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Friday, July 31, 2015

Japan's Death Star Laser

According to the Asahi Shimbun, Japan has a laser of epic Death Star proportions.

No.. it's not a huge moon-sized, movable killing machine that the Japanese have created to stop annoying Chinese aircraft flybys, but rather it's a laser capable of outputting enough power equal to the world's energy consumption x one thousand… and they plan on using it to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Kawanka Junji (surname first) of the Institute of Laser Engineering at Osaka University says the laser has achieved a power rating of 2 petawatts at 2 kJ for 1 ps (picosecond).

I have no idea what that egg-head talk means, but just how frickin' cool is it that there are places like Osaka University with their own laser institute?

An cynic would, however, marvel at where Japan's tax dollars (yen) are going, but whatever… this blogger is a science geek.

Okay… let's examine those power claims in a manner you and I might understand… I know, I know… I had you at 'Death Star'… but still… let's see:

1 petawatt = 1 quadrillion watts.

There… did that clear things up? No, huh? Me either… what is a 'quadrillion' - some kind of dance from Alice in Wonderland?
Oops... here we have the Mock Turtle (left) and the Gryphon (far right) demonstrating the Lobster Quadrille dance to Alice. 
Well… it depends on whether we are talking about countries that use the long or short scale system of numbering (Long scale: Every new term greater than million is one million times larger than the previous term; Short scale: Every new term greater than million is one thousand times larger than the previous term.)

… but in this case, we are looking at the short end of the yard stick:

1 quadrillion = 1,000,000,000,000,000

15 zeroes. I looked it up on Google… where 1 google is the numerical 1 followed by 100 zeroes.

"How much for that loaf of bread? What do you mean no one can afford it?" One quadrillion is bigger than this bit of hyper inflation....
Anyhow…  for references sake… in 2012, the entire planet Earth consumed 155.5 petawatt hours of power.

By the way, 1 picosecond = one trillionth of a second.

What that means, is that the LFEX… the Laser for Fast ignition EXperiments (worst initial or acronym ever!) is powerful…. around the same strength or more than the BErkley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA - beauty, eh) or the Texas Pettawatt Laser (no acronym) - and all are considered to be 'ultra-fast, high-powered lasers'.

The 100-meter (328-foot) long LFEX laser system has a front end with a femtosecond (one quadrillionth, or one millionth of one billionth, of a second) oscillator, double pulse stretchers with diffraction grating pairs and three stages of optical parametric amplification (OPCPA - again... a terrible bit of abbreviation... you have to make it into something memorable.... like the word LASER = Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). Then there's a main amplifier, a pulse compressor and focusing optics.

It's okay… I watch a lot of The Big Bang Theory, and graduated from the Wile E. Coyote School of Rocket Science & Hard Knocks so I can tell you basically that energy to bounce off (repeatedly) some special glass which causes that energy to become stronger and stronger until such time that it is released - and ka-blooie, there goes Alderaan.

Well… not yet, anyways… it's not strong enough…. fortunately (?), the Japanese team plans on adding to the strength of the laser to get it up to 10 petawatts… they just need to improve their looking glass, I mean mirrors, to do so.

Non-plussed, there is word that China is also looking to create a 10 petawatt laser… but don't worry… everyone, including Europe, is using these powerful lasers to unravel the mysteries of particle physics, nanotechnology, fusion research and new material design.

And, even though no one mentioned it, it could be used by nefarious schemers to destroy buildings far away unless the get one million dollars! Er… one billion dollars. That's right… laser power meets Austin Powers.... or if you prefer... don't cross the streams...

Big Bang,
Andrew "Is it hot here or just me?" Joseph

Noboko And Andrew: A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time…

In a land far across the waters... in a land of ice and snow, there lived a brave knight who wanted to get married.

The women in his land, though intrigued by his smile, did not find him to be of interest for reasons unknown to himself, and so without delay, he sailed upon his magical metal ship that seemed to skim over waters, and arrived in a land never before dreamt of in his philosophies ... a land of the Rising Sun surrounded by a ring of fire.

And so... he set out upon a quest to find himself and the woman of his dreams... seeking an equal in intelligence and kindness... and if she hath a body - forsooth!

And upon arrival in the mysterious land ringed with fire, he began his search... a search that took him through many a realm, meeting many princesses.

While these fair damsels had never before seen his like, they shewed no fear and thrust themselves with reckless abandon upon his sheathed sword... and while he racked up the score, he was troubled that his quest was still unfulfilled.

Whether it was because he had lost faith in his warped ideals and was shewn the way or whether because it was foretold in some unread prophecy, while amusing the children of a small village he came upon the scowling visage of a woman he knew he must make his wife.

The children of the village, it must be said, were smarter than all the adults combined and quickly envisioned the love the knight had for their elder sister... a friendly young thing, but always aware that her beauty had long been the object of affection from many an unwanted suitor. And so, she became shrewish.

In an effort to bend her to his will, the brave knight sought audience with her young brothers and sisters, amusing them with his strange ways until they knew he would make a brave husband for their sister.

As only children can, they pestered the princess with tales of the knight's glory, praising him whether she wanted to hear it or not, until finally she relented... understanding that this knight must have strange powers indeed if he was to have her young charges willingly tout his good graces.

And so began the romance to end romances... never seen before in this land of fire and sun, and I'm afraid to say, never seen since.

But... despite her original misgivings about the young, handsome knight (I'm the knight, see), that his ego was too large, that he had way-laid more than a few villages with various accounts of raping the cattle and stampeding the villagers, she realized that those evil spoutings were the work of the unwashed and uninformed.

Now nothing was left in the way of their plans to wed - all but one, that is.

The evil Duke of Otosan had heard of the young princesses' overwhelming beauty with hair that perpetually smelled of apple blossoms, and not wanting to lose this beauty to the foreign knight who would undoubtedly take her to his far away land causing his island to lose much of its splendor—he decided he would thwart their plans to live happily ever after by any means possible.

But the Duke of Otosan wasn't completely evil. While it was true he wished to keep the princess away from the dusky stranger with the piercing brown eyes, it was not to fetter her for himself. No... he justified the breaking up of the princess and the knight as a means to maintain harmony in the land of fire... 'surely', he thought, 'the land would be in better hands if she were to marry a local firewalker, rather than the snowback she preferred.'

But the beautiful young princess discovered his plans, and she was sickened with Duke of Otosan's plans....

Marriage to a firewalker for the sake of the land?

It was true... the knight from the land of the ice and snow would not mix well enough with her people... and yet, as a princess of the realm, she did see the wisdom of the Duke of Otosan... that her actions could affect the kingdom.

The princess did have one ally, however, the Duchess of Okasan, who shared the ear of the Duke upon occasion.

The princess begged the elder Duchess to intervene on their behalf, but it was to no avail. The Duke was set in his ways... for the good of the village.

The princess was confused. The Duke had acted as her de facto father—she was found up high, abandoned as a crying waif in the blossoming crown of an apple tree. He wasn't always nice to her, but he had always treated her in a manner that allowed her to become who she was.

She should do as he wants.

But what about the foreign knight... this princes of semi-darkness... this man who loved her as much as she loved him... this man who taught her that love was more than a concept in a fairy tale... that it does indeed exist.

To marry him and bear his many children, or to at least practice having children many times a day and night as he could muster, she knew she would be happy - even if she left the land of fire for his block of ice. She would shiver and shake, but with him in her presence, she knew she would be protected.

She was so confused... her heart tugged one way and then the other... her brain jumping from one thought and then the other... and if she did the right thing no one would be happy except two people ... what's a young princess to do?

Do her duty? Be true to herself?

The story continues in a more common vernacular... mostly because I wrote everything below first, and then decided on a fairy tale intro...

Do you know what's funny? That above story was pretty easy to write... the thing is... I can't end it in a proper fairy tale way, so it's why I am back to blogging...

The thing about being in a long-distance relationship… and being in love.. is that sometimes you can't see the trees for the magic forest.

Keep in mind I am talking about myself in Toronto, Canada (the knight of the land of ice and snow), and Noboko in Kuroiso, Tochigi-ken, Japan (the princess of the ring of fire) and it's October of 1993.

I have just set up my very first e-mail account and I am happily surfing on-line. The Internet is a lot more interesting now (1993) than when I had first been on it in the late 1970s or early 1980s when it was pretty much just message boards.

Still… most of the so-called 'facts" on the Internet circa 1993 are bullcrap. It's like it's a glorified commercial/advertisement zone with no policing… meaning people and companies could make outrageous statements and claims and you could either believe it or not.

Some people think today that Wikipedia is full of crap (it's not), but back in the early days, the Internet was filled with ads for steroids, sexual enhancers and, of course, porn - some you paid for, some you need not be a member.

And while I had an e-mail account - aside from the company moniker at the end, my e-mail has always been what it is today - a mystery, man.

I have always been a bit of a mystery man to both myself, my parents and definitely to women. My mother once told me to always keep a bit of yourself a secret… and despite all of what you read here in this blog, I have done just that.

No one knows everything about this mysterious knight. It's why I wear armor. Sorry, but either that's because certain topics haven't come up, or because it's not important, or a little protection helps not freak out people who have different sensibilities or opinions... or maybe no one has ever asked the right questions.

You'll note I rarely offer an opinion that is so fervent in manner… and I think that's because I've been cursed/blessed with the ability to see multiple facets of any given point.

And so it is with Noboko… I see what she is putting herself through… and thus I see what she is going through… and I understand why and I commend her for her duty to her parents… but I also see that the same duty is making or made her miserable.

I wonder, however, if my constant phone calls back to her across the pond from Toronto to Kuroiso are making her even more miserable.

Should I let every thing go? Should I give her that out?

I don't want to. I was going to marry her, have kids with her (preferably in that order - though it's fine if you don't, too), grow old together… die in a fiery motorcycle crash together… you know, that whole tragic but ultimately romantic fairy tale ending…

But, am I too old to believe in fairy tales?

I repeatedly ask Noboko to come and visit me for a vacation in Toronto. Just for a couple of weeks.

I tell her she can stay at my parent's place (in my room - I'll even find another place to sleep if it makes her uncomfortable.) She doesn't need any cash - I'll cover everything here. Heck, I'll even buy her the plane ticket (one-way is ideal)… but every prompt is met with the Japanese equivalent of hemming and hawing.

Has my princess become the Queen of denial? Tut-tut.

A man - even a brave knight - can only take so much adversity before even he becomes worn out.

My phone calls become less and less frequent - now just once a week… though each still lasts over an hour. Which is killing my dad with the financial costs. Hey - he made me go to Japan.

It's now September of 1994 - one year since I left Japan… it's Saturday the 10th. I didn't even need to look that up a calendar.... it's a day when things changed... when things were forced to change.

On this date, my mother suffered a heart attack… and who knows how long it was before my father found her lying on the couch on the other side of my bedroom wall… but that scream he emitted… that was infinite…it awoke me from a deep slumber... it still echoes in my half-empty head today… it's the sound of a soul being ripped in half.

While I could tell you exactly what happened next—it's etched in my mind's eye—suffice to say that the fire department arrived minutes after I made a 9-1-1 call, but they were unable to bring her back… the ambulance arrived 40 minutes later… welcome to Toronto… and they brought her back…

I'm no doctor, though I certainly have played one in the bedroom, but even I know that 40 minutes of being dead… man… the brain ain't coming back from that amount of time.

Still… she's alive… in an electrical-spasm-shockwave-through-the-whole-body way.

It's a pathetic way to see someone - anyone… there… but not there… kept alive by tubes and machines… this wasn't my mother… she died on September 10… only the doctors wanted to wait until Wednesday the 14th to see if the brain swelling would go down… and if that would cause the electrical spasms to stop…

I don't know if the swelling came down or not, but the spasms indicated brain activity but not everyday functional human brain activity. In my family, we all have an agreement to essentially pull the plug when livable human life as we know it no longer exists. So we did.

Did she die on September 14? No… that stubborn mother of mine held on… her brain truly dying right at the stroke of midnight… or at least that's when the doctor signed off… September 15…

… Noboko's birthday.

If that ain't a sign, I don't effing know what is.

I called Noboko afterwards, wished her a happy birthday… and then told her about my mom… told her she had died on the 14th… to spare her… and talked about talking later…

But that was pretty much it, my friends… the problem was to decide when to finally end things with Noboko… October? Too soon after my mother's death… and I didn't want regrets that I was knee-jerking… November? My birthday… December… Christmas…

Heck… I decided to do it a few days after my birthday… my 30th effing birthday…

I called her... we talked... I told her we need to get together right now - RIGHT NOW!!!! - or if we can't, then we should get on with our collective life the best we each can.

I never saw, talked, smelled, touched or heard from Noboko again.

While it may seem that I quit on Noboko, I don't think I did… but I think I did finally giver her the final blow to allow her to get on with her life… to make some Japanese man happy. And her father too.

Regrets? It sounds like I have'em… but I don't. Truthfully, I think I performed perfectly with what I was allotted. I don't have any regrets. At least not as far as Noboko is concerned.

The only thing is, is now the diary is over. Thus endeth my story in Japan.

No… I'm not ending the blog. If I didn't end it after the first month of writing back in 2009, I see no reason to quit now.

It wasn't quite the "and they lived happily ever after" ending a good fairy tale should have. It was more of a Grimm's Fairy Tale story... a lot more painful, a lot more real, while still maintaining the appearance of the surreal.

Many of you loyal readers who have never kissed me or tried to kick my ass have wondered if I was married to Noboko and how she could allow me to write of our courtship in such a manner.... in truth, if I was married to Noboko, I wouldn't have broadcast it in this manner...

I have no idea if Noboko is currently married, single, divorced or even alive or dead.

I'm not sure I want to know… though I do hope she is alive and happy.

… but if she is… I bet she isn't as happy as she could have been.

"This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper."

Somewhere it's The End,
Andrew "I guess I don't believe in fairies" Joseph
PS: If you don't know what the last italicized lines in the blog alludes to, let me direct you to read The Hollow Men poem by T.S. Eliot. In it, you'll find references to Bill Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, as well as to the 1899 novel Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad) - which inspired the movie Apocalypse Now. Not including this blog, those are three things you should read, and one you should watch. Oh yeah… The End… as in my sign-off, because that's how a fairy tale ends… it's also a song by The Doors, which is used in Apocalypse Now… unplanned by myself, but despite my time with Noboko, I do love it when a plan comes together.

PPS: And who are the hollow men? I am. Noboko's dad. Whomever she's with now. We are the stuffed men, stuffed with straw.

PPPS: At least I won't have to write about this topic anymore... decreasing my likelihood of being sad... it sucks to have write about good times when you know it didn't end well.

PPPPS: Thank you all for being patient while I got this off my chest at my own damn pace.

PPPPPS: Lastly... the image above is a DC comic book I purchased last Sunday in Aberfoyle, Ontario at an antique fair for $2. I saw the cover of this romance comic from 1969 and knew I had to buy it. While Noboko wasn't blonde, and myself hardly a biker, the scene somehow was a reminder that sometimes love can win out. Or so I read.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: That Long-Distance Feeling

Back home in Toronto in October of 1993 - and with no immediate plans to go back to Japan to fight for the woman I love - the first thing I do after greeting the family, talking with friends and sleeping, is, when the time-difference allows it, is call Noboko.

It's a long talk… a talk about how much she misses me, and I her… there's plenty of silence… which I have come to learn isn't awkward, but just the way some people are.

I still find the silence on a phone or even in person to be deafening… it's like I've killed the conversation somehow - good ol' paranoia, I suppose… but considering that three years earlier I had only really ever had one girlfriend… and a summer romance at that with plenty of romance and none of the sex I would say I had maintained a lot of emotional scarring.

At least with Noboko… when she's quiet, she doesn't mind me filling the dead air with my big voice.

I have learned that others when they go quiet don't NEED the air to be filled, even if they do enjoy THE VOICE.

Do I like the sound of my own voice - hell, yeah, I do! Don't you like your voice? I know I have a decent radio voice, plus I know I can come up with something interesting to discuss…

But… sometimes, as I was taught - fairly recently, in fact, that sometimes silence speaks volumes - and not only in a negative manner.

Noboko said she liked knowing that when she pressed her cheek against her phone, she could hear and feel my breath across the hemispheres as my cheek was only a mere two centimeters away from her. Close enough to stick my tongue out and give her cheek a light flick.

It's a nice thought… a great thought, in fact.

We don't talk about anything of the past or the future of herself, of myself or even of us… but I can hear her sigh in her breath.

I want to reach through the phone and pull her close to me and just hold her one more time… just one more time.

It's too soon to pressure her, but I can't resist and say: "You should come and visit me here."

You could hear the oiled gears turning swiftly… "Mm," she nods in that terse Japanese way, that is so obviously a very emphatic affirmative. Note that I can't see her, but I know exactly what she is doing.

It's midnight in Kuroiso, Tochigi-ken, Japan. Her parents are asleep. She is in her room—no idea what she is wearing, but I assume it's something light and casual—and she's lying on her stomach, pillow under her chest, left arm propping up that mess of hair, right hand holding the phone.

Old TV commercial (a couple on the phone):

"What do you have on?" he asks.
"The lights," she purrs.

That's what I want to imagine… but it's Noboko… and while I am in love with her and she with me… instead of naked and playing with herself, I imagine she has a half-empty box of Kleenax, with wadded up sorta balls of tissue on her bed as she dabs away the tears I now cause when she hears my voice.

I want her to be sad. I do. She better be sad. I'm sad.

I want her to be sad so that the dull ache inside her breast causes her to lose focus on everything but the thought of us.

I need her to think that she is going to lose the only man in her life who loves her the way she never thought a man could love a woman. With his soul.

I want her to realize she has made a mistake in ceding to her father's demands…

That'll work, right?

Fug… I don't know. I don't know what I can do that I haven't already tried. You'd think flying half-way across the world would impress her father.. and it probably did, but the Japanese tradition of male work triumphing over family is strong.

We talk and breath in each other's ear for over an hour. I'm not afraid of the long-distance costs, but I feel that she should get some sleep because it's late.

"I'll call you later," I explain.

"Good-bye, An-do-ryu-kun," she says and wails loudly as she crashes the phone down onto her headset.

Ewww… did she mean good night or good-bye forever.

I suppose I'll know in a few days when she picks up my late night call or if she doesn't.

Somewhere my cheek is wet with her tears,
Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Death Of The Faithful

Hachikō's owner's wife Yaeko Ueno (front row, second from right) and station staff in mourning.
This is a photo of the deceased pooch, Hachikō (ハチ公) who was born on November 10, 1923 and died on March 8, 1935.

Hachikō was an Akita dog born on a farm near Ōdate-shi (City of Ōdate), Akita-ken (Akita Prefecture, who is remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner which continued for many years after his owner's death.

His owner was In 1924, Ueno Hidesaburō (surname first), a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo, would come home from work every evening and there at the station was his loyal dog, Hachikō waiting to greet him.

But... in May of 1925, the professor died of a cerebral hemorrhage... and never returned to the station that evening... but still... Hachikō was there... and was there every evening ever after for years and years until he died in 1935., 10 years later.

He would appear every evening at the time his master's train was expected to pull into the Shibuya train station in Tokyo.

I've written about this story in the past... it always gets me right here (I'm pointing to my heart). I'm a dog guy... even been called a dog... and for the past two years now I haven't had a dog, after my chocolate lab passed away... I just can't afford one right now.

The only two other times in my life I was dog-less was between the ages of 0-2, and 25-28 when I was in Japan.

In April 1934, a bronze statue in his likeness was erected at Shibuya-eki (Shibuya train station), with the still living Hachikō himself there to see it.

Of course, when WWII was on-going, the present at its unveiling. the statue was recycled for the war effort.

But, once things began to settle down after the war, and the people of Japan wanted more normalcy back in their life, a new statue was commissioned, and erected in August of 1948.

It's still there... and whenever I was in the area looking to meet someone, they always told me to look for the statue at the Hachikō-guchi (Hachikō exit) at Shibuya train station.

Being a foreigner, I'd march right up to the statue causing scads of Japanese people to move to give me room, and I'd give the stony doggie a pat, and confirm that he was indeed a 'Good dog'.

Ugh... stupid allergies... it's making me tear up at the thought of all my passed doggies.

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Marilyn Monroe & Joe DiMaggio: State Secrets

If you were going to create a Hollywood script, you'd want the to ensure the cast included the hottest property.

In 1954, that included 'blonde' bombshell Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.

Although already at the end of his baseball playing, DiMaggio was described as a tall, handsome hero of the country's national pastime.

I'm a fair guy, but there is no way in hell that DiMaggio is handsome. He was one hell of a ballplayer, and I assume Marilyn was as well. Yes… I made that joke.

DiMaggio still holds a baseball record that I doubt will ever be broken - hitting safely in 56 straight games. The closest was Pete Rose hitting in 44 consecutive games back in 1978. Pete was a lot of things, but if he couldn't do it, I don't think there's a ball player playing today who can. It's as close to untouchable a sports record there is.

So... Marilyn and Joe.

Back in 1952, DiMaggio asked an acquaintance to arrange for him to get a dinner date with Marilyn, who was, at that time, an up-and-coming actress.

As bad as Hollywood actors and actresses have it today, so too did Joe and Marilyn, with the media following their every step.

DiMaggio had always been a pretty private guy… hardly ever spoke in interviews… I guess he was shy, or perhaps because he was a high school drop-out and thus may not have felt as smart as others - whatever...

Anyhow, Joe DiMaggio was 37, retired from playing baseball, a chain-smoker, a drinker, and according to his first wife—bit movie actress Dorothy Arnold—he would sleep around. Jeez, Joe…

Marilyn still hadn't hit her peak of hotness and was just 25…

During that first dinner, Joe hardly spoke… which intrigued young Marilyn, because men simply did not ignore her.

They spent that first night together.

While they dated, Joe wanted Marilyn to basically give everything up to be his wife.

Dress less sexy. Stop being an actress. Start making me spaghetti - and don't skimp on the fricking meatballs!

Oh… Joe… you had, in your mitt, the woman who would become a global icon!

And Marilyn… she wanted a father-figure, seeing as how her dad had abandoned her family when she was younger. Yes, every man wanted her body, but could they also be that dad she craved?

Well… Joe wanting her to stop doing everything she was doing - that was like being a father… except he didn't really encourage her in her pursuits… which is a 21st century view of mine (and others), and hardly a popular view in 1950s America.

But still… a father figure with whom she could have pretty good sex with (according to her)… why not marry Joe?

Ground rules for marriage:
  • Joe gave the okay for future films;
  • Marilyn had to stop playing the dumb blonde;
  • Marilyn could never be 'half-dressed' - Joe, you jealous bastard!
These were all things Marilyn thought were okay.

Also key was that Marilyn wasn’t to outshine him. When she did, he’d sleep in another bedroom and go days without speaking to her.

They were married on January 14, 1954 in San Francisco.

For a honeymoon, the two decided to go to Japan…

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper sponsored Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio's honeymoon through Japan.

She was so popular, her plane was swarmed with fans… people would come to the hotel, and wouldn't lave until she came out to say hello to them.

While all would agree that it was a nice honeymoon trip, things weren't all the rosy.

At one point in Hiroshima, when staying at a Japanese hotel, Japanese-American Tsuneo "Cappy" Harada (a former US Army officer in Japan during the occupation - he spent his life promoting ties between Japan and the U.S. via baseball), he spotted Marilyn outside of the hotel garden, crying. By the way - the photo above shows all three individuals mentioned....

The implication here, is that Joe had smacked her around a bit... oh... Joe... you ass...

Right there in Japan, on their honeymoon, it was the beginning of the end for these two.


Marilyn began drinking, taking pills and even having an affair with her voice coach, Hal Schaefer. Joe found out, and tried to entice him to come over so he could beat him up.

Here's a story. I read it somewhere, but I can't say it's true or not.

Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio were friends - perhaps because they were both famous Italian-Americans, perhaps because they both had hot wive (Frank was married to Ava Gardner), or perhaps because both allegedly had Mafia connections.

One night, those two got a bunch of thugs together and drove over to Marilyn's apartment hoping to catch her in 'the act' with her voice coach.

How they got it wrong, but allegedly, they broke into the wrong apartment and scared the crap out of some woman… and while the cops and media were kept out, Frank had to buy her silence. Allegedly.

In October of 1954 - nine months after getting married - Marilyn filed for divorce citing mental cruelty.

Joe… it hit him hard. From then on, for the rest of his life, he only dated women who looked like Marilyn.

Allegedly, Joe spent $10,000 on a life-sized sex doll that looked exactly like Marilyn - which seems like a lot of money for the 1950s or 60s. So who knows if that is true.

And yet… like a moth drawn to a flame, Marilyn would still see and sleep with Joe… even though she was seeing other men… because, believe it or not, she still trusted him. She just couldn't take the abuse he dealt out.

Now… here's the thing… was Marilyn really being abused by Joe? In 1961 she was institutionalized - forcibly - for paranoid schizophrenia. Joe was the only one who tried to help her, and got her released.

Yes… by the way… Joe did go in for anger management therapy in an effort to win her back. And yet, now satiating herself with booze, drugs, mental illness, and two Kennedy brothers, she still thought she and Joe could have a life together without marriage, while Joe thought they could have a life together with marriage.

Marilyn died of a drug overdose on August 5, 1962… a suicide.

Until the day he died in 1999, Joe had a florist deliver fresh roses to her crypt every single week.

I know… I know… not much of a Japan story, but it was there, along with baseball, a sexy starlet, violence and a fugged up romance. What else are you reading today that has all that?

Kanpai,
Andrew "Voice Coach" Joseph

Monday, July 27, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: Climb Every Mountain

You might think that the trip back from Japan to Canada would be the worst 15 or so hours of my life, considering it appears as though my relationship with Noboko is not going to work out.

How does that effing happen?! Sorry for yelling… apparently just thinking about it makes me angry… which is why it has been a chore to complete the diary.

How do two people in love - in the very late 20th century (it was/is 1993) - who are both very strong-willed individuals NOT get together and live happily ever after.

Despite her reluctance to continue pushing her father for approval, I have not willingly given up on anything in the past four years of my life.

I have to admit that before that I was a slug, who probably never gave anything his all… and somehow got a university degree in political science and a college whatever in journalism.

I've coached soccer, taught piano and keyboard. I worked as an intern on a newspaper program for Canada's best or certainly most popular newspaper. I've spent three years teaching English to Japanese junior high school. I lived. I survived Japan.

I arrived a virgin who had never lived on his own, cooked a meal, shopped for clothing or food, did laundry or even how to sew on a button.

I leave having performed all of the above deeds multiple times. Let's just say I was in the 30s for screwing around with different women.

I also was a chili con carne chef, could make lasagna from semi-scratch, and could cook a mean set of eggs, bacon and beans. Those three meals were my "western" foods that I would make - the first two helping keep fellow westerners happy.

The chili was something I made whenever I had a date… but considering its gaseous properties… maybe I should have rethought that meal deal.

So… the flight home… I'll be honest… I don't recall much of it… I do know I was staring out the window (I always get a window seat where possible), looking down… catching that last glimpse of Japan… wondering what Noboko was doing now… probably getting hit on by some dweeby Japanese guy…. I'll tell you about some day soon….

But there… outside my window… what the hell is that? No… it can't be… it doesn't exist… there's no such varmint… it can't be, can it… is that really…


Mount Fuji-san.

Figures.

So it DOES really exist. Regular readers will know that it was always hidden to me by adverse weather conditions whenever I tried to spy it - even when I was at the supposed foot of the damn thing. And now...

It shows its ugly head as soon as I pretty much clear Japanese air space.

But… like some shaky footage of a sasquatch… I pull out my camera from my carry-on (too valuable to put in the suitcase), and snap the photo… just as my film runs out…

In my mind, my first thought was that Japan was saying sorry for always playing that horrible trick on me by hiding Mt. Fuji to the weather… and maybe even saying sorry for making Noboko's father such a stubborn dick…

… and then I thought… no… this is a sign… a mystical sign… that I should not let go of Noboko… that eventually good things come to those who wait… no, wait… persevere…

I arrive back in Toronto… my father is there to pick me up, much like he had been to drag my scared butt to the airport back in July of 1990.

My mother was out of the hospital… and when she saw my face… that I wasn't bubbling over to tell her everything… she didn't need to ask… except:

"Are you giving up?"

"Nope."

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Today, July 27, 2015 is the 25th anniversary of my arrival in Japan.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: One Last Kiss

It's October 4, 1993.

The sun is setting for me here in Japan. Again.

I've came, I saw, I conquered, I came many more times, I continued to see and conquer without cankering, I saw the unclimbable mountain and climbed it anyway only to discover that nothing is real… that The House of The Rising Son has gambled and lost.

Noboko arrives at Colin's place early in the AM… I hug Colin good-bye, promising to write, but I'm unsure if HE ever did… she drives us to the Nasu-shiobara shinkansen train station, parks, and I shovel out the money to buy two tickets to Tokyo.

We arrive, move to the Narita airport train station, I purchase us two tickets… and we glide noisily without a word to Narita Airport.

I hold her hand as I roll my suitcase and carry my backpack on my shoulders… everything feels like a millstone… pushing me down… down… breaking me into little pieces…

We arrive at the airport… we go to the gate and I let my luggage go through… this is it…

I look at Noboko… who is staring at my feet… she can't look at me… I understand… I'm sad, too.

She hands me a small envelope and begs me not to open it until I am on the plane.

If you were me, would you wait until you got on the plane, or would you smile lightly and open it up in front of her.

You're not me, so I opened it up immediately.

I should have waited until I got on the damn plane and flown all the way back to Toronto.

But no… I read it. It's a mini fan with a hand-written message on the back. The front of the fan is the image at the top.




You'll pardon me for obscuring her name on the card… I have changed her name in this blog to spare her any grief should she ever Google herself… though if she ever Googled me… she'd discover a world of pain…

With tears falling down my face, I hug Noboko who has tears falling down hers… no one glances at us, and I wouldn't care of they did, because I am sure similar scenes such as this are played out at airports all over the world… it's just that it never happened to me before.

One last kiss… a long, lingering one.

Okay… maybe one more… another…

Time is only relevant to the observer.

She stops, pushes me away… perhaps because being on tippy-toe for so long was painful… she smiles… I smile…

I turn and without looking back, I turn the corner to get my plane back to Canada.

Then I stop… I turn around… I walk back to that entrance… Noboko is still standing there, but with her back to me.

"Noboko," I shout to all the international ears to hear. "I love you, Noboko!"

She waves. I bow.

She smiles, I smile.

This time for sure. It's off to wait for my plane.

Somewhere still smiling,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Obviously I still have this message... I am a sentimental romantic, after all.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Japanese Robot Hotel A Dutch Treat

Stu Robarts over at www.gizmag.com has written a neat little article on a brand new Japanese hotel staffed completely with robots.

As you can see from the image above, staff will carrion your luggage. Okay… maybe that's not a vulture, but it sure looks like a real velociraptor… when the hell did InGen get the DNA correct and train them?

Called Henn-na Hotel - quite literally "Strange Hotel", this very nice looking hotel is located in Sasebo in Nagasaki-ken, as part of the Huis Ten Bosch theme park, which doesn't sound very Japanese to me.

In fact… the theme park is supposed to recreate the Netherlands, with real-sized Dutch buildings et al.

I've been to The Netherlands within the past six years… and while it is a beautiful country, with friendly people, great roads, sexy women, shops that sell sex, shops that sell drugs… and interestingly enough, all things the locals don't abuse as much as all the visitors do.

But why would anyone need to create a theme park to emulate The Netherlands? Why don't you just get off your ass and visit the Netherlands. It's way more cool than spending a weekend at a resort… of yeah… no time…


Anyhow… at least this hotel has robots.

I want a robot maid to come in while I am 'accidentally' caught coming out of the shower… though maybe they shouldn't look as lizard-like as the desk help above.

Anyhow… for the full scoop on the Strange Hotel, let me direct you to Stu Robart's article at www.gizmag.com - HERE.

Banzai,
Andrew Joseph
PS: InGen is the fictitious company responsible for causing all the trouble in the Jurassic Park flicks.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rice Paddy Art



Here's some very cool ambo āto (田んぼアート, rice paddy art) - seen here in this YOUTUBE video … featuring those every-loving gay druids (not that there's anything wrong with that), C-3PO in gold (left) and R2D2 - who is also in gold, but is, usually white and blue.

WTF is up with Star Wars and Japan? They really love it!

To create the rice paddy art, farmers plant rice of differing types and colors to create the giant images… yes, images… on the 15,000-square-meter field. 

This particular piece of rice paddy art is the 2015 version done by the people of Inakadate, Aomri-ken.

The rice paddy artwork has been created here in Inakadate since 1993, as a means to create some tourist spunk - mostly because archaeologists had discovered that in this area, rice had been grown for more than 2,000 years.

Created in the rice paddy behind the town hall―not an unusual occurrence in rural Japan, the villagers planted four different types of heirloom and modern rice to 'draw' the image.

Tourism - oh, it worked, as the village of Inakadate noted that some 200,000 people visited the area JUST to see the rice paddy art.

Between 1993-and 2001, the village of Inakadate just recreated a simple, if not unspectacular image of local Mount Iwaki

http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693
2002: Mount Iwaki refined
http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

But, after that… well… they got really artsy.

2003: Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci; 
Image from www.gobackpacking.com.

2004: Shikō Munakata – "Two Bodhisattvas and Ten Great Disciples of Shakamuni Buddha" and "Queen Mountain God";
http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

 2005: Sharaku's ukiyo-e "Otani Oniji" and Utamaro's – "Anthology of Poems: The Love Section" ukiyo-e;
Sharaku's Otani Oniji" (Left)  and Utamaro's – "Anthology of Poems: The Love Section" (Right).  http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

2006: Tawaraya Sōtatsu (17th century), "Fujin and Raijin" 
Fujin, Japanese god of Wind - http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693
Raijin, Japanese god of lightning, rain and storms - http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

2007 – famed artist Hokusai – from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji: "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" ukiyo-e and "South Wind, Clear Sky"
Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa ukiyo-e (left of the road) . South Wind, Clear Sky ukiyo-e on the right. http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

2008 – Ebisu and Daikokuten
Two of the seven Japanese luck gods, Eibisu and Daikokuten - http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

2009 – Sengoku military commander & Napoleon

Naoe Kanetsugu, Japanese samurai warrior - http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

France's Napoleon - http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

 2010 - Samurai battling a Warrior Monk


 2011 - Tale of the Bamboo Cutter Folk Story
Moon Princess returning to her people at the end of the folk tale. http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693
Bamboo Cutter and wife examining the glowing spot where they find the baby Moon Princess. http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

2012 - Japanese Goddess of Mercy and God of Fire & Wisdom & The Seven Japanese Luck Gods & a Dragon Head & manga super robot hero Mazinga-Z
Japanese Goddess of Mercy (left) and God of Fire & Wisdom. http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693
Dragon head (far left) and the Seven Japanese Luck Gods on boat. http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693
Mazinga-Z (far right). http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693

2013 - Geisha and Marilyn Monroe and TV superhero Ultraman
Geisha - http://doyouknowthings.blogspot.ca/2013/10/inteng_30.html
Marilyn Monroe http://doyouknowthings.blogspot.ca/2013/10/inteng_30.html
Ultraman - http://doyouknowthings.blogspot.ca/2013/10/inteng_30.html

 2014 - Heavenly Maiden & Mt. Fuji & anime Sazaesan
 
Heavenly Maiden & Mt. Fuji tale. http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693


 
Anime Sazaesan.
http://io9.com/behold-these-incredible-artworks-grown-from-a-rice-fiel-1627371693


2015 - Star Wars. Anyone know what the hell that structure/droid or transport is in the left of the image?  Whoops! This just in, Julien tells me that is BB-8 - a new droid set to appear in Episode 7 of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
http://learnjapanese123.com/blog/2015/07/star-wars-this-years-rice-paddy-art-in-aomori
I wonder if the modern iconography is more popular than the classic reproductions of ukiyo-e art?

I do know that there was a hue and cry back in 2008 when the village was offered Y2-million to alter their original design and ADD at the base the logos of local newspaper To-o Nippo and Japan Airlines.

In fact, seeds were planted to include the advertising…

But under threat, saner heads prevailed, and deciding not to capitalize on the artwork proceeded… except of course for the village capitalizing on the artwork re: tourism.

The seedlings were removed without incident.

Because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or because "I want to make a profit, too", other Japanese villages have also begun creating their own tambo āto.

Special thanks to Alice for the heads-up. See you on the other side of the looking glass.

Somewhere outstanding in my field,
Andrew Joseph
 

Noboko And Andrew - Smile Like You Mean It

For those of you who may have been surprised and pleased at my initiative to have pushed back my departure date from Japan so that I could have more opportunity to work my magic on Noboko… well… now you see him, now you don't.

The next two weeks were some of the most quietly stressful times of my life until my 40s.

I wish I could tell you that the next time I went over to Noboko's parent's house, Mister Kikuchi's was all open-armed and smiling as he tells me I could marry his daughter, jokingly saying 'good riddance'.

But there was never again an invitation to go over.

Noboko would drop by every morning at Colin's house moments after Colin would leave to go to work, all happy and smiling to see me. 

Colin was letting me crash at his place for September while I tried to arrange my entire future - where I would live, what work I would do, whom I would love… just the "inconsequential things" in life.

Stressed? You bet your sweet bippy, I was stressed… but you'd never know it to look at me, as I continued to plaster that same idiotic grin on my face that makes people believe I've got a handle on life.

You think you know how to act? You ain't got nothing' on me.

No one has a handle on life. Least of all me - who is now slave to the whims of a petulant 50-something-year-old Japanese man, and his daughter who lacks the testicular fortitude to stand up decide not necessarily what she wants, but rather what is best for her.

Yes… I'm no longer convinced that marrying me is what she wants, even though it might be what is best for her and myself.

Don't get me wrong… Noboko loves me… she does want to marry me… but for whatever reason or reasons, that is not a good enough reason to disappoint her father - again. Full recap HERE.

Every morning Noboko comes over, we kiss and grope and pretty soon we're making love on the tatami mats… every single day.

We never talk about our future… I don't even know how to start the subject with her… she knows what I want (besides the sex), and she knows what she wants or needs, but she is unwilling to confront her father to ensure she gets it, or to provide me with that final solution.

And so, after sex, fugging or making love - whatever the hell you want to call it, we dress smelling of each other - one big Andboko or Nodrew, and get in her car and drive around the city and surrounding area.

We do this every day… usually arriving back at the apartment at 4M, and sometimes at 2PM where we hungrily have sex again.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
Charles Dickens: A Tale Of Two Cities (1859).

I understand the duality of the introduction to that wonderful novel.

My time is up in Japan… I have done all I can without physically asking Noboko again for the one thousandth time, to just tell me she WILL marry me.

I know she would tell me so if that was the answer. She knows my silence is because I love and respect her and don't wish to continue hurting more than she is hurt.

I leave Japan tomorrow evening… and tomorrow, Noboko is coming with me to the airport.

Noboko stays until Colin comes home - capturing every last moment of physical content - whether it's a kiss, a lick, a probing tongue, a lean, a simple transference of heat through a tough of the fingers… she and I savor every last moment until such time as we hear Colin's keys jingle in warning outside the front door.

Noboko bows to Colin, who greets her in some higher level of Japanese I never ever understood in my three-plus years in Japan - but Colin has in one-plus… she smiles, and the two of them chatter in their own private language… something called Japanese. Usually I don't mind, but this time I really do feel left out. Would it have mattered to Mister Kikuchi if my Japanese language skills were something higher than a frog?

I have my last supper in Japan with Colin, who in his constant sage-like way doesn't ask me any foolish questions, because he I would have told him if the situation had been altered.

We stay up until sometime after midnight… chatting about what each might do when we eventually returned home to Canada… but lucky Colin… he has almost two years to try and reach a suitable answer.

I don't even know what the hell I am doing two days from now. I am not a magician.

Somewhere still smiling,
Andrew Joseph
Continues on the 27th. Don't worry... I promise...it's already written and scheduled... 
PS: Photo above taken by Colin McKay of myself and Noboko horsing around trying to look dull and stupid at Colin's apartment. While I still wear that watch - unfortunately, those very cool striped jeans are a long-distant memory that lasted a good seven more years after that photo. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

More Making Out In Japanese - Book Review

The good folks over  at Tuttle Publishing sent me over four books for review - three on the Japanese alphabets, and one on real conversational Japanese.

Let's start with the latter today… the others.. I'm going to try out and then give my opinion.

More Making Out In Japanese - first published in 1988, revised in 2015. This is a completely revised modern culture conversational street-wise Japanese phrase book.

Originally compiled by Todd Geers and Erika Hoburg, this new 2015 edition is revised by Elisha Geers.

First things first.

I read the original "Making Out In Japanese" book by Todd and Erika back when I was living in Japan between 1990 and 1993.

In fact, I purchased this book - secretly - in December of 1990 when Matthew and I went to Tokyo… after my then-girlfriend and fellow AET Ashley went away to Thailand without me… something she had cooked up back in October after she broke up with me for a week.

Ashley and I were either very good together or very bad together… and when I saw 'bad', I'm not talking naughty… I'm talking they have no business being in the same country kind of bad.

I was probably too much of a caring boyfriend, which may have meant in her eyes - smothering, but… and I kept detailed records of our relationship - very detailed - I still think she was just overwhelmed by my stronger personality that garnered the attention in a room… which would then bring her unwanted attention because she was essentially shy. That's cool. I can dig it 25 years later. All is forgiven. Except for that Thanksgiving meal… that was just… ignorant.

Anyhow… now that you know I can hold a grudge… let's talk about Making Out in Japanese for a couple of paragraphs before we get into the new and improved More Making Out In Japanese book. 

The original book was a slim tome … but it was a godsend.

I had been learning what I thought was conversational Japanese from veracious text books… and then, I saw Making Out In Japanese… here… at last… was conversational Japanese that was practical for people my own age.

Keep in mind that I was in my mid-20s… was recently a virgin… living on my own for the first time ever… and there were all these hot Japanese women who seemed to want to talk to me whenever Ashley and I would break up, which (un)fortunately was often.

But… I couldn't converse with them, unless they could speak English.

And… to tell the truth, unless they physically threw themselves at me, their language skills were not clear enough for me to ever know if I should make a move first.

And so… I always waited until the woman made the first move. I might be a sex maniac, but I'm not going to be labeled as one.

Making Out In Japanese - the book - allowed me to memorize conversational fragments that I could use in typical conversation with a young woman.

You know what I mean. There's how you talk to your grandmother, sister or teacher… and then there's how you talk with your friends and even how you talk with members of the opposite sex who you are either interested in getting to "know" or those with whom you are out partying with.

Colloquial speech. 

Like many people, I speak proper (insert language here), but in my case, English.

I speak it, read it and write with a fairly high degree of accuracy. I'm certainly not in the Shakespeare domain, but I'm certainly further along the food chain than someone who says "Who's Your Daddy?" in 2015.

Back in 1990, I could also speak slang… but note that it more of a suburban slang that could be understood by anyone who ever lived in the suburbs in North America.

In Japan… the young people were just like me. They would speak polite Japanese around those that required it, but would slip into a more comfortable vernacular when surrounded by like-minded individuals… they peeps, if you will.

And… it's an almost totally alien language.

With formality removed, the slang statements and words used in Making Out In Japanese helped me hit on Japanese women… and sleep with those I wanted to - and not just the ones who spoke enough English.

It helped me make out in Japan.

It was a bloody good book, and I owe quite a few of the notches on my bedpost in Japan to the phrases I was able to conquer in that book.

I have only glanced at the pages of the revised More Making Out In Japanese - a sequel to the book I first read… but without having to go fully in-depth, I know I can wholeheartedly recommend the book to anyone who is
  1. trying to get laid in Japan;
  2. how to really meet Japanese people and get to know them better than the one-night stand; 
  3. how to take the relationship to the next level; 
  4. how to win an argument in Japanese;
  5. how to succeed in clubs or bars… the important stuff.
The book offers bits of information on how to act in real social situations - like karaoke, weddings, and more.

The book - like all in this series - is extremely easy to use.

I should note that for many slang or straight talks, the authors have presented both a male and female phrasing. Brilliant… Canadian men sure do talk differently from Canadian women, so why wouldn't the Japanese do the same?

For your convenience, and learning edification… each phrase is first written in English, with a romaji (Romanized) form so that you can read the Japanese phrase… and then there's the same sentence written in Japanese, comprising where applicable, hiragana, katakana and kanji - because sometimes you just might want to write out your thoughts or questions out.

For a mere US$7.95, More Making Out In Japanese will provide you with an ROI (Return On Investment) almost immediately, provided you use the phases contained within at the correct time.

Yes, the book could help you get laid (if you were me), but.. and this is the way you should look at it… it will help expand your overall Japanese experience.

From Tuttle Publishing (www.tuttlepublishing.com), More Making Out In Japanese is a must have on your bookshelf… only don't keep it there… try it…

Your mileage may vary,
Andrew "I never got caught with my pants down unless I wanted to" Joseph






    

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

This is it, kiddies… fasten your seatbelts because…well, actually… I don't care… fall out of your seat if you must…

It's 1990. I have completed three years on the JET Program - we could only do a maximum of three one-year contracts at that time - and I am not allowed to stay any longer. I went back to Toronto for one month and then hopped on a plane and returned to Japan.

I had a good reason. Noboko.

I want to marry her… she wants to marry me. She won't marry me because she knows it would upset her father. Her father wants her to get married to remove the stigma of him having an old maid daughter. But, he doesn't want me to marry her because it will create a new stigma that his daughter is a disgrace for not being able to find a real Japanese husband. Her father (I assume) worries about the mongrel kids we will have, and how he will hate them. Mongrel - sure… but the best-looking mongrels ever!

The thing is… while Noboko's mom is on our side, her father actually likes me. He really does. He told Noboko that… and in fact… I am sure that he probably wouldn't mind that I married his only daughter… but the fact remains he believes others in the hierarchy of his profession in the prefectural education segment WOULD care, and hold it against him when job promotion-time came.

In Japan, image IS everything.

So… basically, after the JET contract was up, I had to come back to try and convince Noboko to not be a slave to her father's 'good intentions' or convince her father, Mister Kikuchi-san, to give up his personal ambition for the good of his daughter.

He probably figures that I might be the only other man on this planet who has any chance of taming her wild nature. Truth be told, she's not a wild child. She is a perfectly normal woman, who's only fault is that she adheres to Japanese rules and regulations at the wrong time.

What do I mean? Well… she was engaged previously to a Japanese guy… and ended it shortly before the scheduled wedding. That's not cool for the Japanese.

As well, she's considered old, hitting the ripe old age of 28... she hasn't even hit her peak in my mind, but regardless of Japanese society, she's young, vibrant, beautiful, sexy and sexual.

I've been in Japan (again), since… well… I left Toronto on September 3… and I think arrived on the 5th… but whatever… it's now Monday, September 13 - holy crap… the 1990 calendar is the same as the 2015 calendar… 

I'm supposed to leave Japan on the 20th… but I'm not ready.

So… checking with Colin who has graciously allowed me to stay at his apartment these past two weeks, I call the airline and move my departure date back to October 4, 1993. Two more weeks giving me three in total to make or break it.

I figure that since Mister Kikuchi and I just got our friendship on, I need to have more time to make sure that opportunity isn't wasted.

When Noboko arrives at Colin's apartment later that morning - why she was late, I never asked - she was all happy-happy-joy-joy at the news I'd be staying longer… or perhaps at the thought she didn't have to make a decision soon.

Here's the thing… every time I have tried to force the issue with Noboko to just say fug it, the hell with everyone, let's get married today… it has backfired.

The fact that she let me go back to Toronto at the end of July 1993 without providing me with a satisfactory answer was disarming enough.

But this time… this time… it feels different.

Noboko drives me up to her parent's house, where her Mom has made us (really me) lunch: pork tonkatsu, pickled veggies, some tempura, and even a large bottle of my favorite Kirin Lager beer. It's 1990 and I'm not fat and overweight as I am now. I've also cut my hair off... no more pony-tail, because I want her father to know I'm not a complete jackass.

Noboko, by the way likes the more adult me, even though I'm sure my style of clothing on this trip does not reflect much more maturity - except for when I dress up because I'm going to meet her parents.

Her mom seems pleased that I ate everything—proof positive that I really do want to impress them, and that I really do love Japan.

Truth be told, rare is the time I have eaten (in the ensuing years) any Japanese food outside of Japan that tasted as good as the 'real' stuff one gets in Japan.

But that's not the point. Besides being a guy with a healthy appetite, I also have a more than healthy appetite for Noboko, and would gladly eat glass if she asked me to.

Chances are I have, because Noboko herself isn't the greatest of cooks… and as if to prove it, her mom was teasing her that she was going to have to become a better cook if she was to keep me happy.

When Noboko translated that for me, I merely smiled and gave mom the terse Japanese nod and "Mm", showing I sternly agreed, but immediately burst into a smile so Noboko wouldn't take offense.

"I am sure there are other ways you can make me happy," I implied lasciviously and somewhat slyly in non-translated English, but just basking in her presence… just feeling the warmth of her hand in mine under the table…

I can't explain it. But when you are with someone… the whole universe feels 'right'. Some of you probably know what I mean. Even if it was just for a moment or two.

So what the hell, man! Why won't she just admit that OUR life together is more important than her father's work life?

For a foreigner… for a foreigner who comes from a country and a society where the children are encouraged to be who they are… Japan seems archaic.

I love the structure I see in Japanese culture, but that is probably my naiveté, as I, from the outside, get to cherry-pick the best of the best aspects of Japan.

Time passes in the Kikuchi household, her mother bades me to stay longer to await dinner—and for some reason I feel as though I am intruding and beg off.

I explain to Noboko that nothing would make me happier to spend more time with her and her mother in their house, but I don't want to 'surprise' her father with my presence.

I know he wouldn't think I'm a mooch, or anything as mundane as that. I know he knows I want to steal his daughter. I simply don't want to stay because he isn't aware I am staying.

If they ask/discuss/or tell him tonight that I'll be hanging around the house on Tuesday, I'll stick around.

Was that wrong? I have this horrible habit of thinking about the affairs and feelings of others, and sometimes that impacts negatively upon myself or others who are closer.

Noboko and her mom want me to stay… perhaps it was to put more pressure on her father… so why am I so concerned about his feelings?

It cuts both ways… I just don't know which way has better optics.

Kanpai,
Andrew Myopic Joseph 
PS: The true story continues in two days time.
        

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Noboko And Andrew: Recapping The Past

Because it's time, let's take a look back to September  of 1993.

I had completed three years of living and loving Japan as a junior high school  assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme in July.

I left my hometown of Ohtawara-shi in Tochigi-ken, a small rural city of about 50,000 people and returned home to Toronto.

I quickly made plans to return to Japan to take care of some unfinished business.

That business was Kikuchi Noboko, the woman I was going to marry.

For free, I can tell you that for the past four years of my life (it includes one year as a second and final year journalism student, various newspaper internships, some growing up, and some to-the-forefront leadership abilities, everything had been coming up roses for me.

Previously, I had been a shy little boy who rarely dated, and thus had never experienced the charms of a woman until Japan. And since then, the 30+ women I had slept with… who had picked me up… made me realize I wasn't such a loser after all.

My mistake at that time was associating sex with women or dating with women as a means of measuring success or failure… but now… 25 years after having first arrived in Japan, I can tell you that I was incredible short-sighted.

It's still a means of measurement for me. It's who I am… but it's no longer the sole means of weighing one's soul.

Living in Japan was also a great way for me to grow up. I was no longer afraid of my own shadow.

In fact, I pitied those who had to live in mine.

Don't mistake that for arrogance.

I was confident. I was still a nice guy who didn't bully anyone. It's just that I knew I was on the verge of success… and that like everything else I had done up to now, I was going to have to put in some effort to make myself succeed.

That's the thing. Prior to those four years (three in Japan and one in college), I was not a very good student after Grade 5. I simply stopped trying in that grade, and managed to become more lazy with every non-succeeding year. In that, I was a success.

But… there comes a time in every man's life, when he has to take a step back and take a good hard, honest look at himself and figure out if he has been honest with himself and the way life has been treating him.

I determined that I had NOT been honest with my effort, and vowed right then and there to always complete every thing I started, and to give it my best effort, so that O could never look back and point the finger at myself for any mis-step.

It's life… there's always going to be mis-steps.

Although I can handle losing (having done my fair share of it previously), I hate to lose.

I lost Ashley… though again… I'm sure I did my best to make the relationship work… but in Japan… that was pretty much it.

Sure there were times I felt down and dark because I wasn't popular amongst the other cool AETs… and while that bothered me that I wasn't always invited to their reindeer games, it was because I was loud, gregarious, funny, articulate and intelligent… and I could dominate any room I chose to dominate. Some people don't care for that. Whatever.

Again… this is non-alcohol-fueled confidence. Okay… you can call my self-confidence ego, if you like, but how can it be when I'm also offering some breaks in my fragile eggshell mind?

I had become Japanese without realizing it: hone and tatemae… my true feelings and desires (hone, 本音), and the behavior and opinions I spew in public (tatemae, 建前)…

But… Noboko… the first time I saw her, I knew I was going to marry her. The first time she saw me, she knew I was some sleaze ball whom she knew she never wanted a single thing to ever do with.

My love haiku to her that I write moments after first being introduced to her at one of my junior high schools where she was to be a new English teacher, could not chip away at her stony heart.

Her (and mine) students realized almost immediately that I was really into her (probably those ridiculous hearts that kept floating up above my head, or the way I couldn't take my eyes off her - especially when she walked ahead of me up the stairs to class… and so 

Weeks later, thanks to the urgings of the kids, we were an item. But in secret.

She did not want it being know that she was in love with the popular gaijin (me), which would mean that she was sleeping around (because that's what gaijimn men expect of their Japanese concubines… I'm being silly here, and while it's true we were sleeping together, the Japanese would have ASSUMED we were… and thus would have judged her harshly, and me as a hero… Noboko really was quite gorgeous in her looks.

Still, the kids found out when we accidentally bumped into some of them one Saturday when he had travelled to another city for a day date… we tried to threaten the kids to be silent because they weren't supposed to be where they were either… but dammit… Noboko was the new pretty English teacher, and Andrew was the popular young gaijin no sensei (foreign teacher)… this was news.

And yet… the kids told other kids, but at no point did any of the adult teachers ever say anything or act funny towards us - which is why I think they never found out.

I did tell my bosses at the Ohtawara Board of Education, however… because these guys were my friends, and I knew if I swore them to secrecy, they would not let me down. And they didn't.

In this case, it was international friendship over Japanese duty… though I can't tell you what that Japanese duty might entail, but I would assume it would Noboko receiving a stern talking to regarding her moral behavior and the gaijin (me).

Our biggest hurdle, however, was her father… who was not pleased that his daughter was dating a foreigner. Not only were the optics bad for him and his superiors regarding possible future job promotion (if your single daughter is dating  gaijin, then her morals must be bad, because we KNOW she must be sleeping with him out of wedlock). It's stupid… pretty much every single Japanese guy was trying to sleep with Noboko before and during our dating, because in the 1990s, Japan enjoyed screwing more than they do in 2015.

I had given Noboko a huge sapphire ring, as a token of my love for her, and said that when she told her father about my intentions, I would buy her a real engagement ring. This one was a pre-engagement ring… a sapphire so no one at work would be suspicious. Diamond? the jig would have been up.

Noboko could not and would not tell her father.

She had previously been engaged to a Japanese guy (I'm unsure if it was arranged or not), but Noboko broke it off weeks before the big day… which I'm sure pissed off her father for the costs and loss of face.

As well… Noboko was now over the age of 27… an age (in 1993) that was considered to be 'old-maid' territory. In fact, I made sure I was back in Japan for her birthday on September 14. Damn Virgoes! I'm a Scorpio... if you Google Scorpio sign and see what looks like a capital M... and then look at the Virgo sign that looks like a Capital M with an extra loop on the right... well... it looks 'interesting' 

Because of Noboko's age and marital status, her father (and mother) were not being viewed as being good parents… at least that was the fear.

Now toss in the gaijin.

Holy crap… life really sucks to be Mister Kikuchi.

Mom… she liked me, and she was a firm supporter of her daughter and I being a couple.

She and Noboko would invite me to the house to have dinner with the family - including dad… and when he found me kissing her in the kitchen (Noboko), I thought all hell was going to break loose… and it did.

But no matter what… despite the big Japanese obstacle of her father in my way… I was going to make Noboko my wife… and, if we had to stay in Japan, I would do so forever just to be with her.

You can tell I'm a pretty intense guy. Like I said before… I don't like losing, so I'm always going to give everything my best effort.

It's now September of  1993… I'm back in Japan.

I've left my family back in Toronto - including my mother… back in March of that year, my father told me to prepare to come home because my mother was very sick… so… leaving my mother… for Noboko… I knew my mother would approve… she had talked with Noboko, seen the photos I sent back, and heard my glowing description of the woman I wanted to marry.

My mother simply told me to go back to Japan and do my best to make it happen.

I'm unsure what my father thought—he's far more private than I or my mother—but considering just three years earlier he had to practically drag my sorry butt to the airport and make sure I got on the airplane to Japan, he must have realized I was pretty serious about my future plans.

One more thing… in the telling of this very, true part of my life, I've just finished a dinner at Noboko's parent's place this past Saturday the 11th, and was my usual stunning awesome in attempting to show that I am THE man to marry his only daughter… and we ate, and drank and I stared in rapt attention as he sang Japanese folk songs, drunk applauding his drunk crooning, and then being all buddy-buddy…

… which if you think about it now, like I am doing, is kind of weird, because he knows I'm doing all sorts of nasty things to his precious little daughter.

I guess it's good to know that neither of us are violent drunks.

On Sunday, Noboko and I went out... and while her father was only curious about when she was seeing me again, nothing else was mentioned about me.

Noboko also confided that her parents do not seem to love one another, and it appears as though she has never been in love before because of that. I guess me traveling half-way across the globe for her was something she felt no one would ever do for her  

Tomorrow… we'll hit the final stretch of Noboko and Andrew in Japan, beginning with Monday, September 13. I'm supposed to leave on the 20th. Time, despite not existing as a man-made concept, is now my enemy. 

Kanpai,
Andrew Joseph