenance of the civil population. Requests to import commodities will not be submitted unless credits have been established for payment by means of exports, approved by this Headquarters.

October 11, 1945: SCAPIN 119
Subject: Japanese government proposal to increase domestic police force [excerpt].

There shall be no increase in the strength, organization and armament of the civil police force at this time.

October 13, 1945: (No SCAPIN #)
Memorandum for the Imperial Japanese Government (GA). Subject: Raising of the national flag [excerpt].

Receipt is acknowledged for your letter of the 13th instant.
In the near future you will be given a directive covering every circumstance under which the Japanese national flag may be displayed. Pending issuance of this directive no action will be taken in the matter.
[Subsequently, authorization had to be obtained in each circumstance in which the Japanese government wished to display the national flag. Nineteen SCAPIN were issued, including no number SCAPIN on December 21, 1945; and then SCAPIN 1260; 1296; 1343; 1397; 1413; 1567; 1577; 1610; 1636; 1773; 1793; 1805; 1816; 1831; 1833; 1853; 1867; 1934, to grant such authorizations.

The first one of these authorizations reads as follows. December 21, 1945 (no SCAPIN number): The Headquarters has no objection to the use of the Japanese national flag on December 25, 1945 for the anniversary of the late Emperor Taisho. Eventually, on January 6, 1949, SCAPIN 1956 granted authorization to display the national flag without restriction.]

October 19, 1945: SCAPIN 158
(LS) Subject: Command exercised by General Yamashita Tomoyuki (surname first) during the period from December 7, 1941 to September 2, 1945 [excerpt].

It is directed that you [i.e. the Japanese government] furnish this Headquarters within 5 days copies of duly authenticated official documents setting forth (i) the geographical extent of the command of General Tomoyuki Yamashita (ii) all orders issued to him (iii) all orders issued by him to subordinate commanders (iv) the biographical record of General Yamashita.
[General Yamashita Tomoyuki was most famous for conquering the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore. In 1944 he assumed the command of the Fourteenth Army to defend the Philippines. From October 29 to December 7, 1945, he was tried by an American military commission for war crimes relating to the war in the Philippines and sentenced to death. The legitimacy of the hasty trial has been called into question by many. He was hanged on February 23, 1946, at Los Banos Prison Camp, 30 miles south of Manila.

October 20, 1945: SCAPIN 162
ESS) Subject: Dissolution of major financial or industrial enterprises. [excerpt].

No approval will be given to plans submitted to the Japanese Government [by the companies] for the dissolution of any holding company “Zaibatsu” without prior submission to this Headquarters.

October 21, 1945: (No SCAPIN #)
Memorandum to the Imperial Japanese Government.
Subject: Destruction of Japanese prisoner of war records.

The memorandum demands the list of the documents that have been destroyed and the names of the individual who directed such destruction.

October 22, 1945: SCAPIN 172
Subject: Colonel Iijima Nebuyaki (surname first). The Imperial Japanese Government will apprehend and deliver to the authorities of the Omori Prison camp Colonel Iijima, former director of military training.

October 22, 1945: SCAPIN 173
(CIS) Subject: Military government of Batangas Province, Philippines Island [excerpt].

It is directed that you furnish this headquarters with the name of the Military Governor of Batangas Province during the period of October1944 to July 1945, the units under his command and the complete names of all subordinate officers.

October 22, 1945: SCAPIN 179
(GS) Subject: Proceedings of the Diet [excerpt].

In order that the Supreme Commander may be informed of the activities of the Diet, it is desired that the Japanese Government establish a procedure by which this Headquarters will be furnished copies, in English, of proposed laws and reports on the progress of proposed legislation from the time the bills come before the Bureau of Legislation throughout the entire legislative process until enacted into law. It is desired that the proposed procedure be submitted to this Headquarters not later than 10 days after receipt of this memorandum.

October 24, 1945: SCAPIN 183
Civil Intelligence Section (CIS).

The Imperial Japanese Government is directed immediately to:
  • Dismiss from their present positions the following officials of Rikkyo Gakuin [i.e. St Paul’s University, a Protestant institution of higher learning] [11 names follow; note that these persons were not accused of being ultranationalists; their offense was to have allowed the disruption of Christian services and teaching after 1943]
  • Direct that none of the individuals designated above be reemployed or placed in any position in any public or private educational or religious institution of in any government position.
October 31, 1945: SCAPIN 215
Subject: Sales of securities of certain firms [excerpt].

It is directed that no sale or other transfer of the stocks, bonds or other forms of securities of the firms listed below (nor of their subsidiary firms) shall be made without the prior approval of this Headquarters. Further such securities shall not be used as collateral for loans without prior approval of this Headquarters.
[The appended list comprises 15 firms; later on (see SCAPIN 403 of December 8, 1945), this list became known as the “Schedule of Restricted Concerns”; it was expanded. Over the years 1946-1950 there were many SCAPINs listing additions to or removals from the “Schedule of Restricted Concerns”.]

November 1, 1945: (No SCAPIN #)
GHQ, SCAP, Economic and Scientific Section Memorandum for: The Imperial Japanese Government [Transmitted] through: Central Liaison Office Subject: Shipment of 150,000 sheets of silkworm eggs to Korea. [excerpt].
  1. It is directed that the necessary action be taken at once to effect the shipment to Korea of 150,000 sheets of silkworm eggs.
  2. The shipment will be consigned to the commanding General of US forces in Korea.
  3. The assembly, crating and shipping arrangements are to be completed at the port of shipment as soon as practicable. This Headquarters is to be advised when all arrangements have been completed. For the Supreme Commander, H.W. Allen, Colonel A.G.D. [Adjudant General Division]
November 3, 1945:
The following lines provide some excerpts of a directive issued by the Truman administration to General Douglas MacArthur; it is entitled “Basic initial post-surrender directive to the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers for the occupation and control of Japan”
  • Nomination of the government: “You [i.e. the Supreme Commander] will assure that at all times the posts of Lord Privy Seal, Privy Council, Prime Minister and Cabinet members are held only by persons who may be relied upon to further the purpose of your mission.”
  • Control over Japanese courts: “Ordinary criminal and civil courts in Japan will be permitted to continue to function subject to such regulations, supervision and control as you may determine. As rapidly as possible judges who are unacceptable will be removed. Such officials will be replaced with acceptable and qualified successors. Full power of review will be retained by you over all courts which are allowed to function. You will veto all decisions which are inconsistent with the purpose of your mission.”
  • Standard of living of the Japanese people: “You will not assume any responsibility for the economic rehabilitation of Japan. You will make clear to the Japanese that you assume no obligation to maintain any particular standard of living in Japan and that the standard of living will depend upon the thoroughness with which Japan rids itself of all militaristic ambitions and cooperates with the occupying forces.”
  • Control of foreign trade:“The Japanese authorities are to enter into no economic agreement of any kind with foreign governments except after prior consultation with you and by your express approval.”
  • Payment of occupation expenses: “You will require the Japanese authorities to make available to you legal tender yen notes or yen credits free of cost and in amounts sufficient to meet all expenses or your forces including the cost of your military occupation.”
  • Seizure of Japanese assets: You will impound or block all gold, silver, platinum, currencies, securities, accounts in financial institutions within the categories listed below: property owned by national, prefectural and local governments, the Japanese Imperial Household and all organizations dissolved by you, all public and private assets located within or outside Japan, all works of art regardless of ownership.
November 4, 1945:
Memorandum for the Imperial Japanese Government. [excerpts].

The Imperial Japanese Government shall (a) Submit to this Headquarters within 10 days the name, rank, title and present location of the chief of the Kempei-Tai [Japanese military police] and his assistants including all headquarters officers. (b) Submit to this Headquarters by November 30, 1945 a comprehensive report in English describing the organization, structure, channels of command and methods of operations of the Kempei-Tai. This report shall include the list of all officers in each subdivision with indication of name, rank, and official position. Signed: H.W. Allen

November 6, 1943: SCAPIN 243
(LS) Subject: Apprehension of suspected war criminals

[excerpt]. The following named Japanese are alleged to have committed atrocities and offenses against persons of United Nations while confined in prisons, war camps, internment camps or hospitals in Japan. These persons will be delivered to the Omori prison, Yokohama at the earliest practical date.

[Appended to the text of the SCAPIN there is a list of about 400 names of military of all ranks (down to private) as well as civilians.]

November 10, 1945: NO SCAPIN #
A memorandum similar in form to the one cited above for Nov 1, requires 18,000 tons of coal to be delivered monthly to British troops at Kyushu ports.

November 16, 1945: SCAPIN 287
(CIE) Subject: Elimination of undemocratic motion pictures [excerpt].

The Japanese government is directed to take immediate action (i) To insure against the present and future exhibition or sale of any of the motion pictures on the attached inclosure. (ii) To secure from the owners of these pictures all prints, whether positive or negative, and store them in a safe place in Tokyo subject to the disposition of this Headquarters.

[The inclosure contains a list of about 115 Japanese picture movies].

November 24, 1945: Excerpts of SCAPIN 338
The Imperial Japanese Government is directed to take the necessary steps as rapidly as possible and in no event later than February 1, 1946 to terminate all payments of any public or private pensions to any person: (a) By reason of military service, except compensation for physical disability limiting the recipients ability to work. (c) Who has been removed from any office or position as a result of any order of the Supreme Commander.

[The consequence is that persons removed from their position for non-compliance with SCAP directives will get no compensation of any kind whatever their age; as dismissed civil servants most often could not apply to other public positions they experienced (as well as their families) great hardship.]

December 8, 1945: SCAPIN 403
Subject: Establishment of a Schedule of Restrictive Concerns [excerpt].

The action directed in SCAPIN 215 (October 31, 1945) will be applied to a list of companies hereafter to be referred to as the “Schedule of Restricted Concerns”.

[The attached list comprises about 50 companies and it will be expanded in steps over the next two or three years to the extent of containing over 1,000 companies and subsidiaries.]

December 9, 1945: SCAPIN 411
Subject: Rural land reform [excerpt].

In order to destroy the economic bondage which has enslaved the Japanese farmers for centuries of feudal oppression, the Japanese Imperial Government is directed to take measures to insure that those who till the soil of Japan shall have a more equal opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor. More than three fourth of the farmers are tenants paying rentals amounting to half or more of their annual crops. The Japanese Imperial Government is therefore ordered to submit to this Headquarters on or before March 15, 1946 a program of rural land reform. This program shall contain plans for transfer of land ownership from absentee land owners to land operators, and provisions for reasonable protection of former tenants against reversion to tenancy status. [Signed:] For the Supreme Commander, H.W. Allen, Colonel AGD

December 11, 1945: SCAPIN 420
Subject: Utilization of the Central Aeronautical Research Institute. [excerpt].

The Central Aeronautical Research Institute is to be disbanded by December 31, 1945. The request to convert it to civilian use is not approved. [Signed:] For the Supreme Commander, H.W. Allen, Colonel A.G.D.

December 21, 1945: No SCAPIN #

Memorandum for the Imperial Japanese Government.

The Imperial Japanese Government will issue the necessary orders to suspend publication of the daily newspaper Ise Shimbun. This suspension is to be effective as of 1 hours, December 27, 1945 and ending 2400 hours, December 28, 1945 [a two-day suspension]. Signed: H.W. Allen.


And there you have it... JUST the SCAPIN documents from 1945! And yet, these documents are something the average Japanese person knows very little about nowadays, but ones that effectively changed the way Japan not only did business, but how it ran its daily life.

Every single one of these directives - these SCAPIN are an engrossing read, perhaps some more important than others, but an important and effective means to control and whip the Japanese people into complacity... to become good little subjects of the world...

I especially enjoy reading the directives to censor the newspapers... or the one to give up some of the secret police... or the one to set aside some money, Japan, because you guys are paying your conquerors to look after you and to take away whatever rights you think you deserve.

I'm divided on this whole thing, because I am separated by time. But if I was to look at it as though it were 1945 and I just had my ass kicked by Japan for a number of years before I was finally able to beat the stuffing out of them, I'd be pretty pissed off at Japan and would seek to break them down.

Of course, the U.S. was smart. As it initially began to break Japan down into insignificant components, it eventually began to build it up... giving the dog a bone every once in a while... eventually turning it itself into a superpower... regardless of its current economic strife.

For the Japanese, one of the hardest SCAPIN to swallow was the September 7, 1945: SCAPIN 12 denoting the giving up of one's swords.

We'll delve into that one in a future article.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph