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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Every Silver Lining Has A Clown, er Cloud

Proving you can't please everyone…

In my last blog, I gently urged people who are feeling suicidal to seek out a friend, family member and/or a professional mental health worker to provide them with the support they need.

This was after I received a message from someone I don't know, who had stumbled across this blog, telling me that they wanted to kill themselves.

I don't know if it's someone kidding around, or someone shouting for help, and I don't care... I assume it's the latter - I'd rather do something than nothing.

So I wrote what I wrote in this blog… and then received an e-mail from someone criticizing me for capitalizing on that person's cry for help to create a blog for myself.

Yeah… guilty, I suppose… I did write a blog somewhat inspired by someone's desperate call for help… but capitalize? Hardly.

What would you have me do? Ignore that person? Or should I have just personally dealt with THAT person and ignore any others who might be out there?

Capitalize? Yes - I am getting filthy rich from doing this blog… as if.

People, I don't make anything from creating this blog. I do not have any advertising streams on this site - by choice, even though I could surely use the money. Making money makes this a job.

I do this blog because I love to write. I wrote that blog because I love people.

I am writing this blog because I now love only most people.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Feeling Sad - Talk To Someone

I do not and will not pretend to understand depression.

I have certainly felt sad for myself and wondered why the hell I couldn't succeed. For me it was simply because I didn't focus on what needed to be done.

I did, and turned things around for myself. I should add that I do not suffer from any chemical imbalance or metal health issue. Sometimes, things pile up, and we get flustered.

As a typical teenager, I had dark thoughts rumble through my brain, but never acted on them - perhaps because I was always able to see the big picture, even if it took awhile...

As for those with chemical imbalances leading to depression, bi-polar or schizophrenia or other more complex diseases I can't even begin to fathom... I just want to say please talk to someone... a family member, a friend or a professional care worker. They can help.

I did not mention co-worker, because why muddy up things at work. Unless the friend you trust is someone you work with...

I'm writing this because recently an anonymous reader wrote to me telling me of their desire to kill them self.

I find it both disheartening and euphoric that someone opened up - even a little - to me about their problem.

I would call it a cry for help... as above, perhaps reaching out to some dumb ass blogger was a start in admitting there is a crisis... and just need affirmation that there is help available... I tried to do that in my response... and I'm attempting to do that again here.

I drank myself into a tizzy while in Japan that second year of three I lived there. My cat died, a friend died, my grandfather died all within a few weeks of each other.Not to mention the on-again off-again relationship I had with a woman, everything just felt like it was out of my control.

The thing I have come to realize, is that you can NEVER control life... all you can do is prepare yourself to the best of your ability to roll with whatever it throws at you.

Discounting the fact that my roof leaks in multiple spots and that it rained this past weekend for 36 hours straight, let's look at a small part of the past two weeks. My wife was expecting to be paid for a part-time job she did, but for whatever reason she was (and still) not... I had expected the payday, and so knowing I didn't have to save as much money as usual went and got my cracked car windshield fixed. I figured it would be a $100 insurance deductible, but that was under my dad's insurance... under my wife's and mine, it's $300... that's not $200 less left than I expected. (Again this is just one incident - and not all of the things that did not go according to Hoyle.)

As bad as I was, a friend told me he had over extended himself too... and had no money for five days until his pay day. And no food.

We do what we do... and so we help when we can. A can of soup here, some oatmeal there, nuts, a couple of bucks... 'nuff said... we're the working poor. But we do what we need to do.

It meant working with what I had to survive until payday (today)... yesterday, (or Monday as I write this), the engine light on my car began flashing... it's why I didn't go to work...as the garage now needs to fix the misfiring cylinder... always something, right. I mean - no big deal... it's not like the country is going bankrupt like Greece or people are dying in a hail of gunfire (pick a city)...

I should be down... depressed about life... and while I'm not ecstatic about how life is treating me, I'm aware it could be worse.

For those of you who believe that life is worse - talk to others. You can talk to me, if you must, but talk to someone close to you who can help.

Damn near every country on this planet must have a suicide prevention hotline... and if not, why?

Want to know a secret? I think I actually know more people who suffer from some form of mental illness, including social anxiety disorder, than I do without.

What is normal anymore?

Stop reading this blog and instead search out some help.

Tomorrow never knows...

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, June 29, 2015

Japanese Actor: Hasegawa Kazuo

Thanks to a neat 1950s souvenir album find given to me by my friend Vince, let's take a short look at a Japanese actor Hasegawa Kazuo (長谷川 一夫 Hasegawa Kazuo).

That's him in the photo above - I know... he looks pretty damn convincing as a female!

Hasegawa was born on February 27, 1908 in Kyoto, specifically the Nagoya sake brewery in a place called Fushimi.

When he was just five-years-old, his father pushed him into acting to act in a kabuki play called Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, in the role of Kan Shusai.

I suppose he was good because he was eventually invited to join the Japanese movie company Shochiku Company Limited (松竹株式会社 Shōchiku Kabushiki gaisha) that also put on kabuki performances. It is still going on (not so strongly) doing films in Kyoto.

His first film was widely promoted - the 1927 movie Chigo no Kenpo, and well-received - and was actually billed as Chojiro Hayashi.

How well-received... the studio pumped out THREE more films with Hasegawa (still billed as Chojiro Hayashi) as the lead (Ojo Sankichi, Rangun and Oni Azami), and including the first film, all were released within a 40-day period.

Over 11 years Hasegawa appeared in around 120 films... still with Shochiku Company, and still under the nom de plume of Chojiro Hayashi.

One of his last films for Shochiku was the 1935 film Yukinojo Henge, that helped the company earn its highest box office revenues ever at that time.

But all that changed.
Hasegawa Kazuo in 1937 - from Wikipedia.
Leaving Shochiku for Toho Company Ltd. - a move that cost Shochiku plenty of revenue, it is alleged that someone within the company hired a man to attack the actor with a knife - slashing him in the face.

Surviving, the actor renounced his name of Chojiro Hayashi, and reverted to Hasegawa Kazuo.
Kazuo Hasegawa autograph.
He continued to act in films until around 1963 - finishing with 290 movies, but did continue to work on the stage.

Some of those films include:
In 1957, Hasegawa was awarded the Kikuchi Kan Prize (菊池寛賞 Kikuchi Kan Shō), which honors achievement in all aspects of Japanese literary culture.
Kazuo Hasegawa autograph.
According to the souvenir album I was gifted, a Mr. Hugh Healy, a visitor from the U.S. - seconded to Japan with his wife and son for a two-year-period  - had tea with Hasegawa-san and received three hand-signed autographed photos of the famous actor - all of which are presented within this blog.

Hasegawa dies on April 6, 1984, and is interned at the Yanaka Cemetery in Tokyo.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Japan's Five-Ring Circus

Apparently there is some backlash over the recent selection of a stadium-design for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Artist's rendering above.)

Some Japanese architects (and others) are lamenting the price tag - ¥250 billion ($2.02 billion) -- a huge rise from the ¥162 billion ($1.31 billion) proposed earlier - and we all know that it will probably exceed that monetary figure by the time it is actually completed.

For reference purposes, if you were to purchase a new NHL hockey franchise, it would cost you $0.500 billion just for the fees). $1-billion for a baseball team or a second NHL team in the Toronto area... it's all a matter of warped perspective.

While my new car windshield essentially put my whole family under the eight-ball this week (and a bit of next), I have a friend at work who had little food left and no paycheck remaining, and was willing to starve for a few days... I may not have much, but I'll always share what I have.

That's the whole "bread, not circuses" argument. 

Anyhow... with regards to the expensive 2020 Tokyo Olympic stadium design... others complain that the structure looks like a turtle or a giant bicycle helmet.

The stadium as conceived, is designed by Zaha Hadid, an architect of Iraqi and British descent.

I only mention that because he's not Japanese, which is no biggie to me.

But I wonder if that played a role in the way these Japanese architects have come together to bash the project.

Apparently Japanese architect Isozaki Arata (surname first) wrote to the government body in charge of these Olympics games, complaining in an open letter (that means he wants everyone to know his thoughts) and cried, that the very sight of the accepted design from Hadid left him "in despair", adding that the stadium would be a "disgrace to future generations."

In despair? Really? Do people really get in despair over architecture? "Ooooh, someone bring me my fainting couch  - swoooooooon."

So… after the design has been accepted, there are now concerns about costs, sustainability and suitability to the surrounding area… like didn't the Olympic committee take that stuff in to account prior to making its decision?

The fact that it chose a non-Japanese architect is actually quite impressive knowing it would probably receive hissy-fit comments from its Nihonjin blueprint artists.

There are now some who say that stadium is too large, and will bump against the outer gardens of the Meiji Shrine…  Okay, if that's true, I can understand trying to take a photograph of the gardens and having a glass and metal Giant Turtle appear in the background - that would suck.

Architect Maki Fumihiko doesn't appear to be a suck, and suggests that while essentially maintaing the design as Hadid envisioned it, if two of the arches were removed from alongside the length of the stadium, the overall costs would be greatly reduced.

Maki, by the way, was the architect behind the Tokyo gymnasium designed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Okay... I can see Japanese aesthetic-influence in the longer facility at the back... it looks like a Japanese house!
Maki and his group suggest that the biggest problem with the current design is 'the cost and length of construction".

Hey - valid criticism… and at least he offers a solution.

Damn Isozaki just whines…

Speaking of whining, gaijin Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo told CNN this was a 'white elephant waiting to happen'.

His attack on the design (with subsequent solution, by the way) is that the people of Japan are going to be paying for this stadium for years to come - plus its design "tramples on Japanese aesthetics."

If you look at the artist's rendering above, you'll notice a baseball field over to the left. Regardless of whether or not Japan loves baseball, baseball and its subsequent baseball fields and stadia where also stains on Japanese aesthetics when first introduced.

Japan is full of skyscrapers - I'm pretty sure the original and main design is hardly a Japanese aesthetic.

How about all of those new houses that are being built nowadays… yes, they will still have sliding doors, crappy heating and tatami mat rooms per Japanese aesthetics, but what about the roof design? Flat, colored tiled roofs - just like what most houses have in Canada and the U.S…. Japanese aesthetics it's not.
Skytree tower on left inner, and Asahi Breweries HQ with its worm on the right.

Does anyone complain about the Tokyo Tower looking like the Eifel Tower? Or the Asahi Breweries headquarters lookig less like a flame, but more like a giant golden sperm?

Suji Kabuto samurai helmet.

Short of designing the stadium to look like a giant kabuto (samurai warrior helmet), what sort of Japanese aesthetic do you want?

Kingston says Japan should retrofit the old 1964 stadium… less expensive (hopefully), and no longer term costs to the taxpayers. Valid points, Kingston…

Except this is the effing Olympics. Ever since the 1984 Olympics when Peter Uberoth showed the world that the Olympics can be extremely profitable if marketed correctly, everyone has tried to turn their host event into something bigger than the what the previous hosts offered.

Greece did that, and now they are bankrupt.

I don't know if there's a correlation between their most recent Olympics and its still-current economic woes, but probably.

Look… I actually agree with Kingston that there is a possibility that Japan putting on the ritz could lead to economic crisis in the future, and that turning an existing facility into a better-working facility is smart… but this is the Olympics.

If some athletes aren't pissing into cups to prove they have been successful in cheating, then the suits behind the development and organization of the Olympic Games are surely involved in a pissing match.

It's not just a three-ring circus, it's a five-ring circus.

Your city and country comes under the global microscope when a major sporting event is taking place.

Sure… everyone talks about sustainability, but rare are the people who actually perform it as something more than lip service. For example… do you buy a $20,000 car or a $42,000 Prius? Yes, one is much better for the environment, but for many, the price tage makes it less desirable - our moral high ground gets trampled down a bit.

This is the Olympics... where some athletes, indeed some countries in the past have tried to cheat their way to fortune and glory. East Germany; Ben Johnson of Canada - sorry Ben, but you shouldn't have caused trouble for my girlfriend at the strip club that one time; hell Carl Lewis - don't sing or throw a baseball again… that was even mow embarrassing than being caught for steroids after yelling at every other racer who was caught before you…; and all those swimmers, bicycle riders, weightlifters; twin sister runners from Puerto Rico (just look it up - 1984), marathon runner using a car at the 1904 games; Russian fencer in 1976 with his altered epee sword that could register a hit with a push of a button; or... my favorite, the 1936 German man who posed as a woman in the high jump - he still only finished fourth as his wiener probably kept hitting the bar. 
Horst Ratjen (male) comes fourth posing as Dora Ratjen (female) in the women's high jump at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Sometimes he looks all male, other times, he looks female. Female-beautiful he's not.
This is a beauty pageant. So beauty and glitz count more (unofficially) than the actual talent portion of the contest. You know what I mean.

We all know, of course, that Hitler's Berlin Stadium for the 1936 Olympics was the largest of its kind in Europe... make your own conclusion here.

Anyhow… it's probably too late to do anything about the results now…

Japan Education Ministry is overseeing the development of the Olympic stadium for reasons I am currently unable to fathom.  Education Minister Shimomura Hakuman (surname first) said earlier this week (June 23, 2015) that if there's an alternative design out there that they could have built before the 2019 deadline, it would be considered.

But, one day later on Jun 24, 2015,  the Ministry of Sports and Youth Bureau rep Yamamoto Yukio (surname first) poo-pooed the Education Minister's suggestion.

Noting that the original Hadid design had already undergone some changes, suggesting to remove those side arches would essentially strip the stadium of being a Hadid design.

He adds that any changes made now would not be able to be implemented by the 2019 deadline… in case you are wondering HOW changing the drawing NOW affects a building that hasn't even had a shovel stuck in the ground, just note that there have to be new environmental assessments performed, building approvals re distribution of weight now that these side arches might be gone, studies written, various government orders and permissions must be obtained…

Even if it was something that could be done in six months, it would be too late to make the deadline… you know what government redcap is like any ways… it would never be able to be done in six months… 

However, Yamamoto declared that by sometime in July of 2015, a final decision regarding the stadium's design would be made.

And… despite wheat I have said and complained about above, at some point in time between now and the stadium opening, the stadium's design will be lathered again and again and again.

Often theory and practical don't mix in real life.


And besides... Japanese aesthetics? Are you kidding?

Surely these Japanese architects complaining of the turtle or bicycle helmet stadium design have heard of: 
  • Giant turtle - beloved international monster movie star Gamera that kids love some 50 years after his/her debut in 1965.

  • Bicycle Helmet - every school kid in Japan has and wears one;


  • Kabuto Pokemon - kids love... aw, you know... 

Maybe they should have designed a stadium to looked more like Godzilla... 
Anyhow... There's your Japanese aesthetics.

Let the games begin!
Andrew Joseph 



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hi-Speed Shinkansen Train Cleaning Video

Here's something you don't see everyday…

Check out the work the typical clean-up crew performs on a Japanese shinkansen bullet train… in just seven minutes.

Of course, the film is sped up because the film crew producer knows we all have a short attention span.

‪7-Minute Miracle/7分間の奇跡‬



What isn't clear, is just how often these trains are cleaned, but I assume it is done at every terminus station.  

Now… having seen that awesome cleaning job, do you ever wonder why something can't be done about the pee and vomit smell in your local subway system?

Maybe it doesn't need to be cleaned at each terminus… or even at the end of each work day, but perhaps it could at least be done every week.

Month? Year?

See that image at the top of the article? That's the cleaning crew from the Tessei company lining up after cleaning the train to bow to the station... I assume it's a bow to the passengers waiting to board the vehicle - a respectful bow of apology for the delay. But that's a guess on my part.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Friday, June 26, 2015

Japan's Growing Virgin Population

This is not about sustainability and virgin wood, though I suppose, if you think as I do, it is.

It should not come as a surprise to followers of Japanese trends, but Japan has idled itself into a lackluster performance of population growth... a negative growth, actually, that obviously comes down to a lack of sexual reproduction.

Of course, other reasons for the negative population growth can be heaped upon Japan's archaic immigration policies that make it nigh impossible or unappealing for people to become or want to become Japanese citizens.

With a lack of sexual reproduction, IE: Japanese married folks aren't having enough kids… it can be broken down further.

Japanese folks are maintaining their virginity. With one's virginity intact, whether by choice or circumstance, that's another player removed from the field of possible sexual repercussions - ie child birth and rearing...  

(We'll assume there is some consummation for those married, so we are talking about the not-so-wild unmarried youth not sowing their wild rice or oats or whatever they say in Japan.)

Now… I was nearly 26-years-old when I arrived in Japan as a virgin back in 1990 - not by choice, let me tell you, but by meekness borne out by being a geek and a nerd before it was cool. It is cool now isn't it?

Anyhow… sleeping with a few willing and very able female JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme participants (the male JETS immediately gravitated to the Japanese) and then graduating to the womanly locals, it gave me the confidence to continue my pillaging when I arrived back in the village of Toronto three-plus years later.

Perhaps I was successful because I wanted to be successful… unlike the current failing crop of Japanese young men and women. Perhaps... perhaps not.

Where once Japanese women had no issue with my issue, nowadays having sex with men prior to marriage is no longer something they seek out.

While premarital sex was never something that was socially acceptable (in the public discussion), (privately) it was certainly being performed by everyone who could have sex…

Sex hotels were running an amazing business in the 1980s and '90s, cash-wise, with every place offering standard overnight rates or the classic one or two-hour 'stay' rates for that all important sexual tryst with your significant other (who may not be your spouse) or at the very least with your boyfriend/girlfriend.

Shy ol' me was constantly hit on by women at bars, and I not so-grudgingly accepted their advances for a tumble in my apartment.

Only once did I ever ask out a woman while in Japan… I said I was shy… but I pursued her—Noboko—with a feverish passion, until I was able to convince her I was more than a pervert. It's true. I am more than a pervert.

But the point is… Japanese women wanted to have sex… and the Japanese guys I talked with also wanted to have sex…. you have to have the desire, if you are going to do something with the opportunity.

But that was the 1990s… It's 2015, and the hardened desire to copulate appears to have waned in Japan.

Let's just call it sexual indifference.

According to a recent government survey… I never get surveyed by the government… it compiled results noting that close to 40 percent of Japanese—men and women—in their 20s and 30s who are not in a relationship, say that they don't require a sex-buddy or romantic interest.

Many of the respondents even called relationships "bothersome".

I  want to state right here that I do NOT know how many participated in that survey. It could be thousands, it could be 12. But... note that there IS a negative population growth in Japan...

Being married, I could make a comment or two on the term 'bothersome', but when you are single… I would believe most people on this planet would kill to be in a relationship… but not the non-violent Japanese.

There was a 2010 survey - and again, I can only hope people are being honest - but 25 percent of Japanese men in their 30s who have never been married, are apparently virgins. The numbers were slightly less for women.

I'm not going to examine the numbers for the women, because I'm not a woman, and in this case, sex matters.

But really… one in four single Japanese men in their 30s are virgins?

How many people took part in this survey???

Is 25 percent—relative to other countries—an apathetic result, or could it be par for the global course?

If those numbers are to be extended to the whole country - and because I do not know the number of respondents to the survey - then guys… how come none of those 30-something virgins have ever partaken of the professional services of an escort? I don't believe it's a moral dilemma judging from all the pornographic images thrust in your face via anime and manga...

But that's the point, isn't it?

There's an apathy regarding sexual relationships and/or just plain old nookie.

I have only cherry-picked data (and this blog idea) from an article by Yoko Wakatsuki of CNN. Her original article can be found HERE.

In Wakatsuki's article, she describes men taking part in art classes sketching a nude woman to get them to at least view a nude body… with one 41-year-old man noting that the nude model was the closest he had ever been to a naked female.

Another says that there are far too many things for people to do in Japan—anime, manga, video games and sports—that there's no need to have a relationship because at least the other distractions won't cause heartbreak.

If that comment is representative of the Japanese choosing not to be in a relationship, then Japan is suffering from some sort of malaise.

Sure everyone wants a perfect relationship, but as we all know, that is a rare thing to achieve. It really does depend on what you expect… respect, sharing, money, sex… whatever… make your own list… but Japan also is apparently suffering from a fear of failure.

It doesn't want to fail, so why try?

When the fug did that attitude come around? Is that real? Many kids in school take a sports club activity… they learn sports, maybe get good at it - they fail sometimes, but really… it's school sports…

School education in Japan… no one fails… so where's the fear of failure?

I don't understand it when people say there's a Japanese fear of failure… These scenarios have been around for decades…

Do we really want to blame Mario and Sonic for the demise of the orgasm in Japan?

I read those excuses: video games, comic books, cartoons, sports and thought - holy crap... I used to like all of those things as a kid, youth, young adult, now.

I did all four of those things this past Monday: I went to work for eight hours, coached Little League baseball for nine- and 10-year-olds , did the family thing, read to the boy - it was an Uncle Scrooge comic book by Don Rosa, watched some recorded cartoons - Teen Titans Go! - funniest cartoon ever!, and then played MLB: The Show 2015 on my PS3...

... and while I did not have a sexual relationship, all of that does not stop me from WANTING to do the wild thing. Hell... right now! Let's go! Buy me lunch first, though. I'm not that easy.

Heck, I'm a card-carrying nerd or geek... whichever one isn't rich. I love my Star Trek, played AD&D (Dungeons & Dragons) back in the 70s, 80s and 90s. I played league soccer and baseball and coached both, too. I have 35,000 comic books and an encyclopedic knowledge of Warner Bros. cartoons. But I also did seven years of post-secondary schooling, taught piano and clarinet, and used to go to the gym to try and sculpt muscle, while still going out with the boys to see the ballet or the singles club scene (which I actually hated)... the point is... I tried, and eventually it paid off...

Maybe Japan needs to grow up a little bit.

If that gentleman I mentioned above who says that there are plenty of distractions is one of thousands of other Japanese men and women in the same boat, then Japan needs to put down the game controller, put down the smart phone or tablet, put down the comic books and go out to a bar, get some conversation lubrication in you and find somebody to love.

Wouldn't you love somebody to love?

Maybe the Japanese need to better self-regulate how much time they spend on their hobbies. Hell, my hobby is hobbies. But... I always found time for other things if there was even the possibility of a woman being in the general vicinity.

But... as noted above... maybe the Japanese afraid of rejection: "Boo-hoo, I could get hurt in a relationship."

Yeah, buddy, you can. Suck it up. What happened to that whole 'samurai' culture you all seem to think is part of you? Never say die, eat more pie!

Do they even want to have a relationship? If people call relationships 'bothersome', then clearly there is something else at play here… surely it's not work getting in the way? Work has always got in the way of the Japanese worker, and yet sex and relationships have occurred for centuries.

I understand that there is a social stigma for people suffering from virginity… but I was cured, and so can everyone else… but you have to really want it.

While I understand that the arranged marriage concept is not as big in Japan as it used to be - maybe it needs to make a comeback seeing as how young people seem inept at creating their own relationships.

Maybe someone needs to create singles websites in Japan… we already know that Ashley Madison for those looking to step out on their spouse is huge in Japan… so at least we know that at least the married people want to have sex… just not with their spouse… which also creates that whole negative population growth thing…

For the women… Japan had a term for women who were over 25 and unmarried (like my Noboko was): 'Christmas Cake'… something ignored and tossed out once the season is over… so there was huge pressure on women to marry before the end of their 25th year.

'Christmas Cake' has now become the more-Japanese term of 'Year-End Noodles… which must be consumed by the end of the year or thrown away.

There was no such age constrictions on men, of course.

So what happened? After I left Japan, it's like I took all of Japan's mojo with me….

By 1990, cracks began to appear in the Japanese economy… finally going down on itself.

Where once a worker entering a job out of school could expect to maintain a job with the same company for life (company loyalty), suddenly the collapsed economy meant job loss.

Now… not every Japanese man or woman lost their job in the 1990s or 2000s… but many did.

Having once been unemployed myself, I know that you feel like a piece of crud you find in the corner of your eye when you wake-up in the morning. No job, no or little income… domestic bliss it ain't. You begin to doubt your own self-worth. Your self-esteem can take a hit.

If you let it. Obviously some people are better able to handle stressful times than others.

Strangely, being unemployed didn't make me less horny. It might even have had the opposite affect on me.

But then again… I'm not Japanese…

In conclusion:
I am certainly not claiming that being a virgin means one has a mental illness disease... however... one can look at survey results all day long and fail to take into account the chemical level of mentality of those involved.

Certainly it can be a societal or technological reason, but I also mentioned that the possibility exists that this non-sexual malaise could also be brought about from depression owing to external environmental factors.

I'm betting that the real reason for people not even interested in having sex or being in a relationship is quite complex, with aspects from ennui from chemical depression, societal depression, immaturity from too many toys, plain old shyness (though that doesn't explain WHY one doesn't WANT to have sex), and things I haven't even touched upon here...

I think the world will see a whole plethora of new mind games with people staring at their screens so much and further removing themselves from real human contact... hey... waitaminute... people don't know how to actually talk to people face to face any more... they only know how to talk via social media.

OMG! ROTGLMFAO!

Could that really be it? The timing of the advent of social media (including e-mail), and the decline of the Japanese Empire is either very intriguing or very coincidental.

Fuuuuuuuuuug. No really… try it. You'll like it. I did.
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The 1934 Japanese All-Nippon Baseball Team And Murder

Line-Up
I'm talking baseball - notably about the 1934 visit of the MLB select all-stars who traveled to Japan to play a series of exhibition games… an even that quite literally changed the game in Japan.

Just note that yesterday and in today's headline, I promise(d) murder… so read on.

First Inning - Play Ball!
First… a bit of background, and then we'll get to a discussion about the Japanese entry for these games against a powerful American squad lead by Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Hmm… I mentioned Gehrig first.    

The full squad of MLB All-Stars was:

Charlie Gehringer, Jimmy Foxx, Rabbit McNair, Babe Ruth, Earl Averill, Bing Miller, Moe Berg, Frankie Hayes and Harold Warstler. Pitchers: Lefty Gomez, Earl Whitehill, Joe Cascarella and Clint Brown. Coach Lefty O'Dould, and grand Poobah and over-seer Connie Mack.

I want to show you this great photo of Lefty Gomez - no one has a wind-up like this anymore!
Lefty Gomez pitching (warm-up) on November 23, 1934 in Japan.
Second Inning
Anyhow… a bit of background on Japanese baseball.

Introduced, apparently in 1872 or 1873 by American Horace Wilson at Kaisei Gakko (now Tokyo University), he created a baseball club for students and a practice field on the school ground.

There is a claim that in 1873 Albert Bates helped organize the first formal game on Japanese soil, but we know that the earliest RECORDED game was in 1876 between a team from Tokyo's Imperial College and a bunch of ragtag American amateurs, including Horace Wilson. The Americans won 34-11.

The New York Clipper of December 12, 1876 says: "(the Japanese) take a great deal of interest in the game, and, as they are quick and generally good throwers, they will make fair players with some instruction."

Third Inning
In 1905, the Waseda University baseball team traveled to the U.S. to practice their skills, becoming the first Japanese team to travel abroad.

American teams from the University of Wisconsin, University of Chicago, University of Washington and Harvard University all sent teams to Japan, as did the Philadelphia Royal Giants of the Negro League in 1927 - for cross-cultural promotion of the sport. 

These Philadelphia Royal Giants (more of a semi-pro team) should not be confused with the original Negro League Philadelphia Giants who actually played a two-game series in 1902 against the MLB American League champs Philadelphia Athletics, losing both games: 8-3, 13-9.

Fourth Inning
There were quite a few MLB teams to tour Japan: Reach All-Americans in 1908; New York Giants and Chicago White Sox in 1913; Herb Hunter All-Americans in 1920 and 1922; and the MLB All-Stars of 1931 and 1934.

Now… it's that 1934 series that we're going to examine a wee bit, because the MLB players who came over were one of the stingiest ever, especially when you consider Foxx, Gehrig, Ruth, Gomez and Gehringer.
(From left): organizer Shoriki Matsutaro (surname first); U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew, manager Connie Mack of the Philadelphia A's, someone else, and New York Yankee great Babe Ruth.
Knowing it wanted to avoid being embarrassed by such a powerful line-up, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun's owner Shoriki Matsutaro (surname first) scoured Japan to bring its best players together to form the All-Nippon team.

Although the Japanese squad would feature 11 men who would eventually earn enshrinement in the Japanese baseball hall of fame, they still managed to lose all 18 games they played by a combined 189-39.

Fifth Inning
After the series, in 1935, Shoriki kept the team together and traveled to the U.S. and Canada as the Dai Nippon Tokyo Yaku Club (All Japan Tokyo Baseball Club), playing amateur teams minor pro and college teams.

Later in 1935, Shoriki was convinced to change the team name by American 1934 All-Star team manager Lefty O'Doul. He said they should call the team the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants… because O'Doul happened to be part of the New York Giants (now San Francisco Giants) in 1934.

Known as "Japan's Baseball Team", the Tokyo Giants are the country's most famous team… winning enough championships to bridge comparisons to the New York Yankees… but note that the Tokyo Giants uniform and colors are an homage to the rival New York Giants baseball team.

By 1936, the popularity of the Giants helped form the Japan Professional Baseball League, where a total of seven teams played tournaments… when an eight team joined in 1937, they played a full season of professional baseball… suspended in 1944 due to the threat of air raids during WWII.

Sixth Inning
O'Doul, by the way, was very important to Japanese baseball… considered a sports goodwill ambassador in Japan BEFORE and AFTER WWII.

O'Doul was even elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.

Rain Delay
Now… I mentioned murder earlier and yesterday.

Seventh Inning
Let's take a look at Japan's All-Nippon team (all surnames first):
#20 - Yamashita Minoru - 1B;
#14 - Nagasawa Fujio  - 1B;
#27 - Takenosuke Murai - 1B;
#29 - Yamashiro Kenzo - 1B;
#2 -  Mihara Osamu - 2B;
#4 - Mizuhara Shigeru - 3B;
#23 - Shintomi Saburo - 3B;
#1 - Karita Hisanori - SS;
#29 - Eguchi Yukio - Infield;
#26 - Makino Motonobu - Infield;
#30 - Tominaga Tokio - Infield;
#6 - Horio Jimmy - Outfield;
#7 - Yajima Kumeyasu - Outfield;
#12 - Nakajima Haruyasu - Outfield;
#28 - Fuma Isamu - Outfield;
#24 - Sugitaya Mamoru - Outfield;
#17 - Nidegawa Nobuaki - Outfield;
#16 - Yamamoto Eichiro - Outfield;
#5 - Ri Eibin - Outfield;
#25 - Inokawa Toshiharu - Catcher;
#15 - Kuji Jiro - Catcher;
#19 - Ihara Tokue - Catcher;
#3 - Kura Nobuo - Catcher;
#8 - Sawamura Eiji - Pitcher;
#18 - Date Msao - Pitcher;
#9 - Aoshita Kenichi - Pitcher;
#22 - Hamasaki Shinji - Pitcher;
#31 - Victor Starffin (surname LAST) - Pitcher;
#21 - Takeda Kaichi - Pitcher;
#11 - Asakura Osamu - Pitcher;

Click HERE for photos of all these players!

Did you see an interesting name in there?



Victor Starfinn (image above) was 6'3", blonde and blue-eyed, and of course nicknamed "the blue-eyed Japanese" (青い目の日本人 aoi-me no Nihonjin). As an 18-year-old, he was the son of a Russian military officer who had previously served under Czar Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia.

When the Russian revolution came, the Starffin family hid by traveling in a freight train filled with patients suffering from typhoid, as well as hiding in a Red Army truck that was filled with corpses.

But that's not what makes him interesting, believe it or not. Murder.

Not dying of any sickness, the Starffin family, after running for a few years, landed in Japan.

With Japan already mad for baseball, Starffin fell for it, too - and was good at it.

Although he plans to go and play baseball at university, his father's actions changed all that.

Starffin's father, Konstantin, was convicted in 1933 of involuntary manslaughter of a young woman who worked in his teashop - it meant the whole family could have been deported back to Russia.

Hearing of the young Starffin's baseball prowess, Yomiuri Shimbun owner Shoriki promised to use his influence (blackmailed) to help that murdering old man IF he would forget about college and come and play for the All-Nippon team in 1934. Then as now, if you play professionally, you give up eligibility to play in college, or in this case, you lost the eligibility to even enter a school of higher learning.

So he did. Shoriki used his influence with the newspaper to explain Konstantin Starffin's case in the media.

As a right-hander, Victor Starffin became the first pitcher in Japan to win 300 games, finishing with a 303-176 W/L record with a 2.09 ERA and 1,960 strikeouts.  He played professionally in the League between 1936 and 1944.

By the way, in 1940, Starffin was forced to adopt a Japanese name: Suda Hiroshi - part of Japan's plans to force people to be Japanese. He was also forced to go into a detention camp at Karuizawa in Nagano with other foreign diplomats and residents.

Eight Inning
There was another interesting name on that All-Nippon team - did you see someone called "Jimmy"?

Jimmy Horio
Jimmy Horio, born in Hawaii (moved to Japan, moved back to Hawaii) wanted to play professional ball at the MLB level, and also become the first ethnic Japanese person to do so.

With little opportunity to showcase his wares in Hawaii, he traveled from Hawaii to Tokyo, after hearing about plans to form the All-Nippon team. There, Horio made the team as a power-hitting switch-hitter, but did not impress the Americans, and so no professional contract was ever offered. D'oh!

Still... there's more to this man than just this story - especially when the press took to calling him the Ty Cobb of Japan. Yeah... Ty Cobb... so I'll come back to him at a later date with a biography.

Bottom Of The Ninth
The goodwill created by this baseball tour to Japan helped ease the political clime a little bit, with the great Connie Mack saying the tour was: "one of the greatest peace measures in the history of nations" adding that it did "more for the better understanding between Japanese and Americans than all the diplomatic exchanges ever accomplished."

Not quite, Connie. Kani, pronounced the same as Connie, is Japanese for crab, by the way.

Extra Innings
Just two months after the MLB All-Stars left Japan, an ultra loyalist War Gods Society member - Nagasaki Katsusuke - attempted to assassinate Shoriki, saying that he had defiled the memory of the Meiji Emperor by allowing gaijin Americans to play in a stadium named in the Emperor's honor.

That seems silly considering the Meiji Emperor was very much responsible for the opening up of Japan's borders to the rest of the world. 

Read all about that attack and Shoriki's involvement with atomic energy, the CIA and baseball HERE.

By 1941, the Ultra-loyalists had helped prompt the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to officially bring the United States into WWII.  

Let's play two!
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

POW Camp At Yokohama Baseball Stadium

I'm not going to look at every single Japanese WW2 POW (prisoner-of-war) camp - just as I'm not going to examine every single Japanese internment camp in the U.S. or Canada or wherever... one description is enough of each for us all to 'get the point', right?

Now, having said that, why am I doing a second review of another Japanese POW 'camp'? Just because I found the actual site to be interesting.

The camp was known as the Yokohama Branch Camp (aka Tokyo 3-B), and is, if you look at the photo above, formerly the Yokohama Baseball Stadium in Yokohama Park in Yokohama-shi in Kanagawa-ken.

Originally called the Yokohama POW camp when it opened on September 12, 1942, it was renamed as the Tokyo POW camp No. 2-B a couple of weeks later on September 25, 1942.

It was renamed, yet again, as Tokyo No. 3-B on August 1, 1943.

This camp was the internment center for POW used by the Japanese to house some slave labor, working as stevedores (on the docks and nearby railroads), as well as performing work at an electric motor camp.


Above is a hand-drawn map, incorrectly designating the camp as No. 3-D. It was and IS known as No. 3-B.

Although you can't tell from the drawing, but can from the photograph above, the baseball stadium is enclosed. The POW barracks were placed under the stands - and you can see there was a large area just for POW officers.

It is know that seven POWs died while at No. 3-B... but I can't tell you how or why.

The camp was closed (not liberated) on May 1, 1944, when the Japanese moved the POWs to Nisshin Oil Branch Camp, Yokohama Fireproof Brick Dispatched Camp and Yokohama Ship Loading Dispatched Camp.

The forced labor, however, continued, with the POWs used to perform manual labor for the Yokohama Ship Loading Company.

When the war was officially over, the United States Military opened up Camp No. 3-B to utilize it as a motor pool.

So... what do we know about the baseball stadium? I'm a baseball fan, as well as a not-quite rookie when it comes to WWII... so this is a singular topic of interest to me.

I suppose that somewhere - maybe in a real book - there is a plethora of information out there, but I'm not privy to it at this juncture.

Everything below, was found HERE, at www.baseball-reference.com.

God help us all, but the when the actual sporting facility was constructed in 1876, it was not for baseball, but rather as a cricket pitch for gaijin (foreigners) - to which we can all assume that means the Brits.

It's funny… I think a three-hour baseball game is too long - but damn… cricket? How many days is that thing going on for?

What was the original name of the cricket field? I'm not sure. I think it might have simply been known as Yokohama Park.

Back in the 1870s, this area of Yokohama was part of the Western extraterritorial zone.

The Western extraterri-what now?

Apparently, because Japan was either being bullied or really thought it was a great idea, it decided in 1858 to essentially provide a 'most favored nation' title and extend extraterritoriality via treaties to: the U.S., U.K., France, Netherlands, and Russia.

What is extraterritoriality? Well… basically within these zones, those people of foreign country origin were exempt from local Japanese law - but were still under jurisdiction of consular courts via their own country. So it wasn't complete lawlessness.

Basically, if such a thing existed today, the Toyota executive from the U.S., Julie Hamp, would have not been guilty of smuggling illegal narcotics into the country - but she did and she is. Read full story HERE.

Japan soon wised up, and by 1899, the extraterritoriality courtesy extended to the above countries (and the German Empire) were all eliminated - though treaties for further business and commerce were agreed upon for all.

That's Not Cricket!
By 1896, the popularity of baseball had hit Japan, and on May 23, the Yokohama Park became the site of the first ever international game as the Japanese Ichiko team of First High School of Tokyo defeated the U.S. team from the Yokohama Country and Athletic Club, 29-4.

Really - 29-4? Serves the U.S. right for making up all that crap about Abner Doubleday inventing baseball… you know he didn't right? He may never even have played a baseball game in his life… OMG, is Cooperstown a sham? Maybe, though the majority of the players are probably cool. I'm just saying that the foundation of the origin of the game is based upon a lie… and like Pete Rose would say, "I'd bet $5,000 that's true."

Despite the extraterritorial zone being eliminated earlier, the park still belonged to foreign interests, but was given (or returned) to Japan in 1909.

At that time, Yokohama Park Stadium was built to house real baseball games.

In 1923, the Great Kanto earthquake caused the stadium to collapse, but it was rebuilt by 1929 - that was one bad mamma-jamma earthquake…it was a 7.9-er.

On November 18, 1934, a team of American MLB (Major League Baseball) All-Stars played a game at the stadium against the All-Nippon team, gaining a bit of revenge by trouncing the Japanese 21-4.

The American team consisted of:
Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmy Foxx, Rabbit McNair, Babe Ruth, Earl Averill, Bing Miller, Moe Berg, Frankie Hayes (he replaced Charlie - don't call him Chuck - Berry who developed appendicitis on route to Japan in Vancouver) and Harold Warstler. Pitchers: Lefty Gomez, Earl Whitehill, Joe Cascarella and Clint Brown. Lefty O'Doul was the coach and the great Connie Mack was sent along as an over-seer.

As for the Japanese team - that's worthy of a blog entry all its own - so tomorrow… those that hate baseball might still want to stick around because there's MURDER involved. Really.

The Japanese military took over the stadium (and grounds) in 1943... and you already know what happened there by reading the material above the baseball talk.

Oh… just for reference, Japan continued to play a professional baseball circuit right through the war - only pausing in 1945 when it became obvious it was losing the war. But… it was business as usual in 1946 - something I bet the U.S. occupying forces thought would help stabilize morale amongst the citizenry.

As mentioned, the U.S. military had taken over the stadium to use as a motor pool, but that didn't last very long at all.

Renaming the stadium Lou Gehrig Stadium (late of the New York Yankees), I'm sure, had he been alive, he would still have considered himself the luckiest man-nan-nan-nan on the face of this Earth-erth-erth-erth.

On August 17, 1948, the stadium was the site of the first night game between two professional teams. The Chunichi Dragons defeated the Yomiuri Giants (they are like the New York Yankees of Japan (hate'em!) 3-2.

Despite Japanese professional ball being played there, this stadium was still controlled by the U.S.

It wasn't until the U.S. officially surrendered its occupation of Japan in 1952, that control of the stadium was returned to the city of Yokohama.

Perhaps in honor of turning over a new leaf, the stadium was renamed to Yokohama Peace Park Baseball Field/Stadium in 1955, perhaps because the good people of Yokohama also hated the New York Yankees.

Baseball - mostly amateur - was played there until 1977. The stadium's upper deck had been closed off since 1970 due to structural weakness - old age.

Professionally... the Taiyo Whales wanted to moved from their stadium in nearby Kawasaki-shi, wanting to build a brand new stadium... its choice of construction site was right where the Yokohama Peace Stadium stood slowly crumbling.

In April of 1977, the stadium was torn down, and the new 30,000 seat Yokohama Stadium (see below) was built - currently home to the Yokohama Bay Stars professional baseball club.


Peace out,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Japanese POW Camp

Let's take a look at a one of the Japanese POW (prisoner-of-war) camps situated at or near Yokohama, Japan during WWII.

The first place we'll glance at (and this is a glance - not an in-depth examination) is the Ōfuna camp, also known as the 横須賀海軍警備隊植木分遣隊 and pronounced as the Yokosuka Kaigun Keibitai Ueki Bunkentai.

Now... technically this was not called a 'camp', but rather the Navy Yokosuka Guard Unit Ueki Detachment (per above). The image above was taken long after the camp was liberated, falling into a bit of disuse.

Located outside of Yokohama in Kamakura, this camp was special in that it was run by the Imperial Japanese Navy rather than the Army.

At Ōfuna, the camp was a temporary holding facility for foreign officers and high-valued enlisted men, such as pilots or submarine personnel. After capture and transfer to Ōfuna, the POWs were interrogated and then held at the facility for an average of eight days (though in some instances the poor devils had to stay there for months) before being transferred elsewhere.

Opened on April 26, 1942, almost right from the get-go the Ōfuna camp was in violation of the Geneva Convention… as it was never OFFICIALLY reported as a POW camp, and they did not allow the Red Cross access to those interned.

In Japan's defense, they claimed it was only a temporary holding facility and NOT a POW camp, but I'm betting those POWs who were there would beg to differ.

After the war, the War Crimes tribunal did not agree, however, with Japan's claims, and sentenced Japanese camp Commander Sashizo Yokura (surname first) to 25 years of hard labor.

Ōfuna was NOT a fun place to be - especially since it flew under the radar of the Red Cross and Geneva Convention… but reports indicate that the facility—formerly an elementary school that was refurbished - consisted of three one-story, unpainted wood buildings with tar paper roofs that were connected to each other, with a long corridor in the middle and thirty rooms on each side, cells, basically, each about 6 x 9 feet (1.83m x 2.74m).

Each room provided a single electric light, a bunk, bamboo mat and a door with a small window.

Considering the number of bunks, there was only two toilets and one shower…

Nicknamed 'Torture Farm' by the POWs, Ōfuna's camp counselors intimidated and tortured POWs to get information.

Apparently the place was such a secret establishment that not even the locals knew what was going on there…

What sort of torture went on?

Well… we all know that code of only captured individuals only divulging one's name, rank and serial number? That just got you a beating with a wooden club. The same with lying or refusing to answer, or 'disrespecting' an interrogator.

POWs said the Japanese there were sadistic - they enjoyed beating the prisoners… of course they were... I'm just saying that if you are involved in torturing people for information, you probably ARE sadistic - especially chosen to extract information for people who don't want to give it up.

Ōfuna is believed to have seen 1,000 POWs pass its gates during the time it was open, with six dying while in captivity.

Did they die while being interrogated or because of the 500 calorie-a-day diet consisting of a little rice and soup and then being forced to do daily exercises?

When Ōfuna was liberated on August 21, 1945, it was still holding 126 American and nine British POWs.

So… after the war, rather than tear down the facility because it was a horrible reminder of its actions during WWII, the Ōfuna buildings were refurbished and used as a kindergarten until it was finally demolished in 1969, 25 years after the last POW walked out its oppressive shadow.

Now… shock and awe aside, I understand WHY the facility was used as a school after the war… it was a facility, and it was a standing facility… if it could be re-used, Japan - with the urging of the U.S. who essentially ran the country when the war concluded - did indeed reuse it.

I doubt any of the kids who went to the school knew what the building's purpose was during the early 1940s…

If you are looking for the area the camp was situated on, basically it was opposite someplace called the Ryuho temple, which still stands. The area is now a large housing development.

The image above purports to show prisoners from Ōfuna being bowed to by their captors after being liberated. I still say this is a propaganda photo...

Anyhow... if you all paid attention, there was a huge film called Unbroken (and a book) based on American Lt. Louis Zamperini whose bomber crashed into the Pacific in May of 1943 only to be captured by the Japanese and interned at Ōfuna through 1944.

Next up... a POW camp and baseball.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Monday, June 22, 2015

Apparently I'm A Self-Absorbed Boob-loving Writer

Having wasted part of my day (Sunday) rebutting some commenter who thinks I am an idiot regarding my views about WHY I think the Japanese should teach about WW2 in its education curriculum... that I should have actually talked to people in Japan to get a real opinion on things... wow... I should have thought of that (sarcasm) - I am today not writing about the topic I wanted to write about.

I'm vexed. A ticked off me knows enough not to bother writing about facts, so let's instead write about opinions.

Anyhow... as you should note, Japan doesn't officially teach its grade school kids much about WW2... something that irks the non-Japanese, as they see the whole non-education thing as Japan not fully acknowledging its warring deeds in the 1930s thru 1945.

The commenter actually bitched about me editorializing here in MY blog - that is just plain stupid. It's a blog. It's not a freaking text book. Go read one... and then discuss amongst yourselves WHY Japan doesn't teach about its appearance in the most recent global war.

I don't know. Neither do you. Anything you can come up with is plain old conjecture. It's a guess. It's based on opinion and some fact. But, it's only ever going to be an opinion. It doesn't mean you are correct, however.

That's what we do here in the blogosphere. We editorialize. We create food for thought... some do that better than others. It's not my strong suit - but whatever. I prefer facts.

But facts have a nasty way or remaining elusive even when the correct questions are asked.

The commenter assumes that I am an idiot because I tend to populate this blog so often with articles discussing boobs.

Wow... really? I like boobs as much as the next heterosexual man or lesbian, but aside from writing about sex et al maybe 25 times out of the 2,800+ blog entries I've created... well... despite the well-written critique, apparently the commenter doesn't like to read as much as he thinks, and believes he knows best because the eyes don't lie.

People... I suppose I could delete the whole "Popular Blog entry" stuff over on the right... but it wouldn't make a difference. Despite only 80 followers - most of whom I doubt read what I write - most of the people who visit this blog do so because they spotted it during a Google search.

I know this because I can see via the analytics provided by Blogger.ca, that some 1,200 hits a day are through various Google outlets around the world... and I know what search words are being typed in and I know what articles they choose to view.

If I wanted more hits, I would write about a Japanese adult video star every day - complete with copulating photos. And yet I don't. Why? Don't answer that... I must be self-absorbed.

Please note there is nothing pornographic on any of those 25 blog entries, despite the topics covered.

I have apparently given the thousand-plus people who visit this blog everyday something they wanted to read about. Would I prefer it if they read a historical document on the auto industry of Japan - sure... but it is what it is... and that's my opinion... neither right nor wrong... it's my opinion. I'm still glad I have presented something some people find interesting or useful or even entertaining.

Anyhow... while I go gargle that horrible taste of bile from my throat, I hope you all had a good Father's Day. Apparently my son thought it was two weeks ago, and the missus had no clue, so I got a breakfast two Sundays ago of eggs and beans and bacon. Mmmm... Father's Day bacon.

Tomorrow... I'll try and find out more data regarding a particular Japanese POW (prisoner-of-war) camp that intrigued me when I cam across it two days ago...

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Legendary Nagano: Folk Tales And Legends From The Roof Of Japan

I don't usually offer up commentary on books I haven't read, but based on a cool interview I saw from the author on the website www.japaninfoswap.com that was actually posted onto a newsletter I saw on Twitter - that actually linked one of my stories, I figured what the heck!

If it the article on the author ans his book was good enough to be linked with one of MY stories, it's good enough for my readers, too.

For a better idea of what I am talking about click HERE to learn about the book: Legendary Nagano: Folk Tales And Legends From The Roof Of Japan


Oh... as for that newsletter that mentioned my article... check out JY Rambles: HERE.

I hope the link works.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

WWII Photograph: American POWs Leaving Yokohama Work Camp

Here's an interesting photograph I found within some e-mail mass-mailed to me by my dad...

It purports to show guards at a Yokohama, Japan WWII POW (Prisoner-of-war) camp circa 1945... with the guards bowing to prisoners after being released following the capitulation of Japan.

I actually began researching THIS particular facility... but it's a lot bigger than what I expected... well... sort of... I really want to ensure that what I have is accurate, and I have too many questions at the moment.

I do not, however, believe for one single minute that the Japanese guards seen in the photo bowing to these American men actually mean it.

I think it's a propaganda photo.

I think they made the Japanese guards stand there and bow to the prisoners as they left.

Seriously... bowing shows respect... and the Americans knew that... why would they allow the guards to still be hanging around? Surely they would have been made POW's themselves immediately and removed from the area away from the American POWs leaving the facility!

Granted not everyone in the Japanese army was a bad guy... some just were forced to do a job... so it's possible... but the timing of the image just smacks of propaganda to me.

Anyhow... I believe this camp is known as Tokyo 3B camp in Yokohama... for reasons which I hope to further explain tomorrow.

It's actual original function - the place where the camp was situated - surprised me.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Toyota Exec Arrested For Drug Smuggling

Hora! Gaijin-chan!
Despite the headline, this isn't the busting of some huge heroin smuggling ring, nor was the accused caught with her head in a baggie snorting cocaine while being screwed by a donkey, nor was she caught sucking back Ecstasy while allowing women to do Jello shots off her navel. Sorry, nothing quite as exciting or semi-sordid as all that.

No... this is about Julie Hamp (not hemp), 55, (photo above) being arrested because Japanese Customs discovered she had mailed herself a total of 57 pills of oxycodone.

It's big news in Japan because Hamp is the managing officer and chief communications officer for Toyota Motor Corporation in Tokyo.

Oxycodone is a painkiller derived from poppies… and most pills have a 12-hour limit of controlling pain in the body. The problem, however, is that one can become highly addicted to them…

Two 30-mg Oxycodon pills could be part of a pretty necklace.
Now… granted Hamp obviously knew she wasn't supposed to be in possession of such prescription painkiller meds IN Japan... that she couldn't transport them in to Japan upon her person... because she had actually mailed the pills to her self from Kentucky to Japan… stating on a written customs declaration form that the package merely contained a necklace.

If it's not something she knew was illegal, why hide the true nature of the package's contents?

What - to stop customs from swiping the drugs? What would stop them from wanting to swipe a necklace? 

Possession of oxycodone is against Japan's narcotic's laws…

Hamp contests the charges, saying she did not think she had imported an illegal substance…. yeah… riiiiiight.

Granted she could have simply had someone mail her a prescription because of some injury she has that causes great pain... but no one gets a bottle of 57 pills... that's not round enough a number.

She had probably taken three (hopefully not all at once - though that might have explained what occurred), and then decided she would need them while in Japan to deal with the Japanese men trying to squeeze her boobs at office parties.

"Sometimes, being stoned is the only way I can stand the little sh!ts." - a line I once read somewhere decades earlier.

Still, even if she was not aware that oxycodone was illegal in Japan (it is legal in Canada and the U.S. as a prescription drug), ignorance of the law is no excuse.

(I'm not talking mental incapacity - some countries and some U.S. States tick me off that allow mentally-challenged or chemically-imbalanced people be charged for crimes they don't even know they committed. Take drugs or are drunk and kill someone - guilty! You didn't HAVE to take the booze or pills.)

Guilty is guilty and everyone is responsible for their own actions or in-actions.

Hamp was arrested on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in Japan after Customs at Narita Airport checked the package (flown in on a mail flight) addressed to her and found the discrepancy between the contents and the declaration form in the necklace and the illegal narcotics.

Do they really check for such things? It wasn't random... I think they really do check all packages going in and out of Japan.

(My favorite U.S. Customs story involves me being sniffed repeatedly by drug-chasing dogs at the Detroit airport after arriving from Japan... who is bringing drugs from Japan into Detroit?! No one! Ever! It was because I had long hair and sexy striped jeans and probably not because I am brown-skinned - I'll give them that much credit... but come on! No one smuggles drugs FROM Japan to take to Detroit - I could probably buy drugs three feet outside the main airport doors of Detroit! I have no idea if that's correct or possible, but it IS more likely than ANYONE smuggling drugs from Japan into Detroit).

What's really embarrassing, however, is that Hamp is the Toyota Motor Corporation's first senior female executive (just weeks ago appointed head of public relations)… so sex aside, this is one of those instances where any publicity isn't necessarily good publicity, no matter how she tries to spin doctor it.

Back to sex… Toyota, with the promotion of Hamp weeks earlier, had trumpeted her appointment screaming to all who would listen just how Toyota was the king of promoting diversity…. not only a gaijin… but a female gaijin... but the important distinction is that Toyota did not really call to attention WHERE she was from, rather just that she was/is female.

Hamp joined the North American Toyota division in 2012, moving to Tokyo at the beginning of June 2015.

In the image at very top taken from some previous day in Japan, Julie Hamp can be seen here wearing a lovely necklace that may or may not be a pearl necklace. Perhaps she enjoys making jewelry out of pills?

If Hamp does have a drug problem, get her some help back in the U.S., then get her back on the job in Japan. While drugs and drug-related charges are big news in Japan, this isn't smuggling for distribution.

Remember what I said in past blogs about having to act as an ambassador for one's home-base country? When you are a stranger/foreigner/gaijin in Japan, there is a lot of close scrutiny going on to make sure you toe the country's cultural line.

Hamp screwed up, and regardless of the why, should just own up, apologize profusely, maintain she didn't know it was an issue of such import, and go about her job to the best of her abilities.

Anyhow… unless Hamp has a major drug dependence problem - and 57 pills says she doesn't - hopefully this is much ado about nothing, and a warm, fuzzy feeling can begin to wash all over Toyota once again. Mmmm… yeah… whaaattttt…

I just got hit by a Toyota... ohhhh, what a feeeeeelingggggg.

Mmmm-hmmm,
Andrewwwwwww Josephhhhhh

Friday, June 19, 2015

Thinking About Japanese Temples

Although my convention participation has just ended, I'm suffering from burnout - but I'll be back to my usual self tomorrow (Friday) at work and will have a proper blog for you all once again.

Let's did into the old bag of tricks - some black and white photography... except it isn't quite.

In these photo's I visited an old temple supposedly at the foot of Mt. Fuji, that semi-mythical mountain people say is the tallest in Japan... of course, despite being at the bottom of the mountain, it was completely invisible to me what with the misty rain and fog that obliterated it from my view.

Foiled by the weather, it made me question if the damn mountain actually exists... how is it possible to not see the tallest mountain in Japan when I am supposedly less than a kilometer away from it?!

Three years... it remained invisible to my dark thoughts of conspiracy.

These photos were indeed taken by me with black and white film in my camera.

The problem, however came when I had it processed... even in 1993 with film still the only way to take a photograph seeing as how digital cameras were not yet a thing... the folks processing it couldn't believe someone was actually using black and white film and processed it with color film chemicals... hence the misty look to the shots.

To me it looks as though the images were taken by some sort of daguerreotype camera from the 1850s... so I suppose it's kind of neat.

Anyhow... when visiting any temple in Japan, there is a cleansing ritual people must perform before praying.

You are expected to go up to the little sink... a stone enclosure with fresh water pumping out of the bamboo spigot and using the bamboo-handled copper cup, you must wash your hands, ladling the water onto your filthy, sweaty digits, and when clean, use the cup to drink more of the fresh water to clean that dirty mouth of yours.

Swallow if you must, but some do rinse it out onto the ground outside the cistern. Yuck.

I always wondered how often the temple monks changed the cups... I mean... how many people put their lips to the damn thing... left or right-handed, that area about 2.5 cm (1-inch) away from the handle must see a lot of tongue... Ugh.

If they don't replace it, do they clean the cups? How? Disease is awaiting the devout.

Now that your hands and palette are clean and awaiting some debilitating disease, the visitor should then go to the huge metal pot under the roof... it's an incense burner... you light a stick, or use one already lit, and pick it up and waft the cancerous smoke over your bent head with a cupped hand. It's to purify you.
 Now... once done, you may take off your shoes - you are wearing socks, right - and enter the temple... make an offering and pray to the gods to maintain the good health you had before you sidestepped the minefield of pestilence and disease at the temple. Oh my Buddha, please let me live.

Me... I prayed instead for the spirits of Mt. Fuji to allow me to see the great mountain before I go home to Toronto - in this case, in seven months time during the summer of 1993.

Of course... if you are following my epic diary (Noboko & Andrew), you will know that it's September and after leaving Japan in July, I returned five weeks later to be with the woman I wanted to be my wife.

You might be wondering WHY I didn't pray to the gods for my plans to marry Noboko to be successful - just know that at the time of my visit to this temple at the base of Mt. Fuji, it was March of 1993, and I had not yet come across her in any shape or form.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Life In Ohtawara: I Can See Clearly Now

I'm still at a convention for work - burned out from all day shaking hands and kissing babes, er, babies.

But... I haven't missed a blog yet in the past four plus years, and despite being tired, I'm not about to start anew.

For many people going to Japan to teach English, you might expect to work in a big city and work at a fancy school or cram school or learning center.

Now... despite me being in a small city - Ohtawara-shi in Tochigi-ken - for three years, the city was quite spread out... and included three schools (of my seven junior high schools) in what can only be considered a more rural locale.

These were Chikasono, Kaneda Minami and Sakuyama Chu Gakko.

While Chikasono was a very old school around 100 years old and made of very flammable wood, the other two had recently been rebuilt as larger, brick buildings.

While all three were essentially situated within farms in the city, while the other two were mostly rice farm areas, Sakuyama had fruit farms - specifically apple and pear trees.

Aside from the Chikasono area, these farmers were relatively well-off. Chikasono might have been well-off, too, but not according to the teachers who taught there... the kids being a little bit more rough around the edges than the other kids from a rural area - but I never saw that... they were all excellent young kids.

Above (very top) is the Sakuyama school.

I had decided I would be artsy and try my hand at black and white film photography, as no one had yet discovered digital cameras when I was there between 1990-1993.

I think if you are shooting vistas, with a blue sky in the background, everything pops... but when you are me, and it rains every time I bring out a camera, the background gets washed.

Anyhow... Sakuyama was a huge school, with the latest thing for the kids to use as a learning device - computers. This was in 1990.

Although I have had a computer since 1978, and have been on the pre-Internet since then, not many people outside of businesses utilized computers for anything other than as a glorified typewriter or video game app.


As you can see from the image directly above, there really was farm land all around us... and just my luck, the farms immediately surrounding the school were rice farms proving my above point moot. But seriously, the areas is better known for its fruit harvests.

In the photo below, the school has lots of room for the kids to play, with soccer nets (and field) being front and center, as well as a baseball diamond... but you'll notice that everything is mud... or when dry, dirt... no grass stains for the moms to wash out!


At least in my neck of the woods, school grounds were typically dirt, with no grass.

However, atypically, Sakuyama had a brand new ...


... swimming pool.

Once when it was incredibly hot one May day in 1991 after a nice rain in the morning, I had a spare, and was told that I could make use of the swimming pool to cool off and relax that hazy afternoon.

One of the teachers - a guy, thank Buddha, gave me a pair of swim trunks to use, and a spare towel.

I don't know how to swim, but dammit, it was stupid hot, and I was stupid... so I slipped in... the shallow end was around 175 cm deep... meaning I could stand with my feet on the slippery bottom and have the bottom of my eyes be just above the waterline.

But of course... I had to duck my head in and try swimming... I don't know how to do the crawl - swim and breath, but I can propel myself like a torpedo under the surface - stop - touch the ground - grab a breath - and fire myself through the cool water again and again.

Then I decided I would, while swimming like a torpedo under the water's surface open my eyes and take a look around.

Kids... if you wear contact lenses that are water permeable... don't open your eyes underwater unless you have goggles.

Because I can see amorphous blob shapes, I was able to slowing feel my way back to the school about 500 meters away... and explain my stupidity.

Without my glasses or contact lenses, I have 20/800 vision, which essentially means that what a person with 20/20 vision can see 800 feet (244 meters) away, I have to be 20 feet (six meters) away to see it. Apparently that is not good enough to be considered blind no matter what you might think.
Helloooo ladies! Ladies?... Ladies? ... anyone? Bueller?

Even though I know where all the parts are, if it wasn't for contact lenses, I would probably still be a virgin.

No one had a spare pair of contact lenses back at the school, not even the kindly teacher who had lent me his swim trunks and towel. I did have an extra pair, along with my glasses - but they were at home.

Mrs Gunji, the school nurse, drove me back home - 10 kilometers away, waited for me to get a new pair of lenses and then drove me back to school - just in time for school to be over... so she drove me back home again.

I was never asked if I wanted to use the Sakuyama swimming pool again... probably because they had to skim all my body hair out of the water.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph